“You’re kidding me. This is an arena?”
Lily and Lorne stood together to one side of the building while more squids gathered, talking casually with each other and equipped for the battle they were about to have.
Their friendship was a strange one: Lorne used to partake in Ranked Battles more often, but now she had taken on the role of Agent 4 of the New Squidbeak Splatoon, an organisation dedicated to the protection of Inkopolis from enemies known and unknown.
And Lily was formerly human, transformed as a result of contact with squid ink. And because she was collecting human artefacts that had travelled through time with her, across Inkopolis and beyond, she was designated Agent 5.
After she had sat through a brief Turf War induction and received her ID card, Lily had been directed to a shuttle bus that drove her and Lorne to the arena they would be battling on. They and all the participants on board had been outfitted with a small earpiece that the game’s referee would communicate to everyone with, and an Anchor, a device that bound her to her team’s respawn point, which also changed the color of her tentacles and her ink temporarily.
But it was only after they’d been directed through a side entrance onto the field that she saw what the stage was.
“What, you’ve never been into MakoMart before?” called a nearby boy from the opposing team. His was a sort of greenish color; Lily and Lorne were both sporting purple today.
Lily gestured at her level 1 top and briefly adjusted the headband. “Different franchises back home,” she said. But he’d already turned away to talk with someone else from his team, supposedly a friend. “So I see some attitudes haven’t changed,” she said under her breath.
As they walked around the stage, getting an idea of the layout, Lorne listened to her friend rant about the strange nature of the supermarket they would be battling in. The stage itself was very separate from the rest of the supermarket - elevated, varied in height compared to the rest of the store being flat, and for whatever reason, surrounded by what seemed like a six-meter-wide pit, at the bottom of which was a carpark.
Some motion on the other side of the pit caught Lily’s eye, and the looked to see several jellyfish creatures queuing up at a counter recessed into the wall. She looked closely and… “Hey, there’s prepared lobster in there,” she realised aloud to Lorne. “Wait, is that one behind the counter a butcher?”
For whatever reason, she had forgotten to consider that not all marine creatures were herbivores. Lorne moved her along before she had time to think about this too much.
Their referee came in over the earpiece. “All of our participants have arrived and are ready, so be ready to start in three minutes. Please begin to make your way to your team’s starting point.”
They passed another member of the opposing team on their way back, a girl with their tentacles tied back, big studio headphones on and a jacket that Lily couldn’t help but envy. The three of them shook hands. “Good luck out there,” she said politely.
“You too!” Lorne smiled, and as they walked away, she smirked as an opportunity struck her. She gestured Lily toward a jellyfish child playing among the rubber balls in the toys aisle. As Lily stepped toward the barrier to look closer, she was unable to see Lorne briefly unclip and remove her Anchor, and unsheathe her Aerospray MG.
“Oh, here we go again,” said one of their two teammates, a boy leaning on his Splat Roller, watching this unfold by the respawn point.
“Again?” The other boy, idly spinning his Sloshing Machine on an edge, waiting for the two girls to come back, had a look of concern.
“Yeah, I keep getting matched up with this girl,” Roller said. “She likes to prank the fresh meat and claim their first splat. Watch.”
As they observed, Lorne, her hair and ink orange again, stepped up behind the ‘fresh meat’, and without any more warning, let loose a burst of ink at point blank. Her target was downed right away.
Slosh looked on, frowning. “How does she get away with that?”
“Seems like she does it regularly enough that they have looked into it, but they haven’t done anything about it.” Roller shrugged. “I guess it’s never really been done with malicious intent… Ah, here she comes.”
The tiny floating squid spirit that was Lily whizzed past them, and Roller walked back over to the Respawn point as it plunged into the ink.
Lily felt renewed, reinvigorated in the ink as she was pulled by some unseen force into it.
She knew exactly what had just happened. And she was both shocked and a little angry.
As she swam out of the respawn point’s ink pool, she was helped up by one of her teammates. His Splat Roller was leaning against a wall nearby.
“You alright?” He asked.
She immediately pulled her Splattershot Jr out. “I need revenge. One sec.”
“No need!” Lorne called, Anchor reattached and arms out, approaching her. “You can’t affect me, we’re the same color!”
“What was that about?!” Lily yelled. “We haven’t even started yet!”
“She does that to all the newbies she teams with,” said the boy with the Roller.
“You gotta be ready for everything, Lily!” Lorne nudged her as the referee announced the one-minute mark, and the team of four made their way onto the Spawn point. “And I kind of have an obligation now, yeah.” She rolled her eyes at Roller. “Look, just stick with me for this game and you’ll be fine. We’ll take the right path,” she directed at the two boys, “and hopefully flank someone going for the center.”
“I’ll head down the center then,” said the Slosher boy.
“Then I’ve got the left,” said Roller. “Lily, right? If you ever get separated, don’t be afraid to ink and fill out the areas nearby the spawn. Or follow me, and we’ll wreck shop with them.”
“Got it.” Lily took deep breaths. She was gonna have to focus her emotions on the battle. Glancing over to her right, she saw she would be headed up an incline, after which a drop would seem to lead them into the side corridor. Just follow Lorne, as much as you want to get back at her, she said to herself, and you’ll be fine.
“Ten seconds,” came the referee’s voice in their earpieces. “Time begins at the sound of the starter pistol, and ends at the whistle.”
The four of them got into position and prepared to move off, weapons at the ready.
A brief moment of silence, just the ambience of the supermarket around them.
The sound of the loud starter pistol going off in the enclosed environment nearly made Lily jump.
“Go, go, go!” Slosh called out as they all pushed off the spawn point and opened fire around them, covering the ground in their team’s purple ink.
Firing along the ground as they went, Lily and Lorne took off toward the right lane, The latter dropping down off the ledge before Lily who slowed to ink more of the ground. When she came to the ledge, Lorne called up, her squid eyes peeking out at her. “Quick! Get down here and transform!”
Lily did as she was told, and Lorne, topped off on ink, re-transformed and beckoned her to follow along the aisle they found themselves in. She noted that she felt much smaller as she cautiously swam behind Lorne’s steps, though she knew that was obvious.
Nobody from the other team had come down this way by the time they had reached the end of the aisle, now on the enemy side. “Okay, let’s flank,” Lorne called softly to her. “Weapons ready. If you see ‘em, get in close and let it rip.”
Lily jumped up from the ink, Splattershot Jr at the ready, firing into the corner around her. Then she joined Lorne as they both headed into the middle path, moving for the center platform.
There was one opponent unaware of their play, but another coming from the other corridor had spotted them and was firing away. Lily and Lorne jumped back in opposite directions, and the projectiles turned in Lily’s direction. She got off a few shots before she dipped down into the ink, making to swim around and surprise her opponent, and as she did so, Lorne focused her fire, and together their adversary didn’t stand a chance. They burst into purple ink, and a tiny squid spirit flew off out of the inksplosion, towards their spawn.
Lily came up from the ink, and looked over at the middle. Two more squids from the other team were engaged in a battle, presumedly with her teammates. She regrouped with Lorne and they both moved to engage.
At least, Lorne did. With Roller and Slosh on the other side of the green team, the two didn’t stand a chance.
But the fourth green opponent, the girl she had passed by before the battle, leapt out from cover towards Lily, holding her Roller like a sword of some kind. She had a moment to wonder what to do, before the enemy Roller came down, flinging a line of ink down on the ground, Lily caught in its path.
The second time was not as surprising and shocking as the first, Lily found. As she felt herself pulled in the direction of their respawn point, she had a brief thought: Better get ready for more of that…
She was reborn in the ink, and she leapt out and back into the fray, headed for the central platform of the Makomart arena.
The battle went about as well for Lily as she expected. She was taken out annoying often; meanwhile, she’d only managed a single splat of her own. So she quickly refocused on filling out the quieter parts of the arena.
They’d eked out her first victory, barely. When they had been led off the field afterward, Lily and Lorne stood off to one side of a corridor while their teammates, whom she had nicknamed Roller and Slosh for their choice of weaponry, stood and chatted nearby.
”...Certainly a better first experience compared to playing my first game of paintball,” Lily was saying to Lorne, recounting that experience as well. She was not a great shot then, either - and she was unlucky enough to be hit in the head a few times with paintball pellets, despite rules and wearing masks, which she admitted may have influenced her opinion.
“You did pretty well for your first game,” Roller called, walking over to join their conversation. “I mean, as always there’s things to improve on, from what I saw, but…”
“There always is,” Lily nodded. “All considered, I think I did fine.” She noticed out of the corner of her eye that Lorne had picked up her phone and was in the middle of her own conversation. “It’d be nice to be a pro player out of the gate, but let’s be realistic...”
“Just comes down to practice,” Roller said. “You’ll get it down in time. I’m surprised you never played before though. What’s up with that?”
“Oh, well…” Lily bit her lip. “Turf War wasn’t much of a thing when I lived out in the country, and even then I was more into music and video games and stuff,” she replied after a bit of thought, lying by omission.
“Ahh, no scene out there? Fair enough. Inkopolis is full of it, so you better get used to it!”
“Yo Lily," called Lorne as she slipped the phone away. "We gotta head out if you wanna see them take the car off the Albacore roof.”
“Albacore? The hotel?” Roller asked them. “They were turning the roof into a new arena, aren’t they?”
“That’s the one,” Lorne nodded. “They finally sourced some equipment to safely bring that thing down. Apparently it’s heavy, like several tons.”
The inkling boy whistled. “I kinda wanna come and see it. Mind if I join you girls?”
Lily made a slight frown and looked over to Lorne. “Uhhh… Anybody meeting us there?”
“Just our boy S. The others are busy.” Lorne cocked her head at her.
Lily thought for a moment. “Alright, well, if you want to come with, I would be okay with it. Lorne?”
“Yeah, okay,” Lorne said, and put on a smile. “Shall we go check out, then?”