Disclaimer: Jak is owned by Naughty Dog. I am not profiting from this fanfiction.

Jak5: Strange Existence

Thirteen: You, There!


Sunni didn't stick around much longer after she put on her new bracers. Flipping the jetboard off her back, she skated her way out, following a map that was already completed in the left bracer. Damn, but Vin was a genius. She was infinitely glad he had 'survived' so long.

Sanya had tried to stop her, calling out to her "daughter", but Sunni just frowned at her and angled the jetboard to take her around. She wasn't sure why she was so irritated at the woman, when she was so clearly torn up over her decision to send Sunni away and wanted nothing more than to reconnect. It was too bad for her, Sunni supposed; she had no desire to have another mother.

Before she'd left, Vin had said one final thing: "I'll inform everyone of your presence, tell them you're one of us. There's traders and experts around you can talk to."

She kept that in mind as she went, grinding down a thick, swaying cord. Once outside, she found that the building they were housed in was almost rubble starting around halfway up. Only the supports remained, and only a few of them. Looking further out into the night (despite that it was day before she was teleported) she could see skeletal buildings everywhere of various heights, but all of them were clearly above ten stories tall.

Trusting in the V.I.N.D. to lead her back at any time, she took off, exploring. Looking at the screen told her that the main city, Veridia, was north/northwest from where she was. But the rumors were that Deise was nowhere in the city - no one knew exactly where he was. He hosted parties for the nobles, though he never showed. It was curious, for an emperor of his vanity, especially because posters, painting and sculptures everywhere declared his face.

Disapproving eyes watched her everywhere she went. It was unsettling, given how much the busts looked like Jak. Fifty-plus generations later and his genes still carried strong. His hair was long, below his shoulders and brushed back, not a strand out of place. A stout beard went across his cheeks, framing his mouth and chin. Both appeared white - yet he wasn't displaying a single wrinkle anywhere on that stern face. On the few posters that showed his shoulders, the robes he wore were immaculate and detailed, something straight out of an ancient portrait of a king.

She found herself hating him more. How dare he carry Jak's face with that look, doing the despicable things he does. She was going to kill him so hard.

Trying to put it out of her mind, she focused on exploring, keeping her senses open for disturbances. There were scant few people out, always hiding swiftly when she neared. Most of them traveled alone, a few going in pairs. She spotted only one child in the hours she spent on the jetboard, compiling the V.I.N.D. map data.

Laser fire broke out when she was just about ready to turn around and head back to the rebel base. Red lights flashed on rusty metal walls, and she followed them. Soon shouting was heard - someone was taunting the ones shooting, declaring how parentless they all were in joking tones.

She allowed herself a smirk. That's exactly the kind of thing she would do. Whoever this person was, she had a feeling she would like him.

He came sprinting out to the wide metal street, barely dodging a few laser blasts. At once she took stock of his dark brown hair, his incredible height, the nice clothes he wore - jacket and fancy pants, in dark blues she guessed - and that he had a tail, his bare feet elongated. He was an Ott, like her.

When he turned towards her to continue his sprint, she was held in stun for a moment, still gliding along. He looked like Torn, down to the last detail - except that he had eyebrows, and no tattoos.

The shoulder of his jacket split open when a laser blast came a bit too close, and he began swearing at the soldiers who had come skidding around the corner after him.

"Motherless horse-faced faggots!" he yelled. "This is my best jacket!" Then he seemed to see her at last, and he began waving her to the side.

He wanted her to hide?

With a scoff, she put aside his startling countenance and pulled out her gun, aiming it. As she skid by him on her board, she shot several times, knocking all four of the armored men down. It was clear by how they staggered that they weren't used to being shot - they were used to shooting. Once she was close, she leapt from her board and began applying her hand-to-hand training.

Between flipping over one's head and kicking another, she noticing the Torn look-alike had turned around and come back to help her. In no time all four were dead, riddled with bullet holes. She was the only one who still used ammunition, it seemed; examining their weapons told her they ran on some kind of battery pack.

"Sooo," the man began, watching her as she continued taking stock of these new enemies. "Come here often?"

She rolled her eyes. "This is my first time here, if you must know." Glancing over her shoulder at him, she was again staggered by his height, made all the more imposing by the fact that she was crouched over the fallen. "And what are you doing here? You look like a noble, with those clothes. Why would the soldiers attack you?"

He waved his hand as if it was of no importance, "I had enough of the stuffy self-important dick-brains. I declared the emperor Deise a son of a whore and predicted his death. So, that makes me a traitor." He looked pleased with himself.

She shook her head. "That takes balls, I'll give you that." Standing, she dusted off her hands, glancing into the distance. She could faintly see lights in the far out in the night. Gesturing it with her chin, she said, "What's that?"

He looked that way. "A city. Unbran."

"You ran from there to here?"

"I ran from Veridia to here. Lost the soldiers a few times, picked up more later." He shrugged.

Now she looked at him. Even on her jetboard, it would take days to get from here to Veridia. How long had he been on the run?

Doesn't matter, she told herself. You should take a look at that city. Maybe this guy can help with that.

Aloud, she said, "Feel like returning the favor?"

"What favor?" he challenged, a cunning in his eyes she didn't like.

"Saving your hide," she returned smartly.

"I could've handled it."

"Uh-huh."

He rolled his eyes. "I have combat training. I could've taken them out at any time."

Judging by his moves a minute ago, she had no doubt. Even so, her pride was about as large as his - neither of them would admit defeat.

"Whatever," she said. "You gonna help me or not?"

He glanced down her, then back up. "Depends. What do I get out of it?"

Her irritation was growing. "Oh, forget it." I'll figure it out as I go. Torn taught me how to do that very well. As she turned to leave, however, he reached out and caught her bracer.

"Wait a minute - giving up, that easily?" he snapped.

She glared at him. What was he irritated for? "Excuse me?" she returned, pulling her arm free.

He gestured the soldiers. "After all that, you're just hanging in the towel? I got the impression you were stronger than that. Stubborn."

"I have no time for insufferable nobles," she shot back.

Now he looked annoyed, glaring back at her. "My name is Torn, girl."

"Woman," she corrected, then cocked her head. "Torn?" she echoed, surprised.

"Yeah, Torn. And before you laugh, I'm named after my ancestor."

She could believe it. "No doubt," she allowed. "You look just like him."

She must have appeased his vanity, she realized. Brushing his hair back, he smirked, closing his eyes in a half-sheepish look and replying, "Heh, I know."

She took the brief chance to turn around and climb up the side of a building, grabbing her jetboard as she went. By the time it would occur to him that she shouldn't know what his ancestor looked like, she was already atop the building, looking at the city. From here, she could see the way to Unbran, could find a good route. She crouched at the edge, leaning on her arms.

From below she heard Torn say aloud, "Wait, how do you know - woman? Where the. . ?"

It seemed like there was a wasteland between here and there, telling her that this place was part of a city that had fallen. The entire planet wasn't covered in metal - just the cities themselves. She wondered how much of the world was desert. It looked sad to her.

A thousand years killed the entire planet, she thought, depressed by the image it conjured.

Torn found her. She heard him climbing up long before he reached the top - if he was going to follow her, she was going to have to teach him how to be silent. The majority of her training, and the majority of her plans, centered on stealth.

"Hey, woman, how do you. . ." He trailed off.

She glanced over her shoulder to see him eying her, from her lengthy hair to her back to her hips to her tail. With a pained look at the heavens, she said, "Don't stare at me like that."

"Huh?" He glanced up at her, then seemed to shake himself. "Right, whatever." He came to crouch beside her, looking at the city. "You're thinking of going there?"

"I have a very important mission to complete," she told him, wondering how much she could trust him with. It was idiotic to consider him a spy or double-agent; no one could've known she'd be here, now. The attack wasn't a fake, she was sure of it. But that didn't make this man trustworthy, especially given the way he kept distracting himself by staring at her.

"In Unbran?" he checked, raising a brow.

"In Veridia, or wherever he is," she corrected.

He graced her with a shocked look. "You're talking about killing Deise, aren't you?"

Gauging his reaction carefully, she replied, "Should that matter to you? You're a traitor."

"It matters," he said, serious. "You'd get killed, little woman. Deise is not reachable. Short of blowing up his ship with nukes, you can't touch him."

"My name is Sunni, with an 'i'," she snapped. "Now what is this about a ship? Is he out in the ocean?"

"Airship," he corrected. "But it doesn't matter. You'd never reach him - you'd die in the attempt."

"Don't underestimate me," she ground out. "I was taught by your ancestor."

His eyes widened. "Impossible." But she could see he was on the verge of believing her.

Glancing around, she tried to make up her mind. To tell him, or not to tell him? In the end, she decided it would be better to have his help. If she could recruit him with the truth, then she'd tell him the truth. Grabbing the split in his jacket, she pulled him closer, leaning in.

"Look, I don't have the time to tell you everything. Suffice to say I'm not all I appear to be. Among others, your ancestor Torn, his wife Ashelin, and Deise's ancestors Jak and Keira taught me in preparation for today. I'm from the past, a thousand years ago. I've lived the past five years just to kill Deise and end his reign."

She took a breath before going on. "I can take you to the rebel base, but I can't promise they won't kill you. On the other hand, you can help me scout around Unbran." She tried to make him understand the importance of this mission with her eyes.

After a moment, he leaned in closer and kissed her before she could jerk away. Shocked, she threw herself back, getting to her feet.

"What the hell was that?" she snapped.

He was laughing. As he stood, he said, "I like you. . .Sunni," grinning. "Come on, I'll take you into the city." He shed his jacket, dropping it where he was. Underneath he wore a plain black sleeveless shirt with laces across a split in the neck.

When she didn't move, only glaring, he glanced back at her.

"I'm serious," he said, gesturing the path to the city. "You coming?"

Hardening her gaze, she stepped closer. "If you ever kiss me again, I'll tear off your lips," she threatened.

He smirked. "I'll keep it in mind." Then he jumped.

She was right behind him. They both took the fall very well for a three-story jump. In fact, she was more impressed that he hadn't hurt himself than anything. However, she was annoyed to find he was just walking.

"Does the word 'urgency' mean anything to you?" she hissed.

"Tiring yourself out won't help anything," he countered.

She pulled out her jetboard, showing it. "I have this."

"And I don't," he pointed out. "Unless the both of us can fit on that-" he looked pleased with the idea "-you're going to have to match pace with your guide."

She had the urge to pout. Still, she just glared ahead and put the board away. "So why did you take off the jacket?"

"It's a dead giveaway," he explained. "We need to find rags and something yellow if we intend to remain anonymous."

"What does that mean?" she asked. "Something yellow?"

"All servants and commoners wear yellow - it's like a brand." That explains why she didn't see any yellow on him, then. "Nobles wear blues, violets, gold and reds. Fancy servants wear greens and sometimes orange."

"Weird," she murmured, thinking back. Almost everyone in the rebel city had been wearing yellow. It made sense all at once. For a moment she wondered why they would choose to wear the color if it was a mark of servitude and poverty, and then it occurred to her that most fabric would likely be yellow by default. It would be unbelievably difficult to get their hands on other colors.

Suddenly Tules' blue shirt seemed very extravagant, as well as her own blue and brown leathers.

"So you believe my story?" she checked, still wary of him.

He gave a nod. "I've heard of stranger things."

"Like what?"

Now he glanced at her, and the look in his eyes startled her; it was as though it pained him to even think about it. When he looked away again, he said, "The rumors go that Deise usurped the throne from his parents, enslaving them both. They're supposed to be. . .ghouls or something at this point. He keeps them around to frighten would-be mutineers and upstarters."

"How would they have become ghouls?"

"No one knows. The leading theory is that Dark Eco had something to do with it." A muscle in his jaw ticked as he said this.

She looked ahead. "So I take it you're not fond of Eco."

"Eco is useful," he allowed, "but not the Dark kind. And especially not at Deise's hands."

She glanced at her bracers. "Then I suppose I should warn you ahead of time. . ." she started. She thought she saw him tense beside her, as if anticipating an attack. That surprised her - rather than her believing him to be a trap, he though she was?

Paranoia was contagious around here.

"I can use Light Eco."

He stopped dead.

Halting along with him, she eyed him with caution.

"You can use Light Eco," he echoed, his eyes showing disbelief.

She paused a moment before replying, "Yes."

"I call bullshit," he ground out, stepping back. He looked her up and down, different from before - now his gaze was apprehensive, as if she were a coiled snake about to strike. "No one uses Light Eco. It's. . .extinct. As far as Eco goes."

She rose a brow in skepticism. "And who told you that? Deise, perhaps?"

A moment of cunning went through his gaze, which alone was something she recalled Old Torn doing a lot. Whenever he was putting together a plan, he would get that look.

It might just be coincidence that this man had it as well, but even the thought that it was genetic shook her. How coincidental would it be for both Jak and Torn to have descendants who looked exactly like them alive at the same time, a thousand years after their deaths?

In a word: extremely.

He said, "Researchers. Archaeologists. Experts. Those sorts."

It took her a moment to realize he'd answered her question. And then she said, "And who pays them for their careers, Torn?" Good lord it was odd calling him that.

His eyes narrowed. "This. . ." he gestured her, "this story of yours and your claim to use Light Eco. . .it can't be true. Not now. Not in this world."

It seemed that talking about Eco brought him back down to the stark reality - a rare thing, that, if his personality was as humorous as she assumed. A few moments before he'd been almost jovial, stealing kisses and suggesting things that would result in their bodies meshed together. Now he was wholly serious, devoid of any humor.

"This is where I demonstrate," she murmured to herself. Pulling on the proverbial strings inside her, she brought out the font of Eco within her. At once serenity infused her, drawing her to close her eyes. She stood up straight, clasped her hands behind her back, and for a single second, merely enjoyed the inner peace that suffused her.

Then she broke the ties, shoving it back down. The transformation had lasted two seconds at most; best to avoid using that trick at birthday parties. She only had a limited stock, so far with no hope of recovering more.

When she opened her eyes again, Torn's had gone wide. It was no longer simple disbelief he was portraying, but downright incredulity. He looked like he didn't trust his eyes.

"Believe me now?" she half-teased, half-demanded.

After a moment, the corner of his mouth raised in a smirk.


AN: Wow, been a while, hasn't it? I'm still working on this story, I promise, it's just kinda tough. And recently I went back and read the whole story again. Wow again. If my writing skill hasn't improved dramatically since I began this fic. . . just wow. I want to go back and rewrite it.

For some reference, I imagine Sunni at being around 4'11". Torn at 6'2", maybe. Pretty huge difference. That's like my grandmother compared to my boyfriend. I reiterate: huge difference.

I also have a great many pics of Sunni at my deviantART gallery. Go to my bio and then my Dragonslover1 devART page and look in the gallery titled 'Anthros' to find many of Sunni. I even have a few of New Torn and Deise.

Next chapter is kicking my ass, so it may be a while. . .just content yourselves with the knowledge that I haven't given up. I'm just hitting a stumbling block with how to progress the story.