Re-posted 2010 because FF.n ate all my spacing and line breaks.
This is what was going to be one big one-shot. But it got too big. So now it's a story in a few parts.
This takes place between Jak II & 3. It is AU.
Ages are based on logical guesses. I figure Jak was early 15 when captured at the start of Jak II, making him early 17 when he escaped. I then give about a year to the present point – after the defeat of the Baron, but before Ashelin has finished her rebuilding of the water slums or Veger has shown his face. So Jak is now almost/early 18 years of age.
Ships: There are none. No matter what it might look like.
"Sig? It's Ashelin. Do you have a moment?"
Sig's one eye flicked towards the communication device on the table.
The Wastelander was in his small home-away-from-home, a half-rotted shanty on the northern half of the Water District - as yet untouched by the new Governor's rapid rebuilding advances.
The place stank of the unclean water (sewers not accessible from here, of course) rippling below and shook in the mildest of breezes, its rotted supports barely able to take the weight.
"Right here." He answered. With any luck the redhead would be calling to ask him to help out with some more never-ending 'clean up' of lingering Metal Heads. He'd just returned from Spargus and so couldn't even pretend to justify returning there again, not so soon.
What he wouldn't give to be out in the warm sun and the fresh air.
He might have been born in Haven, but now he wanted nothing to do with it. If Damas hadn't sent him on this mission, he'd have cheerfully forgotten that the cesspit of a city had ever existed.
"Oh good, I'm glad I got you. I need a favour or two. Can you meet me down at our new HQ?"
Sig was already on his feet, checking that his knives were firmly in place before grabbing his Peacemaker and slinging it over his shoulder with practiced ease.
"There's no rush." Ashelin's voice continued "In fact, I need you do so something else first."
His hand stilled over the off switch.
"What?" He asked.
"…Have you heard from Jak lately?" The cheap machine answered evasively.
Sig frowned. Jak?
"No." He answered, hand returning to his side.
There was a pause.
"We need you to bring him to HQ with you. He.. hasn't been keeping in contact lately." Ashelin answered eventually, guardedly.
"We can get Daxter at the Naughty Ottsel, but he says that Jak spends most of his time out in the city somewhere by himself. He doesn't take his communicator with him. Normally, when we need him for something, we just leave a message at Daxter's…"
Sig's frown deepened.
"So why haven't you just done that?"
The pause was longer this time.
"Because… Daxter hasn't seen him for three days."
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'Take hope, brave one. The darkness within you is now balanced by a glorious light.'
Jak let his head drop back against the concrete wall of the tower. Dark blue eyes drifted over the sky, searching vainly for the familiar constellations of his childhood against the faint, smog-shrouded stars above him.
Idly, he wondered if the Precursors were out there somewhere…
If they were, they were probably laughing at him.
Snatches of voices, floating clear and sharp through the night air caught his attention. His gaze turned to the side where, on the other side of the port, a giant neon Ottsel glowed in the darkness.
His gaze locked on the grinning figure, as it nodded its head slowly towards him.
There he is
Glide down, stop with a jolt.
Stay away, monster.
Rise slowly, jerkily.
We don't need you anymore.
Stop with a jolt. Glide down..
We don't want you anymore.
With a frustrated noise, the teenager wrenched his eyes away and shifted so his back was to wall on the far side. The light from behind him was hidden. The sounds of life were muted.
Now why did that seem familiar?
His eyes returned to the stars.
What had the precursors meant? 'Balanced by a glorious light'? He certainly didn't feel any different.
He looked at his hands. Just his fingers were showing out from under his gloves… But he could feel the Dark Eco inside them. Inside every inch of him.
And he hated it.
Not just the Eco, either. He hated himself for being so weak. For being captured so easily, for not fighting, for succumbing to the Baron's ministrations. For having something inside him like this.. something that only needed a little prodding to take control. For believing that the Precursors ever gave a damn about him.
None of this was new, however. He'd hated himself for ages.. Ever since he'd woken up and found Daxter cowering away from him.
After that, he'd hated the Baron and Errol. With an intensity that burned so strongly, he could manage to look himself in a mirror without flinching.
But now that they were dead… Now that the war was 'over'…
He didn't know what to do.
With himself, with his life…
He had no skills that were useful in this time, this place, except the ability to kill. And what good was that? There was no evil-minded Baron to overthrow anymore, and once the last dregs of the Metal Heads had been dealt with … there'd be nothing left.
There were plenty of signs advertising positions in 'Haven's Guard'. That'd provide a roof over his head and food on his plate, at least.
That is, if he could ever rid himself of the memories that plagued him every time he saw the uniform. If the very sight of them and the men they clad didn't make his instincts scream for blood.
And when it came right down to it… He didn't think he could just take orders like that. Not from just anyone. Not for a job. Not unless it was in his or Daxter's best interests.
He closed his eyes and sighed as a heavy rain began to fall.
He didn't even know how to act around him anymore. He hadn't realised it before, but somehow he'd become almost completely dependant on his best friend. Not for food or shelter or protection.. But for the invisible things that only Daxter could do.
Daxter could make him smile. Daxter could make him feel, just with his presence, that everything would be alright. Daxter not only made him feel alive, but that he had the right to be alive as well. His pal did all that and more… and he, Jak, had never once stopped to consider what would happen if and when Daxter ever left his shoulder and got settled into another life. A life that didn't consist of the two of them against the world.
He swore softly, heaving his soaked body up. He'd felt like an idiot when the realization had finally hit.
'Together forever' only worked for people in love, and as much as he loved Daxter he knew that he was only a 'best friend' and as such would always take second place in Dax's life.
The life his pal seemed to have started.
A series of nimble jumps – despite the rain-slicked surfaces – landed him on the ground far below and he turned towards the Ottsel's fog-shrouded light.
Daxter had been given Krew's old joint only days after Metal Kor's defeat, and both he and Tess were working hard to turn it into an enjoyable, profitable business.
He was happy for his friend, and damn proud of him. It was just that he was sad as well, not to mention painfully lonely.
He'd always felt that Daxter was special, capable of understanding him like no other. That belief had only been reinforced when his furry buddy had gotten a close-up view of what he'd been turned into and yet remained by his side, without hesitation.
Haven had stripped him of everything but his hatred. The prison and that damned chair working between them to destroy both his hope of rescue and his belief in the goodness of people. The Dark Eco had taken its toll as well. The treatments left him scarred in both body and mind, as the destructive force tainted his feelings and twisted his recollections. Before long, he could not even retreat into his memories to escape what was happening to him, as the malevolent force within corrupted more and more of his psyche.
And then Daxter had come.
And the energy inside him had not been able to touch him any more than it had the memory of him.
After that.. the last tattered shreds of his soul had fastened themselves to the furry orange anchor and without him even noticing, his best friend had become the center of his life.
He sighed and glared at the sky.
How pathetic. He might as well just wear a collar.
Dax had offered him a place to stay, of course, but he couldn't live there forever. Spending his rare sleeping hours amongst stacks of extra food supplies and bottles. Learning not to leap to his feet, weapon cocked and ready, every time Tess came in to grab something.
And lately, Dax had begun talking about how it was about time Jak 'left the nest' and 'found his own place so that he, Daxter, could come and crash there for once.'
"Get a job, Jak"
The ottsel was halfway up the wall, clambering through the wall-shelves looking for a particularly elusive liquor.
Jak looked up, mug raised half-way to his lips.
"Find something you really wanna do and go do it. You can't live here the rest of your life, ya know. Why not.."
His best friend kept talking, but Jak couldn't hear him any more.
That was when he'd left, with Daxter's fuzzy backside still poking out from between dusty bottles, his familiar voice dying away as the door of the pub-cum-club closed behind him.
He hadn't eaten in the last three days, but that was ok. He was well used to going without food. He'd drunk from the port water, which was technically unhealthy although the most effect it had on him was a foul taste in his mouth and a lingering headache.
At first he'd looked around, trying to find something, anything to do. Some way of proving he could do more than kill and race.
Nothing. The only thing even open to someone like him, other than the Guard, was that of a heavy in Haven's established underworld. A job that revolted him almost as much as that of a Guard. He didn't want to be… a hired gun. A weapon. He didn't want to prove Praxis right.
For awhile he'd just wandered the city. Some people had recognized him. They'd hurried away, pointed or just stood and gawped. He began to despair. He couldn't, wouldn't leech off of Daxter for the rest of his life. There had to be something he could do… Somewhere he would be useful.
He just had to find it.
But all the time, every second of every day, he could feel the Darkness inside.
It was getting stronger and stronger.
He hated it.
He hated himself.
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Sig frowned after the woman walking quickly away from him.
'Just bring him to HQ with you.' He thought sourly, 'Like it's that easy.'
Jak was proving more difficult to track down than the Wastelander had thought. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised, though.. The kid had evaded capture for the entirety of the war against the Baron…
The kid had done a lot of things, in fact… Things that no other Haven citizen had ever done, at least, not any who hadn't already been exiled.
But right now, he wished the blonde wasn't quite so good at avoiding detection.
Sighing, he made his way towards the Naughty Ottsel. The club was deserted at this hour, despite the brightly lit signs and invitingly open door.
Before he entered, however, some instinct made the large man turn slightly to the left, eyes scanning the darkness of the mass of metal and wire protruding from the water. His artificial eye saw what his natural one couldn't, a small bundle of heat nestled amongst the cold pipes.
His eye wasn't the best on the market.. he'd gotten it years ago when optical implants were a still a new and risky option… but the pattern of heat looked like a person… huddled in on itself.
That same instinct, honed from years of solitary operation against unpredictable sandstorms and ruthlessly sneaky Marauders, prickled against his senses.
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He blinked. One ear twitched slightly.
Slowly, his gaze turned from the rectangle of warm light across from him to the voice.
The large man's silhouette was painfully familiar and with a suddenness that made him dizzy, a solution finally presented itself. Krew's wheezy voice sounded in his mind, as clear as the day he'd first spoken.
"Ever thought about being a Wastelander?"
He could just kick himself. Days of wandering, hours of sitting here and agonizing over entering his friend's place just as useless as he'd been when he'd left…
And here was the answer he'd been searching for, standing right in front of him!
In one smooth motion he reached up and gripped the pipes above him, propelling his body over the channel of water and onto the dock with almost feline grace.
"Sig." He greeted, ignoring the way his vision was trembling at the edges.
The Wastelander grinned at him. "Good to see you again Jak. And I really mean that. You're a pain to find, you know?"
Jak shrugged, shifting his gaze away.
Sig observed him, both eyes flicking over the youth for a quick check. He looked tired and slightly pale. His body wasn't emitting as much heat as normal, which was understandable if he'd been spending the last few days outside in this weather..
He frowned, just slightly. His eco detectors were registering a strong pulse of the dark stuff. The readings normally bounced up into the 'supposedly lethal' area when Jak was around.. but they'd never pulsed like this… Never been this high…
Mentally shrugging, he brushed the readings off. For all he knew, this was the norm for Jak in a time where he couldn't just 'go Dark' every other day.
"Anyway, if you've got the time to spare, Ashelin wants us for a job. You up for it?"
Jak quirked a smile at the other man as the two began walking away. "Something you can't handle, big guy?"
Sig mock-scowled at him. "Keep talking, rookie." He growled. Jak's half-smile widened.
Sig glanced at him, then back at the club behind them. "No yappin' shoulder warmer today?"
To his surprise, Jak visibly stiffened. After a moment, the youth shook his head.
"No" The blonde said softly, "There's no need to drag him into this."
The Wastelander eyed him only briefly before nodding his acknowledgement. He noticed, with an internal smirk, his companion's eyes automatically tracking the hover vehicles flying overhead, a predatory look in the blue eyes.
"Hero of Haven or not, I don't think the Governor would appreciate us showing up in a stolen car, Jak." He said, a smile tugging at his lips.
The teenager shot him a slight grin and turned his own eyes back to the crowd around them.
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"Sig! Jak! I'm glad you're here." Ashelin gave the two men a rare smile, her eyes lingering just a second longer on the younger of the two.
"And about time, too!" Samos joined in, beckoning them impatiently over to one of the minor view screens. "We need you two to do a very important job for us."
The two in question traded a look and joined the wizened old Sage by the computer.
"As you know, several of the larger Metal Heads have retained a fair bit of intelligence, despite Kor's demise." Samos continued, craning his neck to look up at them. "They've managed to gather quite a lot of the smaller Metal Heads to them, and an attack launched last week was only barely repelled. As it is, the shield wall was badly damaged and we won't be able to hold off another assault there."
Samos pointed to the screen, upon which a topographical map displayed a portion of the city wall and a great deal of wasteland beyond.
"We need you to go past the wall and out into the Wasteland, to track down the chief Metal Heads and kill them all before they can come back and tear down the wall entirely."
He turned his attention back to the fighters. "Make sure you find their nest and destroy every last one." He turned to the blonde. "Jak, Sig has made his livelihood in the Wasteland for many years. Listen to him and don't get lost. You will need his expertise, if you want to stay alive."
Jak rolled his eyes as he and Sig turned to go. Sig saw it and grinned down at him.
"That's right rookie, make sure you don't let go of my hand, now."
His grin widened as the teen scowled at him and the words 'rip it off' emerged from the irritated mutterings.
Mar help him, but he liked this kid.
Five hours later his opinion of his young friend had only risen.
The two of them had been trekking through the Wasteland on foot for four hours now, the uncovered sun beating down far harsher than it ever had in Haven.
Despite this, to Sig's surprise and approval, Jak kept pace and didn't breathe a word of complaint.
"You're tougher than you look." He said at last, as the two of them stopped briefly in the shade of a lone rock. Jak just shrugged as he slowly swirled a small amount of water inside his mouth, a technique of staving off thirst and conserving water that Sig had been planning to teach him.
Now where had the kid learned that?
"Of course, that's not hard." He continued, a slight grin on his face as he opened his own water container. "With all that girly hair of yours."
He cheerfully took a sip of water as his companion shot him a dark look.
Being out of the city always improved his mood. And right now, off to hunt down some bad-ass Metal Heads with not only a good gun at his side but also a good friend…
He was feeling pretty damn fine.
This was the life of a Wastelander. Not spying amongst a bunch of self-obsessed, worthless idiots but out here in the sun and the sand! Not that he'd ever go against King Damas's orders.. the man held his loyalty as much as his friendship, after all…
But damn, it was good to get out once in awhile…
The two men rested in silence for a few minutes, Jak watching the desert as Sig watched him.
It was rare to be in the blonde's company without some form of noise going on, whether it be gunfire or the rat chattering incessantly. Now that neither was present, Sig had time to focus his full attention on the Haven boy who fought like he'd been raised in the Wasteland and raced like he'd been born in the stadium.
Once again, the nagging sense of familiarity itched at his senses.
Which was stupid, of course. He'd known Jak for just under a year now, and there were few others who he'd rather have at his back in a fight. In fact, of all the Wastelanders he knew, there was only one. Damas.
He frowned speculatively. Maybe that was it. There were some things that Jak did or said that just reminded him of his old friend. Like now. The look on the kid's face as he gazed out at the wasteland was almost frighteningly like that of Damas, when the King stood looking out over Spargus.
Focused. Pensive. Determined.
He blinked as Jak's head suddenly snapped up, blue eyes searching for something amongst the shifting sands.
"Sig, there's something out there. A Metal Head. Feels…" The youth shifted, unconsciously drawing his weapon. "Different." He finished, slightly frustrated.
Sig was already on his feet, artificial eye scanning the area his partner had indicated. Sure enough, there was the blip of another life force hand-in-hand with the Dark Eco readings that indicated a Metal Head.
"Nice catch, Jak. This puppy'll lead us right to the nest. Stay sharp, we don't want to fall over any and give away our position."
Jak just nodded as the two of them set off.
"You know, you're pretty useful." Sig commented. "All you'd need are some new threads and a haircut and you'd make a passable Wastelander."
Jak glanced at him, eyes unreadable.
"You think so?" He asked, voice colored with some emotion that Sig couldn't quite place.
He shrugged. "Sure."
The teen turned his gaze back to the desert. For a long moment there was only the sound of the wind until, so soft as to be on the cusp of hearing;
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"Oh…. Sweet sonofa yakkow…"
Jak grimaced his agreement. He and Sig had followed the giant pack-animal-type Metal Head to a small collection of sun-scorched, wind-smoothed rocks. At first, they hadn't understood why the beast had stopped there. The stones weren't overly large – the biggest one was barely the size of the creature they tracked.
After only a moment, however, there was a grinding sound that was felt through the soles of their feet more than through their ears and with a juddering shower of sand, the stones had begun to move.
That was when they saw that the stones weren't stones at all… But extensions of some kind of huge underground Metal Head. The limbs had opened like a purposeful flower, reforming to create a dark tunnel that went down into the earth.
Of course, with barely time for a grin at each other, the two elves had bolted across the remaining distance and dived in after their prey. The creature hadn't noticed, it's single-minded brain driving it onwards despite the two foreign beings that had clambered onto its back and hidden amongst the precious cargo of eggs.
After almost ten minutes of lumbering progress, they'd finally reached the end of the tunnel and emerged into a dimly-lit cave of enemy activity.
Peering carefully out from their hiding places, they'd set eyes on what Ashelin and Samos had sent them into.
It wasn't so much that the cave was big, but rather that every damn inch of it was coated in eggs. Floor, walls and ceiling. Thin paths crisscrossed the huge area, over which the scorpion and dog-like Metal Heads crawled over each other like mindless ants. The spider-like creatures moved slowly amongst the eggs, presumably tending to them, and the air was thick with all manner of flying types. Barely visible in the crush of bodies were a few isolated staff-wielding Metal Heads moving through their kindred like overseers… or guards…
Jak swallowed with more than a little difficulty. The Metal Heads seemed to blot in and out of existence, as his deprived body fought to stay operative.
"We.. we need to find somewhere to get down." He muttered, trying to force his vision to work through sheer force of will. "A high, sheltered place, if we want to stand a chance."
He felt Sig's gaze rest on him, though the other man simply murmured agreement. If he'd noticed his short dizzy spell, he wasn't saying anything about it.
A brush against his arm made him glance back at the Wastelander. Sig's tanned face nodded past him, as the green eye flicked upwards. Jak followed the gaze, noticing –after a moment, as his eco-altered eyes strained to see what Sig's artificial eye had spotted so easily – a dip in the rows of eggs, a shadow of a hidden cave. He nodded back at the man.
As soon as they came to a less-populated area, they'd slip down and try to make their way to it. From there…
He almost laughed at the ludicrousness of it all.
From there, they'd stage an attack upon the Metal Heads, hoping to pick off the biggest ones – their primary targets – before the rest of the creatures swarmed them.
The corner of his lips twitched downwards.
This favour to Ashelin was turning out to be suicide.
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The plan hadn't gone too smoothly. They'd dropped down from the Metal Head amongst a patch of large eggs – more than big enough to hide their bodies standing up – but hadn't made three steps before a flying creature spotted them and dove to attack.
Jak had noticed Sig's automatic reaction – aiming his weapon for a shot that would undoubtedly bring the rest of the bastards down on them at once – so he leapt forwards to smash the creature to the ground with the butt of his own gun. The Metal Head squealed as it hit the floor, but the noise was lost amongst the grunts and snarls of its companions.
Sig had given him a thankful and understanding nod, before stepping forward to crush the crippled enemy underfoot.
That was when everything went to hell.
The death of the creature resulted in little goblets of Dark Eco – as usual – some of which leapt immediately up and into his body – causing an unwelcome ripple of pain and almost shorting his exhausted body out – and some of which had fallen against the large eggs, making them glow a dark purple instead of green.
This was clearly noticed by one of the tenders (in the half-light, it would have been hard NOT to notice) and the spider Metal Head had scuttled up before he or Sig could find cover.
The moment it saw the two of them it opened fire, unheeding of the eggs it was destroying in the process. The attack drew the attention of almost every other Metal Head, causing a swarm of lethal intent.
They made the cave, at least, but they were in serious trouble.
Without words, they'd fallen into a pattern. Jak kept the –thankfully small – mouth of the cave covered with his scatter gun, blasting a wall of energy that succeeded in killing the scorpion and wasp-like MHs and knocking back most of the other types. Sig had set himself against the stone wall and just slightly behind Jak, repeatedly powering up his Peacemaker and firing at the larger threats before they could get too close – they were too heavy to be knocked back by Jak's current weapon.
It was working for now, but they were both rapidly running out of ammo, and whilst he still had three other types of Morph Gun to use – including his own less equipped Peacemaker – Sig would be down to only his backup gun. A one-shot-at-a-time relatively weak weapon attached to his Peacemaker's underside.
And all the while, Dark Eco was pooling outside the cave, trickling upwards to merge with his body, crackling inside his skull and messing with his senses.
Apparently Sig noticed that something was wrong with him, because – as he rapidly reloaded his Peacemaker – the Wastelander took the time to frown at him.
"You okay Jak? You look like you're about to collapse."
Jak gritted his teeth and kept firing.
"It's the Eco." He ground out. "I can't stop it from… coming into me… I can't take much more before I... loose control."
He heard Sig swear softly, no doubt remembering the stories that circulated about the 'Dark Eco Freak'. Before now, the big man had never seen Jak 'go Dark' but it was beginning to look like he'd have a front row seat, right here and now.
He didn't have much time. He could already feel his body changing, fighting (and winning) against his will.
Quickly, he fired another scatter shot then switched the weapon to Peacemaker mode and blasted the closest Metal Heads. The energy fanned out, taking a sizable chunk of the close-up creatures with it, giving Jak enough time to shove the weapon into Sig's hands and leap out of the cave.
"Stay hidden for as long as you can!" He ordered, straining to stay in control. "If I come after you, don't hesitate to take me down." He heard Sig begin to protest and turned slightly with a snarl, canines lengthening. "Damnit Sig! You're probably the only damn person I actually give a fuck about, so don't make me wake up to see your corpse! Please!"
He cried out as his muscles tore themselves apart and reformed much stronger. He pushed away from the cave, staggering down to the knee-high pile of Dark Eco. He tried desperately to retain some sense of self, but there was too much darkness and he was too damn thin...
The last thing he saw was a mass of Metal Heads launching themselves at him.
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So this is Dark Jak.
The rumors weren't a patch on the real thing. He'd always thought them to be exaggerated, as rumors often were, but damn…
He'd never asked the quiet blonde about it. It wasn't something you just started a conversation about over a mug of ale, and besides… He'd always just figured the kid went into a kind of berserker mode – as sometimes happened, to Wastelanders in particular - and it therefore wasn't any of his business.
But the monster down there – having far too much fun to simply be a berserker – was far worse than the tales he'd heard.
It had been minutes now, the Metal Heads having left him entirely alone in favour of Jak, and the teenager showed no sign of letting up. He'd heard that the transformation was a temporary thing, but if it was triggered by over-dosing on Dark Eco than it was entirely possible that Jak wouldn't be back to normal for weeks.
Every monster he tore through, every batch of eggs he hurled corpses into, bled more Dark Eco. Mostly it just lay on the ground like a low-lying fog, but whenever the Dark monster used copious amounts in frighteningly powerful energy attacks, the stuff lying around just surged towards him, like he was a living magnet.
On the upside, Sig now had no doubt that Ashelin's mission would be completed.
On the downside, he was beginning to wonder if either of them would make it back alive to report.
'Cause there was no way in hell he would leave Jak here, Dark or not. There was a lot to be said for loyalty amongst friends and comrades, and Jak was both.
That being said, he had no idea how the fuck he was going to manage it. Dark Jak was slaughtering creatures far stronger than he, Sig, was. He had Jak's Morph Gun, obviously given to him in order to defend himself from Dark Jak rather than any puny Metal Heads.
But what could he do with it? Shoot the kid's legs out and hope they weren't irreparably damaged? Blast him with the Peacemaker mod (slightly less powerful than his own staff-like weapon) and hope the charge knocked him out rather than killed him?
He was running out of time to think, Dark Jak had finished off most of the Metal Heads and the remaining weak ones were fleeing through tiny holes in the large cavern walls. He could see the monster breathing harshly as it looked from side to side, seeking new prey.
Maybe, if he was lucky, Dark Jak wouldn't remember he was here and he could just wait it out.
Pitch black orbs, crackling with barely-held dark power, snapped over to him.
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One of the most frightening things about losing control entirely, is that there is no 'seeing but unable to interact' element to it. I am not just unaware during one of those 'episodes'…for the entire time that my Dark self takes over…. I cease to be.
And every time it happens, it could be the last. It's like dying over and over again.
I used to half-believe the old stories about our spirits – our essence - joining the precursors in the heavens. Now I know better. There is no essence, no spirit. We only have our bodies, which shape us entirely and when they break – that's it.
That being said, it doesn't seem like this is that time. At least, not for me. No doubt the world has been deprived of several Metal Heads (and only Metal Heads, I hope) and what a loss that is, but I am still thankfully, selfishly, alive.
And - I belatedly realise - in a surprising amount of pain.
Oh gods… I think I'd somehow managed to forget that it could get this bad…
I cough. The effort is pathetically weak, echoing the way the rest of me feels.
What the hell happened this time? It's never been this bad before.
For a moment, ghost memory flits across the back of my body, reminding me of what it feels like to have solid cold steel cutting into my wrists and ankles. I wrench my eyes open with a sharp breath that sends knives through my lungs.
I can't see, my eyes are watering too badly, trying to get the damn blood out of them. My limbs are sluggish, too sluggish….
Cold and hard… wet with my own blood, but always cold and stinging with the Dark Eco that taints it…
No, no… The chair.. the chair was a long time ago…
Then why the fuck can't I move!
"Easy… easy there… it's alright Jak… it's over."
That voice… I know that voice…
"You're ok… We're both ok. We're out, in the desert now. We're safe, just relax. I got your six."
The panic is subsiding, soothed by the voice that I can't quite place… Ghost memory plays with my senses again, but I'm already too far gone to react… oblivion beckons and I only put up a half-hearted fight before I succumb to it once more.
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The horizon was thick and dark, one of the Wasteland's feared – and rightfully so – sandstorms was on the way.
Sig hissed at the timing and turned back to the Oasis, the clear water stained with dark blood.
Beside it, Jak's limp form bled steadily through his makeshift bandages. Every now and then a tremor would wrack the thin body, further agitating wounds that refused to clot.
And that wasn't all. The Dark Eco had damaged something inside the teen, something Sig couldn't help. Not out here, and especially not in the state he himself was in.
Dark Jak had whooped him so badly, he was astonished he was still alive. He knew he probably wouldn't be, if Dark Jak hadn't already been so over-exposed to the Dark stuff.
I guess even monsters have limits.
Dark Jak had been half-kneeling on him, one clawed hand wrapped around his throat and the other poised for the final killing blow… when he'd just stopped dead. Pain appeared on the pale face for the first time, a strangled half-scream wrenching its way out of him, as his body crackled weakly with Dark Eco… and collapsed.
With shaking limbs, Sig had retrieved their weapons and hauled the other man up, slinging his trembling – still half transformed – body over his shoulder.
He didn't really remember his exhausted trek through the tunnel to the outside world (the entrance having been left open after the stampede of fleeing Metal Heads). He did remember all but collapsing into the Oasis that his feet must have led him to by memory. He remembered stripping Jak of most of his clothes to make bandages with. He remembered his shock at seeing his friend's muscular, yet dangerously underweight body - like a weapon that hadn't been taken care of. Powerful, but liable to break sooner or later.
And now, just to add to his problems, he had to somehow find shelter for both himself and Jak from a sandstorm. It looked like a nasty one, too. The oasis was partially sheltered – as evidenced by the palm trees – but it wouldn't suffice. Especially not in their conditions.
No.. he really only had one option. It'd mean breaking one of Spargus' biggest laws – an offence generally punishable by banishment – but he didn't have a lot of choices.
Stay out here and die for certain, or take Jak into Spargus (where the kid would at least have the chance to prove himself worthy to stay – something Sig had no doubt that Jak could do) and have himself probably be condemned to live in Haven – working for the criminal underground – for the rest of his life.
No choice at all, really.
Decision made, he pulled out his beacon and hit the switch. The sandstorm looming on the horizon would be here quickly, already the wind was picking up, but he knew he was close enough to Spargus to outrun it - if whoever Damas sent to pick him up had chosen a fast vehicle.
Pocketing the device - which would now continue to transmit until it either connected with the negator back at the Spargus gate or it ran out of power a couple of hundred years from now – he limped over to Jak to check on him again.
The sand around the boy was now also stained red, but it did seem as if the bandages were beginning to work. At least he could no longer see the vital liquid trickling over the Haven boy's pale skin. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that the strap holding Jak's pouch was sliced nearly through and so – with the Wastelander mindset of 'waste not want not'- reached down to transfer the items it may contain to his own – more secure – pouch.
As he tipped the small collection of items onto his hand – mostly scraps of old used credit chips, key cards, a few odd-looking things and a bit of loose ammo – his breath caught in his throat.
Amongst the pitifully small clutter of possessions, shone a familiar rounded red stone.
The seal of the House of Mar.