Begin Again

Agent 4 gets back to work and Lily uses her apartment.

Lily spent the next few days in the Square while she recovered. Agent 4 had committed to completing her mission, and had lent her the chip card to her apartment while she was gone for the next day or two. Which meant for Lily that with Marie on full-time radio duty, she was alone.

As expected, while there was cellphone signal, Lily's iPhone was woefully outdated to handle the newer protocol. Likewise, there was no Wi-Fi for it or the laptop to connect to, so she found herself browsing through week-old (to her) chats and text messages, and listening to the music stored on the phone.

Apart from some bandaging on her tentacles from where the glass from the screens had cut into her, she looked otherwise normal, with her clothing covering up the bruised skin from her fall. The table she'd commandeered in a corner of the Square, by a closed off construction site, was littered with her things: her newly found laptop closest to her, switched on, DAW loaded; her iPhone on one side of the laptop, and the device she lovingly referred to as her inkPhone on the other.

Lily's composition was currently empty. From the music she had on her phone and her laptop, she couldn't find any songs that played well together. She was into mashups - granted, she only made them for herself, but it was something, she said to herself.

Giving up on the music for now, she closed the laptop's lid and put it in her bag, along with the iPhone.

Though not before someone across the Square, a smaller Inkling, casually glancing out the window from inside of a studio, noticed the familiar-looking phone, and wondered why some weirdo-looking inkling was holding it.

Swinging the bag onto her back, Lily grabbed her other phone and, getting ready to move off, checked a map in her messages app. Sheldon had sent a picture of the map on which they had worked out where all these mystery items were meant to be. Checking it against the phone's own map app, there seemed to be one item a few blocks away, past the construction site she was right next to.

Hmm, do I wanna go check it out? Or...

Nah, she decided. Once her cuts and bruises healed up, perhaps. She needed a plan, and wanted to look inconspicuous in case she had to do do something bad.

She remembered that both of these ones in the city were on the roofs of skyscrapers, apartment towers she figured. She had to figure that there'd be a way up to at least the top floors, where she could investigate, and maybe hope there was some roof access anyway. Surely there had to be!

The alternative, she realised, was finding some way up the wall of the building. She immediately found herself thinking back to the fall, and shuddered. She didn't want to have to go through that again.

She drove the subject from her mind. What I could use, she thought to herself, is a nice hot bath, a soft bed, and a place to be alone.

She decided, then, to make her way down to the underground train station. Consulting the phone's map, she plotted in the address Agent 4 had given her, and walked across the square and down the ramp into the station.


As she walked past the Inkopolis News studio, following her phone's directions, she missed the gaze of two curious girls sitting at a table inside.

"Are you sure it was the same one?" asked the taller, darker-skinned girl, leaning out of her chair, looking outside at the blue-tentacled Inkling with slight curiosity.

"I swear, Marina," replied the shorter one, eyes focused. "It was exactly the same shape, and it was white on the back. It was exactly the one we gave to Sheldon." Lily passed around the corner, and disappeared from view, so Pearl's eyes snapped back to her friend.

"I mean, maybe the lil guy can't work it out?"

"Apparently, because she was using it just fine!"

"Wait, really?" This got Marina's attention. Ever the techie of the two, though she couldn't read the strange characters on the phone, she had at least quickly recognised that the phone had been locked behind a password of some sort. "That's exciting! I wonder what method she used to break into it?"

"I'm pretty sure if you or Sheldon couldn't hack it, and this nobody has, it's probably theirs." Pearl crossed her arms, unamused.

"Huh." Marina thought for a moment, leaning back into her chair.


One ride around the City Loop, ten-minute walk, and elevator ride later, Lily found the door to Agent 4's apartment. Using the key she'd been given, she let herself in quietly, and looked around.

The Inkling's apartment was similar in layout to something she might have seen back home. It reminded her of an old friend's studio flat - the door opened into a walk-through kitchen, with most of the appliances and bench space off to the side, so one could walk straight in to the main living space, which consisted of a small couch, coffee table, and TV. There was a computer desk next to the TV, and next to that was a window, an average width but spanning from floor to ceiling, that looked out into the city. It was not really a great view by any means - the window only looked out across the road to some office building - but it was one that was new to Lily.

The decor was fairly typical, and while the colors were semi-typical to what she was used to, the color she had seen in the Square and in the storefronts she had passed was represented in posters on the walls. Art of musicians, commemorative concert posters and movie posters adorned the inside wall of the apartment. She also noticed that there was a calendar amongst the posters, but she immediately looked away. If it was anything like the calendars her family would hang up back home, she didn't need to know what year it was right now. She wanted that nice hot bath, and some time to just relax.

She set her bag down next to the bed, and walked over to a door opposite the window, between the living and bedroom areas. It led to a fairly typical, tiled bathroom, with (thank goodness, Lily sighed internally) a bath long enough to lay in. She walked over and got the taps running, testing the temperature every few seconds with a finger. The liquid that came out wasn't quite right, she noticed. A sniff test revealed the slight scent of oil. She figured this had to be normal, so she shrugged it off and went back briefly to grab her iPhone.

A few minutes later, Lily was submerged in the liquid, head resting on the edge of the tub, tentacles lazily floating atop the water, bandages removed, eyes closed, and an old cached Giant Bombcast playing from her phone's podcast app. As the podcast hosts talked about the various games news of the past, she found herself transported to her old life, and the weirdness of Inkopolis faded from her mind.

Aaahh.

For just a few moments, she was back in her house, on the outskirts of an Australian country town, washing up for the next day's work. Jeff and Ben were playing up #FreeScott. She could easily imagine the low muffle of the lounge room television across the house. She wondered, briefly, if she would ever be able to hear the next Justice live album, and thought back to the first concert she'd ever gone to.

Justice's first show in her state's capital city was an experience she widely considered the highlight of her 2018. To see her idols perform live and have a near-front row seat to it was one thing, but their music, and the light show their team put on, was an experience she would not forget for some time to come.

"I wonder what the concerts here are like," Lily murmured quietly to herself.

She let herself live in that world again for a while, letting the hot bath...liquid do its thing, and before too long, told herself, Alright, time to come back to reality.

She slowly opened her eyes. The memory of her old bathroom, with its many bottles, broken shelves, and mouldy ceiling, faded, and she found herself looking at the clean, well-looked-after bathroom of Agent 4's apartment.

Lily let out a sigh. She wasn't gonna miss the work, or the obligations, or things like that, but... she did miss the way things were, kinda. It was predictable - she liked that. She could plan her day around that. If she had not had an objective to keep her going, and the few friends she'd made already, she knew she'd've been much worse off by this point.

Sometime later she finally worked up the will to get out of the bath and drain it, not too long after the Bombcast had signed off and silence filled the room.

As she reached for a towel from the rack on the opposite wall, she saw herself in the mirror by the basin and stopped. She hadn't really given herself a good look over since this all began, and seeing what she had become really made it begin to sink in. This is who I am now, she thought to herself, staring at her naked reflection. This is who I've become. She did briefly admire her form, doing the occasional pose and watching the girl in the mirror do the same.

When she did manage to tear her eyes away from the stranger in the mirror and get dressed, she tossed both of her phones onto Agent 4's bed and pressed her hand into it, testing its softness. Compared to sleeping on concrete or the firm mattress in the Cuttlefish Cabin, this felt like a cloud! She leaned forward and let herself fall onto the bed, laying on top of the comforter that was draped over it.

Lily sighed happily as she stared at the ceiling. It would be interesting to see how she took to life here once she started making some money. She knew exactly what she had to do - she had been reminded of it every day she had been in Inkopolis proper. She resolved to at least inquire about rookie matches or something to at least jump in and not feel too bad about being new.

She began to feel drowsy. This bed was almost too soft. But she could use a nap, after everything. She let her eyes close and listened to the sound of the wind and the traffic outside.

Before she knew it, she'd fallen asleep. And the squid girl slept through the afternoon, and through the evening.

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