Author's Notes: More than a year after Captive Voice concluded, I present to you the first chapter of the sequel. Please remember that this is not intended to be a full novelization of the game, but rather a series of snapshots meshing it with the moderate AU of CV canon and digging a little deeper into the story itself.
Disclaimer: Jak II: Renegade and all related characters, cities, situations and technologies belong to Naughty Dog Incorporated. I am not making any money off this story, as the only part of it I actually own is the story itself.
One: Falling in Step
"'Surrender and die.' Seriously. Give up so we don't have to work to kill you," Daxter muttered, gripping tight to Jak's shoulderplate as the elder teen grabbed another Krimzon Guard by the helmet, spun him around and threw him into a wall. "Yeah, 'cause sayin' that totally sounds like a good idea."
Jak growled as he slammed another kick into the back of the Guard's skull, and the sickening crack of a broken neck sounded through scarlet armor.
Daxter, on the other hand, just held on tight and continued his tirade. "It sounds stupid t'you too, right Jak?"
The young man in question dropped to his knees for a fraction of a second, dodging below the bright blue charge of a shock-prod, then rolled and almost sent his best friend flying. He righted himself again in a heartbeat, reached up and grabbed just above the rubber grip of the prod in the Guard's hand to yank it away from him with too much ease.
Precursors, Erol hadn't been kidding. Jak hadn't put much thought into it during his escape, made not even a half hour earlier, but he really was good at this. A natural. If this were an assessment—which it might have been at some point, Jak couldn't remember half of them anymore—the KG commander would have said he was passing with flying colors.
And Jak would probably want to punch him in the mouth about as much as he wanted to smack Daxter in the head for not shutting up.
The prison escapee twisted the prod and slammed it into the Guard's face, shattering his goggles on impact and sending him reeling backward, and Daxter continued to mutter and taunt and babble.
Then he quite suddenly went silent. The shock of it sent a rush of emotions through Jak far stronger than a little annoyance at Daxter's inability to hold his peace, but all he could do was lift his head and turn, listening as a great mechanical hum cut through the void left by Daxter's shock.
The approaching object looked like a box. A big, flying, metal box, painted red with black glass and fins set into its surface. It approached, descending to hover ten feet or so off the ground; the outwash of energy Jak could feel from it, taste flaring in those engines, was sweltering, overwhelming. So much eco for such a bizarre device.
The back flipped open and revealed the floating, roaring contraption for what it was; a military transport full of Krimzon Guards. Backup for those Jak had just so effortlessly dispatched.
The sight of those all those geometric grey tattoos, of so much red armor and so many eyeless, goggled faces made something in Jak coil, tense to strike. That murderous part of him—that black seed planted in his chest, with those electric violet roots reaching down into his lungs, out to the tips of his fingers, up into his brain—scratched at the underside of his skin.
There were so many of them. So many to fight, but so many more people running, screaming, trying to get away. Too much fear, too much blood, too much. Jak narrowed his eyes, the blue deepening slowly to violet, pushing toward black.
Something in him snapped, and electricity flared behind his eyes.
"Oh fuck this," he hissed, voice taking on a ragged, monstrous edge.
The world around him exploded into dark.
Prince Mar of Spargus, heir to the throne of Haven City, son of Warrior King Damas, was fairly certain he should have been afraid. He was quiet, certainly, but by no means stupid, and growing up in the Wasteland for this long had taught him a great measure of what was and was not meant to be feared.
The young man Mister Kor had been waiting for had been intimidating, if a little bit familiar. But he reminded Mar of Uncle Sig in some odd, tangential way, so the intimidation was weak at best. His pet friend was more of a shock.
What was his name? The pet friend said it, didn't he? Something short and sharp, like a broken stick.
"Jak!" The pet friend practically shrieked, giving a rough tug on his companion's shoulderplate as violent lightning started to crackle around them both. A tiny, snakelike bolt struck the little beast in the side of the head and sent him jerking to one side, but…didn't seem to hurt him.
It felt like Dark Eco. Mar knew what Dark Eco was, the monks and his father taught him. But wasn't it supposed to hurt people? Wasn't it dangerous?
They both looked fine.
"Amazing…" Kor whispered under his breath, the wizened hand on Mar's shoulder tightening its grip. The little boy looked up at him, as confused by his awe as he was by the lack of damage caused to their impromptu bodyguards' and their almost nonplussed reaction to the most deadly substance in existence.
Jak was changing. It hurt Mar to watch, somehow, tugged at something in his chest, felt like fingers down his throat—like he was back in the labs again, with the needles and diodes and scan after scan, with eco that burned his eyes just to look at.
He was Dark but he was white from head to toe; the monster Jak had become reached up and shoved his pet friend off his shoulder before giving a ragged, guttural roar and diving headlong into the fray.
And then what was Dark but white was red instead.
The monster was meant to be terrifying, like a nightmare given breath. Like one of those stories the monks would tell on Spirit Night. Mar could tell, he could feel it in the air and see it in the eyes of the people running for their lives, hear it in the screams of the Guards the creature ripped apart one after the other.
But he wasn't afraid. Something in him wouldn't let him be afraid. Mar looked at Jak, and he felt sorry. He hurt in ways his young mind couldn't comprehend—in ways many couldn't comprehend.
He looked at Jak and he wanted to cry.
Yellow knuckles slammed into the wall, fingers dug hard and deep into a deep blue palm, enough to strain the fabric from both sides. The lineup of scarlet-clad men did their best to hold ranks, stay in perfect line against their Commander's murderous glare and heavy, predatory tone.
"Four hours," Erol hissed, letting his hand slide down and fall back to his side. "Four hours, and you can't find him. He carved a trail in our security the size of Kras City and you can't find him?"
All but stepping up for the slaughter, one Guard toward the end of the front ranks—Sergeant Breman by name, a veteran in prison security—cleared his throat. Erol's amber eyes were on him instantly, narrowed and livid; jaw clenched, the tips of his tattooed ears flushed in rage, the commander on the Krimzon Guard was not a man to be crossed today. Everyone working security for the Dark Warrior Program had seen him like this before, more than once; every time a test didn't run right, every time Praxis told him to let up on the gas a little, every time another battle with the Metalheads passed without a definitive victory—Erol was always wound up far too tight for such a small body.
He had just lost his favorite toy, his greatest and most beloved distraction for two years and counting, and with it that coil inside him tightened to the breaking point. The Precursors only knew how anyone was going to get out of this one alive.
"With all due respect, Commander," the Breman stated as firmly as he could manage, "he's not a large target, and he doesn't look foreign. Slap some proper clothes on him and he'd blend right in."
Erol blinked, then raised his eyebrows. He looked away from that particular subordinate and over the ranks, chuckling. The chuckle strengthened to a laugh, which became a full-blown cackle in a matter of seconds.
No one said another word.
When the laughter broke off after a long, unhinged moment, it was so Erol could practically launch himself onto the man who had dared to speak to him with such disrespect, both feet colliding squarely with his chestplate and sending him to the ground. Ranks were broken as everyone else scrambled to get out of the way. Erol moved with the fall—when the soldier hit, he had one knee jammed into his stomach, the other on the floor, a gun in his right hand and his left clamped firmly onto the idiot's collar.
"You think he's going to blend in?" he seethed, speaking through clenched teeth, leaned in so close Breman could feel the commander's breath on his face, hot and acrid and electric. "You think that freak is just going to disappear?"
A moment passed in silence. The rest of the security detail had the clarity of mind to reform their ranks; one less thing to set Erol off, one less chance of any of them dying today.
Erol put the gun to one red-tinted lens in the sergeant's goggles, metal singing against the eco-treated glass. Even then he didn't break eye contact, gaze driven deep into his subordinate's brain, drilling and drilling and begging him to just try it. Move. Breathe and you're dead.
Fortunately—or perhaps unfortunately, depending on one's stance on the matter—Erol would not be drawing the blood of his own men today. Or, at the very least, not this man's blood at this particular moment.
The radio in Sergeant Breman's helmet crackled, in time with all the others', and a frantic buzz of voices sounded in stereo.
"Requesting backup! Sector three, the junk dist—good god, what IS that thing?!" Gunfire rang out, the electrical crackling of a shock-prod hitting a target, but both were swallowed up by the trademarked wash of static from some form of energetic interference.
Then, low and distant, buried in feedback, another sound rose up in the background. Erol's eyes widened and he tilted his head, pressing one long curved ear to Breman's helmet to listen intently. He held his breath, straining to hear over his own soldiers' frenzied breathing—both from this end and the other. It was there, he'd felt it. He caught it once, all he had to do was wait. Wait and listen, just to be sure…
Grey eyelids slid down over sulphur-yellow eyes, and within a second that sound rang again, rising up like a hymn from the fog of noise. Masked, perhaps, camoflauged in the static, but Erol knew it all the same; he would recognize that unearthly growl anywhere.
"Jak," he breathed.
The Krimzon Guard slammed his sergeant's head back into the floor and surged to his feet, moving toward the door before he'd even touched down again.
"Sector three," he barked, holstering his gun. "Now."
The squad could only scramble to follow.
Jak's world had spun to pieces. He was one, ash white and black and electric violet; another was Daxter, distant now, orange and yellow and sweet, pure blue. The rest seemed to match, bleeding out into the air around them in bright, dizzying red.
He focused on those pieces, those lights lashing out from the crisp, colorless background of the city that spun like a great wheel, rotating at a thousand miles per hour with Jak alone at the hub. He was the center of the universe, everything, sickly sweet power singing up from his very bones to strike out at one fragment of bloody red after the other. Voices screamed in his ears and hissed, taunted, whispered in his head.
This was right. He was right, so good at this it seemed he had been born into it. Perhaps he had, the old burned away in purpled darkness to give him new life, leaving him recreated, resurrected, pure. Reborn.
Erol would be so proud.
The thought gave Jak a start even as coated metal caved in under his fingers, and the euphoria was broken in an instant. The eco shivered, curled and pulled back in on itself, condensing back into a thick syrup in Jak's blood, fused and to every scarlet cell and more.
Horns and claws receded, teeth dulled, the curtain of black lifted from his eyes and color drained back into him bit by bit. Muscle contracted, bones shortened, whispers faded, and Jak was Jak again. Just a twisted channeler, a lot little boy, an escaped convict—no longer a god on earth, no longer the center of anything at all.
He choked on the blood in the air and leaned heavily against the nearest wall, breath heaving as he waited for the flares of pain and involuntary shivers to pass.
"That," Daxter said in obvious sincere appreciation, "was cool. Do it again."
Jak pushed himself upright, fighting to stand under his own weight. He'd felt so light before, like he was flying when he moved. He wanted that feeling back.
His stomach clenched when he realized he had no clue how to bring that power back out, how to wake the monster Praxis has painstakingly crafted inside him over these past nightmarish two years.
"Something's happening to me," he ground out, voice smoothing with each word, returning from the inhuman roar of his monster. He looked at his hands, willing the eco he could feel in them to move, spike, anything. "Something he did."
The energy stored in Jak remained as unresponsive as lead in his fingertips. His brow creased in confusion, worry tightening in his chest.
He hadn't noticed it in prison, with Erol and Praxis breathing down his neck, pushing constantly for more more more, but now things were different. Now Jak could breathe, he could see, and he was painfully, mercilessly awake.
And he realized that his channeling abilities were all but dead. The eco inundating his entire being, saturating every cell in his body, was completely and utterly renegade.
"I can't control it."
Even after the Dark Warrior Program, after all his assessments and injection cycles and everything that had been done to him, with him, through him, Jak had never been so scared in his life.
Erol reached the destination first, of course, well ahead of his men, and was off his zoomer before the blue eco glow had even faded completely from the engine. Booted feet hit the uneven stone one after the other, and he struggled to make sense of the scene set out before him.
It didn't take long.
When the rest of the squad caught up, the elite Dark Warrior Program security and containment detail, they found their great commander standing in the middle of a mess of blood and bodies that would do Dead Town proud. He stood with his back straight, arms loose at his sides and head lowered to view the carnage; Erol turned when the transport stopped and his men filed out.
He looked almost…amused. Perhaps a little incredulous, a little pained, a little unhinged, but grinning slightly.
"I missed him," he said almost jovially, with a hint of a laugh. "The blood is still wet, they're still warm—" His featured contorted into a look of absolute fury, the mask of cool collection he usually wore in public shattering as he raised his voice to a yell and kicked the nearest body hard enough to send it sliding through the gore. "—and I missed him!"
The squad recoiled from the outburst automatically.
Erol gave an inarticulate howl of rage, latching on to another ruined Guard, adrenaline screaming through him lending inhuman strength to his limbs. He heaved it up with a roar, throwing the tattered mess of a man at his squad.