The circus had left several weeks ago and the harvest continued to go smoothly. Atta felt confident that this season would have no trouble. After triple checking with Thorny about the harvest, she went to look for Flik. She found him working hard on an invention. He didn't even notice her coming. "What are you doing?" she asked. Flik jerked up. "I…I…was just building another contraption, Atta," he stuttered. Atta giggled and told him to be careful. Flik wiped some of the dust off of his forehead.
Ever since the grasshopper's defeat, Atta and Flik had come to know each other better. Flik enjoyed making things for her and that's what he was doing now. Flik only recently started this work and also studied some hydraulics. He had a funny feeling that the wells would one day not supply enough.
The remainder of the spring was hot and dry. The river was unusually low. Atta felt little concern for this at first but started to worry when summer came. The harvest was continuing to be successful. The water supply seemed fine. She often went to Flik to ask for advice, so that's what she did. "Flik?" she asked. "I need your advice". Flik stood up from his work. "Sure Atta. What's up?" "About the water supply…do you think we have enough for a dry summer?" she asked. Flik raised and eye ridge. "The water supply? Hmmm. I dunno, I'd ask Thorny. He'd know," Flik responded. Atta sighed and left. Thorny and she measured the water in the wells. "They seem full enough, your highness," said Thorny. "I wouldn't worry about it now". Atta nodded, but had this nagging feeling.
The colony expected the circus to return soon. The summer had started and it was blistering hot. The harvest had been slowed for this reason. Atta sat with Flik and talked about many things. Flik responded little, but continued to watch the horizon anxiously. When Atta noticed that Flik was not paying attention to her, she simply left. Dot came and joined Flik instead. "Are they here yet?" she asked excitedly. Flik shook his head. "No, not yet," he said. Dot groaned. "I brought your telescope," she announced and handed it to him. Flik took the telescope and looked through it. They sat there for the remainder of the day, but the circus bugs didn't come.
The next day Dot went to watch for the circus bugs alone while Flik worked on his contraption again. Sweat rolled down his hot face and he gasped for air. "It's so hot," he complained. He went to sit in some shade and rest. Then he realized he was very thirsty. Flik went to a nearby well. But when he moved the stone to reveal the well, it was empty. Flik recovered the well and went to the next. It too was dry as a bone. He checked several other wells too, which were also dry. "Oh-no!" thought Flik. "I must tell Atta". He went to find Atta. When he reached her, they heard the sound of Dim's wings.
The circus had arrived again. The colony gathered to greet them. The blueberry scouts ran to Francis. The acrobat ants greeted family and friends. Atta was so preoccupied with greeting the Circus bugs that Flik couldn't get a word in. P.T. Flea, the ringmaster, was telling the Council about how poorly the circus was doing. "Yeah," moaned the Flea. "The 'Flaming Death' was popular for about two weeks, then it flopped. So we traveled from anthill to anthill performing. On the way we picked up a new performer that saved my show!" P.T. Flea hopped on top of Dim. "Are you gonna come out or what?" he shouted at the wagon. Then he groaned," Alright fine be that way".
The performers broke up and talked to friends. Rosie went up to Flik. "So Flik dear, how are you?" "Hot," replied Flik with a grin. Rosie chuckled, "I know what you mean". "Who's the new performer?" asked Flik curiously. Rosie panicked for a moment, but recovered quickly. "Well, it's interesting really," she said. "But it's too embarrassing for her". Flik nodded, but still wanted to know. Determined to find out Flik talked to Manny and Gypsy.
"The new girl?" asked Manny astonished. "Well I…I…don't know how to put it kindly…" "She's kind of a 'reject' of her colony. She was kicked out," Gypsy said for her husband. Flik gasped," How awful!" Gypsy nodded, "The poor thing, no one would stand up for her". "Why was she kicked out?" asked Flik. "She's a princess that was illegally hidden by her family. The colony already had two successors. The colony stripped her of her wings and sent her with us! They didn't even give us a choice!" Manny explained. "It was lucky for her she performs so well and saved the act," said Gypsy. Flik felt sympathy for the newcomer. "Where is she?" he asked. Manny looked around and said, "I'm not quite sure. She is a slippery thing. Probably hiding, ever since she was kicked out she has been afraid". "You can't blame her though," said Gypsy. "That poor girl didn't have to go through that. She has been recovering from it well. She seems to enjoy performing. She puts so much effort into it!" Two younger ants poked into the back of the trailer. "What are you doing?" asked Manny.
"We're sorry!" the girl ant said immediately. "We just wanted to see the new performer". "And you'll see her tonight!" announced P.T. Flea. "Tonight we'll put on a show for Ant Island!" The younger ants looked excited. As Flik found out, everyone was curious about the new performer. Stories about her were already spreading through the crowds. Some said that she was a freak, others said she was an acrobat. Flik was so preoccupied with wonder and anxiety that he forgot to tell Atta about the water. Dot talked to Flik excitedly, "Francis said that the new performer is really pretty and use to be a princess!" "Yeah, that's what I heard too!" said Flik.
The evening was much cooler than the day had been. The colony, young and old stayed outside to watch the circus perform. Tuck, Roll, and the acrobat ants did many tumbling tricks, but the new girl was not with them. Slim, Francis, and Heimleich put on a clown performance, but the new performer was not with them. Rosie and Dim did their act, again no new girl. Then Manny and Gypsy did some magic tricks, but the new performer did not appear. Flik thought he heard P.T. yelling a lot and quiet protests from whomever he was shouting at.
Finally P.T. hopped to the top of his thimble and announced the next act. "Now for your enjoyment…our new act. An act so amazing and marvelous it will mesmerize you! So without further ado…Mari, mistress of enchantment!" Everyone leaned forward eagerly. Francis and Slim pushed out a flower bud. "Hope she finishes it," Francis whispered. The spotlight shone on the flower bud and the giant, wolf spider started the music.
Flik was confused at why the flower was there, but he knew he would find out soon. The music stopped and from the flower came the most melodious sound. A voice of innocence, fragile and heavenly, soared from the flower. The words of the song were unclear at first, but they seemed sad and longing. However even in the sad words was kindled a deep, unsurpassing joy. No words could describe the beauty and sweetness of the voice, other than it was the voice of an angel.
Flik was mesmerized as well as everyone else. The voice seemed to carry you away from your troubles and the even the world itself to a place of peace and bliss. Suddenly the flower's petals were peeled back. The new performer was revealed. An elegant young ant of a light lavender shade with bright, warm, deep golden brown eyes sat in the center of the flower. The eyes darted through the crowd nervously. You could easily feel and see the fear in her. She shut her eyes, then continued. When she started to sing again, she seemed released from her fear.
The new girl stepped down off the flower delicately. It looked like she floated rather than stepped. Her costume swirled around her feet like a flowing stream. The costume flattered the girl ant's figure. She was unbelievably thin, but still beautiful. Then, unexpectedly, the music started and the performer danced. Her movement was graceful and smooth that it seemed almost unreal. She looked light and wafted like a feather in the breeze. Flik thought for certain that she could barely stand! The new ant's face glowed with joy as she danced. Flik now understood what Gypsy meant.
Part way through her dance she stopped and stared at the audience. The colony cheered and applauded loudly. Mari looked at the crowd with tears welling up in her eyes. All of a sudden she shouted loudly, so everyone stopped clapping. She looked like she was in agony. Then, before the entire colony, she wept bitterly. The crowd murmured suspiciously. P.T. hung his head in shame. "She did it again," mumbled Francis. Gypsy's face fell. Manny sighed heavily. Tuck and Roll said something to each other. Rosie shook her head. "What's wrong?" Atta asked Flik. He shrugged his shoulders. Dot looked sadly at Mari.
After the performance, Flik and the two other curious ants helped the circus clean up. "What happened?" asked the curious girl ant. "I dunno," replied her friend. Flik could hear P.T. yelling hysterically probably at Mari. The flea stormed out of the wagon furiously. "If her performing wasn't so good I'da dumped her first chance I had," he grumbled. "Aww!" said the girl ant. "That's so mean!" Flik nodded. "We should try and help her," suggested the boy ant. Flik stared at them. "Help who?" "Mari of course!" said the girl ant. Flik pondered a moment and agreed that he would help them. "Great!" said the boy ant. "Let's go!"
The little group crept into the wagon where Mari sat miserably in the far corner. It was dark and lonely in the wagon. "Hi!" said the boy ant boldly. "I'm Dusty". Mari smiled slightly and nodded. "And I'm Daisy," said the other young ant. Mari looked up at the two and sighed, "Hello". "My name is Flik," said Flik. Mari looked at him curiously. "The Flik?" she asked. "I think so," said Flik scratching his head. "I've heard of you," said Mari softly. "The circus talks of you often. I'm glad to meet you". Flik grinned, flattered. "Why are you so troubled?" asked Daisy. Mari looked at her astonished. She broke down and started crying again. "What did I say?" said Daisy. "It's alright Daisy, it wasn't you," said Dusty. Flik bent down and said softly, "Shh! You're okay now. Don't cry, we're not gonna hurt you…we are your friends". He dried one of Mari's teary eyes. "There now, see you're alright!" said Flik. Mari began to settle down.
"Why don't we all camp out together!" suggested Dusty. "Yay!" Daisy shouted. "We can have lots of fun". "I dunno," said Flik. "There's something I have to do with Atta, but I can't remember what". "Maybe we'll remind you. Come on Flik! You can talk to Atta later!" said Daisy. So Flik gave in.
The little group set up beds outside and sat in a circle. Flik still felt uncomfortable. Dot came to join them. Everyone chattered about this and that, everyone except Mari. She seemed deep in thought or she was just too shy. Dusty was the one who tried to make her join their conversation. "So do you enjoy dancing?" he asked. Mari suddenly realized she being spoken to. "Hmmm?" she asked. "Do you like to dance?" Dusty repeated. "Now?" she asked. "No, no! He means do you enjoy dancing before an audience," said Dot. "Oh!" Mari grinned sheepishly. "Yes, very much so. I love singing and dancing anywhere, anytime, before anyone!" "Did you dance back at home?" asked Dot. Flik winced and expected Mari to cry. But to his surprise, she didn't. "No, not at my home…only now. Well actually…" she trailed off and looked sad. "What?" asked Daisy. "It was my first dancing and singing performance back home when I was…discovered," said Mari. Daisy looked sympathetic. "But that won't stop me from singing…No storm can shake my inmost calm! How can I keep from singing!" she declared. As she declared this, she seemed released from whatever held her in fear. Her face brightened with a healthy glow. She laughed, for the first time they heard her laugh. Actually it was more like a giggle. Everyone smiled.
The girls all went to sleep under the velvet sky. However Flik and Dusty remained awake. "I just hafta remember!" said Flik with frustration. "Was it a date?" asked Dusty. Flik shook his head. Mari's waking startled them. "What's wrong?" asked Dusty. "Nothing. I just forgot to get my water and some other sleeping stuff," she replied in a whisper. Flik's eyes widened. "That's it!" he said loudly. Dot stirred, so Flik toned it down. "I was gonna tell Atta about the water!" "Okay," yawned Dusty. "Can we go to bed now?" Flik realized that he was sleepy too, so he nodded. Flik double-checked that everyone was sleeping, then snuggled up in his leaf and clutched his baby blanket.
Flik woke up earlier than the other campers, so that he could hide his secret and talk to Atta. When he reached the center of the Island, he realized that he wasn't the first one up. Mari was singing softly and skipping across the clearing. She stopped when she noticed that Flik was there. "Morning!" she said. "Sleep well?" Flik nodded. "Good morning! Why are you up so early?" Mari shyly looked at her feet. "Well, I guess you won't tell. You and I have something in common". Flik looked perplexed. Mari reached into the grass and pulled out a little ant doll. "I also have a sleepy thing," she smiled. "I can sleep without it, but I feel more…secure with it". Flik went pale. "You…you saw?" he gasped. Mari nodded. "I won't tell, I promise". Flik talked with Mari about last night and told her why he was so nervous.
"I really wasn't myself last night," he said. "It's just that the Island's water supply is dangerously low. I don't know if the queen knows, so I was going to tell her. But I forgot. Your performance…it just…I dunno, but it was the most amazing thing!" Mari blushed, "Thank you". Flik grinned. "Can you show me how you store your water?" asked Mari. Flik nodded and led her to the wells. "We collect water from the river, when it is high, and put them in these wells. In the summer when the river is dry, we just need to come here. But the spring was so dry and the summer came rather quickly, so the wells just dried up," Flik explained. Mari stared into the empty well. "It's not a very sufficient system," she commented. Flik agreed, "Yeah, I've been studying hydraulics and stuff to think of a better way of doing this". Mari asked," What will your colony do if the water runs out before the river comes back?" Flik looked down into the well. "I don't know," he said softly. Mari looked at the horizon thoughtfully and went into deep thought.
The rest of the campers woke up and found Mari and Flik talking about their families. "Morning sleepy heads!" shouted Flik. Dusty waved. The rest of the colony slowly got up and went to work. "I gotta go," said Flik. "I hafta find Queen Atta". "'Kay bye!" yelled Daisy. When Flik was out of ear shot Daisy sighed, "He is so handsome!" Dusty rolled his eyes. Mari stared after him. "He's sweet too!" said Mari. Dusty sighed, "Good grief! Not another one! You two steer clear of Flik. He's Atta's guy". "Not for long!" Daisy growled. Dusty chuckled, "Well, if anyone assassinates her, we'll know who to blame!" Daisy scowled, "You can be such a pest!" "That is my life's goal! To pester you Daisy! I am your conscience!" declared Dusty waving his arms comically. Mari laughed and shook her head.
Dusty and Daisy had to go work in the harvest, so they had to leave Mari. She was glad she did find some friends and hoped the circus didn't leave soon. Mari went to the wagon to talk to Molt, her circus friend. Molt, like her, was also cast out. They understood each other. Mari even held her ant doll when she talked with him. "You were right Molt, the ants here are nice," said Mari. "Told ya!" said Molt. "Did ya meet Flik?" Mari grinned maliciously, "Oh yeah!" "He's really nice, but most of the workers are nice too," Molt continued. Mari stared at her ant doll dreamily.
Flik finally reached Atta. She was talking with a friend. "Atta! Atta, I must speak to you!" he said desperately. "Sure Flik, what's up?" she said pleasantly. "In private if you don't mind," he muttered, glancing at the friend. "Hmmm," said Atta suspiciously. "Is it important?" "Yes!" said Flik emphatically. Atta excused herself and went into a nearby tunnel with Flik. "This better be good. I haven't talked to Lily in a long time," said Atta dryly. "It is your highness. I was gonna tell ya last night but it slipped my mind. The wells are almost empty!" said Flik frantically. Atta gasped in surprise, "No, your kidding! Thorny and I measured them a few days ago and they were fine. Are you sure?" "Very sure," said Flik. "I think we're in trouble". Atta nodded. "Thanks Flik. I'll gather Council to fix this! I'm sure we'll be fine," she said unconfidently. Flik sighed, "It's not your fault Atta". "Yes it is! I'm responsible for every life in this colony. If ants start dying of thirst then they'll blame me for not properly handling the water. Then they'll rebel against me and throw me out of the colony, leaving me to die! They'll kill my mother and who knows what'll happen to Dot," Atta panicked and started to get upset. "Shh!" said Flik comfortingly. "You'll be okay. We'll think of something. And I'll always be here for you, always." Atta smiled slightly, but was still jittery. Flik kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand. "You'll be fine," he said again.
Atta called the Council for the emergency meeting. "Where's Dr. Flora?" asked Atta. "She is busy with some patients," said Thorny. "She said she'd join us later". Atta began the meeting. "I have been informed that we are in a crisis…our water supply is gone!" The Council gasped. "Oh no! We're doomed!" cried Thorny. "But the river's all dried up, how will we get water?" asked Mr. Soil. The Council argued over what to do. "We could leave the Island," suggested Cornlius. At that time, Dr. Flora rushed in. "Your highness, where's your mother?" she asked. "In her chambers, why?" said Atta. "It's your sister, she is very ill!" said Dr. Flora. "Ill?" asked Atta. "With what?" "I don't know. I've never seen anything like this before!" said the doctor. Dr. Flora left quickly. Atta dropped her head on the podium in despair. "Why me?" she asked aloud.
Later, Atta went to see her little sister. Dot was in a bed being tended by a nurse in a mask. The old queen was at Dot's side. "They don't know what it is," said the queen softly. Dot's breathing was labored and she couldn't speak. Atta bent down close to her sister. Dot opened her puffy eyes and smiled weakly. "She is covered in a rash," said the nurse. She showed them Dot's arms. The arms were red and bumpy. "They look awful!" said Atta. She couldn't stay another minute. Atta went outside for fresh air.
Flik once again was at work on his invention. He finished. "Yes! Now I can try it out!" he said. Mari slipped away from yet another Circus meeting to watch him. "What is it?" she asked. Daisy and Dusty's attention were averted too. "It's a mode of transportation," said Flik beaming with pride. Flik demonstrated, but the machine didn't move. Flik scratched his head. "I don't understand," he mumbled. "Lemme see!" said Mari. Mari inspected the invention and shouted, "Aha!" She pointed to one of the wheels. "You only need one rope loop, not two. Just from the middle to the back should be enough". She pulled off one of the loops and handed it to Flik. "But the front wheel needs to turn too!" he said with a frown. Dusty agreed. Mari sighed, "Please, I have studied science for years, I know what I'm doing! Watch!" She put her feet on the pedals and started to cycle. The invention worked smoothly. Flik turned red and felt a little jealous. Mari got off the invention. "What's it called?" she asked. Flik shook his head and thought. "I think I'll call it a 'two-wheeler'," he said. Mari nodded. "Sounds good to me!" Flik smiled. "Where did you learn all that?" asked Daisy. "Back home," Mari answered. "My father was a doctor and science just naturally came to me. Biology is my favorite". Flik's eyes widened, he had an idea.
"Mari, you said you studied science. Is there anyone in your colony that could solve our water problem?" asked Flik. "Yes, I'm sure someone could," she answered. "But I think if your colony collected the early morning dew, they could temporarily have enough". Flik rubbed his hands together. "Oh this is great! I must find Atta!" he said excitedly. With that he scurried away. "There is goes again," Dusty sighed. Daisy nodded, "And that's why I love him". Dusty rolled his eyes. "There SHE goes again!" Daisy elbowed him in the side.
"Atta! Atta! Atta! Atta!" called Flik. He found her sitting alone on the beach of Ant Island. When he saw her he noticed that she had been crying. "What's the matter?" he asked. Atta dropped her gaze and said nothing. Flik sat next to her. "Do want to tell me?" he asked. She looked at him mournfully. "Dot is terribly ill with a disease that the doctors have never seen before. She might die!" she said trembling. Flik put a comforting arm around her shoulder. "It's not your fault, Atta," he said. She nodded. "Well, I have some good news. Would you like to hear it?" he said. Atta asked him to continue. "I think I solved the water problem!" Flik said triumphantly. Atta blinked in confusion. "Yes!" said Flik. "You remember Mari, the new performer. Well she comes from an anthill where she said that there are ants smart enough to help us! She also said to collect the morning dew for a while". Atta smiled weakly. "There's one problem taken care of". Flik sighed and hugged her. "I think that at Mari's hill there will be someone who can help Dot," he said. "Is there?" asked Atta pitifully. "Yes…there is" said Flik gently. "Then go! Please! You must save my sister!" Atta begged. Flik nodded vigorously. "Yes your majesty!" Then he left her. Atta bent to scratch an itch on her leg. She looked at the area she scratched and saw a bumpy rash there. Atta shook her head and ran to the infirmary.
Flik rejoined Mari, Dusty and Daisy. "Hey Flik! Why so glum?" said Dusty cheerily. "Dot is very ill. Atta is so worried," Flik responded. "Oh," said Daisy sadly. "That's a shame". "Do you know what she is sick with?" asked Mari. "Nobody knows," said Flik. "We should find this 'nobody' character, he's in a lot of trouble. I mean 'nobody' broke my mom's dishes! And he could help Dotty!" laughed Dusty trying to lighten up the situation. Mari laughed uncontrollably. Dusty stared at her. "You are sad!" he commented. Daisy giggled. Mari regained herself. "Okay. Can we visit Dot?" asked Mari. Flik shook his head. "Only family," he said. Dr. Flora came up to them. What she had to say was very disturbing.
"Flik, Atta has caught whatever Dot had," Dr. Flora said. Flik opened his mouth and screamed, "No! Not Atta!" Dr. Flora nodded sadly, "She said to tell you that she sends her love and wishes you the best of luck on your journey. Also to remember her". "No! She can't die! She can't!" cried Flik hysterically. Dr. Flora left the scene. "I must succeed!" said Flik determinedly. "Mari! Can you take me to your anthill?"
Mari's face flooded with horror. "G-go back?" she asked timidly. "Yes!" said Flik. "I'll give you anything!" She shook her head, "You don't understand I…I can't go back! I just can't!" "Please!" begged Flik falling on his knees. "You must! I beg you!" Flik grabbed her arms. "NO!" screamed Mari. "I will not!" Mari's eyes filled with tears as she took off running. "Mari!" Flik called after her. "Please," he said to himself quietly. "You are…the only way." Flik started to cry too.
Dusty and Daisy weren't sure what to make of this. "What are we gonna do?" asked Daisy. "I dunno," said Dusty. "But we gotta do something". He thought for a while. Then his antennae perked. "Daisy, you comfort Flik. I'll try and convince Mari to take all of us". Daisy grinned, "Sure. I'll happily stay with Flik. Take your time!" Dusty shook his head and went after Mari. Daisy stayed behind with Flik and held him in an embrace. Flik rocked back and forth with her.
Dusty made his way through the clovers. He couldn't find her. "Where could she be?" he thought. He looked around the circus wagon. Dusty found Molt. "Excuse me, Molt," said Dusty. "Have you seen Mari?" Molt blinked and thought real hard. "Duh yeah! She was in the wagon a minute ago, but then she ran that way," he said. Dusty thanked him and continued to search. He started to grow frustrated when he couldn't find her. "This is insane!" he said aloud. "Is it?" responded an unhappy voice. Dusty looked up and saw Mari sitting on top of the clover. "There you are! I've been looking all over for you!" he called. Dusty climbed up and joined Mari on the clover. She held her ant doll tighter.
"Why can't you help us?" he asked quickly. Mari gulped, she knew this would happen. "I have been banished and told if I came back they would kill me," she answered. "But we would protect you!" said Dusty. Mari shook her head, "You could protect me, but that is not my greatest fear". "Then what is?" asked Dusty. "My father…would be killed if I came back," she said almost angrily. Dusty nodded understanding. "You could have just told us that," he commented. Mari nodded, "Confidence is something I lack". Dusty scoffed, "You sell yourself short. You have lots of confidence. I mean, you perform…that takes confidence". Mari shook her head. "I…I just can't though. I could never face my colony again. They clearly don't want me. They cheered when I left!" she said. "I don't understand why," said Dusty honestly. "I mean you're a great singer and dancer…" "I don't want to sing and dance for a living!" Mari interrupted. "I want to do something more…more helpful. I want to…make a difference". Dusty sighed, "You should use what talent you have. You are smart, somewhat witty, and for some reason, posses this inner joy that is released every time you laugh or sing". Mari smiled.
Dusty tried asking her again, "So will you take us to your colony?" Mari's smile was erased. "No! I still just can't!" she said. Dusty bit his lip. "You said you wanted to make a difference. This is your chance! If you do this, you will save this colony!" he said. "But lose my father?" she said forcefully. Dusty chewed his finger in thought. "I promise your father will not die! Flik is clever, he'll make sure he's safe. Do you trust me? You can do it, I know you can," Dusty said steadily. Mari looked at her ant doll in thought. "Do I trust him?" she asked the doll. Dusty waited patiently for her answer. Mari sighed in defeat, "You promise my father won't be hurt". "Yes," said Dusty. "Then please, promise you'll protect…me," Mari asked timidly. Dusty took her hand. "I promise," he said gently. Then Mari agreed to take them.
Dusty and Mari returned to Flik and Daisy. Flik was still in shock of the news and Daisy was enjoying herself thoroughly. "She's gonna take us!" announced Dusty. "You will?" asked Flik in disbelief. Mari nodded sadly, "But there is a problem. I was told if I returned, my colony would kill my father. I don't know how well you and your father related, but I love mine dearly and couldn't possibly bear the weight of the tragedy of his death now. I am also in danger if I return". Flik looked up at her hopefully. "But you will take us," he asked again. Mari nodded again. Flik clapped his hands and hugged her. "Don't worry Mari, I have an idea!" he said happily. "What is your idea?" asked Daisy.
Flik told them his plan. "Okay, object one is to find Mari's father. You said he's a doctor, right?" "Yes, he is," said Mari. "Good. Mari and Dusty stay with him while Daisy and I go to the queen and request help," Flik explained. "The colony won't help you," said Mari. "We'll think of something. Don't worry, ideas come to me quickly," said Flik with a smile. Mari scratched her chin. "I fear when we go to the hill someone will recognize me and try to kill me," she said with concern. "We'll think of something," said Dusty. "We're wasting time!" Flik agreed and told them to pack up.
Mari persuaded Molt to come with them. Rosie and Dim also agreed to come help. Molt helped them cross the ravine to the meadow. Mari scratched her head. "This way!" she shouted and pointed east. The little caravan traveled all day, but the anthill was not in sight. By nightfall they had to stop. "So what's the plan?" Mari asked Flik. Flik cleared his throat. "Well…" he stuttered. "You don't have a plan?" Mari asked anxiously. "I haven't seen the anthill yet," Flik stalled. "I need to see it, so I can perfect my plot". Flik chuckled nervously. Mari was dissatisfied. "Don't fret dear," Rosie comforted. "Flik is very good at plotting. You'll see he'll pull us through". Mari nodded and stared at Flik angrily. The group settled down for the night, but Mari couldn't sleep. She was far too nervous about tomorrow.
At high noon they reached a crest. Mari ordered them to stop for they were here. Flik and Dusty spied over the top. The anthill was enormous! Ants of various shades of gray, brown, black, and blue hurried about their business. The two boys returned to the group. "It's…It's huge!" gasped Dusty. Mari nodded. "Then, it'll be easier to sneak about," said Flik. "Not that easy," said Mari. "Police ants are on the look out for strange happenings. And on top of that they know me!" Flik frowned. "That will complicate things…" he said thoughtfully. "I know!" Daisy said suddenly. "What?" asked Flik. "We can disguise Mari as a cripple and take her to this hill's infirmary. Her father would be there, right?" Daisy explained. Flik grinned, "Excellent thinking! Rosie, wrap her up around the thorax, face, and hands! We'll say she was in an accident and get her to the infirmary!" Rosie wrapped Mari in web as Flik instructed. "Now, someone has to carry her!" said Flik. "I'll do that!" Dusty volunteered. "Okay, now let's go!" said Flik. "Rosie, you and Molt stay here". The group of ants started over the crest. "Where do you think you're going?" said a gruff voice.
A big, strong ant stood before them. "We are taking this ant to the infirmary for proper medical attention," said Dusty professionally. The big ant raised an eye ridge. "Well, you are headed in the wrong direction. The infirmary is that way. Everyone knows that!" he said suspiciously. "Well," Flik stated. "We were headed that way! She just wanted some water first!" The big ant laughed heartily, "The reservoir is over yonder. Now if I didn't know better I'd say you're not from around here". Mari panicked and alarmed the big ant. "Criminy! She's hallucinating!" shouted Daisy. "Flik, go get water!" Flik winked and ran off towards where the big ant pointed. Then he saw them. The reservoirs were underground chambers! The walls were coated in a waxy substance. "Ant salvia," said Flik. "Dried up ant salvia! Of course!" Flik knew it was no time to dawdle. He grabbed some water and ran back. He had Mari drink the water. Then the big ant left them alone. "That was close," said Dusty as they ran towards the infirmary.
They reached the front of the infirmary where a young lady ant sat and did papers. "Is Dr. Stant here today?" asked Flik. "Yes," replied the young ant. "But he is not taking any new patients". Flik nodded, "Is he in the office now?" The young ant shrugged. Flik returned to the group. "He's here, but they won't tell me where," he said. "I know where his office is," said Mari. She directed them to her father's office. They found him studying some leaves with writing.
"Daddy?" Mari asked quietly. Her father looked up from his work. "Mari? What are you doing here?" he asked. Mari quickly explained the situation. Her father sat thoughtfully. "I am really busy. I don't think I could go," he said sadly. Flik panicked. "But sir, you must! She's the queen". Mari's father shook his head. "I really can't" "Is there anyone who can help?" asked Daisy. Again Dr. Stant shook his head. "If anyone discovers Mari, it is doom for her". However Mari's father thought of a solution.
"Can you tell me their symptoms?" he asked. Flik looked pale. "Yes," said Daisy. "I can". Flik looked at her confusedly. She smiled, "I took Dot to the infirmary when she first came down with the sickness". Flik urged her to tell on. Daisy described to the doctor how Dot looked. "She had a high fever, puffy eyes, and small red dots that itched," she said. Dr. Stant nodded. "That could be one of two things, but the good news is they have a similar treatment. It is either measles or worse…smallpox". The doctor left for a moment and returned with four capsules of medicine. Then he wrote down the instructions and gave them to Mari. "This will help. It's a mixture of certain pollens and juices. Make sure no one gets too much exposure from the princesses or they will catch it too! Now take some of this," he said as he handed them small drops of medicine. "This will prevent you from ever catching these diseases. I'm sure the doctors on your hill will be able to figure out this mixture if the disease should arise again". Flik, Dusty, Daisy, and Mari all drank the bitter fluid and thanked Mari's father. He wished them luck and whispered some advice to Mari. She nodded sadly and kissed him farewell.
They made their way out triumphantly. When they ran into an old friend, the big ant! "Hey! You aren't injured!" he said. Then he tore off the webbing. His eyes widened. "Mari! It's Mari! Hey! Call the queen, she's returned! It's the false princess!" he called. Everyone turned and stared in awe. "Kill her!" yelled some ants. Mari gasped and ran back to her father. "I've been discovered!" she said. Her father dropped his work and went through a secret door. "I'll be all right, meet me at the crest. Go to your friends!" he said. She did.
"Guys!" she called. Dusty ran to her, "Follow me!" he shouted. Dusty heaved Mari over his shoulder and raced through the mob. Flik and Daisy followed behind. They ran back to the crest without getting caught. Dusty dropped Mari and collapsed to catch his breath. "Dad!" Mari shouted happily. And there he was on the crest. But behind him came the queen and the angry mob.
"You dare to come back!" shouted the young queen. "You don't understand," Mari said desperately. "I only needed some help…I don't need to come back after this!" "Silent! You were told the penalty for returning! Yet you still dared to return! Seize her!" ordered the queen. "No!" yelled Dusty. "Seize her. Rosie now!" Rosie acted quickly and wrapped up the queen. "Now you listen to me!" said Dusty. "You are a foolish queen. I forced her to come back! So if ya got anything to say about it, you bring it to me. Got it?" The queen glared at him. "Let's make a deal," suggested Dusty. "If you leave Dr. Stant alone, I will give you my word that you will never see Mari again and we won't kill you". To their surprise the queen agreed. The angry mob didn't agree with the queen though. They started to charge Flik and his friends. "Dim! Molt!" called Rosie.
Dim and Molt came between the two opposing groups. The angry mob backed away from the huge grasshopper and giant Rhino beetle. Then the ants of Mari's hill disappeared behind the crest. Flik breathed a sigh of relief. "We did it!" he murmured. "Let's hurry up and get back!" said Daisy happily. "Hang on!" said Dusty. "Mari's saying goodbye to her dad." Mari said goodbye to her father for the last time. "I guess I can't come back," said Mari sadly. Her father nodded. "But it sounds like you have some good opportunities at that other hill you stayed at. You should go for it! I know you don't like to be a circus performer," he said. Mari smiled gratefully and hugged her father. Then her father started towards home. Mari watched him go then turned to her friends.
The group hurried homeward to get the medicine to Atta and Dot. Flik was especially anxious to get back. The group arrived at Ant Island in the early evening and all the workers were getting ready for the end of the day. Flik hurried towards the infirmary where Atta and Dot were.
"She's not here," said the nurse. "What! Where are they?" asked Flik. The nurse looked sadly at him and answered," They've been moved to the royal burial chambers". "What! She's…she's dead?" exclaimed Flik as he broke into a cold sweat. "Oh no, not yet," responded the nurse quickly. "They are as good as dead though". "Not if I can help it," said Flik as he took off toward the burial chambers.
Flik skidded to a stop before the guard at the doors. "Please let me in," said Flik desperately. "Only family," said the guard tonelessly. "But you don't understand. I have the cure!" said Flik waving the capsule in front of the guard. The guard sighed heavily, "Sorry, I have my orders". Flik blinked in disbelief. A weak voice was heard from inside the chamber. "Flik? Is that you?" "Yes!" Flik shouted. "And I have a cure!"
"Let him in!" ordered the old queen. The guards obeyed and Flik entered. Atta and Dot were lying on cots and all wrapped in petals. Flik pulled out the instructions that Dr. Stant gave him and read them out loud. "First," he stated. "You have to take a drop of this". He held up the capsule. Dr. Flora gave Atta and Dot a drop of the medicine. "Then," Flik continued. "All who have had exposure to the disease should take a drop of this". Flik handed Dr. Flora the other capsule. The group obeyed. "Lastly, the princesses should get some sun, keep clean, and rest taking a drop of medicine in the morning and before bed", Flik said.
After two weeks the princesses were well again! The colony rejoiced at their recovery. Flik was especially grateful. It was then when Mari remembered something interesting.
"I did what?" asked Flik astonished. "You said if I took you to my hill you'd give me anything," Mari repeated. Mari tapped her foot. Flik was trapped so he gave in. "What do you want," he sighed. Mari grinned mischievously and glanced at Daisy. "I want you to kiss Daisy," said Mari. Daisy blinked in surprise. "Excuse me?" said Flik. "You're kidding". Mari shook her head. "That's what I want. And remember if it wasn't for me taking you guys Atta wouldn't have survived". Flik groaned and approached Daisy. He kissed her lightly on the cheek, which sent Daisy into a giggling fit. Flik only grinned and went towards Atta to show her his big surprise.
"I have something for you, your highness," said Flik. Atta smiled playfully. Flik unveiled the 'two-wheeler'. "It's to ride on. But that is not all I got for you, look!" he said showing her the plans for the reservoir. Atta smiled again, "You did it again Flik. Thank you". Flik grinned "Awww gee Atta you know I'd do anything for you". Atta blushed. It was at this point Flik revealed his final surprise for Atta!
Mari was comfortably socializing with her new friends. "And she actually got him to kiss me! Isn't that so cool?" said Daisy excitedly. "Yeah wonderful," said Dusty pretending not to be amused. "I think he's jealous," commented Mari. "Oh am I?" said Dusty playfully. "Okay I confess, I would like Flik to kiss me!" The girls fell into helpless fits of giggles. Dusty only remained amused, with a wide grin on his freckled face. Daisy ran off into the crowd to get as close to Flik as possible. They were all to be commemorated for their deeds. So Mari and Dusty stood alone.
"Thanks again for helping me," said Mari tenderly. "For what?" asked Dusty. "For encouraging me to go and saving me from the crowd," said Mari. "Oh that. It was nothing really, instinct or something," he said nervously. Mari grinned pleasantly, "How can I repay you?" Dusty shrugged, "Forget it". Mari giggled, "I just can't forget. You saved me and my father". Dusty grinned, "Well I guess I did do something". He scratched his head nervously as Mari's eyes softened and leaned closer. "Uh, we…we better get the banquet table," said Dusty quickly and he darted off. Mari moaned in frustration. "So close," she mumbled.
The celebration started. Flik and Atta were both rather flustered and silly. Daisy was suspicious. Mari acted funny too. No one had ever seen her so happy or social. Dusty was uncomfortable, which surprised Daisy. He twitched anxiously in his seat. "Settle down Dusty or you'll get the hiccups," said Flik with a giddy tone. Dusty hiccuped. Atta rose to make an announcement.
"Ants of Ant Island, I thank you for all your cooperation in our crisis. Flik has brought new plans for water storage so no longer will we need to suffer like this again!" Atta proclaimed. The crowd cheered and clapped. Then Flik stood up to make his announcement. "Everyone I'd like to take this opportunity to say that Atta and I…are going to be married!" Another loud cheer from the audience sounded and Atta blushed. Daisy hung her head sadly as Dusty smirked and hiccuped again.
P.T. Flea announced that the circus would be leaving again, so they would put on one last performance for the ants. Mari panicked, this meant she would have to leave and she didn't want to. Evening fell and the circus started their last performance. Daisy and Dusty felt sad and uncomfortable about what would happen to Mari. Mari meanwhile had all her stuff packed and ready to go. "Get ready for your performance," said Gypsy. "Okay, I'm set," said Mari. She went into the flower bud determined to finish her performance.
Once again Francis and Slim pushed out the flower bud and the spotlight shone on it. From the flower came her voice, silvery and alive. She sang and slipped out of the flower bud. She was all smiles and very vibrant. Mari danced lightly and sang drifting into the crowd. She stopped in front of Dusty.
Dusty froze stiff and hiccuped. Mari began to sing to him. Flik nudged him and encouraged Dusty to join her. Dusty of course didn't join her, but he did stand up. Mari finished her song, winked, and started to back away. Having no idea where the words came from Dusty suddenly said, "Don't go". Mari stopped and Dusty stood there feeling foolish. "Uh, I'd…I mean we'd like you to stay," he continued. Mari grinned so widely that her eye squinted. "Alright, I'll stay," she said gladly. "What! Oh no you don't missy!" shouted P.T. "You have to stay with me…I'll lose business!" "In life, you win some and you lose some," said Gypsy. Mari turned a thankful look toward her. "She's happier here, there are other places to find talent," said Manny. "Besides, I think she has got a fondness to that ant boy there". Dusty blushed and sank back down. Mari blushed and looked at Dusty on the ground. "He is right, I should have told you. Ever since we met I've liked you," Mari whispered. Dusty now felt terribly uncomfortable. He slipped into the back of the crowd. Mari frowned and went back towards the circus wagon.
After the performance, Mari sat in her dark corner of the wagon with her ant doll. "I should have told him earlier," she moaned. "Are you alright?" asked Daisy. "Yes and no," said Mari. Daisy crawled in next to her. "I know how you feel, "she said. "I just wanted to impress him, but nothing I do seems to work," Mari groaned. Daisy nodded, "I'm sure he understands". "I hope so…because I'm going to leave in the morning," said Mari sadly. "No please don't go! You're my friend, I'll miss you too much," whined Daisy. "I can't stay," Mari said with tears. "I can't stand it anymore. My mind is made up!" Daisy tried for hours to convince her to stay, but it was a hopeless battle.
The next day the circus left and Mari went with them. Daisy couldn't keep her eyes dry. Dusty was still asleep. When he woke up, he went to work without a care. He saw Daisy crying and his heart softened. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Mari's gone!" sobbed Daisy. "And it's all your fault!" Then she stormed away. Dusty stood there complexed and saddened. "She left because of me?" he said out loud. "Oh no!" He went to the edge of the Island where the circus took off. "I missed them! Great, why do I feel guilty?" he said. "I dunno, why?" came a small voice from behind. Dusty turned to see that Mari didn't leave at all!
"You didn't leave? Why?" said Dusty excitedly. "Gypsy told me a few things and I remember that old saying 'Always follow your heart'," said Mari cheerfully. Then she started to cry. Dusty took her hands. "I'm glad you are back," he said. "I think you'll like it here". Mari dried her eyes. "I know I like it here," she said trembling. Then Dusty did what Mari never expected him to do, he kissed her cheek. "Welcome back, Mari," he said kindly. "Now, you gotta cheer up Daisy". Mari walked hand in hand with Dusty back to the center of the Island.
Flik and Atta were married in the spring. The reservoirs were completed in time to collect rain. No one ever suffered from the strange disease again. Dot grew into a mischievous little princess, but was very eager to learn how to become queen. Daisy did cheer up and recover from Flik's wedding. She caught the bouquet and was promoted onto the council. She also met a nice ant and married him, Flik's identical twin Abe. (LOL). The circus did find a new act that was a lifesaver for P.T. Flea. Mari and Dusty grew fond of each other and live happily ever after together. The End!
Credits: all characters are copyright 1998 from Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life. Daisy is copyrighted 2000 by my friend Daisy used with her permission. Dusty is copyrighted 2000 by my friend Dusty and used with his permission. All other characters are copyright 2000 by me, the author. Thank you, I hope you enjoyed my story.