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Being an agent sucks.

Chapter Text

“Nonononononono! No!”

It was the eighth time Agent 8 went through all the lives on this level. Girl Power was its title, featuring a group of...octolings? If you could even call them that. And an orb, that has to be protected from them.

To a person who didn’t know better, otherwise known as Agent 8 from two hours ago, this would sound somewhat easy. Eight was pretty agile and could maneuver himself pretty well in tight situations, so this seemed like a piece of cake. The shooter weapon, the...octoshot? It didn’t look like an octoshot, but it behaved very similarly to one. The ‘octoshot’ was the weapon Eight selected, simply because it’s type was the one he was most familiar with. The ‘octoshot’ fit very nicely in his hands, and when he first grasped it he could almost taste victory from the power he knew it contained.

Oh, how wrong he was.

Time after time, again and again did Eight fail the mission. Those ‘octolings’ with the odd voices were quick to overwhelm him on the field, he simply just wasn’t fast enough to eliminate them all in time. His heartbeats would always pound in his round ears as he rushed from one location to the next, but he’d never make it in time. One moment he’d be working on taking out the one that had a roller, and the next he’d discover one that had a slosher was quickly working at destroying the orb.

It frustrated him, it really did. Each time Eight went into the mission, he’d push himself harder and harder, doing his damned best to sprint from one location to the next and splat all the octolings in time. Yet somehow, someway, one would always get through. The worst part about it was how he’d never make it to the suspect in time, he’d always take just a second too long. It happened when he was taking a breather, when he was dealing with another octoling, and when he was trying to find a special to deal with them. One always got in. He didn’t even know where they were coming from, they just somehow managed to break through the crates when he’d accidentally turn away for two seconds. Next thing he knew, that stupid cucumber would utter the same, stupid, fucking phrase in his earpiece and that inflatable bomb would go off on his back.

“Test failed.”

Now Eight was standing back in the station, his CQ card in his right hand as he took in a breath, getting ready to put the card up to the scanner in the turnstyle and launch himself into battle yet again. He didn’t bother keeping track of how much of the odd currency he had left, he simply just didn’t care anymore at this point. He was tired, exhausted. He wanted to be over with this.

“I suggest for you to take a rest.” The blue cucumber spoke up to his left, crawling along the wall and leaving a trail of slime in his path. C.Q. Cumber.

Eight let out a sharp exhale and firmly grasped the CQ card in his hand, his built up frustration slowly coming to the surface, “I don’t need a break.”

Cumber was silent for a moment, then spoke up in a bit of a stern tone, “I simply was just recommending it. Repeatedly taking a test for so long will take its toll on anyone.”

“I don’t need a break.” Agent 8 spat again, running his card along the scanner and rushing into the stage after an unknown amount of tries. He mocked the cucumber in his mind as he chose the ‘octoshot’ once more, entering the launchpad and readying himself for the eventual failure he knew would come.


 

He lost.

He lost miserably.

He got overwhelmed on the first try, almost immediately. The second try he almost had a fighting chance, but those fucking octos pushed back and pushed back hard. The tries after that were just hell. Pure, miserable hell. The five minutes required to defend the orb weren’t even halfway done when he got splatted all those times. It made him sick, it made him angry, it made him want to punch something.

Respawning into the station platform once again, Eight took in another deep breath and stepped up to the turnstyle again, reaching out his card to put it to the scanner for the upteenth time that hour. He was on the verge of losing his temper after all this time, so if anyone were to s-

“Take care out there.” C.Q. Cumber spoke up, laying on the ground this time. “I really suggest for you to take a b-”

“Shut. The fuck up.” Eight muttered under his breath while gritting his teeth, clenching the card in his hand as his temper flared.

Gasps and words of objection filled his earpiece, the three adults who were talking to him and giving him the same repetitive words of motivation over the past couple of hours clearly taking issue with his statement.

“Eight! You shouldn’t sa-”

“Agent 8, that is in no way a response you shou-”

“Eight, what the hell is your problem?!” Pearl finished up the clutter of words, sounding rather pissed. “He’s just doing his job, lay off of him.”

“I don’t fucking care!” Eight finally yelled, anger pouring out of his words, “I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I just want to make it up to the promised land already! This test is fucking bullshit!”

There was a tense pause as Eight took in a couple breaths, the young teen already starting to shake due to his anger boiling over.

C.Q. Cumber rose up onto his hind legs and turned himself to Eight’s direction, “Pardon? I was giving you a suggestion, there’s no need to use that kind of language.”

He slowly made his way over to the teen, each inch he crossed only making Eight’s patience dwindle down further and further. Eight was seriously starting to grow annoyed with the conductor, both from his slow movements and his lack of empathy of any kind when he failed test after test after test.

“Being able to take these tests is a privilege,” The cucumber spoke up again after rising back onto his hind legs, “I can revoke that privilege at any time for any reason as I see fit. You’re very lucky to have made it this far, it’d be a waste to lose all of tha-”

“SHUT THE HELL UP!!”

A stunned silence filled the area, nobody knowing how to react. Agent 8 himself was even shocked by the words that had come out of his mouth, but he definitely didn’t feel any guilt nor regret.

“Eight, that was just too far-”

“I need to have a stern word with you in the trai-”

“Stop while you still can, Eight.” Pearl ended the cluster of words once more, a warning tone to her voice, “C.Q. doesn’t seem like the type to mess around.”

Eight mocked her with an emphasized high pitched voice, “‘ C.Q. doesn’t seem like the type to mess around .’ Look at my face. Do you see it?” He pointed at his face and made a point to look as dead inside as possible, “This is the face of ‘not giving a shit’. I don’t give a shit. I just want to pass this test and get a fucking move on. So take your ‘stop while you can’ bullshit and shove it up your ass.”

“Eight, this isn’t cute. Stop it.” Marina spoke up with a firm voice, “You’re going to ruin your chances of getting to the surface! Please just- just calm down.”

“I’m NOT going to fucking ‘calm down’,” Eight exaggerated his statement with air quotes from his fingers, “I’m going to pass into that turnstyle, get into the level, beat the level, and then come back here with another fucking memcake. Even if I die trying.”

And with that, Eight stomped his way over to the turnstyle and moved to swipe his card over the scanner yet again. Only, he didn’t hear the click and the jingle of the turnstyle registering it. Ears twitching in agitation, he swiped his card over the scanner again. And again. Over and over he swiped his card, furiously trying to get it to register, but to no avail.

Shrieking from overflowing anger, the young octoling threw his CQ card to the ground and ferociously began kicking at the turnstyle’s doors blocking his path. The doors rattled and shaked with each impact, but they wouldn’t give in no matter how much force the octoling put into his kicks.

“I switched off the power to the turnstyle.” Cumber piped up, slithering along the wall yet again, “You won’t be able to access it.”

Eight stood back away from the turnstyle, turned to C.Q. Cumber, and promptly pointed at it. “Turn it back on.”

“I cannot.”

“Why the hell not?” He hissed, tapping his leather boot against the floor and folding his arms in a stubborn manner.

“Subjects with revoked test privileges cannot access them.”

A sharp pain stabbed itself though Eight’s chest as he slowly registered what the cucumber had said. Nothing but disbelief was in his mind and on his face as he took a step back, and another. Dread filled up the octo’s stomach as the impact of the words began to affect him.

“Y-You... What?” He asked blankly, looking up at the little conductor with an empty stare.

“Subjects with revoked test privileges cannot access them.” Cumber repeated, still slithering along the wall with seemingly no remorse in his mind, “I suggest you leave the station and mark a new destination.”

Eight slowly shook his head, whispering denials to himself. He stepped back up to the turnstyle and began pushing at the doors, silently begging to himself that they’d open up and let him try again.

“Turn on the turnstyle.” He instructed to C.Q. Cumber once again, only to get the same response.

“I cannot.”

“Turn on the turnstyle.”

“I cannot.”

“Turn. On. The. Turnstyle.”

“I cannot.”

“TURN ON THE FUCKING TURNSTYLE!”

“Subjects with revoked test privileges cannot access them.”

Eight paused, his ear twitching ever so slightly. Then, without hesitation, he proceeded to let out a huge scream, making everyone yelp and even C.Q. Cumber jump. With that, the impatient octoling rushed at the turnstyle, kicking it where he could and clawing at it viciously, doing his best to leave dents and scratches. Eight poured all his energy into the violence, feeling just like electricity was surging through him and giving him great power. He didn’t care about the consequences anymore, he was just so fucking frustrated.

Unfortunately for Eight, in the blind fit of anger while scratching at the turnstyle’s metal, he managed to swing his arm wrong and awkwardly jam his fingers against it. He let out a loud yelp and promptly sunk to the ground, the pain radiating from his fingers putting his temper tantrum to an abrupt halt. He grimaced deeply in agony as he writhed on the ground while using his other hand to clutch his injured appendages, already starting to regret that whole ordeal from the very beginning.

Sucking in sharp breaths through his gritted teeth, the octoling didn’t even notice C.Q. Cumber approaching him, slithering as slowly as ever.

“At this rate, the chances of you ascending to the promised land is little to nothing.” He spoke quietly in a somber voice, “Attempting to pass the turnstyle manually is futile. You failed, Agent 8. The tests will not be accessible for you any longer.”

That same sharp pain from earlier dug itself even deeper into Eight’s chest as he laid there on the ground, his mind going blank. He really did it. He really did it this time. Two hours of the same test over and over, all down the drain. And what for, his pride? What a joke.

Eight curled in on himself, reality starting to set in. He really was a joke. A failure. He could’ve asked Pearl and Marina for their help to skip the stage entirely, but his ego got into the way. Ever since he started thinking independently, things just weren’t going right. This was a prime example. He really was starting to regret starting this whole thing, getting his hopes up. He’d never make it to the promised land, much less to even freedom.

Eight really wished he never heard that stupid song.

“Shu-shu...Shut…” He stuttered in a weak, croaky voice. One last attempt to try and do...whatever it is he wanted to do. He didn’t even know why he was antagonizing C.Q. Cumber at this point, he was just mindlessly directing his anger at him. Having his own emotions and independent thoughts really sucked. He hated it. He hated it a lot.

In his fit of self pity and anger, Eight’s eyes began to sting just as much as his fingers did. His breath began to hitch as a high pitched, terribly hidden whine escaped from his mouth. Hot tears escaped from his eyes, leaving wet trails on his face that led to the ground. It took him a moment to even realize he was starting to cry, which in a sick twist made it even harder to try and stop.

Over the next couple of seconds, Agent 8’s breaths got faster and faster, hiccups randomly occurring and making his experience even more miserable. The young teen covered his eyes with an arm draped over his face, remembering that three adults were seeing him like this. He already was embarrassed enough from his incompetence alone, but having people watching him melt down over it was torture.

“I-I…” He hiccuped, threatening to start full on sobbing any second, “I wis-wish...I wish that I-I nev-never heard tha...that…..”

He couldn’t even finish his sentence before he broke out into tears, everything going wrong increasing in magnitude tenfold. Loud, pitiful wails escaped his mouth as he laid on the ground, the octo doing nothing to try and stifle them. He was a mess. A joke, an absolute joke. Promised land? Promised land his ass. There wasn’t a promised land. Not for him, anyway.

The silence from the three adults was broken by Marina, who spoke up in a soft, pitying voice, “Hey...You don’t mean that.”

Eight shook his head as his sobbing grew harsher, refusing to listen to anything they had to say. By this point his face was wet with big, globby tears and a small trail of snot running from his nose. His cheeks were hot with embarrassment and shame, his lips trembling with each sob that left his mouth.

“Eight....”

He covered his ears to signal that he still wasn’t willing to listen, despite the earpiece being able to bypass his hands easily. Even through all of this, he was still feeling stubborn. He felt like he lost control of everything, the least he could do at this point was refuse to listen to anything that the adults had to say. But...even though he wanted control, he felt even worse by his actions, realizing he was still acting like a stubborn brat instead of owning up to himself.

“Look, Eight,” Pearl took the lead, “You feel like shit right now, I get it. We all have those times. But you have to cut it out.”

He could feel the next wave of tears coming already. He definitely felt like shit, and Pearl’s harsh words definitely weren’t helping him at all.

M.C. Princess took up the speaker once more, “Even though you ruined your chances of making it to the surface through these tests, you still gotta get up off your ass. You can find another way up here, you just gotta start searching.”

Eight held back his hiccups and sniffled quietly, “...H-How?”

There was a quick pause.

“I...I dunno.” Pearl admitted with a bitter tone, “But I say that you first apologize to Mr.Cumber over there.”

“Yeah, apologize.” Marina piped in, “That’s the first step in getting back onto your feet. You can find another way up, but the right thing to do is at least say sorry for your behavior.”

Eight furrowed his brow and sat up, wiping off his face with the sleeve of his odd crop top. As the last few hiccups left his mouth and the last few tears left his eyes, he began to come to terms with his predicament. They were right, they were both right. He could still find a way to the promised land, he just had to try harder. He also...had to apologize. He wasn’t thinking straight before, and he ended up ruining his chances of perhaps the safest, easiest, most direct route to the promised land.

With one more sigh, Eight stood up on to his feet, stumbling lightly due to still feeling a little weak. He turned himself in the direction of C.Q. Cumber, the blue slug sitting a small distance away from him, looking up at the octoling expectantly.

Agent 8 took in a deep breath and swallowed his pride. His pride was the thing that doomed him, so he had no choice but to put it down for now and own up to his actions.

Twiddling his thumbs and looking off to the side in a shy and ashamed manner, Eight stepped up to Cumber and gently murmured out an apology.

“Mr.Cumber? I’m...uh…” He hesitated, “I’m sorry.”

“That’s it?!” An exclamation came from his earpiece.

Eight jumped and looked around wildly, briefly forgetting the earpiece altogether and the people connected to it.

“You gotta say more than that, yo!” Pearl instructed, “That’s the most half-assed apology I’ve ever heard! And for what you did? Pshh, I would turn you away in a heartbeat and kick you to the curb.”

Anger flaring up again, Eight took in a sharp breath and prepared to bite back a rude statement but then held his tongue. She was right. He hated to admit it, but she was right.

Eight clenched his fists, swallowed as much pride as he could, and stared down at C.Q. Cumber with a stern gaze, “Mr.Cumber, I’m really sorry for what I did. My actions were unforgivable and childish. I should have listened to your advice and I truly do apologize for my behavior. I really hope you can forgive me.”

No words were said for at least ten, long seconds between the two. Eight could feel his ears tilt down in disappointment, figuring that Cumber wasn’t interested in hearing any more words from him. Hot tears threatened to prick at the corners of his eyes, but Eight blinked them back and turned his direction to the halted train toward the back of the station. He blew it. Next course of action was to central station, then maybe finding a way to climb out of there.

In the middle of Agent 8’s stride to the train’s entrance, a small voice picked up.

“I accept your apology.”

Eight whipped around just in time to see C.Q. Cumber switch back on the turnstyle with a single appendage, the object making a small jingle as it came back to life.

“Holy shit.” Pearl uttered from his earpiece, nothing but awe in her voice.

“You hear that, Agent 8? That means you can keep on truckin’ through the tests!” Cap’n Cuttlefish cheered, an odd amount of feedback filtering his voice.

“Wipe the tears off your face and keep going!!” Marina encouraged, “You can do this, Eight! I believe in you!”

“I believe in you too!”

“We all believe in you!!!”

Stepping back up to the turnstyle, Eight picked up the CQ card he had thrown down just minutes ago, wiping it off against his pants and holding it up against the scanner. He turned his gaze to C.Q. Cumber, who was back on the wall and slithering along at his own pace.

“Thank you.”

C.Q. Cumber tilted his hat at him with a single stretched appendage, “My pleasure.”

Looking back at the turnstyle, Agent 8 got into a ready stance and prepared to launch himself into battle once again. With a determined grin on his face and a new freshness in his mind, he propelled himself into the test once again and decided to try out the splat roller weapon for once, just to see what it was like.

He had a pretty good feeling about this one.

Chapter Text

It was late, the time specifically was unknown to Agent 8 but he knew that it was definitely sometime in the morning. He wished he could be in a bed at the moment, resting his pretty little eyes and actually getting a full night’s rest for once. He’d even take a patch of grass on the cold ground over doing this test in all honesty. He was feeling funny and genuinely just wasn’t up for doing tests at the moment, a slightly nauseating feeling was in his gut and his clothes kept feeling uncomfortable and overall he just was feeling really crummy.

Sadly, fate had other plans. Cuttlefish pressured him to knock out one more test for the night, just to get a head start on the next day. Eight initially refused due to not feeling so hot, but after five joyful seconds of pressure from the old man, he went with it. The more CQ points and the faster he could make it outside the Deepsea Metro and away from ‘Craig’, the better.

Now, here he was. Doing another one of those tests.

He actually was doing decently at first, blowing through the first couple enemies like they weren’t trouble. His grip was clammy and he was sweating a little more than normal, but he just blamed that on the odd pack of chips he bought from a Central Station vending machine. Five chips in and he chucked the packaging onto the tracks, never looking back at them as they were ripped to shreds by the incoming train. C.Q. Cumber fined him for littering and he lost quite a couple of CQ points but did he regret it? Not one bit.

However, as time went on and as he advanced through the test, Eight couldn’t help the feeling that something was ‘off’. His grip on his brella went from being clammy to straight up shaky, he couldn’t keep his hands still. They also felt incredibly cold, making Eight hold his weapon between his legs for a brief second and huff hot hair into his cupped hands. Maybe he needed gloves? It wasn’t cold in the facility earlier, so maybe he was just under an air vent?

A small pulse went through his head as he continued on, another annoyance that was slowly starting to agitate the octoling as well with each step he took. It wasn’t painful- well maybe it was just a little- but it was definitely hindering Eight and contributing to that whole ‘off’ feeling. It was distracting, that’s for sure.

So distracting, in fact, that Eight waltzed right into a pool of gross, goopy, light blue and swirly ink without a second thought. The burning feeling that slowly climbed up his legs was just as familiar as ever, the blue goop slowly enveloping itself around his leather boots and pants. It never climbed higher than his shins, but boy did they burn.

The pain was a sharp wake-up call for Eight, who immediately danced around in the ink in a frantic attempt to step out of it and onto clean ground. He stumbled and swayed as he desperately looked for an uncovered piece of floor, tripping over his own feet by accident and flopping face-first into the puddle of ink. Luckily, he managed to catch himself with his arms, but one really couldn’t call that ‘lucky’ since now two areas on his body were getting burned and his brella was a large distance away from him after being accidentally thrown in the midst of the fall. Eight hissed in pain as the ink climbed up his hands and forearms, the sensitive skin in those areas screaming at him to get up and out of there.

Agent 8 struggled to stand back up from his fall, his hands were shrieking at him and only shrieked louder when he put weight on them to push himself from the ground. It stung terribly, he could see his own skin and the ink that formed it starting to bubble and blister from the invading foreign substance. Eight swallowed the pain and grit his teeth as he eventually began rising back up from the ink puddle, the effort taking much more out of him than he expected. His arms were shaking and aching as he slowly stood back up on his feet, the blue ink dripping off his fingers and his skin starting to cool down.

Taking in a breath and preparing himself, Agent 8 slowly began to tug himself out of the ink step by step. He made a mental note to head toward the walls, which didn’t have ink immediately surrounding them. From there, he could calculate the best route to reach his weapon and get back on track to reaching the go-

Underestimating the pull of the blue ink, Agent 8 tripped over his two feet yet again and made another plunge toward the ground. However, with a panicked yelp, he took another step and then another, struggling to keep himself upright in the murky blue ink. It was never meant to be, though, as he immediately lost his balance and tripped over his feet for the third time in the last five minutes.

Except, this time he unexpectedly hit the walls a little too early. Eight forgot to pay attention to his position in the midst of panicking while trying to stay balanced, so as a result he forgot to prepare for the walls he was trying to approach in the first place. Unfortunately, that meant that Eight took a bit of a tumble straight into the wall, banging the side of his head against the hard concrete and letting out a sharp cry of pain.

Yelps and shrieks instantly rang through his earpiece, the adults on the other end all asking for any sort of sign that he was either okay, or not. At least, Eight figured they were asking. A harsh ringing sounded throughout his eardrums as soon as the impact occurred and his vision was blurry with a bunch of black dots everywhere, but other than that and the burning sensation still on his legs, Agent 8 was doing just peachy.

It took Eight at least five minutes to get himself together, slowly pulling himself up from the ground and using the wall to aid him as he struggled to stabilize himself. That entire time, everyone on the other end was constantly asking him questions and making sure he was doing okay, annoying Eight to the core. The best responses he could muster was simply the mutters of ‘’m fine.’ and ‘Don’ gotta worry.’ under his breath, deeply worrying to everyone on the other end. Hell, even C.Q. Cumber’s voice was starting to make an appearance, though his words were scrambled in with everyone else’s frantic shrieks and Eight didn’t understand a word he said.

There was a small pause as all the adults seemed to notice something.

“OH MY GOSH Eight!! You’re bleeding!!”

Was he? He didn’t notice.

No, really, he didn’t notice. He wasn’t noticing much at all anymore, actually. His vision was constantly blurring and that ringing in his ears still wasn’t going away despite Eight shaking his head to try and clear it somehow. In fact, the shaking was a terrible idea, it made his headache go from a solid six to an eight and a half, almost a nine. It hurt like hell, but it was bearable. Barely.

Eight narrowed his eyes as he struggled to focus on his surroundings and find his brella, the task being much more challenging since it was the black ‘undercover’ brella and the test was taking place in a dark setting. If he found it, he could hurry up with the test and be on his merry way to hopefully a bed and not a coma. He was already feeling pretty crummy, both on the inside and out. The head injury was probably messing with him.

Feeling around on the ground for his brella, the octoling eventually managed to locate it and continue on his way to the goal. The concerned adults on his earpiece were chatting amongst each other, seemingly talking about something. Maybe taxes. Eight couldn’t focus, plus that ringing was still in his ears, so he didn’t bother with trying to listen in on their conversations.

That was a mistake, as Pearl out of nowhere shrieked his name, causing him to jump and immediately clutch his head from the pain. The clanging of his brella as it dropped to the ground aided in the volume of the annoying ringing in his ears, rising his agitation levels ever so slightly.

“Pearl! Quiet down!!” Marina reprimanded her in a whispery voice, “He might have a concussion!”

“I was just trying to get his attention!” Pearl argued back in the same whispery tone, “He just kept walking forward with that look on his face, not paying attention to anything. Did you see it? He doesn’t look that good, Marina!”

“I can hear you.” Eight muttered bitterly to himself, reaching around for his brella yet again so he could carry on within the stage.

“Eight! Is there a way for you to get out of there? We need to stop this whole ‘test’ train, like, right now.” Pearl stated with worry in her voice, “You really should get your head checked out or at least rest up a while before fighting anymore.”

Eight shook his head as he located the brella once more and kept moving, stumbling in his steps ever so slightly, “‘s good. I’m good.”

Objections all came from his earpiece, voices of all different pitches and tones yelling at him to stay put.

“You’re going to injure yourself even m-”

“Please stop! We might be able to come in an-”

“Guys, I don’t think Agent 8 just has a concu-”

“I’m Fine.” Eight interrupted their worrying, stumbling toward a wall and leaning against it. Fuck. He felt all sorts of shitty at the moment. His head felt hot and was hurting on both the inside and out, his hands felt even colder than before and he could swear that he was going to throw up any second now. This was usually normal for Eight since the tests always pushed him to the limit, but his body was refusing to cooperate with him and his need to finish the test.

Agent 8 rested his forehead against the cool walls, trying to get himself together and muster the energy to get back into battle. He very likely had a concussion and maybe even a fever, yes, but was he going to back out of this test now? Hell no. He already made it this far, what’s a little more to go? Sure, he was risking a second injury and possibly even worse, but in all fairness he reaaaaally was just desperate to get out of this hellhole as fast as he could. The faster he finishes the tests and gets to the ‘Promised Land’, the better.

Eight wondered what the promised land was like often. He had a lot of questions and tried to ask them to Cap’n Cuttlefish, but the old man would tell him that he’d need to experience it for himself. He had a point, despite how sour Eight felt at the time. Experiencing it for himself was going to make it even more fulfilling and worth it. He could almost imagine it now...An actual sun that would shine brightly in the sky, blessing the world with actual sunrises and sunsets. Actual clouds that would clutter the sky and bring down the fabled ‘rain’ he had heard of before. Animals that would…...

The clanging of his brella falling on the floor yet again startled him out of the doze he accidentally faded into. He looked around anxiously, thinking an enemy was attacking him before realizing he had simply just dropped his weapon once more in the midst of him dozing off. Sighing, Eight wiped the small trail of drool dripping from his lip and picked up the weapon, continuing his trek onward into enemy territory. He really was starting to wish he could sleep in a bed of grass at that moment.

“Damn, I was hoping he’d stay asleep.” Pearl joked, though with an obvious stressed tone in her voice.

“Eight, can’t you just super jump back to the station? I don’t want you to strain your body anymore.” Marina asked, exasperated. Eight could just imagine her slouched, resting her head on her hand with a pouty expression. That’s how he imagined her to act, anyway, he only had the pictures shown in the chatlog to go by.

With a quiet ‘no’, Eight took in a small breath and moved forward. He had to defeat multiple ‘octarians’ and octolings, all of which much more challenging to defeat due to his circumstances. The pounding in his brain was getting stronger second by second every time he remained in combat, pressure building up and making Eight feel like his head was going to explode. He had to climb, jump, roll, and do a lot more to avoid getting splatted in the test and potentially having to start over from the last checkpoint. He really didn’t want that, the octolings had given him hell, the octo...things also were hard to deal with too, standing on thin platforms as he struggled to reach the next area.

Nothing but relief was in Agent 8’s mind once he realized the next and last area had a checkpoint, the familiar ringing sound echoing in his ear alerting him that he only had a little ways to go. He was so, so tired. He really wanted to sleep. He wanted to sleep away this ‘concussion’ he had, plus this fever he was sure he had at this point. He was cold, hot, sore, sick, and all sorts of Bad all at once. He really could use something to drink, too.

Without thinking, Eight promptly collapsed to his knees and rested on top of the checkpoint, completely exhausted. He knew he had a little more to go but...could he take a nap? Just for a little? There wasn’t a time limit on the stage, so as far as he knew, he could take as long as he wanted. Naps were definitely permitted. C.Q. Cumber didn’t say so but Eight did and Eight wasn’t in the mood to not have naps allowed in the test facility. Eight was... really fucking tired.

Slowly laying down on the chilly checkpoint, Eight curled up into a ball and closed his eyes, desperate to get some shuteye in. The odd getup he was in with the whole exposed stomach and missing left sleeve made it hard for him to get comfortable, but he managed to work with it. Nobody could stop him now, he was gonna take a nap and he was gonna like it. He felt better already, just laying on the ground and taking a small break was doing wonders for him both mentally and physically. He really could just...just....lay here forev…….

….

….

….


 

Oh.

Oh wow.

The moment Eight woke and sat up, he knew that it wasn’t going to be good from here on out. The nap felt great, it felt fantastic. The feeling after that, though, was the exact opposite of being refreshed. In fact, Eight felt worse. His head was incredibly fuzzy and felt as though lead was stuck inside of it, making it incredibly hard to keep himself upright. He was shaking, too. It was so cold, he was surprised to see that there wasn’t a visible breath of warm air coming from his mouth. The cold was probably tied to his ‘fever’ or whatever, which would also explain how his head felt hot at the same time. Eight felt like a severely messed up air conditioning machine.

“Oh, you’re awake.” Marina spoke up in a disappointed voice and interrupted the silence, “How are you feeling?”

Eight responded by promptly laying back down and closing his eyes. A few more minutes of shuteye wouldn’t kill him. This gross feeling all over him could likely be solved with another nap.

“Agent 8, I highly recommend you proceed to the goal. Momentary rest is fine, but prolonged sleep in a testing area could worsen your health.” C.Q. Cumber stated, a light amount of static attached to his voice.

“Can’t you just make his pack on his ink tank thing explode so he loses his lives and starts over in the station?” Pearl asked, sounding tired.

“I’m afraid not,” Cumber responded in a slightly dejected tone, “I am prohibited from detonating the test bomb unless a subject has either failed their tests or in absolute emergencies.”

“Doesn’t this count as an emergency?!”

“...I’m afraid not.”

“Ugggh!!” Pearl groaned, the screeching of her feedback from the volume making Eight’s headache grow worse. He just didn’t have the energy to alert her of his annoyance anymore. He really felt like shit.

Deciding enough was enough after another five minutes of sitting at the checkpoint, Eight slowly rose to his feet and stumbled to keep himself stable. His vision swam and his balance was all over the place, the young octoling practically having to hug a wall to stay steady. It didn’t help that his nausea levels were starting to spike up either, really making this a much harder challenge than it needed to be.

Eight pressed his head against the wall to cool it down once more, closing his eyes and taking in a deep breath. He was a little on the stubborn side and he knew it. He knew that proceeding through the level instead of super jumping back was a dumb move, but he just wanted to knock this challenge off his list. He was almost done, he could almost taste the victory. A long, peaceful nap was waiting for him in the train, the repeating thumps of the train rolling along on the tracks lulling him to slumber.

“Agent 8!”

Eight jumped and tripped over his feet, falling onto his back in surprise. He didn’t even notice he was dozing again. He was really out of it, too out of it. He needed to hurry up.

Silently thanking whoever it was that called his name, Eight stood back up and stepped forward, leaning against the wall and completing the test slowly and steadily. The pounding in his head made itself known once more as he entered combat with another octoling, but he gave the effort to ignore it so he could defeat her and move on. She was a challenge to defeat, but it wasn’t too difficult. Her movements were repetitive, robotic. Very predictable.

Looking up ahead, Eight could see the bright and yellow light of the goal shining and making itself known. He smiled, though it was incredibly lackluster. Almost done.

The fight between the octosniper, the last octoling, and those other octotrooper things was hell. Eight almost got himself splatted, the sniper having landed a solid hit on him straight in the chest, knocking him to the ground and shattering his regenerative armor. Eight managed to avoid injuring his head even more during the fall by rolling to the side and rushing at the sniper, ending its reign of terror. The others were a little easier to deal with, most of them just sat and shot at him while the octoling just did the same, repetitive moves as the last one.

Eight slouched against the wall, thankful he was almost done. All he had to do now was touch the...thing. The goal, he had to touch it to pass the test. He was so happy, he could almost dance. He would’ve if he were feeling good, but that dance had to be reserved for another day. Preferably a day when he wasn’t suffering from a head injury and a fever. He really wanted to take another nap.

The nausea was almost unbearable for Eight at this point, letting him know that his stomach wouldn’t be going easy on him any longer. The fighting and the constant moving was enough to get his stomach on the fritz, making his victory slowly grow sour with each passing second. With a bit of effort, Eight fought to keep whatever it was that he last ate in his stomach, pushing himself away from the wall and to the goal.

His vision was blurring and his balance was incredibly off, but Eight could tell that his fingers were almost to it. He was almost done. He had it in the bag. Just one touch onto the yellow, sparking goal…

BZZT!

Eight shrieked as a spark of electricity ran through his fingers, startling him into backing away a couple steps frantically. Then he tripped over his feet again, landing right back onto his bottom.  Right, he had to shoot it first. Today really wasn’t his day. Where was his brella again?

Oh yeah, he dropped it in the middle of panicking. Figures.

Picking it up for the upteenth time that day, Eight groaned softly and aimed the weapon at the goal, watching the individual pieces eventually come together and slam into the ground. He still didn’t really understand what the goal even was. It looked like a pen but with fancy lights on it. Eight wasn’t sure what it was, but he just wanted to touch it and get out of there.

Before the goal was able to pull itself apart, Eight reached forward and lightly touched it with the tips of his fingers, a little more cautiously due to being shocked earlier. The goal rang, then pushed itself into the ground and disappeared. A very anti-climatic ending but an ending nonetheless.

“You passed the test.” C.Q. Cumber announced, “Please proceed to the launchpad and jump back to the station platform.”

A pink launchpad appeared right in front of the goal, making Eight jump in surprise as his feet suddenly had a pool of swirling ink going all around it. It only activated once he turned to an octopus, so he could sit and recover for a couple seconds. Granted, he didn’t have much to recover from, but standing for so long was starting to take a toll on the young octoling.

Plus, that whole ‘nausea’ thing was really starting to bite him in the ass. Hard. Eight had to stand still for a moment, leaning on his brella like a cane to keep himself on his feet. Bile was starting to crawl up his throat, adding to the overall shitty feeling he was going through. Eight did his best to hold it back throughout the entire test but overwhelming exhaustion was making it hard to do, resulting in the ensuing events.

“...Mr. Cumber?” Agent 8 spoke up quietly, wobbling ever so slightly on his feet. His speech was slurred and he stuttered as he struggled to speak with both a scratchy throat and a head injury.

There was a tense moment of silence.

“...Yes?” C.Q. Cumber answered.

“If I t-th...throw up, do I gotta clean it?”

“Oh m-Just leave, Eight!” Pearl shouted irritably, “Find an actual trash can back at the station!”

“The test automatically resets once the subject exits the area.” C.Q. Cumber responded over Pearl’s objection.

“...Gotta pay a fine?”

“No.”

“Vomit will...will go away?”

“Correct.”

“Sweet.” Eight murmured to himself, slowly stepping away from the launchpad and finding a clear area that wasn’t too close to it.

“Eight, I really don’t think you should do that here.” Marina sighed, “Can’t you hang on for a little longer?”

Agent 8 really wanted to respond to that, but all he could manage was a slow shake of his head. Practically all of his weight was being put onto his brella from him using it as a cane, the poor weapon starting to bend under the pressure.

“Marina, I don’t think he can…” Pearl said with uncertainty, “He really looks like he’s about to blow chunks.”

And he did.

Very, very badly.

Eight was barely able to form coherent thoughts at that moment, all he could tell was that everything hurt. Most especially his throat. It burned as if hell had relocated to the inside of his body and decided to sprout volcanoes that constantly erupted 5000 degree lava. You’d think that would stop him from shivering due to the fake chill his body thinks it’s facing, but in fact the shivering got even worse . Agent 8 was doing dandy!

Hot tears strolled down his cheeks as he spewed onto the floor, though Eight barely even knew they were there since his head felt hot in general. Everything felt hot. And cold. And weak. Eight could barely stand, everything felt incredibly sore and he was using his last bouts of energy to get through literally vomiting while using a weapon as a crutch. How he was going to super jump in the launchpad and land properly in the station, he did not know.

Eventually Eight finished, coughing up the last of what was in his stomach and backing away from the gross puddle. From there, he caught his breath, sitting down on the ground and wiping his mouth with his sleeve due to being too tired to care that he probably got vomit on his only pair of clothes. He was too tired for anything, really.

“...You good, Eight?” Pearl asked hesitantly.

Eight shook his head solemnly, more hot tears falling from his eyes. He tried to wipe them away with his hands but more and more kept slipping, eventually being accompanied by sniffles and hiccups. Sure, everything in his stomach was gone and he felt a little bit better, but he was far from actually being a ten on the ‘feeling good emotionally’ scale.

Cap’n Cuttlefish piped in, “Maybe I have medicine in one of my pockets, I always had a cure-all for my grandsquids when they fell ill!”

“I sure hope you do.” Marina sighed dejectedly, “I wish Eight was up here on the surface so I could make him some soup or something.”

“I’d get him straight up some octo pie! That cheers me up in no time! Speaking of which...” Pearl said excitedly, sounding as though she was getting up to go somewhere.

“Wait! Pearl-Aaaand she’s gone.” Marina groaned, “Octo pie wouldn’t even be good for Eight when he’s sick like this. I don’t think she’s even gonna get me any.”

She continued, “Eight, you should take as long as you need to recover, okay? No more tests until your fever breaks and your head heals up.”

Eight held up a thumbs up, hoping she could see it. He was all for that notion, he didn’t want to participate in another test anyway.

He turned his gaze back to the launchpad, knowing that he’d have to hop into it sooner or later and head back to the station. He really wasn’t looking forward to it, but the faster he got it done and over with, the faster he’d be able to pass out on the train. Eight groaned softly to himself and stood back up, wiping away the last couple of tears on his face and stepping back up to the launchpad.

“Uh, Eight? Are you sure you can do this? Your concussion could interfere with your judgement and you could veer off course.” Marina hesitated, “I don’t like this. You really should find a way to get yourself splatted somehow.”

Agent 8 shook his head and slowly murmured a reply, “All the octos are g-gone. G...Gotta jump.”

“....” Marina sighed, the feedback scratching her voice up, “...Please be careful.”

Eight nodded and stepped into the launchpad, melting down into an octopus and letting the pad launch him in the direction of the station platform. All he had to do now was steer himself and prepare for the landing. He could see it slightly in the distance, growing closer and closer as he flew towards it. His tentacles were flapping in the wind and he had to squint his eyes shut to get a decent look at where the equipper was in the station. He was supposed to land on it and surrender his weapon while simultaneously receiving a mem cake. Now if only he could see it...Stupid concussion and fever, making his vision blurry. Or maybe he just needed glasses, his vision was always a little funky.

Nearing the station, Eight prepared himself to land, turning his body and angling his feet just the right way as he knew since he...well, he couldn’t remember. This was instinct at this point, every creature capable of super jumping would know how to land, Eight no exception.

Sometimes, when that creature is incredibly ill and suffering an injury that hinders balance, that instinct can be a little weak.

Eight managed to land in the station and onto the equipper, yes, but he wasn’t properly prepared for the landing. He came in at an odd angle and his position wasn’t suited for that angle, which ended up paying a terrible price. He could feel himself still moving forward despite trying to land still on the equipper, and that unfortunately resulted in him stumbling off the equipper before it could take his weapon. From there he tried to stop himself to no avail, and promptly slammed face-first into the train waiting in the back with a harsh BANG.

Hot, stinging pain filled Eight’s world immediately. The stinging was immense, he’d never felt anything like it. His headache shot through the roof, going from a solid nine to a heavy, excruciatingly painful five hundred. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t see. He couldn’t even hear. Someone was probably screaming. Was it him? He didn’t even know.

Eight writhed in agony and clutched his head, desperately trying to simmer down the pain even just a little. He was probably crying, screaming, doing all of the above to somehow get the pain out of his system. It was all aching, all of it. It was practically torture at this point for Eight, everything felt like it was on a five hundred just like his head. His throat, his arms, his legs, everything.

He really, genuinely, just wanted to take a nap.

And so he did.


 

Badump.

Badump.

Badump.

Dull lights pierced their way through Eight’s eyelids, forcing the young octoling to stir awake from his deep sleep. He blinked his eyes open, squinting heavily due to his sensitivity to the light despite it being dim, making it even harder to convince himself to keep his eyes open. His mouth felt dry and his throat still felt scratchy and raw, but he thankfully was no longer shivering and shaking excessively like earlier. His head still felt like it was full of lead, though, which is why it took a bit of effort to raise it and look around.

Odd colors and shapes were all around him, occasionally twisting and moving. He could recognize the shapes of the weird jellyfish that lingered on the train, so he took that as an indicator to his location. Plus, the bumps of the train that shook each cart along the tracks were familiar too, slowly working to lull him back to sleep. He resisted, though, just to capture a few more moments of being awake and seeing what was going on.

It took Eight a moment for himself to realize that he wasn’t actually seated on the train’s seats, instead he was being held over the shoulder of...something. Someone? Somebody. Somebody that was really...Tall. They had a maroon jacket with cream colored sleeves, but that was as far as what Eight could see with his limited vision. He tried to push himself away from the person and get them to let go, but the opposite managed to occur in less than a second. The person was really warm and had a very calming air about them, quickly managing to convince Eight to change his mind about leaving and staying awake. He was still incredibly tired and his arms were too weak to struggle out of the person’s hold anyway.

Resting his head on the person’s shoulder once more and sighing blissfully, the last thing Eight registered before falling back under was a flash of blue and a soothing heartbeat.


 

Eight woke up once more, blinking his eyes open and realizing he was no longer resting on someone’s shoulders. He was laying on his side instead, presumably on the train’s cold seats and faced toward the wall. Something was wrapped rather tightly around him, keeping him plenty warm and protecting him from the chilly air of the train. It was heavy, but that could’ve just been his weak limbs needing to put more effort into lifting it off of his form.

Sitting up and pushing the heavy thing to the side, Eight looked around in the train cart and found no passengers other than Cap’n Cuttlefish and Iso Padre, the both of them appearing to be sleeping. He hopped off his seat and stepped around the train, wandering from cart to cart, wondering if the person who was carrying him was in the area. Sadly, the only other person on the train was C.Q.Cumber, and he was busy conducting the train. It must’ve been late, not many people rode on the train during night time.

With a huff, Eight sat back down and began kicking his legs in a childlike manner, realizing that the energy that was incredibly lacking earlier had come back to him. He wanted to get up and move around and knock out more tests, or do just about anything that could let his energy out. He kicked his legs even faster, idly gazing around the train for anything to catch his eye.

His eyes landed onto the ‘heavy thing’ that was wrapped around him earlier, the odd object being the same colors he noticed on that person’s jacket. It took a bit of lifting and twirling it to realize that it was indeed the same kind of jacket. A very, very large jacket. So large that it could probably fit two or possibly even three octolings comfortably. No wonder it was such a good blanket. It also looked oddly familiar, seeming to be just like the kind of jackets sea angels wou…

Oh. That explains a lot.

A soft smile spread on Eight’s face as he realized who gave him the jacket. All the odd denizens that would ride the trains were quiet, but had personality, the sea angels no exception. They intimidated Eight heavily at first with their large height difference, he didn’t want to go near them at all and would always be incredibly uncomfortable if he was forced to sit alongside one. After a while, though, he realized that they were just big dudes with hearts of gold. He once saw one give their seat up for an elderly gulper eel and another quietly play small games with the younger, funnily shaped jellyfish to pass the time.

A little ways away from him was a small bag on the floor, holding a package of several water bottles inside of it. Eight cocked his head to the side and furrowed his brow, wondering why it was even there. Did Cap’n go and get something and come back for when he woke up? Maybe it was Iso Padre’s? That was unlikely, Iso Padre had an overflowing suitcase of stuffed toys, why would he lug around a bag of water too?

“I see you’ve awakened, young squire.” A deep and cool voice cut through the silence.

Eight looked up from the bag of water to see Iso Padre himself turned towards him, looking at him with a pair of his arms still crossed like they always were. When did he wake up? Was he even asleep to begin with?

Eight sighed and stood back up onto his feet, quietly stepping over to Iso Padre to avoid waking Cap’n Cuttlefish. He was really starting to miss the warmth of the jacket, the cool air of the train was starting to make him shiver even worse than he was before. He was already starting to get tired too, but he was also really hungry. Eight didn’t even know how long he’d been asleep, plus he had previously thrown up before then, so now he was incredibly hungry and ready to feast on his own shoe if he didn’t get a snack soon.

In the midst of his own thinking, Eight didn’t notice Iso Padre reaching up one of his tendrils to his forehead until he softly touched it to his skin- the claw feeling cool and refreshing- resting it there and presumably taking his temperature. The isopod did nothing for a moment, leaving Eight to awkwardly stare elsewhere until he was done. All he did next was let out a short hum, taking the appendage back and tapping it to his (imaginary?) chin.

“Still a little warm. Why don’t you drink some water? Being parched is usual after a hefty amount of rest.” Iso recommended, gesturing to the bag of water that sat by the jacket.

It didn’t take long for Eight to gulp down the water, moving from one bottle to another to quench his thirst. Plus, his throat was killing him, he needed something to cool it off and to fill his stomach in the meantime. His appetite was craving food, but this would have to do as a substitute for now.

“When...When’s the next stop to Central Sta-Station?” Agent 8 asked weakly, his throat still needing time to recover. He sat himself back onto the seats and began idly kicking his legs once more, this time with less energy as his time of being awake was slowly starting to dwindle. He really wanted some food first, though.

“An hour or so. I may have forgotten, in all honesty, my watchful eye fails to function when aboard this train. I ride to ride and each ride feels as though I’m gliding through one dream after another.”

Riiiiight.

Eight sighed and took the jacket from the seat, wrapping it around himself and shoving his arms through the sleeves. He felt a little goofy, seeing the ends of the sleeves drape off his hands since his arms weren’t nearly long enough to fit properly in them, but he also felt more comfortable. It was like he was in a giant cocoon, warm and protected from the world around him and extremely comfortable. He should get a whole bunch of oversized jackets once he reaches the Promised Land, he’d try to wear one every single day.

Iso let out a deep laugh, noticing Eight’s liking to the jacket, “A young gentleman donated his attire to you in the midst of your temporary coma, he wouldn’t leave without knowing you were warm and tranquil. He is also the young sir whom generously gave you his bag of water and brought you inside from the test station.”

Eight stared down at the jacket, realizing the person behind it practically gave it up for a stranger, plus his water too. The guy even carried him in from the test station where he passed out, which was really...really rad. Eight could feel heat come to his cheeks as he realized how much the stranger had done for him when he did nothing in return. Was he ever even going to meet him again? He at least wanted to return the jacket.

A new voice entered the conversation, “I swear my hearts all stopped when I saw the young lad slam against the train, it made me worry just like I did when my little grandsquids got themselves hurt too.”

Agent 8 turned his gaze to Cap’n Cuttlefish, realizing the old squid had woken up and listened in on the one-sided conversation. How old were his grandsquids? Maybe they were the children on the background of the odd device he carried, but why was he talking about them in the past tense?

“You worried me sick, Agent 8!” The old man yelled angrily, slamming his odd little cane against the train’s floor, “My mind was going seventy different places while hoping you were gonna live! You’re lucky to even be awake right now thanks to my knowledge in medicine! Much less alive!

Eight turned his gaze away from Cap’n Cuttlefish and tightened the jacket around himself, starting to feel guilty. He didn’t know if it was him being over-emotional or his stupid fever (or concussion) acting up, but he could feel his eyes start stinging with tears. None of them were slipping out, thankfully.

“‘M sorry.” He muttered meekly, voice muffled by his head being halfway into the jacket. He desperately wanted to turn into an octopus and hide in it, hoping Cap’n wouldn’t say anything else.

The old squid sighed and leaned back against the wall, “I can’t forgive you right now, but I’ll accept your apology. This old kook only has a couple years left, y’hear? I don’t need you taking anymore off with your recklessness.”

Eight slowly nodded, twiddling his thumbs underneath the jacket. He wanted to get out of there so badly. Anywhere was fine, just away from the feelings of Guilt and Sadness.

“That lad with the large coat was such a great man to work with.” Cuttlefish eventually started back up, “He picked you up off the ground and held you his entire ride on this train!”

“W...Why?” Eight inquired curiously, one of his ears twitching due to a pesky bug.

“Why, you wouldn’t let go of him!” Cuttlefish laughed, slamming his hand hard against his knee, “Must’ve been so comfy, even your body didn’t want out! Poor lad had to sit at an odd angle as I patched up your head wounds and we had to pry you off so he could leave!”

Eight knelt down and picked up another water bottle, hoping it’d be enough to satisfy his scratchy throat and to put off his hunger for a little longer. He had to ask Iso Padre to help him open this one since it had an oddly tight cap, but once he got it open Eight glugged it down as fast as he could.

“The next stop to Central Station’s in an hour, Cap’n.” He stated with a small cough while wiping his lip with his sleeve. The sleeve of his own outfit, of course. He wouldn’t do that to a stranger’s coat if he had the possibility of giving it back.

Cap’n sighed as he looked up at the destination time being displayed above the door, “I figured.” He tapped his cane and looked back at Eight, “Why don’t you catch a little more shuteye and then we can nab some grub at those ‘vending machines’ you use?”

Eight wanted to object to the idea of him sleeping anymore, but he actually really did want to take another nap. He’d been tired a lot lately, the sickness invading his body probably sapping all of its energy as it fought back against it.

Laying back down onto the train’s seats, Eight wrapped the jacket around himself as tight as he could and closed his eyes. It was a little uncomfortable since he could now feel the bandages press against his head, but he could work with it. He yawned and slowly curled up, trying to end up in the best position on the tiny little seat. He wished he could’ve at least had a pillow too but the jacket would have to do for now.

“Perhaps a story would be best to get the little one to sleep?” He could hear Iso Padre’s deep voice ask, “I don’t have many tales to tell, however.”

“I got one!” Cuttlefish announced, “This used to put sweet little Callie to sleep all the time when she had a nightmare, this is bound to work on Agent 8. One day, this little kiddo named ‘Angler’ was walking around like he was proud, since he had a neat little light shining fr….”

The proposal for a story even to begin with offended Eight, who considered himself too old to need them. He couldn’t lie that it was working, though, plus it was a pretty interesting story that exceeded his expectations. He could feel his reality slowly fading away and melting into dreams as Cuttlefish continued on, until the young octoling wasn’t conscious any longer.

Chapter Text

Agent 8 was excited. No, that was an incredibly large understatement. Agent 8 was bouncing for joy and shaking so much that he was practically invisible to the naked eye and had enough energy to power the sun for ten billion years.

The young teen had just arrived to an odd elevator after going through hell and back to get out of the deepsea metro. He didn’t really understand how or why this elevator was so conveniently here at the end of the road, but did he care? Hell no. He was about to reach the surface and he couldn’t be happier.

A wide, giddy smile was on the octoling’s face as he gazed around the area with large eyes, beaming with pride and joy. All he saw was white and blue columns and stuff, but soon he was going to see so much more. He couldn’t wait, he seriously couldn’t wait. He wanted to dance, he wanted to sing, he wanted to see the sky!

He wanted to play under the rainclouds as the droplets fell all around him, he himself wearing a raincoat for protection. He wanted to stick his tongue out and catch the fabled ‘snowflake’ on it and let it melt in his mouth like octarians and inklings had did many years ago together. He wanted to feel the sun warm his skin and drink cool water on a hot day at a ‘beach’ and watch the tides drift in and out. He wanted to do so much, he wanted to do soooo so much!

Eight was so caught up in his fantasy that he barely noticed that he was singing and spinning around the place. There was a bounce in every step he took and a lot of heart in the song he was singing, he was never happier. His tentacle was swirling and curling around as he nodded his head to the beat of the song and he didn’t even know what was coming out of his mouth! Then again, the tune sounded like the one he heard two years before, so maybe it was just him singing the tune but flumbling the words. The song was in the inkling language after all, and he only spoke octarian.

“Damn, Eight! You seem so excited for something as small as going up an elevator.” Pearl laughed in his earpiece, sounding amused.

Eight shook his head with a bright smile upon his face, unable to put into words how excited he was. He was just...so happy. He was finally going to get out of this mess and was going to live his life how he wanted. No more oppression, no more constant machinery and suffering. No more fighting and quarrels, just fun and peace.

All of those thoughts went to a screeching halt and out the window once the elevator stopped.

The two adults on his earpiece voiced their concerns as Eight urgently peered around the area, wondering what could’ve caused the elevator to fail. Maybe there was a blockage of some kind? The power source malfunctioned? The young octoling’s mind was racing a million miles a minute, desperate to get this issue out of the way so he could hurry up to the surface. Maybe he could climb off the platform and try to find the source of the problem and fix it himself? While he didn’t know too much thanks to his amnesia, he recalled a lot about mechanical things among the gaps in his memory and could maybe solve the issue himself.

“Wait, who’s up there?” Pearl asked, causing Eight to immediately turn his gaze to sky. Who was she talking about?

In a few seconds of searching, Eight’s eyes landed on someone who looked familiar, standing on a small platform. Who was…?

“That’s Agent 3, but...” Marina answered, not sounding too happy at what should’ve been a fortunate reunion. What was wrong?

Eight narrowed his eyes, cursing his blurry vision as he struggled to figure out what was wrong with Agent 3. Was that...something on his face? It looked like literal, green shit. Glowing, green shit.

“Gaah! Agent 8? Help me!!” He heard Cap’n Cuttlefish yelp with desperation in his voice. Eight looked over a small ways away from Agent 3 and spotted Cap’n Cuttlefish tied upside down and struggling, attached to a UFO. Where did they find that?

Unfortunately, Cap’n Cuttlefish’s call for help alerted Agent 3 of Eight’s presence. Eight watched as Three tilted his head up and then turned and looked over his shoulder, glowering down at the young octoling with a cold look. Immediately, Eight could tell that something was definitely up. The dark-skinned inkling’s eyes were glowing the same bright green as the shit on his head instead of the normal black that radiated warmth. He was likely the reason the elevator stopped.

“That cursed phone hijacked Agent 3’s mind!!” Cap’n yelled as he continued thrashing in his ropes, “He’s not listening to anything I say!”

Eight took a step back, then two, then three. Admittedly, he wanted to run away and go hide under a bed with a blanket. He didn’t sign up for this, this wasn’t a part of the tests! All of that hell of getting the energy core and guiding it and he still had stuff to do?! He shouldn’t have to do this! He didn’t want to do this! This wasn’t FAIR.

Agent 3 didn’t seem eager to let him have a choice, however. Happy to get the battle started, Three launched himself off of the platform in an extremely quick super jump and prepared to land in a hard splashdown right where Eight stood.

Hearing the que for the splashdown, Eight instinctively dived out of the way and began firing his octoshot at the inkling in a desperate attempt to get him to stand down. He didn’t want to hurt what was supposed to be an ally, but he really didn’t have a choice at the moment. Eight’s heartbeats were pounding in his ears as the fight grew more and more aggressive, the young octo barely able to keep up pace as Three shot back at him.

They continued firing at each other, both sides refusing to back down, though Three had the upper advantage. He was much more knowledgeable on how to get around on the battlefield than Eight, much more agile too. The fight would have to end quickly in order for Eight to win, otherwise he’d be worn out and Three would easily overpower him. The pressure was on for the octoling and it wasn’t doing him any favors. With that plus Three constantly on his ass, it was hard for Eight to strategize and think of a good move to pull off to turn the battle around.

Out of nowhere, Three drew a little bit of distance between the two and his head started glowing, bright bubbles emitting from his tentacles. With a grunt, he did a quick frontflip and suddenly there was a bomb launcher resting on his ink tank. Reaching a hand back, Three grabbed a couple flat, circular bombs with small handles from his inktank and tossed them forwards, right at Agent 8. Curling bomb rush.

“Woah woah woah!! What?!” Pearl cried out, sounding confused. “He just used a splashdown! He can’t do that!”

“Oh geez, I think Three may have taken off the limiter, Eight!” Marina informed, “That means that he’ll use whatever special he can to get you! Don’t let him!!”

“That’s fucking scary!” Pearl yelped, “If he’s taken off the limiter, who knows what else he’ll do?!”

“Keep your distance, Eight!” Marina piped up again in concern, “She has a point! Agent 3 could get physical if you’re not careful!”

Eight found it hard to heed her warning, considering the fact that he had to dance around curling bombs that were all strategically placed to do the most damage. That was what was so terrifying about Agent 3, what was so unsettling. He had that cold, calculating look in his glowing eyes that were constantly observing and predicting Eight’s every step. It almost felt as though he knew he was going to win, that he knew he would defeat Eight easily. It made Eight fear for his life.

The octoling stumbled over his feet as he struggled to keep his distance from Three, the latter of the two having finished his curling bomb rush and was slowly inching closer to the young octo little by little. The arena was getting overtaken in bright green ink, Eight’s purple starting to dwindle as the octoling grew more and more overwhelmed. Eight’s grip on his octoshot grew unstable and clammy as the the distance between the inkling and him declined, fear starting to take over his mind. Every step he took backwards, Three would take almost five forward. He was getting closer.

The octoshot slipping out of his hand was the perfect opening. The young octoling wasn’t given a chance to react, too busy trying to quickly pick up his weapon from the ground to notice Three rushing at him. They collided with a hard slam, Three kneeing Eight in the stomach and knocking him onto his back, hands clenched around the octoling’s neck tightly. Agent 8 gasped sharply and struggled, doing his damned best to get out of Three’s grasp and into safety. Despite landing desperate, hard kicks into Three’s stomach and potentially more vital organs, the inkling wasn’t letting up and Eight’s vision was starting to be decorated with dark, murky spots from the lack of air.

Hot tears welled up in Eight’s eyes as he realized that he was losing, he was done for. He kicked his legs as hard as he could against Three and desperately clawed at the hands on his throat.His chest felt extremely tight and constricted, his head hot and light. Choking wasn’t a fun thing to go through at all, and it was an even worse feeling when he knew that he was this close to leaving oppression and entering a life of happiness. He wasn’t going to make it. The dark spots were clouding his vision and his struggling was starting to weaken. The lack of oxygen was starting to get to the young octoling, the life slowly draining from his body.

Eight could barely hear the screaming coming from his ear piece at this point as his fight to live slowed and eventually stopped. Choked noises came from his mouth as he gave one last attempt to try and breathe, to get at least one last breath of air. Everything was fading. His vision, his hearing, everything. It all hurt, everything hurt. Yet...Eight felt almost at peace. A calmness was starting to spread around his body. And man, Eight never felt so. Fucking. Scared.

In the final try to somehow, someway, get Three to let up on him, Eight softly rested his hands over Three’s and squinted his eyes shut, letting the tears built up in them run down the sides of his face and to the ground. With the last of his strength, the octoling opened his dimming eyes once more and stared at Three’s cold and merciless eyes with a pleading gaze, mouthing a small but powerful word with nothing but a wheeze escaping his throat.

“...Please….”

...

Eight’s arms fell to the cold ground as the life left his body, his head lolling to one side. His dark skin was pale, the normal dark red and youthful flush completely gone from his cheeks. His charcoal black eyes were left half open, completely dull and lifeless, staring at nothing but thin air.

Agent 8 was dead.


……….

……….

……….

Eight was laying on his back, but he was floating. Maybe. His limbs and head felt like they were made of jelly and he couldn’t feel the ground underneath his feet. Everything felt sluggish and slow, plus it was hard to move. It was like he was in a pool of opponents’ ink, except without the painful reaction to his skin that it usually caused. It was just slow and very murky.

Straining to open his eyes, the young octoling slowly managed to peer around the area he was in. Black. All he could see was black. He looked up and down and all around and there was still nothing but black. There wasn’t a speck of another color anywhere. It felt empty, extremely wrong. Something was missing, something wasn’t right. It was menacing, overpowering. Where was he?

He slowly sat up, warily gazing around as he rose to his feet. Everything wasn’t feeling right, his mind was incredibly muddled and he couldn’t think straight. It felt as though cotton was shoved into his head and chains were draped all along his body, putting heavy weights on him and dragging him down. Admittedly, he just wanted to lie back down and go right back to sleep, but an odd feeling tingling in his gut told him he shouldn’t. So with a small sigh, the octoling shook his head in an effort to clear its muddleness, and then stepped forward to an unknown destination.

Despite there being no lights or...anything in the area in general, Eight could tell that he wasn’t wearing his usual outfit, but instead the odd modesty moss that was used on growing octolings. It was really strange, he hadn’t been put into this outfit since before he had been released for training. The fact that he was able to even see it in the black area with no apparent light source was even stranger. In fact, he seemed to be illuminated perfectly despite the lack of light, which was a very, very strange thing to comprehend. Something really wasn’t right.

A shiver went down Eight’s spine, the realization that something huge could be going on starting to register in his mind. Someone could’ve taken him when he was unaware and relocated him for something sinister. He could’ve been in incredible danger all this time, and he was none the wiser. The perpetrator could’ve been coming back soon, he needed to leave and get back to...that one inkling. He couldn’t remember who that inkling was at the moment, but he knew he was important. He needed to find a way out of there.

Eight kept walking, slowly stepping his way to wherever he needed to go. Despite the need to leave the area, he had no actual lead on where the exit was. Hell, he didn’t even know if there was an exit. The place felt otherworldly as it was, the idea of him being trapped here for however long he could live without nutrients was startling. He had already been strangled as it was, possibly dying via stomach pains wasn’t a pleasing idea either.

Eight’s movements screeched to a halt, the octoling gasping in shock and his eyes widening, staring at thin air as memories flooded his brain, reminding him of what went down before he ended up in the mystery place. Visions of Agent 3 attacking him whirled around in his mind, the cold and calculating glares that the inkling would send to Eight chilling him to the core. Absentmindedly, Eight’s hand gently grazed his neck, fingers running over the spots Three had gripped just a little time before. The spots were sore, the pain spiking greatly whenever the young teen would put even the slightest pressure on them.

Eight was baffled, not understanding what was going on anymore. He was strangled at some point by Three, and now he was in a mysterious black space and literally wearing a plant. Who even put him in the modesty moss to begin with? Where the fuck was he??

Suddenly, a sound rang throughout the area. Round ears twitching ever so slightly, Eight looked around for the source of the sound. He squinted his eyes, trying to spot anything among the blackness that could’ve been labeled as the source. Black. Black. More black. Twinkling yellow light. Black. Black…

Eight’s eyes snapped back to the yellow light in alarm, the octoling taking several steps back in surprise. Then he narrowed his eyes and tilted his head, the odd sound that the light was making registering in his brain. It was...unlike anything he had ever heard of before. It was both amazing, yet the most dreadful thing he’d ever listened to in his life. It made his heart flutter with joy, and yet also make his stomach drop as though a thick pound of lead was inside of it.

Shaking his head in disbelief, Eight slowly walked toward the light, wondering and hoping that it would lead him out of there. The light got brighter and the sound got louder as he grew closer to it, each step contributing little by little to the intensity of the two. He had to squint his eyes shut after he crossed a certain point, plus he could feel the vibrations of the sound that the light was emitting under his feet, as if Eight didn’t need another reminder of how loud it was.

There was a flash. Three was glaring down at him. People were screaming in his ears. His heart was racing. Three was choking him. Eight wasn’t breathing. Eight wasn’t breathing. Eight wasn’t breathing. Eight wasn’t…

Eight was dead.

Eight was dead?

...Eight gently touched his neck once more, fingers gliding along his skin as the memories passed in his mind yet again. Three’s cold glare wouldn’t leave his thoughts, the  So Three...strangled him to death? He was dead?

“W-” He started hacking and coughing roughly, his throat having flared with a burning pain as soon as he tried to make a sound, cutting him off sharply. He winced after the pain died down, rubbing his neck in an attempt to soothe it.

So...He was dead.

Eight narrowed his eyes and looked around, averting his gaze from the light and tuning out the noise. If he was really dead, then where exactly was he going…?

The young octo started pondering to himself, wondering exactly where the light and sound was going to take him. He’d heard stories about things like this among the other soldiers when he’d previously served in the military, the stories themselves were completely blank in his memories but the overall concept was very familiar to him. When someone’s body seized to function, their ‘ghost’ would end up somewhere special.

Peering at the light just ahead of him, Eight tilted his head as he struggled to remember what it may have represented. He knew that he was currently in some sort of purgatory and he knew that the light was a good kind of special,but where did it go to? The promised land? Reincarnation? Back to his body?? Where??? The definition of the light was always pretty broad, Eight couldn’t remember if there was a specific location that it represented.

If the three things that he was spitballing were his only options, Eight didn’t really like the option of that light anymore. Memories of himself being choked by Agent 3, failing after trying to get to the promised land were swarming through his mind and he really wasn’t up for giving up eternal peace for having to fight for freedom and potentially getting his ass kicked yet again. Was the surface even all that different than the depths? Rumors of the place told him otherwise, but rumors were just rumors. Purgatory was starting to feel like a cosy place that he could live in instead, he could get used to it.

From there, he took one step back. Then two.

Then, he turned around. And walked away from the light.

Eight sighed, unsure where he was going to go from there. How big was purgatory? Maybe he could explore it and find his own place somewhere. If he ended up being able to see anything among the blackness in the future, of course. Maybe there were others there, other octolings maybe? Inklings too? This could be a different kind of ‘promise land’ he was looking for!

...His ear twitched. What was that sound?

Eight listened a little closer, realizing that it was very familiar. It was the light’s noise. It was getting louder. Why?

Turning around, Agent 8 could see that the light that he had already taken many steps away from had somehow gotten closer. In fact, it was approaching incredibly fast, the noise emitting from it was getting louder and he could feel the vibrations under his feet getting stronger.

Shaking his head with dread washing over him, Eight quickened his walking pace, hoping the light wasn’t going to catch up anytime soon. Walking for eternity in purgatory? He was fine with that. He was increeeedibly fine with that. He could spend the time trying to get his memories back, he was completely fine with that.

The light, in fact, was definitely going to catch up sometime soon.

Looking behind himself to judge the distance, Eight jumped in surprise as the light was alarmingly much closer than it was before.

He frowned, speeding up from a brisk walk into a light jog.

Then into a run.

...

Then into a sprint.

He was hysterical at this point, in all honesty.

He could hear the sound right behind him, the light was upon him. It wanted him, for some reason, but he definitely didn’t want it back. He wanted to stay in purgatory and wander around, he didn’t want to risk the idea of going back to life and having to fight and risk choking to death again. He wanted to stay and just have peace for once. He wanted a choice over his own destiny and damnit was he gonna run for his life (death?) just to try and achieve it.

He could feel it touching him. The light was starting to melt over his body, providing a comforting warmth that he did not want right then. Eight struggled against it, feeling the light start to pull him in even deeper and forcing his limbs to slow down to a standstill. He shrieked and begged, kicking his legs as desperately as he did before, fighting to escape and run away but for the exact opposite reasons. He didn’t want to live. He didn’t want to live. He didn’t want to live.

He... He was scared.

He was terrified.

Encased in the warmth of the light, Eight slowly felt himself grow tired, immediately understanding that if he closed his eyes, he was going to wake up somewhere he didn’t want to be. He was stubborn for an octoling, but that felt more like a blessing in the current moment than a curse. He was going to keep his eyes open and nobody was gonna stop him.

Except it was getting really, really hard to do just that. Fighting against an unknown force that was probably a thousand times more powerful than him was a terrible idea, but he wasn’t stubborn for nothing. He felt like he was floating again, though, with a bunch of blankets and pillows around him. It was a trap, trying to get him to sleep. And it was starting to work.

He didn’t want this. He really didn’t want this. He didn’t want to wake up to Agent 3 fighting him to the death again. He wanted to stay in eternal rest. He wanted to just die in peace. And fate couldn’t even give him that. Fate was a bastard.

That last thought was all that went through Eight’s mind as his eyes gently closed and his thoughts went blank. The light coursed through his body, putting the octoling at ease and making him incredibly tired. It was the best he had felt in years, and he hated it.

The last thing Eight could comprehend before he went under was a very cool, relieving sensation in his throat.

Fate truly was a terrible bastard.


 

………..

……….

……….

“...fucking GOD! Fuck!! FUCK!!!”

“...no oh no oh no…”

“...n’t help! How?! How the fuck are we su…”

...

Eight squinted his eyes shut as the light around him became too much to handle, slowly coming back to consciousness. Without moving, he could conclude several different things. One, he felt somewhat angry at something, but he couldn’t remember what exactly. Two, he was cold. He was extremely cold. It was a strain to keep his beak from chattering and to wrap his arms around himself. Three, his throat felt incredibly sore and he could barely breathe. It hurt like hell and may have needed medical attention, but he could breathe. He couldn’t exactly understand why he was feeling so relieved to know that he could breathe, but he could and he was elated. And four, someone was screaming in his earpiece.

“What the fuck do we do? What the fuck do we do? What the fuck do we do?” Was a phrase that was constantly being repeated in his ear ever since he woke up. It was in a choked up voice of someone who he recognized...Diamond? No...Ruby? Eight’s mind wasn’t working up to prime and it was aggravating. He knew who this person was, he swore he knew them, but he couldn’t place his finger on it.

Another voice he could hear was just...Sobbing. Someone was crying and was crying hard. Eight could hear the sadness pouring out of her voice as each sob came from the earpiece. Whoever it was, she sounded completely heartbroken. Like she had lost someone dear to her. But who…?

The memories of before flashed in Eight’s mind, startling him into a sitting position. He was strangled, almost to death by something. Someone? Who was it again? All that he could recall was green and...shit? Shit.

Looking around, Eight could see with his hazy vision that there was someone across from him, holding his head and writhing on the ground. Who...Who was that? He could see that they had something green on their head that was glowing, and it also kinda looked...like….

A needle of dread pierced Eight’s hearts as he figured out who it was. Agent 3. The one who almost strangled him to death. What was he doing on the ground over there? It didn’t look good. The inkling was grasping his head tightly, curled up into an odd fetal position and kicking his legs everywhere, almost as though he were suffering from a head-splitting migraine….But why?

There was no time to ask questions, just to act. Keeping his eyes on Three, Eight slowly inched his way over to his dropped octoshot, moving little by little to not alert the brainwashed agent. It was an honest miracle that his octoshot hadn’t melted into a puddle of ink like weapons usually did when discarded, leaving him weaponless. He had a fighting chance. He could do this.

Managing to reach his weapon, Eight gently picked it up and held it in his hands, trying to think of a good strategy to disable Three and potentially bring him back to normal. The inkling was unpredictable, willing to discard battle rules at the drop of a hat to eliminate his opponent. Eight would have to be much more careful, lest Three somehow decides to finish him off if he were to mess up again. Eight couldn’t afford to end up in the same situation as before, he had to avoid being pinned onto his back by the other agent.

Rising from the ground with the softest of groans to not alert Three, Agent 8 quietly stepped over to the inkling and rose his octoshot, taking advantage of Three being distracted by his apparent migraine. His hands were beginning to shake as he pointed the weapon, all the anxiety from before coming back full force. He could do this. He could do this. He...He could…

With a shaky breath, Eight pulled the trigger to the octoshot and watched as the purple ink pelted Three’s body, the harmful reaction of the opposing ink colors making the inkling’s skin start to bubble. Immediately, the inkling halted all movement, seemingly stunned. Then, he slowly picked himself up off the ground, grabbing his previously discarded hero shot with his left hand and shaking off the purple ink like it was nothing. Eight took a couple steps back in both caution and fear, making sure to keep his distance from the unstable inkling. Then he looked up at Three’s eyes and saw something odd.

He…

He was crying.

Eight narrowed his eyes and cocked his head to the side in confusion, not understanding what was going on at all. The other agent looked worse for wear, eyes somehow looking much more tired than they were before, dark bags slowly starting to show underneath them. Large, globby tears were trailing down Three’s face and dripping onto the ground, small sniffles occasionally coming from the inkling as well. His hands were also shaking, grip on his hero shot clearly unsteady and he could drop it at any moment. What was wrong with him? He looked surprised, almost startled.

“Eight? EIGHT?!”

Agent 8 jumped at the screaming in his earpiece and rubbed his ear in irritation, the loud noises causing the feedback to go haywire and produce a whole bunch of glitchy sounds.

“Holy shit! Holy shit!! You’re alive?! We thought you were dead!!

Eight wasn’t given much time to respond to the alarming comment when Three’s head starting glowing just like before, bright green bubbles flowing out of his tentacles. Three did another frontflip, a seemingly plastic sphere suddenly appearing around him in a protective armor. Baller.

Agent 8 shot at the plastic sphere as Three tried to approach him, managing to fight back decently this time. The inkling was struggling to make it to him, and it was clear based on the frustrated expression on his face. It was kinda strange, seeing Three show so many emotions. He had come off as the stoic, edgy type to Eight as a first impression when he came crashing in through the ceiling. Then again, he was didn’t look too old, not really seeming all more experienced than Eight himself. He was a child, definitely, but also a little closer to adulthood than the octoling. He had a little ways more to go to being the true ‘edgy’ adult that he tried to come across as.

Seeing the baller fill with green ink, Eight quickly backed away but still kept his gun up, watching as the sphere exploded into pieces and green ink flew everywhere. Thankfully, he was far enough away to remain unscathed, but Agent 3 was quickly making his way towards him.

They circled each other multiple times, each doing their hardest to pelt the other with enough ink to get them weakened. Eight was managing to hold strong this time, Agent 3 seemingly more hesitant and slow in his attacks than before. Something had definitely changed in him, but there was no time to fret about it. Eight had to win, or everything he fought for would be for nothing.

Growing cocky, Eight began to push forward against Three, starting to believe he had the advantage in the fight. Tossing a splat bomb behind the inkling, Eight quickly forced the other within range of the bomb, damaging him even further once the weapon exploded and practically covered him in ink. The purple goo clashed with Agent 3’s green ink, causing his skin to start bubbling and his movements restrict incredibly. Forced to retreat, Three slowly backed into a corner of the battlefield, unintentionally giving Eight the advantage. This was it, he was gonna win!

As if intentionally dashing Eight’s hopes, Three shook the ink off of himself and quickly super jumped off the platform before Eight could finish him, soaring high in the sky and landing swiftly onto the ufo that held Cap’n Cuttlefish.

“What the hell is he planning now?!” Eight heard Ruby yelp in his earpiece, causing him to jump since she’d been awkwardly silent the entire time. M...That one octoling girl was still quiet herself, however, Eight couldn’t hear a peep coming from her end at all. He still was having a hard time recalling who they were, but he knew they both had been extremely significant on his journey.

In a flash, Three suddenly pulled out a stingray, aiming it sharply at Eight with no intent to hold back this time. The inkling grunted and pulled the trigger as he strained to hold the special up properly, the backpack being an enormous strain on his movements. The stingray fired, engine roaring to life as bright green ink flew out of the nozzle, right to where Eight was standing.

Diving out of the way, Eight quickly sprinted around the arena as the ray of green ink followed after him. He panted heavily as he weaved around the leftover ink on the ground, constantly switching from octopus to octoling to keep his quick momentum while simultaneously inking the ground in case Three were to leap back down. The wind was whirling past his ears as ran, the high pitched shriek of the stingray engine sounding among it a reminder that he could fail at any moment.

There was a couple of close calls here and there when Eight would slow down even just a tad, but eventually he came to a stop, realizing that Three was no longer firing a ray of death at him and he could finally rest. Wheezing in an attempt to get his breath back, Agent 8 rested his hands on his knees and squinted his eyes shut as he desperately tried to recuperate fast enough before Three attacked yet again.

Fate was a bastard.

Hearing the cue for another splashdown, Eight opened his eyes and saw bright rings of light circling right where he stood, Three just milliseconds from landing on top of him. Yelping in surprise, the octoling leaped as far as he could from the center of the circle, feeling some of the green ink splashing against his back and irritating his skin. He was used to it at this point thanks to all the times he’d fail the tests before, the bomb strapped to his ink tank having done a number on him.

Turning to face Three, Eight was baffled when all he saw was a large patch of green ink along the ground, the inkling nowhere in sight. The cue for the splashdown rang yet again, and Eight immediately looked down, seeing the rings that would signify it circling him once more. Shrieking, Agent 8 again lept from the middle of the circle just like before, barely managing to escape the radius that would’ve ended him. More ink pelted his back, knocking him to the ground and forcing him to lay and recover.

Sadly, Three wasn’t having it. Another cue for a splashdown sounded, the octoling groaning out loud in exasperation. That was three in a row! Was Agent 3 really this energetic? Constantly using specials was known to take a toll on one’s body, which is why they had to be used sparingly and carefully. The frequency he was using them was setting himself up for disaster, his body was likely getting overloaded and would crash severely if he wasn’t stopped soon.

Rolling out of the way, Eight narrowly managed to avoid death by splashdown, but he was getting close. He slowly stumbled to his feet, using one of the obstacles in the arena to support himself, his entire body feeling numb and yet aching. Eight shook his head to rid of it of any ink, using one hand to quickly wipe off the goop all over his arms and legs. He absolutely hated the feeling of it, it wasn’t like any sort of ink he’d felt before. The burning ink felt like it was moving, like it was actually trying to penetrate his skin and dig deeper. It was mortifying, like having liquid bugs all over him, desperately trying to get in to become parasites. Was this what Agent 3 felt? But in his head?

Peering up in the direction where Three should’ve been standing, Eight only saw him looking back, unmoving. He was just...just staring. Unblinking. His eyes were wide, as if staring into Eight’s very soul or some deep mythical equivalent. Looking closely, Agent 8 could tell that the inkling was twitching ever so slightly; hands, ears, eyes, everything was doing some sort of subtle movement. It was as if the other agent was struggling to keep himself together, the thoughts that were possibly swirling around in his head was a giant mystery to Eight.

A clanking sound made the octoling’s ears perk up slightly. Looking down at Three’s feet, Eight could see his hero shot- discarded carelessly on the ground, a dent or two possibly taking home on the odd weapon. After a moment, the weapon slowly began to melt into nothing but a puddle of ink, blending into the ink that it had covered the ground with just minutes before. All the while it was happening, Three never broke his cold, intense stare at Agent 8. What was he doing?

“M...Maybe he’s surrendering?” A quiet, croaked voice whispered in Eight’s earpiece, sounding similar to the crying person from earlier. What was her name, again? Marine? Something close to that.

Eight kept his gaze locked on Three as they both stood just feet apart from each other, the octoling not comfortable with discarding his weapon alike to Three. In fact, he gripped it tighter, wary that the same situation as before was going to take place. He didn’t want to end up choking just like before. He wasn’t going to lose it this time. He made sure of it.

“I don’t think he’s surrendering, ‘Reena…” Ruby suddenly spoke up, sounding incredibly hesitant. That was the other’s name? Reena? No, there was something missing...Marine….Reena…It was on the tip of his tongue, he knew it was there.

He wasn’t given much time to dwell on it, however, as Agent 3 was quickly approaching. It was small steps at first, so quiet that Eight had to strain his ears to listen. Then they got faster. Harder. Louder.

Three reached up an arm, millimeters from snagging Eight’s wrist. Everything was moving in slow motion, his brain going a million miles a minute. He was dead. He was dead.

“RUN EIGHT!! RUN!!!” Voices shrieked in his ears, the teen sharply dodging away from the outstretched hand and quickly jumpstarting into a sprint in the other direction. He could hear the inkling running right behind him, catching up with speeds to envy. Eight poured all his energy into his legs, desperately trying to evade the older boy and get to safety. He didn’t know how long he could last, but he’d keep fighting to avoid certain death for as long as possible.

Those hopes were dashed as he felt himself being tackled from behind, knocking Eight off of his feet and onto his stomach, forcing a harsh exhale to escape from his lungs. He could hear the adults in his earpiece gasp in alarm and the squirming of Cap’n Cuttlefish in his ropes, all of them incredibly concerned that he was truly done for this time. In the midst of the panic and his struggle to catch his breath, Eight could barely feel the ink tank on his back being slipped off, rendering him unable to produce anymore ink.

He could feel himself being promptly flipped over once the ink tank was taken, coming to meet Agent 3 face to face instead of face to ground. The other boy’s expression was disturbingly calm, bright green eyes staring straight into Eight’s terrified charcoal black. Then, Three’s eyes flickered down to Eight’s octoshot, held tightly in the octoling’s grip and only tighter once he realized that the inkling had an interest in it.

Reaching down, Agent 3 attempted to tug the octoshot out of Eight’s grap. When the efforts proved to be useless, he strengthened it into a yank, pulling incredibly hard on the octoshot to get Eight to let go. However, Agent 8 couldn’t. It was his lifeline, it’s what helped him escape. To let go of it would mean the end, the end of how far he came. If he let go, he’d die.

Realizing that disabling Eight wasn’t going to work in this method, Three looked down at the octoling with a hard, cold glare. Then, with a careless scoff, he reached back and mercilessly striked Eight across the face in one swift motion, the sound of the impact echoing throughout the elevator. Hot, blinding pain bloomed on Eight’s cheek, the young teen crying out in pain and surprise at the sudden stinging in his face. He wasn’t given much time to recover from it, a punch just as swift descending upon his other cheek and snapping his head to the other side in a flash. The attacks kept on coming after that, growing more severe and somewhat sloppier too, hitting his nose and eyes often. Eight could taste the blood dripping from his nostrils into his mouth, a taste he was all too familiar with.

It was practically impossible for Eight to focus among getting hit, but he could recognize the familiar tugging as before on his octoshot. Three was dead set on getting rid of it, attempting to pry Eight’s fingers grasped around the handle off. Gritting his teeth, Eight curled his fingers into a fist and socked Three right in the nose, stunning the agent long enough for the octoling to knee him in the stomach and kick him off. From there, Agent 8 shoved him to the ground and began blindly swinging his octoshot at him, not caring how severely he could injure Agent 3 with his recklessness. Voices from all around were screaming at him to stop, but he didn’t care anymore. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t.

He couldn’t hear or see anything anymore. He reached his arms above his head and held them high, octoshot gripped tightly in his calloused fingers as he swung it down upon Agent 3’s head. Again. And again. And again.

And again.

Again.

Again.

AGAI-

Agent 8 felt someone calmly rest their hand on his shoulder from behind him, the touch itself causing his body to seize up in shock and halt its movements entirely. He sharply looked down, spotting Three laying on the ground completely unconscious, sporting numerous wounds to his face and a bloody nose that was dripping onto the floor. However, the right side of his face was completely bare, the brainwashing goo that had hijacked his mind had fell apart onto the ground and was quickly disappearing. If Three was on the ground, then who…?

“Drop the weapon, Agent 8.” He heard Cap’n Cuttlefish’s voice instruct. Forcing the hand off of him and whirling around, Eight pointed the octoshot straight at the elderly inkling, anxiety high. His fingers felt cold and his hands were shaking, but he kept his gaze fixed firmly on Cuttlefish the entire time, as if worried he’d spring at him and attack him too.

“Eight?” Ru-Pearl asked hesitantly in a careful tone, “You good?”

“...Are you okay?” Marine inquired as well, an almost saddened tone to her voice, “That’s Mr. Cuttlefish, remember? He was with you in the Deepsea Metro.”

Agent 8 flinched as the memories flashed in his mind, recalling exactly what she was talking about. He looked at his extended arms in horror, realizing he was pointing his weapon at another ally after nearly beating the first to death with the same weapon. He almost killed two people. That wasn’t the plan at all!

“Drop the weapon, Agent 8.” Cuttlefish repeated, hobbling slightly closer with his cane. His eyes were wide with a disappointed glint, making the octoling’s gut twist and turn around in complete guilt.

Eight swallowed thickly, yet felt as though his throat was completely dry. Hands trembling, he slowly let go of the weapon, letting it fall to the ground. It moved in slow motion, the only protection he had was slipping out of his grasp. It was going away. He didn’t want it to leave. Agent 3 wasn’t confirmed to have the mind control all the way gone. What if he came back and got both him and Cuttlefish? What if Three ended up staying that way forever? What if...What if…

Agent 8’s breath hitched as the octoshot collided against the ground, the weapon wobbling, then laying still for a moment before slowly dissolving into nothing but a puddle of ink. Useless for defense now. It was over with. It was done.

Cap’n Cuttlefish looked down at the purple puddle of ink, then back up at Eight, “That was quite a scare, wasn’t it? It’s alright now, Agent 8, you’re finished. You won!”

Eight was having a hard time processing that. His gaze remained fixated on the puddle of ink, the same ink that once composed his octoshot that had helped lead him out of the dark depths. The weapon that saved him from getting splatted by the sanitized octo soldiers. The very weapon that saved him from being killed by Agent 3, a powerful opponent that wanted him dead. It was a great weapon. It fit right into his hands, it was what he was trained for. It felt familiar in his fingers, not a hint of it was foreign to him.

And he dropped it.

It was gone.

“Agent 8?” Cap’n called his name, but got no response.

“Eight? Can you hear us?”

“Eight??”

“Eight!”

“Agent 8!”

“Eight!! What’s wrong? Marina, what’s wrong with him?!”

“I-I don’t know! Eight? Can you hear us?? Please say something!”

“EIGHT!”

...

Eight sniffled, face heating up gradually as he struggled to form words with his lips. He stuttered more than once, throat spiking in pain with each attempt which discouraged him from continuing. His eyes were stinging, the heat in his cheeks making him unaware of the tears that were gently trickling down them. His shoulders were shaking with each gasped breath he took, arms reaching up to wipe the tears away despite more coming. He couldn’t stop the flood from coming no matter how much he wanted to.

“A-Aaa…” Was all that he could say with his damaged voice, shaking his head as his tears grew larger and his snot grew snottier. With all that he had been through, added with being hungry and having amnesia, this was the moment that he finally broke down from it all. A shaky whine left his lips as his soft hiccups turned into heavy sobs, the octoling doing what he could to stifle them but to no avail.

In the middle of his sniveling, Eight could feel something gently grazing his cheek. Opening his eyes and looking up, he saw Cap’n Cuttlefish right in front of him, hand reaching out and fingers gently and affectionately wiping the tears from his cheek. The elderly inkling had a warm twinkle in his eyes this time, silently telling Eight that he didn’t care he was mid-meltdown at all. Eight couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a look like that, if ever. It calmed him, he loved it.

Slowly, Cuttlefish grew closer, draping one of his trembling arms around Agent 8’s shoulders and pulling him close into a soothing embrace. The agent was startled by the action, unsure how to react since he’d never received a hug like this before, especially by someone that was older than him. It made him feel protected, like someone cared about him despite the cruel parts of this world. Someone was looking out for him. People were looking out for him and were rooting for him to keep going. People wanted the best for him.

Tears of many mixed emotions welled up in Eight’s mind as his fingers twitched. Then, he slowly embraced Cuttlefish back, crying even harder than before at the realization that he was almost done. He was almost to the surface. He was almost free. Everything was going to be different, everything was going to be foreign. Laughs, smiles, songs. Hugs. All of those were going to be there once he reached the top of the elevator.

Eight couldn’t wait to see the light in the sky.

Chapter Text

Eventually, the elevator got itself moving again, the two agents and Cuttlefish finally being able to reach the surface after what may have been a month or so underground. It was a bittersweet victory for all of them, they all finally made it to the surface but ran into some emotionally damaging conflicts along the way. Thankfully, after all of this, they would finally be able to go home and heal from it all. No more suffering. No more praying to live another day. They were finally free.

Eight was still a bit of a mess as the elevator approached the top, wiping his eyes free of tears and sniveling. He couldn’t help it- he was too excited and just plain happy to be finally done and over with navigating through hell. No more octoshots, no more boring mechanical objects of death, no more cries of suffering and wails of agony. The blinding bright light at the top was everything he was hoping for and more, it signaled the end for him. It signaled freedom. It signaled the next stage in his life where he could finally play and see the stars in the real sky. Agent 8 was incredibly excited to finally be out of the metro and into the real Promise Land.

After a moment or so, the elevator stopped again with a hard thud, signaling to Eight and Cuttlefish that it’s time was done, they both could head off towards their homes. Turning to Agent 3, Eight bent down and gently scooped his arms under the unconscious inkling’s form, grunting as he tried to pick him up off the elevator. The inkling was heavier than he looked, but Eight could easily manage. Plus, his excitement was fuel enough for whatever kind of task he needed to accomplish, he genuinely couldn’t wait to see what the world had in store for him next.

Finally hoisting the inkling onto his back piggy-back style, Eight quickly brushed his longest tentacle out of his face and stepped off the elevator into the world that was eagerly waiting for him. The wind was strong in this area, and it was incredibly dimly lit too. What was going on? He expected it to be a little more...sunshiney. And peaceful.

Looking up towards the sky, Agent 8’s eyes instantly caught sight of all the little lights twinkling in the air, surrounded by a beautiful, sleepy dark blue that was gradually fading into an awakening orange. Buildings resided in the distance, darkened by the lack of light but still shining bright in the night and bustling with activity. The octoling’s jaw dropped as the view truly set in. This is what he’d be seeing for the rest of his life. Every single day. From now until the day he dies.

....Wooow…

... Woooooow!!...

“...ght!” A distant voice called out to him, though Agent 8 couldn’t locate the source no matter how much he tried. He gazed around wildly as he searched for the voice, his round ears twitching as they strained to pick up even the slightest sound.

“Eight! EIGHT!”

Sharply, Eight glanced upwards and spotted a group of helicopters flying in his direction, one in particular carrying colorful spotlights and large speakers, blaring out the same iconic music Eight heard on his trek upward.

Narrowing his eyes, Agent 8 was able to pick out two recognizable figures standing in the special helicopter and enthusiastically waving at him. They were respectfully both Pearl and Marina, the former waving with much more bounce in her step and energy than the latter.

“EIGHT!!” They both cheered as loud as they could, bright and beaming smiles spreading on both of their faces as they grew closer and closer.

"WE GOT YOU!!”

Eight was thrilled, the only thing stopping him from jumping up and down and waving sporadically being the unconscious Agent 3 on his back and the exhaustion that was starting to creep in. He never realized how tired he was until now, the constant dodging and inking from navigating the escape route always keeping the young octoling on his toes. Still, the octoling tried to wave back with one hand, the other being used to support Three as best as it could. He was finally meeting up with Pearl and Marina! The two girls that helped him throughout his entire journey, cheering him up when things got rough. He wouldn’t be there without them.

In a flash, the helicopter had made it to where Eight and Cap’n where located, dropping down a platform and enabling them both to climb on and quietly ride back into the city of Inkopolis. The music was booming in their ears from the speakers and Eight enjoyed every single second of it. He idly swung his head back and forth to the beat as he gently laid Agent 3 onto the platform, making sure he was in a comfortable position before moving to stand near the edge of the platform. He stared down at the gorgeous view below, taking it all in as he held one of the platform’s wires to keep himself steady.

The waves of the ocean glistened in the faint sunlight that was slowly growing stronger, the smell and sound of the seawater completely foreign to Eight but comforting. Pink and orange clouds were scattered along in the sky, gradually fading into a soft purple as they went west. Inkopolis was quickly waking up in the distance, lights turning on in many of the skyscrapers and the faint appearance of cars starting to drive along the streets. It was so...so…

“Beautiful…” Agent 8 whispered under his breath, unable to muster much more than that due to his damaged throat flaring up in pain. He again brushed his longest tentacle out of his face as he looked all around him, truly marveling at the sight and not tiring of it at all. He could stand out there forever, in all honesty. The wind, the smell, the sights… Amazing.

“We’re so glad you made it out okay!!” He heard a voice cheer from above him, a little hard to hear thanks to the wind but much more audible after the speakers stopped playing the music. Craning his neck upwards, Eight spotted Marina looking down at him from the helicopter, the older octoling waving down at him with a graceful swing of her hand. Her bandana around her head was something Agent 8 envied enormously, he’d look pretty good in it too.

Pearl soon popped up right after her, adorning a pink hoodie and a bronze crown that somehow managed to stay atop her head despite her looking down at the three of them.

She looked pissed.

“YOU SCARED THE FUCK OUT OF US!” She shrieked, nothing but fury on her face as she tightly gripped the microphone in her hand, “You almost died! Like, legit! Almost died! What the fuck, Eight?!”

Cap’n slammed his cane against the platform, shouting “Language!” up at her, but it fell on deaf ears.

“When we get to inkopolis, first thing we’re doing is getting you some warm clothes.” She muttered sternly with a firm glare, pointing down at the young octoling, “Then, we’re getting you a good home. And expect daily checkups by ‘Reena and I. We definitely ain’t gonna leave you alone after all of this.”

She then stomped her foot harshly against the helicopter’s floor, “If I could, I’d hop down and give you a gigantic fucking hug! You scared the hell out of me!! I risk getting blown away and falling to my death in the ocean if I come down, though. So the hug’s gotta wait ‘till we get back to land. But you better expect to lose full use of your arms and probably asphyxiate after I hug you.”

Eight didn’t know whether to feel loved or vaguely threatened.

Marina giggled, partially covering her mouth to hide her smile, “Pearlie gets really passionate when she cares about stuff.” She then crossed her arms and furrowed her brow, sticking her bottom lip out in a soft pout, “You really did scare us half to death, though, Eight! Don’t do it again! All my hearts stopped beating when I saw you looking so...lifeless.”

Agent 8 gave a sheepish shrug, averting his eyes onto a stray cloud that was moving along in the sky to avoid seeing the angered glares of his two new friends. What a very pretty cloud.

He quickly yawned and rubbed his eyes, trying to chase away any sleepiness so that he could stay awake just a little while longer. He didn’t want to miss the first hour into his new life! He wanted to stay awake and watch the sky and listen to the ocean...

Suddenly, a loud BOOM exploded throughout the air, startling Eight out of another yawn and making him jolt and trip over himself as he struggled to figure out what the source was. Looking down at the ocean, Agent 8 urgently searched for what may have been the cause, until his black eyes laid sights on the very platform they had left just minutes prior. It was...rising?

“...Um...Are you guys seeing this?” Marina spoke up hesitantly, the gleeful atmosphere replaced immediately by a growing tension. Everyone was now looking down at the platform that was rising from the water, shapes and colors breaching the surface until it revealed that it was…

...

“A statue?! ” Pearl whined, piercing the stunned silence everyone was in as they stared at the massive structure, “What the hell is a statue doing there?!”

Marina frowned and shifted her feet, tentacles curling in agitation, “I don’t know, but I doubt it’s good.”

“That form...But they were said to have been destroyed so long ago. It’s…” Cap’n trailed off, a disbelieving tone to his voice as he looked down at the ominous figure, his hands shaking at a quicker frequency.

“HUMAN!”

Flinching at the sudden shout, Eight rolled his eyes at the Cap’n’s dramatic statement and studied the statue carefully, searching to see if it possibly could’ve been a threat. Wait...was that…?

Agent 8 felt his fingers instantly curl into tight fists, an angered screech bubbling up in his throat as he felt his rage boil in his body. It was that damned phone again, the thing was inside the eye of the statue, spewing out it’s plot to kill all the life on earth as it sat and constantly sputtered out blended ink from it’s ‘mouth’. Frankly, Eight didn’t give two shits about what it was and what it wanted to do. He tuned it out the entire time it was talking, knowing that he’d blow his top and say some things he’d probably regret and hurt his throat even more if he listened to that shrap metal garble out shit anymore.

Eight snapped out of his fit when a sharp hiss sounded throughout the air, the statue’s mouth starting to open unnaturally wide as a large weapon slowly shifted out of it. Bright green slime was twisting and turning in little containers that surrounded the main point of the laser, bright orange connectors pulsing and throbbing as it pumped the ink to keep it active and to prepare it for...whatever it was that the thing said it was gonna do.

With a high pitched hiss, the laser glowed a brighter green than it had before and a rumbling sound started pounding throughout the air. This was it. This was the end of all that Agent 8 hoped for.

“Alright, what the hell is going on?!” Pearl shrieked, urgently bouncing from foot to foot as she grew more ansty as time went on. Her gaze frequently switched from the statue, to Marina, to the statue, back to Marina, and then to Eight. In that same pattern over and over.

“Gimme a sec…I’m analyzing it...” Marina muttered, quickly whipping out her laptop and typing on it like a wizard, sticking out her tongue as she entered deep focus. With a few more clicks and taps, she twirled it around, angling it so that both Pearl and Eight could get a clear view of the screen.

She proceeded to give the group a general spiel about the capabilities of the statue and what it took to defeat it, funky little illustrations and animations playing on the screen and sound effects going with them. Along those animations was a cute drawing of Agent 8 with big eyes and eyelashes, which was kind of flattering and made the young octoling want to ask her to draw more if they all lived.

It was cute, until...Y’know, Eight had to apparently manually detonate each bomb that Marina was going to launch.

He made a noise of dismay, catching the attention of the two girls in the helicopter.

They looked down at him, large amounts of confusion on their faces until Eight showed his hands, alerting them both that the agent was completely empty handed and didn’t have a weapon on him anymore after that brief meltdown he went through earlier.

“Fuck!” Pearl whispered under her breath, bringing a hand to her forehead as she pondered on what to do. Marina looked puzzled and stressed, unsure on how to solve this predicament since she knew that there wasn’t any weapons up and ready on the helicopter.

Eventually, Pearl disappeared into the helicopter for a few moments and reappeared with something shiny and golden in her hands.

“Here, Eight! Catch!” She warned, laying on her stomach and carefully dropping the item in her hands down to the platform below. Eight caught it without an issue, the thing actually turning out to be two things. They were...two mini splattershots? Kind of? Eight couldn’t remember the name.

“P-Pearl! Your custom dualies?!” Marina gasped, staring at the inkling with wide eyes and her hands over her mouth, “You never let anyone else hold them! Are you sure you want Eight to handle them?”

Pearl gave her stressed friend a confident thumbs up, “Eight’s my man! He’s got it. Plus, it’s literally either give him my babies or face the end of the earth. I’d rather see them on the battlefield in someone else’s hands than being blown away into smithereens by a giant obliteratorizerinator 2000.”

She then gave Eight a pointed look, narrowing her eyes and drawing her finger across her neck, mouthing the words, “If I see one scratch on those, you’re dead meat.” Then she gave him a thumbs up with a bright smile as well, acting as if she hadn’t ever threatened him in the first place.

Tuning out the rest of the explanation and directions Marina was giving, Agent 8 looked down at the temporary replacements that he was going to be wielding, genuinely surprised by how shiny and polished they looked. Pearl definitely took care of this thing, not a scratch was found on the item. Rose gold glitter decorated the ends that would hold some of his ink, the black handles looking so shiny that Eight could go blind if he wasn’t careful. Attached to one of them was a small keychain with a logo featuring a pink squid with a crown and a teal octopus with an odd black circle next to it. After a second or two of thinking, Eight managed to figure out it represented Pearl and Marina respectively. Cute.

Experimentally spinning the weapon in his hands, Agent 8 grew a feel for the dualies and felt a genuine and confident smile bloom on his face for the first time in forever. He could do this. He could save Inkopolis. He could save his new home. He could save his new friends.

“Alright, Eight. Are you ready?” Marina asked, laptop in hand and ready to launch her hyperbombs. She looked antsy and uncertain if her plan was even going to work, but she was definitely following through with it until the end.

Eight nodded with a small yawn escaping his lips, twirling the dualies in his hands one last time and flashing his friends a small grin before quickly turning into an octopus and super jumping to the giant statue of destruction. He whirled around in the air, feeling the cool wind blow against his face and rejuvenate his energy as he sailed across the sky, firmly landing upon the statue and doing a small hop to pump himself up. He could do it. He could do it!!

“Alright, Eight! We’ve got around three minutes to stop the statue from destroying our home!!” Marina informed, communicating in his earpiece once again, “Like I said earlier, use the ride rails to navigate the structure and I’ll drop the bombs at the said times, okay? I’ll give you a heads up!”

Agent 8 winced, internally screaming at himself for not listening to the important instructions she gave out earlier. She at least said she’d warn him of when she’d deploy the bombs, but did she say anything other than that?? Something about a...pipe man.

Suddenly, loud music again starting blaring out from the speakers, beginning with a catchy tune and then going into a steady beat.

“Go go go!!” Marina urged, and that’s all it took for Eight to dart right into the mission.

“Go, Eight! Go!! FUCK ‘EM UP!!!!” Pearl shrieked, nearly making the octoling go deaf from the power behind her voice.

“Deploying five bombs on the chest, they look like mini spotlights so they should be easy to see!!” The idol explained in his earpiece before starting to sing along to the song. She had a very beautiful voice that had a lot of heart, despite it being shaky from the stress of the current events going on.

As Eight aimed and blew up each bomb with his dualies, he could hear high pitched beeps and low pitched growls coming from above, loud enough to be audible despite the music and the roaring waves.

“...Submit to your destruction, Agent 8!” Damn it, it was that phone again. Eight could remember it’s awful appearance inside the eye of the statue, the gurgling and writhing of the sanitized ink that was bursting out of its rusted metal nearly making the agent sick to his stomach. It looked so... wrong.

“Ignore it, Eight!” Marina encouraged as he blew up the last bomb, “I’m gonna aim at the neck next, okay? Make your way there asap!”

“You heard her, Agent 8!” Cap’n added, “Head towards the neck and take a break there!”

Panting slightly, Eight nodded and quickly began to make his way to the next area, wheezing slightly from the effort and wobbling ever so slightly on his feet. Normally he wouldn’t be so drained so fast but how long had he been awake…? Longer than he should’ve been. He hoped he would at least last long enough to save Inkopolis. It would be incredibly upsetting to the young octoling if he failed to save his new home because he need a nap.

“Thirty seconds! Launching five bombs on its neck! Do your best, Eight!” Marina informed with a soft wheeze, her singing leaving her tired as well.

Again, Eight nodded and charged for the first bomb he saw, tripping over himself several times as he struggled to climb the giant statue. He internally groaned, whining to himself over how saving the world was too exhausting. He’d be done in a couple minutes, though. And then he’d finally be able to rest.

The same garbled beeps and growls from earlier piped up once again, immediately making Agent 8 want to roll his eyes and cover his ears. After all he went through, he felt nothing but intense, indescribable hate for the phone. He wanted it to burn in hell and be ripped into shrapnel.

“The professor...had the dream of a perfect world…” The phone gurgled lowly, “This world will be reconstituted...fixed... I will do it all for him.”

“Suck...my dick.” Eight rasped under his breath, softly enough so that nobody could hear him. He didn’t entirely know what the phrase meant, but he heard Pearl use it when telling a story about some event in a store and, remembering all the times Cap’n seemed appalled at her language, it’s been in his vocabulary ever since. Despite it boosting his morale ever so slightly, however, it started a stabbing spasm in his throat that made him cough a lung out as he exploded the last bomb.

Once Agent 8 finished working on the neck, Marina let out a soft whoop for joy and quickly gave him the next set of instructions to head to the back. However, he wasn’t able to complete them since he had instantly collapsed to the ground once she finished talking, body shaking with each heavy breath he gasped in and wheezed out. He could hear the girls stutter and Cap’n start shouting, but he couldn’t think about it at the moment. He was so...so.... He really wanted to...He’d been awake for hours ….

“...ah woah woah-Eight! Eight!” Pearl screeched into his earpiece, voice sounding startingly muffled as she desperately tried to get his attention, “Focus, man! Can you hear me? C’mon, dude! Ge...”

He squeezed his eyes shut and grunted, listening to Pearl as best he could and attempting to push himself back onto his feet with his exhausted arms, but to no avail. It was as if exhaustion slammed into him like a train going top speed on its tracks, making his body beg for rest. Everything was burning and overworked, especially his throat. He could feel himself spit out something that tasted dangerously like copper, some of it no doubt coming from his strangled windpipe. He could barely breathe, it was like trying to inhale and exhale through a straw. He didn’t want to die so close to victory.

“Eight? Can you hear me?!” He could barely hear Marina’s voice among the white noise his brain was feeding him, “Listen, just sit tight and try to recover a bit, okay? We know you’re tired, but you have to push through this!! We promise you’ll get to sleep all you want in Inkopolis once you actually save it, okay?!”

Shakily nodding his head, Agent 8’s limbs trembled from the effort as he strained to stand back up on his feet, the young octoling stumbling a couple times as he struggled to maintain his balance. It was even harder to keep himself steady thanks to the dualies in his hands, dropping one could bring the entire world to ruin and make his efforts fruitless.

“Okay, Eight. We used up around 20 seconds of the three minute timer, so every second is now very valuable! We gotta go as fast as possible if we want this to happen, okay? Go!!”

Taking in a shaky breath, Eight forced down all the pain that was holding him back and trudged onward, making his way to the back to detonate the five bombs that were sitting there, waiting to explode and save the world.

After detonating the first one, Agent 8 let out a soft whine at the sight of a ride rail, realizing he’d have to use it to properly aim at the 4 other bombs along the back. Tilting his head back and groaning a raspy sigh, he hopped onto the ride rail and did his best to maintain his balance as he slid along, destroying bombs as he went and trying to make up for the time he had lost.

“Okay! Okay...we can do this. Five more on the right arm once you’re done there, Eight! Make it quick so we can make up time!!!”

Huffing through his nostrils, Agent 8 rode along the rail and did a quick jump to transition himself to the one that surrounded the right arm, flailing his arms as he desperately aimed to maintain balance. He eventually got himself under control, easing into a better stance so he could comfortably aim at the bombs positioned along the arm.

“You good, Eight?” Pearl checked in, “Stay focused, okay? You can do it! We promise we’ll let you rest once you’re done! Swear on it!”

“You will never be finished! You will be blended up into the raw material that will aid me in the construction of the new world!” Tartar snarled, the sound of the writhing sanitized ink coming from him almost deafening in Agent 8’s ears.

Heartbeats pounding in his eardrums, the octoling strained his arms to aim at every single bomb on the right arm of the statue, the exertion tiring him out to dangerous levels. Everything was hurting intensely and his legs were trembling, struggling to stay standing on the ride rails and keep pushing onward. His throat was on fire and he had a headache that felt like a dozen hammers were pounding into it, but he continued anyway. He had to. He needed to.

“Okay, Eight! This is it!” Marina warned in a cracking voice, “I deployed the last ten bombs onto the statue’s head!! We only have around 45 seconds left so make it count as best as you can! Use the grapplink to change rails!!”

Adjusting his stance, Agent 8 listened to her advice and looked out for the grapplink that caused his suffering many tests ago and during his climb up as well. Once he laid eyes on it, it took his arms a few seconds to properly aim up at the dreadful object, a few ink shots all it needed to yank Eight onto the rail that surrounded the head top to bottom.

That didn’t stop him from shrieking out a strangled yelp as he was tugged across, though. Like before, he had issues with his balance and while he would have adjusted by now and would be navigating them easily with no problem, his legs felt like the blazes of hell were burning both the inside and outside of his skin to a crisp and that was causing major issues. It was a miracle he was even still standing at this point.

Burning in his throat reaching an unbearable point- Agent 8 couldn’t help but hack out a couple of harsh coughs that shook his weak body, forcing him to stumble while riding along the rail. Dark red, bloody ink quickly started dripping out of his mouth and falling onto the statue below, signifying that the injury in his throat was more serious than he thought.

Eyes glossing over with unshed tears and his nose starting to drip snot, Eight blearily glanced at each of the bombs and did his best to aim at them with the dualies. His arms were aching so badly that they’d occasionally give out after being held up for so long, so he’d learned to switch between them rather than use them both as a combo like the original plan.

“Thirty seconds left!” Marina urged, “Keep going! Don’t let Tartar destroy us all!!!”

Spitting some of the blood from his mouth, Eight roughly shook his head to regain his focus as best as he could and kept firing the dualies at each of the bombs, making each of the spotlights explode one by one until…

“Last one!! You can do it, Eight!! YOU CAN DO IT!!” Marina screamed into the earpiece, sounding hopeful for the first time in ages.

“Final bomb Eight! C’mon, man! You’re almost there!” Pearl egged on.

“One bomb away from saving Inkopolis!” Cap’n helpfully added, the feedback from his walkie talkie making Agent 8 wince.

Vision quickly fading, Eight panicked as he glanced at the last bomb that he was quickly headed towards, knowing that he was in serious danger of fainting and possibly ruining this world for good. His arms were too tired to properly lift and aim at the bomb anymore, the two limbs uselessly dangling by his sides. He was really at the end of his ropes here, he didn’t know what to do. What he could do. He could drop any second, his body was giving up on him and his knees were starting to bend inwards. He...He…

Gritting his teeth with a tight jaw, Agent 8 gripped the dualies in his hands as tight as he could, winding his arms far back and…

Sloppily slinging the dualies right at the bomb with all of the strength he could muster with his failing body.

And that’s when everything went dark.

 


 

“...ght? C’mon, Eight! Wake up…” Agent 8 heard a voice whisper in his ear, sounding a million miles away with a distant echo.

He then felt a gentle hand slowly shake his shoulder, but he couldn’t react to it no matter how much he tried. The hand shook his shoulder a little more firmly and then removed itself, making Eight miss the contact already. Nothing would move despite the octoling’s persistent and everything was burning. Everything. Was. Burning.

And yet so, so cold.

Eight softly whimpered as the pain fully registered in his brain, brows furrowing as he fought to bite back the bile building up in his throat. It felt like his head was about to split apart from how much it hurt, he couldn’t stand it. He had thoroughly exhausted his body at this point ,too, and it was refusing to listen to any commands. Which really sucked since the last thing Eight could remember was blacking out when on the brink of saving the world from ultimate destruction.

Wait.

Was he dead? Well, it certainly didn’t feel like he was dead. He was pretty sure that the dead wasn’t supposed to feel the fiery pits of hell all over their body since they were, y’know, dead. Without nerves. Plus, whether it was his imagination or not, he heard a voice say something to him and he just knows that person is alive.

He again could register the hand shaking his shoulder, before it quickly transferred from there to his forehead, resting its palm on it for a few seconds and its cool touch providing the smallest relief for the agent against the flames beneath his skin.

“...ow you can hear me! Get up!! Please? ‘Reena, I don’t thi....” The voice faded out before Eight could hear the rest of the sentence, the awkward snippet being the only thing Eight could decide on what was going on. Did the world end?? Did the statue somehow spontaneously combust??? Eight wasn’t sure and he was highly afraid to find out. It wouldn’t be fun to wake up and find out that he was one of the only survivors among a handful in the end of the world and his new home.

Suddenly, Eight could feel someone lift him up into an upright position, two cool hands tenderly holding him up until someone...something…

Soft. Fuzzy. They were putting something on him. What were they putting him in? A sweater? Where’d they get a sweater? It was a little small but it was still pretty nice and snug. It wasn’t as if Eight had a choice on if he could wear it due to his limbs being out of commission, so he just accepted it and rolled with it. Oh, it had a hood. Someone pulled it over his head and now he was extra warm and snug.

“...ivering so much! Do we have a rag? We need to clean the blood off his face, Pearlie. I’ll support his hea…” A different voice came in, sounding equally as concerned as the first. Why was he fading out so much? He wanted to hear the full conversations! Was he sleeping? It would explain it, Eight did recall collapsing from all the effort and exhaustion once he...defeated the statue? He hoped he defeated the statue.

He could feel something cold and wet start wiping itself along his upper lip and his chin, clearly some sort of rag that was maybe cleaning him? Why did he need to be cleaned, again? All of Eight’s memories were so hazy and he wasn’t even properly conscious. The wetness on his chin did feel a little refreshing, though. It felt a little crusty before that.

Eventually, Agent 8 fell into an awkward doze once more, unable to detect anything auditory wise except his quiet heartbeats. He could still feel his body a little bit, though. Someone was tapping him, shaking his shoulder ever so slightly. Were they trying to wake him up? Why?...Now they were laying him back down? His head was a little elevated, so he definitely hoped he was. He hadn’t laid down in such a long time, especially on a pillow. It was a nice feeling that was an absolute refresher compared to the burning that pulsed throughout his body..

He stayed in that position for a good, long time, sleep completely taking the wheel and letting him finally rest after so many hours of tests and fighting for his life. Eight could feel himself start curling into a bit of a fetal position, though, the cold was starting to get to him again. Even despite the rampaging burning that tortured his throat, he was still shivering and shaking from the cool, windy air around him.

“...et him out of the light. Eight? Wai-Hey, Eight! Wake up, little dude. C’mon! Drink some water, you really look like you need it.” The first voice called out to him, no longer sounding like just a distant echo. It was much clearer than before and didn’t seem to be fading away anytime soon.

Agent 8 slowly squinted his eyes open to a cream and pink colored blur in front of him, holding out some sort of object to his face. What was going on? Who is this, again?

Water sounded incredibly tempting, but he reluctantly turned his head away from the object that he was offered, scared that his throat would send him searing pain if he even tried to swallow his own spit. He closed his eyes instead and tried to turn onto his side with what limited body function he had, snuggling into whatever soft thing his head was resting on.

“C’mon, Eight…” The voice persisted, pressing something against his lips, “Please drink something, you’re kinda scaring us here.”

“Ngh…” He tried to argue back against drinking the water, but was only able to produce a weak gargling sound that emitted from the back of his throat. He settled for shaking his head as an alternative, being careful not to do it too fast in case of an oncoming headache.

Yet, the object pressing against his mouth was still there. It wouldn’t let up no matter what Eight tried, which wasn’t much in all honesty. He couldn’t do anything, everything was burning and shivering and moving his limbs made him want to vomit. Turning his head was the best he could do and it didn’t prove much at all.

Reluctantly, Agent 8 hesitantly opened his mouth and felt the bottle press firmly against his lips, water just a little cooler than room temperature begging to enter. He slowly started to gulp it down, the liquid both simultaneously soothing yet agitating his throat, making him instantly choke and hack some of it out onto his new sweater.

He could hear the voice swear and two other voices speak in rapid succession, joining in on a tense discussion that was contributing to Eight’s growing headache. He whimpered from the pain and curled up even further, burrowing his face into the warm thing he was laying on as hot tears pricked in the corners of his eyes and slipped down his cheeks. He could barely register the gentle patting on his back that tried to soothe him, the pain too great for him to deal with.This sucked . What was even happening?

He slowly opened his eyes yet again, gurgling weakly as he struggled to find out where he was and what was going on. Different blurry shapes were in his field of vision, somehow unable to focus into definite objects. What was he looking at?

“Eight? What’s going on?” The second voice asked, one of the shapes moving slightly, “Are you feeling okay? Don’t cry...We’re almost at a hospital, just hang on a little longer!”

Who the fuck are you?

Why are we going to the hospital?

Who is ‘we’?

Why does everything hurt?

Why am I so cold?

Why am I so hot?

Why can’t I move?

Why does my head hurt so much???

...Is what Agent 8 really wanted to ask. He blearily stared up at the shape he thought was talking to him, squinting slightly to see if it would focus any better, but to no avail. It was just a big, dark green blob with a hint of brown and white, occasionally twisting and blurring in his screwed up vision.

“Try not to fall back asleep, Eight…” The odd blob ordered, “We tried to call you back to the heli, but we ending up having to rescue you at the base of the statue once it started sinking since you weren’t moving.”

Eight stared up at the blob with a dazed expression, the statue the only thing popping up in his mind that he could remember. What’s a ‘heli’? And who rescued him? Did they really do that? Granted, Agent 8 definitely was going through some sensory issues at the moment and absolutely lost some more of his memories thanks to something, but he couldn’t help but be a little distrustful of a simple dark green blob that was right above him.

“...His eyes don’t look too good, ‘Reena.” One of the other shapes seemed to pipe up, sharing the same color scheme as the one that tried to get him to drink water, “How are we gonna keep him from sleeping? He doesn’t even look like he recognizes me.”

The dark blob sighed, “I’m not sure, Pearlie. I think he might’ve hit his head on something when he fell down the statue…”

The ‘Pearlie’ blob moved from side to side, seeming antsy, “Ugh! Can’t these helicopters move any faster? Eight could pass out again at this rate and we might not even get him to wake up the next time!”

Agent 8 squinted further in confusion, not sure what the creamy pink blob was talking about. Everything was hazy at this point and things were getting weird and distorted, an odd drowsiness starting to set in for some reason. Didn’t he just wake up? Why was he...he so...

He could feel his ‘pillow’ under his head shift, and a third blob in his vision that didn’t talk much leaned closer, mostly white with some greys and greens on the outside.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice, lass…”

Eight’s vision distorted beyond recognition and gradually faded into darkness as sleep forced him from the controls once more.

He didn’t wake up for a while.