Keira's huge eyes fluttered open, straring upwards in puzzlement. Then the events of the previous day rushed back to her, and she remembered how she had ended up in a lumpy bed in a dark little hole known as the Underground.
She wrinkled her nose at the strange smell that lingered in the air. Maybe it was just because she had only seen the slums of Haven City, but so far, she didn't have a very high opinion of it.
Keira pushed herself into a sitting position, realising her clothes were a little crumpled. She got to her feet, trying to smooth them out, and realised there was a knife lodged in the wall. It was situated not far above where her sleeping head had been, but she was sure it hadn't been there when she had gone to bed. It looked like someone had thrown it at the wall.
She could well imagine who.
The mechanic peered round the beds at the scruffy commander, who was slumped over the table which was still covered in maps. Had he stayed up looking at those things? Keira was sure it was him who had thrown it at her, seeing as her first meeting with him hadn't exactly been welcoming, and the only other person she had met here was Tess, who seemed quite harmless.
Knife in hand, Keira stood thoughtfully infront of the table and sleeping commander, debating whether or not she should wake him up and ask him about it. Probably not, she didn't want to be making enemies after being here for barely one day. But if he had thrown a knife, didn't that suggest she had already gotten on someone's bad side?
A shrill scream yanked Keira out of her reverie, and she spun round to the doorway as the screaming ended abruptly, to be followed by a thud as Torn fell off the table.
Tess stood, pointing at Keira and the knife. The mechanic gulped, realising how suspicious she must have looked, standing over the leader of the Resistance movement with a knife. This would only confirm his initial idea that she was a spy, or something worse. What if they threw her out alone...or worse?
"What...what were you doing?" Tess asked, her eyes wide as she stared at the knife.
"How many times have I told you not to make noise when I'm sleeping?" Torn demanded of the blonde, snatching the knife from Keira's hand and adding: "That's my knife."
"I found it in the wall," She replied uneasily, glancing between the annoyed commander and the confused blonde. "Did you... put it there?"
"You were snoring." Torn replied indifferently. "What are you doing here, Tess?"
The blonde had regained her chirpy attitude as she sat on the map table, smiling despite the glowering look she received from the commander. Keira stared dumbfounded at the pair of them. Was it normal in Haven City to throw knives at people while they sleep?
"I thought you might want me to help show our new recruit the ropes." Tess giggled. "What's she going to be doing?"
"I don't care." He grumbled. "You brought her here, so you can take her with you to the Hip Hog Saloon, see if she can work with you."
"What do you do there?" Keira asked. She didn't want to be working at some sleazy bar, which this city undoubtedly contained many of. She'd much rather just head to the nearest garage and get her hands on one of the A-Grav zoomers she'd seen flying round the slums.
"She's a barmaid." Torn replied.
"Hey!" Tess exclaimed indignantly. "I'm an informant. I spy on people there and report back."
"Then shouldn't you be doing that?" The commander snapped, waving her off the table to try and rescue some of the maps he'd ripped in his sleep.
Tess grabbed Keira's arm, dragging her to the door and out into the foul-smelling, dirty, grey city.
She guided the disorientated girl to an A-Grav zoomer, which hung motionlessly in mid-air. Keira would have preferred to pull the bonnet up to see how they had managed to perfect the engine, when she had been struggling with it for a while, and find out if the design was exactly the same as hers, but Tess seemed keen to sit the mechanic on the back in order to drive her to the bar where she worked. Keira hardly thought of the prospect with relish, but at least she might spot her friends and her father, or hear some titbit of information which might give a clue as to their whereabouts. If not, at least she would be helping Tess, and furthering her chances of being helped in return.
The zoomer gave a disconcerting spluttering noise as it set off, veering dangerously close to the walls of nearby buildings as Tess drove through the city.
Much to Keira's disappointment, the rest of the city did not seem to be any more attractive than the slums, though as they entered what appeared to be a very industrial part of the city, the smell of sewage was replaced with the smell of oil and machinery, which she preferred by far.
"Uh oh!" Tess yelped, as the zoomer pitched forwards, throwing both women over it.
Keira crashed into some kind of dumpster filled with bits and pieces of machinery, which was poking her in places she had never even known existed. She hastily clambered out, joining Tess, who was staring at the smoking vehicle infront of them.
"I don't know what's wrong with it," the blonde frowned, "we're gonna have to walk, but the Hip Hog Saloon is ages away."
"Mind if I have a look?" Keira offered, leaping at the zoomer, and lifting the bonnet.
Though she had none of her favourite tools, she still had her small spanner which she always held onto in case of emergencies. She fiddled with the engine, which wasn't really broken, just a little overheated. She fixed it quite quickly, but remained with her head buried into the engine, just so that she could inspect it a little longer. How had they managed to replicate her design so exactly, and on such a wide-scale. She wondered if someone from the village sold her designs? That couldn't be possible, afterall, she could be anywhere in the world, anywhere in time. There was no point struggling to figure it out until she had more information.
Keira slammed the bonnet down, smiling genuinely for the first time. It was like seeing an old friend, something which was familiar, if nothing else was. Tess was gazing at her with a curious expression, but it was soon replaced with a relieved smile as she regarded Keira's handiwork.
"I never knew you were so good with with these things," she remarked. "Why didn't you say anything before?"
"I didn't know it would be important," Keira replied honestly.
"Maybe not, we'll see. I'm just glad I'm gonna get to work in time, Krew said if I was late one more time this week, he'd kill me. You drive, I'll just tell you where to go."
Keira complied, hopping into the driving seat, and setting off with ease. All that time spent working on her A-Grav zoomer was paying off, and it helped relax her.
"Who's Krew?" She asked, swerving round the slow moving traffic, and relishing the feeling of the wind rippling through her short hair.
"My boss," Tess replied, the mild grimace in her voice was evident. "He's a bit scary, but nothing I can't handle. Left here! If we're lucky, he will have just been talking to his daughter by the time we get there. I've never seen her, but Krew's always in a good mood after they've had a little heart-to-heart."
He didn't sound so bad. If he was a family man, he might be like her father, who seemed a bit mean to people who didn't know him well, but was quite loving towards his daughter, when he wasn't being too overprotective.
"Stop!" Tess exclaimed.
Keira slammed the brakes on, and the zoomer screeched to a halt outside a seedy-looking pub. She decided not to assume anything, there was still a chance that something in this city might pleasantly surprise her.
Or not. She followed Tess inside, quickly seeing that the bar was just as uninviting inside as it was out. The only difference was that inside was an incredibly obese, but happy man floating up near the lights.
He noticed the two women entering, and flicked a switch on the machine he was sitting in, causing it to sail down to them, wafting pungent smell in their direction. Though there was a smile on his shiny face, meaning he must have spoken to his daughter, something told Keira he wasn't a thing like her father. On the contrary, she got the feeling he was a suspicious man.
"Who's this?" He asked Tess, though he seemed only vaguely interested.
"This is Keira, she's looking for a job behind the bar," explained the blonde, appearing no less relaxed and cheerful than she had been when she was outside. Whatever else Tess was, it was clear she was good at putting on a brave face. Keira on the other hand, was sure she was about to retch.
"Really?"Krew asked, his sour breath blasted into her face as her swung closer. "She looks young, but nevermind if it gets the customers in, then I won't complain! You know how to serve drinks, clean tables...?"
Keira nodded enthusiastically, as though she dreamed of nothing else. Krew seemed satisfied.
"Good! You start immediately!"
He floated off into a back room, leaving the two women stood in the middle of the virtually empty bar.
"It gets really busy in a couple of hours," Tess explained, "so you can just practice until then."
Keira raised her eyebrows as the older woman walked off to the bar, wondering what she would need to practice. All she was going to be doing was making drinks, collecting glasses and wiping down tables, how hard could it be?
As it turned out, being a barmaid was harder than Keira had originally thought. She hobbled back towards the bar, her tray of empty glasses shaking as she dodged the drunks who were staggering all over the place.
She ditched the glasses at the bar, pulling out some more, and pouring the strong-smelling liquor into the glasses. It sloshed around everywhere, but was a vast improvement on earlier, when Tess had asked her to change a barrel and it had almost done herself a serious injury.
Tess, in comparison seeming to be weaving in and out of the bawdy customers, stopping every so often to talk to a man at the bar, who she seemed to know from the Underground. Keira wouldn't have thought it a good idea for the two of them to talk so openly when they were both meant to be spying on Kew, but they didn't seem to care much.
"Need a hand?" Asked Tess's friend, who despite only having one eye, seemed to be quite warm and friendly.
"It's okay!" She insisted, not wanting to draw attention to the difficulty she was having.
Keira passed Tess, who was on her way back to the bar. The mechanic girl wandered towards the table she was meant to be serving, keeping her eyes focused on the drinks she was carrying and trying to make sure they didn't spill.
She could kick herself for not mentioning earlier her proficiency with anything mechanical. If she had, Tess and Torn might had allocated her a job at some garage, where she could at least enjoy herself. It wasn't like she had any spare time whilst serving people to ask them about Jak, Daxter or her father. Even if she'd had the time, she doubted they'd associate themselves with these kinds of people.
Immersed in her own thoughts, Keira hadn't noticed the man approaching her, who was too busy talking to someone behind him to notice the girl carrying drinks.
She crashed into him, the glasses toppling from the tray and shattering on the floor, the brown liquid soaking the man's armour, and flooding the wooden floor around them. Keira quickly dropped to her knees, trying to fish the glass shards out of the alcohol and collect them on the wet tray.
"Hey!" The young man snapped angrily, grabbing her arm and dragging her to her feet. She realised with horror that the whole bar was silent, watching the pair of them, as though they were on some kind of stage, acting out a play.
Keira bit her lip, glancing slowly upwards at the man. His furious expression dispersed, to be replaced with a look of surprise, which seemed to transform his whole appearance from some kind of terrifying soldier, to merely an attractive man who was taken aback at their collision.
"Sorry," she offered.
"That's alright," he answered cautiously, glancing up and down at the barmaid. "How old are you? You don't look nearly old enough to be working in a place like this."
"Uh.." Keira's mind froze on the verge of telling him a lie.
"How did you end up here?" he asked.
Her mouth formed the words, but no sound came out.
"You can tell me, I won't bite," he assured her, with a smile that only just reached his secretive pale eyes.
Keira laughed in embarrassment, brushing her hair back from her face. "My friend, Tess, told me I could work here. I kinda need a job, and this was the only thing she could think of."
"Hmm..." he murmured thoughtfully. "What are you good at?"
She seized the opportunity to share her love of mechanics with him, in the hope that he might know a place in a garage somewhere.
"Really?" He smiled. "That's convenient, I know of a job available in the race-garages, and I could easily get you it. I'm a racer there, and some of the mechanics are useless, so it would be good to have someone who knows what they're doing, and you look like a smart girl. What d'you think?"
Keira's face lit up, her smile the brightest it had been since she woke up in Haven City. Finally, it felt like her prospects were becoming more positive! "I'd love to! That's so lucky, cause I wasn't looking forward to spending the next couple of months here. I didn't realise you were a racer though, I thought you were a soldier."
He looked a little puzzled, raising an eyebrow. "You don't recognise me?"
She frowned at him. Nothing about his appearance rang a bell with her. "Should I?"
"Perhaps not. Most people recognise me from the races though, they have posters everywhere to advertise it. I'm a soldier as well, a commander in the KG, actually."
"'The KG'?" She echoed, not bothering to mask the fact she had no idea what it was.
"The Krimson Guard," he explained, intrigued. "I assume you're not from Haven City?"
"I don't really know," she lied. "That woman, she found me in the street, and I can't remember a thing before that, must've hit my head."
He smiled, before the other men at the table he'd come from called to him. Keira realised that the noisy din had returned to the bar. She hadn't noticed when, being too distracted by her conversation with the kind stranger.
"I'd better go," he said. "But why don't you meet me outside the racing circuit tomorrow, I'll show you around, see if you recognise any of it."
"Sure." She smiled as he turned to leave. "Oh, wait! I don't know your name!"
"It's Errol." He replied.
"Mine's Keira." She told him, wandering back to the bar, her hope written clearly on her face for the other two to read. Much to her surprise, both Tess and Tess' friend seemed wary. She glanced from one to the other, worried about what was getting them so agitated.
"What were you talking to him about?" Tess inquired.
"Oh, I told him how I'm much better at mechanics than waiting tables, and he offered me a job at the racetrack, he wants me to meet him there tomorrow." Keira replied, finally beginning to feel a little more optimistic about finding her friends. Afterall, if the races were such a huge event, they were bound to pop up and take a look at some point.
Tess and her one-eyed friend shared a glance, which was slightly unnerving. "This could be useful," Tess's friend commented. "We don't have anyone else at the track, you should let him know."
Keira knew that they were referring to their leader, Torn, and it didn't surprise her in the slightest that they were more interested in the welfare of their rebel movement than in her happiness.
"I'll go see him when he close," Tess answered, before turning to the hopeful girl at her side, with a concerned look on her face. There was something unsettling about such a troubled expression on a face like Tess's. "You be careful around him, that guy's bad news."
Keira frowned, staring at the man she'd been talking to. There was something different about him, that was true, but so far he'd been one of the nicest and most helpful people she'd met, so he couldn't possibly be all bad, could he?
Author's notes: so i decided to go for a couple of extra chapters, probably just until Keira is settled at the racetrack, to explain how she got there. I doubt i'll make it all love-y with her and Errol, seeing how hard i find it to write him sounding like a nice guy and this chapter i think is longer, so i hope that's a plus!