Piercing the Fog

Lily and Lorne finally learn about the events of the Octo Expansion, a few days later. Marina, Pearl and the Metro Squidbeaks learn about Lily's affiliation.

* DJ_Hyperfresh has entered the chatroom
DJ_Hyperfresh> Good morning everyone! Who's awake?
DJ_Hyperfresh> ...No one? Hm...
IAmThree> Good morning Marina
IAmThree> You're up rather early
DJ_Hyperfresh> Hi there Three! Speak for yourself.
IAmThree> Time doesn't *really* matter down here...
IAmThree> But me and Cap are taking shifts watching over the Metro train
IAmThree> There's not a whole lot of light outside the train with power knocked out, and we don't quite know what else is or isn't running
IAmThree> Or what could escape its confines... ahem, the freaky lifeless Octarians
DJ_Hyperfresh> I see... Do try to stay safe though!
DJ_Hyperfresh> My life is... not as interesting. I'm on my way into work to help out some of the techs install stuff.
DJ_Hyperfresh> Did you check out Inkopolis Square when you were up here?
IAmThree> Briefly. Still partial to the Plaza though
DJ_Hyperfresh> Well, there's a concert stage that we put up above the Deca Tower entrance for the Splatfest, but we want to include a 'crowd cam' for future Splatfest events, and we want to make sure it's placed discreetly so not a lot of people can notice it or block it.

"Now arriving into: Inkopolis West. This service is now entering the City Loop."

Marina stared at the laptop screen in front of her as her train paused at another station, on her trip from Pearl's home into the Square. Her chatroom sat, downsized in one corner of the screen, a document full of notes in the other.

She heard a rapping on the window beside her, surprising her. She turned her head to see what had caused the noise.

It was Lily. And her friend. They were both carrying backpacks over their shoulders. They must have been boarding the train and had seen her.

Oh, right! I guess she does take my train - after all, there was the other time with Sheldon when...

Lily seemed to sigh. Then she pointed at Marina toward the back of the train, and started to walk off.

Marina stared after her, then, remembering the chatroom, shot off a quick message to Three, shoved the laptop into her bag, and walked over to the door into the carriage.

DJ_Hyperfresh> One sec - Lily is getting on my train.

Marina met the two girls as they had got on and were headed back through the next carriage. Lily eyed her as they kept moving. "The rear carriage was empty. We'll be down there if you want us."

She stared after the girls as they moved on, considering the offer. Were... Did they want to chat?

Taking her seat again briefly, she whipped out the laptop again and checked the chat.

IAmThree> Uh oh
IAmThree> Are you alright, Marina?
DJ_Hyperfresh> I'm fine - I... think she and her friend want to talk to me about something.
DJ_Hyperfresh> Considering Pearl called her out on our Sunday broadcast I'm guessing it's to do with that... but who knows...
DJ_Hyperfresh> I'm going to go and talk with them - sounds like they found an empty carriage on this train we can talk openly in. Don't worry if I don't respond - I will probably be engaged for a while. I'll check back in when it's over.
IAmThree> Alright. Be careful...
DJ_Hyperfresh> Will do. I'll just go message Pearl to get on here first.

The laptop went away and, before she stood up to go see what the girls wanted, she pulled her phone from her pocket and went into her messages. She knew Pearl would be awake by now - she would be making breakfast. She typed out a quick message. 'Hey - Lily on my train - wants to talk - get in chatroom, will update everyone there.'

Then she opened the voice recorder and started recording, moved the phone to another pocket on her jacket, then stood up, making sure she had everything, and made her way down toward the back of the train.

Marina stepped into the rear carriage of the train, cautious. As they had said, as the train trundled along, this one was near empty.

Except for two people.

They were sat in the far corner of the train, on a four-seater cube. The both of them were in one side, Lily looking over her friend's shoulder at her phone.

Oh, right... we still have her phones back at the mansion. Better message Pearl to bring them in later...

She approached them carefully, and took her seat opposite them, legs spread outward, and leaning forward, elbows resting on her thighs, hands clasped together. "So," she said with a sigh. "Is this about the broadcast on Sunday?"

Lily glanced at her, and sat up. "Well, it's about... everything, but yeah, let's start with that."

"Listen, I wanted to avoid starting any more---"

"I know," her friend replied, putting her phone away. "Even if Lily did... freak out over being named at the time..."

"That's putting it mildly," Lily mumbled.

"She would at least agree with me that you were doing what you could to avoid getting people on a witch hunt for her. I get the impression that you're softening on her. That's why we're approaching you and not Pearl. We feel like you'd listen to what we have to say."

"So here's our deal." Lily sat forward. "This is all off the record. I don't need a profile piece. I don't need to be put in the spotlight anymore than I already am. I need information. Context. But, in exchange, let's organise to meet up somewhere and... we'll answer as much as we can about... me. I don't want to be the enemy, Marina."

Marina sat back, in thought. "Why? After everything that's already happened, why now?"

"Two reasons." Lily held up two digits to emphasize. "One: As just mentioned. I don't want to be your enemy. I don't want to be anyone's enemy. I grew up with the mindset 'treat others how you would want to be treated'. Life's too short to worry about hating anyone I interact with, or would want to interact with. So I just would feel better about myself if I managed to at least get ourselves to the point of being, I dunno, friendly acquaintances." She sighed, and thought for a moment. "Or, even if we never spoke again, it would just be nice if life got back to a point where I didn't have to fear for mine."

Marina nodded slowly. "Mm. And the second reason?"

Lily took a deep breath. This was the important one for her, Marina assumed. "There are two things that have kept being brought up since the Hotel, and I still haven't heard anyone explain to me what they are. I've been associated with someone or something, and I don't know why."

Marina nodded again, understanding. "You want to know about Commander Tartar."

Lily blinked. "Commander? ...Yes, I want to know about them."

The Octoling girl took a few breaths as she worked out how to best explain. She reached for her bag and pulled out the laptop, keeping its screen turned toward her. Pretending to look up notes, she checked on the chatroom. "Well... Tartar... He is... Was... an AI created by humans before they went extinct. I guess he was built by some group called NILS. His goal was to pass on humanity's knowledge to the next true sapient species, or something like that."

"Seems noble enough so far. Up until I left, we were always fascinated with the idea of intelligent life somewhere out there in the universe."

"Did you discover any?"

"Not that I know of, sadly."

"Well, Tartar did not end up being... quite as benevolent." She sighed, recalling all the video calls and chats from the past two months. "He posed as this... guide, of sorts. 'Just bring me the four Thangs, and I can show you the promised land', he said. That required Eight going through all sorts of---"

"'Eight'?" Lily's friend's brow furrowed, and the two Inklings exchanged glances. "Who's 'Eight'?"

"Huh? Oh--- uh... The boy you've probably seen around us lately. Lily would know him. That's uh... our... nickname for him..."

Lily grumbled a quiet 'yeah, I know 'im'. Marina glanced away, out the window. "Sorry. But, yes... Then he revealed his true colours, tried to blend up our friends - good thing Agent 3 broke them out - and then he---"

"Agent 3?!" Lorne shouted. "Like, 'New Squidbeak Splatoon' Agent 3?!"

"Quiet!" Marina hissed, and looked around to make sure anyone that might have entered the carriage hadn't heard. "I'm only telling you because it's important you know every---" The Octoling froze. Hang on a second... "How... do you know about the New Squidbeak Splatoon?"

Lily looked over at her friend, concerned, awaiting a convincing explanation.

The other Inkling paused, considering her options, then deliberately reached for her bag, turned to Lily, and nodded, before opening the pack and reaching inside.

"What? Here? Now?"

"May as well," came her friend's reply. Lily just stared for a moment, then nodded back and reached for her own bag.

"Uh--- hang on---" Marina was worried now. Had she stepped too far? What were these girls going to do to---

Both girls pulled an item from their packs. The same item.

They both held a pair of headphones, that wrapped around the back of the head. The conical earpieces glittered and pulsed with digital light patterns.

They were the same headphones Agent 3 wore, Marina realised.

Then a further realisation struck her: But that must mean they're---

The headphones went back in their bags, and the bags went back on the floor.

"Oh, fuck," Marina mouthed, not meaning to say it aloud. "I, uhm, I'm---"

"I'm Agent Four," Lorne said, gesturing to herself. Then, pointing at Lily, she simply said, "She's Five." She leaned forward. "How do *you* know about them?"

"We, uh..." Marina stuttered lightly, processing what she had just been shown. "We... Me and Pearl stumbled upon them. We discovered Captain Cuttlefish and Agent 3's distress signal a few months ago. They were stuck underground, and... me and Pearl helped them out. We've... been in contact since."

with a grim smile Lorne said, "So that explains where they went." Glancing at Marina, she said, more seriously, "Does that mean your 'Eight' is...?"

Marina sighed. "...Yes. Agent 8."

Lily nodded, and sighed deeply, remembering the sewer encounter. "Well, that's gonna be a problem. But alright. So, your... our friends nearly got blended."

"Huh? Oh, right..." Pretending to consult notes again, Marina shot off a quick message to the chatroom: 'Is anyone awake that can confirm the existence of an Agent 4 or 5???' Hitting the send button, she straightened up. "Anyway, yeah, Tartar revealed his true colors, went on some monologue - I remember the gist being that neither Inklings or Octolings were 'worthy' species because we, err, we fought over little things - like, the splatfests and things - and also something about our taste in fashion?"

"Oh, that's rich." Lily laughed, thinking it absurd.

"Lily...?" Lorne was looking at her with an odd expression.

"We are guilty of the exact same shit!" Lily pointed at herself. "We've done that! He's a fuckin' hypocrite!"

"...Pardon?" Lorne looked at her quizically, concerned. Marina had a similar look.

"I'm not going to tell you that humans as a whole were great people," Lily said. "They had a capacity for greatness and kindness, just like you. In fact just about all of the people I miss from my world, had the wellbeing of their friends and even strangers in mind in day to day life." She paused, adding as an afterthought, "Probably exaggerating a bit."

After a moment to take a breath, she continued: "But humans as a species, holy shit... we hated each other for anything you could think of. The color of the skin, the people we loved, the cause we believed in, the clothes we wore, just... anything."

"This is sounding familiar," Marina realised. "He was going to wipe us out for that very problem."

"Again, he would have known. We fought, we killed. We destroyed entire cultures, species and civilizations just so we didn't have to change our own ways. It was easier to make the rich richer than to save the lives of millions. We have no place in the world of today. We do deserve to be extinct."

Marina stared at her for a moment. "I... guess you've got a bit of a bone to pick with humans, huh?"

Lily sighed, and threw her hands up. "Yeah... but I'm sorry, I really shouldn't be going off on a tirade. You were saying...?"

"Man... one sec, lemme remember what I was up to." Marina adjusted herself in her seat, glancing at her notes again. "Oh, okay... he... very nearly fired this beam that would have destroyed Inkopolis and... made us all extinct. We only barely stopped him, thanks to Pearl..." She said the last part quietly, looking down.

"...I see..." Lily thought deeply, leaning forward, face half-buried in her hands. "So then... everything you guys had been saying is true. And then I come along, wrong place wrong time... I... get it. Fuck, man..."

Lorne leaned over to her, resting an arm around her shoulders.

The three girls were silent for a few minutes as the train got closer to the Square, passing through dark underground tunnels as it entered the City Loop.

Lily finally looked up. "Where... is he now? Is he... dead...?"

"He's...not, but... he's separated from that facility that gave him that power. There's a spot in the forests outside Inkopolis that we chose to leave him. He's not a threat anymore."

"That's... generous, after what you've just told us," Lorne pointed out with a raised eyebrow.

"Mmm. We considered it but... honestly, Three brought up the idea. Why not force him to keep on living in our world, if he hates it so much." She snorted, smirking slightly, and Lily allowed a dark smile and nod.

The carriage fell into silence again. Marina thought back over the conversation that had just happened. "So... you really didn't know about Tartar or NILS then."

Lily sighed, and shook her head. "I told you. But y'all were set on this weird... revenge thing."

"Lily, please... understand how we saw all this happening. These things fall from the sky. We start seeing you, with these things that nobody else can read. Then Tartar reveals himself, with a human statue, and created by some professor at least 12,000 years ago when humans died out. Then, well, that stuff at the hotel happe--- Lily?"

Lily's hands were over her mouth, and her gaze dropped down to the ground.

Twelve thousand years. At least.

At least.

The train's PA announced that it was pulling into Inkopolis Square, putting a halt to their conversation, and the three of them stood and made their way to the doors, Lily walking slowly, deep in thought.

"I guess we'll have to continue this another time," Marina said as they waited for the train to stop. "Lily, Pearl is bringing in your phones today. Come by the studio later when you're done doing..." She eyed the girls' backpacks. \"...whatever you're doing, and we'll hand them over.'

Lily nodded, bringing herself back to the present, having been distracted by her thoughts. "I... guess I can pass on some contact details then so we can organise this meeting."

The doors opened, and the three of them disembarked, heading towards the exit from the underground station that would lead them into the Square proper.

They reached the studio door, and Marina turned toward it. "Well uh... I guess... I'll see you two around, huh?"

Lorne sighed and glanced between her and Lily. "Yeah, guess you will. We're keeping quiet about this, yeah?"

Marina nodded. "I can keep a secret. Though you do realise, I will have to inform Pearl, Cra--- the Captain, and Three that we met."

"...Yeah, I realise. It's probably better they know we at least made contact."

Marina nodded, and the three stood awkwardly for a few moments. Then finally, Marina turned toward the door again, and unlocked it, making to step inside. "Well... see you soon, then."

"See you, Marina," Lily said with a nod. "I'm glad we got the chance to talk." But as soon as Marina had stepped inside and shut the door, Lily doubled over, hands over her mouth. "Jesus Christ, twelve thousand fucking years... Fuuuuck..."

Somewhere off the coast, hundreds of meters below sea level, on another train, two Inklings sat in a quiet carriage, their only companion at the moment a friendly, sleeping isopod. The lights in the carriage were dimmed as the simulated day cycle had not flicked over to being 'day' yet. As such, only one of the passengers were awake.

One of the inklings, a boy with long, green hair, regarded his surroundings once again as he waited for his phone to ping once more. His mantle was detached and was draped over his front as a makeshift blanket, covering a hi-vis vest. His clothing was odd for down here - then again, Inklings down here were very uncommon - but it wasn't the first thing that jumped out at people that met him down here.

For after an incident not too long ago, his right eye and the skin around it was permanently stained a green-ish blue, contrasting against his regular creamy skin colour. It was an unsightly splotch of colour on an otherwise calm, matured face.

DJ_Hyperfresh> Hello everyone, I'm back! I just got into the studio.
MC.Princess> Was starting to get concerned they'd abducted you or something

The Inkling's phone buzzed as Marina rejoined the chat. Time to find out what was going on.

IAmThree> Welcome back
IAmThree> One sec, gotta get the Captain in here

Agent 3 stood, stretching his legs and flexing them as he made his way over to the sleeping, elderly Inkling. This one was in a green tracksuit with white stripes down the sides.

Agent 3 knelt down beside him and rested a hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him. "Good Morning again, sir. Marina's just returned from her talk with the human."

Craig Cuttlefish grumbled and groaned as he stirred from. "And? Why can't you fill me in when I've gotten some proper sleep?"

"I'm making this assumption based on context but... it sounded like her and her friend were hired as Agents Four and Five. I figured you would have some questions."

One of Craig's eyes opened and examined Three. With a sigh and a grumble of "What are my granddaughters up to up there..." he sat up and stretched, reaching for his phone. "Alright Three, let's see what's good."

* CraigCuttlefish has joined the chatroom
IAmThree> There we go
DJ_Hyperfresh> Alright then. So...
DJ_Hyperfresh> I'll just tell the story again for Pearlie and Craig.
DJ_Hyperfresh> I've been on my train in to work
DJ_Hyperfresh> I'm there earlier than usual since the tech crew is installing a crowd cam for the Splatfest events and I volunteered to help. Got to setup a discreet mount to catch as much of the Square as we can.
DJ_Hyperfresh> Anyway, Lily and her friend are heading in at the same time, see me on the train and invite me to chat.
DJ_Hyperfresh> Hooo boy. I learned two important points from that conversation.
CraigCuttlefish> is what 3 is telling me about a 4 and 5 true
DJ_Hyperfresh> I... was hoping you would confirm that for me. I only have their word. 
DJ_Hyperfresh> Though I did see they had headphones like 3 does.
DJ_Hyperfresh> You do keep files on your agents yeah?
MC.Princess> Hang on what
MC.Princess> Like agents 4 and 5? What are you talking about
DJ_Hyperfresh> Well I wanna make sure it's real before I just start saying it as fact.
DJ_Hyperfresh> In the meantime, the other thing was that I can now confirm that Lily had no knowledge of Tartar or his work, nor was involved.
DJ_Hyperfresh> Though it's possible she might have still been manipulated without her or our knowledge...

"Well I'll be..."

Three looked up from his phone. "Is it true?"

Craig glanced at him. "Seems to be. I created a file on the human a while back for One and Two to keep an eye out, but, yes, they seem to have updated it recently and created their own for an Agent 4. One second and I'll post Lily's file up. Might need to redact some things."

IAmThree> Well that sounds good at least
IAmThree> I'd still like to have *words* with her about my eye though
MC.Princess> ...Not really on his side? That still seems hard to believe
DJ_Hyperfresh> I know, but, the discussion we had has led me to that conclusion.
DJ_Hyperfresh> What she's been *doing*, I don't know yet, but we'll be planning a proper meeting to talk properly soon.
DJ_Hyperfresh> One that I'll make sure you're part of, Pearl. She promised us that under agreement that we don't mention her on the news anymore
MC.Princess> Awww but...
IAmThree> FYI - Cap's just confirmed the info, he'll be posting up Lily's file shortly, Agents 1 and 2 seem to have updated it
DJ_Hyperfresh> Well then...
DJ_Hyperfresh> Alright. MC.Princess: Lily and her friend were just confirmed for being Agents 4 and 5.
MC.Princess> ...
MC.Princess> Even if she wasn't involved with that dumb telephone, what could she be doing for you guys??
IAmThree> Should say in the file he's preparing, but her friend - Agent 4 - recently recovered the Great Zapfish from DJ Octavio and rescued Callie, apparently...
IAmThree> Sounds familiar... half of it...
MC.Princess> Wait huh??? I thought Zappy just... took a break
DJ_Hyperfresh> That lines up, Three. We reported on both their disappearances a couple weeks ago...
DJ_Hyperfresh> Octavio huh? I thought after the last time, he'd've figured not to steal a major power source from a species that could fight back...
DJ_Hyperfresh> And that *would* explain the comment I got from Marie a few days back if he was recently acti--- 
MC.Princess> ...Marina?
DJ_Hyperfresh> I'm fine, Pearlie!
DJ_Hyperfresh> ...Hey Caaaaap...
DJ_Hyperfresh> Are your granddaughters... involved in your operation at all...?
CraigCuttlefish> this is Lily, the human girl
Lily ???
New Squidbeak Splatoon Agent 5
* Current Assignment: artifact retrieval (combat training)
* Age 26 before arrival
* Unknown method of arrival (Time travel??)
* Is unaware of how transportation happened, seems to be a real human from at least 12,000 years ago
* Originally a human male, underwent transformation to inkling female after ink immersion (see attached medical documents). Almost identical to Agent 4 as a result
* Possible connection to Commander Tartar, both became active at the same time
* Possibly seeks to complete Tartar's goal of worldwide elimination??? (absolutely not ~2)
* Connection to Sheldon (Ammo Knights) and at least one inkling (A1 comment: Agent 4)
* Pre-inkling life: cleaner, food production worker, mashup artist, computer nerd, music enthusiast
* Currently sharing residence with Agent 4 (A1 comment: maybe romantically involved?)
DJ_Hyperfresh> Yep, that's her...
CraigCuttlefish> DJ_Hyperfresh yes. 1 and 2 
MC.Princess> 'age 26' Wow what an old fart 
DJ_Hyperfresh> I wonder if human years are different to our years, like otherwise they'd be eight years older than me and they don't... seem it, mentally.
MC.Princess> 'Originally a human male' OH MY COD THAT EXPLAINS A BIT??? I always wondered why she seemed to carry herself differently to other girls 
MC.Princess> I mean, even before the human discovery 
DJ_Hyperfresh> That's certainly an... interesting point. So not just changing species, but changing gender too?
IAmThree> 'Artifact retrieval' huh? What's that involve...
DJ_Hyperfresh> Oh I think I know, actually! About the time she started showing up, this weird shower of... things happened across Inkopolis and beyond, including a phone right through our window, and that car.
DJ_Hyperfresh> And we saw her get the phone, and she was around the car when it got brought down... it would make sense if she was going around collecting everything.
MC.Princess> So hey is everything she's collecting *her* things or just *human* things?
DJ_Hyperfresh> I haven't figured that out for sure yet, but I'm guessing it's all hers.
DJ_Hyperfresh> I mean, maybe she's collecting all that stuff just as her mission, but she seemed at least pretty invested in that phone and the laptop. And the car...
DJ_Hyperfresh> ...Hey, one of us is gonna need to tell Agent 8...

"Agent 3?"

"Yessir?" Three looked up from the phone, hand now resting over his mouth, in thought.

"Schedule us a stop at the Central Station. I think we will need to head back up to the surface and get to the bottom of this ourselves."

Three blinked. "As... as you wish, sir." He pulled out an odd remote-looking device from a pocket on the hi-vis jacket, and clicked in the analog stick on it. "We testing your theory today?"

"We sure are. Let's see if there's any merit to it."

A screen materialized in front of him, with a complete map of the Metro facility open. This isn't what Three wanted though, so he clicked onto the next tab, where the train lines were visible. His cursor moved over to the point in the middle of the map, the Central Station, and clicked on it. It pinged, and an ETA indicator arrived. One hour to wait, to get from the outer edges of the map where the train was currently moving, back to the central line. Three could deal with that.

The only issue was, the path they had taken through the NILS Statue to get back to the Metro was one they could not use anymore. The main elevator into the depths of the statue had been destroyed by Pearl's Killer Wail a week ago, and while they had been able to descend with climbing rope, it had been carefully hung from Off the Hook's heli and then retrieved. But the Captain suspected there may be another way back to civilization, and his suspicion was about the abandoned station where he and Agent 8 had awoken. What lay beyond...?

CraigCuttlefish> we're coming up
DJ_Hyperfresh> Up...?
DJ_Hyperfresh> Wait, up? To the surface? Now?!
IAmThree> Cap's decided this situation needs his personal intervention
IAmThree> I mean it'll be a while to get 'up' anywhere, we won't be able to get back up the statue way but we're hoping there'll be another way up somewhere in the Metro itself
DJ_Hyperfresh> Oh... okay. Just, uh, keep us informed I guess, and please give us plenty of warning if you need us to pick you up!
MC.Princess> Statue's a no-go then?
IAmThree> Too tough to organise any kind of rope ascent, elevator's gone, no super jump points
IAmThree> The final ladder to the surface is still there, but that's... kind of it in terms of climbing.
DJ_Hyperfresh> I don't know if this means much, Three, but if you can't find anything... there's an Octarian story about a town that was sealed off after something breached its cave's walls... due to the residents being killed or abducted and turned 'evil'.
DJ_Hyperfresh> I know it sounds weird, but if it's real, through a certain interpretation I could see that being something to do with the undead Octarians, hence the Metro broke into Octopia somewhere...
IAmThree> Hmm... Worth a thought
IAmThree> I suppose if we can find something like that, it would be *a* way to get home, a very roundabout one but...
IAmThree> We'll keep in touch
DJ_Hyperfresh> Sure. Stay safe Three, Cap!

The Deepsea Metro train continued speeding along, slowly calculating its route towards Central Station.

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