The Moon-man Chronicles
Part 1: Moon-Man
In Inkopolis, there were many rules.
You don't speak of the outside world.
You don't rebel against the current system.
You can't stay in your living area during the day.
The Cat's judgement cannot be argued against.
Then finally, you don't kill anyone.
One would think they'd be easy to follow.
She watched as her clock continued to count towards the ever encroaching time of deliverance. Soon she would be forced to leave her humble dwelling that rested on the fifth floor of a twelve story building. She had spent two hours staring at the small red numbers count up in increments of ten, then change, counting the passage of time. She hated the thing, and the omnipotent power it represented.
She ascended from her small foldable cot, throwing her single bedsheet into a corner. It took her six minutes to prepare to go into the outside world. Expertly moving in her empty one room, one bath apartment. Her furniture included her cot, a small dresser with a mirror attached, and a small end table with her electric clock on top of it.
Three doors were also in this single room. The first leading towards her bathroom. After passing through this door, she headed to her second door, which contained all her food, packed cleanly in plastic containers with their own small disposable utensils. She had ten of these packages left, out of the month's set she bought for the cheap price of seventy cash. She picked one at the top of the stack, opened the container, and began to eat her zero stench, processed gray goop, supposedly made with real flesh.
The implications of this always teetered at the edge of her mind, but after eating so many of them for so many years, she became desensitized and it wasn't like this was the only nutrient pack on the food markets. She just chose the greater value in the standoff between nutrients and cost.
Many of her kind spend their currency on better tasting foods, which usually ended up being fried meat of some kind. But after she quit being a regular in the Wars, she decided to use her l arge sum on cheap, effective foods. The benefit of only needing to restock once a month was a pretty good thing, as well.
After her chow time, she quickly obtained her weapon of choice that was sitting idly in the corner. She picked the Semi-automatic .96 GAL by the sling, and wrapped it around her shoulder. Picking up the Ink bottle which contained her ammunition, she went over to her father's trench coat, standing guard by the door on a small wooden pole that used to be an overly large brush.
The old worn leather told unspoken tales of battle and trials never to be said to the living world. It was the only thing she brought when she entered this prison city. It took her many years to be able to wield this article of clothing due to the large size alone. When she was younger, she remembered her father -larger than life- wearing this long coat, and although she had long forgotten his features, this piece of clothing had stood as her connection to him.
She took it from its mantle, and readjusted her sling and bottle as the coat formed a warm embrace around her.
She quickly adjusted her blue beanie, put on her Moto-Boots, and left the last door in her room. Taking her sunglasses from one of the myriad pockets, she entered the brightly lit hallway. Hearing the electronic lock click behind her, she passed by her resident name plate as she walked to the stairwell.
Part 2: Blank
As she went down the first set of stairs, she was immediately blinded through the window that gave what she assumed was quite the view of the city. To her though, and her light sensitive eyes, it took her a good ten seconds of rubbing the tears away for her to regain complete vision. Even through protective eye wear, caught unguarded, the sun would temporarily blind her. While attempting to recover her sight, she allowed herself a smirk at the situation, considering her adopted name.
Moon-Man, how apt, she'd think.
She obtained the name in the first few days of participation of the Wars, where most Inklings earned their money, and if lucky or skilled fame. Moon-Man herself had earned her title for her near translucent pale skin, her photophobia, and lastly, for tying her long tentacles into a bun. She had gotten annoyed when running and being slapped in the face or torso by her own elastic flesh straps attached to her scalp. Little did she know that this was a common trait for male Squid-Kids, and in her first days, she was too intimidated by the older Inklings to actually correct the issue.
Although time had passed, she kept the name-sake. When she was competing regularly, it would sow confusion into the so called 'Bad Guys', or for those who tried to study their opponents before fighting. This didn't really pose any significant advantage, and honestly bit her in the back more than once, she thought sourly. Sometimes she regretted not getting a name change, but she had grown to become Moon-Man, and would keep the persona.
Moon-Man finally recovered from being blinded, and made her way down to the fourth floor. She was about to continue the descending action to the ground floor when she heard some new voices speak in shrill squeaks. She stopped short of the final stair to the fourth floor, and listened carefully.
"Why come to Squid City? No family water tanks. No water!" A high pitched squeal sounded with barely hidden hostility.
"You know why. Much space than old home. More opportunity. No discrimination. Free trade market!" a much lower toned voice answered.
Moon-Man had received a notice telling of the new couple that would be moving under her apartment. She had read that they were not of Ink Descent, but the letter itself told nothing of their Jelly ways. There were many kinds of creatures in this city, including Crustaceans, Jellyfish, Crab, Urchin, Anemone, and supposedly Octarians themselves.
She had learned over the years through overhearing things that her state government invites many races that they aren't at war with to do culture and work exchanges. The only exception being Octarians, who have been her race's enemy since... Well, since forever, really. These enemy invaders apparently hide deep under the city, waging a guerilla war, but Moon-Man had never seen, heard, nor smelled any of these mythical creatures.
Normally, these immigrants weren't allowed to speak of the goings on of the outside of this city, due to the fact that there's an information lock down, but quick ears could always pick up useful info if they weren't detected. Moon-Man continued her eavesdropping of this new Jelly-couple.
"Excuse! You wanted to get away from Mother!" The shrill voice accused.
"Non! I wanted to flee from your Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Nephew, Niece!" responded the deeper voice.
"You dare! Kindest fish in city!"
"I dare! Vagabonds each and every one of them!"
Moon-man heard very soft exchanges of what she assumed was a feeler smack. She also quickly realized that this would probably lead no-where, and continued her descent, quickly passing the hallway, glancing at what she assumed was the female Jellyfish slapping the slightly larger male Jellyfish. Though she dwarfed both of them, Moon-Man quietly absconded, not seeing a point into breaking this lover's quarrel up.
She skipped the next three floors fairly quickly. There were no residents in these hallways, for the fact of renovations being taken on her building. She had heard that the building was being prepared for new residents of higher income, and larger families, or squad livings. Moon-Man had also heard that her building wasn't the only one renovating for larger intake of population. This was quite worrying, as the city started quite small with maybe a few thousand inhabitants in a small space near the sea. These occupants were mostly Inklings who were taken from their parents against their will, thrown into a good looking jail cell and their only way to live was to fight in the so called 'Turf Wars', where they were rated for doing what was assumed to be military practice and or war games.
As she stopped by the empty front desk, she stared into the common area, where there were a few vending machines. There were larger than life imprints of the two Sisters posing in stupid outfits. These new machines put a scowl on Moon-Man's face that was quickly suppressed.
Moon-Man stepped out of the building and into the sun-lit streets. The pavement's heat could be felt as cement cooked in the summer heat. Moon-Man could hear birds making calls while taking in the salty air.
Moon-Man had chosen her place of residence very carefully after she cut down on spending. She chose a cheap apartment near the sea, a ten minute train ride away from the city's main plaza. Many of the buildings surrounding her were empty, and of the exceptions, all were of some different race than hers. She was quite literally the only Inkling who chose to live on this city block.
As she walked she looked towards the large blue ocean, and felt the fear of her entire race. Her people supposedly climbed out of the sea on legs made of flesh. At the cost to evolving onto land, water, among other things, were their bane now. Moon-Man never learned exactly why, but during the Turf Wars some of the locations included water barriers, which were later to be discovered they weren't even genuine water. A liquid engineered to resemble the body shredding puddles that could tear apart Inklings. Artificially made so that the child warriors would learn the dangers of actual water. The implications that their state had knowingly put these obstacles into already life and death situations infuriated Moon-Man.
She watched the current pull and push against itself into the beach below her. She felt her hand clutch in hatred at her situation. She was quite literally trapped in a city, and forced to live by a non-physical government's laws and rules and then forced to fight her fellow Inklings. It wouldn't be that bad, if she alone wasn't the only one who thought this way.
She inhaled, and held the breath, releasing it into the surroundings.
That's incorrect, and she knew it.
Moon-Man knew that others shared this belief, but the fact was that no one was willing to step up and try to change the ways they are forced to live in. There were so many distractions one could part-take in, and even have fun with, but there was always the underlying tension in the entire city.
In exchange for the rules being followed, you get to live in a relatively safe environment, where your food is taken care of for the money you obtain for participating in the Turf Wars. But that's the only way where an Inkling can earn the state certificates of proof showing that you've participated. This currency can be exchanged for goods, guns, clothes, and rent.
The system worked. It taught them how to be responsible Moon-Man supposed. She just wished someone from their government would come and outright tell them why they were taken from their families, and forced to live in this city. Any direction would be welcomed. Something, anything, anyone to tell them why they were here!
Moon-Man blinked, hearing only the crashing of the waves. She clutched her forehead. She had given herself a headache in contemplation, and had to recover. It took several minutes of not thinking too hard, and getting her rhythm of breath back. Then she remembered.
She started walking towards the train station, where public transportation saved her a forty minute walk to the main spot of happening, also known as The Plaza, where one could get fresh for cash, and meet up with friends.
The train came after a brief wait, where Moon-Man sat on a bench in the shade of the station, with the company of herself. She truly loved the isolation of this part of the city. The closer to the Plaza she got, and the more stops the train made, more of her ilk were jumping into the same cabin. Many of her fellow Squid-Kids gave her a few feet of berth. Few know how to react to someone as un-fresh as her, due to her not wearing the brand name clothing.
Moon-Man's coat hid most of her person and weaponry, giving her a mysterious atmosphere that demanded respect of distance.
Once they saw that this heavily clothed figure wasn't about to physically attack them, they tended to gather to their friends and chat about the coming up ladder fights or just the unranked four versus four battles, sharing stratagems, or telling tales of past victories, and even plans for the day. The atmosphere was jubilant to say the least, one that almost made her feel a sense of belonging, even without partaking in conversation.
Soon the final stop came for the train, and most of the kids rushed out of the train's opening doors. One of the kids even became a small six tentacle squid and started flopping around as if possessed in pure excitement.
Moon-Man calmly stepped over this convulsing squid, and broke left, heading to an alley which became a wall apart from the plaza's main entrance, leading to a small hangout, where she saw two of her fellows standing over a kid with his face in his knees, sitting down on the curb.
A sense of trepidation filled Moon-Man as she briskly made her way to these three. Something had happened, and she was about to find out what, for better or worse.
Part 3: You don't get to bring friends...
Moon-Man stopped a few feet short of the three. She was supposed to be meeting with the one trying to console the boy on the curb, crying his eyes out.
The third one was standing a foot or two away from the other two, leaning on a paint roller that was twice his size. He hardly moved as he looked at Moon-Man out of the corner of his eyes. This boy was the epitome of fresh, wearing quite possibly the most needlessly expensive things that he could possibly buy. Moon-Man cared little for this squid boy for what he had in clothing and cash he lacked in true character. Moon-Man remembered that this boy's name was Tomb, or Book, or probably something silly.
She immediately ignored him, heading to the other two. Catherine, a squid-girl, was squatting down next to the crying boy trying to comfort him to the best of her abilities. Normally known for being cold to almost everyone in public, her intuition for being able to guess where Squid surfers would pop-up, and hide was second to none.
Almost as if there was an echo-locator built into her skull, needless to say, this highly sought after skill put her on a list of Inklings on the upper echelon.
A long time ago when Moon-Man herself was climbing the ladders of the Turf Battles, she and Catherine use to team up quite a bit. When Catherine eventually warmed up to her, she had told that the way she acts was because of her mother's teachings. Something about being infinitely kind to those you care about, but infinitely cruel to those you don't.
As Catherine looked up to Moon-Man, she mouthed the words "Help me."
Moon-Man stared blankly at her friend through her sunglasses. Catherine apparently sensing Moon-Man's apathy, started talking to the boy sitting down.
"Bojable, Moon-Man's here. Can you repeat what you told me? Please?" Her voice pleaded warmly, shushing the sniffles of the so called Bojable.
Bojable looked up to Moon-Man with a red face, wiping tears and snot from his orifices. Moon-Man restrained her growing aggravation just looking at this boy weeping openly. Bojable was known for being the one of the unfreshest mugs in this entire city, despite being one of the oldest, and being in more turf battles than nearly everyone. Yet this cry baby had yet to actually go positive in any of the battles. In fact, he was notorious for not trying to 'splat' anyone. He was a complete pacifist.
You could say he was a Pacifish...
Anyways, Moon-Man thought looking down on this somewhat large squid-kid. She stared him down, waiting for whatever would come after he composed himself. After about thirty seconds, he caught his breath, looked directly into Moon-Man's face, and promptly began wailing openly and loudly.
"Tentacular. Now he's crying even more," began What's-his-face, backing up even further from the sobbing boy-child.
Moon-Man pointed at the talking one, pantomiming to shut the hell up. She then knelt down, and put a hand on Bojable's shoulder, however the crying had yet to cease, and suddenly the bottled rage of an entire morning was taken out on his chin with a fist.
Bojable was knocked flat on his back by Moon-Man's punch from his sitting position. Catherine immediately got in-between the Moon-Man and Bojable, beginning to shout, however, when Catherine recomposed herself in the emotionless face of Moon-Man, they both turned to the now quiet Bojable.
Moon-Man crouched quite near to his face, and said in a very flat tone.
Bojable spoke quickly, making nervous hand gestures that meant nothing, which Moon-Man supposed was better than hearing a sobbing sniveling child.
"Yesterday, before curfew, me and a friend named Mouse were painting in the Turf battles, and we both said we'd meet up tomorrow morning and try to continue where we left off but he never showed up."
Moon-Man's face twisted into annoyance. She knew Bojable wasn't about to start weeping at being stood up by some clown.
"So when he didn't show, I went to his apartment, and his roommates and neighbors said he didn't come home at all last night," he started to sniffle hard.
Moon-Man rose a hand, about to punch the boy again, but Bojable managed to contain himself.
She looked at Bojable and motioned that he should continue his story.
"So then I called him on his phone, and someone else answers, saying that they found it on the street and were looking for the owner. She shows me where she found the phone, and I begin to look for Mouse. He could have gotten hur-"
Something in Bojable's tone changed, and tears start coming from his large green eyes. Moon-Man didn't even bring up her hand to strike. She could see where this was going.
"Hur-Hur-Hurt..." he stuttered.
Catherine lowered herself to his level and put a hand on his elbow.
Librium or whatever his name was, started to shift uncomfortably. It took Bojable a few seconds to regain enough air to continue.
"So I look for small corners where he could have squid'd away or hid from someone, and in the little sewer outlet, I-I-I," Bojable tries to finish, but Moon-Man knew how this story ended.
"You find him." Moon-Man fills in for the freshly sobbing boy.
She gets a nod as a reply. Catherine's eyes look downwards as Moon-Man looks to her. She looks to whos'it shifting about, whom of which doesn't return her gaze either.
"He was dead!" Bojable shouts through his tears, before sending himself into a coughing fit.
"Dead?" Moon-Man asked, shocked.
She knew it didn't rain last night. Besides, there's plenty of cover all around the city. Rain barely even gets into the streets. It's not like the Ink guns they all carried were lethal anyways, let alone for the fact they only work in Turf Battles.
"Where? Did either of you two see? Bojable, did you tell anyone else?" Moon-Man started but didn't get any answer from any of the three, "Bojable, tell me where this happened."
It took him a few seconds to pull out his phone, and show her on the city map function.
Moon-Man immediately took off, with Catherine shouting to wait, but she literally could not believe someone had died.
Not in the battles, but actual death, with no respawning.
No getting called out once you get hit in the face with ink, and then having to swim back to the 'Spawn' point.
Actual, permanent death.
In this city that was so safe?
How did it happen?
So many questions rushed through her brain. As she ran for a solid ten minutes, she turned into the alley way she had marked on her phone, and ran face first into a wall.
Moon-Man looked up at a metal barricade that was curved at the edges to stop silly swimmers from getting over. Moon-Man looked at the markings indicating that a city official had put up the barrier, saying anyone needing to use this lane should make a detour, and continue on.
She had never personally seen one of these before, but had heard that when parts of the city needed to be cordoned off for special events during the night, they use these things.
Which means Bojable wasn't lying.
Which means behind this sheet metal wall, was not only a dead body, but investigators.
Civil servants. Not kids!
Moon-Man immediately started looking for vantage points, looking for any balcony, or any rooftop access she could use to see the ones inside.
It took almost an hour, but she was able to find a rooftop access staircase a few buildings away. However, when she finally reached the top of the roof, and looked towards the alley where this supposed squid met his end, the entire alley was empty.
No one was there.
She could physically feel herself deflate. She had missed her chance. She could feel the built up emotion escape her, and finally settled on the edge of the roof.
Minutes of calming herself with her breath later, she would look up at the street with the eyes of a tactician. Partaking in these turf wars made every kid with brain notice things about terrain.
The alley she was looking down on with a birds eye view only ran from one street to another. An artificial choke point built of stone. Only one light pole was in this walkway, if at night, which she assumed the crime had happened during, this entire area would be almost as black as oil. No matter the weapon or way the action was taken, this is quite the ambush spot.
Her thoughts suddenly realized that she had made a mistake.
She forgot this Mouse person was just that...
A person. A breathing squid-kid like Moon-Man herself.
He had just been having a fun night with Bojable inking turf. He was going home to eat dinner, sleep, and prepare for more fun tomorrow. Then someone... Someone, in this city, had taken his life from him. Either put him in a sewer outlet, or crawled in himself to die alone, scared, in the dark. Not in battle, where he would swim back to his 'spawn' point and try again. Actual death. He probably couldn't comprehend what was happening.
He was just a child.
Moon-Man had no idea what she would do if she was in that situation. About to die alone.
Would she even know if it was coming for her? How could someone possibly take a life like that?
She banished the thought.
They would announce it sooner or later. But if the killer was still out there, roaming the streets, he would kill again, either randomly or with an indefatigable purpose. There were things she herself could do to stop him, and by the great squid in the sky, would she.
She stood on the roof, and looked back down the empty alleyway one last time. She turned and went back down stairs, to go find Bojable, and begin her investigation.
If Moon-Man couldn't rely on the supposed invisible guardians to protect them in this prison city, it would be up to her to find and put a stop to this. She felt the fire rise in her heart, finally having a mission she could accomplish.
Part 4: Still in a Dream
After running what little leads she had into the ground, Moon-
Man realized that she was getting nowhere, quickly.
She had spoken to Bojable, put whatever Catherine's plans on hold, and went talking to the victim's roommates and neighbors. She wanted to see who he had been enemies with, and realized this Mouse character was a clean slate. He had only been in the city for a few days when this crime occurred.
His roommate was with another kid who was barely any older and had bunked in a room not unlike her own. Beginner's salary and average pay outs, being what they were, she deduced that it wasn't the roommate quite quickly, since these new friends hardly ever stayed friends.
The next lead was the girl who picked up the phone. She had given her own number to Bojable in case he had any questions, which peaked Moon-Man's interest until she disappointingly came up clean for everything. No connection at all to the victim. She came off plain, and had no hints of deception in her eyes.
Moon-Man prided herself on being a great judge of character, and left it at that when she realized she had nothing to gain by learning about this person. Moon-Man thanked the girl for her time, and left it at that.
She sat beside a caffeine vending machine, staring at the setting sun thinking about the distances.
The killing took place in an alleyway not even a mile away from the most packed spot. The killer was relying on someone discovering the body, but what was the end goal?
Was it to bait the actual people in charge?
To sow fear into the hearts of the kids?
What good would that do? There were just too many questions, and not enough to solve this.
She knew what would have to happen.
She felt terrible for wishing this, but she needed another victim. If the city was lucky, there would be no second case, and this would be an isolated incident, but her intuition was telling her that there would be another death.
Someone else in this city had to die before this person could be caught.
She slammed the back of her fist into the vending machine.
How much of her soul did she lose?
Hoping for someone to die for her own success? That's horrible. How could she –
"Are you alright, dude?" A male voice said out of sight.
Moon-Man got up suddenly, and looked at the front of the vending machine she just slammed, making the other Inkling jump back in surprise, with drink in hand.
"Oh, no," Moon-Man started, completely off guard.
This kid snuck up on her, when did that happen? "I mean, yeah, I'm alright."
His eyes widened a little, eyeing her gear over. "The news shocked you too huh?"
Moon-Man looked over the aero-sprayer latched onto his waist.
"News? What news?"
She watched as the boy fixed his hat and popped the top of his can of liquid. He took a sip while pointing to one of the televisions in a nearby window that happened to be on every single street of the inner city surrounding the plaza.
"The death dude. Someone actually died in the city. First ever I hear."
She blankly looked at him, before realizing that he was gesturing to the television.
Her head twisted, looking at the screen.
It wasn't even the squid sisters. Just a picture of what
Mouse looked like before the death, and a small excerpt about an accident. How there would be a memorial.
A cover up?
Was that to stop fear coming into the city?
That's literally asking for the killer to do it again! Are officials actually asking him to do it again just to prove that it wasn't an accident?
The Inkling stood next to her as she gaped at the television. "Yeah, it caught most of us off guard too," He said as the eight o'clock digital clocks sounded across the city.
Morning curfew was now officially over, and kids could go back to their homes, although the games wouldn't end for another hour. This is when most turf battles stopped.
After Moon-Man's silence, he chugged his drink, and waved goodbye,
"Take it easy man. Have a good one."
Moon-Man returned the small gesture, and watched him duck into another alley. With the new face gone, she went back to her original thinking, and realized she wouldn't wait for a second victim. There were also no guarantees that she would find out about another victim after the first one anyways. She would have to go looking for the killer after dark.
As the sun set, she took off her sunglasses, and clearly saw the world around her for what it was.
Part 5: Mortality Clarified
She had wandered the streets for nearly three hours before she finally caught the hints of something.
A scream. A girl screaming in pure undiluted agony. She had never heard such a painful wailing before, not in all the time Moon-Man had participated in the Turf Wars.
As she ran down the maze of alleyways and back streets of Inkopolis, she eventually came upon a haunting scene. A girl who was wearing the a basic white shirt and black shorts was rolling on the ground, clutching her face screaming, and crying, and standing over her was an Inkling, dressed in a gas mask and all black, hair tied into a purple bun on the top of his head.
"The last one fought. This one begged. What will you do?" He said in an obviously fake voice, to Moon-Man.
Battle instincts kicked in immediately of fight or flee. But knowing that if she left now, it would doom the one on the ground immediately.
As she drew her favored weapon known for its destructive fire power, she suddenly knew that no matter what, the girl she would be trying to save was doomed. As she counted the four steps she needed to enter maximum range of her weapon, she saw as Gas-Mask pulled the trigger of his .52 Gallon, and saw a clear liquid spray out and onto the girl's bare face, and watched as her horrified countenance start to dissolve.
The wailing of pain ceased immediately, silence being filled soon after with a yell of pure rage, which Moon-Man found coming from her throat.
HE USED WATER. THE MOST DANGEROUS SUBSTANCE TO HER
PEOPLE, TO HIS OWN PEOPLE. HE KNEW
WHAT IT WOULD DO!
IT RIPS APART THEIR FLESH.
EVEN LIGHT MIST CAN DAMAGE THE SKIN AS IF BEING-
She fired in a four shot burst, digging into the gun's automated safety switch. A normally un-functional weapon outside of Turf Wars had just been fired, and seemed to catch Gas-Mask completely off guard.
Forty one left.
- BURNED ALIVE. HOW COULD HE KNOWINGLY ATTACK SOMONE
AND GIVE THEM THE MOST PAINFUL DEATH POSSIBLE TO HER ENTIRE RACE?!
The masked killer jumped back multiple times, trying to get out of the rather long range of her weapon. She followed with another four shot burst, feeling herself shift between her kid self and her dark blue squid self.
She quickly traversed over several feet in less than two seconds, before regaining her fighting form.
Thirty seven left.
Her enemy suddenly stopped his retreat, and jumped to the left as she fired her third four shot burst.
Thirty three left.
But as he swiftly moved, he jumped forwards, aiming and firing in a swift motion.
Moon-Man instantly opted on her old tactics of squidding and going back just a foot, regaining the range advantage. As she jumped and began firing immediately, he jumped even farther back, and threw a splash wall in-between himself and Moon-Man.
She suddenly realized that she had backed him entirely into the end of the alley. Although she held this advantage, the ink barrier stopped her shots entirely. She had essentially wasted her last few salvos. As they both readied for the final showdown that would last just two seconds, he stared intently at the sewer inlet, the gate to his feeble escape.
The thought that he could possibly flee enraged Moon-man beyond justification.
She shouted at him.
"YOU. YOU'RE PURE EVIL."
He stopped short. They both looked at the small bottle fueling this barrier that stopped her projectile.
He had enough time, and he knew it.
"I'm evil. Necessary evil. But this city, you shall die for defending this CORRUPT city."
"You would slink away into the shadows? I will find you and kill you for what you've done!" She said before even thinking of the words.
"Will you? Follow me into my ally. Into the darkness then." He stood, then melted into a bright purple form of a small squid, making a path into the intricate sewer system of Inkopolis right as his liquid wall fell to the ground, self-destructing with the last of its contents.
She stood at the entrance, hesitating.
She couldn't do it.
She had less than half a bottle left, and no way to actually regenerate the ink without being in a Turf War, even if she were to stand in her own ink already, the bottle wouldn't activate like it would normally. She couldn't force her gun to do any more than it already had, it would be suicide to tread into the unfamiliar territory.
She cursed herself. Cursed her weakness, cursed for not being prepared, and cursed for not being able to save one of her people.
She looked back at the still melting corpse.
Moon-Man stood in silent vigil of the last place the girl had drawn breath. She made a silent vow that she would avenge the girl.
"But I can't grieve for you until I bring him to justice. I'm... I'm sorry." She said aloud.
Moon-Man was not very religious, or spiritual, but if there was an afterlife, she hoped the girl would go easily into the night.
For she would make sure her killer wouldn't.
Moon-Man stepped over the body, and left to prepare for tomorrow's hunt.
Part 6: Moon-man, Can't you see?
The sun was already up, Moon-Man had her trench coat wrapped in a small back pack she had kept half her wardrobe in at one time. She had refilled her ink-case since the night's previous engagement, and had reviewed her enemy in her head a number of times.
She realized she lost sight of herself, and concluded that her rage sent her over the edge. She was still reluctant to let go of her hate for the gas-masked brigand, due to the fresh memory of having someone die in front of her.
She had believed she'd grown desensitized to the idea of witnessing fellow Inklings fall in combat, herself included. They had been trained to not fear death in the Turf Wars, but the fact of feeling emotions long thought buried made her feel weak. The rage she felt for another taking a life. The fear of this person having a weapon that could actually kill her, with herself only having a weapon that might temporarily stun to defend herself with.
The general anxiety that was radiating off the city, now that not one, but two deaths had happened in the same number of days.
Now this night's buildup of emotions would come to an end, she thought.
Moon-Man had a good idea of the masked one's height. She knew that his squid colors were marked in a purple, and as she left before the Turf Wars started, she knew she would someone suspicious entering the tower that leads to the battles.
She had left her apartment at dawn, way before the Turf
Wars became underway, expecting to be the one of the first ones there, but instead found a rally of fellow Inklings armed openly guarding the entrance to the closed doors that lead into the radio tower. She recognized many of the faces in front of the doors, sitting idly by as they looked at anyone who got too close. She slung her weapon over her back as she readjusted her bag.
She was greeted by old rivals and old teammates alike. They called her by name, asking if she had gotten the call to guard the doors and block anyone trying to enter. She was filled in that a second death had occurred, and that someone with blue ink had been at the scene. These group of high tier Inklings were planning on barricading the doors, and physically stopping anyone who would try to get in, as to change their ink.
This put her in an awkward spot, since she herself had left her sloppy mark on the cement pavement near the scene of the crime. It wasn't like she could admit this to a posse of people out for blood either. Since only she knew the truth, she could spy on the possible ones she herself were hunting.
The main problem posed itself during the day time. Fifty kids stood guard, blockading the doors, herself included. Yet hundreds came from morning till noon. Anyone with a shade of blue showing was immediately stopped, and asked to prove where they were.
As the day wore on, and accusations were brought up more and more, the group started to turn on itself, let alone the kids trying to just play their silly war games. Her paranoia continued as she looked only at the kids with purple ink, including the ones in her group, and realized that trying to find one of them that matched her height only description was fruitless.
There were just too many squid-kids with the same color hair. He obviously wasn't going to be carrying around the same weapon that was the equivalent of a death-spitter out during the day, one could change their clothes all they want, and wearing all black during the summer heat was a ridiculous concept in itself.
Only when the Plaza became filled with kids did it really take a turn for the worse.
The pot had over boiled, and fist fights began. Many kids didn't realize that they could forcefully over power the little safety switch, and could open fire making others go into their squid form, so when tentacles started swinging at others the entire mob turned on itself, threatening to consume them in a storm of violence.
One of the kids in the barricading force over powered his safety and started firing. However, all it made was a dozen or so squids out of kids, and turn the entire mob against the ones barricading.
The line was bum rushed, and suddenly ink was splatting all over the plaza as kids tried finding cover, and breaking their own safeties, once they realized it could be done. The downside was that there were no obvious teams. It suddenly became a vicious free for all, where the kids with the same color ink couldn't hurt each other. So what became a line formation of multiple hair colors became this brutal team death match with the colors of the rainbow. Some kids broke through the line and rushed the tower, entering in the first Turf War of the day.
Moon-Man had absconded away from the multi-color battle almost as soon as the first shots were fired. She wasn't about to waste any of her munitions when the real foe was still out there.
Then the chaos increased as those with Paint rollers and overly sized brushes did battle in the painted streets. Then someone knocked her over. She didn't see who, but she felt her tentacle covering slip from her scalp, and revealed her for what team she last played for.
Catherine had once called something like this, a survival situation.
As Moon-Man felt the stares bore into her, she realized that now would be a fairly good time to leave.
Part 7: Rising Knight
Dark had fallen over the city. Moon-Man had decided that taking the first packed train anywhere would just ask to be followed, so she began her long trek back to her apartment. She had put on her long coat once she broke away from the masses in the Plaza. She walked through streets that had no obvious advantages, making her trek much longer. She saw potential ambush spots nearly everywhere and
Moon-Man was set on not being ambuscaded.
This day had proven fruitless, all she had managed to do was realize she had not prepared at all and just brought attention onto herself.
The complete opposite of her intention.
As she walked into a three way intersection, she noticed that one of the many shadows on the street shifted, ever so slightly in the moonlight. As she looked up to the origin, she immediately pulled her Ink-spewer.
The figure stood atop an empty building. Clad in his all black, and gas-mask covering his face.
He had appeared to Moon-Man.
"No longer the hunter I see." He shouted from his perch. Moon-Man felt the anger and rage swell up her in chest.
He had just saved her quite a bit of time.
However, the more she glanced around this supposed battle field, the more she realized she might have walked herself into a death trap.
"Don't worry, no one is going to walk into this. I've learned from my mistake," he said nonchalantly, suddenly vanishing from view.
Moon-Man looked at the building's exterior, and realized purple ink ran from the street to the top of the roof. She brought her gun up, aiming at the end of the line, where the Inkling appeared.
"There are not many who actively seek death out," he started, knowing he was out of range from Moon-Man's .96 GAL. "But you! You welcome it. When I saw you in the Plaza today, my heart soared. I thought to myself, 'I have found another kindred spirit!' I silently rejoiced watching you hunt for me."
Moon-Man felt her eyes widen. She had been watched all day? How had he determined who she was instantly?
"You-" she began, but was very quickly interrupted.
"Yes! I was there the entire time. I stood with anticipation, waiting for you to notice. I wanted to see what you would do. But alas, you were ignorant of me."
"How?" She heard herself asking, inching ever so slightly, trying to gain the crucial inches needed to get into her attack range. If she kept him talking, she would eventually be able to take him down right now.
She just needed to stall.
"How? How I found you instantly? Your weapon? Your Ink color unchanged? Your entire outfit is the complete same as only a few hours previously? I thought you were calling me out by name, until I realized."
"Realized? Realized what?"
"That you knew nothing about me! So I waited. I waited for you to activate your plan. I was shaking with glee each time you moved, thinking 'It is now! She will make her move.' I wanted to know what you would do. Would you wait until you could line up a shot? Try to corner me? Suddenly shout that I was the killer and let the mob rip me apart?" He said, taking a casual step closer.
Then he stopped and sighed heavily, sliding a small Aero-Spray out into the open and waving it.
"But as time wore on I realized you had no plan. There was nothing past you trying to see me. You had looked at each one of us carefully, and had simply skipped over me, as if I was not who I was. I saw you immediately, but I wasn't the one you sought." Agitation rose in his voice.
"So, when I became angered at your inaction, I acted out myself. Yet still you did nothing."
"What?" Moon-Man asked, caught off guard by the sudden change of the story.
"I was the one who fired into the crowd. Yet you still did nothing. I thought to myself, 'Must I wear my actual attire just so you would realize? How ignorant was the enemy that I thought of my equal, if only for a moment?' When my anger reached its critical,
I struck you and you still did nothing."
Moon-Man halted her movement. He was the one who knocked her down? Did she really miss such an obvious clue? He was outright declaring who he was the entire day?
"Your anger blinded you, your rage deluding you. As
I stood over you in the crowd you showed that I wasn't your enemy. So tell me, Moon-Man. Are you at war with yourself? Am I just the physical form of your own private battle within?"
"You're a psychopath." Moon-Man stated. What was he even talking about? Moon-Man asked herself, looking for the meaning in his words.
Of course he was her enemy, she was actively hunting him. Was she truly unaware of his presence?
"Maybe I am. But now we both know that I have to kill you. Let's show each other our souls, Moon-Man, show each other our wills to win." He pointed his weapon at her.
She knew that the range was nowhere near enough to hit. "Stop me, if you dare, Moon-Man."
His form shifted falling into his pool of ink. Moon-Man took a step, firing twice into the wall, cutting off his way to the rooftop where he first perched. However, he apparently never even made a move when he shifted his form, but baited Moon-Man into closing the distance for him.
His wide sprays missed her entirely, all he achieved was his salvo stopping short. As Moon-Man returned direct fire, he calmly shifted positions, opting to walk on dry cement while he continued his ink bombardment.
The exchange of gun fire continued, making a canvas of the street of blues and purples. Moon-Man kept the distance, but realized that she would soon be running out of her munition. Both her and her opponent had yet to land a single hit, but the fact the aero-spray - wait.
He was using an aero-spray?
What about his water gun? He wasn't even using his killing weapon?
She saw through his battle plan too late. She fired directly below and behind her and prepared to flee, but came to the conclusion that she had gotten herself killed.
He had vanished briefly next to a street light, his plastic fire-arm hitting the sticky pavement. When he re-appeared a second later, he had a brand new weapon in his hands.
She had been baited by the chance to bring him down, even though he wasn't armed with the weapon that had taken two lives.
She turned her back, stepping through her enemies spent munitions, but even with her boots that aid her in this endeavor, he had closed the distance into firing range. She felt the deadly liquid slam into her lower back. However, the pain came from an entirely different place.
The back of her thighs burned as she felt the volatile water.
To describe the pain was difficult.
It felt as if her legs were being torn by volcanic talons. As if her form was trying to change in-between kid and squid several times in non-stop sequence, but only in the affected location.
This was how the other two felt right before the end as well?
This excruciating suffering?
She was brought to her hands and knees almost immediately.
The pain making her head throb as she fought for control of her eyes as she kept gaining and losing focus. The second shot landed a few seconds later, when she had almost recovered proper arm function, reaching for her armament that was only tied to her by the sling. This one spraying her upper back, pain coming from her neck and the tentacle line on the back of her head. She involuntarily screamed in the fresh agony that was put onto her.
"This pain you feel? I can hear you search my soul asking why I would do this to my people. I have felt this pain as well, Moon-Man. It would be unjust for me to not feel what I would put another through." She heard come from behind her.
"This compound is truly horrifying. It soaks into ones clothes, and then eats away at the flesh underneath." He stated as the voice got louder, and closer.
He was right too. She felt the collar of her shirt underneath her coat soak up the hostile substance and apply the water to the nape of her neck. However, she realized much sooner that she had only been hit indirectly so far.
Her father's coat hadn't soaked up any water at all, and she could feel the run off onto her bare hands and exposed thighs. She gritted her teeth and mouth shut.
Her father's gift might have just given her a way out of certain death.
"Let's not stand on ceremony, however. I thought I would let you crawl off somewhere, to be discovered. However, not many come down these paths, and the way you live would make you easy to miss." He stated, apparently believing himself victorious already. She prepared herself, digging hands into her ink, which was staining the pavement below her.
"I will hang you for the world to see. I will use your body to summon the powers of this city, and show everyone that the tyrants that control us can be killed." He grabbed her by the base of her left tentacle while talking of open rebellion against the governing forces of the city. As the grip tightened, she made her move.
"Wha-" He started, but was suddenly cut off.
Moon-Man had forsaken her weapon, and grabbed her enemy by the face-mask and tried to rip it off.
Unable to entirely remove it, she settled for skewing his vision, and stabbed her hand into his face, trying to jab him in the eyes with her caustic ink she had been soaking in until this moment.
His screams filled her with a satisfaction to a pleasure she never knew existed. She dug her ink drenched nails into his face and eyes, clawing for several seconds. She knew this surprise attack wouldn't be able to incapacitate him though, and broke away after she felt she had inflicted enough damage.
With his broken grasp on her, she released her own on the mask. She shoved for good measure. Moon-Man picked up her previously abandoned weapon, and sprinted for what she was worth off the street into the maze of alley ways.
She was pursued by trails of the dangerous liquid,
Moon-Man could hear him firing blindly in her general direction as he tried desperately to fix his mask to give him his original vision. She had actually felt one of his hits strike home, and felt the pain that followed, yet she did not falter in her sprint. She knew that her surprise attack would only work once, and she doubted she could do something similar again.
She ran for several minutes, trying to recover any form of her munition to use against her pursuer, but had to settle for a small attempt at trickery. She came to the dead end of an alleyway and fired the last of her shots at it, making a trail leading over the obstacle. Instead of following it up and climbing over, she dove into a nearby pile consisting of trash bags.
Quietly digging herself into the horrible smelling garbage, she heard the ragged breathing of her pursuer. She could hear him stop entirely. She waited long seconds. She couldn't see it, but felt that he was looking all around the alley. She felt him stop in front of her hiding spot.
She spent moments of eternity holding her breath and feeling the burn of her wounds want to spasm and cry, but dared not to. If she were to make any movements, any sounds, it would call for her prompt execution.
She heard the plastic resist the sudden pour of water and felt small drops fall into her hiding spot. He had sprayed the pile of garbage just to be safe, and she knew. She braced herself mentally and waited for a few seconds, fighting against herself to stay as she was. Moon-Man knew that if she could keep silent for just a few beats of the heart, she would be home free.
Many droplets found their way to her open flesh. She ignored the burning pain. She prayed to whatever gods existed that he would leave, and follow her fake trail she hastily laid. The gods only answered her prayers after several more instants of anguish.
Moon-Man heard the spla-ta-ta-ta of his Aero-spray make its own path over the wall, and heard the squid noises of him going up, and dropping down, before restarting his pursuit.
This time though, he was chasing no living soul.
She waited minutes to be safe. When she felt that she was in the clear, she dragged herself out of her temporary cover, and started hobbling her way back home.
It felt like hours, but she did eventually make it back to her apartment building. At the final stretch, she was shambling, holding onto her left thigh, which had taken the brunt of the mutilation to her body. Each step threatening to topple her to the ground.
Raw persistence kept her going.
She had to use both hands to pull herself on the railing up her apartment's stairs. Each floor itself felt like a life time. She realized she was probably making a racket too, but didn't care. When she reached the fourth floor, she felt the eyes of someone drill into her. She immediately pulled her gun up, pointing it at the possible hostile. She sincerely doubted that it was the masked boy, but she wasn't taking chances.
It took several seconds for her eyes to adjust into the pitch black hallway, but when she was able to clearly see two pairs of eyes to close together to be any possible Inkling, she eventually lowered her gun and ignored the two.
She felt them watch her wounded climb, but thanked them silently for not interfering.
She wouldn't have accepted their help out of principle and for the fact that she was still ready to drop someone.
She leaned heavily on the hallway as she finally reached the door to her apartment. Several long seconds of fumbling the key into the lock later, she collapsed into her impromptu coat rack, and kicked the door shut.
Hearing the automated lock behind her, she closed her eyes.
Part 8: World beyond the Cataract
Moon-Man dreamed of music. She dreamed of light harmony and seagulls providing small calls.
She had heard this song before, on a dock where some random band had brought in instruments from the outside world. It was where she had first met, and spoken to Catherine.
She stirred from her cot, last night's wounds aching, and the light scent of trash lingering in her room. When her eyes finally flickered open and she came to the waking world, she realized the music was still playing.
She tilted her head, and saw a phone leaning on her digital clock. She reached for it, and saw her hands had been wrapped in white tape and small cloth. Ignoring the bandages, she touched the phone, and turned off the recording.
She looked at the magenta case, and focused on the words with the pause icon over them. A date and the word 'Jazz'. She then looked around the apartment, finding the owner leaning on her counter staring at her from across the room.
"What a wretched life you lead, Moon-Man." Catherine said calmly.
Moon-Man's fridge door was open, and its contents shown to the world. She shifted on her cot, trying to rise, but being brought back down by the despondence of battle.
Moon-man coughed, and in a dry whisper, asked "What are you doing here?"
Catherine closed the refrigerator, and walked towards her resting body. Moon-Man's wooden floor creaking with each and every barefooted step made by the wave reader. Moon-Man's household invader kneeled down beside her cot and lightly grabbed her hand.
"I looked for you at the memorial of the two victims,"
She whispered, "Me and Bojable looked throughout the crowd, and when we couldn't find you we called and messaged your phone."
Moon-Man cracked a smile. "I never said I was going."
Catherine replied only with a sullen frown.
"But you would have gone, if nothing else, to see if your killer was there."
She grinned a bit harder at the apt phrasing of 'your killer'.
Very fitting, she unflappably thought.
Catherine's features scowled more. "So I came to your home, and saw two jellyfish at the door arguing about what to do."
"Speaking of, how did you find this place?" Moon-Man inquired, with general interest.
She told no one where she lived, and tended to make a point of isolating herself.
"I found the green one of your old squad," Catherine said calmly. "When you quit participating, he pressed the management at your old building for your new mailing address."
"Of course he-" Moon-Man started, trying to lean up again, but only finding ache and pain awaiting her. She settled back down. This was a conversation she was apparently going to finish, she presumed. "-did."
Once Catherine saw how Moon-Man wasn't going to make another sudden movement, she continued.
"After asking your very lovely neighbors what had happened, they explained that you came back dripping wet. They saw you crawling up the stairs with a gun drawn on them. Seeing as they had no one to call, I told them to settle down, and that I was your friend. Then when I broke in, I found you crumpled over with an old Inkbrush on top of you, smelling of trash." She grew quiet for a small while, when Moon-Man looked up at her, she realized she wasn't making direct eye contact anymore.
"And?" Moon-Man asked, yet only receiving silence in return.
"I," Catherine began, fumbling words into her mouth, then stopping for a breath before continuing.
"I didn't know you were a girl." She stated, her small fin-ears turning a deeper shade.
"Oh." Moon-Man said flatly.
Silence filled the room for a short while before Moon-Man busted into heavy laughter. Each chortle increasing the pain in her limbs, but also relieving stress she forgot she had been carrying. After the single sided laughter in an empty room, she wiped the tears away with her free hand. Then settled back down into silence. Catherine looked down on her with a dazed expression.
"So you're not mad?" Catherine queried.
"Why would I be mad?"
"About me taking off your clothing?"
"I'm sure there was a reason." Moon-Man said, shifting in one of her few other shirts, at least she had the decency of putting a new one on for her.
"The water had dried, but was causing irritations so I-" She began, but Moon-Man just simply rose a hand, telling her to stop explaining. She truly did not need a reminder of the pain.
"Thank you, Catherine." Moon-Man simply said, leaving it at that.
"I won't tell anyone," Catherine quickly added.
"Won't tell anyone what?" She asked.
"That you're a girl. I mean, Bojable thinks of you as a big brother," she said, smiling.
"Oh. Thanks? I guess?" Moon-Man said, not understanding fully what to do with this information.
Poor Bojable, having a big sister instead of a big brother.
They sat in a somewhat relaxed silence, until Moon-Man had asked what time it was, and how the service had happened. She had been told that it wasn't close to the throwing out point yet.
The service was a simple ordeal where many Inklings got together to say what little words they had for the two who had perished. She had been informed many tears were shed, but few words could be said, as few had known the two victims. They were also both relatively new to the city, and each had very few friends, let alone close relations.
Stewing over these facts, she had asked if Catherine had seen anyone with a bandaged face at the service, and when she said she hadn't, she began to wonder what the masked boy had done after he lost Moon-Man's trail.
"Wait, did you say bandaged face? Why?"
"Because I almost ripped out the Killer's eye." Moon-Man said with an upward, almost offended, inflection, closing her eyes in annoyance.
"Oh," Catherine responded. Moon-Man wondered if she would leave it at that, before being shook awake again. Pain flaring in her arms with each push. "What do you mean you almost ripped his eye out? You met him? You saw him?"
"Twice!? What happened?"
Moon-Man was slow to fill her bed-nurse in. Realizing that lying wouldn't really work, she came clean about being there during the second victim's death, and had tried to intervene. After her failure, she had admitted to being the one who left the blue ink near the body, but the killer managed to escape via the sewer system.
She told of how she made many fatal mistakes due to anger and action clouding her judgement the previous day, and had been caught entirely off guard. She told of the short battle which lead to her near demise, if not for her father's coat. She told of crawling in the trash after setting up a fake trail. She told of the long trek back to her apartment, tired, angry, and trigger happy.
Catherine sat in silence for some time, stewing over the story. She finally spoke after carefully choosing her words.
"I think I'm actually going to beat you to death."
"Why didn't you tell us? Any of us? Bojable, me, heck, even Tome! Any one of us would have come running to help you. Why did you stay silent?"
"I...I don't know." Moon-Man said being completely honest.
Maybe the masked kid was right.
Maybe she was out looking for death.
"You should have told us. I can't believe you didn't." Catherine fumed.
Moon-Man felt the grip around her hand tighten. Moon-Man held her tongue for a while. She was going to say 'I'm telling you now.' but realized that would just lead to a futile death.
"So what are we going to do now?" Catherine asked.
Moon-Man thought deeply. A plan began forming in her mind.
"I need to rest, after that though, I need the other two."
Part 9: Ante up
"I don't like this." Tome said to Moon-Man in the alleyway they had all met up in two days prior to this entire mess.
Moon-man clenched her left fist into a tight grip. She didn't care in the slightest if he didn't like the plan.
Catherine and Bojable were sitting on the curb side by side as Tome and Moon-Man stood staring each other down.
"What don't you like?" Moon-Man asked, biting her lip in anger.
"Well for starters," Tome said in thought, staring at the small map between them, "The plan's bait involves you literally calling him out in public."
"It's not in public, it's near public."
"Okay, well, what if he just opens up on you, and he kills a bystander by accident? Then the plan is in shambles before it even starts."
"No one is stupid enough to just start opening fire into a crowd. That would be calling on everyone to turn on him."
"You just said he was the one who actually started the fighting yesterday! He's already killed two people, what makes you think he won't just start shooting everyone in sight?" Tome said with hushed intensity.
"Because he wants to make it out alive? We're relying on the fact that he's unstable, but not suicidal. Also, there hasn't been a third victim yet, but if there will be, it will happen tonight or tomorrow. We can't risk there being another victim. We have to act now."
Catherine chimed in, joining on Moon-Man's side. "We are strapped for time, and one plan is better than no plan, but will this be alright as is? I don't like how we're risking everyone but me in this."
"Tome and I aren't even risking anything. It's just Moon-Man," Bojable stated in a hushed tone.
"We aren't even going to be in the range of his gun."
"Bojable, you haven't even scored a 'splat' in the turf wars, and I'm not going to risk your life for this. At least I have something that is resistant to his attacks that are actually lethal." Moon-Man said, looking through her tinted glasses at the fearful boy.
"You'd risk mine though?" Tome snidely said.
"No, you idiot. But I am relying on what little spine you have. If you give him too much room, he'll be able to dodge." Moon-Man barked at the miscreant, aiming to shush the doubter, yet to no avail.
"Also, what's stopping him from running as soon as he sees us?
Do you really think he wouldn't be the one to run immediately? You just said he wasn't dumb. Also, what if he just changes his ink to blue? Then we can't hurt him, and he can hurt all of us."
"Then we bail, and do something else. It's not like the cat would allow someone with his injuries to participate in the first place, he should still be purple." Moon-Man stated, but this plan wasn't perfect, and she knew it. At this point they didn't have the option of backing out.
"Okay, so we have to rely on him showing up in the first place, not bailing immediately when he sees us, and our own ability to keep the distance and follow him so he can't escape, and lastly, your own ability." Tome, the grand doubter, said venomously.
"What are you trying to say?" Moon-Man squinted her eyes at him. She had already thrown down with him twice now, making her the more experienced out of all three of them.
"I'm saying that each and every one of us here, excluding you, are not about to keel over at any minute." Tome stating flatly.
"Are you saying you want to take him on with a ninety-six? Or you wanna' get close enough to use your roller?" She spat at him. The only reason he used a roller was to instantly knock someone out and send them back to their respawn after hiding like a coward, and then roll over any terrain in the turf war.
"I'm saying you're injured, and I'm worried you're going to die if we let you 'one -v- one' him. I also don't know why we don't just blast him as soon as the net is cast."
"Because," Moon-Man started, trying to find an answer for such a solution.
She couldn't just say it was for pride, it was more than that. He had said something about a battle between their souls.
A battle of wills.
Even this battle plan's ending left a bad taste in her mouth, but Catherine had made her promise to keep the edge that she would be gaining. But if it just became a four versus one where they each picked up a splat charger and just gunned him down, there would be no point in this entire endeavor. She had to prove it to the Inklings, but more importantly, herself.
She had realized while she was thinking silently, time had passed. Tome was still waiting for an answer.
"Because, I'm the one who has to do it. So once you finish the trap, get out of the way."
Moon-Man said, "You all know what you need to do. Get it done."
Part 10: Going All in
Moon-Man stared at the full moon in the sky, its white shine illuminating the night's sea. Looking up at the stars, she always thought back to her father. She constantly wondered if he would look up at the same night sky as her, just like how they'd do back home.
As she heard the small patter of feet walking with a slow purpose beneath her position, she felt her eyes harden. That's right, she couldn't die here. She still had to come home one day, and ending everything here would be pointless.
"How did you know I'd be watching the Plaza?" A familiar voice asked in hardly bared hostility.
Moon-Man turned on the top of a stack of large wooden boxes. "You had lied to me last night."
"The first one to open up on the crowd was using orange ink. The person who slammed into me was a girl, and you're a coward."
The masked-squid laughed, "A coward? How so?"
Moon-Man smiled, fondling the handle of her weapon. "Your first two victims, new residents. Each hadn't been here more than a week. You targeted kids who couldn't fight back properly."
She said, dropping to a lower tier of the boxes.
Her enemy said nothing, so she continued,
"You're only fighting me, because I engaged upon you first. Even then you never put yourself in a situation where you would be on the back hand. Well," She said, directly staring into his eyes, "until now, anyways."
He pulled his modified .52 into view, which was another bonus to Moon-Man. Her enemy had not brought his standard ink shooter.
"So you'd have to have been in a place where you could see the Plaza and all the happenings of perfectly. From there it was finding the few apartments with windows facing the tower and putting signs up," she said, catching her breath as she hit the dock's pavement. She smiled at her enemy.
"You won't be needing the mask anymore. I already know who you are, Marauder."
He stood still for a few moments, before finally taking off the gas mask asking, "How?" Revealing a bandaged wrapping around the left hand side of his face, filling Moon-Man with a not so little amount of glee.
They had made three signs for the three apartments that had the perfect view. With the power of deduction, they had betted that one of the owners was the killer Moon-Man had fought. All that was left was to make each sign a different time at the same location. Say, if they were the east apartment's owner, they would only show up at this exact moment in time. From there it was just finding out who owned each apartment. Having only a three person list made everything quite simple.
"You came at the latest time, making you the east apartment's resident. Marauder."
"I see," he said, tossing his mask to the ground.
He stood behind the blue ink line she had made in preparation for his arrival.
"No one cared who I was until I put on the mask, huh?"
"More like when you killed two kids," Moon-Man responded spitefully.
"So what's with this line? I cross it and we fight to the death? I never knew you were one with theatrics."
"I'm not. Let's just say that I prepared it specifically for you," Moon-Man said, he would need to actually cross it before she revealed the next step to her master plan.
As he crossed, she scoffed. He had just waded through a small mire, and now only put himself a few steps outside of her maximum range. If he were to turn back now, she would be able to instantly gun him down. He had just committed himself to this fight, and that made her plan already a success.
He took a single step forward, leveling his gun at her. Moon-Man responded in kind, shouldering her cannon. Her plan was proceeding as expected, now was just the signal.
"You said something when we first met. You thought the darkness was your ally? I have to tell you now, I was molded by it. You merely adopted it, and now you are blinded by it!" Moon-Man shouted, signaling for the figurative net to be cast.
Marauder didn't even notice the two rollers silently rise behind him. They started expanding the line directly to his back. By the time he caught sight of Tome in his right peripheral, he turned to see Bojable already making his way towards the end of the dock in the direction of Moon-Man.
Her enemy pointed her gun at Bojable, but he shifted to face Moon-Man immediately as she unloaded a three shot burst at the exposed executioner. The battle starting in full as he started to return fire.
The plan had worked! Moon-Man thought while easily dodging the incoming fire from his fifty-two.
He wouldn't be able to fire at the other two, due to the threat of instant defeat by Moon-Man's longer ranged weapon. But even as he pushed her back, he would have no easy escape. In the few short seconds of battle, both Bojable and Tome had finished off the ground barrier, leaving no room for him to escape without crossing the Ink stained ground.
Now for the third stage of her plan, she thought as she saw Tome and Bojable flee from the scene entirely, supposedly running to Catherine's hidden position. Now all she had to do was bait him more inwards of the newly constructed arena.
Moon-Man felt her muscles burn for each second of battle. Water splashing onto her knees from where it had hit the pavement. She kept retreating, getting closer and closer to the edge of the dock where the sea threatened the land. However, getting closer to victory would defeat him.
As Moon-Man halted her retreat, her enemy had thought himself victorious.
"Your plan has failed, Moon-Man. Your friends might have cornered me, but that won't matter if you can't beat me!" He shouted at the same time Moon-Man saw the signal for her retaliation.
She pushed forwards, side stepping while shooting almost non-stop at him in four shot bursts. As he continued to back up, he crossed a small dripping of blue ink falling from the sky. He must have felt the light drizzle, signaling what was to come, for he looked up instead of at Moon-Man, who simply stood where she was as soon as he entered the blast zone.
Normally, an Ink-strike would be easy to see in the light of day. It was obvious to nearby enemies and allies alike. However, even as the moonlight shone down on the fighters, it would be somewhat easy to miss if your back was already to it.
As she watched the huge blue tornado of ink land on top of her foe, she lost sight entirely of the figure that she had previously been fighting. Catherine had hit her mark perfectly, landing just between the boxes and the edge of the harbor.
As the artificial storm ended its last torrents, she threw down her spent gun, and rushed inside, where she saw Marauder's squid form flop around uselessly, trying to regain his kid form. She immediately kicked the deadly weapon aside, hearing the plastic scrape against concrete as it gained distance away from the two.
As he began to grow from his squid form, he was leapt upon by Moon-Man. She physically bore into him with her fists as she grabbed him by the neck and laid punch after punch into his face. He tried to raise his arms to protect himself, but to no avail. Her fury broke through any attempt to block, without mercy.
Every punch she could feel energy being sapped from her body, but refused to stop her assault. Each of her righteous blows paying back the pain that he had caused not just to her, but the two victims he had butchered.
For almost a minute straight, she dug her fist into his skin, until all she could do was raggedly gasp for air. She stood on shaky legs, feeling a liquid staining her right hand.
Looking down on Moon-Man's fallen enemy, she felt a sullen relief.
She thought for a moment, before releasing his neck and watched as his body crumpled to the blue stained ground.
Sprawled on his back, Marauder lay motionless in front of the victorious Moon-Man.
She glanced about, looking for Bojable, Tome, and Catherine. They were supposed to link up with her after the Ink-Strike landed, but had yet to come. She wondered what was keeping them, when she heard the sounds of wet coughs below her.
She was about to recommence her assault, when she actually got a focused look at the damage that she had caused. Besides yesterday's eye, his entire face was pummeled. His nose leaking bright red gore. Large and discolored bumps of swelling were already forming around his 'good' eye, along with tears streaming from his other.
When her foe had begun crying, she felt a wave of sadness wash over her, yet stood firm. She would not pity someone who had taken life in front of her. He had deserved more than the punishment she had brought to him, so much more than this.
"M-" he coughed violently. "Mommy," he began.
She kicked him in the face as soon as she heard his whimper, screaming at him.
"You don't get to cry for your mother! You don't get to be sad for the pain you feel! You aren't allowed to cry after all you've done!" She began to kick him in the side of the face with every word.
It?" She stopped, as his crying ceased.
She stood silently for a while, before saying to a probably unconscious foe.
"Two others felt this way. You're not allowed to feel what they felt... Not after what you've done."
He spat, coughed, hacked, trying to recover and breathe in fresh air.
"I just wanted to go home," he whispered softly.
She sat down and waited, saying "Yeah well, so does everyone else."
She tuned out the whimpering boy, and just watched him in the moonlight listening to the ocean's calm ebb and wane batter the sides of the dock.
She almost fell asleep waiting for her friends to show themselves. She waited for some time, and when she finally heard the footsteps of what she assumed was Bojable, Catherine and Tome, she stood.
However, who she was looking up to was not who she expected.
Moon-Man was dwarfed. She felt small, insignificant in front of this creature of the night. It wore all black, carrying what seemed like a Splat-Charger except four times the size, without any decoration. It wore some sort of mesh suit under a contraption attached around its huge torso. It had large pockets containing Ink containers running tubes all around its body. It easily engulfed the entirety of Marauder's weapon in its huge tentacle. The other had wrapped itself multiple times around Marauder himself, easily picking him up with slow purpose. The black behemoth in front of her stood perfectly still, as if he had changed into a statue.
She didn't even realize she was shaking until she felt her hand clench and vibrate along her thigh. She had literally no idea what she was facing. Every fiber of her being told her to run, as she was staring at a predator that could not be defeated by her. She was stuttering violently trying to find her voice. She had tried to find any moment in her life she felt this way, and came up empty.
The void creature shifted, taking a knee and then shifting its back until it looked her in the eye.
Yet, she could see no eyes herself behind the black-tinted goggles that covered almost all of its upper face which only increased her terror.
It rose its free hand very carefully, and put its large hand on the top of her, which easily encompassed her entire forehead to the back of her neck. Its incredibly deep voice echoed ever so slightly in the salty air surrounding them. It released one thing from its maw.
She felt more than its mouth shift underneath the mesh covering the lower part of its face. It raised and lowered its hand, threatening to bowl her over yet had a gentleness she did not expect. It patted her head three times, before retreating to the darkness from which it came.
Moon-Man fell to her knees, seeing a small badge on the creature's right shoulder, with the letter's B.E.A.K surrounding a squid logo.
She stared at the moon as she felt a crooked smile appear on her face.
Epilogue: Tomorrow's Today
Moon-Man stared in the darkness of her apartment, and at the ticking of the clock. She had been assisted home by Catherine, who had left as soon as Moon-Man herself collapsed on her cot. She had stayed motionless for nearly sixteen hours since.
Normally built in alarms would be blaring annoying music at this time, but none were going off. It was apparent that she would be allowed to stay in her apartment for at least this day unmolested by the city's overseers.
Earlier in the morning however, they had gone off. A city wide message made personally by the squid sisters themselves had told the fact that the one responsible for the two murders had been apprehended last night, and a celebratory party was to be held today catered by the ministry of Good Eats, or whatever.
The Plaza would be packed with kids this evening, Moon-Man had thought. She would obviously not be attending. So she lay quietly in the dark, hugging her trench coat. The giant's touch reminded her of days long forgotten, of when her father use to pat her on the head. When she was smaller, he had looked so large, just like the creature of the deep had looked to her last night.
Moon-Man brought the coat closer to her face. She could feel a warm smile as she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
Fin. (GET IT?)
Author and Editor's comments:
Snake, Author: "What am I doing with my life…?"
Richard Fontaine, Editor: This story for me is pretty much just a shoutout to my 1st Splatfest Team.