Chapter 1: A New Life
BANG, BANG. Two loud thumps boomed from the wooden door.
"Eight? ...still... asleep….? ...time... get up…! Marina… pancakes!"
Agent Eight groaned and rolled over in the bed. There was a muffled voice coming from the distance and she couldn't quite make it out. Not that she was even the least bit curious to know what it was saying. In fact, she was feeling strangely comfortable and wanted nothing more than to go back into the sweet, loving, embrace of sleep.
Eight's eyes snapped open and she sat up with a jolt. She quickly scanned the room, attempting to make sense of her surroundings. The walls were covered in posters of various shapes and sizes, ranging from shop opening advertisements to pictures of Inklings in matching white outfits making ridiculous poses in front of neon signs. Backstreet Squids Final Tour! Get your tickets now before they're all snapped up! One poster was just a picture of a squid holding onto a tree branch with the caption, "Hang in there, squid." In the corner of the room, a Giant Zapfish themed beanbag lay saggy and wrinkly, clearly the victim of repeated use over the years.
Where am I? How did I get here? Eight closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, trying to come to grips with the situation. Her memory was hazy, as it usually was, and she attempted to recall what had happened earlier. Let's see… I was in the Metro… I escaped and I remember being on a… helicopter…? And then…
BOOM. Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud crash as the door was forcibly kicked open. "AYO! Get up you lazy Octo! I know you we had a wild time yesterday but I'm not letting you sleep in all day!" Eight flinched and instantly recognized the booming, high-pitched voice. In the distance, she could hear the rapid thumping of footsteps.
"...Pearl?" The white and pink tentacled Inkling strode into the room, a cocky smirk on her face.
"That's my name, don't wear it out! Pearl, aka M.C. Princess, aka, the Duchess of Dance, aka the Queen of Anti-Disestablishmanterianis-"
"Oh my cod!" Pearl's rather long-winded introduction was cut short as a tall, dark, and familiar looking Octoling ran up behind her, panic evident on her face. "Pearl, what happened?" She paused and surveyed the scene, very quickly coming to an understanding of the situation. "...DID YOU BUST DOWN THE DOOR? Why?"
"Chill, Marina! I just wanted Eight here to grab some pancakes", Pearl answered, as if it that much was obvious.
"That doesn't-... How does that-..." Marina sighed and shook her head. "You know she's been through a lot recently. Couldn't you at least be more gentle with your entrance?"
Pearl shrugged, "Where's the fun in that?"
Eight glanced back and forth between the two, her memories returning to her. That's right. After defeating Commander Tartar, Pearl and Marina volunteered to take her in and show her around Inkopolis. At least, that was the plan until she promptly passed out from exhaustion not five minutes after her victory. They must have taken her to their house not long after.
Marina approached Eight and sat at the edge of the bed, concern in her eyes. "How are you feeling, Eight? Are you feeling better now?"
Eight looked at her and nodded. "Marina. Yes. I am doing fine, thank you."
"Are you sure? No headaches? Cramps? Upset stomach?". Eight simply shook her head.
"Bloating? Pain? Intracranial hypertension?"
"She's fiiiiiiine!" Pearl groaned. "We both saw what she did, she's tough as nails! Now can I - I mean, we - pleeeaase get some pancakes?"
Marina giggled and stood up. "Alright, alright, Pearlie. Let's go downstairs, I'll make you a big stack. And Eight? Come down when you're ready, but don't take too long. There's something we'd like to discuss with you."
The duo took their leave and headed back downstairs to the kitchen. Eight couldn't help but smile at the exchange and, after a few moments, followed after them. The house was awfully large, which surprised her. Was it really just the two of them living here? From what she could vaguely recall of her days in the Octarian Army, it wasn't uncommon for five or six Octarians to share living quarters in a room a quarter the size.
When she entered the kitchen, Pearl was already feasting on a stack of pancakes twice the size of her head. Marina stood in front of the stove, wearing a dark green apron, cooking up some more pancakes. A plate of food was already set on one of the empty spaces on the dining table. Eight assumed it was for her and took a seat there. She looked down at the golden-brown circles of fluffiness in front of her and thought back to her time in the Metro. She had seen advertisements for these "pancakes" in passing through the railway lines but had no idea they looked so mouth-watering in real life. The smell wafted up into her nose and she couldn't help but begin drooling.
Pearl took a moment from her battle with the gigantic stack of pancakes and pointed at Eight with her fork. "Whatcha waiting for? Dig in!"
Eight hesitated and reached out towards the meal in front of her before Pearl stopped her. "No, no, don't use your hands! Here, use this!" Handing her the fork, Pearl pulled out a spare, seemingly out of nowhere and resumed her feast.
Eight looked at the pointed utensil in her hand with a mixture of fear and awe. "I use... a weapon… to eat?" After a moment, she shrugged and did her best to mimic what she had seen Pearl doing. What a terrifying species, she thought, as she violently stabbed the pancake and shoved it into her mouth. Slowly chewing on the food, Eight suddenly brought a hand to her cheek and beamed with delight as the flavour spread throughout her mouth. "This is amazing!"
Marina looked back at her, a shy smile on her face. "Oh thank you, that's sweet of you to say. Sure beats the Nutripaste they used to feed us, doesn't it?"
"The wha-" Pearl stopped and asked, mouth full of half-chewed food.
"Nutrient paste," Eight responded coolly. "Composed of seaweed and detritus collected from the seafloor, blended into a fine powder and reconstituted from the slime of a blobfish. Very nutritious."
Pearl gagged and waved her hand dismissively. "Uggghh! Gross. Forget I asked."
Marina cooked her own pancake and served it on an empty plate. Sitting down across from Eight, she began to eat as well. The trio enjoyed their food in silence before Eight spoke up.
"I would like to thank you two for taking care of me and providing me with a place to rest. Not only that, but you have introduced me to such an amazing delicacy. How can I ever repay you?"
Marina shook her head. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that. You've saved Inkopolis, that's more than enough."
"But, I did mention earlier that we had something to discuss. It's mainly about how you're going to adjust to your new life here."
New life? The idea hadn't dawned on Eight, but Marina was right. Not only had she been freed from Octavio's control but she'd escaped from the depths of the Metro itself. All her life, she had been a captive, either through subordination or imprisonment, but for the first time she was free. The thought excited her, but the idea of integrating into the foreign Inkling society made her a little nervous. The fact alone that they ate their meals with weaponry caused her more than a small feeling of apprehension. What other strange customs awaited her? Do they splat each other in the face with Blasters to say goodbye?
Marina noticed the look of worry on Eight's face. "Don't worry, I was nervous the first time I came here as well. Thankfully, Pearl was there to teach me all about Inkling society. She taught me all about their rules, their customs and, um, she even taught me about some of their more intense, private activities." She furtively glanced at her partner, a deep blush forming on her face. Pearl quickly looked up from her empty plate, a similar shade of crimson mirroring her partner's. Eight stared at the pair and nodded in understanding. Ah. She must be referring to some sort of intense training regimen. That explains the flushed faces.
"Ah-hem," Pearl cleared her throat loudly. "As Marina was saying, I had to show her around cuz, you know, she definitely wouldn't have made it without me." She pointed at Eight. "That's why we've asked someone to give you a tour of the place and to help you get to know all about the squids and the squibs."
"Someone? Will you two not be my guides?"
Pearl shook her head. "Nah. We'd love to but we're shella busy after what just happened with Tartar. We're clogged up on all our appointments, and we're way behind on our radio gig. Check us out by the way, Off The Hook."
"But don't worry!" Marina interjected. "We wouldn't get a complete stranger to show you around. Actually, it should be someone you know."
Knock knock. Two quick raps came from the front door. "Oh! Perfect timing." Marina quickly headed for the door and opened it. "Ah, I'm sure you two have met. Agent Eight, meet Agent Three. Agent Three..."
Eight peered from behind and froze when she saw who it was. The inkling at the door had bright orange tentacles, cut into bangs from the front and reaching down to her waists from the sides. Her intense, yellow eyes, no longer vacant and cloudy as Eight had remembered, were staring straight at her. She was wearing a simple white shirt featuring a logo of a blue shark, as well as a pair of black, knee-length shorts.
"I'm sure you two will get along great."
The inkling stepped inside the house, her attention never straying from Eight, a blank, unreadable expression on her face. She stopped just short of the Octoling and looked down at her.
"Sup. Name's Three. 'Bout time we actually met."