Heart Is King

Cap'n Cuttlefish and Agent 3 (Remo) call Lily and Lorne to the Hideout to meet and question them. And the New Squidbeak Splatoon participate in a group exercise.

The sun rose on another day in Inkopolis.

Lily was the first of the girls to wake in the apartment, as the sunlight reflected off the building across the road and into the room. She slowly shifted under the blankets and reached across her dresser to grab her phone, checking the time.

It was 10AM. Lily blinked in surprise. It had been a long time since she had properly slept in. She actually felt well rested for once, especially after how long she and Lorne had been up last night. Usually she always just felt tired no matter how she slept.

She carefully slid out of bed, trying not to wake her partner, and walked over to the kitchenette to pour a cold, water-like drink.

On the way past the lounge space, she glanced over the couch at Remo, expecting him to be asleep. Instead, he was silently tapping away on his phone, his blanket draped over him - wait, now that she saw it properly, it did seem more like a cape - and glanced up as Lily passed, acknowledging her with a nod.

Neither of the girls had been thrilled at his sudden arrival and demand to speak with them - but he had capitulated to their compromise to talk to him in the morning.

In the light of the morning, Lily first noticed the discolouration on his face - a splotch of greenish-blue around his right eye, and the mismatched colours of his eyes as a result. It was... unnerving to look at, and even more so now that Lily knew the whole story, and knew that it was the mark left by a genocidal AI.

Remo cleared his throat conspicuously - he knew she was examining his eye, and seemed to not be comfortable with it. Lily sighed in response, as she continued into the kitchenette. "Sleep well? Want me to pour some naturals for you too?"

"Yes, please," he said, quietly. "I slept alright. Beats subway benches."

"Mmm." She grabbed two plastic cups from the cupboards in the bench that separated her from the lounge space, and filled them with the watery oils from the taps. She walked back over to the couch, handed him one of the cups, and sat on the couch arm opposite his head, sipping at her own.

The silence lasted a few uncomfortable minutes, as Lily couldn't think of anything appropriate to say.

"...Look," Remo finally said with an exasperated sigh. "If you need to ask about the eye, just ask. Just get it out of the way."

Lily finally looked back at him, and Agent 3 could see she was saddened. "I... don't have anything to ask about it," she said quietly, eyes flickering to the bed as he saw Lorne begin to stir. "I just feel awful because I finally know who did that to you. I don't know what you must think of me, considering you probably know - you must know what I used to be - but I promise you that I have never worked with him, I have no intention of destroying anything, I..." She trailed off, not able to finish the thought, and sighed, looking down at the cold drink in her hand. Quietly she finished, "I'm sorry that my kind created the likes of him. I promise that I'm not the same..."

Remo watched her quietly for a moment, examining her in the soft morning light. Like his friends above-ground had said, she seemed like a regular inkling on the outside, if a bit odd. To think that she was a human in hiding... He remembered the conversation he'd overheard on the train. She was comfortable living here, even if she missed all her human friends...

Someone's phone buzzed with a notification. Remo checked his phone.

"Lily," Lorne groaned groggily from the bed, "your phone's over here."

"Oh, thanks hun." Lily slid off the couch and walked back over to the bed, grabbing her phone off her dresser, leaning over to peck Lorne's cheek while she was there.

Lily stood back up and started checking the phone. It was a message from Marie. She read it silently at first, and Remo saw her face drop. She read the message aloud to him and Lorne: "'Lily, please bring Lorne and your guest to the usual place as soon as you're all awake'... signed M, C... and C."

Lorne turned over in the bed to face her, drowsy. "Two Cs?" She couldn't help yawning right after, and forced herself to sit up. "Who's the second?"

"The Captain, I imagine," Remo replied matter-of-factly. "He was taking after Agents 1 and 2 to talk to them while I tailed you two."

Lily stared at him, then walked over to the couch, annoyed. "Alright, what's this about, Three? I hope y'all know I'm on your side by now! What does he think I'm gonna do?! Turn around and shoot my bosses in the back? My girlfriend?! I've got no way back that I know of - I'm not just gonna blow away this new life I have!"

"Lily, please relax." He sat up on the couch, stretching as he grabbed his hoodie and his cape. "I know you have not met him, but please trust me on this. I'm sure he trusts One and Two's judgement."

"I'm just...I mean Pearl nearly killed me over---"

"She WHAT?!" Lorne shouted as she finally got up, staring at her and frustrated. "Why didn't you tell me this?! And you still felt the need to try to apologise to her on Wednesday?!"

"Yeah, hang on," Remo said with a look of concern. "I never heard this."

"Oh, yeah, you know how they had a 'chat' with me in the sewers? That was Pearl and your Agent 8 holding me at gunpoint with something called a Disruptor. I'm pretty sure it was just Pearl wanting me to admit to being this awful, evil creature y'all wanted me to be."

"For the love of the Great Zapfish, Lily... and you STILL apologised to her." Lorne was furious now.

"I'm sorry, hun, but like... I already told you how my mind works. I felt bad for even taking up their time."

"Damnit, Lily..." Lorne sighed, grabbed her backpack from underneath the bed, walked over and hugged Lily tightly. "We have some work to do when we get you back on the training, alright? I need you to break this."

"I'm... I'm sorr---"

"Stop that!" Lorne clung tighter, and Lily let out a sigh.

The three Agents were silent all the way in to the Square, Lily's anxiety running rampant, Lorne hugging and comforting her while Remo shot off anxious texts to the Captain and Marina's chatroom.

Lily didn't expect anything good to happen as they approached the grate that would take them to the Hideout. She had no idea what kind of person Captain Cuttlefish would be, she could only make assumptions, but - c'mon, he was a Captain, for goodness sake! AND he'd seen first-hand what Tartar, and humans, could do, and he'd been hanging out in Pearl and Marina and Eight's chat while they were all on the hunt for her.

And he was the leader of the Squidbeak bunch. Callie, Marie, Remo, and Eight knew him well. And after his absence, down in the Metro, he was finally back to... what? To pass judgement on her? To personally put an end to her? What if it was just to see her, though? To see what kind of person she was? Nah, her mind 'assured' her. He'd probably already decided what kind of person she was.

And now it was time to face the music.

"C'mon, Lily," Remo said to her as they stood around the sewer grate. "You've got nothing to worry about." He did a tiny hop and transformed, slipping through the grate first.

Lorne looked over at Lily again. "Easy for him to say," she said. "But Lily, whatever happens... I'm in your corner. You know that. I know the girls are too. You have our support. Let's go see what he wants." She too, transformed and fell into the grate, leaving Lily alone for a few seconds.

She knew they would all be waiting for her. At this point, she realised it would be best to just get it over with. After a moment to work up the courage, she tipped forward and, transforming, fell into the sewer grate.

Agent Three was the first to arrive in the Tentakeel Hideout.

And as expected, Agents 1 and 2, and Captain Cuttlefish were there to greet them.

The three were already in a passionate conversation, though it seemed like they had already moved on from the subject of Lily.

"You two knew what he was capable of! Why would you let her get captured like that?" Cuttlefish was demanding of Marie.

"Hey, hang on!" Marie said with a hint of frustration in her voice. "We were going through a rough patch already, you saw how that last Splatfest ended! And we were already starting to have solo careers taking off, it just..."

"Gramps, yeah we were having some trouble with each other, but the decision to go and vent to Octavio was my own! I'm the one that messed up! It's not like I thought he could do anything!" Callie grumbled.

"Either way, Gramps, it's not like we didn't fix it in the end."

Agent 4 was next to arrive, and as she heard the argument she also paused, just behind Remo. Seeing Captain Cuttlefish for the first time, Lorne thought he was much older than she had been led to believe, with all his wrinkles and that beard. And what was this old-person getup he was wearing? And the cane - if that was even a cane? After all, Marie's Brella was more than just a prop...

"Yeah? Then where is he, girls?"

"We moved him temporarily to where that overgrown bread box used to be," Marie said. "With Off the Hook visiting late last night, I didn't want to create a situation between Marina and Octavio, with everything else going on..."

"Hmmm... That's a good point." Craig scritched at his tentacle beard. "And the human knows about him?"

Callie sighed. "C'mon, Gramps. For the last time, her name's Lily, and yes, she's met him up here. She knows his history---"

"Agent 3!" Marie called suddenly, noticing him and Agent 4, glad to have an out. "It's been so long. It's so good to see you again."

Agent 3 walked up to the three of them, shaking hands with Callie, Marie, and the Captain. "It's good to be back home, Agent 2, Agent 1. Is this a bad time?"

"No, no, it's OK," Cuttlefish told him. "We're just working out a few details. Ah, Agent 4, I believe!" His attention turned to the younger Inkling, and came forward to shake her hand. "A pleasure to finally meet you. I've heard about your recent work - I'm very proud of you for being able to defeat DJ Octavio."

"Uhh - Thank you, sir." Lorne felt somewhat awkward about this whole situation, but shook the man's hand anyway. "It's an honor to finally meet you."

Cuttlefish smiled warmly at her, then looked around, realising someone was missing. "Is the h..." He sighed and stopped himself, noticing Marie's glare. "Is... Agent Five far behind you both?"

"She's..." Agent 4 turned around to the grate. "She was very nervous about coming in, but she must've been only a few seconds behind us." She walked over to the grate and knelt down over it, peering inside, trying to see how far away Lily might have been.

But to her surprise, the squid she was looking for was simply hiding in the inkrail, a blob of squid with her eyes sad, nervous. She had to have been there not long after she had arrived.

"C'mon Lily," Lorne said, trying to comfort her. "I know this is scary for you, but I don't think he'll hurt you. One and Two are up here too. Remember what I told ya before."

Lily simply stared up at her, but from her changing expressions it seemed she was at least thinking about it. Four heard Cuttlefish walking up behind her, watched him glance into the grate at Lily.

"Good morning, Agent 5," he said simply down at her. "Nervous to meet me, eh? I guess I don't exactly blame you, from the sounds of things we all have reasons to be nervous." He adjusted his glasses. "Come on up, Five, let's get a look at ya."

Lily stared up at them for a few moments, then blinked her eyes, and leapt up into the air and through the grate, shoes landing on the metal bars as she fluidly transformed back into her humanoid self. Her face still showed nerves, but from what Lorne and Remo could see she was at least less frightened than she was before. Quietly, looking at the ground she said, "H...hello Captain."

They guided her back to the Cabin and sat her down. Marie sat on one side of Lily while the Cap'n sat on the other side. As Marie calmed her and spoke to Remo, Agents 3 and 4 moving in a little closer, Craig examined Agent 5 carefully. As Remo had found, outwardly she didn't seem too different from many of today's Inklings he had seen - and like the profiles had said... "You and Agent 4 look almost alike," Craig mentioned to Lily, watching her expression carefully. "Is there a reason for that?"

Lily sighed, and nodded. "I... didn't just arrive fully transformed. I didn't... didn't just survive all these years. Like, it still doesn't feel that long ago to me that I was just living at home, with my family, and all the humans were alive and I had had a much more boring life. But, we found out that like... everything on this planet has evolved, their defense and attack mechanisms have evolved and grown stronger, but everything's still roughly at the same level, relatively, because everything was evolving to counteract each other. So my... my old body simply was not equipped to handle it."

"Is... that true?" Craig raised an eyebrow at her.

"I don't actually know," she conceded with a shrug. "That's only my guess. The explicit truth is, according to Mar... Agent 2, when I arrived in this world I was blacked out and fell into a pool of Agent 4's ink. It... corrupted my DNA, or something along those lines. And uh... how long did it take to find out I was changed?"

Marie responded, "If I remember right, it was about a day and a... half? The time from us getting you into the Cabin to the next night when I checked in with some gear."

"Gear...? For a human, Agent 2?"

"The Octolings had stopped attacking, and we were worried that they had managed to ping her or something, and wanted to kidnap her, too." Marie shrugged. "I wanted to be sure that if me and/or Four were occupied, and they did try to attack the Hideout, or her, that she could at least fend them off long enough for us to get there."

"And she ended up being right, they did try to capture me," Lily chuckled. "I knew nothing, but I managed to surprise them and hold 'em off long enough for Marie to come and save me."

"I see. And what have you been doing since?" Craig prodded gently, Remo listening intently.

"Well..." Lily thought back over the past month. "I did look after the Cabin when Agent 2 and Agent 4 took on Octavio directly, been settling in to Inkopolis... I guess the main thing is I've been venturing out and collecting these items that came through the... portal, I guess, with me." She dug into her pocket, pulling out the iPhone once again, and handing it to Craig to look at, and then opened up her backpack, sitting at her feet, and pulled out the Acer laptop sitting behind her Agent gear, sitting it in her lap, folded. "We have a rough idea of where things are, or rather, where things were when we started looking. Some of it, we assume has landed in Octarian hands by now. I definitely know a pair of headphones I used to have conked Octavio on the head. There's at least one more thing in the city, something outside of the city limits... There's something in Grizzco waters which will... be 'fun' to try and get..."

"Grizzco?" Captain Cuttlefish glanced at Callie and Marie.

"That's that power-egg thing the younger kids are doing for work?" Marie explained.

"Y'know that weird company that's operating out at all those small outposts in the ocean where the Salmonids lay their eggs?" Callie furthered. "Otherwise prohibited territory? That's those guys."

"Hmm." Craig glanced down at the fancy human phone in his hand. It seemed similar in function to those other fancy cellphones the squids had nowadays, but it wasn't shaped in any particular way. It was just... a box. A rectangle. Her laptop looked more like something older squids would carry around. The main difference with this one was the brand logo was basically unreadable to him, and the few stickers adorning it were of things he had no idea of... besides the one Squid Sisters logo tucked into the corner. Craig chuckled, and handed the phone back over.

"If you don't mind me asking," Remo piped in, gesturing at the laptop, "What are all these stickers about?"

"Well, I suppose it doesn't hurt to explain them." Lily pointed at the one at the top left, the more recognisable of the lot due to its D-Pad-like logo. The right side of the D-Pad was used to form part of the words 'Games Done Quick'. "This one's for a video game running marathon. People would get together and try to beat video games as fast as possible, and any proceeds they made would go to charity." She began to smile as she did this, going through old memories as she talked through everything.

She moved to the next logos. One was a diamond-shape with two 'arrows' on the left and right sides, and the inside of the shapes depicted some sort of landscape. "This one is for one of the music artists I enjoyed listening to in my time. And this," her finger moved to the logo below it, a 3D cross-type symbol with oil running over it, "is not only one of my favorite electronic music duos, but the first show I got to see performed live."

The sticker under that was the text 'still a piece of GARBAGE' in an... interesting style, atop the pixellated icon of a trash can. "This one is for a guy who made these silly short videos that I used to love. The text says 'still a piece of garbage', and the icon... yeah. I've seen trash cans here in Inkopolis." She moved her finger to the last sticker, the Squid Sisters logo she had had applied recently. "No comment. Bought it for obvious reasons, but also I figured it would help me blend in when I used it."

"I'm... not sure what I expected human culture to be," Callie noted as Lily put the phone in her pocket and the laptop back in the bag. "It's cool you're repping your favorite music though! I'm totally not just saying that because we're also on there." She grinned at Lily, who giggled softly.

"Well, Agent 5, consider me pleasantly surprised," Craig said, tapping his cane idly against the ground. "I'm not entirely sure what I thought to find up here, but I admittedly believed it would not be much in the way of good things. For that, I apologise."

Lily looked at him in surprise. Around her, Lorne breathed a sigh of relief, and Callie and Marie smiled, the latter resting a hand on Lily's shoulder. "I... wow, sir. Thank you."

"I do have a question about your future plans, though." Craig watched her expression drop slightly. "Agents 1 and 2 tell me you want to visit the resting place of Tartar. That telephone. But they didn't go into your reasoning..."

"We had a bit of an argument before you three turned up today," Marie explained sadly. "We kept talking over each other. But Lily, if you could tell him what you told us last night..."

Lily nodded, and sighed. "As you know, Captain, it's strange that I'm here at all. The circumstances around my arrival are still... unknown as far as I know." She started to think back to when it had all begun, though the details on the other side were slightly fuzzier. \"In this new reality, 12,000 years later, I should be the only human alive. If you can still call me human... But then we start hearing about Tartar, this thing that nearly destroyed your world, probably just because he wanted humans to evolve into existence again. But he was made from humans, back when I was alive. He's existed for all of this time. He must know what happened to humans, why we died out.

"He... he might know what happened to me. Hell, he might be responsible for what happened to me. And if he brought me here... he may know if I was always just meant to be dropped here without a way home." Lily closed her eyes and took deep breaths. "I hate that he may be my only chance to find this stuff out, but while he can't do anything to us... my current idea is to... pretend to be on his side when I meet him. At least until I can't stomach him anymore. I can't pretend I'm not an inkling. But if I say something like, 'I'm a human who was turned against his will', he might be more willing to give answers."

"What will you do if he's no help to you?" Remo asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Then..." Lily shrugged. "I'm gonna give him what for either way. He shouldn't be the one representing humans in this world. It probably wouldn't do much, but maybe it'll make him think for a bit if not even humans like him."

"It probably won't," Remo sighed.

"Probably not," Lily conceded. "It'd make me feel better, though."

"Hmm." Captain Cuttlefish had stood and was pacing about nearby the group. "I suppose you're in a unique situation to speak to him. But what about after that? What do you plan to do next?"

"Well... train up more through battling and whatever the other Agents have planned for me... venture out and collect more artifacts... and I guess assist in other missions where needed."

Craig nodded, in thought. "Would you consent then, Agent Five, for me to test your current ability in arena combat?"

"Uh... why?" Lily glanced at him, confused.

"Simply to see where to focus your training." For the first time since they had met, Cuttlefish actually smiled at her. "And, selfishly, I would like to see my Agents in action."

"Oh? Are they training with me?" Lily asked, smiling.

"...This was... not what I had thought. This is... not going to last very long, you know."

Lily stared up at the group, already down on the now-unused Octo Shower's boss arena, dressed up in her Hero gear as the others prepared for the upcoming fight.

"Nonsense! This'll be fun!" Callie grinned down at her. "And we'll get to learn each other's technique!"

"Now, Agent 5," Cuttlefish radioed in to her headset as the others prepared, "Don't you worry. To account for your disadvantage in numbers you have your Agent gear, but none of your fellow Agents will. That will allow you to pick up armor we'll be placing just below, where you are now, so you can take more hits before needing to retreat."

"Just be sure to get away if it depletes, Five," Marie warned her, while adjusting her Charger, fitting a scope onto it. "And use it wisely. Once it's gone, it's gone."

"We'll all be using the radios too," Craig continued, "So you should know most of what your opponents will be doing. It'll just be a case of how to best use that information, Five."

"W-well hang on though - I'm not facing all of you at once, am I?!"

"Would you like to?" Remo teased, sliding on his headset, and having traded his Agent gear for some sort of polo tee and slip-ons.

"No!" Lily shouted quickly, eyes widening.

"Heh. Perhaps if you stay up long enough, Five," Cuttlefish thought aloud. "For now, let's start with a one-on-one. Then perhaps we'll put you up against some duos later if you're still running. Alright?"

"Uh... Okay." Lily nodded slowly, nervous.

"Good!" The old man beamed. "Agent 4, you're up first. Show me what you got!"

Lorne looked nervously between him and Lily as she stepped forward, holding her own Hero Shot. "Just pretend it's another Turf War scuffle, Lily, but don't think I'll go easy on you! You better start moving, 'cuz here I come!"

With that, Agent 4 crouched down, changed form, and Super Jumped up into the air toward the arena. Lily backed off quickly, inking her way around the closest block to get a safe distance.

Agent 4 splashed in, and immediately went on the hunt. "Here I come, Five!" She called as she followed Lily's ink trail.

Lily, however, was already starting to think. She rushed back around the corner at Four, causing her to jump back in surprise as Lily fired in her direction, rushing for another corner and diving behind it to avoid most of Lorne's return fire.

"Ooh, looks like Lily's defense is an offense," Callie commented over the radios, Four and Five hearing her as they fought.

"She can't push it too far though, and she knows it," Marie thought aloud. "Remember, Four's been up against all types of Octarians, so she's ready to deal with plenty of different strategies."

"I'm kind of excited to see what Lily might be capable of," Remo told the others. "What kind of fighting technique actual humans might bring to the table."

"God, way to pile the pressure on," Lily radioed in sarcastically. The spectators saw her come into view from the left, behind one of the blocks, and... she had her Hero Shot down? What was she doing...?

"Hey Fooourr..." Marie called, and Lily's head snapped up to see them, putting a finger to her lips. "Do you want us to let you know if we seeee her?"

They watched her look about frantically for a way to lose her trail. She saw that the next block across seemed slightly lower, and the dash pad she saw on it was operational. She seemed to get an idea, and ran toward it, not firing her ink...

"Well, yeah. It's not a stealth fight, is it?" Four responded.

"I disagree!" Lily said loudly. "One sec..." She ran, leapt over the trail of ink Four had left between her and the dash pad, bent her knees, and then launched herself at the wall and the pad, trying to get herself over the top and out of sight before Four saw her. The pad, designed for swimming squids and not inklings trying to 'parkour' up walls, launched her feet straight upward, causing her to flip, catch her head on the pad and the wall and be hurtled upward, up onto the block.

She crashed nearly head-first onto the top of the platform, causing the spectators to wince, but apart from a gasp of pain she managed to keep herself somewhat quiet. She laid there for just a moment, the pain from the crash coursing through her body. "Stealth..." she groaned painfully, "may just be one of the only tools I have to get the upper hand."

"You... OK, Five?" Remo called in.

"I'll live..."

"Wait, what happened? What am I missing?!" Four radioed in a panic.

"Don't tell her a fuckin' thing!" Lily hissed. She could hear her somewhere nearby, down below on the ground, so she forced herself up onto her feet, trying to peek over the edge.

Lorne was below her, near the middle, trying to find Lily's trail. After all, with Lily not inking, she had basically vanished. She stalked around, trying to get a sign of her.

And thankfully, she'd not seen her head peeking out just above her.

Lily grinned. She readied a bomb and lobbed it over the edge in front of Four, then jumped down behind her, Hero Shot blazing.

Agent 4 saw the Splat Bomb clank down in front of her, and jumped backward to avoid it, turning to run, but Lily was already there and firing right at her.

"Wait, what the-?!" was all she managed to get out, plus the reflexive fire of her own weapon, before she burst in a splash of ink.

Lily was knocked backward by Four's own blasts of ink, but she'd managed to pull it off.

One person down.

She made her way back to the side where the Agents were gathered. "And that," Agent 5 said with a grin, rubbing her sore head, "is why. It's more fun when the people down here have only their own information on where the target is."

"Not bad, not bad," Cuttlefish nodded.

Agent 4 came up to the ledge. "Well, I was only going a little easy on you, Lily. But wow, I knew you had potential after those failed attacks from the Octolings."

"No way you're gonna be able to pull that strategy off again though," Marie told her, stepping up to the edge with Callie, and holding her Charger up to the sky, the barrel leaning on her shoulder. Callie was doing similar with her Roller. "Especially since you'll be up against us next."

"What?!" Lily cried out. Then, realising they might launch at her at any moment, she called, "Wait, wait, before you get started! Just... can I explain what happened to Four?"

"Hmm? Ah, yeah, sure."

"Thanks. OK, so..." Five gestured at a dash pad on one of the blocks that faced them. "Yes, I got away with not inking to try to get up one of these things, but, please don't. I tried to basically jump up with the help of these boost things, no squid form, and it basically flipped me around and I smacked my head on the wall." She made a shrugging gesture. "I learn these things the hard way so you don't have to."

"Lily, you idiot," Lorne sighed and shook her head. "You really do need to take better care of yourself. You think you're right to keep going?"

"I mean, that's the whole point of this exercise, innit?" Lily readied her Hero Shot once again. "I can keep going."

"Well... alright, you asked for it." She stepped back, and left Callie and Marie at the front. "Girls, I defer to you."

"Thanks," Callie nodded at her. Glancing at Marie, she smirked. Time to go old-school. "Classic duo strat, Marie?"

Agent 2 nodded and grinned. "Sounds good. One of these towers should do the trick." Then she focused her eyes on Lily. "Better get moving, Five, 'cause here we come!"

Lily took that as her cue to leg it, inking up a path ahead and diving for it, swimming ahead as Marie leapt down, Callie Super Jumping into the arena on the other side.

As soon as Callie had touched down she was on the move, Roller down, inking toward the middle of the arena while keeping an eye on where she had last seen Lily, and trying to predict where she might appear next. A part of her was excited - this would be her first time seeing the ex-human in action.

Lily appeared quickly in front of her, looking out for them, and panicked, letting loose a burst of ink fire while she ran back to cover, Callie chasing after her.

Marie, however, took her time using her Charger to climb up the tallest platform nearby, and knelt down on top, observing from above. "Alright, One," she radioed in. "I'm in position. Guide me."

"Last seen in the north east quadrant," Callie replied, and Marie watched her go around. "Not here anymore, but shouldn't be too far off."

Marie observed the area opposite to her for a moment. As she watched, she saw Lily emerge from a patch of olive ink in the center-east of the platform and dash across for one of the armor pickups that they had left on each side of the arena.

Her charger built up pressure and quickly, Marie let loose a Charger shot that laid down a line of ink in front of Lily. "You sure you want that armor?" She called out to Five over the radio, with a smirk.

Lily turned to see her with the charger pointed at her, and her face dropped. Turning again to see Callie coming up fast through her ink, she made a run for it, turning squid herself and swimming back into the maze of blocks, leaving the armor behind. She intended to circle around, but another blast of Marie's charger cut her off.

Lily was gotten herself pinned down.

Marie waited patiently for Lily to appear from behind the big stone block she was trapped behind.

And Callie was already on her way over, her Roller inking a path through the center over to her. She silently turned to Marie and gestured. I'll go in on the left.

Marie nodded and shifted her aim to the right. Sorry, Lily, she thought to herself. Once she flushes you out, you're through. She keyed the mic. "Well, Lily, looks like this is it. I think the Captain will be happy with your skill level, though."

"Who says I'm done?" Lily said back, as Callie was rounding the corner.

"Marie! Look out!" Callie called in through the mic as a sky-blue Splat Bomb was kicked up into the air. Marie noted the impressive height as her aim snapped up, the blast from her Charger detonating the Bomb near the apex of Lily's throw. "Nice try, Five! I--- huh?"

Suddenly the arena had gone dark, and what light was left had been turned blue. What in the...

"Hey! What just happened with the lights?!" Eight called in, Three and One voicing similar confusion underneath him.

The lights... Marie glanced upward.

Lily's bomb, it seemed, hadn't been lobbed toward her like she had thought. It had been thrown high up, and the ink from the detonated bomb clung to the giant bulb that illuminated the boss arena.

Cold ink. Hot glass. And a crackling sound...

Marie's eyes bulged. "Duck and cover!" she called as she dove off her tower, pushing herself up against the walls, minimizing the possible impact.

Callie didn't get the chance, as she was chasing Lily, out in the open.

With a loud cracking noise, the light globe exploded, and glass rained down upon the arena at high speed.

Spectators caught a glimpse of Callie bursting into a spray of ink with the rain of glass that bounced off the ground and the ink, as the arena was plunged into almost total darkness. Her glowing spirit rushed back toward them, toward the respawn point.

Marie cursed silently. It was an unorthodox move, but with it, Lily had managed to secure more time and weaken her team's attack. She began to stalk slowly, carefully around the arena, Charger up, ready to prepare another blast.

Cuttlefish whistled from the spectator platform. Most of Lily's tactics so far had been standard, but that...

"I heard her go, but, is Callie... OK?" Lily asked nervously over the radio.

"I'm fine!" Callie called in, having just respawned and walking up to the ledge. "That was... I can't say I expected that, Lily. Good work."

"How did she manage to get that Splat Bomb up so high?" Cuttlefish asked her, pointedly using the radios to keep Lily in the loop.

"She... man, she kicked the bomb like it was some kinda ball."

"I can't track her anymore," Marie transmitted, edging carefully around a corner, keeping a charge ready. "Without the lights I'm kinda reduced to just listening for sound."

"Don't you literally have a Point Sensor sub you rarely use?" Callie pointed out to her.

A pause. "...Yes. It's no good when I don't know where to put it, though."

The Agents up on the viewing platform began to notice something. After all, the only lighting around the area now was the Octarian city below, but they noticed another source of light moving around the boss platform. Pulsing light, in fact.

Marie began to notice it too, emanating from something past the block she had made it to, and it twigged as she watched the gentle light on the ground pulse in blue: Lily's headphones were giving her away. With a smirk, she quietly followed the light source around the corner, readying a shot.

"Come out, come out, whereever you aaaare..." Lily whispered into the radio, almost creepily. Clearly she thought Agent 2 would be on the back foot, but Marie was seeing things differently. Five must not have considered she was emitting light.

The Charger blast that shattered her shield, then, took her by complete surprise. She had been making her way over to an armor pickup out in the open, but she tried to run - er, swim - back behind cover as soon as she was shot.

Funnily enough, the red light particles that emitted from the Agent gear as it tried to rebuild its shield only made her more visible, and Marie had the upper hand. Charging up another blast, before Lily was able to escape, Agent 2 blasted her one last time, and Five was out.

The exercise was over.

With a smile and sigh, Marie wiped her brow, and keyed her headset. "Target down," she said with a grin. "It was a good tactic, Lily, but it only made you more visible to us in the end."

"Excellent, excellent!" Cuttlefish proclaimed. "Well done, Agent Five."

They heard Lily respawning behind them, and turned to see her sigh and remove her headset. "Well... well done? I only made it through like, two of you."

"Yeah," Callie nodded, "But Marie and me have been doing this for years. Three, Four and Eight are already trained just through what they've been put through. And I'd say besides turf wars and the two times you've gone up against Octavio's forces you haven't had much practice yourself. That was natural talent you showed there."

"Preach it!" Marie called as she super jumped back up to them through Callie's signal. "You might not have been able to face us head on, but the fact that you made use of the environment and your own thinking to get around us showed promise. So, yes, Five. Well done."

The Squidbeaks hung about the platform and talked, and while answering questions Lily and Remo noticed activity below them. Three Octocopters were rising from the city below, and they seemed to be carrying a new globe. "Look out, we've got company," Remo warned, unholstering his Hero Shot.

"Hey wait, hang on," Lily said sharply, as the others turned to see the approaching Octarians. Eight glanced with concern at the other Agents. "I think they're just here to fix the light I broke."

Indeed, they watched as the 'Copters set the new light globe down, noticing the carnage that the Agents had caused, and with a tool they were carrying between the three of them, set about unscrewing the remains of the shattered light.

"We should maybe... leave before they notice we're here," Lorne pointed out.

"Good idea, Four. Let's go." Marie tapped on Callie's shoulder and headed over to the launchpad, and with Craig, Remo and Lorne, launched away.

Callie, Eight and Lily were left to watch them work briefly, but eventually Callie, too, turned to start back toward the Hideout. "Come on, Five, Eight. We should head home before the others start to worry."

Lily nodded, glanced at Eight, and the two of them followed the Squid Sister to the launchpad, rocketing after her.

Craig Cuttlefish saw the three approaching while he, Marie and Three caught up, Lorne listening quietly. He excused himself, and made his way over to Lily, pulling her aside briefly. Callie stopped and watched quietly.

"Is there an issue, sir?" Lily said with a furrowed brow.

"No, no," he said with a smile. "I just want to let you know that I've made a decision. One and Two have done well by keeping you close. While I'd like to see you train more, for someone who isn't a natural inkling, there's some talent and instinct there I'd like our team to help nurture."

"Well, thank you." Lily smiled. "I like to think there's more you guys can teach me than I could teach you."

"So, Agent Five... I will be organising with those girls from Off The Hook to take us to Tartar's resting place for you. But, being the leader of our group here, I should reaffirm our mission for you... Lily, are you willing to defend Inkopolis against threats to its people, and their way of life?"

Lily simply stared at him. She could see he didn't doubt her commitment to her new life now, but to ask this of her? She pursed her lips together, thinking. Of course the Squidbeak Splatoon - sorry, the New Squidbeak Splatoon - was about more than just hanging out and collecting stuff. Could she deal with actively protecting Inkopolis's borders? It would certainly be a more interesting life than the one she'd led previously, but was she cut out for---

Cuttlefish smiled. "Excellent," he said suddenly. "I will be in touch." And he turned and walked back over to rejoin Marie's and Remo's conversation. Lily noticed that the two of them were smiling at her.

Only later, after Lily and Lorne had returned to their apartment to figure out the rest of their day, did she get to learn the answer behind Cuttlefish's strange response.

Like with Agent 4, and Three before her, Captain Cuttlefish had taken her confused silence as a yes.

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