Lily goes on her first expedition into the Octo Canyon, and finds out the price of her involvement.
Lily's first expedition away from the relative safety of the Hideout was two days later. Marie had seen fit, given the scope of the work ahead, to name her Agent 5 of the New Squidbeak Splatoon. That, Marie had said to her during the final check-in before she had left, was the callsign she would use on the field and on the radios.
She'd been outfitted with a backpack to carry some camping gear, and a tracking device that was tuned to the 'otherworldly scent' Sheldon had talked about. It would click like a geiger counter whenever pointed at one of these items, which Marie and Lily had confirmed by pointing it at the scraps of her old clothes still hanging from the improvised clothesline. Her iPhone had been left back at the hideout, but she'd taken care to leave instructions on how to access it in case she didn't return.
For now, she was rocketing towards the landing point of her first destination, having just taken a launchpad. She tried her hardest not to scream out, not being great with heights or falling of this nature. She slammed hard into the friendly ink pool that marked the beginning of her adventure. "Ughhh..." She slowly picked herself up out of the ink, climbed out of it, and surveyed the area.
She'd noticed as she'd flown through the air into it, but the area was contained within this... sphere that she had slipped between the gaps of. It seemed to be made up of light panels and displays, and right now they were transmitting bright lights and vistas of some beach somewhere.
Within this space though, were several floating platforms and structures sitting atop them. In the middle of it all was a place that seemed like it held something, but from where Agent 5 was, she couldn't see anything there.
She could not see if there were any enemies around though. The immediate area on which she found herself did have a few simple wooden towers - she decided that would be a decent vantage point from which she could scout the area.
As she walked over to the base of one of the towers, though, she realised that there was no easy way to climb up. She figured that the wood looked textured enough to perhaps climb, and she wrapped her hands around the other side, put one shoe firmly against the wood, and pushed off. It wasn't too bad of an idea, and it at least got her to the next story of the tower, so she paused to take another look.
Most of the surroundings were visible now, and it seemed the area had been evacuated for something - that said, she saw one straggler up ahead, a more monster-ish kind of tentacle creature in some robot suit, doddling about behind the first climb, and a similar encounter on the other side of the sphere.
Something compelled her to try a diplomatic approach first. She jumped down from her vantage point, scrambled her way up the series of short climbs, and found herself right above the creature. Man, I probably could just splat it from up here and it'd not see it coming. Let's hope I don't have to do it.
"Excuse me!" She called down. The Octotrooper snapped around, looking around for the source of the voice. "I'm coming down to ask you something!" Agent 5 pulled her Splattershot out, aimed carefully, fired once, and put it away. Then she jumped down.
She landed carefully in the spot she had marked. Diplomatic or no, she wanted to make sure she could stand somewhere to speak to it. Both her and the creature spun to face each other. Agent 5 put her palms out quickly. I come in peace. "Please, I mean you no harm. If you'll not harm me, of course."
The tentacle paused. Its eyes were focused very narrowly on the Inkling that had intruded on its territory, or more importantly, the weapons it was carrying. Its ink cannon was trained on her, but in its confusion it waited for the intruder to make her move.
"Please," Agent 5 repeated, making up a story that should get her the information she needed, and not give up much of her own. "We uh, we've got reports of strange impacts around this state. Our intelligence suggests there may be... foreign creatures hostile to both our races landing here. Have you heard any loud bangs or thumps lately?"
The tentacle fired its weapon. Shit, she thought as she dipped into her ink, the shot whizzing past just above her. So much for that. Then she came back up, inking up a path around it, and racing along it, firing back at it in the tight space. It went down quickly, bursting in a splash of light-blue ink that covered her front. Ugh. She dipped back into the ink for a moment, scanning the area from relative safety.
This narrow passage between the two concrete cliffs didn't lead anywhere. Each end seemed to just lead to a drop to one's doom. She thought this rather strange. Partway up the cliff from which she had came, though, was glass. Curious, she inked a path up the opposite wall, and swam up it enough to look inside, finding herself looking into an office of some kind. A furnished desk faced the window, and behind it was a small mass of cubicles. Huh... she thought to herself. She reverted from her squid form for a moment to pull out the tracker, and pointed it at the window. Nothing. She put it away and swam up the wall to the top.
It took until Agent 5 was about a third of the way around the spiral of floating structure before she realised she should at least see if she could pick anything up at long range. From the peak of another structure she took out the tracker again, and slowly panned it around her in a 360-degree arc. Nothing. Grumbling, she let it hang from her hand for a moment as she considered leaving and trying a nearby area, when the tracker started going off like crazy, startling her.
She moved a short distance away, and slowly scanned the area on which she had just stood. Nothing again. What the...
It wasn't until the tracker was pointing downwards again that it started clicking again, and it started to make sense to her. Agent 5 held the tracker in both hands, aiming at the depths of the sphere. A positive reading, again.
Her heart sank. "Well how the hell am I going to get down there...?" She said, to herself.
She soon got her answer.
A blast of red ink smacked her hard in the back of the head, knocking her off balance, and she started to tip over the edge.
As Agent 5 started to fall, she tried to turn herself around to grab the ledge, catching a glimpse of what had struck her.
She missed the ledge. Plummeting down.
In her mad attempts to grab hold of something, she managed to get her hands around a length of steel sticking out of the concrete, and slid to a halt, suspended at least a hundred meters in the air.
Agent 5 wrapped her body tightly around the metal and looked back up, shaking. She could at least see the edge from where she'd fallen. She debated in her head whether she could get up enough to at least swim up the wall.
Then the Octoling appeared at the edge, looking down at her. She was in the same outfit as the ones who had attacked her on her first night. It stared down at her through large black sunglasses, sizing her up. Then it smirked down at her.
"Well, look who it is," The Octoling said, the smirk never straying from her features. "And here I thought you were just another squid-brat snooping around where she wasn't supposed to."
She pulled her weapon out. It looked like a sniper rifle. Lily had to assume it was also ink-based, but she realised that she really was in no position to fight back. "W-who's to say I'm not?! You really think you're gonna get away with basically murder?" She yelled back up at her.
"Do you really think you'll get away with your terrorism, human?"
Agent 5 froze. How does she know who I am? Hang on a second, terrorism?! "What are you talking about, 'terrorism'?! I'm no fucking terrorist!"
The Octoling took her time aiming down the sights of her Charger, relishing the situation she found her target in. "Five days ago," she yelled back down, "you launched several attacks upon our homeland with improvised missiles, damaging several buildings and injuring personnel. We estimate the damages at about one million coins worth. Not only that," she spat at her, "but when we sent our squad to apprehend you, not only did you resist arrest, but you attacked and incapacitated most of that squad without reason, and disguised yourself as this... this inferior creature to attempt to evade detection. And even in just getting here, you splat one of our Octotroopers? What's your problem?"
She sighed. "But now we have you." The Octo finally lowered her weapon, while Lily looked about for any kind of options. "So I'm going to give you a choice. You can give yourself up and face court, or I can knock you off that beam right now and you can fall to your death. Maybe not much of a choice, but oh well, you brought that upon yourself. So what'll it--"
She cut herself off. Her eyes had moved away for just a moment, but when they went back to Agent 5, she had gone. The Octoling got down on her front and looked over the edge, but she couldn't see her at all. She cursed in her native tongue.
"Stupid human," she said to herself.
For her part, Agent 5 had noticed more steel hanging from the underside of the platform, the scene looking like some surreal construction site, and had managed to leap from one to another, so that she was now obscured underneath the platform. She did not feel brave doing this. Rather, she was scared out of her mind. But she'd decided after the first attack that she would not be captured by them. She slowly swung from bar to bar, testing each one to make sure that it held.
The next one she grabbed, however, did not hold.
Its concrete support has crumbled long ago, and the added weight of an Inkling caused it to come sliding out.
Agent 5 screamed out. "No no no no no!!"
Agent 5 plummeted down.
The Octoling rushed back to the edge, hearing the scream, and saw the falling Inkling.
She sighed, and pulled a length of climbing rope from her bag, preparing to come down after her.
Agent 5's body impacted hard against one of the screens at the bottom of the sphere, knocking the wind out of her right away and shattering the screen. She bounced back up into the air from the impact, landing and rolling down the incline towards the center.
The impact had knocked her unconscious.
She finally came to rest next to a black slab of tough plastic, embedded in the screen at the bottom.
She came to not too long after, very much an addled mess. As she lay there, looking up into the 'sky', she saw her again.
A long, dangling rope hanging from the platform hundreds of meters above, upon which an Octoling was slowly climbing down.
Lily groaned, forcing herself to get back up. Everything hurt. Her body screamed to just let go, but she tried to push on, grabbing the plastic slab and tugging at it til it came out. She knew it was what she'd come for. Too exhausted and in pain to put it away, she carried it with her, stumbling and limping her way up the strange landscape of screens, now lit up in pure white.
The Octoling, still some ways above, wasn't going to let her escape just like that. The thunk and clatter of a Splat Bomb behind her reminded Agent 5 of that, and she tried to pick up the pace as it exploded just out of her range.
She spotted a small gap between the screens a bit further out, a view of the outside world. Maybe if she could just get there...
She stumbled onward.
The Octoling's boots hit the ground. She could hear her sprinting up toward her. Oh no, Lily thought.
The footsteps stopped somewhere close. Lily turned around slowly.
A blast from the Charger knocked her off her feet again. She smacked her head against a screen. Felt it crack. Her vision blurred.
The Octoling casually walked to her, taking her sweet time. She smirked. Lily knew it was over when she'd stepped over her bruised and battered body.
Agent 5's vision focused enough to see her opponent take out what seemed like a jar and uncapping it. Just a regular old jar? "Wwwazzatfor?" She said, slurred in her disoriented state.
"Guess you wouldn't know, huh?" The Octo snorted, mounting the jar onto the Charger in place of its scope. "Both our species' has... something that seeks safe territory in which we're reborn. This is to make sure that you don't get away. You will face trial, rest assured of that."
The Octoling aimed. Its barrel was pointed right at Lily's head. Hopeless, the inkling closed her eyes and awaited it. "You'll experience some pain," The Octo said. "But not for long."
"Guh, really?" She was annoyed. Out of ink, at this critical moment? "Excuse me, this won't take a second..." She turned to her bag to extract another canister of ink.
But Lily, adrenaline flooding through her body from the hope spot, had gotten up as quickly as she could in her state, grabbed the jar from the Octo's Charger, and had pulled out the Splattershot, letting loose a quick burst.
In the burst of ink that was her opponent, Lily did notice the shimmers of a tiny squid... spirit... thing. Before it had a chance to float away to safety, she had caught it in the jar and sealed it shut.
She was safe.
Putting the jar in her backpack for now, she noticed the Octo's weapon lying on the ground.
She picked it up. It was an impressive weapon, alright. She decided to hold onto it for now.
The danger subsided for now, she used the last of her energy to put the slab of plastic, which she now recognised as a laptop of some kind into the backpack as well.
Then, with the knowledge that the Octo in the jar wouldn't be coming back for revenge anytime soon, she collapsed on the floor and passed out.
She felt much more alive when she awoke a few hours later. She still hurt, and still felt woozy, but most of the pain was in her head and her back where she had hit the ground.
She also noticed that the screens had gone black, engulfing the whole place in darkness. Was it "night time"? She wasn't entirely sure, but the lack of light made it really hard to navigate back to where the Octoling's rope had been, taking her about ten minutes and plenty of trips.
It took her another twenty minutes to climb up the rope, all the while thinking about the what-ifs. She was no longer in any risk of immediate danger, besides falling down again, but that didn't stop her.
Agent 5 finally made her way back to the launchpad after about fifty minutes total, fumbling her way around in the dim lighting on the platforms themselves. She sat down, putting down her backpack and retrieving two items from it: the Charger, and the jar that contained a very angry Octoling spirit.
She placed the Charger down on the ground by the Super Jump point, and the closed jar next to it.
"Look, I get it," she said to the jar. "I understand, from your perspective, why you guys want me out of the picture. Thing is, I honestly don't know how or why I'm even here, or why I became a squid girl thing. I didn't even know who Inklings, or Octolings, or whoever were until I woke up and your squad tried to get me. I didn't even know that things like... this were even possible." She gestured as the octo-spirit. "I honestly thought you guys were trying to kill me for good."
She sighed, and looked up into the blackness. "I guess I don't blame you, when essentially an alien falls from the sky." Lily was quiet for a few moments, just thinking back on that first night.
"Those things that fell down, they're mine, but they're just my belongings. I think. I don't even know what most of them are. I'm just... I'm just trying to get them back." She glanced back at her backpack, in which the laptop was poking out. In the dim light of the lights in this entry point, she could make out the reflection of her laptop's Acer logo. She noticed the Octo had followed her gaze. "Like, that's... that's just a computer. I've seen a few in Inkopolis, so I assume you guys have them too. It's... just what it is."
More silence. "There's honestly no reason why I'm not in there and you're not out here." Pause. "Maybe I will turn myself over eventually, once I've at least got my things back safely. I just... I don't know what came through with me, and I guess I want to make sure that my stuff is in my hands, because I mean... stuff like the computer, and my phone, that's basically my identity. And I guess I'd feel better if I was the one cleaning up my mess."
Sigh. She was babbling on now. She picked up the jar and stood. "I guess I just had to get that off my chest. Well, I'm going to leave now, but now that you're not a threat to my getting home, I'll let you go. I'll leave your weapon here, but it's certainly a very nice weapon. I'll have to look into getting one of my own sometime." She grasped the lid, and popped open the jar, and the spirit zoomed out of the jar and looked at her angrily before speeding off into the blackness.
"Well, seeya soon, I guess..."