Rating:PG-13, for blood, violence and language.
Summary:How far would you go for your best friend? Can Daxter do anything without messing it up? He learns what true friendship means when Haven City is invaded, and Praxis must be confronted.
Disclaimer:I do not own Jak and Daxter, or Jak II for that matter. All characters, and pretty much everything but the Morbid and the actual plot of this story belongs to Naughty Dog. Who'd have guessed?
I am currently playing Jak II, and I'm nearly done it. However, I am VERY frustrated with the game right now, and am feeling quite depressed…the game is ridiculously difficult, and I'm obsessed with the story line. It happens.
Anyway, I decided to make a quick story…a kind of "what-if-this-happened-instead" fics…whatever you call them. Since I don't know what happens at the end, I'm creating my own. It's not so much of a theory than an explosion of my innermost, tormented feelings towards this game and its cruel creators that simply HAD to make the game so freakin' hard in the first place. Once I'm done writing, I think I'll feel fine enough to waltz back upstairs, and try again. O_o…
WARNING: Material ahead contains a dismal, depressing plot. Mega Angsty. You've been warned!
Sometimes, I'm thinking people get the wrong impression here. I don't envy Jak. Sure, the guy can be a screw-up on general occasion. I'm a prime example of what happens to a guy involved in his general screw-ups. Heck, I have my own general level of screw-ups.
There's no way to deny it. I am…an orange fur ball.
Talk about a change in career selections
But hey, wherever Jak goes, I'll go with him. Someone's gotta be there through thick in thin, the good times and the bad, the skies and the sewers, and pretty much everywhere else Krew wants to send us free-rolling into for the sheer enjoyment of torturing another living, breathing being. Someone's gotta make sure he doesn't screw things up (I'm still having bad images of that goo, I tell ya…) Besides, I'm travel-size, for his utmost convenience.
How can I put this subtly, huh? Jak sure is a great guy. So that's why everyone loves him so much, of course not looking at the black-clawed, sharp-toothed, beady-eyed half-monster he's taken the habit of becoming during his bad days. Sheesh, I'm telling you, that guy can be worse than a yakow on an empty stomach. Don't give me that 'herbivore' hoo-doo, either. I've seen that mean, hungry glint in their eyes when they want a bowl of tasty ottsel stew!
Yep, me and the big guy go way back. I kinda liked the quiet Jak back in Sandover Village, when our biggest concern was what colour we should dye or yakow earwax candles. But y'know, after two short years, the guy reverses his personality. I tell ya, the things we friends do for friends, which are things our friends wouldn't do normally for their friends even if your friend did accidentally shove you into a pool of thick, black, goopy ooze and turn you into a rodent.
Not that I'm holding any grudges. The guy is, after all, the only friend I really have. Best buddy, I guess. He's done a lot for me, and I never kinda thought 'til now about it. I've never done anything he hasn't done for me. Jak's saved my life, and taken my side against my everlasting war against his Green Holiness, not to mention how he's put up with me everywhere he goes. I've just gotta do something for the guy, something to get him back for it all. Anything, really. I'd do it all.
Yep, there's probably nothing I wouldn't do for my pal Jak.
Metal Heads were dropping like flies -- not dying -- and setting their wrath upon the city like a cloud of gold and silver. The twisted carcasses of broken zoomers crashed to the street, crushing others while their riders were thrown headfirst into the bloody fray. Swiftly, the commotion was becoming a massacre, not long to fall, silently slipping with cruelty's claws on the edge of mayhem and unconditional hysteria. Once the doors had been breached, Haven had gone from somber, to suffering.
The Baron was thrown from the Morbid's claws like a stuffed toy. He landed just on the frame of a broken window. A breeze picked at him, as if threatening to upset his balance over the edge and cause him to fall to his death below. His faced lacked blood, the blood that poured from the wounds of the tremendous monster's doing.
No, not today. Not today. He couldn't die! Nor would he. Look below, he told himself. All that power…I had it…it was MINE!! I had it. If I fall, the city…will win. He'll win! HE WON'T!!
"Die, Jak…" The Baron laughed in the shadow of the Morbid, not caring what it did to him now. "Die, you Eco-sucking bastard…"
The floor of the throne room trembled; the Morbid advanced slowly. Only one of the baron's eyes remained after being ravaged so brutally. He looked upon death, he supposed, and breathed every moment with a curse to his former experiment's grave. But Praxis, his grave would be dug first.
His would come first.
The Morbid closed its claws around the baron's middle and lifted the malicious wrong-doer to its face. It's jaws parted slightly with the sickening sound of clotted blood and saliva. A wave of putrid breath washed over the Baron, and it was the last thing he knew before a rumbling voice shook his bones.
"You hate…" gurgled the mammoth Metal Head. "Hate…and offer. Offer…I offer you one chance. Kill Jak…do you see? You die. You die, if not."
Praxis pried open his last eye, wondering. Had death not come yet? And he pondered. Kill Jak? Jak? Yes…Jak must die. But how? Even a creature as stupid as the Morbid should know better than to trust the same man twice. Would he?
"Yes? No…?" The Morbid's voice was growing impatient, and hungry. "Hate. Kill Jak -- you will not die. Kill. Join me."
Ah, now he understood. The monster was not asking him his permission…he was ordering him, and ordering obedience. Kill Jak? He still did not understand. Jak was long gone…or somewhere…he didn't know. Maybe he was dead. Oh, that thought brought a smile to one dying man's lips. Was Jak dead? No…NO! He wouldn't take that chance. He would seek out, live on, and destory! Suffering. Yes…Jak would not die yet. No! Jak would suffer. His plan was not done…his life was not over…
"Why…" gasped the bloody baron.
"Not WHY!" the creature bellowed. "Join me! You bring death to my kind. You will bring death to your kind as well! REPENT!"
"Jak…die…" Praxis gasped, the life flickering in his eyes, like a candle threatening to burn out. He felt, or rather saw himself cast against the wall, pinned beneath the Morbid's vast claws. They were glowing…glowing with Dark Eco.
"Outside!? He went outside!? Has he gone mad?"
"Daxter went with him," Keira explained to her father, as if she thought it would encourage him at all. "He didn't even give me a chance to talk him out of it!"
Samos the original Green Sage cursed with an ancient Precursor utterance. A rage boiled inside him as he thought of how he'd been directly defied once again. He stuttered for the correct words. "What about the guns? Why in great green goblins did he leave those behind?"
"I know, I know," Keira snapped, her frustration mounting. "He was acting very strange. He went on about how he wouldn't need them, and that he had everything under control. What…what if he's hurt? What if he gets killed? Ugh, Jak, you are so irritating sometimes!" She yelled the last part at the ceiling.
"We don't have time to find him, even if we could!" Samos gestured towards the portal that would lead them to safety. "You must go to the forest, where you'll find Torn and Ashelin. Together, all three of you will flee to whatever end your feet take you!"
"What? Father, no!" Keira objected loudly. "I won't leave Jak! And I won't leave you! I won't even leave Daxter behind!"
"Why do you think I'm staying here?" growled the sage. "To get my sandals roasted? I will find one way or another to rescue them, Keira. Now, go!"
Keira stood her ground. "You can't expect me to just…leave! I refuse!"
Samos sighed and gripped his wooden staff in both hands for emphasis. "Keira, please."
She crossed her arms. "I love Jak. I won't leave without him."
The green sage looked sorrowfully at his daughter, and then glanced behind her shoulder. Before Keira had a chance to turn around, she felt something sharp jab the base of her neck, and the world around her went black.
Vin looked frantic and apologetic as the young woman collapsed into his arms. "Poor girl," he said, quickly. "Poor, poor girl. Not ever day you lose a fight, you know. Or worse! Terrible things!"
Samos looked sullen. "Thank you, Vin. I was afraid it would resort to this."
The eccentric elf laughed nervously. "Hey, no problem. No problem at all. Nope, no sir-ee. Running is what I do best. Well, besides translating by-pass systems to channel certain energy levels of different types of Eco! Heh heh."
"Yes…" said the sage, rather distracted. "You're quite right. Make sure she doesn't wake up until she's in Ashelin's custody. I don't want her ever coming back here, understand? Even should Jak…or myself fail to show up."
Vin's twitching face fell a little, but not for long. "Well, that's really a sad thing. Anything can happen, right? I'll be going now," he said, half-carrying and half-dragging Keira towards the waiting portal. "Make good choices!"
With one more step, he disappeared along with Samos Hagai's daughter.
Samos looked away from the portal. He'd known about Keira's feelings for the Jak, long before he had set out to destroy Gol and Maia with the loud-mouthed ottsel astride his shoulder. Even if she had not, their connection had always been an unbroken sentence, simply waiting to be spoken. It broke the sage's heart to send her away with the overwhelming doubt of Jak's safe return. But it was just another thing he, as a father and not a sage, had to do ensure the safety of his only daughter.
The city was noisy outside. For nine hours now, the massacre had been taking placee. Some people were fighting back, while others hid. A few ran, but a heavy population of metal-heads had blocked off every known escape route. The Krimzon Guards had vanished altogether, save the few who lay dead in the streets. It was utter turmoil. Samos shook his head, wondering exactly what it was Jak had sped off so quickly to accomplish.
"Well, Jak…" he said aloud. His bony fingers brushed the pouch at his waist, where a handful of important vials no bigger than his thumbnail lay collected. "I certainly hope you know what you're doing."
"Do you even know what your doing, Jak?" Daxter was screaming at his best friend, while trying to keep his claws fastened to the edge of the metal plate on Jak's shoulder.
Jak didn't answer the ottsel. The baron's guards were having a hell of a time playing target practice as the elf darted through their ranks. They were scattered, and beaten and bloody, and most of the uniformed men hardly dared lift their head as he ran by. However, the few who remained truly loyal to their baron never hesitated to lift their guns and fire at the fleeing fugitives. There was still a vast distance to cross before they reached the palace of Praxis, and Jak was just beginning to regret leaving his Vulcan behind. Only just.
"Whoa-ho!" Daxter cried in his ear. Being used to this, Jak was undaunted. The ottsel screamed…again. "Watch out for fat guy! Four o'clock, Jak!!"
To the elf's surprise as he glanced over his shoulder, one of the citizens had taken up a fallen guard's weapon and was aiming it directly at them. "Ah, shit!" he hissed and dove to the side. Red light shot over his shoulder, just barely fringing the hairs on the ottsel's head.
Daxter was not happy. "Watch what you're doing, you lunk-head!" he cried all the louder. "Geez, I almost became a side-order of bacon in this breakfast buffet!"
"You didn't have to come," snapped Jak, before continuing his dash towards the palace.
"Whaaaat?" Daxter climbed carefully onto his shoulder again and hunched forward. "And miss the chance to become a big hero? Now freakin' way, big guy!"
Jak only rolled his eyes as he continued to run. His stamina was high, at least. And since his hover-board had been destroyed a few hours ago, there was no other way to reach their destination. The metal-heads had become scarce, fortunately, and the few weak ones remaining were easily dealt with Jak's fists. Their goal was close by. It was a simply a matter of minutes before Praxis would fall. Jak felt sure of it…yes, Praxis would die today.
"Why are they shooting at us?" Jak asked, mostly to himself, as another citizen picked up a gun and fired a few very poorly aimed shots towards them. "Shouldn't they be fighting the metal-heads, and not us?"
"Maybe he's one of those lucky guys you ran down with the zoomer," the ottsel offered. "Admit it, Jak, even ol' green-and-grouchy can race better than you, y'know?"
"You're talking to the third class champion," Jak defended. "Shows you."
"Well, gee Jak, maybe I could race just like you! Oh, wait just a second…my best friend turned me into an OTTSEL!" Daxter bickered. His paws were beginning to hurt from gripping his perch for so long, and the thought of confronting a baron with unlimited power in his slimy grasp was not on the top of his 'to do' list.
"Holy…crap." Jak nearly stumbled to a dead halt. Having nimbly leapt over an impeding pile of debris, the faces that he met on the other side made his heart skip a beat.
A crowd of angry Haven citizens barred their way to the entrance of the palace. Each one took a weapon of some sort in their arms, and not a single finger twitched. Not one eye darted indirectly from the frozen pair of outlaws -- elf and ottsel alike.
Daxter shrunk behind Jak's neck slightly. "Sooooo…" he said after a long, suspenseful silence. He laughed meekly. "Great party goin' on, huh? Right, Jak? Right……Jak…?"
Jak never looked at him, and Daxter got the impression that the expression "silence is golden" might have worked better in this particular scenario. Jak stared at the mob, and they stared back. Neither side moved, or spoke, but it was not even slightly unclear that the citizens were not preparing a welcoming party.
"What do you want from me?" said Jak, when the silence became unbearable. Finally, one of the opposing armed men gestured to the rest of his unit, and proceeded to level his gun at Jak's face.
The rest of the men fanned out, surrounding them. While they took their positions, they too cocked their arms and pointed them at Jak and Daxter's forms. Daxter yelped and tried to make himself as small as possible against his best friend's shoulder.
Jak watched with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn't want to hurt these people, He didn't want them to die because of the lies Praxis had implanted in their minds. He was being threatened, however, and as meaningful his execution would be to their cause, there was no way he was going to let himself die without settling his score with Praxis, first. Innocent lives…but what for? They wanted to mess with him, the other way around.
Daxter felt Jak's muscles go rigid beneath him, and an alarm sounded in his mind. "Jak!" he whispered fiercely. "Don't do it, Jak! You're not that kind of guy!"
"Shut up, Dax," said Jak, coldly. But his voice did not belong to him. The ottsel recognized it well, and braced himself for the painful transformation his best friend was about to undergo.
But the change never occurred. For, in the next moment, something entirely unexpected happened. The ground where the angered citizens stood exploded, and several surprised shots were released. They missed their mark however, for their bodies were being thrown halfway across the street, their guns and knives torn from their hands like toothpicks from a black cherry. The paved roads split open, sending showers of rocks and dirt skyrocketing into the air.
Jak was tossed back in the explosion. Daxter ducked as a piece of rubble flew over his head, and scrambled behind Jak's head. As the roar of the event died down, Jak stood up again to survey the dusty remains of Sector 5.
None of the people were left. Bits and pieces of debris fell and clattered to the shattered street, giving the air a bittersweet symphony of rattles and clacks. Some men were yelling; a woman screamed. Through it all, an eerie whirring noise could be heard, intertwining with the terrible melody of metal scraping against a rock surface.
"Jak…you didn't, uh…" Daxter began, hardly able to contain the tremble in his voice.
"I didn't do anything," said Jak, quickly. "But what…"
"It was me," said a dreadfully familiar voice. "I am the guilty one, Jak. Isn't it fun to clean the world of unworthy scum?" A raspy sigh could be heard, clearly. "It leaves you feeling fresh, and invigorated."
Daxter felt the fur on the back of his neck stand on end. More of instinct than much else, he crouched again and bared his teeth in an angry grimace. Jak's shoulders tightened, his breath shortened, and he took an involuntary step back, looking in every possible direction for the source of the baron's voice.
"Show yourself, Praxis!" Jak shouted, clenching his fists at his sides. He was ready. "Show your ugly face, you son-of-a-bitch!"
"Oh," came the casual reply. Where it came from was difficult to comprehend, for it seemed to come from everywhere at once. "I would do that, Jak. But I'm not exactly like you, you see, I'm quite the different man now." A wicked laugh was soon to follow.
"It's too late for you," growled Jak. "You can't just say your sorry, so don't bother trying!"
"Apologize?" roared Praxis, from seemingly nowhere at all. The dust was beginning to thin now, but only the wispy silhouettes of the surrounding buildings were visible. "I'm loving every moment of this! Why should I feel at all regretful for the great things I've done for this city? This Haven has thrived, because of me!"
"Thrived?" said Daxter, from his cowering perch. "If I were you, I'd sack your interior decorator. Talk about whoa!"
"You think you're such a smart animal," snorted the voice of Praxis. He seemed closer this time. "But really, that's all you are. Both of you are dirty little rodents. The weasel, and the rat."
Jak growled in frustration. "Quit hiding from me, Praxis! If you don't come out, I'll find you!"
"Hiding?" said the baron, with a genuine innocence to his tone. "Boy, I am not hiding. I'd hate to accidentally give your pet a heart attack, which would inevitably destroy me, wouldn't it? I know how you work. Your measly little emotions trigger that darkness so snuffed up inside of you, Jak. The less you use it, the sooner you will die. And I am in such a state of restoration right now that your pathetic black magic tricks might harm me."
The whirring sound grew louder, and the scraping of metal against rough stone was not absent either. A terrifying image began to form from the darker shades of the stirring dust. From out of the curtain, the glint of metal and bruised, raw flesh emerged. The first characteristics of the creature were defined, but then followed by the rest of the baron's brand new body, and his unmistakable visage, no matter how deformed it appeared now. Praxis, the metal-head, sauntered forward on his four spindly legs like a gigantic insect with grotesque shapes forming out of his spin and abdomen.
Praxis was no longer human, or as far as the human eye itself could distinguish. He was composed of both organic, slate blue, oozing flesh that showed only between the silver metal plates about his body. He resembled an upright spider, with a single set of massive arms sprouting from his chest, just above his two pairs of spider's legs. He had the upper torso of any man, however scaled and scarred it was, and his head and face were the general human shape he'd possessed before.
But the thing that struck Jak in a cold sweat was the broken shards of the Precursor Stone embedded in both of the baron's unsightly forearms.
"You look surprised to see me, Jak," said the baron. "Is there something on my face?"
"A bit cowardly, isn't it?" sneered Jak. He stood unwavering as the tall creature advanced. "If you can't beat them, join them? You're a creep as well as a heartless bastard. Causing you pain will be fun."
"Oh, indeed," hissed Praxis. "I was going to say the same for you, JAK!"
It seemed an eternity between the flash of gold around the creature's arms and the crackling bolt of ancient Precursor energy became the same event. All Jak could see was the bright, blinding projectile of light speeding towards him.
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"Hey, Dax, I'll…find a way. I promise."
"Really?" The ottsel slumped where he was, not at all reflecting his usual self. "Sheesh, why didn't I think of that?"
Jak leaned over to ruffle the fuzz on the top of the ottsel's head. "We're pals, Dax. Let's make a bet, then. Let's say I don't find a way to turn you back in say…"
"Three days?" said Daxter, hopefully.
"Years," the elf corrected, sternly. " If I don't, I'll do all of your laundry for the rest of your life."
The ottsel glared. "Oh, the sense of humour is becoming, isn't it?"
Jak laughed one of his rare, true laughs. "Look on the bright side, Dax. You'll never do laundry again!"
Daxter seemed happier with this. "You know, buddy 'ol pal," he quipped, and leapt onto his place on Jak's shoulder. "Never in my forefather's time, or my father's forefather's time could I find a friend like you!"
Jak snickered. "Samos said that, didn't he?"
"So what?" snorted the ottsel as they started down the beach. "Think he'll ever use it again?"
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"HIT THE DECK!" screamed a voice in his ear, and that was all Jak needed. Scant moments before the light struck him, he dove to his right and collided heavily with the loose, jagged rocks that scattered the ground. He felt them cut into his skin, but he didn't care. Not even a bit.
And then Daxter was there, pulling and tugging at his shirt and yelling something incoherent to Jak's senses. He pushed himself to his feet, only to discover that he was too slow to act for the baron's expectations. A rotting flesh-and-metal claw was pressed into his back, crushing the blonde elf to the ground. The weight on his shoulder vanished as Daxter fled, no doubt.
"This!" bellowed Praxis, in laughter. "This is too easy! Come on, Jak! Can't you make this a bit of a challenge? Where's your guns now, Jak? Why don't you try some of your mystic Dark Eco powers, Jak? I can guarantee they won't work!" He followed up his sentence with a sharp blow across the elf's head, using another one of his four bottom limbs. "You've been a terrible burden to me, Jak. You've foiled nearly all of my plans…but in the end, it turned out all right." Wham. Another blow, this time much heavier than the first. It took all of Jak's willpower not to cry out.
"A fool to come unarmed," said the baron.
Wham: another blow.
"A fool to come here alone!"
"A fool for coming here at all!" Deep, reverberating laughter.
Wham. Wham. Blood was pooling thickly now, spilled by the gashes and raw wounded caused by the baron's steel-tipped claw. Jak groaned now, not being able to think clearly anymore. Daxter…where was he? Was he just sitting back and watching the show? Dammit, the stupid ottsel never had the nerve to do anything so heroic. What was he waiting for? Daxter would regret it, yes, but there wasn't even a chance such a small guy could do anything to save him, even if Dax were there. But…just be there, he thought. I don't…I don't want to die without you…not without you at least by my side. Say goodbye…
He could not fly here…not without an ample supply of Green Eco, of which he did not have. He hated using his own two legs, especially at his rickety age. And still, ran he did do and he made it fast. They were going to the palace, and he was sure of it. For each of Jak's blows was felt to him, however it was never in a physical way. He was being attacked, perhaps trapped and beaten to death. In either case, Samos ran because he was needed. Or rather, the vials in his pouch were needed.
He'd made the concoctions long ago. They healed a great lot of wound, even the deepest cuts and crushed bones. They worked many different miracles, each being composed of a different condensation of Green Eco. It was all of the Eco he possessed now, as he had no known source to draw it from.
Jak, he thought frantically. As the palace's front came into view, he could see the stirred dust and the jerky movements of the figures amidst it. If I do not arrive in time…Gree Gods, let me get there in time. Don't die yet, Jak. Just hold on!
Daxter peered through the cracks between the rubble. What a fine hiding place to watch his only friend in the world die. Oh, the guilt and tremendous sadness was heavy of course. But he, an ottsel? Attack a vicious beast-man easily a thousand times his weight and about twenty times as tall? Would Jak hate him for never trying?
Wham. Wham. Wham. The blood spread further; the baron's claws got bloodier. Daxter winced with every hit Jak took, as if they'd been bestowed on his tiny ottsel body instead. The pain was so great for his friend now, that his cries were very audible. Praxis took obvious pleasure in hearing his quarry suffer, and Jak's blood was merely driving him into a violent frenzy. In mere moments, any one of his blows could easily have finished the pinned elf off.
Daxter wished he could cry. He HAD to help Jak!
Jak would do it for him, wouldn't he?
Jak was a fully-grown elf nearly three times his height. Jak had Eco. Jack had guns, and wit…
Daxter had none of these things. He was a noisy ottsel with nothing to offer but his damned clutzy antics…
It just happened, then. Daxter was clumsy, and the mere morose thought caused his eyes to drift slightly. To his astonishment, Daxter discovered a familiar, yet normally unwelcome sight amidst the rubble. Not lying very far away at all, the ottsel recognized an egg-shaped Precursor object almost half his own size. Very much like the one they had found before, on Daxter's last day as an elf. Very much alike the bomb Jak had used to destroy their Lurker investigator, and force Daxter to fall into a vat of dark ooze.
Very much like an opportunity to save Jak.
Daxter scrambled over to the Precursor bomb, and seized it with both hands. He had no idea where it may have come from, but it was indeed there and waiting to be used. Praxis seemed only too interested in beating Jak into a crimson pulp, and never even glanced the ottsel's way as he easily hefted the thing over his head and hopped to the lower ground. The artifact was as light as Daxter remembered, and he felt grateful for that. Throwing it would be much easier now.
But he could not miss. No, if he missed, it was over…for everyone.
Praxis was practically breathing in Jak's face now. He hovered just above him now, his claws poised and ready to strike once more. For a brief moment, the baron seemed to simply enjoy Jak's anguished moans and broken face.
Daxter caught his breath. This was it. "HEY!" he bellowed, as loud as his ottsel lungs would let him. "Big, mean, and ugly!! I'm making a one-way, special delivery!"
Praxis was fooled. Snarling, the baron turned his disgusting face up to see Daxter poised not ten yards away. The ottsel smirked triumphantly, armed the bomb with a simple pressure of both hands, and sent the artifact flying into the baron's face.
Praxis careened in horror and surprise, for the sake of agony and in a fiery wrath for being so misled. He released Jak completely and bellowed his fury, blinded and clawing at his eyes with his massive hands. His racket was loud enough to nearly deafen Daxter's ears, but the ottsel was already by Jak's side and pulling on his collar in earnest. He cared less about what Praxis did to him now. Jak's beating had stopped.
"Jak! Jak, buddy!" Daxter shook him again. Had it not been for the terrible bruising to the elf's face, the ottsel would have slapped him.
"Dax…." Jak groaned. He then repeated himself, much more surprised. "Dax….? I'm…alive…?" He tried to roll over. It was not too hard. His face, and his head and neck felt terrible. He was still bleeding…but he was alive.
Alive because of Daxter.
"Daxter?" Jak blinked, and found that he could still see well enough. The furry orange ottsel was above him with a very uncharacteristic look of concern on his face. Somehow, the elf managed to smile through his bloody nose and lost teeth. "You scrawny…little…runt of a cowardly hero…"
"Ah, it was nothin'!" Daxter tugged at his collar again. "No time, Jak! Praxis's going ballistic! You gotta do something!"
The baron's eyes seared. He felt relieved, however, to find that he had not lost his sight entirely. When he took his clawed hands away from his face and looked down, he could see the blurry orange blob right beside his prey. So! The little weasel runt wanted to play games too, huh? Praxis had no problem with this. When Jak was dead, he'd have a very amusing little game of cat-and-mouse with the annoyance. Praxis sneered at them, knowing that they would try to run.
Jak got unsteadily to his feet, but he found he could balance easily after he'd leveled himself out. With Daxter now clinging to his shoulder, the elf charged forward and darted through the baron's spindly legs. And, as abrupt as the fall of a pin, Daxter felt himself losing his grip on Jak's shoulder plate. He tired desperately to stay in place, but with one more jolt, the ottsel found himself flying into empty air. Daxter gasped as he struck one of the baron's metallic legs square on his back.
Praxis knew nothing this, as it happened below him. But he did see Jak dash away behind him, and the baron whirled around in a sharp fury. His reach was long, and Jak was generally slow at running. Before the elf could take another stride, Praxis seized him around his middle, and lifted him to his own eyes.
"Jak, you cannot escape me!" he roared, his own putrid breath practically choking out of his misery. "Your petty tricks, and your pet's tricks will not get you anywhere. Tell me Jak, have you ever dreamed of having your head slowly ripped off…tendon, by tendon?"
"Rotten…bastard…" was Jak's only replied. He spit on the baron's hand, signaling his utmost defiance.
"Be that way," rasped the demon baron. "Don't worry, Jak. This will hurt a lot." Praxis reached forward with two crushing fingers to seize the elf's skull.
An orange flurry of fur and claws assaulted his face. The baron's one hand withdrew immediately, and he howled for being delayed still from his belated victory. Daxter, having climbed the baron after his nearly paralyzing experience, was far from out of the fight. In spirit, it was true. The ottsel made a very angry, hissing ottsel-like sound as he clawed, bit, and scratched every bit of exposed flesh of the baron's morphed face. It was disgusting, but it was his last attempt at saving Jak's life.
"Damn rodent!!" Praxis screamed through the attack. "You wish to die, then!!" With a hand that would easily crush a full-grown man, the baron grabbed the ottsel and separated him from his face. He sneered a cruel mask of iron exultation into the frightened face of Jak's best friend, and time really did slow down.
"Jak…" Daxter said it simply, with no fear of sadness. He said as if he'd never said Jak's name before. He never even saw Jak's expression of stupefied rage. He didn't.
Praxis roared in the ottsel's face, and threw him.
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"Jak…" The boy pronounced Jak's name as if he'd never heard something quite like it before. Then he grinned. "Sweet. You know, now I have to tell you my name. It doesn't sound anything like yours. It's funny."
Jak, in his tenth year, widened his eyes. "My name?"
The bright-eyed elf sighed. "No way, yours is way cool. Mine's Daxter. Stupid, right?"
"No," Jak lied. He tried to keep a straight face. He failed.
"Go ahead, laugh!" said Daxter, as if he were truly offended. "I hate it, so you can go ahead and poke fun."
"I'm sorry, " said Jak. "I've never heard anything like it. You're from somewhere else, aren't you?"
"No," said the shorter boy. "My whole family has weird names. Like Beatrice, Lorki, Nigel…"
The other elf began to laugh uncontrollably. At first, Daxter was taken aback, but very soon he joined in. They were weird names, after all, and there was nothing wrong with making a little fun of them.
"Y'know, we're gonna get along great…Daxter." Jak burst out snickering again, warping the name on his tongue to make it sound even stupider.
The beach was filled with the sound of boys laughing.
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What was really a scarce second took a hundred years for the ottsel. He barely knew it before he was soaring through the air, screaming in terror. Daxter felt the solid stone before he saw it. His flight ended abruptly when he struck the cold barrier. His right arm, his tail, his spine and his skull all cracked and splintered on impact. It seemed another eternity, for the searing agony let him float in strangled silence, his heart convulsing painfully inside of his crushed ribs. He fell like a dead weight to the damaged pavement below. He did not, and perhaps could not move.
Such a cry that rose from Jak's throat, he couldn't think to describe. Such anguish that burst open inside of him, unlocking every last ounce of the Eco that coursed his body. He felt Daxter's name start to form on his lips, but he found he had no air to utter the word in disbelief. In a flare of drab madness, the elf allowed Dark Jak to consume him.
But what from the elf's body emitted that was not Dark Eco? Praxis was right in assuming that emotions triggered such a response in an infected experiment. What the baron had never expected, was the sharp, overwhelming burning on his palm that gripped the young elf. Dark Eco? But it could not simply hurt him so…the baron himself was a brand new manifestation of such an element. Bellowing, Praxis tightened his grip around the elf, as if trying to quell his life before he discharged the power that would surely destroy them both.
Jak screamed in outrage. He let it all loose. He no longer cared about his body and what sort of depravity hatred would do to it. He had once sworn that Praxis would die. For two long years, Jak vowed that nothing else mattered but his justice for the terrible procedures he'd endured. All in one moment, a moment that broke his heart into a piece for each day he spent in that prison, his objective changed. Praxis would die…because Praxis had hurt his best friend. The baron would suffer. Endlessly.
Praxis learned something new. It was not fun to be deceived. He also learned, in the last flashing moments of his life, the Morbid had lied to him. Dark Eco would not protect him from Jak. Dark Eco would preserve the body that the Morbid had bestowed upon the baron -- the arachnid born straight from the Dark matter itself. But Dark Eco cared not for the man that lived inside of its shell. It desired to consume the baron as much as it wanted to consume everything else.
Jak's skin paled. A blood violet light crept along the baron's hand, unaffecting the Dark Eco that his body was made of. The baron wanted little more of Jak, and he dropped the elf where he was. Praxis screeched and batted at the purple flame that encompassed his entire body. It stopped his beady, beating heart made of organic flesh, and it crept along his neck and face, until his very mind was consumed and turned to ash. The golden shards on his arms flashed once, and then died. They died with the light in his hell-bound eyes.
There was only a slight tremor as Praxis finally fell, and died. Jak had landed on his feet, the Dark Eco controlling his very actions to enhance his own balance and measurement of accurate distances. His boots had barely struck the ground, however, when the pure hatred he felt died. Why? There was something else that fought the confusion inside of him. Perhaps in a way, his hatred caused by the Dark Eco died when he had nothing left to hate. The baron was dead, thus allowing his mind a free rein.
But it felt different from that. His immediate thought was not of triumph over the death of Praxis, but of Daxter. Damn the loss of his enemy would be without his furry companion. The ottsel must be all right, and so he told himself with a makeshift confidence. Daxter pulled through everything, right? As he returned to his natural colour, and his natural expression embraced his forlorn face, Jak stood up.
The Green Sage could no longer run. His legs were not built for long-distance sprints, and his urgency now did not stimulate him as well as he'd hoped. He saw Praxis squirm and battled the fuzzy fury on his face, and he saw the ottsel flung across the street like a discarded rag. Samos was able to hear Jak's pulsating anger, and to see the baron collapse as his very soul was devoured by the same power that drove him.
But Samos was not close enough. He panted and huffed, his shaky stride becoming slower and slower as he ran towards the scene. The vials…the vials had to be taken to them It was not a question of might, or maybe…if he failed, he would not rest again in peace. A last hope. The vials. Samos felt those words shove past the fatigue, and his sprint renewed itself. Old Samos the Sage was coming.
"Dax…?" Jak ran. His voice quivered slightly as his steps brought him closer to the orange dot on the ground. "Daxter…oh, Gods, Daxter, please no."
The ottsel showed no signs of life, until the elf slowed to a stop just above him. It was terrible for Daxter, for his bones were crushed and his will pinned just underneath them. He gagged as his semi-consciousness broke from the next wave of distress in his broken little body. Someone was taking a hammer to his head, he thought. Gah, why wouldn't the pounding stop? Oh, Jak. Jak was there. He wanted something…seriously, it couldn't be morning already, could it? The ottsel half-opened his eyes, and looked on into the grief-stricken face of his friend.
Jak saw and knew. The ottsel was shattered in mere pain, yes, but the disgusting purple welt painted across the top half of his body said it all. The elf felt a terrible weight drop upon him, forcing him to his knees with the first traces of denial in his eyes.
Daxter coughed, but he felt nothing. His chest was cold, and wet, and numb. The ottsel sighed a shallow sigh. "Hey, Jak, buddy…t-tell me…is it bad?"
Morose, Jak shook his head and could not help but croak. "No. You're...you just…just hang on."
He gave no reason for the ottsel to believe him, and Daxter knew Jak enough to know when he was lying. The pain in his pal's face, and the dreary ache of his head and body told him reality. It made him feel strange, actually. The realization that death was a possibility made everything else seem so meager, blurry, and listless. Daxter tried to move, but a searing pain in his spine prevented it. He was tired, as it took so much energy to stay awake.
"Dax, why?" Jak suddenly demanded. A sob escaped his throat, rendering it raw and hoarse. "You should have stayed on the ground. You should have stayed where Praxis couldn't…"
"What…" breathed Daxter. "And miss…my big chance…" The ottsel shivered. "I missed…"
"No," said Jak. His voice rang out sharply. "You're…you're the greatest. The best hero that ever was." It was a touch of sudden awareness, just how much the little fuzz ball meant to him. No, not a fuzz ball. Daxter, his best friend. "Dax, the great hero that saved Haven City…"
"Jak…" The ottsel struggled to fill his ruptured lungs again. But he was grinning madly. "Can we…go home?"
Jak wouldn't smile through his tears, as they now freely flowed without restraint. He'd denied it, he'd been angry, and he'd been upset. Perhaps he would simply accept it, but the furry little ottsel made it sound so unrealistic. The blonde elf brushed his eyes momentarily with his hand, and choked a sad laugh. "I'll take you home, Dax…I promise, we'll go home together. Me, and you, and Keira…even old Samos."
"Yeah, I…know…" Daxter gave in to the swelling pain in his chest. "We won't…stop being…pals…a friend…like you…Jak…"
Jak's eyes widened slightly. He shook his head, reaching out to the ottsel's battered body. He stopped and curled his fingers into a tight fist. Moving him would cause Daxter more pain. Jak saw Daxter's eyes falls suddenly, eyelids covering his once inflamed gaze. Something in the blonde elf's chest jolted. "No, Dax…Dax, please don't go. Don't go…!"
The ottsel began to shake all of a sudden. Jak cried out and took his best friend into his arms, forgetting all about his condition. He brought him to his chest, providing warmth through the spilled tears. Daxter's body instinctively curled into a defenseless ball, convulsing in Jak's hands. Jak grit his teeth, willing with every ounce of his strength for his friend's agony to simply end. Eventually, the ottsel ceased trembling, and went limp in Jak's embrace.
If time could paint, it might have painted that moment. For Jak did not want to pull away, to see, to discover what he never wanted to know and live through. He did crouch for a long, comfortless minute with his best friend's body still flat against his jackhammering chest. Slowly, he lowered his arms and lay the motionless ottsel on the rocks before him.
The ottsel did not reply.
"Dax…n-no…" Jak lowered his head, screwing his eyes shut. Misery ripped carelessly at his heart. "DAXTER!!" he screamed at the ground below his feet. His body quaked with newborn sobs. He slammed his fist into the nearest rock he could find, sending it cart-wheeling through the air. Crying was not his nature, but he felt no connection with what was real and what did not exist now. He wept miserably. He moaned, and shed tears he'd never lost before. Not even through his years in prison.
Samos the Sage nearly lost his footing over the last barrier between himself and the anguished sounds coming from the other side. The old elf lowered himself over the edge and hit the pavement running. Twenty yards into his short trek, the Green Sage slowed to a halt where a scene came to his sore eyes that he could not at first believe.
Samos watched the sobbing elf for a long time. He also saw the reason for his suffering laying quietly before him, which drove ice-cold daggers into the sage's heart. Oh, the boy had died long before he could arrive…! Samos chided himself senselessly, unlocking his fingers from around his walking stick. It fell and clattered against the ground, although it did not stir a single glance for Jak and his grievance. Samos advanced without it.
"Jak, my boy…" The sage stepped carefully over the stones and looked on with a gentleness that was unlike him.
"It's my…fault…" growled the elf, not tearing his gaze away from the ground. "I…did this to him…I pushed him into the Dark Eco. If he were…if he weren't…he could have survived…"
"No, Jak." Samos moved closer, shaking his head to emphasize his words. "Daxter did not venture with you because he felt obligated, Jak. He knew the risks, even as he mocked them. You were everything to Daxter, dear boy. He would have done everything in his power to keep you alive, and he has finally, unfortunately come to that decision."
"That's not true!" Jak shouted back. "He should have stayed with Keira! I should be the one dead, not him! He saved the city…not me…"
"He saved you, Jak," said Samos, morosely. "That was what Daxter wanted above all else. He never wanted to save the city, but only you."
Jak did not have a reply for this. He'd found his bearing in a remote sense, and his eyes were affixed to the ottsel's face. Without another word, he curbed his scattered emotions into a consistent confidence, and gathered the cold body of his friend in his arms. He stood up.
"Are you…willing to go?" said the sage, hesitantly.
"I…I promised him…" Jak felt his jaw stiffen with yet another urge to weep, but he fought it back. "I have…to take him home. We're going home together, back…to Sentinel Beach."
Samos nodded solemnly. "Keira will have to know, Jak."
The blonde elf looked at him, cradling Daxter's lifeless form protectively. "She'll understand. I guess…I do now."
The Green Sage didn't turn his head as Jak began to walk in the direction of the power station. Samos hung his head, standing alone in the place of unjust death and grounds stained with tears. Daxter's obnoxious behaviour was something he would surely miss. He admitted, later on in his saddened stories, that he did add a few of his own tears to the mural of broken stones below his feet. Time's painting came to mind. The stones were there, the broken street, and…
A golden shard.
Samos bent over, examining the glint that attracted his eye. It was indeed a piece of the broken Precursor's Stone. In fact, there were three of them. They were together, having been torn off of the baron's arms by Praxis himself in his feverish attempt to bat away the Dark power that destroyed him. Samos brushed them first with his gnarled fingers, and then gathered them together.
The Green Sage smiled. The ancient Precusors were full of many wonders, and perhaps in this time, their unlimited power had resurfaced. He knew where he stood, and it was a holy place. There would be much grieving to do upon their return to the time of Sandover Village, but with the deciphering of a few texts, perhaps the truth behind the Precursor Stone's real power would be unveiled.
Until then, they would cherish the memories of the cowardly ottsel, and the brave hero Daxter really was.
I feel depreciated. Why? I write these things to torture myself, I swear. W'elp, I'm off to play a little Jak II to remind myself that Daxter is NOT dead, and that this entire fanfiction does not account towards what is REAL. I'm so sad. Wandering off, now…
*crawls into a small corner and cries*