Bet you thought this was a dead story, huh? Nope:D
School caught up with me, then I had this stupid episode of depression brought on by a chiropractor (yes, by a chiropractor. You adjust something wrong - or even right, but the body refuses to be "textbook normal" - and you totally screw everything up, including moods), and on top of that...I got major writer's block. So, this took forever. Sorry for that. And sorry if anyone seems out of character. Methinks I need to go replay Going Commando...
Yes, this is the chapter in which you finally get to find out who the mysterious woman is (ha, kept you in suspense long enough, haven't I?). And for the record, the name Griltor is a combination of "gorrilla" and "raptor".
And now for those reader reviews (lots of these to deal with, eh?).
Midnight Critic: I've never tried the garlic toast + jelly myself; I just randomly threw it together. How'd your "experiment" with it go?
Missy Mouse: Don't detonate just yet; here's your answer. :D
lombaxworship: Heh, I finally updated, eh?
LoonyLombax: keeps writing
FurrySlaver2000: Five did seem a little focussed on our Cazar, eh? Poor Ratchet. First his backpack steals the spotlight, and then his girlfriend. XD
Ztarlight: Who were the two people you were guessing it might be? I'd like to know.
Specter Von Baren: Yeah, I had fun typing that quote, LOL.
Illu: Reviews are awesome, too. ;)
Mr. D: And now...you may shout it to the hills, for the secret is out!
RATCHETFAN: I'm thinking it'll only be about another two chapters, plus an epilogue.
ratchetfan: And I updated. :D
Ratchet Fan: Dude, chill. No need to get bent out of shape.
Mr. D 91: I know, I need to update more. I lose my train of thought after a while, so I have to get back in the mood to write. I need to just finish this little booger up.
Andrew Snyder: Updated.
Sarge11: I'll see about it.
A while later, the President went looking for his daughter, wishing to tell her goodnight before turning in himself. When he opened the door, the smell nearly knocked him over. It was so strong! How could she...? Then it hit him: the smell was that of Ratchet, one she must certainly like - or at least tollerate, though the smell of his armor after rotting on the floor for a day wasn't what he'd call pleasant. But then, he had a much larger nose than she, and therefore a much more accute sense of smell. What was strong to him could have been only mildly thick to her. She looked happy and contented, burrowed into the covers as she was. He smiled and whispered, "Goodnight, Sasha," as he closed the door.
Ratchet stared, dumbfounded, at the now-unmasked woman before him. Her blond ponytail, previously tucked within the hood, now hung down her back, shifting with even the slightest turn of her head. Her eyebrows, of a similar shade of brown as his own but much thinner and more feminine, arched quizically, mirroring the small smile on her thin lips. Her eyes, blue and almond-shaped and very nearly like Sasha's, searched his intently. Ratchet spluttered incoherently, then managed, "Angela?"
She frowned at his tone, then lowered her head, nodding. One of the creatures, sensing her downward turn of mood, attempted to nuzzle her arm, but she pushed it away. She looked at Ratchet again, her expression shameful and appologetic.
"But...how...why...you..." He wasn't sure what to ask first. This whole mess...it seemed so out of character for her! "Are you sure you're Angela?"
"Yes, unfortunately," she said, nodding. "Must be pretty confusing, huh? I'm not acting like myself at all." She laughed ruefully. "Well, if you think you're confused, imagine how I feel." Ratchet thought for a moment, then shook his head. If she was more confused than him when he was still feeling the after-effects of a dose of ether, she must have been very confused.
"Why did you...did you..." Ratchet searched for a way to put it in to words.
"Throw away my life?" she supplied. Ratchet, stared at her, shocked. "Don't look so surprised - you know that's what's happened here." She sighed. "MegaCorp would never take me back, and I'm likely to end up in prison. I call that throwing away my life."
"You...quit?" This was more of a surprise to Ratchet than anything. He'd seen how her work was her life. She loved her job at MegaCorp; why in the world would she have quit?
"Well, no..." she began, "but I'd assume they've decided I'm no longer there. I haven't been at work or home for over a week now. As far as the Bogon Galaxy is concerned, I've basically disappeared."
Ratchet blinked. "Why'd you do this, anyway?"
She lowered her head, the insides of her ears showing red through their thinner fur. "I told you... I was jealous. Oh, sure, it didn't start out that way - it actually started with a project I happened to stumble across. I was locking up after work one night, and I happened to notice an open door with a workstation still on..."
Angela entered the roon, her curiosity piqued by the unusual occurance. Most employees did not leave their doors open or their workstation computers on. Nervous, she peeked over the top of the chair in case the employee was still there working, though most people left long before she did. The chair was empty. She glanced over her shoulder, then sat down. The information on the
screen was interesting; she read it in a whisper.
"MegaCorp Bioweapons Project 34A16
This project is classified information. If you're reading this, you're fired."
Angela laughed to herself. MegaCorp always liked to include a short, somewhat humorous 'keep out' message on everything except their garbage - and she was beginning to wonder about the trashcans. She continued reading...
"It was a file for these creatures." She gestured to the large, yellow bird-apes behind her. "They were meant as a new breed of soldier, something like a counter-measure for the Thugs-4-Less. They were supposed to be front-line ground troops meant to catch the enemy off guard with their strange appearances, since they were from a small planet on the outskirts of the galaxy that not many people visited." She paused, then added, "Somewhat like Veldin used to be, I guess, before all the attacks drew the media."
"So MegaCorp was using some...whatever those are...and just selling them?"
"No, no...the original Griltors were smaller - probably about half your height, and weren't very smart or agressive. Part of the project was to make them bigger, tougher, more likely to fight than run and hide. That part succeeded fairly well. Perhaps too well; they were impossible to control or issue orders to. MegaCorp was on the verge of throwing out the project when I first discovered it. I'm not sure why Mr. Fizzwidget never told me about it...maybe he assumed I was better at creating pets than biological weapons, though you might could count the Protopet as one before I managed to bring it under control..." she laughed.
"I took some of the extra DNA samples and began to work with it after hours, just to see if I could make them work. A sort of personal challenge." She paused and motioned to one of the creatures, which approached her. "I found that by splicing in short fragments of my own DNA, I could increase their intellegence and obedience. They even seemed to take to me especially well, better than their ordinary caretakers. Interestingly enough, however, I didn't manage to cut one of the strands perfectly, and it added an extra set of claws to their hands. They only have three fingers externally, but internally there are five distinct bone structures. It made them look like a missing link between the tri- and quintidigited species, so I didn't try to change it. Besides..."
Angela trailed off, noticing that Ratchet's eyes had become glazed and unfocused, that same "Out to Lunch, Back when You're done Ranting" look he'd often gotten when she talked about her work. She didn't quite understand how he could be so utterly bored by a subject she found so facinating, then remembered that that, along with her insistance that he call any time he might be even a minute late and her gentle reminders - that he refered to as nagging - to clean up his appartment before she visited (at least put the dirty laundry in a hamper!), were the reason their relationship had ended so quickly.
She coughed, and Ratchet managed to refocus himself at least momentarily. "Am I boring you?"
"Yes, very much so," he replied. His head listed to one side as if he might rest it on one hand were he not tied to the chair.
"I'm sorry," she said, considering attempting to rub behind his ear in an appology, but then deciding against it as she remembered his previously negative reaction to her touching him. "Should I continue?"
"Yeah, go ahead, whatever," Ratchet half-muttered, adding to himself, 'It's not like I can get away or anything. I may as well know what I'm dealing with now,' as he squirmed a bit in the restraints.
"I guess it was about that time that Mr. Fizzwidget invited me to accompany him to the Solana Galaxy to view the premier of Clank's new movie. At first I declined, but he had the ticket delivered to my home and left 'just in case'. My curiosity got the better of me that time, I suppose, as I eventually decided to go, but in my old Thief suit. Oh, the memories that brought back when I first pulled it out!" She laughed for a moment before continuing in a more somber voice, "That's also when I noticed you and that girl, Sasha." Her voice contained a note of contempt for the Cazar's name, and she had trouble keeping her face from curling into a snarl.
"I was so jealous, Ratchet... I thought I'd gotten over us, but seeing you with someone else..." She lowered her head, her shoulders twitching a few times as she calmed herself. "I could hardly stand it. It was hard to watch the movie at all. I...I...just didn't know what to do. I knew I had to do something, though...
"I decided to make some modifications to my old Thief costume, quite a few changes. I didn't want to be recognized, as myself or as the Thief. I added gravitational stablizers to help with my...balance issues. I even played with the settings on the voice modulator."
Ratchet nodded, at least somewhat interested. "I thought you sounded different."
"Yes, 'different'...I watched so many old movies, trying to get the voice pattern right," she said, her voice now tinged with rueful laughter. "I'm such a mess now, though...I don't really have a life left at MegaCorp, what with being gone for so long, and I'm not going to get off easily. I've stolen government property, destroyed scores of their robotic troops, kidnapped you... They'll probably even try and get me on an attempt on that girl's life - she's the President's daughter, right? - even though she was the one pointing the gun."
Ratchet had to smile at the mental imagine of Sasha wielding a gun. She was an okay shot, but certainly not the type he'd put in a firefight straight away.
"What's so funny? You think me getting in trouble is something to laugh at?" Angela glared at him, and he quickly returned his face to a more neutral possition. She sighed. "You're right, though...it is funny. It's like some bad novel's plot: girl loses guy, girl gets jealous, girl goes to extreme measures..."
Ratchet shook his head slightly, not disagreeing with her, but trying to clear his thoughts. What was he supposed to say? He was tied up, so he couldn't have even touched her shoulder in support. Angela, however, continued her story.
"I didn't really know what I was doing, I don't think. If I had stopped to think it through... But, I was so upset, and so obcessed with my work on the Griltors and my suit and..." Her voice trailed off, but the flicker of her eyes suggested that perhaps she had been obcessed with thoughts of him, too. "By the time I got to Solana, it had already been a week since I'd left Bogon. I almost considered turning around and just going home, but...I didn't. I should have, though."
Ratchet nodded. He certainly couldn't argue with her in that respect.
"I told myself to think of it as a test of the Griltors, to see how they'd do in a real battle. MegaCorp didn't know I'd been working on them; it was all a private endeavor. I...I suppose I wanted to prove to myself that I could make something useful, something more than just a pet, but controllable."
"They work," Ratchet said, remembering the mess he'd found as he'd entered the Phoenix after it had been overrun.
"Yes, they...they do work, don't they?" Angela's face brightened. "I should be happy about that, I guess. But I'm not even going to be out to see the results - I'll either have to go into hiding, or be arrested. Either way, I'll be unable to enjoy it."
They were both quiet for some time, Ratchet not knowing what to do, and Angela contemplating her own fate. Then, deciding to take a chance, Ratchet asked softly, "Would you untie me?"
She looked up, surprised at his voice that had shaken her from her thoughts, and then relaxed. "Sure." The ropes gone, Ratchet, massaged his bare arms and streched his back; he'd been cramped for so long that it popped as he moved. Hearing the sound, Angela winced slightly. "I'm sorry; I left you there for too long. Seems I make a mess of everything, don't I?"
He shrugged and waved it off. "It's nothing. I needed to do that anyway."
A sudden crunching sound came from one of the consoles behind them. Ratchet turned the chair around, and Angela looked over the top of it. "No, you! Get away from that!" One of the Griltors had broken through a control panel and was wreaking havoc upon the wires within, munching them like so many sugar-coated candy worms. Angela jumped over the railing and landed in the lower part of the bridge, preparing to pull the creature off. Before she could touch it, however, it managed to find one of the wires which carried a higher voltage than the others and chomped down on it.
It reared back, then fell on its behind, its hands pawing clumsily at its shocked mouth. Ratchet had to grin at it, though he felt slightly immature in doing so. But the Griltor did have it comming to it. Angela slapped its shoulder - though the hit was hardly enough to phase it - and told it to leave the bridge, which it did meekly, one hand still wiping at its mouth. Ratchet glanced at it as it passed him, then looked at the damaged console. "Let me see what kind of problem it caused. Electricity isn't my thing, but oh well."
However, as he stood up, Ratchet suddenly found himself very dizzy again, still not fully recovered from the effects of the anesthesia. He grabbed onto the chair to steady himself. "Are you okay?" Angela asked as she accended one of the side ramps back to the top level. He nodded and stood up straight again. She studied his face. "You don't look so good. Maybe you should sit back down..."
"No, I'm okay," he said, though his tensed muscles said otherwise. "I'll just...see what's wrong." His first step was slightly wobbly, but after that he seemed all right. Angela lifted a hand as if to catch his shoulder and steady him, but didn't extend her reach. He stopped in front of the console and leaned heavily on his hands, looking at it in less-than-mild confusion. "I...have no idea what it did in here."
Angela rolled her eyes, then became concerned as he slumped into the chair next to himself. Ratchet had never been so out of himself in front of her before. "Are you sure you're okay? It's almost seven; maybe you should turn in."
Ratchet blinked slightly in confusion. He knew he'd been out for a while, but he hadn't figured it to be more than a few hours... Then he realized she was using civilian time. He'd become so accustomed to Sasha's use of millitary time that it took him a moment to revert to the twelve-hour schedule kept by most people. She meant seventeen-hundred hours, not oh-seven-hundred. "Maybe so," he muttered, pushing himself up again.
He stumbled slightly on the upward incline, but managed to keep his balance. Angela moved slightly, intending to offer him support, but he gave her a look which made her think twice. She sighed when he had left the bridge and entered the transport system. 'I suppose he does have a right to be angry with me,' she thought to herself.
Ratchet paused inside his quarters, looking around. They seemed relatively untouched - even the VG9000 controller with its broken handle was still in the same place. He wondered why the Griltors hadn't decided to come in, then remembered that certain parts of the ship has still had an auto-lockdown on them when it had been invaded. Now, however, the security was down. He thought for a moment, then decided to losen the wires the door so that it wouldn't continually open and close from motion sensativities.
He opened small panel near the door and tugged one wire loose. The lights went out. He mumbled to himself and fumbled to find the place the wire went, shocking himself a few times. He almost felt sorry for the Griltor who'd done it earlier, experiencing it himself. When the lights came back on, however, he noticed another panel, this one containing a holographic display. It turned on as he reached for it, and he realized it was a lock mechanism - why had he never noticed it before? He pushed the virtual buttons in the air, then stepped in front of the door. It didn't open.
Satisfied he wouldn't be walked in on while he was both unarmed and asleep by a wandering creature - or Angela, for that matter - he crawled into one of the sleep pods. Perhaps, in the morning, he'd feel better and he could see about convincing her to let him go. 'Maybe if I ask Sasha to tell her dad to go easy on her,' he thought. 'Maybe that would help.' His eyes fluttered lazily in half-sleep before he finally settled down.