The new girl visits Inkopolis Square, gains an objective, and learns about urban warfare/state-sanctioned sport.
"Is... this normal?"
"No, she's just weird."
Lily stood awkwardly as Agent 4 continued to walk around her, an orange-tentacled inkling to Lily's sky-blue, examining her from seemingly every angle. Marie, standing two meters away, had just introduced the two.
She was glad that she'd been given this level 1 clothing - though she'd slept in, the late morning air was still a bit chilly. The clothes fit snugly on her - though she figured that was more due to the material than her size - and they hugged her form.
Apparently defeated in trying to find a flaw in Lily's 'disguise', Agent 4 straightened up and crossed her arms, putting on some mocking voice. "So! Where'd ya come from, hooooman? Gonna take over again, hoooooman? Where'd you learn to fight a squad of Octos, hoooooooman? Eh?"
Lily stared at her. She was still working out where the relation of her world, or time, to theirs was. "Uhhhhh... Earth? No? I didn't? I was terrible?"
Marie interjected, a slight smirk on her face. "She's only still here because I don't think they expected someone to fight them without clothes."
Lily sighed and rolled her eyes. "Give me a break! If I took the extra minute to put this stuff on I wouldn't be here."
"I know, I know. I am at least glad that you held your own long enough for me to get there..." There was a slight pause, and Agent 4 settled back into her usual self. \"Well, Agent 4, I figured, since you missed the action last night, would you show her around, help her settle in?
"Sounds great! Hooray, I have a new friend\~!" Agent 4 said in a sing songy voice, and grabbed Lily's hand, pulling her along toward the grate which led toward the Inkopolis Square. "Come on! Race you to the square!" She jumped into the air, transformed into a squid, and slid neatly past the grate cover, and vanished into the ink below.
Lily stood above the grate, staring down after her, a frown forming. About ten seconds later, the same orange squid reappeared underneath the grate and stared up at her.
"Oh right..." She thought she heard it say.
"Come on, say it!"
"It's not THAT weird..."
"But look at all the tall buildings!"
"We had those!"
"There's screens everywhere!"
"Times Square was a thing..."
"We've got creatures with fur, though!" Agent 4 gestured wildly at Judd snoozing by the entrance to the Battle Lobby.
"Cats existed where I came from!"
"Whoooooaaa. Judd's oooold."
"I mean, I don't think I've ever seen that cat before..."
Lily and Agent 4 sat at a table off to the side of the square, eating soft-serve ice cream cones. They'd just spent some time walking around the different storefronts, Agent 4 giving her the guided tour.
As it turned out, Lily thought, I guess it's really difficult to describe how to do something that's naturally inherent in your species. It had taken a few tries, and lots of awkward explaining, but they eventually managed to get Lily into a squid form so they could both travel to Inkopolis.
Going from the quiet, floating platforms in Octo Canyon to a bustling city was a shock to Lily, but she realised pretty quickly that things hadn't changed much from the cities she'd been to. She watched the populace move by as she finished her ice cream, watching them go about their daily life. Groups of Inklings hanging out with each other. Some just slowly plodding by in front of their phones. She stared out into the crowd until Agent 4 nudged her to get her attention. "Mmm?"
"Shouldn't we go see Sheldon now?"
"The guy who runs the weapons shop! Mar-- Our friend said you should get a checkup done, to see what was going on with you."
"Aaaaand the weapons shopkeeper can do that."
"Just going off of what I was told! Let's go!"
And just like that, Lily found herself inside a shop called "Ammo Knights". The shop was indeed dedicated to displays of different types of weaponry. She did a double take when she saw a simple metal bucket hanging off the wall. I mean, I GUESS, Lily screamed in her head.
According to Agent 4, they were all for handling ink in some capacity. "See, turf wars thrive with all the different strategies all these offer."
"Turf wars? Is that... common in this city?"
"All the time! It's an Inkling's most popular pastime!"
Lily blinked. "I.. guess I must be thinking of something else."
"Ahh, welcome, Agent!" A friendly male voice called from the back of the shop as a short fellow, slightly yellow all over, scurried out from behind the counter to meet them. He shook Agent 4's hand and then turned to bow to Lily. "And you must be our special guest from the past! Welcome to our humble city!"
Lily shifted about, uncomfortable. "I uh, appreciate the gesture, Sheldon, but I'm not that special anymore." Regardless, she reached out her hand to shake his.
"Pah! Always a pleasure." Sheldon's smile seemed at least genuine. "Miss Marie has kept me up to date on your situation, and if I may I'd like to perform a few tests if I could be so bold...?"
She looked at him, then at Agent 4. "I'm... assuming all this is staying confidential, right?"
"Of course," Sheldon said with another smile and a bow. "For the time being, of course. I've not seen any cases of someone being changed by ink contact before, and I'm hoping to figure out why this has happened."
He shifted his gaze toward the back door. "But also, if it would put you at ease, I have retrieved something that might belong to you."
"Well..." Lily thought briefly about it. There wasn't much she felt she could do to object, and her trust in Marie hadn't felt particularly misplaced yet, so she nodded. "Lead the way."
"Excellent! It was also recommended to me that we give you some time on the shooting range when we are finished. I assume you could help her there, Agent 4?"
"Splendid! Now, please follow me through the back."
Sheldon's back offices were, to put it nicely, untidy. Each room seemed like it served a wildly different purpose. The room Lily was ultimately steered into was supposedly supposed to serve a medical purpose - there was a kind of dentist's chair near the middle and various equipment around it. It was like the messy version of a TV studio's picture of a doctor's office. "Take a seat, please miss," Sheldon said, gesturing at Lily toward the chair.
As she made herself comfortable, Agent 4 sat on the medical bed behind the chair, and Sheldon sat by the chair, getting protective gear on. As he did so, he finally asked Lily to talk about herself. She had to think about this, wondering how much to tell. She chose her words carefully. "So I'm... I'm basically a big computer nerd," she began, staring up at the ceiling as she talked. "I lived for about... 26 years on..." She paused, unsure whether she was in another universe or something, or from the past. "Sorry, 26 years before I got... turned, I guess. Worked in cleaning, did some factory work. I guess most people in my life would call me a good friend, that I was there for them..."
"Good, good," Sheldon said absentmindedly. "How did you come to arrive in Octo Canyon, then? Do you remember?"
Lily could feel Agent 4 leaning closer behind her. "I... remember, but I can't make sense of it. My part of the world isn't really supposed to get earthquakes or things like that, but that's more or less what happened. This ravine opened up under my house and I just kinda got... thrown in. I thought for sure I was just dead. I guess I blacked out or something, but right before that the darkness of that ravine just sorta turned into bright light and... I guess that might have been when I 'arrived' here. But stuff like that isn't supposed to happen where I come from..."
"It doesn't happen here either," Agent 4 chimed in. "Sounds like magic."
"Don't confuse the poor girl," Sheldon admonished her. "Magic doesn't exist here either, only in fiction." He turned back to Lily, having now put on more appropriate doctor wear on top of his regular outfit and holding a small needle. "Hold still a moment, I'm taking a DNA sample. So tell me, are you... alright? I can't imagine many people would be able to cope with what you're going through, with the loss of your... identity, I guess."
"You mean I'm not a boy anymore, don't you? Ow." Lily winced as the needle carefully entered her arm.
"Well, all of it, but... start with that if you want."
"I miss it a little bit, if that's what you mean," Lily said, unimpressed. "As a whole, I've the same general body structure, so while yeah this all feels weird it's not like I'm entirely out of my element. Most of the shock feels more from the fact this world feels so much the same but at the same so different to mine, and also y'know, I was friggin' attacked last night. I'm more upset about that than losing my male identity. Actually, also kind of in shock about losing access to my phone and my friends. May as well be the same thing, was never great at making local friends."
"Interesting that you mention that." Sheldon had transferred the sample to a small test tube, and put it aside in a fridge, and was now removing the doctor gear. "Okay, Miss Lily, that's the sample done. I'll let you know the results soon. Now let's get you both out to the firing range where I have a few more things for you."
The firing range was a rented warehouse behind the buildings of the Square, mostly concreted and with railings, walkways and tracks installed for various inflatable targets. It was a place for Inklings old and new to try out the latest weapons, or just the ones they are interested in. Sheldon led the two squids to the back of his shop, which looked out into the range, in which was a map of what seemed like the main region of the country in which Inkopolis and Octopia both resided, as well as several tables full of various things. There were several areas circled on the map, some close, some far, but what they meant was not immediately apparent.
"When you appeared in our world," Sheldon began again, "you did not come through alone. Several items - by the sounds of things, some of your belongings - came through the supposed portal and scattered throughout our land. I've no idea what condition they may be in, but there are three that were found here in this city, four more within Octo Canyon, one outside of the city limits somewhere, and one more in the waters where a company called Grizzco operates, so you'll more than likely have to go with them to get close to that one."
"H-how do you know all this already?"
"I hear things here and there. I'm privy to some breaking news. These two in the city, for example," Sheldon gestured at two points on the outer edges of the city, "were discovered almost right away I believe, but they're on our skyscrapers. These particular ones, there's no roof access and they were designed so you can't ink and swim up them. It's a building code of some sort," he said. "These," he gestured at Octo Canyon, "were picked up by Marie over sonar. No idea what they are, just that they have the same sort of 'otherworldly scent'."
Lily nodded. A plan was beginning to form. It was probably a stupid plan, but it was something. "OK, so where you do you recommend I get started?"
"With this." And Sheldon handed her a mobile phone.
"Err, thanks." She glanced over it, and then made to put it in her shorts pocket, but it twigged and she gave it another look. "No fucking way..." she thought, a bit loudly.
Sheldon had just given her her iPhone.
Her eyes lit up as she held the power button to turn it on. While it booted, she looked at him and Agent 4, beaming. "My goodness, you guys! I was starting to think you were just pulling my leg! It's... entirely undamaged too, what the hell."
"Now, there's no real time limit to getting these," Sheldon said, getting her back on topic, "but be aware that especially in the Canyon, you may have enemy parties looking for or defending them, so... if you decide to go for those, maybe go for them first."
"Maybe I can help with at least scouting the Canyon locations," said Agent 4, looking closer at the map. "These two locations nearest home I must have already been to, and I can give you an idea of what you'll face later on. Same with the others but who knows, you may end up beating me there, since I'm grabbing Zapfishes as well."
"Alright, well, let's see..." Lily thought about it for a moment. "Okay, so why don't we coordinate on the Canyon ones, grab a couple out there first, and then I could... maybe grab one or both of the city ones, outskirts, then see how we are by then? I figure, the 'Octos' as you call them probably know about some of these, and probably have one or two already, so it might be worth me doing what I can to get some experience in the field before I take them on more directly..."
"Oh! Speaking of!" Sheldon said excitedly, shuffling over to a corner and retrieving what looked like some more weapons from the table and bringing them over to Lily. "The ink tank,\ Splat Bombs, and Ink Armor mechanism to accompany your Splattershot Jr, seeing you'll be able to use them now."
"Oh, uh... thanks," said the inkling girl awkwardly. "Is this supposed to be free, or..?"
"Well, no. See, at Ammo Knights we sell each weapon as a complete set. So every weapon you saw in the shopfront will always come with an inksplosive grenade or projectile of some kind, and what we call a 'special' weapon for Turf Wars, which is limited use but can turn the tide when used well. The sets basically cater to different play styles, so once you reach level 4 in the Turf Wars and you feel like your current set just isn't cutting it, maybe take a look at the other sets available! We always recommend sticking with the Splattershot for a while though, it's an all-rounder. These things are what come with it."
Lily nodded. So this turf war thing is more like a sport and not so much to do with actual gangs... got it. "And this canister?"
"Oh, well, that's what holds your ink! It's what makes your set work together! Quite literally, actually," he permitted himself a small chuckle. "When you go into your squid form and sit around in your ink, or your team's ink, the tank will fill up, making sure you're ready to get back into the fray in seconds. And then it comes with nozzles to connect to your weapons and projectiles, to make sure they're ready to use when you need them!"
"And... I think that's it! Oh, no, actually..." He ran off to the table again and grabbed a strange handheld device, bringing it over and placing it in Lily's free hand, with a data cable wrapped around it. "I've been working on a translator at Miss Marie's request, human to inkling and back. I'd much appreciate it if you could supply some more sample data for me."
Lily examined it. It was a yellow, oddly-shaped device, some cross between a Yak Bak and a Digivice, with a plug that matched the connector for the iPhone she was continuing to hold in the other hand. The cable was, amazingly enough, seemingly designed to plug into both devices. "We managed to collaborate with the tech company behind this building to reverse-engineer the connection for your phone, so you should be able to record your voice and import that or any other voice recordings you may have on to this device, which'll then be sent wirelessly to me. I mean, hey, if you are able to provide some of your own translations of things, that would be greatly appreciated, but there are certainly more important things at hand here..."
Lily nodded. "I at least know that I have some spoken podcasts... ah, audio shows on my phone that I can plug into it..."
Sheldon smiled. His work was done. "Well, that's basically everything I can think of. Any questions before we get you out on the firing range?"
Agent 4 and Lily spent the next few hours alone in the firing range. The first thing she taught was that it was okay to start off with poor aim. In Turf Wars, she said, the aim was simply to cover the most territory in the set time, so while splatting opponents was important to stop them from taking it back, she explained it was perfectly valid to avoid combat and quietly reclaim the territory.
She taught the newbie more about how to use her squid form, and set her some small challenges, like swimming up inked walls, or jumping between puddles of ink. Once she felt the blue-tentacled girl had become more comfortable with the form, then they finally got out the Splattershot and practiced firing, first on the inflatable dummies, then on the moving targets.
At first Lily took her shots slowly, as opposed to her previous experience holding the weapon, and Agent 4 was patient with her. She'd aim carefully - only when she was sure that she would hit her target would she briefly pull the trigger, and a single shot of ink would fire from its chamber at the dummy. She missed, most of the time, and that upset her, but every now and then she'd remember to relax, take a few breaths, and try again. As the hour went by, and she started to understand the weapon and the aiming, the time from 'concentrate' to 'fire' went down, and she seemed to be getting more confident in her shots. She was still missing, but she was at least hitting them most of the time, so Agent 4 declared it a success, so she moved her onto the moving targets.
These targets were affixed to a motorized track that moved them back and forth across a section of the warehouse. First Lily tried her single-shot method out on them. She was only hitting them a third of the time to begin with, but with a few minutes of practice her accuracy was about 50%. Then Agent 4 told her to start using it full-auto. Lily braced herself and let it loose, covering things in ink. She fired for a few seconds at a time, attempting to adjust for recoil, and watching the targets start to pop more quickly. She smiled - she was beginning to feel more ready to take on the journey ahead.
When they left it was about 2PM, and the Square was a bit quieter. "...But really, the best way to practice is to get into the Turf Wars," Agent 4 was saying as they left. "It's all above board and designed so you can't really get hurt... maybe you just hurt your pride a little."
"I'll manage," Lily smiled. "So where next?"
"Oh! I don't actually know..." said the orange-tentacled inkling, thinking. "Well, you've got your mobile back, but we should probably hook you up with something more proper if you're gonna be sticking around. I know a provider a short ways away we can get a good price on."
"That'd be cool, but, I dunno. I don't exactly have cash to get on a plan with."
"Look, don't worry about that," came the reply, Agent 4 grinning at her. "I'll cover ya today. We're only going pre-paid anyway, and I've been doing fine on the turf wars on my spare time so trust me, I can afford to do this."
Lily let her mouth hang silently. These creatures were treating her so nicely, she thought. It felt like Agent 4 had brought her into the fold a lot more readily than she expected, and that surprised her. She knew though that they would have to part ways for a while for their respective missions, and it would most likely be her on her own...
"...You okay, Lil? You're tearing up." Agent 4 was staring at her, and she couldn't help but blush. "It's not that big of a deal..."
"Oh gosh, it is for /me/, though," Lily quietly said. "Phones are really expensive in my time, and I've never heard of anyone doing anything like that for me..."
"Yeah? Well, maybe they should."
"Come on." Agent 4 took her by the hand and began dragging her along. She quickly gave up and started walking behind her, but Agent 4 never let go. She had a tight grip, but it was also... warm. And soft. She quickly pushed her thoughts to the side - this was really the wrong time to think too hard on that, she flimsily justified to herself.
After the phone store, they also went to the Shellendorf Institute Museum - it was open for visitors on the weekdays, and Agent 4 took her to the human exhibit and they talked about her world. Lily would later remember standing in front of the human skeleton recovered from fossils and being amazed at how much shorter she was now. The exhibit also displayed some technology of the time - apparently recovered from various known ruin sites. Lily also decided she would visit those sites someday.
The museum also showed plenty of the history of Inklings and other prominent species in the city, and she read everything that she could, fascinated.
It was about 4PM when they finally made their way back to the grate that would take them back to the Tentakeel Hideout. "Look, seriously, thanks for showing me around," Lily said. "It's scary being a fish out of water here, but I feel like I'm gonna be at least mostly okay if I end up living here. Thanks. It means a whole lot, what you did today."
Agent 4 blushed. "It's been an honor to introduce someone new to my world, and a real human at that. I um... I hope that you stick around. You seem pretty cool."
They both slipped through the drain and made their way back.