Marie sighed as her new agent zoomed off to the second area in Octo Canyon, leaving her alone on the Tentakeel Hideout once again.
She seems very capable, her thoughts told her, and she agreed. Possibly even better than Agent 3, but that wasn't his fault - with Sheldon to help us out now with his weapons, and his Enhancifier, we're simply starting out on a better foot than Agent 3 had with the Captain.
Well, now that Agent 4 was safely on her way, she decided that she should make her way to her recon station, somewhere beneath the floating island. The platform had been there when she first went into hiding - once she had found the secret path that hid its existence, she found it was a safe area to set up her radio gear and 'spy' for her Agents.
But as Marie squidded her way through the ink trails left by Agent 4, something splashed deep into an ink splotch on her right. Oh kelp, she thought as she leapt out of the ink in Inkling form, brandishing her custom Splat Brella at the ink patch.
The unidentified object had sent ink flying everywhere - but otherwise she didn't see what had made the splash.
Then she saw the hand.
It was draped over the edge of the puddle, the rest of… whatever it was submerged in the ink. But it was definitely not an Inkling's hand.
Fearing enemy conflict, she slowly stepped through the ink and brought herself before the odd appendage, training the end of her Brella at it.
It didn't move. What in the…
She noticed that the hand was slowly slipping back into the ink. It felt as if the poor creature was… drowning? Marie frowned. How could that be possible? She put the Brella down briefly, grabbed the strange hand, and pulled. Oof, whatever it was, it was heavy. It was definitely not an Octoling either, having now examined it closely - this was some other strange, perhaps close relative to either species.
She struggled, but slowly, she pulled the creature from the ink. Once it had been freed, she rolled the thing onto its back and examined it.
It was definitely not any kind of squid… and yet, it shared some similarities. It had hands and feet, just like Inklings; clothes, just like Inklings… but what was this stuff that sprouted from its body? It covered his legs and his arms, and parts of his face. Marie thought it looked pretty ugly. It was a lot thicker and darker on the top of the creature's head, where her own species would have its tentacles.
She looked up again, scanning the skyline, trying to judge the angle at which this thing had jumped from. But from what she could tell, there was no nearby landmass from which this thing could have launched from. What a strange thing this is… I guess if it can't survive in the ink, I should get it somewhere out of the way before something happens to it.
And so she began the slow task of carrying the alien creature over to her hut.
Marie looked at the strange creature on her bed. She'd removed its stained clothes and put them aside for now. The creature was definitely male, she could see that much… ink had stained his skin and the hairs on his body in various places. It also seemed that he was definitely unconscious, as he still had not stirred.
Marie's abode was small - most of the room was taken up by her bed, on the opposite corner of the doorway. There was a small dresser next to the bed, containing her changes of clothes, including her Squid Sisters outfit. She… didn't feel like she deserved to wear that right now.
The remaining corner was taken up by a mostly decorational, tiny table, upon which sat a portable TV. It was switched on for now - she figured if something had struck Inkopolis, they'd get a message out pretty quickly. So far though, there was no special report yet. Marie checked a clock hanging on the wall. Quarter-past. Hmm.
The squid's gaze laid upon Agent 3's book of Sunken Scrolls, next to the TV. She picked up the book and leafed through the pages, an… odd thought forming in her head. She'd asked Agent 3 for the scrolls after the return of the Great Zapfish to the old Inkopolis Square, as the material inside shed light on the history of her people and of her country. But the sight of the book had brought the memory of one of those pages to the front of her mind…
It wasn't long before she found it - the page detailing the planet's previous majority species.
Just looking at the diagram on the page, she could see some strong similarities between the page and the person on her bed. No way, she thought. I thought they were totally extinct. But it seemed pretty clear to her that if this wasn't a human, they were at least very closely related.
Well, I guess I'd better keep him here out of the way, where he can't be found. Hopefully when he wakes up he can tell us how he got here… but I gotta get back to work.
Marie stepped out of the room, hung up a quick clothes line for the human's clothes, and swam away to her recon station to assist Agent 4.
45 minutes later, right on cue, Marie's radio sprung to life.
"It's Off The Hook, LIVE from Inkopolis Square with breaking news!"
"Oh, you did not, Marina…"
"There are reports of small impacts across the city! Three have been confirmed so far, including one crashing through our very own window…"
"Eyewitnesses say these came down from the sky, but it doesn't appear to be space debris - at least because what we've recovered appears to be similar to Inkopolis' own mobile phones! How weird is that?"
"Other impacts appear to have been made on rooftops with no access, so we don't know what may be lying there, but we'll update you on this story as it develops."
"That's right! And now here's the current battle stages…"
Marie switched off the radio. A phone, huh? Probably belonging to this human. She gave it some more thought, but was interrupted by her walkie talkie.
"Marie? Marie! Are you alright? I haven't heard from you for a while…"
Oops. Agent 4 had been trying to raise her for a while now, she guessed. She keyed the mic. "I'm here. After you get that Zapfish I'm going to need you to come back home, something potentially big just happened." She consulted her map and her notes. "Ah! Yes. Now, those Octozeppelins can be quite tricky to get around…"
His head was swimming. So much was going on on him, so many pain points, that he wasn't sure they weren't overlapping.
Then he realised something else. I'm alive.
Somewhere amidst the darkness behind his eyes and the pain and the jumbled thoughts in his brain, he realised he could hear. Voices. Maybe. He couldn't quite understand them. He waited for his thoughts to calm so he could focus a little more on understanding these voices. There were two of them, and they spoke… strangely. Like it was another language. But on top of that, it was as if they were trying to talk underwater or something. It was unintelligible to him. He wondered where it was coming from…
He opened his eyes, slowly.
There were two creatures, standing above him, vaguely human but not quite.
He was also apparently naked.
He closed his eyes again. Welp, he thought to himself. Wonderful. There goes my dignity.
They must have noticed, because one of them spoke to him. It seemed like he was being asked a question. He opened his eyes again to look up at them. "I'm… sorry," he spoke slowly, half in the way one speaks to someone who doesn't understand his language, but half in the sense that he was simply still waking. "I cannot understand you." He frowned.
Come to think of it, how did he end up like this? In a bed, naked, with two ladies with weird head…things over him. He tried to think back to the previous night. He could remember falling… but it was all a blur besides that.
The older, green-'haired' woman spoke again. This time she seemed to point to a picture in a book she was holding. He reached for the book and looked more closely at it. The picture seemed to be of a stylistic human drawing. The next step up from stick figures. He wasn't quite sure what they were implying, but he nodded anyway. "Yes… that looks like me," he said in a deliberate manner.
The girls spoke excitedly amongst themselves.
"This is incredible! We could learn so much about life before us!" Agent 4 said, finding it hard to keep a grin off her face.
"Yes, but I still find it hard to believe that they still exist at all," Marie replied while looking down at the human. It was unfortunate that they could not understand each other, but she was not giving up yet. She turned to Agent 4. "I think Sheldon may be able to help us out with this, too, but we'll see." The Ammo Knights owner was pretty busy with weaponry and brand deals for said weapons, but she knew that Sheldon, the short crab fellow that ran the place, had a bit of tech in the back with his shooting range that might come in handy. "I wonder if he could whip up some sort of translator…"
Marie placed a hand on the Inkling's shoulder. "We've got our own job to do right now. We'll keep an eye on the human, but we really do need to make sure that we get the Great Zapfish and Callie back. So… try not to worry about him. From the looks of things he won't be going anywhere for a while."
The two stepped back outside. "Which means I'm going to have to find a place to sleep tonight. You don't snore, do you?"
The next day was almost like any other. Agent 4 penetrated deeper into Octoling territory, with Marie only a radio call away. Marie continued to provide tactical and emotional support from her station back home. Even the city, though buzzing with news of the strange objects from the sky, was otherwise going through its regular routine.
Coming back in from Agent 4's apartment, though, Marie noticed that the human's clothes, hanging on the makeshift line, had mostly disintegrated where their ink had come in contact, to the point where they were mostly scraps. She found this odd, as from memory of their touch she figured that the clothes were made of a similar material to those made today.
Additionally, from reports on the field, it seemed that the Octoling squad that often attempted to take control of Inkopolis's sanctioned Turf War arenas had not appeared at all since the day before. Well they have to be planning something, Marie thought. It might have been almost impossible to know just what, but between radio calls she researched, and tried to work out what the enemy might do, the human far from her mind at that moment.
She only realised how much time had passed when Marie was buzzed awake at what must have been nearly midnight. "Yeah kid… I'm here," she said through a yawn.
"I've found my way to what appears to be a safe area to sleep for tonight," replied her agent through the radio. "Sounds like you beat me to it."
"Yeah… sorry about that. Been trying to anticipate what is happening with the Octoling situation, musta dozed off." Marie looked through her scribbled notes and tried to recall her thought process.
"Oh, don't worry too much about them, I can take 'em," Agent 4 replied with what must have been a cocky grin.
"That's just it though, I don't know if they're coming for you…" Marie paused upon a quick map she'd drawn of the area upon which her abode stood, which was circled. "Listen, before I turn in I'm gonna pull some strings and leave our human friend a weapon and some clothes just in case… I have a bad feeling about this."
"Are you sure about giving them a weapon?"
"No," Marie said quickly. She wasn't lying - she hadn't figured out yet whether the creature was even friendly - but if her troubles came to pass, they would need to defend themselves against a threat she didn't want to see close to home somehow. "We'll splat them if we need to, and I really hope we don't need to, but the way things are looking with our situation, I'd feel better giving them something in case of an attack on us."
"Alright… be careful, ah, Agent."
"You too, Agent 4. Goodnight." Marie blinked her eyes back into focus. She really needed the sleep. Well, fifteen more minutes to fix him up wasn't going to hurt...
She leapt upon the inkline that carried her from the secret recon station to the main platform of the Hideout, and from there swam through the ink trails over to the grate that would take her back to Inkopolis Square. She turned briefly, and her squid eyes scanned the hut and the sky above. It was night, but the moon was out and the stars seemed bright. On any other day she'd have thought this beautiful, but right now she was nervous. They couldn't know about him… right?
She turned and slipped through the grate, and was gone.
She returned ten minutes later, jumping through the grate once again and landing back on her feet. She was carrying a biodegradable paper bag upon which the Square's shopkeepers had helpfully placed some starter gear inside for cheap. Black shorts, light gray top, a headband, and a brand new Splattershot Jr, which Sheldon had jerry-rigged a small canister of ink onto the top of. She was proud of the bargaining done to get these things for cheap.
Sheldon had, of course, asked how her 'guest' was doing. His work on the translator was going alright, based on the small amount of language he'd gleaned from the phone the studio across the square had recovered, plus some recordings of the few times the human had actually spoken that Marie had gotten for him, but the translator was not ready for testing yet. She'd had to explain to him that she was busy guiding Agent 4, as he of course knew as he'd also been in communication with her, testing various products on the field. She promised that she'd let him know as soon as she returned to the tent, but that she hadn't heard any noise from him, assuming he was in a deep rest, healing up.
Marie stopped before the door into the Cabin. What if he was awake in there, though? What kind of look would it give for her to come in with a weapon? What if he was gone? She calmed her mind quickly and reassured herself, that he would most likely still be asleep, and not hear her come in.
She turned the handle and stepped inside, and quickly realised there was another, altogether very strange possibility she had not accounted for.