A/N: Alrighty, I've got the first chapter revised at least. This version reads a little more smoothly than the previous one. At least for me. I'm content with this one, anyway. Ah. One down, eleven to go. On a side note, I've taken down all the little author's note "chapters" before the authorities could hunt me down and hurt me. So, if you have the time or patience to reread And So It Begins, I would greatly appreciate any reviews you may send. I loves you all.
Entire Fiction Disclaimer Because I Refuse To Repeat This More Than Once: I sorta kinda really don't own anything. In this entire fic. Basically. Oh well... (sigh)
Jak bent down and wrapped his arms around the hood of his zoomer in an overly enthusiastic embrace.
"Oh baby, you don't know how much I've missed you!" he stated happily, apparently speaking to the vehicle.
"Get a grip Jak, you're embarrassing yourself," Daxter snorted in disgust, eyeing the A-Grav with suspicion. Jak ignored the remark from his furry friend and continued to caress the zoomer's propeller lovingly. Keira, hands on hips, surveyed the vehicle from an angle, rolling her eyes when Jak planted a kiss on the tiny windshield.
"It was really thoughtful of time-twin-Daddy to send you your zoomer back. Er, forward," said Keira, now moving around the faded orange zoomer to examine the other side.
"Yeah, Greenie really doesn't have an excuse for keeping it around. You and Jak started to build it when we were twelve. Which means that time-twin-you will build this exact zoomer in about... five years," Daxter counted off on his fingers. "He won't be needing this one."
"Who wants a ride?" Jak asked joyously as he swung his right leg over the seat and sat down, glancing at the old controls on the display panel with child-like anticipation.
"Oh, Jak," Keira began, frowning slightly at this uncharacteristic behavior. "I was hoping to examine it a bit before you took it out. What if something's been broken from the time travel? I mean, it would be safer if I was able to take it apart first..." she put in anxiously.
"Take it apart?" Jak gasped, emphasizing the last word and looking stricken. "Ten minutes after I get it back, and you already want to tear it up?"
"I didn't mean it like that, I just thought..."
"I don't believe this!"
Jak wrapped his legs around the underside of the zoomer and his arms around the windshield. His bottom lip sticking out playfully, he replied defiantly, "No. I won't let you hurt it. It's mine. Mine!"
Keira smiled down at him as if he were a stubborn toddler. "Jak, it was cute when you were seven. Now it's just pathetic. Get off the zoomer."
Jak let his mouth fall open in protest, but he knew he wouldn't win when he saw the look of pure determination on her face. "Fine," he snapped reluctantly as he released his death grip on the vehicle and jumped off. He turned and gave it one last pat before looking Keira straight in the face and added in a warning tone, "If you break it…"
Keira leaned forward and placed a quick kiss on his cheek. Taken aback by the pleasantly surprising gesture, Jak froze in mid-lecture. "I'll take good care of it," she replied in mock seriousness.
"Hey!" Daxter shouted, demanding immediate attention from his stance on the hot road. "Are you two about done here? If you hadn't noticed, it's hotter than all hell in direct sunlight, and I would prefer not to melt."
Daxter climbed up on Jak's shoulder; ready to leave the seaside road for the Naughty Ottsel nearby. Jak threw one last longing glance at his zoomer, then turned and began to make his way east on the road. Keira removed the keys from the parked vehicle, pocketed them deftly, and followed Jak.
"So… When do you plan to open the Ottsel to the public, Dax?" Keira inquired conversationally as they continued on their way.
"Soon, soon," Daxter replied. "I just need to... tie up some lose ends, that's all."
"You're not doing anything illegal, are you Daxter?" Keira instantly implored sternly. Jak grinned at her perceptiveness. Keira knew Daxter too well.
"What? Oh, no. Definitely not," Daxter answered nervously, probably a little too quickly.
"Daxter..." Keira began threateningly, intent on pulling the truth out of the rodent whether he liked it or not.
"Hey, look!" called Daxter as he left Jak's shoulder in one agile leap and sprinted further ahead. "Sig!"
Sure enough, the tall, dark man was just then reaching for the doorknob of the Naughty Ottsel when the three friends spotted him. "Well, hello there cherries. I was just coming to see you, Jak," Sig greeted. "Why don't we all have a sit down, maybe a drink?" He added, opening the bar's door.
"Uh, sure," Jak confirmed, a bit confused. Sig never came to call just to say 'hi.' No, Jak was certain that either Sig needed something, or the Wastelander had some news of importance. "What's this about, Sig?" Jak asked as they filed through the open door. Sitting down at the counter near the far end of the room, Sig shrugged and gave a half-hearted smile.
"What? Now I have to have a reason to have a friendly chat with a couple of buddies? C'mon, now..."
"Drop the act, Sig. Drama doesn't suit you," Daxter remarked scathingly, a bored expression on his fuzzy mug. "We know you better. What really brought you out here?"
Sig sighed. "Well, I didn't want to deliver the bad news right off, but it's not like you two are going to give me any choice. Alright." He turned to face all of them, glancing at each one in turn. "But before I go any further, I'll have a Dirty Daxter, on the rocks," he said, looking directly at the orange animal as if placing an order. The ottsel just stood there, nodding and waiting for Sig to continue until everyone was staring at him. Then, finally realizing that they were waiting for him to go and fetch the drink, he snapped into action.
"Oh," he responded quickly, attempting to shrug off his mistake with a thin laugh before leaping over the counter to gather glasses and ice cubes.
"Listen up, Jak. You remember Mar's gun? The one you and the rat used to blow open the Metal Head nest?" Sig asked bluntly. At the word "rat," Daxter's muffled voice from behind the counter exclaimed indignantly, "Hey!"
"Sure," replied Jak, recalling the time two months earlier when he and Daxter had used the Precursor Stone to activate the enormous weapon and blow a huge hole in the side of a stone barrier protecting the Metal Head nest.
"Well, guess what?" Sig drawled disappointedly. "You left that hole there, wide open. You know how many Metal Heads came crawling out after you destroyed Kor?"
"No," Jak answered truthfully, his eyes widening at this new prospect. "But I thought..."
"Well, sparkplug, you thought wrong. As soon as those metal menaces saw their decapitated leader, they shot out of that nest like a bat outta hell. Must've came to the conclusion that their little safe-hold wasn't so safe anymore, what with you in there, busting their asses left and right."
"So, what you're saying is..." Keira began slowly, putting the pieces together in her mind. "More Metal Heads?"
"That's right," Sig nodded.
"What does this have to do with me?" Jak asked sharply. He was afraid that he already knew the answer to his question, and he didn't like it one bit.
"Torn is reassembling the Underground," Sig explained, "and even recruiting new members. He asked me to come down here and give you and Dax the heads up. He's scheduled a meeting for tomorrow night, and he expects the whole damn team to come. He'll explain the rest then."
Daxter was now perched on the counter, beverage in hand, and a scowl on his face. "And how, pray tell, does any of this pertain to me? I have a bar to run! Jak can handle the Metal Heads on his own. It's not like I did anything to help before anyway," he finished, the last sentence hanging in the air with a tinge of good-natured jealousy.
"Yeah? Well, Torn wants to use your bar for the meeting place. I guess he just wants your permission. Does he have it?" Sig inquired.
"My permission, huh?" Daxter grinned at the thought of someone actually relying on him for something for a change. "Well, I don't know..." He spoke casually, as if the decision being made was difficult. "What's in it for me?"
"The Underground's gratitude," answered Sig, just as smoothly as Daxter. "And the fact that Torn will allow you to keep your limbs attached to your body."
Daxter set his jaw in an annoyed fashion, but replied in a stiff voice, "Yeah, I suppose I could use some business..."
"Good man," Sig stated happily, slapping the rodent on the back heartily and sending him over the lip of the counter and onto the hard floor. "I'll tell Torn." Turning to Keira, he added, "And you..."
Looking shocked at being dragged into the matter, Keira stepped back and asked incredulously, "And how am I involved?"
Sig looked her up and down with a critical eye. "You know how to handle a gun?"
"N-no, I..." she stuttered, looking from Sig to Jak, her eyes pleading him for help.
"Well, you gonna learn," he said flatly. He stood up. From his utility belt, he pulled a shotgun shaped weapon, resembling the Blaster he once gave to Jak, and threw it to Keira. She caught it clumsily, staring dumbly at it before looking back up at Sig, who was now backtracking toward the door. "But, I..." she called hoarsely after him, bewildered at her current situation.
"Torn will explain everything more clearly tomorrow night. Make sure you're all here," he stated firmly. He disappeared through the door without another word.
An awkward silence followed Sig's exit. Keira was still examining her new Blaster, dumbstruck. Jak was drumming his fingers on the bar counter, preoccupied with staring into space, deep in thought. Daxter was still glaring at the closed door, jaw set.
After a while, Jak slammed his fist down on the counter, startling Keira, who promptly dropped her gun. It fired in the opposite direction as it hit the floor, triggered from the fall. Keira screamed and jumped backward, almost knocking Jak's bar stool over. She clung to the thing nearest her own back, which happened to be Jak.
"Can you believe it?" Jak snarled angrily. Apparently, he had been indifferent to the sudden gunshot. Keira was unable to answer, struggling to catch her breath from the shock, frozen against Jak.
"I know!" replied Daxter, making a gesture with his hand toward the untouched beverage. "He didn't even pay for his drink!"
A/N: Unnecessary repetitive banter, insert futile pleading for the sparing of my life here, blah blah blah you get the general point. Thanks for reading the revision and/or the original version. Your reviews are most welcome, even at this point in time. I promise to get with it soon and finish up the whole re-editing deal and move on with chapter thirteen a.s.a.p. Hopefully this weekend.
Don't forget to check out "Intentions!"