Far away, Squiddler, Squiddette and Squidradar continued to make their way through the ruin, Squidradar in the lead. Every few feet he would stop, close his eyes and concentrate, his friendship powers spreading out through the ocean and back to him like a loving echolocation.
"Just another hour now!" he said. "We've just got to keep going and... wait!"
"What is it, Squidradar?" Squiddler asked. Just behind him, guarding the rear, Squiddette clutched her coral staff and kept a careful lookout.
"There's something big ahead. Not another ruin, it's an animal. Wow... or maybe there's just a lot of them! Could it be..."
"We should go around," Squiddette said. "We don't want to bother anything that lives this close to the Island of Dread and Hate!"
"But that's just it, Squiddette!" said Squidradar, almost smiling. "I don't think they live there. They're not even near the island! I think it might..."
And then he stopped. Indeed, all three of the Squiddles stopped what they had been doing. Squiddette even loosened her grip on her staff. Turning slowly, they came about face to face with one of their most powerful, natural enemies.
"Well I say, what do we have here?" said the sea turtle. "I was hardly expecting to have guests for dinner!"
Squiddler reached out a quivering tentacle. "W-we're not afraid of you!"
The turtle extended its head toward them. "Aren't we now? Now, let's not make this personal."
And in immediate reply, Squiddette struck him across the face with her staff. The others, and even she, looked about for a moment, bewildered, before she shouted: "Swim!" She grabbed Squiddler and they both swam for their lives in one direction, while Squidradar, in a moment of panic, took the other, heading back the way they had come.
Squiddette led Squiddler over a nearby bank of sank, directly away from the turtle, and noticed a nearby hiding spot formed by two pieces of rotten timber. They pulled into it, panting for breath.
"Did you see where Squidradar went?" Squiddette asked.
"No!" said Squiddler. "We have to go back for him." Squiddette was still panting but nodded. In the background, barely perceptible at first, the sand beneath them began to shift.
" We need a plan, fast!" Squiddette said. " I'll distract him with my staff and you... uh... you lead Squidradar right back here when he's not lookiiiiiiiii—!"
From beneath the soft sand a second turtle lunged out with his head, snapping his mouth closed like a guillotine almost touching Squiddler's tentacles. In doing so the sand bank beneath the beams was revealed for what it really was, the beams supporting one another well without the temporary weight of the hidden turtle below. The jellyfish swam for their lives as Laughlin shook himself off.
Squidradar, for his part, had taken off toward a curious artefact ("It's t)(at t)(ing again! From t)(e ot)(er episode!") and hid in one of its alcoves. There he waited, trembling, and he cast his eyes down to the sand below. The sun was setting, and while it was distorted by the waves Squidradar could make out the shadow of the artefact spread along the ground. It was superficially rendered, by a computer in nineties vanity, but still showed when the original turtle raised up behind the artefact to search. Squidradar locked his eyes on the shadow of the artefact's mangled antenna, which was bent at an angle and branched thrice in one direction, twice in another. He stared, trembling, as each tick was consumed by the turtle's shadow as it rose up and over. As the turtle's shadow seemed about to overcome the final branch, where it would see Squidradar for sure, it turned and swam away.
Sighing with relief, Squidradar was not able to rest long, as he could make out his friends' voices in the distance. He had to help them, but what to do? He had only one plan: he clenched his eyes tight and sent out his thoughts once more into the deep.
As for his friends, Squiddette and Squiddler darted in opposite directions, only to discover that they now had two turtles chasing them rather than one. Squiddler ducked down and accidentally came too close to the ground, where he came to a rough stop.
"I say, boy, where do you think you're goin'?" said the turtle, who began to circle him as the music on the soundtrack again reverted to orchestral in a low key. "A'int nowhere to go in any direction, not when you've got two full-grown sea turtles on your tail."
"Funny," said Laughlin, who joined the other on the opposite side of his circle. Squiddette fell in just ahead of him. She careened into the ground, against a rock and rolled to a stop not far from her friend. "I was just telling her the same thing!"
Squiddler pulled up against Squiddette, who had hit the ground hard and had a dark bruise already formed on her head in the fashion of cartoons, but otherwise quite without, as she stared hard at the ground below her. Squiddler reached out a slow tentacle towards her, but she did not react, instead looking vaguely to one side like she could do no better.
"C'mon, Squiddette," Squiddler whispered. Nothing. He began to shake, and the turtles closed.
"Don't see many brightly-coloured jellyfish though, do we, Laughlin?"
Slowly, Squiddette looked up with her whole head, a low groan coming from her mouth. Though the turtles edged ever nearer, she reached out and took Squiddler's hand, understanding, and he smiled back with some confidence. "Well," he said. "Then I guess you don't know what we can do... when we're with our friends!"
And the two jellyfish began to glow, an aura formed of both colours that shone in the deep water. It cast off beyond them in soft waves, in a fading gradient that overcame the dank of the ocean floor and filled the underwater graveyard with colour. The turtles froze at the sight of the glimmering light, a tactical mistake, as the light lanced off in a wide beam and struck Laughlin hard on the underside of his shell. The beam faded as he fell away, and Squiddler looked to his friend in confusion as her eyes fell closed.
The other turtle glared down at the jellyfish beneath him. "And what do you do when you're running up against someone and his friends?"
He gave them no time to answer. With speed not belied by what he could manage on land, the turtle crashed to the ground in a flurry of sand, knocking Squiddler away, and he slammed his jaws tight about Squiddette.
And so, in an instant, it was over; but in another, the victory changed hands. A shadow moved above, unseen by the camera favouring Squiddler's shocked and narrow point of view, and a massive shape – a tail – came down and struck the turtle hard across the back. With a lurch, it coughed up Squiddette and a cloud of sand, and Squiddler was by her side at once.
She was looking about the world in a slow, staggered way when he caught her short of the ground. "Squiddler?"
"...Hi," he said back. "Are you okay?"
Squiddette mumbled a reply but took to her tendrils, floating in the water under her own power. Squiddler could only pass along a guilty, nervous smile he disentangled from her and looked up at their saviour.
Their rescuer was no small denizen of the deep. It loomed above them such that they were only small shapes on a massive matte that had been drawn to spare the animators the trouble of working with such a beast frame-for-frame. Instead it existed as a creature of watercolour and heavy shading, cast by scattered light through the prism of water above. It cooed down at them through the combed teeth of a baleen whale.
The whale song went uncaptioned, but Squiddler seemed to understand it well enough. "Yes sir," he said. "Thank you, sir."
Squiddette looked up under her own power and Squiddler followed to see Squidradar arrive. "I told you I sensed something!" he said with a laugh, and was barrelled over by another new arrival. A young female baleen, about his age and not at all his size, came to a stop in front of the others and took an immediate interest in Squiddette.
"I-I'm fine, really," she said in response to the calf's soprano cries. "Really."
("That's his friend he mentioned earlier, that had to go away," Rose explained. "'Bailey.'"
"Yeah," Jade said. "Sorry, I didn't want to force you to watch all them or anything."
"YEAH, GREAT, IRRELEVANT FUCKING CONTINUITY. LET'S HAVE A GODDAMN PARTY OF THE STUFF, WHY DON'T WE?")
The father whale boomed down another song, to which the Squiddles replied in a very different matter.
"Oh, no!" Squidradar said for all of them. "We can't hurt the turtles!"
The camera cut to Laughlin, who was staring up at the whale with a mix of confusion and dizziness, but not so dizzy that he did not make out Squidradar's translation and take in with surprise and fear.
"Yeah!n" Squiddler said. "I mean...Just because they tried to eat us doesn't make them bad" And now, unmistakably, Squiddler began talking to the camera rather than the whale. "It's all part of the magical balance the world called the 'ecology' and the 'food chain!'"
"That's right!" said Squidradar, moving neatly into frame and taking on the same lack of respect for the fourth wall. "Turtles eat jellyfish because they need to to survive! There are other things out there that eat turtles, too! "
"So even though we don't want to be eaten, " Squiddler said, "we aren't going to be mad at the turtles, because they're just doing what we are: trying to survive! "
Then Squidradar threw all pretence to the current. "You and your mommies and daddies might eat meat too, or even get the money you need to survive from jobs that catch fish or work with meat! "
"Did I mention," Rose said, "that as well as being pro-poly, this show is also violently pro-consumerism?"
"OH MY FUCKING GOG I'M GOING TO BE SICK. HARLEY, I'M GOING TO BE SICK ON YOUR GODDAMMED LAP, GET READY."
"I think it's more of an editorial mandate because it just doesn't match the personality of the creators, which I'll admit is a bit sketchy but so much so that I couldn't believe they were all that interested in money most of the time."
"IT'S NOT BECAUSE YOU'RE NEXT TO ME, IT'S BECAUSE THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT."
"Okay, both of you shut up!" Jade had to put a hand in front of Rose's mouth to silence her, which Kanaya took over for her, but as for Karkat she simply took the popcorn from him. She ignored his angry puppy response with smooth poise. "If you're feeling sick, fuckass, you shouldn't be eating it!"
"Look," he said, "can we just fast-forward past the oh-so-valuable lesson here?"
"Yeah, yeah," Jade said, though she only had to do so for a few seconds.
"So..." Nepeta asked in the time it took. "Are there normally whales in this show?"
"Well, they show up from time to time," Jade explained, swatting back at Kanaya when Rose started giggling at something she was doing. "Just a few episodes ago, like I said, and again in a few weeks. It sort of ties in to another thing that's happening to Milo."
Seeing a curious look from the Troll girls on her left, Jade continued. "Well, Milo is doing just fine, and Dargon's been picking on the Squiddles in other ways instead. But one day, Carmen and Diego look like they're going to be adopted by someone from off the islands."
"What's that?" Feferi asked, and Jade and Rose took a few moments to describe the process of adoption to the suddenly intrigued Trolls. Nepeta explained the interest quite succinctly when she turned to the other three for confirmation.
"So it's sort of like a lusus!"
That accomplished to satisfaction, Jade continued her story. "Milo learns his friends are going to go and he's really upset. One day he goes into the basement and looks at the artefact, which magically shows up there again, and Dargon is waiting for him. He starts telling him really awful things about his friends, and Milo starts getting madder and madder at them."
"The worst part is that they're all true, because Dargon's a jerk like that," Rose said. "Sometimes he's just frank but the rest of the time it's just... people not being perfect. Kids don't get that."
"At the same time, Squidradar is upset because the whales have come back from migration." Jade hoped she did not have to explain migration, having forgotten she was talking to the sea princess, the huntress, the desert dweller, and Karkat, who would avoid admitting ignorance unless he felt it was absolutely necessary. "Bailey is a lot bigger, because she grew up while she was away—"
"And he," Rose interrupted, "lives in the thankless, pitiless and mostly-timeless void cartoon characters inhabit against their will."
Jade was able to ignore Rose entirely at this point, though she had a rougher time with Karkat, who was trying to get more popcorn. "Squidradar realizes that even though Bailey's happy to see him, she's changed a lot, and one day she'll be grown up and have a family of her own. Milo's just had a fight with the other kids, and he's thinking about going to make a wish on the artefact, when he runs into Squidradar and they talk." Jade shrugged. "Eventually they realize that it's good that their friends are going their own ways, and maybe it's even better for them, too. Some relationships are special and stay, some are special and... change. So they promise to make the best of what they have left, that sort of thing."
"And continuing our theme of abrupt, jerk endings," Rose finished: "the last shot is of him alone in the room he used to share with them. God knows where the other three that bunked there went. Sucked up into the void by Pathos, I guess."
"So, " Kanaya asked, swatting at Karkat for having strong-armed a handful of popcorn from Jade during her speech. "What does Dargon want that makes him so set on torturing this Milo?"
"It's actually pretty clever," Rose said. "Dargon's artefact is cued to activate on certain magic words. Two people have to say it: one from his world and one from ours. The magic word is, uh..." She and Jade exchanged a few rusty pronunciations before settling on "eyoosh." "Which," Rose continued, "through the way Milo extends his w's, sounds just enough like: 'I wish.'"
"What does it do?" asked Nepeta.
"It opens a hole in reality and lets Dargon through for real," Rose said. "Did we... mention that part? No? Well, the deal is that we never actually see Dargon the whole time. When he's finally revealed near the end, it... well, it turns out he's not actually there and he just... possessed Plumbthroat, because kids can only handle the idea of one villain, I guess. We hadn't seen him since this episode."
"So, Dargon's a ghost or something?" asked Karkat between chews.
Rose was about to answer when something occurred to her. Slowly, curiously, she met Jade's eyes, understanding at last. "...Sort of," she said instead of her original answer. "You'll see." To Jade, her tone was very different. "Holy crap!" she said, low, but not quite a whisper. "I... I had totally forgot! ...Did I... block it out?" Jade was just as confused, but said nothing.
"What is it?" asked Kanaya, but Jade just waved her off.
"You'll see. In just a minute, you'll see."
The show continued with Squibump and the two human children on an older-fashioned ship, but one still equipped with a motor that had them island-hopping at high speeds.
"Is this really such a good idea?" Squibella asked, her face full of glee more than inquiry as the sea-spray hit them all in the face.
"I'm gonna say no," Squibump said, "but n-none of you are going to listen to me!"
"But we've got to help our friends!" Sebastian insisted, though he seemed less confident than he had before. "And Billy thinks it's okay, right Billy?"
The camera cut to the side, where a man totally encased in an old-style bell-suit stood waiting, already attached by a hose to a machine on the deck. "Wellllllllll..." Billy said, "I dooon't really knooow if I can just say yeeeeeees..." He very slowly moved his hand up to his face, unseen even through the glass, as though resting it on his chin. "But I guess I owe you all a loooot of faaaaaaavouuurrrs. But don't blame me if you all get in trooouble!" He pointed an accusing finger at all four of them, which took almost thirty seconds. "And don't get hurt, do you heeaarrrr?"
"Don't worry, Billy!" said Amber. "I'm sure it's going to be perfectly safe!"
Dramatic irony forming an acceptable scene break, the camera panned across the waves for a transition, and with a subtle shift in the stock tunes and the fading light. The camera came to rest some time later, once again night on the pitch-black deck of the Catchyegrabber, where a light shone from inside the cabin. The camera's slow zoom came in to find Princess Berryboo picking between the splayed wire and the duct tape, having carved out a fair patch, if still not enough to escape.
Her efforts were interrupted by a crack of thunder, this one louder than those that had proceeded it in the scene. She looked up with surprise and found that the porthole window was open.
"Princess!" came the cry of relief, as Squidradar poked his face in through the gap. "We found you!"
"Oh, no, no no!" Berryboo said, and moved out from under the tape. "Squidradar! No! You can't be here, you have to go!"
"Is that her?" asked another voice, and in a moment Squiddette (who looked much better as her bruise had entirely vanished) poked her head up in the window sill and struck a neat salute. "Your Highness!"
Berryboo could only let out a whimper of protest before Squiddler made his own entrance. "Princess!" he said with a smile. "Are you okay?" Berryboo nodded and Squiddler, efficient as ever, was already on the next question. "Where's Plumbthroat?"
"They're on the island," Berryboo replied. "Because it's not safe here! Squiddler: there's a monster in the water. 'The Leviathan!' You have to go right now!"
"Your Highness," Squiddette said, staff in hands, "I can't do that. If you're in danger, that means there's even more need for me to stay and guard you!"
"Besides," Squidradar said, "the whales will keep us safe."
Berryboo's reaction to the news was such that she actually began to sink. "The pod is here? In the water with that thing? Oh no, no, no, no, no!"
Squiddler was floating about the room, and turned back toward the aquarium. "Where's the screwdriver?" he asked.
"In the toolbox under the be—argh, no! Go away!" But no one was listening to her. "You have to—"
Lightning shot across the skies and below, as a bolt struck down not far from the ship. The thunder that followed was deafening.
"...oh no," Berryboo whispered.
"It's just a little thunder, Princess!" said Squidradar.
"No," Berryboo repeated. "Not in this storm. The Leviathan knows we're here!"
Squiddler was about to open his mouth to reply when the ship suddenly shifted, and the hope sank out of Berryboo's eyes. "Are we moving?" he asked, but the answer was immediately obvious, and reinforced by a wide shot of the ship suddenly on the move in a violent, ramping current and storm.
Squiddette, always willing to take her charge's word at face value if not her advice, took stock of the situation. "...Get the tape!" she said, and immediately set to work attacking the mesh with her staff. Despite Berryboo's protests, Squiddler joined her and began to pick at the tape with the screwdriver. They worked at the hole for a time, until suddenly the ship lurched, hard. While Squiddette caught onto the edge of the aquarium, Squiddler went flying in one direction and his screwdriver in another. It was Squidradar that retrieved it and set back to work, Squiddler coming over with a pencil. Seeing her friends were just going to stay until she was with them, Berryboo herself joined in, pulling on the largest splayed patch of wire with tentacles and cartoon teeth. The storm raged on.
"Got it!" Squiddler shouted, and Berryboo felt the splayed edge come down in her arms, and she pulled open a wide rent in the screen. Squeezing through the gap, she found herself out in the free air with her friends, who made to pile on her in a traditional hug before she beat them off and directed them to the porthole. Squidradar was first, Squiddette insisted on going last, but they all made it, only to find that they had only escaped into a worse situation. In an instant, a dark shadow lashed out, and Squidradar disappeared at once, under the waves.
Over on the dark, rocky shores of the Island of Dread and Hate, Plumbthroat and his salty band watched by bonfire-light as the Squiddles escaped, but there was no look of disappointment on their faces, just cruel jeers. Back aboard the ship, Ox and several other aquatic members of the crew boarded and immediately set to work. "Pull 'er out!" he ordered. "Run, or we'll lose her to the Locker!" Plumbthroat stood out on the coast surrounded by the others, holding the only spot of light on the shore cast by the flame in his pipe. Though his eyes seemed conflicted they could barely be seen in the shadows, and as worse shadows gathered in the air above the water he could not help a dark, triumphant smile.
"We have to go back after him!" Squiddler said.
"Squiddler..." Berryboo stalled, her eyes darting back and forth between the waves and the distant chance of safety, and Squiddette seemed posed to get her to the latter at even this cost. But their thoughts were interrupted when another shadow cut across them, forcing them to part. The piercing call of whale song broke out to follow, a cry that cut across even the stock, action soundtrack that had been playing. Instead the whales took over, confused and angry moans filling the night amid percussion of thunder, from which an orchestra, rising, drew their cues. The camera took to the skies, as below the Squiddles had opened a great whirlpool.
Lightning crashed and showed the outline of the larger whales on the outskirts beneath the violent waves. Inside their circling patrol: a great mass, which rose from the centre of the whirlpool as though oil from a crack in the ground. And like oil it expanded, amorphous and sprawling, until it had grown to the edges of the whirlpool and beyond, huge beyond measure. As it grew, the whirlpool deepened and the ship began to spin in, Ox and his patrol fighting against its ultimate destruction. And as they fought, the soundtrack reached its crescendo and, the Leviathan breached the lowest point of the whirlpool, skin shining in the light of the storm. Its head peered out and its great beak opened wide, the water pouring inside in its spiral, into a mouth large enough to swallow the ship and the tiny Squiddles in a single bite. And it continued to rise.
Jade paused. The room, even those that had previously been ignoring the others and their movie, was silent except for the voice of Rose, who was whispering to herself. "How did I forget?" in variations over and over.
"...Well..." Karkat said, "isn't it obvious, Grimdarky?"
The only one who was not staring at the screen in revulsion was Feferi, who was simply confused. She peered up at the shot, frozen as it was on a lightning flash, and reached for the remote, moving from frame to frame until she was satisfied. She then turned to Jade and answered the question that had started this all.
"Yep," she affirmed. "That's my lusus."
DVD Bonus Material
Sachin Bhatt (b December 29, 1967 – d April 13, 2009) – Voice of Billy the Bellsuit Diver, many wildlife voices, among others, Seasons 1 through 3. Bhatt, who rose to become a Bollywood leading man in 2003, had his roots in a wide variety of early projects, including all three seasons of The Squiddles. There, he served as the second Billy the Bellsuit Diver before being replaced by a rotating stable of production assistants until the show's death. Brought in during the transitional period between production studios between the pilot and Season 1 proper, Bhatt's vocal range proved much wider than his now-popular tenor. His sonorous take on Billy conflicts dramatically with his energetic take on eels and small birds that made him a show regular and fan favourite, and he was kept by producers long after production was moved out of Bombay. Sanchin left the show in Season 3 in a show of unity with Marsette and Watt. His last few exchanges with the producers appeared to have gone foul, as the famously polite Sanchin shocked an interviewer by revealing – calmly – that he had outright burned the final letters sent to him after his employment was terminated. "That," he said, "was enough."
Aesha Kattan (b August 23, 1986 – d August 21, 2008) – Voice of Squibella and Carmen. Kattan's voice acting career had only just begun with The Squiddles, when Studio Upton hired her to voice their new infant Squiddle. Kattan remembers being terrified not by the recordings but by the readings with other cast members, but says that they welcomed her with open arms. "I was just doing my voice for Squibella, not anything special. Everyone else took me under their wings and helped me to really do this right." While Kattan was too young to actually quit the show with her compatriots, she said that she would have gladly. "They're my heroes. Were and are. I don't much remember the studio, and what was going on there, but if they said jump, I would have trusted them. Meeting with Laura, Sachin and Amelia were some of the best memories of my life. [...] If we wanted to do a reunion I'd be there in a heartbeat, but some of them just don't want to talk about it." In the summer of 2008, Aesha Kattan was killed while on a trip to the beach with friends, after being pulled underwater by a riptide. She was 21.