Dedicated to Demz! A twisted explanation for a big plot hole. Although it's definitely an AU (or IS IT…), it's written to blend with canon. Enjoy!
The following is impossible, but I swear it is true.
There's something in my head… I didn't put it there. I'm pretty sure. I haven't showed anyone yet, because I'm afraid
I have done.
Tess looked up from the readout, but the mechanic was gone.
"Oh! Um. Keira?"
A few leaves swirled into the bar as the door slid shut. They were crisp-looking and broad, and, if her ottsel-nose was any authority, had fallen this morning. Two were reddish-brown and one was purple. Shiny veins branched like Haven loyalty into ever-smaller venula.
They comprised the clearest memory Tess had just before The Truth spun everything to hell.
A chair skidded across the floor, chrome screeching on steel.
She blinked and looked at the read-out again. The smooth, gray screen reflected neon logos from above. It was full size, but Tess could hold it with one hand. "A lighter model," she said. "Keira must have replaced the heavy casing with one of her lightweight alloys. How thoughtful!"
Tess read the screen again. The tone was so confused, so disturbing… so unlike Keira. "Unless… it's intended for me."
She glanced around.
Tess- this journal is for you. I hope you understand. I'm afraid I've done something awful! Actually, I'm sure I've done that awful thing.
The others will want to read it, too, I bet.
It all started like a dream; Jak and Daxter had found this wondrous ring, filled with white light. They brought it to my lab, piece by piece, and I realized what it was, and what it could do…
I don't remember much, before the jump, but the nights were long and warm, and Daxter danced around the beach spinning tales about this and that and Jak nodded. And Daddy was nervous. I could see it in his steps- the way he walked around the hut was indicative of his mood. Daxter knew not to come over when he stomped.
Oh, I think I asked him what was wrong. But he said not to worry and to keep working.
If only I had pressed him a little harder. But…
But, well, we know what happened. And if you don't, that's fine. There were monsters. A lot of light and fast wind. Like looking into a tornado wrapped in blue eco. And I woke up in a place that had huge, boxy homes and concrete lawns, and there was no sign of the clean waters that had always surrounded me. The air smelled like the back of my A Grav when the fume filter needed to be changed.
I landed near Mar Memorial Stadium, which was still standing at the time. There were people everywhere, but none were familiar and none looked at me.
After frantically running around screaming for Daddy or Jak or, yes, even Daxter, I finally noticed the zoomers.
I chased one like a puppy, reaching up to touch the painted swoop panels. There were so many kinds! Big ones, little ones. Some could seat one, some four. They came in all colors. Some had extra fins for maneuvering and some had shocks for booster rings. They weren't as noisy as my little Grav, but they definitely looked like related models.
The first thing I wondered was why they weren't comprised, in part, of Precursor metal. Only Precursor metal could line a containment chamber capable of burning enough power cells to achieve those hover zones. Haha, silly me. We don't use power cells very much anymore. Not in the private automobile sector, at least.
Trailing behind other peoples' zoomers definitely wasn't a good idea. It took a while to figure out who was on "the good side." And, by that, I mean, I'm still not sure. But it didn't take very long to associate the new word, "gun," with the long sticks the KG had.
I'm so glad Haven is changing. The guns have always felt very unnatural to me. A hundred feet away, you'll never know what hits you, right? Especially because there's no trail of eco behind it. Haha, projectiles are no longer bound to the earth and the eco lines and…
Oh. Now I sound like Daddy.
Sorry, Tess. But guns… I've never liked them very much.
Can you imagine? Coming from a place with sand and seashells, where all the weapons were club-like, or eco-based and restricted to sages and channelers- then seeing someone get fried to death by a metal stick? In the middle of a bazaar, in daylight?
Ugh. Sometimes I get so angry about it… Jak never told me what happened to him those two years.
I'm afraid to ask.
Anyway – and I'm skipping a lot here, but I really need to get to the point, because I'm going soon – one morning someone gave me more than a passing glance, and I followed him to a place behind the stadium, where there was a row of beat-up zoomers.
He said he'd been watching me, and he was curious as to what I could tell him about these.
"This zoomer here," he said, gesturing with a gloved finger. He always sounded arrogant. "What can you tell me about this one?"
"Well…" I inspected it. It was longer than the ones above the streets. None of the slummers had a model like it. "It's a one-seater. And the front is sloped." I paused, thinking. "To minimize air resistance," I ventured. He nodded, so I continued. "There are a lot of booster burns, so this one has probably been in service for a while. And…." For the look of it, I poked my head under the zoomer's belly. "Wow!"
It was as if all the plans I had for the A Grav were written out in pipes and wires along the underbody of that zoomer. I remember following the exhaust system from front-to-back, and how it terminated at a small box with a blinking green light. Everything seemed oddly familiar – not that I had seen it before – but that each piece made perfect, logical sense, soldered where it was. My wildest ideas had materialized in this dirty city.
I briefly thought of my notebooks.
The man cleared his throat.
"And… the… engine," I squinted at it. Yes, that had to be it. My design had been so similar! "The engine has three tapering columnar chambers. They form a point here, where the eco tank feeds in." I only knew this because the thing was labeled. Power cells were still the single fuel option in my mind. "The tank is pressurized, so it can hold more." I backed up and stood again. "The, uh, design seems to be built to maximize speed." He said nothing. "Um… as opposed to maneuvering or, um, passenger transportation in a crowded area. Like the wide ones in the city."
He nailed me with an intense stare. "And you've never seen one of these before now, correct?"
Oh, Tess, then he grinned.
He said he'd give me a job working at the stadium. That I was right, these zoomers were for racing. And that I'd get all the resources I needed, as long as I promised to work for him alone.
"Yes!" I said. "And I'm looking for my family and friends. Can you help me with that, too?"
His eyes barely flickered. He said he'd help. Yeah, sure. He was a big military guy.
And he said his name was Erol.
You've been here forever, Tess. I don't know if you understand what I was like, then. I mean, you're really brave! A girl making a decent living in this city during the revolution and the fall of Praxis- wow.
I was just happy surrounded by tools again. My most important ones came through the rift with me; they were in my pockets.
Mechanics quieted the part of my heart that cried for Daddy. I looked for him, and Jak, every time I went out. I figured, if I had found a safe place, so had they. I would find them soon.
But until then, I had work to do. I loved my new shop! There was a furnace and vents for the cooling system. Erol gave me lists of parts only he could get from outside the city. Imports were a big deal, then. There were even shelves for future trophies! He expected them full by the end of the season.
The first thing I did, before I touched his list of demands, was dismantle a standard racing zoomer. If you exclude the exoskeleton and all the connected tubing, there are two thousand, eight hundred forty seven parts to the XM-13. That was the "casual racer's" zoomer. Erol had a real beauty, the X-RAC 300 v 2.5 with integrated boards that displayed real-time data on other racers. Those were illegal, of course.
Integrated boards aside, his zoomer had three thousand twenty four parts.
How nervous I was, holding the crowbar the first time I took the front swoop off!
Erol was impatient. He visited, whenever KG duty brought him in the stadium sector, to make sure I wasn't working on other zoomers. To tell you the truth, every once in a while I did a tune-up for someone else. It wasn't until I started building my own team, much later, that he stopped being so insanely possessive.
Or so I thought.
"I want something that," he paused, his fingers together as he held up his hand, "feels the rider, if you understand me. I want it to move with me. There's a constant fight with the machine. Racer and zoomer have to work together, Keira."
I nodded, tying my heavy apron on. "Corpor-sensors with dynamic stability coils. I've been designing prototypes." I held up a shiny square.
The miniaturized board with bobbing coils had cost thirty orbs. How could I have known the value of an orb then? And people were dying in the streets. Ugh, Tess.
"The circuits run from the handles to the processor, which interprets heart rate and body weight shift." I pointed to the zoomer at the appropriate spots. "The coils connect beneath the seat and run along the booster burners. It works really well! You just have to take off your gloves."
"Uh." I looked at him. "No?"
"No." Erol pushed his hair back. "The gloves are part of the uniform. They stay."
"Oh. Okay." I didn't understand why a uniform was so important. "I guess I could install sensors on the palms of the fabric."
Erol seemed satisfied with that. He sat on the bench, helmet at his side.
"So, I need your gloves." I held out my hand. "It shouldn't take long."
"Now?" His mouth twisted, as if I'd asked him to lick the bottom of my shoes.
"Yeah. I have sensors ready. They were supposed to go in the handles, but I can make more."
He mumbled, pulled off his gloves, and slapped them into my palm. He laced his fingers together- a zipper of flesh and metal.
I stared. "Your…"
Erol snarled. "My hand was lost when Praxis attacked the metal head nest two years ago." He waved the prosthetic, which extended just beyond the wrist. It flexed like its counterpart. "Don't go beyond the city walls, Keira."
I managed to tear my eyes away and work on the gloves. "If you want, I can have the zoomer take readings from your, um, hand, instead. Then-"
"No! The gloves stay on."
Tess, if I said I wasn't interested in seeing what else of Erol might be prosthetic, it would be a lie.
A year passed, and I was very comfortable with the small slice of Haven I lived and worked in. Erol didn't give me security passes, and I had no interest in the rest of the city. Once in a while we went to the Port. I remember seeing the first sunset over water since Sandover. The reds and yellows reflected between walls of metal, not between palm trees. There was no sand. I did cry, Tess. It was one of the few times Erol was startled.
Since then, my thoughts returned to Daddy and Jak more often.
But, as renegades and revolutionaries increased their attacks on the KG, my freedom drained away. I remember passing by the KG Fortress right before Erol stopped taking me out. If only I'd known Jak was there. I swear, swear I would've left my happy workshop and gone crawling through vents to find him.
Erol generally cleared a crowded roadway with his presence. The area around the KG Fortress was even more bereft of people. He seemed to smile when we passed, like a man who shoots another even after winning the race.
The night I finally got my hands on some Precursor metal, Erol stormed into the shop. I was annoyed. I'd been waiting all week for the shipment, so I could start my alloy projects.
He smelled of blood and fear. Neither was his.
"There's been defection," Erol said, shouting at the roof. He paced across the room and spun when he reached the wall. "That idiot. That coward. There's rumor he's joined the Underground."
I waited quietly. I didn't know what defection was, exactly, but when KGs did it, their families were conspicuously murdered the next morning. Erol liked to tell those kinds of stories.
"Keira," he spun again, grabbing my shoulders. "Whatever you do, don't take zoomers from other men. They could be working for the Underground, too."
"Okay," I said. His urgency frightened me. I backed up.
"Don't you understand?!"
"No, I don't." I drew the sheet of Precursor metal closer to my chest, like a shield.
"We can't give them anymore resources. Praxis is pulling us in too many directions. Our projects aren't going as planned. People are dying when they shouldn't be!"
The first thing I thought of was Daddy. Surely he was safe somewhere? Not in the trenches of the city, hiding from the renegades' sniper attacks?
I think, now, Tess, he was referring to the Dark Warrior project, and not to the slummers outside.
"And she is a threat. What if she starts spying for them?" Erol let go of me and stormed over to the bench. He put his boot up and tightened the buckles. "I don't have enough men to-"
There was a faint humming noise. Erol glanced around, hand at his gun. The lights flickered. I smelled something burning. You know that smell right before the eco grid crashes? Like that, but darker.
"Get down!" Erol grabbed my arm and yanked me under the bench. The lights blew out and the floor rumbled.
I covered my ears and shut my eyes.
I felt the ground explode. It wasn't in the stadium, but it wasn't far enough for comfort. After a few seconds we heard huge debris falling to earth, and the screams.
Red emergency lights sputtered on. Before the city's computer could announce All Is Okay, Believe In Your Baron Praxis, Erol's comm buzzed.
"Commander! Eco bomb in the Sewers under Sector Seven!"
Erol crawled out from under the table. "I'm on my way." He pulled his uniform straight and then bent to peer at me. "Stay here. I'll be back later."
My hands shook. The Precursor sheet went ting ting ting against the bench.
Before I go on, Tess, I should explain something to you. Erol was very, very good at two things: the first was fear. Every time he came to my shop, he had new stories of torture and radical acts carried out by the Underground. Why should I have questioned the only man who cared for me? Daddy and Jak were still missing. Erol told me the Underground was evil, and so I believed him.
The second was exuding a perception of protection. Although his stories frightened me, he told them with the happy ending that he was always there, the hero, fighting for the city and for the good and for Praxis and also… for me. As long as he kept winning races, he could set an example for the slummers. A strong man can save a city from metal heads- a stronger man can win the Class One Race. Well, it's true, isn't it?
So, I was safe, as long as I kept working for him and didn't help the Underground, whoever they were. I was more than happy to comply. Hooray, new shipments of eco-wiring every week! I wasn't outside dying; why should I complain?
Erol promised, for every race he won, I got more materials set aside for my own team. I would only get a team if he won the Class One Race the next year. So I had spent a lot of time studying accelerator rings. Their frequency signatures were begging to be hacked. If I could attune them to a receiver on a zoomer and loop the rebound around the stability coils, they would burn slightly longer than normal. This was against the rules. I didn't like breaking the rules, so I hadn't told Erol yet.
Now I really, really wanted my own team. Then I could control the winnings, assign simple repairs to an assistant, and work on a new project.
As happy as zoomers made me, that last bombing was terrifying.
I wanted to go home.
Erol didn't knock before entering my apartment, behind the shop. It was late, very late, that same night. I was curled up on my couch, listening to KG reports and writing. I shoved my notebook between cushions.
"Huh?" I faked waking. "What happened?"
Erol dragged a chair across the floor and slumped. His face was shadowed in gunshot residue. "The Underground has discovered the Sewers," he spat. "A main outside the Water Slums exploded, which triggered a series of eco bombs all the way down to the Industrial Section." He looked at his hand, too tired to make a fist. "It was him. He knew about the structures. Knew right where to hit us."
I rubbed my eyes and appeared as girly-ignorant as possible. It was a good way to sneak information out of Erol. Not that I had anyone to share it with. "Who?"
"The other Commander of the KG. Torn. He left us for the Underground."
My jaw dropped. "What?" I sat up, folding the blanket around my waist. "But… they're working for the metal heads!"
Erol brushed dirt from his sleeves. "That's right. Now they have a dangerous, but foolish, ally." He opened a compartment in the collar of his uniform.
"Why would anyone work for the Undergr-"
"Tell me some good news." He poked two fingers into the compartment. I heard a click.
"Uh… I know how to make accelerator rings burn longer."
Erol looked at me. "Good! That is good news. Good girl." He held up a tiny red square. "Keira."
"Um." I took it. "Thanks?" I squinted at it. "It's a… chip?"
"Correct." Erol sat back and stared at the ceiling. "What else is it?"
"Hmm." I recognized this game. "It doesn't smudge from the oils on my fingers. No fingerprints. It's very smooth." I tilted it in the light. It wasn't completely red, but rather a thin red core entombed in layers of translucence. Below the surface of the material, "KG" was embossed. "It has a lot of tiny wires, I think."
I rubbed it between my palms. "Doesn't heat up. This would be a good material for brakes."
"Hah." Erol wasn't amused.
"Er…." I didn't need a hint that big to know I was thinking in the wrong direction. I glanced at his hands, which he clenched. "It would be…" I said slowly, "a good material for biological interfaces. With… prosthetics."
His drew in a sharp breath. "Perhaps. That is not what it is for, however."
"I don't know." I held it to my ear. "Listening to the radio in your head?"
He almost smiled. "Close enough." He sat up. "This is for you."
Erol tapped my head. "For you."
"The wives of all the KGs are having them installed. You would, of course, be honored to accept this from me."
"It is like a dead-man's switch," said Erol. "If anything should happen to you, I will be alerted immediately. It also lets me know if you are in the vicinity of any known hidden Underground weapons. Under-road bombs, for example. I would be able to contact and warn you very quickly."
The chip gleamed. "Um. I don't know… it wouldn't control the way I think, would it?"
Erol scoffed. "No. It monitors your vitals at a very basic level and transmits a signal if it gets too close to HUWs."
"Does it do anything else?"
He looked me in the eyes. "No."
"I don't know." I clenched my fist around it. "It sounds weird."
"If I win the next race, you can start your own team right away."
I thought of the notebook beneath the cushion. "Okay."
The surgery didn't hurt much. There was a little shaved spot at the back of my head. My hair covered it until it grew back. I didn't feel any tingling or hear voices or anything.
A month later, I had my own team. Three guys from the Water Slums, one from the Port. Erol was still in charge, of course, but at least I was free to start my project.
I went out and bought a big green curtain.
The other racers were creepy. I learned more from them about the city and its workings than I ever wanted to know. Most of them worked for a guy named Krew. They boasted about Connections. They recognized a good one when they saw it. Through me, Krew was able to get imports. Erol tolerated it, because Krew worked for the Baron. It was complicated. I added a small knife to the array of tools I always carried with me.
Krew became a much-whispered-about but never-seen presence in the background.
Underground flags started showing up. Erol took them down as fast as he could, but the KG didn't have time to wash graffiti from the walls. I heard slummers talking, when I was allowed to go out and get food. Even though Praxis had radios blaring updates, they weren't willing to listen.
Twice Erol swooped down and yanked me out of a Sector, just before KGs detonated planted Underground bombs in slum houses. He said the people that ran out screaming were the enemy. They were shot on sight.
For some reason, the KGs called that "jinxing."
A few months later, the Baron announced that he was perfecting a secret weapon. The metal heads would really have something to fear. Erol wouldn't tell me about it.
Every night I wrote down what I could remember of the Rift Rider. Sometimes I'd dream about it, and quick morning sketches became part of my daily routine. I flipped through the city's databases, looking for images that matched my memories. There was nothing in the pop culture archives- what little remained after a data purge just a few years before. It was in the history books that I finally found an account on old energy gems. The Heart of Mar was lost to the ages, but it looked the most like what I remembered. The only description of the gem was a translation that made no sense. It said something about the heart of the hero transcending all eons, returning the beginning to the end and ending the beginning once the future has begun. Ooo, it made my head hurt.
"Keira, I need something mobile and compact. For one person to get around the city." Erol was polishing the bug eyes of his helmet.
"Okay!" I said. "I've been thinking of some really neat-"
"I need it now. Drop whatever you're working on for a week and get it done."
"Um. But I have to show the guys how to disengage the new system in case of impact."
Erol held the helmet propped in one hand, inspecting the shine. "Cease work on all zoomers, except mine, and get me a prototype by the end of the week."
"Oh, but," I fiddled with an accelerator ring capacitor.
"I don't want to hear 'oh, but,'" said Erol. He stood behind me, resting two fingers on the back of my neck. I shivered; his hand was cold beneath the glove. "I want to hear, 'yes, Erol, whatever you need. I'll get you whatever you need.'"
"Well, I'll do my best, but a week is-"
"You're also due for an upgrade," he said, reaching around and taking the capacitor from me. "We've got a better alert system set to launch tomorrow. I want you to be a part of it."
I sighed. The chip had come in handy a few times. I couldn't help but think what Daddy would say. "I don't know. What if we took it out and had a direct-Talk communicator connection?" I knew dT was the new KG buzz phrase. Erol must have had it installed already.
"No. That's for KG business only. Direct lines to and from the Baron." Erol tapped the back of my neck absentmindedly. "This is the best thing for you, Keira."
I thought for a few seconds. "A week isn't long enough to design and build a new transportation system."
Erol scoffed. "I expect it is not. Fine. Give me something by the end of the week, Keira."
"Okay." I smiled. I had a module for his zoomer that looked expensive but didn't really do much. That would probably quell demands for a few days. "So when's the upgrade?"
Erol spun me around and snapped his fingers. He held up two metal fingertips, the glove material pulled back. "Already done."
Strangely enough, Tess, the hardest material to get in Haven wasn't orbs, or Precursor metal, or even your coveted ballistics magazine. It was wood.
The Rift Rider was made of it- the slats, bindings, and support planks. I scavenged around the parts of the city I was allowed in, but there were no dead trees. No fallen branches, no sticks. Not even a twig. Ornamental trees lined a few of the major roadways, but there was no way I could chop one down without attracting attention.
I sneaked an order for lumber into my weekly form for Erol. He asked me what it was for, just once, and the best answer I had was, "um… it would look good integrated into the swoop panels?" He wasn't amused. He told me to "leave organics out of racing." I couldn't rely on imports.
I knew the Water Slums had been built from wood, because the boys in my team used to complain about their homes rotting from bottom to top. After a few months, when I had scavenged all the electrical components I could and badly needed to start building the infrastructure, I asked the least creepy racer to bring me planks.
He did, but there are no favors in Haven. Krew considered me one of his "clients" thereafter.
Between the Rider and the prototype jetboard, there was little time left for innovation. My team complained that I was no longer giving them an edge in racing- and that all my previous ideas had been copied and implemented by our competitors. My assistant mechanic was targeted by the Underground and assassinated. At least, that's what Erol told me. I'm not sure, now, if that's what really happened. You know, Tess, I should look that up before I go…
Erol came to the shop all the time. He asked too many questions about the green curtain. Krew demanded certain outcomes for certain races, and when I refused to bow, Erol increased the pressure. The Underground was getting stronger all the time- regular citizens were joining. They were planting spies everywhere. KG regularly came to interrogate me.
And the headaches started.
They usually came towards the evening, after the sun had gone down and the most recent bomb clouds had cleared. It was stress, I think. I was tired all the time. I hardly ever dreamed of the Rift Rider. Food was tasteless. Everything was about pushing the next engine upgrade out the door, fixing the jetboard's ridiculous balance program, and obsessively nailing planks of wormy wood together when no one was looking. Sometimes I woke up at the front door of the apartment, covered in sweat and brandishing a wrench. I password locked the doors at night, so I wouldn't sleepwalk into the city.
The best days – the only days – the days that kept me going, were the races. Erol was the city champion for a reason. No one, not even the other guys on my team, could touch him. He knew the zoomer better than I did- not mechanically, but physically. Erol could twist a one-eighty slipup into a graceful hairpin turn. He knew how to settle his weight over the body frame to maximize acceleration. Even when grazing the walls, he forced his opponents to back off or crash into the low ceilings.
Erol took my simplest design remakes and shattered the records with them. He was the best racer I'd ever seen.
Two years after I had landed here, I was sitting at the table, cold coffee cup in one hand, trying like hell to remember what it was like to have breakfast outside under a palm tree. My eyes felt like they were ringed with drying glue. The tendons in my arms were inflamed from intricate wirework.
I tried to picture Jak and Daxter opening the big door with the hundred and one power cells. I remembered a lot of light, but not their faces. I remembered how the houses were arranged in Sandover village, but not how they smelled. Were they made of plaster or wood or industrial strength steel?
Did the farmer's yakkows eat straw? Or was it rice?
How many Sentinels were on the beach?
I wonder what happened to the Flut-Flut…
I groaned. Thinking about those things made the headaches worse. And Erol was especially paranoid now. Something big was happening at the Palace. The Baron was on the verge of making a decision- the great promise he'd had for us months ago wasn't working out. The eco shortage was bad enough to affect my work, and the metal heads were attacking.
Attacking like the Underground, actually. Attacking in waves. Big wave, little wave. Blow this up, cut that down. We lost power in the stadium for a week once. Tensions were climbing, almost tangible in every breath.
The day I finally finished the jetboard prototype, I took it out for a ride. I glided down the great stairs outside the stadium and swung around the trees. It was wonderful! So freeing! I waved to the posters of Erol. I hadn't felt so happy in a long time. I giggled, frightened the slummers, and ran smack into a KG.
"Waugh!" I tumbled over the board and hit the grass.
I rolled over; a powered-up rifle crackled near my cheek. "I, uh, ee!"
"Unauthorized vehicle!" The KG kicked at the jetboard, which had contracted to its inactive state.
I put my hands over my head and got to my knees. "It's for Erol! I work for Erol!"
The KG lowered his gun a fraction. "Stand up."
I did so. He grabbed my arm and spun me around. "Ouch!"
The KG slammed something into the back of my neck. After a few seconds, I heard a confirmation code and he released me. "Go back to the stadium. Do not take that," he glanced at the jetboard, "into city sectors."
I brushed off my knees. The headaches and the stress and the sudden clamping of freedom shot straight to my temper. "I'm working on something for you guys, with orders straight from Erol." The slummers around us inched closer, watching. "When you drag me down to wherever it is you take people, and Erol doesn't get his jetboard, how're you going to explain it to him?"
The KG stepped back and squared his shoulders. "If you are currently working for the KG, than this is KG property. Remove it from public grounds and I will escort you to the-"
"Don't you have something better to do?" I was screaming now. My brain prickled with everything- the grass below and the smell of soldering and Daddy's voice and the blue electricity sparking from the KG's gun. "How about I take this to the Underground!"
The slummers scattered. I pushed the KG.
"How about that! Then you know what! The Underground will have what you should have!"
I didn't know why I was screaming this. I never would have, if I'd been thinking clearly. The KG grabbed my arms. I knew he couldn't hurt me, because Erol needed me to fix his zoomers. "Desist, this is assault on a government-"
"Where's my family! I want to go home! Let me go!" I struggled to free my arms. "Let me go!"
The KG and I looked up.
"Commander!" The KG couldn't salute. His gloves printed white marks on my arms.
"Keira!" Erol swooped down, hovering at eye level in a military craft. "What are you doing?"
"T-trying, testing the, the jetboard!"
"Let go of her," snapped Erol. The KG assented. "Sector Two, now! And you, get back to the shop."
"You promised me my family, Erol! Where's Daddy! Where's Jak!"
Oh, Tess. In retrospect, there's nothing funnier than Erol screaming, "hysterical women!" the eve of the revolution.
That night was my last dream of the Rift Rider. Thank the Precursors I had written everything down! We were all sitting in the thing, and Daddy was talking about how the Rider could cause great harm, and Jak activated it, and the coordinates flashed…
They were preset. I knew this in every dream, but just couldn't quite see them…
They were glowing, golden, just out of focus. I reached out, about to touch them, and then, suddenly, they were clear! I engraved the date in my brain, determined to remember it when I woke up.
And then the symbols turned red, and the rift gate opened, and out sprang not the usual monster, but more red light, and a terrible noise-
"Gah!" I sat up, my heart pounding.
I gasped. Everything was hazy and insane in the city's strobe lights. I wiped my face; it was slick. After a few moments, I gathered my blankets around me and sank back into bed. Just another alert. Just another Underground attack.
I took a deep breath. I had dreamed something important. What was it? I shut my eyes.
"All KGs report to Sector Three. Code Omega. Red Alert."
"Hmm." Code Omega was big. The only other time it had been used was during an Underground attack of the Palace, which had failed. I sat up again and fumbled under the bed. My fingers brushed a few bolts, a pen, a sock – the strobe lights finally stopped; I opened my eyes and blinked like mad – and an old KG receiver.
"All government buildings in lockdown. Red Alert."
"Fine, fine," I muttered. The stadium would be closed. Nothing would open until the Baron himself lowered the alert. I flipped the old receiver on and flicked through its limited frequencies.
"-'ve got backup in Sector Two closing in on-"
"-whole friggin' place is lit up like the nest on assault day-"
"-risoner escaped. Repeat, prisoner has escap-"
"Argh." I shut it off. Of course, the KG would be relating all the interesting news on dT. A headache pounded in my ears. I swore and pulled the covers over my head.
There it was!
I squeaked. I pushed the blankets aside again. Battling dizziness, I scrawled the numbers, before they could disappear again. Then, exhausted, I blacked out.
There is nothing more wonderful than a renewed sense of purpose. The next morning I gaped at the date. It couldn't be. It couldn't be! But I was so sure it was.
The date was almost exactly two years ago, when I had arrived here. The Rift Rider brought us to Haven. Daddy, Jak, Daxter and I had moved through not space, but time. I stared, open-mouthed, at the notebook. At least the Heart of Mar thing made more sense.
I tuned the jetboard and started working on the Rider. Even when my team came in, I worked on it. They didn't challenge it. I called it a "secret vehicle project." The headaches had changed me a bit, I think. It wasn't hard to tell them off. I wasn't as sweet as I had been.
That week an annoying guy came and bothered me. The only thing that would shut him up was letting him use the jetboard. Erol would never know. And he wouldn't care, I think. Something huge had happened at the Palace and he barely came to see me anymore.
In the following weeks, two of the guys in my team were killed, either in KG skirmishes or on errands for Krew. I let word out that I was looking for racers.
Fortunately, Daxter has a very… shall we say, characteristic voice, Tess? After another round of annoyances and insults, suddenly he piped up, I swept the curtain back, and there they were! My friends! Jak and Daxter! But Jak had changed. He looked so different! The innocence in him was gone. He was abrupt and violent and smelled like dark eco.
That day connected me to the rest of the group- I talked to Daddy, once Jak had found him, and realized what the Underground really was. I donated my time to them and the jetboard to Jak.
Though it took much longer, Jak helped me realize what Erol truly was. I acted as a spy. If you had told me, two months before, that I would be in the Underground, I would've flipped out.
But I was finally on the side of good. I had Daddy and friends and my work, and we were going home.
Jak struck a lot of blows while working for the Underground. I helped where I could, feeding information from the stadium's consoles to Vin. Vin figured out the trajectory for our return home, but said we needed a Time Map.
Jak and Daddy were always so busy; I didn't want to bother them. I told Vin about my headaches and he attributed it to a healthy amount of fear. He said they were common- probably from working with the old eco grid.
I started losing time. It was easier to be cheerful, then. One day, Jak was in the Class Three race. The next day, Daxter raced the Class Two. Things happened in between, right? You sent messages from the Hip Hog, Tess, which I encoded and passed along to Torn. Daddy oversaw a lot of it.
Time passed; my dreams were always of bloody nights and KG war. Memories weaved in and out. When Jak stopped by, I felt stable, but uncomfortable. When Erol came, I constantly watched my actions, as if seeing myself from another corner of the room. He interrogated me. I almost showed him the plans for the Rift Rider once. It was so hard lying to him. The city needed a hero, and I had chosen Erol first.
Soon the metal heads would breach the city shields – or so predicted Vin, poor guy – and the KG were fighting too many fronts. Erol went nuts, sending squadrons on suicide missions. Even Ashelin went to the front lines.
I couldn't sleep. Erol complained that spies were undermining the KG, and Torn complained that the KG was getting stealthier. Daddy was always so busy and no one was around most of the time. Everyone was doing something important for the city. I was building the Rider, for Mar's sake. Why couldn't I concentrate? Brutter needed help constructing a balloon. Where was my focus? I woke up every morning wearing different clothes, patterned with dirt and GSR.
The day of the Class One race, I told Jak and Daxter which artifacts the Rider was missing. Jak promised to get them.
Then he beat Erol. He beat the crap out of Erol and Erol went ballistic.
Erol exploded in a month's supply of eco.
Erol should've been obliterated. Disintegrated. Dead!
Jak didn't come back to the garage to see me after that. If he had, maybe he could have helped. I would have told him, then. But the Red Alert was on, and he had to get out of there. I wonder where he went, now. I didn't see him again until we were getting the balloon ready.
But where was I?
I don't know. I hit the black, again. More lost time! But here's the evidence I've gathered:
1) One of my drivers said he saw me lingering at the shop after Praxis had everyone cleared out.
2) Computer records show my password was used to open the pedestrian-access to the racetrack shortly after.
3) The following were missing from my shop inventory: five sheets of steel (tensile 3.2), two sheets of steel (tensile 4.55), thirteen round screws with riveting, forty-seven teal-bonded screws without riveting, thirteen hydraulic pumps.
3b) The following were reported missing from the KG Fortress Sub-Basement Inventory Stock: four hundred feet of bio-wire (various diameters), stock leg/arm extension parts for KG robots (versions 4.3 and 4.5), one flexor-maxima hand, bioecomechanical fluid (5.78 gal), three capacitors, 14 square feet of heat shielding, various radio/communicator parts, one partial-face biometal extension, and one very expensive bio-mech eye.
4) According to the KG's Wasteland-Bound Travel Log, a cargo vehicle started with Erol's ignition code landed somewhere outside of Spargus the night of the race.
5) When I woke up, I was covered in blood.
I burned the clothes.
I can't imagine what it was like to scrape him off the concrete. Did I use a shovel? My fingernails? He must've been a torso. I can at least thank the chip for that- saving me from the memory of restoring him. But in nightmares I heard him whispering directions to me; this is how you pump bioecomechanical fluid into arteries; this is how you connect a bio-mech eye to a shattered brain.
This is how you install life in a body that should have died.
Brr, Tess. I'm shivering just writing about it. The texture of sand wet with blood and bioecofluid.
The memories were locked away for a long time, until after Jak was banished. The day Jak fought his way back to Haven - Daddy and I were separated from him by a force field – the memories resurged. It was the first time we'd seen him since Veger sent him away, but I couldn't speak. I couldn't talk to Jak.
Errol rose from the wasteland to crush our world. Nobody knew how he'd gotten there. No one understood how he was still alive.
I'm so sorry, Tess.
"Oh my god." Jak cradled his face in his hands.
"You mean," Daxter brushed off his pants and stood on the bar. "You mean, that crazy mechanic saved Erol and never told us!"
"She could be anywhere by now!" said Tess, setting the readout down. "We're her friends. We have to find her!"
"Oh my god," Jak repeated.
"Does Samos know?" asked Daxter. "Holy, mother flippin' yakkows! I was nearly killed about a billion times fighting Cyber Errol! And she could've done us all a favor and told us there was a crazy-ass chip in her brain-"
"Daxxie pooh, screaming isn't going to solve anything." Tess shook Daxter's arm. "Keira was trying her best and… well… we need to do something!"
"What should we do?" Daxter waved his hands. "What should we do? Huh? Do you know, Tess?"
"No, but we can't just sit here while she's out there somewhere-"
"No wonder she was never taken prisoner."
Daxter and Tess glanced at Jak. He stood.
"When we arrived, Samos and I went right to the KG Fortress. Daxter, you got away, but Keira was left out in the city somewhere. Remember? She was never captured. And Erol had told me he was keeping a close eye on her." Jak stared at the wall.
"Well," said Daxter, whirling around, "she better not have gone to Kras to put Mizo back together!"
Jak rubbed his forehead. "Daxter, are there any earth-shattering confessions you need to make?"
"What? No way!"
"Good. Let's go find her."
This oneshot is done. Thank you for reading!