"Missing"

"Dammit…"

Daxter swiped at another metal bug that had crawled out of a small hole in the wall with his electric bug swatter, knocking it away as small bolts of electricity coursed through its body. He smacked it again and again until it finally rolled over onto its back in defeat and its glowing yellow gem slipped from its skull. Daxter picked it up and roughly stuffed it in his pack before he moved onward to the next area.

Daxter was rather angry at the moment, something he wasn't very often. He had already taken out at least a dozen metal bugs on his little trip through the inside of this god-awful tanker and didn't really remember much of it. Whether it was because he wasn't in the best of moods or because something else was on his mind he didn't know, nor did he care. But one thing he did know is that there was something else he wanted, no, needed to do right now rather than his job as an exterminator, something he should have done a long time ago, but…didn't.

Daxter took out his spray gun and ran toward a nearby metal bug that was skittering about on the metallic floor. He unleashed a cloud of the nasty green spray, stunning the bug. He quickly whipped out his bug swatter and repeatedly smacked it, eventually sending its skull gem flying out of its head. He ignored the bug's high-pitched screeches as its life left it and collected the gem before turning his attention toward the others in the area. He took them out one by one using his spray gun and bug swatter until he had a nice collection of their gems in his pack. He then stopped to take a look at his surroundings before he made his next move, hopefully one that would take him a step closer to getting out of the tanker. But then he sighed, realizing that there was only one other way to go from where he was now.

Pools of dark eco filled the area below the grating with large bubbles popping and rising from the thick goopy substance. He could smell its stench even from where he was standing and knew it well from all the time he spent near the stuff on his previous adventure. He could see his path bend to the left, though he didn't know where it would take him. But standing around never got him anywhere, unless there was someone to do the walking for you. Daxter took out his spray gun again and moved toward the reeking pools of purple death.

He took one whiff and immediately covered his face with his hand, feeling his nose start to burn a little. The smell was even worse up close and was something he thought he would be used to by now and each time he did, the desire to stay out of the ooze at all costs raised tenfold. He certainly didn't want to fall into the stuff again, for who knows what would happen. He would probably turn into a pink crocodog for all he knew.

Daxter shivered at the thought. He stared out over the dark eco, eyeing the safety of the grating further away. He took a few steps back and then dashed forward as fast as his furry little feet could take him. He jumped into the air and quickly pointed his spray gun downward at the dark eco and fired, shooting a stream of gas. The pressure boost of the gun kept his light frame afloat in the air, allowing him to float over to the grating. He released the trigger and landed cleanly onto the platform, relieved that it didn't collapse underneath him. He rounded the corner and took out the lone metal bug that was waiting for him and grabbed its skull gem. He breathed out in relief, but he didn't relax yet as there was another pool of dark eco he had to cross. He took another running start and leapt over the pool and onto the platform that hung over the dark eco and landed on it. He felt it shake and immediately jumped again before it collapsed and used his spray gun to hover over to another hanging platform. He landed on it just as the pressure from the gun wore off and jumped again to the safety of the grating as the platform also collapsed behind him. He relaxed a little now that he had dodged another bullet.

Daxter looked behind him at the pool, smiling. Each time he used that little hovering trick he accidentally discovered he got goose bumps and a feeling of pride came over him. Even Taryn was rather impressed by his cleverness, in which his heart fluttered slightly at the thought. Granted, he always knew that he was smart, but it was nice to finally be recognized for it by someone other than himself. It's good to see that there was at least one other smart person within the big city. For a while he was beginning to think he was alone in that respect. It didn't hurt that she was also quite the babe, with her red lips, well-toned rear and a low v-neck shirt that kind of showed off her…

Daxter's ear suddenly perked up at a nearby sound that sounded like pinchers clipping, snapping him out of his happy thoughts. He wiped the drool off his cheek and glanced to the right, spotting another small metal bug crawling about. He hopped over the gap in the grating and took out the bug, picking up its skull gem and hopping over another gap. Daxter's jaw then fell slightly and hung for a moment as he saw that there were several more pools of dark eco he had to cross.

"Dammit…" He muttered.

He sighed before reequipping his spray gun, noticing the rather large metal bug on the next grating. He took a running start and leapt over the dark eco, using the spray gun to hover over and land on the platform and quickly catching the large bug's attention. He sprayed a huge cloud at the bug, stunning it. He then struck repeatedly at the bug until the effect wore off, in which the bug then slashed at Daxter with its large knife-like arms. Daxter dodged its swipes and returned with a few of his own, smacking it over and over and dodging its attacks until it crumpled over in defeat. He stuffed the gem into his pack and prepared himself to cross the largest pool of dark eco he had ever seen in his life. He breathed in and dashed forward, leaping onto the hanging platform and quickly jumping to the next. He used his spray gun to cross the rest of the pool and landed relatively safely. Unfortunately, more metal bugs were there to greet him, including another large metal bug. He quickly sprayed them all and took out the smaller ones first before focusing on the large one. With a bit of effort, spraying and dodging he managed to kill the big bug. He panted and leaned forward, letting his tongue hang out slightly.

Oh, why did that Ximon dude have to drop him off at this place?

"Ugh…I don't get paid enough for this crap…" He sighed.

Daxter reluctantly picked up the skull gems that were scattered throughout the area and stuffed them in his pack. He really hoped that there weren't many left to take care of. He moved forward inside the large cylinder room and was disappointed when he found more bugs clinging onto the walls that looked climbable. He ignored the smoke blowing up from below and began his ascension up the wall, knocking down any bugs that got a little too close. He slowly made his way to the top and climbed up the ledge and into another room with a large wheel in the center and alit by dim red light. He could just see another large metal bug on the other side of the wheel, staring straight at him as if challenging him to come closer. Daxter sighed.

Things were really not looking up for the ottsel today.

He stared at the menacing bug. Its glowing yellow eyes stared back, squinting in an almost mocking manner. It waved its claws around in a threatening manner, daring him to come over. Daxter started to feel weak somehow and afraid, even though he had already killed several bugs of an identical type and one way larger than the one he saw now. Out of all the bugs he had squashed so far, this one had a different effect on him like none other before it.

What's wrong, Daxter?

He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

Are you scared now? Scared since your friend isn't here to fight for you?

Daxter frowned.

You're alone now and so is he. It's all your fault and you know it…

"No…" Daxter muttered. His grip on his spray gun was starting to weaken.

You had your chance and you blew it sky high…

He began to grind his teeth. He wanted to push them away, but the words wouldn't let him go and they fueled something within him that was rarely touched.

So now what are you going to do? Whine and moan like the weakling you are?

As he continued to stare at the metal bug he felt a flame within slowly start to build in intensity. His hands clenched into tight fists, his eyes began to narrow and his teeth were bared.

You are weak…

Daxter closed his eyes tightly.

Weak…

His entire body trembled and his grip on his spray gun tightened, feeling like his hand could shatter the handle from the pressure.

WEAK!

His mind suddenly went blank. Daxter charged forward, whipping out his electric swatter and releasing some kind of comical battle cry from his mouth. He quickly dashed through the rotating wheel and lunged at the metal bug, raising the swatter high into the air. He swung the swatter downward at the bug, but it leapt to the side as the swatter smacked the floor. Daxter swung at the bug again, landing a few blows before it leapt away from him. He chased after it, but it quickly retaliated and slashed at him, hitting Daxter in the chest and knocking him away several feet. Daxter ignored the pain he felt, as something else drove it out of his mind. He swung the swatter again at the bug, but each time he got close the bug would dodge his swings entirely. He felt his energy being drained, but that cocky, mocking stare the bug kept giving him seared into his mind's eye. He snarled, gripping his swatter even tighter.

"DAMMIT!"

Daxter quickly pulled out his spray gun with his free hand and held them both out. He then sprayed out a stream of the gas in a large arc around him in the hope that some of the fumes would get the bug. Some of them did, stopping the bug and making it rub its ugly face with its claws. Daxter seized his opportunity and continuously sprayed the bug with the toxic gas until his supply was completely depleted, stunning the bug as it hunched down weakly. He closed in on the bug with his swatter held out and lunged forward, swinging with all the strength he could muster from his small arms. He unleashed swing after swing, sending sparks flying out of the swatter and small pieces of metal skin from the bug. The bug reeled down weakly after many hard swings, but Daxter wasn't done yet. He flipped into the air and swung the swatter down, smashing the bug's body in a flash of blue light and sparks. A small pool of purple blood remained along with scattered body parts, some of which were still twitching slightly, and a glowing yellow gem among the mess.

Daxter was breathing heavily. He stared at the remains and felt himself quickly start to calm down. He then gazed around him, not seeing any signs of other bugs and felt somewhat relieved. His ears drooped and his swatter and spray gun slowly slipped out of his grasp, clanging onto the floor. He stood hunched over for several moments and regained a normal breathing rate, but his heart somehow felt heavier than ever and he knew exactly why.

Daxter then raised his hands, ones that looked more like little paws, and stared at them. He felt like he was looking at someone else's hands rather than his own even though he knew otherwise. He began to think back to when he had first arrived in this city and how different it was compared to the white sands of Sandover Village. He had seen and done much in Haven City, from retelling his "mostly" true stories at the local bars to riding around in Taxi Flyers. But even though he enjoyed the people, the sights and even the smells, he still felt that in the year and a half that he had been here, there was something missing the entire time, something that meant a lot to him, a part of himself that had vanished shortly after he came here.

And then within an instant, it all came rushing back to him like a tidal wave flooding his mind and heart.

When he saw Jak zoom past him in that Krimzon Guard carrier, it was like a hard slap in the face. All it took was one glance at his disheveled blonde hair and sullen face for him to remember everything; what had happened, why he was here, what he was doing working for Osmo as an exterminator, and what he was supposed to be doing all along. He realized what had been missing from him this whole time: the presence of his best friend. There had been emptiness inside him that only Jak had filled, and dark realization and conflicting thoughts have been flooding him since he saw him a mere hour ago.

How could you?

He clenched his hands into little fists and shut his eyes tightly. Words were haunting him like never before; words he didn't want to admit but knew were true. They pained his every movement and action as he trekked through the tanker. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to feel about it, and he dreaded what Jak would think if he ever found out.

How could he have completely forgotten about him?

Daxter let his hands drop to his sides as he stared at the metal bug's remains. Images of his best friend appeared in his mind and he blinked. He remembered his blonde and green hair, his stern composure, but he also remembered his often carefree attitude toward life. Hanging out with Jak was his favorite thing to do in their quiet little village, whether they were pulling pranks on the bird lady or just chilling out near the waterfalls in Sentinel Beach with Keira. Sure, he was a mute, but he didn't really care. Jak's eyes, gestures and smile were all he ever needed to carry on a good conversation with him. And when they did, Jak would actually listen to him, or at least pretend to.

But now he was gone. He couldn't even begin to imagine where those Guards had taken him. When he escaped from the surrounding Guards, it was purely out of fear. But when he glanced back at Jak, the look in his eyes told him that he had done the right thing. Jak wanted him to escape and leave him behind. And that was when he made his vow to save him no matter what and that he would get on it post haste.

However, that was well over a year ago…

Daxter looked up and gazed around at the room he was in. This city had changed him, and not for the better. He had become a completely different person from the one he used to be. The old Daxter wouldn't have abandoned his friend for the sake of anything, no matter how grim the situation was. The old one didn't have a care for the world as long as he was happy. The new one was selfish and only cared for himself and let anything that caught his attention distract him and make him forget about…

Wait a minute… No. That wasn't true at all. He was still the same guy that he used to be. He was still a wise-cracking ottsel, he still loved exploring places, he still enjoyed beating the tar out of his foes, and he still loved chasing after the babes. Daxter hadn't really changed at all. The only thing that did was his situation. Right now he was stuck inside a tanker and he needed to get out. He was confident that he had enough skull gems to satisfy Osmo, so now he could concentrate on getting out of here. Jak was still out there somewhere, and he sure as hell isn't going to find him by standing around in this rust bucket contemplating on how much of a bad friend he had become.

Daxter picked up his spray gun, bug swatter and the skull gem and stood up straight. He moved into the hallway nearby where the clashing sounds of large pistons were coming from. He could see a light coming from the other end of the hallway past more pistons and another pool of dark eco. With any luck, it would be his ticket out of here. He took a deep breath and timed his jump just right as he passed over a broken piston and through the moving ones. He jumped through the next set of pistons and onto the platform sticking out of the dark eco. He took another leap past more pistons and onto another platform that carried him across the next dark eco pool and into safety. He moved into the next room and saw another trampoline-like bed with an opening in the ceiling. Daxter smiled.

"Don't worry, Jak. Your buddy the Daxtinator is coming for ya!" He said, looking up at the light.

With a mighty leap, Daxter was fired high into the air by the trampoline and soared over more dark eco and toward another hole in the tanker. The sun felt relieving from the cold interior of the tanker, even if it was for only a moment. He flew into the air again from the next trampoline and back into the tanker via another opening before landing inside onto the cold metal floor with a huge splat. He slowly picked his face off the floor and stood up, noticing a large door on the other side of the room he was in.

Daxter smiled again. He walked toward the door, looking forward as he always has but with a new resolve and purpose that he had never felt before. Jak was waiting for him on the other side and was counting on him now rather than the other way around like it usually was. He will find him one way or another. He would be reunited with his best friend again, that way they could take on whatever this city had to throw at them…together.