Lily's on the run.
In case Agent 8's dialogue seems strange in this chapter - I decided that Agent 8 would talk in this way because the recently released Octoling amiibos also speak in a broken English. I decided he would inherit this trait as he is still new to the surface, despite being among the rest of the Octo Expansion cast.
From somewhere deep underground, with the help of Pearl, Marina, and Captain Cuttlefish, who happened to be the leader of the legendary Squidbeak Splatoon, he had been given an entirely new life, here in Inkopolis.
But something about what he was doing right now, sprinting down the street after a fleeing Inkling, beside Marina Ida, felt very familiar.
And yet... after what he'd endured to get here, after what Marina had hurriedly told him as she had pulled him along, he knew something had to be done.
With his reddish tentacles styled like a Mohawk, and wearing casual clothing, he didn't look entirely out of place among the people moving along the sidewalk, though they gave the two Octolings a wide berth as they chased Lily down.
They both wore an earpiece hooked up to Marina's radio. As they listened to Pearls' impromptu interrogation, they chased the 'Inkling' down several blocks, even as she rushed into traffic just to attempt to escape the two.
They both saw her turn down another alleyway. Marina looked over at Agent 8 and noticed he had been carrying his backpack. "Hey, you got any of your old gear in there?"
"Uhh, I am having old Octarian gear still," he replied. Inkling was not his native language, and though he was being taught by Marina in her off-time, he was still a ways to go. "I am not having the time for sorting yet."
"That's okay. Good actually. I have an idea. Stop for a moment."
They halted just shy of the alleyway, and Marina rummaged through the pack quickly. "Come on... yes! A Disruptor! Oh! Even better, two!" She pulled two small devices from the pack. They looked like something that would play ultrasonic frequencies to repel mosquitos, but Marina took one and handed the other to Agent 8. "When we catch her, make sure we stick one of these on her."
Agent 8 nodded. "Marina approach from opposite of the ends. And then... eliminate the threat?"
"No!" Marina said firmly. "As much as I want to, no. Not unless it goes real ugly. Just... apprehend her. Incapacitate her if you have to. Whatever you have to do to stop her being a problem." Marina started to walk past the alleyway deliberately, as if she had not seen Lily turn down that way. "I'll signal through the radio when it's time to move in."
Marina kept walking around to the end of the block and rounded the corner, leaving Agent 8 alone to listen to Pearl at work. She'd finished having a go at Sheldon and had now moved onto two squids, apparently friends of the fugitive.
"You. Boy. What's your name?"
"How long have you known the human?"
"L-less than an hour really. I was on their team at Makomart..."
"And you didn't notice anything weird about them?"
"Not until Lorne and her started talking about coming here and being secretive about Sheldon being their friend..."
"Is that it?"
"More or less. They seemed alright... Are they really as dangerous as you say?"
"For sure. But it's okay. We're on the case. That's all. Thanks kid."
Silence. Agent 8 adjusted his earpiece, continuing to wait for Marina's signal.
"What the hell, Pearl?!" A new female voice came in over Pearl's transmission. "We vetted her! We've watched her for weeks! She's not evil or even dangerous! She just wants her old things so she can live a comfortable life like the rest of us!"
"Do you know that?"
"Yes! Even when she first came here---"
A series of loud beeps came in over the earpiece, interrupting the conversation. Marina's signal. Time to move.
"What the heck was that?"
"Just my phone, don't worry about it," Pearl's voice replied, before 8 lowered the volume and stepped into the alleyway, scanning for signs of the fugitive, from ground to sky.
The alleyway was quiet. Besides a few locked backdoors into various businesses, a dumpster bin, and an employee's bicycle, there weren't many places that Lily could hide.
As he made his way toward the middle of the alleyway, toward Marina, A whirring sound caught his ears. He looked up, in its direction.
Oh. It was just an air conditioning unit. It was situated next to some piping on the wall. It was vibrating though, just slightly...
The Octoling followed the pipes upward.
And there she was, pulling herself over the edge, from the pipes onto the roof.
"I have finding her!" Eight called in Marina's direction, and set down his backpack to get out some climbing rope and a hook. How'd she get up there? He thought.
She'd climbed, of course. She didn't need ink for that.
Unlike the rest of these fools, she thought smugly, I'm descended from the most well-known climbers in the animal kingdom. She wasn't as great as climbing up things like poles when she'd put on weight as a human, but now that she was lightweight again, it had been nearly a breeze, once she got a feel for it again.
But the sound of Marina's friend's call made her pick up the pace. Now she stood on the rooftop of some building. More A/C refrigeration units up here. One corner housed the roof access, but there was a small gap between it and one of the raised edges that gave her an idea.
She rushed for it, and, transforming, wedged her squid self into the gap. She hoped that nobody would spot the light blue squid in this small space wallowing in fear and depression.
She didn't have to wait long to find out. A hook, like a grappling hook, whizzed by her and wedged itself into the wall next to her. She adjusted her position, getting ready to make another run for it if necessary.
The boy appeared first, climbing up upon the edge, eyes scanning the rooftops around her. Lily, underneath his feet, in the little crevice, stayed absolutely still.
He stepped off onto the ground, next to the stairs leading down into the building, and Marina appeared where the boy was. Neither of them noticed Lily slowly edge her way to the opposite end of the crevice, away from them.
They spread out, searching the roof. Stepping around the A/C units and piping, they covered as much of the area as they felt was necessary. No sign of her.
"Is human of jumping from this platform to another?" Agent 8 asked, walking over to one of the sides facing the next building.
"I don't think so. Not the way she was acting." Marina sighed.
"Inkling girl and Sheldon crab is trust of her," the Octo boy said to her, gesturing at something in his ear. "This human did something to them?"
Marina was silent for a moment, looking over at him. "...No," she finally responded, with a sigh. "They looked completely normal. I don't know... I'm just scared we're going to have another repeat of NILS. I don't know what she's capable of. I still don't know what humans are capable of."
"What is Marina knowing of humans?"
"Well... she has access to human technology. I've seen her with a laptop and a phone. I think the car at the hotel might have been hers. She also hangs out with that one girl you heard from Pearl. I think she's been her friend since she arrived."
Lily took advantage of their inattention to inch her way over to the Octolings' climbing rope, trying to get up onto the ledge without changing and making noise.
Eight turned to look at Marina. "I am meaning... Coming of another Tartar is scaring me too. He played a fiddle with me, and she maybe will play us in..." He trailed off.
"...What?" Marina asked, concerned. She noticed Eight staring off in the direction of the rope they used to get up, past her shoulder.
Marina turned around.
There was a light-blue squid frozen in place on the edge of the roof by the rope, its eyes frozen in their direction.
There she was.
They stared at each other for a few seconds.
And then Lily finally launched herself from the ledge, transforming, and as the Octolings ran over, they saw her rush back onto the sidewalk and disappear from view.
The human was gone.
Agent 8 and Marina both looked at each other, then leapt off from the roof and raced off in her direction.
Lily kept running until she was at least two blocks away from the alleyway. Getting closer to the main CBD, the foot traffic became thicker and it got harder for her to maneuver around the people. On the plus side though, to her, the Octolings would have also found it more difficult to push through the crowd to her, and she was eventually able to lose them in the crowd, for the moment.
Once she felt sure she wasn't being followed anymore, Lily slowed down and found a bench to sit and think.
She took deep breaths, wiping sweat from her brow. She looked about at the crowd passing by her. For some reason she expected them all to avoid her, but besides being given an odd look by the folks she'd passed by on her run, nobody seemed to care who she was.
For now, anyway.
Okay. Let's recap, me. You've been found out. By the news crew of all people. They seem to think you're tied to some other human, whoever this 'Tartar' is or was.
And because of him they think you're also going to try to 'wipe out everyone', whatever that actually meant.
And now they must believe that Sheldon and Lorne are part of some conspiracy to ... I guess allow me to complete that task? Surely 'everyone' would include them, they realise? What did this Tartar guy do?!
Damnit, this life was too good to be true.
She spent a few moments just wallowing for a moment. She felt guilty, for some reason. She wondered where she could be safe. Then she realised...
Wait, shit. The news. They know what I look like, they think I'm dangerous, they have a motive. They... they could actually expose me to the world.
... I can't be seen again.
Not if don't want to ruin my friends' lives here. Not if I don't want people to stay safe.
So where do I go?
Lily looked at her phone. It was only 2:30pm. She also noticed several messages waiting for her from Lorne.
"Where are you going??" "Don't do anything rash". "Marie says the Hideout welcomes you, use the sewers".
Right... that's right, I literally just ran off on them. They must be worried sick about me. Fuck, what do I do?
Our apartment is quiet enough that I should be able to get in without getting spotted by those two... three.
Who even was that boy, anyway?
Lily typed out a quick reply. "I'm ok. Meet you at your place. Need to pack."
She loaded up her map on her phone to figure out the quickest way back to the apartment, and set off again, following its directions.
"let me in" was the entirety of the text Agent 4 received as she paced nervously about her apartment. As soon as she saw it was from Five, she'd rushed over to the apartment door and opened it, the electronic lock automatically disengaging.
Lily entered quickly, this air of intense worry and panic about her. "Shut the door," she said as she half-ran over to the bed, grabbing her backpack and starting to frantically pack her things into it.
"Lily, where are you going? I know they know now, but--"
"Lorne, I have to. I'm taking up Marie's offer."
"But just... just lay low here for a bit."
"They'll come after you. And Sheldon." Lily stopped packing for a moment, and turned around to her, clinging to her. "They think I am going to kill everyone or something. They gotta think you're my accomplices. I have to leave Inkopolis."
"...That's just ridiculous, Lily. How could they think that? You're only one person."
"I don't know. There was apparently another."
"Human, apparently. I have to do some research when I get to the Hideout. Now where's my laptop..." She stopped holding onto Lorne and frantically swept the apartment for it, finding it on the couch.
"...Another human? Are you sure?"
"I don't know! Whatever they did or tried to do though, they seem to think I'm going to try to do. I heard them talking about it."
Lily shoved the laptop into the bag, checked her pockets for her phones, and picked up the backpack, swinging it onto her back.
"Lily. Remember what I said. Don't do anything rash."
"I'm not." She started to move. Lorne grabbed her hand.
"If you have to go and stay with the Sisters, then sure. But stay. With. Them. I don't want to see you get killed over this."
"I'll... I'll be fine. I'll text you when I get there."
"Fine. Just... come back soon, okay? I'm gonna miss you."
Lily turned to look at her pleading eyes. Her own eyes were teary. Quietly, she said, "I'll miss you too. I hope this won't be long term."
Lorne nodded, and silently pulled her friend into an embrace. Lily clung tightly to her, burying her head against her shoulder.
"...So I follow the sewer system?"
"...yeah... Head towards the square and I think you'll eventually figure out where you need to go."
Lily nodded. A moment's silence. "Lorne... I'm scared," she choked out.
"...I know, Lily. I'm scared too. I don't know what's going to happen." She leaned her head against Lily's. "Just... try and be strong for me, okay? Come home soon."
Lily gently pulled away from the hug, and her hands moved around to take Agent 4's hands in hers. "I'll... I'll text you when I get to the Hideout."
"...Okay." Lorne was tearing up now too. She squeezed Agent 5's hands tight, and then let go.
They both stared at each other for a few moments.
Then Agent 5 slowly turned away, and made for the door. She opened it and turned back to her friend.
"Stay safe, Four."
"...Look who's talking. Take care of yourself, Five."
Lily nodded, and stepped outside, closing the door behind her.
It wasn't too difficult to find a sewer grate. They seemed to be fairly common, thankfully. Agent 5 had only to walk a few minutes in one direction to find one she could slip through.
The sewer canals themselves were more spacious than she expected. Walkways and maintenance ladders and inkrails and the like lined the side, above the multicolored liquid flowing through. The lighting down here was dim. Light sources about every 50 meters, or at every junction. Not black, but dark enough to instill some nervousness in any other person.
For Lily though, it certainly didn't help her current frame of mind.
She stepped carefully along the pathways, her map pointing her in the direction of the Square. Occasionally she'd stop to listen out for other activity, but she could hear nothing else but the sound of her own echoing steps, the traffic above every grate she passed, and the river-like flow of sludge.
An hour and a half passed of walking through the sewers. Lily had begun to realise just how large of a city Inkopolis was.
Finally she started to hear music filtering down from a grate up ahead. She was approaching the Square from underneath! From here she recognised the way to Octo Valley, and the Tentakeel Hideout. She let out a sigh of relief. She was almost there.
Then something dropped from through the grate above. It didn't look like a squid...
But then it reformed and, in the light from the surface, Lily could see exactly what it was and her heart sank.
Marina was stood in front of her.
She started to walk towards Lily, and the scared inkling turned to flee.
Only to run right into the Octo boy.
They struggled briefly, but he quickly had her under his control. One arm tightly around her neck. The other gripping her hands behind her back.
Marina began to walk up to them. "Good work, Eight. You've still got it, I see."
Lily looked about frantically at the both of them. "L-look, okay, yes, I'm... the 'h' word," she said in a hushed voice, glancing about for anyone that might be watching, though they were alone. "But I'm not affiliated with anyone, not evil, I've honestly no idea who this Tartar guy is that you think I'm striving to emulate or something." She thought they might have interrupted her by now, but they didn't. "I didn't even mean to get here, but since I'm in your world now... I'm just trying to make a life out of nothing. Honest."
Marina frowned. She had taken something out of her pocket and lobbed it in the boy's direction. Briefly, he took his arm away from Lily's neck to grab the device, activate it and swiftly place it on Lily's back where she would not be able to reach. It emitted ultra-low frequency rumblings that vibrated throughout her entire form. It felt uncomfortable...
"G-gghh," Lily 'said', teeth clenched. "The hell is that?"
"Disruptor," said the boy. You will not getting away of this.\"
"Did... did neither of you listen to me?" Lily started to struggle again, but Agent 8 was trained, and his grip was tight.
"What have you done to Sheldon and the girl?" Marina asked sharply. "Can it be reversed?"
"I've not... done anything to them! Ugh!" Lily grunted as Eight's arm was back around her neck. Drawing in air as best she could, she continued, "I've just been as much of myself as I /can/ be in my situation. You've obviously talked to them, you know they're--- fine! Hey--- you're--- choking---me!" She started to struggle more as Eight tightened his grip, trying to draw in more breath, but he wouldn't budge.
Since her legs were unrestrained and he wasn't giving her an inch, she decided that she had to take action. With an "I'm sorry" to Marina, she swiftly swung her leg up behind her, crashing her foot into the boy's crotch. He howled in pain and reflexively let go.
They both collapsed to the ground, Lily on her knees as she drew a few deep breaths. She looked up briefly, to see Marina rushing up at her. She pushed herself to the side, up against the wall as she passed. As Marina ran past her, head turning to see what the squid was up to, Lily lashed out with her leg again and caught Marina, causing her to trip and tumble over Eight.
They were both dazed for a moment. Lily slowly got up, still catching her breath. "Look," she said eventually, taking a few steps back. "I'm sorry about that. I genuinely wish I didn't need to defend myself against you. You especially, Marina." She sighed. "But I can see my continued presence in Inkopolis is going to cause problems. And I value my life, at least a little. So if it's all the same to you, I'll be leaving. You'll not have to see me again." She turned and ran for the inkline past the Square grate that would take her to Tentakeel, away from this madness.
"Aaaand..." An unknown voice from somewhere. Lily whipped her head around, trying to find the source as she ran underneath the grate.
A foot connected hard against Lily's head, and it snapped backwards. Lily was reeling in an instant.
But then the weight of an Inkling crashed down on her, and she was knocked to the ground. She was out cold.
Pearl was in the house.
She'd dropped in, literally.
"And that's how it's done!" She got up from on top of Lily's unconscious form, dusting herself off. Then she noticed Marina and Eight on the ground a short ways away, and kicked Lily in the side again for good measure, before running over to check on her friends. "Shit, are you okay guys? What did she do?!"
"Ughh, I'm alright Pearl," Marina said, rolling onto her back and sitting up, rubbing her knees. "She just tripped me. Eight on the other hand..."
They both looked over at him, writhing in pain, clutching himself.
"She uh, she kicked him in a... sensitive area to get loose," Marina explained.
Pearl winced. "Yowch. Sorry Eight. Well, good job finding her, both of ya. I'm glad we didn't let the human get away."
"Yeah..." There was silence for a moment, except for the pained cries of Eight. "I wonder though..."
"Well, she's a squid now, right? Means just one easy way to be done with the humans for good." Pearl withdrew her Dualies from her pockets. "May I do the honors?"
"I want to know." Marina finally got up and walked over to Lily's body. Pearl followed her, and tugged the backpack off of her body and started rifling through it. "She's basically confirmed for us that she is human. And that just raises more questions to me."
"Mmm. The timing of her arriving, all that stuff falling down, and then this thing with Eight and Tartar and Craig... It's all too suspect to ignore."
"It's all been rather strange, hasn't it?" Marina knelt down, slipping her hand into Lily's left shorts pocket and removing its contents. Both of her phones... "Well, before anything else, now's a great time to find out what she's doing here."
She pocketed the devices briefly, and maneuvered herself to grab Lily's shoulders. "Here, help me get her up against the wall. I don't suppose you brought anything we could bind her hands with, did you?"