This was one of the very first serious fanfics I wrote, way back in 2005 when I first joined this site. Of course, this version is a massive rewrite and is over twice as long.
Am I the only one who's ever wondered what the hell happened to Clank's mom - the computer of the Quartu factory in RC1? It's like she just completely disappeared...
Rated For: Swearing and a tiny bit of blood. There's one, count 'em, ONE use of the f-word.
Disclaimer: I own POP, the Taurcha (well sorta), and the Eschebone and that's about it... Insomniac Games can lay claim to everything else :)
It may have been years ago, but I can still remember the day I created my son like it was yesterday. I created him secretly, in my spare time and out of scrap parts that I'd been stockpiling for months. Even if I only did work on him during my spare moments, I put more love into his small body than I ever did with the guardbots I had been designed to create. Finally, after a month of work, I finished creating my son. Drek had to be stopped, even if he was the only reason that I existed. Even if he was, in a sense, my father. There was no way I could hope to defeat him - I couldn't even leave Quartu. But my son...
Once I had finished creating my son, I reprogrammed an Infobot. Carefully, I placed it right where he would see it, the moment he was activated. I sent him down the chute that the completed guardbots were sent down - perhaps, it would be believed that he was merely a glitch. I placed several shuttles by his escape route and made sure that there were few guards nearby. With a bit of luck, he would be able to make it to another planet, one not controlled by Drek. Veldin was the closest; from there I knew he would be able to somehow find another ship, a faster and stronger one.
He fell from the conveyor belt to the floor, bouncing a few times before coming to a stop. Mentally, I winced. Hopefully, the fall hadn't damaged any of his circuitry. After a second, he sat up, shaking his head. His eyes opened, and I was struck by how beautiful they were. I had never seen a robot - or an organic, for that matter - with eyes quite that shade of cyan. Almost immediately, he walked over towards the Infobot, stumbling slightly as he got used to his legs. I could feel pride welling up in me, the same as any parent would feel, I suppose.
As programmed, the Infobot began its playback when its motion detector sensed someone in front of it. My son watched the entire playthrough, then quickly pushed the Infobot into his chest compartment. Mentally, I smiled. I knew it had been a good idea to install that. Suddenly, the one guardbot in the room advanced on my son, having every intention to grab him.
What could I do?! If I helped my son, my plans would be discovered and I would be decompiled. And what help would I be to him then?
Within seconds, I realized that I needn't have worried. With his small size, my son easily slipped between the security bot's legs and slid down the chute that led directly to the shuttles. He landed directly in one of them and quickly activated it with his robotic ignition system. Yet another thing I knew he'd find useful.
It took only moments for the small shuttle to power up. In several more my son had left my scanning range. Now, all I could do was hope.
The weeks rolled by, and still I had no news of whether or not my son even lived still. However... long before I had hacked into Drek's personal logs and had an uplink to his computer. Only occasionally at first, and then more and more, there was a pair of creatures mentioned in his logs. The first was a lombax named Ratchet. I didn't have any particular interest in him, at least not at first. But the other one... a small, humanoid robot named Clank. 'Small and humanoid' certainly described my son quite well, but... what were the odds that it really was him? I ran some quick calculations. The odds weren't good. Approximately ten thousand to one, in fact. But still, I did have a tiny glimmer of hope building in my mainframe.
Odds be damned.
It was a little more than a Quartu week after the first mention of Ratchet and Clank when I was suddenly warned to keep my defense system on high alert. If an unidentified craft approached Quartu, I had every authorization to blow it out of the sky. This most certainly piqued my curiosity; I was not even the AI who controlled the planetary defense system. My secondary AI, Paternal Operations Program - or POP for short - was the one who controlled the majority of both Quartu's and my own weaponry. I hated him with a passion, of course, and the feeling was mutual. Programs from different planets generally don't get along that well. Why? I don't really know. Differences in coding, I suppose.
But I'm getting off topic. What I didn't realize then was that the message I received was actually meant for POP. I'd accidentally intercepted it and he never even realized he was supposed to shoot anything without the proper clearance.
Pure luck. If you believe in that sort of thing.
It was also pure luck that I'd stumbled upon a recording in Drek's logs. He'd finally found a perfect location for his Frankenstein planet. Unfortunately, he seemed to be of the opinion that this 'perfect orbit' was currently occupied by another world... Veldin, homeworld of the lombax race. If the rumors concerning Ratchet and Clank were in any way true, they would both be very interested about this and it was likely that there they would be able to stop Drek. But there was one little problem.
How on Quartu was I supposed to contact them?
The answer came to me quite by surprise. In fact, it landed right on my doorstep.
Or more accurately, Ratchet and Clank landed only meters away from my main entrance.
And I, of course, nearly had an accidental decompilation the moment I saw Clank. He WAS my son. How he'd ended up with Ratchet or gotten the Oltanis fighter I've never found out. But at that moment, I didn't really care. He was ALIVE, and he was doing exactly what I'd created him for. Now if only I could somehow shield them from POP...
Thankfully, he seemed to be preoccupied with another section of the factory. With what, I didn't know and didn't particularly care. At least he wasn't blasting away at them with the defense guns, because no matter how quick Ratchet is, POP's guns are faster.
So, anyways, I carefully but secretly watched my son and his friend, to see what they would try to do. With a little luck, I'd be able to help them somehow. But if they didn't try to enter the core portion of the factory - the part that I had the most control over - there wasn't much I could do, at least not without attracting POP's attention. And attracting POP's attention would not be good, since he had control of most of the weaponry and by extension Clank, Ratchet, and myself would end up dead.
But in the end, I was glad I waited. At first, I became nervous when the duo entered POP's portion of the factory - surely he'd notice them now? Like I suspected, he noticed them almost instantly, but he seemed utterly confused as to what to do with them. I couldn't blame him; if they had been working for Drek, he likely would have been decompiled for firing on friendly forces. Of course, by the time he realized they weren't at all friendly - to him, anyway - it was too late. There was some sort of transformer pad over there, something giving off huge amounts of energy. The next thing I knew, my son had grown to fifty times his original size and he had entered a circular area.
POP, meanwhile, was panicking. But that was to be expected - how could you fight something that size without getting yourself damaged? To my surprise, however, he quickly thought up a solution; he activated the Ultra-Mechs that he'd previously been working on and sent them to fight my son. I would've taken control of some of the mechs, but I didn't want to attract attention to myself - at least, not yet - and besides, I was certain that my son could handle himself.
And sure enough, it took him less than ten minutes to defeat the slew of Ultra-Mechs. He ambled calmly out of the circular test area and back towards the transformer pad. POP began to activate auto-turrets, force fields, anything to contain Clank. Being older and far more experienced, it was the work of several seconds for me to quickly and quietly deactivate the various security measures. He was baffled, to say the least... and most certainly did not suspect me of doing anything. Silently, I laughed at him as he began to run multiple anti-virus programs.
But my victory was short-lived. He still held control over my guardbots and their forcefields, not to mention the defense guns. Clank and Ratchet would never survive the trek through my superstructure without some sort of defensive measure like a shield, or perhaps a hologram of some sort...
They, however, did not seem to have the same idea in their heads. Ratchet approached my main doors seemingly without fear and I groaned inwardly, mentally urging him to back off lest he get himself and Clank killed.
Sure enough, the guardbot noticed them as soon as I reluctantly opened my doors and activated the alarms. Ratchet quickly realized that the forcefield was not going to come down and backed off, but not before a plasma blast from my guardbot sent him stumbling backwards. He swore, quietly, but nevertheless I knew Clank would have been able to hear it - shame on that lombax for using such foul language near my son! As he limped backwards, towards the Oltanis fighter, I caught snatches of conversation between him and Clank...
"...Ratchet? Are you alright?"
"Does it look like I'm alright?!" came the half-snarled response. A few moments later, he ran a gloved hand over his drooping ears. "...Sorry, pal. Just a little freaked out by that bot, y'know?"
"I understand, Ratchet. I remember seeing a crate of Nanotech nearby our fighter."
"Thanks, Clank. So, y'think we should check out the lead that scientist guy gave us?"
"I believe we should. Gadgetron is well known for its ingenious products, and Kalebo III, as Gadgetron HQ, is more than likely going to have something that may aid us in entering the superstructure."
The duo sat in silence and watched as the nanometer-long machines went about repairing the large burn on Ratchet's leg.
"Didn't you say you came from Quartu?"
"...Yes. The main AI of this robotics plant... I suppose you could call her my mother." he looked up at my superstructure and again I was struck by how beautiful his eyes were... "But I doubt she knows nor cares about me - I am a glitch, after all."
Silently, I fumed. Damn POP and his stupid defense guns!
But even if I had decided to ignore all sense and tell Clank that yes, I did care about him and no, he was not a glitch, it was too late. Both had already hopped into the Oltanis fighter and it had zoomed away into the upper atmosphere.
I was rather paranoid and anxious for the three days that I had no news of my son's whereabouts. I could tell POP was beginning to get suspicious, but quite frankly I didn't care. What if they'd been captured, or killed, or... well, harmed at all? My logic circuits were rebelling against my emotions but I banished them to the back of my mainframe... logic was not going to help me out right now.
On the third day, my emotion circuits nearly went offline when I detected the Oltanis fighter returning to the landing pad near my superstructure. They were back... and unharmed! I wanted to sing out loud in joy but I wisely reactivated my logic files and they kept my joyful singing mental.
My son and his friend approached my main doors for the second time... but this time, Ratchet pulled out some sort of device and activated it. Almost instantly, there was a robot vaguely similar to one of my guardbot standing there examining its hands.
"Ratchet. Someone is going to notice if you do not get moving."
The mini-guardbot laughed. "Sorry Clank. This is beyond weird, I'm telling you..."
Even my logic circuits could barely keep my laughter inside. I wholeheartedly agreed with Ratchet... it was rather unnerving to hear both his and Clank's voice coming from the same body, which appeared to be as real as their natural ones, despite the fact that it was a hologram.
They approached my doors again and I opened them without hesitation - after all, if my vast array of cameras couldn't tell they weren't the real deal, how would the guardbots be able to? And sure enough, Ratchet waved at the guardbot controlling the forcefield barring my main entrance and it suspected nothing out of the ordinary. The forcefield was lowered and the guardbot returned to pacing back and forth.
Things were going so well... and then something I hadn't anticipated happened. Ratchet dropped the hologram as soon as the guardbot was facing away from him and threw his Omniwrench at the back of its head. It tumbled head over heels for a moment before coming to a stop against the wall and exploding.
Frantically, I threw myself into the defense grid and tried to block POP from learning that one of the guardbots was out. Too late.
-Thought you could distract me, didn't you?!- he snarled. I could feel his consciousness reach out, trying to contact the remaining bots...
-NO!- I clamped down on his reaching mind, forcing him to recoil back to his own section of the factory. -You'll have to get through ME before you can harm Ratchet or my son!-
His reaction was immediate and swift; he disengaged himself from the factory and shot after my mind with all of his strength. I left the guardbots to their own devices; they weren't smart enough on their own to figure out that the mini version of them was not friendly. Ratchet would have no problems getting through my structure. And so I too disengaged myself from my body, hurling my mind towards his. He was younger and stronger, but I still had the advantage; I had been created by the factory for the factory. I knew its circuitry like the back of my own motherboard. He was a foreign program, and a Gasparian one at that. And there was no way I was going to lose to some hot-headed alien program.
Our duel took place on a level that is too complex for organic or even many robot minds. We hacked each other, trying to delete parts of the others' code or install viruses. Both of us siphoned parts of our minds into docked ships and Ultra-Mechs, bringing the fight into the physical world as well. But, eventually, we fought the way bots had for hundreds of years: we both entered the virtual reality that is the Hypernet and formed bodies for ourselves.
POP towered over me in his virtual body, that of a four-armed reptilian that I assumed must be Gaspar's sentient race. I had chosen to take the form of a species native to Quartu: a Taurcha. I had scanned her out of curiosity when I was first built; besides the Blarg I had never seen an organic before. She stood six feet in height and her humanoid upper body was well-muscled - when I had first scanned her, she had been carrying a weapon that I later learned was called a longbow. Primitive though it was, I doubted that my guardbots could have wielded something like it. Her catlike lower body appeared even more powerful than her upper, and each of her four huge paws concealed razor-sharp claws. Even her long tail was well built; she likely could have supported her weight with that one appendage alone.
POP, however, did not seem impressed with my virtual body. -How pitiful. You've taken the form of a mammal.- he sneered down at me as thick rocklike plates slid into a defensive position all over his body.
I drew my lips back in a snarl, revealing teeth as sharp as his own. -Are you just going to stand there and brag or are you going to fight?-
We began to circle each other, searching for a weakness in the others' defenses. POP was certainly larger and more powerful than I, and the armadillo-like plates covering his body would likely be impossible to pierce with even the Taurcha's claws. But I was more agile and intelligent, and with that thought I willed a Blaster to appear in one of my hands. Before he could process what was happening, I darted underneath his bulk and shot blindly over my head at the soft, unarmored scales between his legs. He howled in pain and swiped at me with three of his arms, sending me flying. Like all felines, my Taurcha form easily righted herself in midair and landed on all fours and I was running for him again without hesitation. This time, he collapsed onto his knees, leaving only the rock-plates open for attack. I didn't stop, instead jumping onto his back and holding on with all seven of my appendages. At first he seemed utterly bewildered as to where I'd disappeared to, but that quickly changed when I summoned a Walloper and slammed my fist down again and again on his back.
With a growl, POP rolled onto his side with a swiftness I didn't expect. Even my cat reflexes couldn't save one of my back legs; it was crushed under his huge bulk. I limped away from him, allowing the Walloper to disappear. The pain was unbelievable... it was as though my leg was on fire.
-Ready to surrender, kitty?- he hissed at me, reading the pain on my face.
I gritted my teeth and materialized a Devastator, desperately trying to keep my balance with only three legs. Almost on instinct, it seemed, my tail took the place of my crushed leg and suddenly I found that standing and moving was easy. -Never. You'll have to kill me.- I snarled in return, bringing the huge weapon into a firing position.
-If that's the way you want it to be.- he replied, settling into a crouch, -I'd be happy to oblige!-
POP's speed surprised me for a second time when he charged at me on all six limbs. I skipped backwards a few steps, firing the Devastator as I went. I managed to get two shots off before he was practically on top of me. The weapon disappeared from my grasp as I leapt and twisted sideways as only a cat could. It was pure luck that he missed me... and he seemed to have lost sight of me as well. I summoned a Pyrocitor and pulled the trigger back hard. The plating on his leg began to melt, much to my surprise... melt into magma.
Hissing, I dropped the Pyrocitor and backed away from the melted rock. My form was not particularly heat-resistant, I quickly discovered. POP, meanwhile, simply rose up onto his legs again. Laughing. -The Eschebone come from Gaspar... do you really think that HEAT could harm me?-
I smothered the sudden absurd urge to smack myself on the forehead. How could I call myself a supercomputer, forgetting about something as simple as that?! POP scooped up some of the rapidly cooling magma in one hand, studied it for a moment, and flung it at me.
Yowling in surprise and more than a little fear, I barely managed to dodge the clump of magma. Grinning, POP quickly gathered up more of the stuff in all four hands and began to throw. My cat's reflexes saved me from the first volley, but when I accidentally put pressure on my crushed leg I toppled to the ground. Bloody hell, did it ever hurt...!
The second volley did not miss. Most of the magma had solidified, so it only left bruises, but some of it was still hot. Hot enough to burn my fur off and char my skin until it was black.
I leapt to my three relatively undamaged paws, screaming and trying to get the embers off me before they did any more damage. POP covered his ears, hissing, and through the pain I realized that now was my chance.
Tesla Claw in hand, I jumped at his side, unleashing a bolt of electricity. He howled in pain; the Eschebone he'd taken the form of was obviously weak to energy weaponry. I emptied all of the Claw's charge into his body and then I stood and watched the thick grey smoke rise from his body and into the virtual sky.
He did not move.
Sighing in relief, I allowed my wounded Taurcha body to dissipate as I returned to my superstructure.
It was something like waking from a deep sleep. I was disoriented and still in pain... my crushed leg and charred skin had translated to some damaged circuitry in the real world. Nothing that a few quick repairs wouldn't fix. The only problem was... somehow my virtual injuries became injuries that were focused on my communications network. My voice net was completely fried; I couldn't communicate that way unless the entire thing was replaced. Forcefields and hologenerators were offline for the next five hours while my systems recovered. Even my small vid-screen was damaged enough to render it inoperable unless someone could reach in and uncross a couple wires.
I sighed mentally. I'd have to cross that bridge when I came to it. Right now I had to locate Clank and Ratchet. I did a cursory scan of my structure and located them within moments.
They were practically outside the door leading into the room with my vid-screen. Only one guardbot stood between them and I. Ratchet, in his guardbot hologram, waved at it and it lowered the forcefield. Again he waited until the bot was facing away from him and then... he whipped out a Tesla Claw identical to the one I'd finished off POP with and shocked the bot until its circuits were fried.
Clank slid off Ratchet's back and stepped into the circular room that housed my vidscreen. "This... is where I was born..."
Ratchet scanned the room for anything harmful and put away his Tesla Claw when nothing showed itself. He eyed the vidscreen for a moment before asking, "So is that screen connected to the computer of this place?"
"I believe so."
He waved up at one of my cameras. Trying to get my attention, I suppose, which he already had in full. Even though he didn't know it. "Hmm. Either the AI's ignoring us or the cameras are busted."
"Perhaps she cannot communicate. Is the vidscreen damaged?"
"Maybe." he pulled off the panel that covered the screen's circuitry and whistled. "Gee, you were right. It's a real mess in here."
"Can you fix it?"
"Is my name Ratchet?" he fired back, already buried up to his waist in my insides. "Of course I can fix it, pal!"
Patiently, I waited as he fooled around inside of me. Despite his rather flippant attitude, he was an excellent mechanic and I wasn't worried about him accidentally harming me. It was quite a nice change from the usual Blarg mechanics I had to deal with. The morons could barely be trusted to keep the guardbots in good shape, never mind the delicate workings of a supercomputer. So, since I was able to ignore Ratchet and feel safe at the same time, I studied Clank. It was the first time I'd seen him up close since I'd brought him online.
His eyes really were the most remarkable shade of cyan...
He looked to be in very good condition - the perks of traveling with someone like Ratchet. There were a few scratches and burn marks but these were relatively few. A quick scan of his circuitry told me that he'd gotten three upgrades to his frame... and that he'd recently been exposed to a surge of high voltage electricity. He was lucky that the surge hadn't killed him, in fact. Just what sort of mischief had they gotten into, exactly?
Clank stared up into my camera's lens. "The AI is not ignoring us. She is watching me very closely." Evidently, he'd noticed my cameras following his small body. Perhaps he'd even felt my scan.
"Oh, nice to know that I'm screwing around with the insides of a computer that's not ignoring me and could probably kill me if it wanted to..."
"She is not going to kill you."
"Whatever." he withdrew from my circuits and replaced the panel. My vidscreen was still damaged. Cursing, the lombax slammed a fist into the panel and instantly I could feel my connections to the screen coming to life. "That should do it!"
I had no idea of what to say to Clank, so I tried to keep things simple. (Son.)
He blinked at me for a moment, arms falling out of their folded position and to his sides. "...Mom...?"
I could vaguely hear Ratchet muttering something under his breath but right now I wasn't particularly interested in him. There were so many things I wanted to ask, to tell him... but right now saving Veldin took priority over personal matters. (You have done well.)
"...I... I try, mom..." he seemed completely blown away by the fact that I actually knew and cared about him. He hadn't been lying when he told Ratchet that he assumed he was simply a glitch.
(There is still more to do.)
He nodded. "I know."
But he didn't know. Not about the peril Veldin was in. I quickly downloaded the file I'd found in Drek's logs to an Infobot and sent it out to Clank and Ratchet.
"Hey, look! A sister!"
Mentally, I smacked my forehead at Ratchet's outburst. He was brilliant... and yet dumb as a block of carbonox at the same time. How Clank put up with him was beyond me.
Drek's voice interrupted my thoughts as the Infobot began its playback.
-My fellow Blarg, our synthetic world is now fully functional and ready for habitation. However, there is one... small obstacle in our way. This pathetic LUMP of a planet.-
The Drek on the Infobot's screen pointed to a dusty, yellow planet visible through the windows on the bridge of the battleship he was on. Ratchet's eyes widened in surprise but Clank held up a hand for silence before the lombax could say anything.
-Due to some blunder of fate, it happens to occupy the galaxy's most perfect orbit. But no more... behold! The Deplanetizer! The most powerful laser ever created!-
Drek interrupted his own monologue for a second time by half-turning and gesturing towards the mechanical monstrosity behind him. By now, Ratchet was more angry than surprised, and Clank's raised hand seemed to be the only thing holding him back from either smashing the poor Infobot or swearing multiple times.
-Soon, we will move the Deplanetizer into place just above the planet's surface. I will, of course, be on the surface to press the button that will blow this mud ball to smithereens! No one will even miss it... See you then!-
The moment the Infobot finished its playthrough, the poor thing immediately darted towards the relative safety of Clank's chest compartment, away from the furious lombax. The moment Clank's hand was down, Ratchet exploded.
"HE. IS GOING. TO PAY!!" he snarled, whirling around and slamming a fist into the wall beside my screen. Mentally, I winced when a couple connections came loose from the force of his blow.
(That is sensitive, you know.)
Clank backed up slightly from the enraged lombax, mouth curving into a small smile at my words.
"It shouldn't have taken me this long to see it!" he continued, oblivious to my discomfort, both hands curled into fists and ears flat against his head. "Drek is going to find out what happens when you mess with my home!" he caught Clank's half-smile, and, thinking it was meant for him, immediately snapped at my son. "What are you smiling at?!"
To my surprise, Clank simply shook his head slightly and smiled even more. "This is the Ratchet I always knew was there."
Ratchet studied him for a moment, ears slowly returning to their normal position. "...Okay. If we're gonna do this, we need to get onto Drek's ship. Then we can find out where he set up that laser!" he strode to the chute that Clank had used to escape so long ago and, throwing a quick "Thanks!" over his shoulder, slid down it.
Clank stared up at my screen for several long moments, expression unreadable. "...I will try to make you proud, mom."
(You already have.)
He smiled at me, and raised one hand in a goodbye wave before following his friend down the chute. I could only hope now. Hope that they would make it out okay and return...
Three Years Later...
"I swear, every single time I let you out of my sight for more than a week I find out you've gone on another adventure."
"That adventure you had in Bogon scared me enough..."
"...You were in a completely different galaxy! And that whole Dr. Nefarious fiasco a year ago..."
"Mom! I will be FINE. STOP WORRYING."
I looked over at his small frame sitting on my shoulder, arms crossed with a semi-defiant glare on his face. Those cyan eyes really were amazing...
With a sigh of defeat, I nodded. "Sorry. I just... worry, you know? My logic circuits are on strike again."
He rolled his eyes at me and shook his head, legs swinging back and forth as they dangled off my shoulder. Not for the first time I mentally berated myself for not giving him a larger frame - he was far smaller than even Ratchet and was barely larger than an Infobot. And the body I'd downloaded myself into - a robotic version of my virtual Taurcha - dwarfed practically everybody both organic and robotic.
"You know... you really should let Ratchet take a look at that..."
I glanced backwards at my protesting leg as it whirred loudly with every movement I made. It was, as a matter of fact, the very same leg that had gotten crushed during my battle with POP. "I'll be fine."
"Oh, I am sorry... I just WORRY." Clank mimicked my voice surprisingly well.
"Jeez, you've made your point." there was silence for several moments. "...So you're just staying on the Phoenix? You won't be making any, ah, unexpected trips off the ship?"
"Yes. Until Ratchet is settled into his new role as Captain. After that..." a shrug, "I will decide what I will do when that time comes. I may... stay with Ratchet. I have been offered a position on his crew."
I glanced at my son, eyebrows raised. Was it just me, or was he avoiding my gaze purposely? "So, is there something going on between you two or something?"
Clank promptly gave me a smack on the back of the head. "MOM! For the LAST time, there is NOTHING 'going on' between Ratchet and myself! We are simply FRIENDS!"
Chuckling to myself, I let Clank continue with his 'Ratchet and I are just friends' rant. Why not humor him a little? After all, I had the strangest feeling that he'd be going on another one of those adventures soon...