Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I'm just playing in Naughty Dog's sand box.
Warnings: Spoilers for Jak 1-3.
"Do something, Jak!" Keira's voice snapped Jak out of his moment of shock, and the boy tore his gaze away from the strange... thing that was trying to pull itself through the Precursor ring. Mind racing, he scanned the control board in front of him. This machine had opened the ring in the first place, maybe it could close it again - if he could just figure out how.
"What's this do? Or that! How 'bout this one!" Beside him, Jak's friend, Daxter started flipping switches and hitting anything that looked even remotely like it had a purpose. When nothing happened besides a few corresponding beeps, the ottsel practically screamed, "Everybody, press all the buttons!"
Good old Daxter. Panicky but quick-thinking. Jak grabbed the - steering wheel? Could this thing even move? But there was a pedal beneath his foot and even though this thing didn't have anything in common with Keira's A-GraV Zoomer, his intuition told him that this machine could go.
And it was pointed right at the monster that was trying to get into their world.
Jak's mouth formed a thin, determined line on his face and he slammed his foot down. The machine instantly sprang to life, launching itself forward with a smoothness and speed that surprised him. Within moments, they flew right off the platform and straight into the monster's face. Jak squeezed his eyes shut, bracing himself for the impact.
But it never happened. Or at least it didn't feel like they hit anything. The blond cracked his eyes open, then widened them in wonder. The entire world was nothing but a streaming mass of purple light.
"What was that thing?" Keira asked shakily. Wind whipped her blue hair into her face and she lifted a hand to push it back.
Jak shook his head. He didn't have an answer. His eyes sought out Samos, the oldest and most knowledgeable of them all, but before the Green Sage could say anything, the machine lurched wildly to the right. Jak gasped and fought to steady the controls, but it was like fighting a wild animal. It bucked and swerved no matter what Jak did.
"Hang on everyone!" Following his own advice, Samos gripped the edge of the machine so tightly that his green knuckles almost turned white.
Daxter was nowhere near as calm. "Yaahh! I want off this thing!"
The machine rattled and shook even harder, but it held together and sailed on. To where, Jak had no idea, but so long as they made it in one piece, anything else could be worked out later. The light they were heading towards seemed to be getting closer. Jak tried not to hold his breath. Could it almost be over?
Then something struck the ship, Keira screamed, and the world exploded in white.
As far as coherent thoughts went, it was pretty pathetic, but as Jak pushed himself up off the ground, he was proud of even that. His whole body hurt. For a moment he was afraid that his impact with the ground had broken something, but a quick check with his hands found everything relatively in place. Good. That meant he could push aside his body's complaints and concentrate on helping his friends.
Daxter? Buildings rose up around him, all metal and rust and glass. Jak had never seen anything like it in his life. Even Gol and Maia's citadel seemed somehow warmer, probably because of its mix of ancient Precursor technology. His fuzzy orange friend should have stood out like a sore thumb against this city's grim backdrop, but the only flashes of the color he sought were in the strange signs and lights that stuck out overhead. Jak spun around. Keira? Samos?
He wasn't alone. There were people all around him, but most of them avoided even looking his way and those that did look only hurried on as though afraid. Disturbed - since when had anyone ever been afraid of him? - Jak started toward one of the buildings. His friends obviously weren't here. Lacking any better ideas, the buildings seemed the best place to start looking. If nothing else, maybe he could find someone who would give him some information.
"What the hell was that?"
The deep voice stopped him in his tracks. Jak turned and tilted his head inquisitively at the tall man with... was that a goggle lens embedded in the place of his eye? He tried to shake off the vaguely horrifying thought with a gesture and a shrug. What was what?
"Don't play dumb with me, cherry," the man growled. Even without the false eye, he posed an intimidating figure, clad in heavy, spiked armor and with an oddly shaped staff or weapon of some kind strapped to his back. The dark scowl only completed the picture. "I saw that blast that dropped you outta the sky. What was that and what did you have to do with it?"
Jak stared at him in a moment of awkward silence. How was he supposed to answer that? Even with as little as he knew, it was still more complicated than he could hope to communicate with gestures and facial expressions. Maybe if he had Daxter's help to translate...
"...under arrest for suspicious activity. Surrender or die!" The harsh, tinny voice cut through the crowd, not directed at either Jak or the man confronting him, but still demanding attention. As Jak's eyes landed on the group of men in red and gray armor, the man in front of him cursed softly.
"Damn. We've got to get out of here." Jak glanced back at him, but the man shook his head, forestalling any questions, and instead took Jak by the shoulder. "Not here. We can both ask our questions when we're someplace safer. Follow me."
Well, I did want to talk to someone. With that wry thought in his head, Jak put up no protest as he was half-guided, half-dragged away from the scene the red men were making. The man wove his way through the crowd as though he was quite used to the heavy traffic. Come to think of it, he probably was. Jak was the one who was out of his element here.
Oh wow, look at those zoomers.
Indeed, vehicles of all sorts flew overhead, some large, some small, all of them sleeker and quieter than the one he was familiar with. They crawled across the sky at the same height and speed, as though traveling along lines that only they could see. Jak's fingers itched to try one. Was that really as fast as they could go?
A sharp tug pulled him out of his day dreams and into a dimly lit and somewhat dingy building whose door slid open on its own as they approached. The place was dominated by a roped off square in the middle of the room whose purpose Jak couldn't determine, but the counter at the far end and the tables tucked into private alcoves suggested a fair bit. A faint odor permeated the air that reminded him a little of Boggy Billy's breath. The boy wrinkled his nose. Only one other person was in the room, a pretty blond girl who was busy wiping down the counter. She glanced up when they entered, then smiled as soon as she saw his companion.
"Sig! What brings you here?" Her eyes drifted to Jak, looking him up and down before favoring him with a wink. Jak found himself blushing. "And who's the kid? You know I can't serve him."
Sig shook his head. "Just need to use a table in the corner, Tess. You can hook me up with my usual. The kid can have water."
Actually, water sounded pretty good. It felt like ages since the last time he'd had anything to drink. Jak gave Tess a tentative smile to indicate that he was fine with this choice and received a dazzling flash of Tess's teeth in return. Wow.
Sig rolled his eyes but otherwise ignored the exchange. Releasing Jak's shoulder at last, he gave the boy a slight push in the direction of the table he wanted. "Just sit down and cool off, chili pepper." Okay, maybe he hadn't ignored it. Still, Jak sat down willingly and the two waited until Tess came over to deliver their drinks, which she did with what seemed to be her usual bubbly aplomb.
Once she was gone, Sig took a long pull of the dark liquid in his mug, then set it down with a thud. "All right, kid. Time to talk."
Oh boy. Oh well, all he could do was give it a shot. Maybe Sig would be one of those few people who could understand him without Daxter's help. With one hand he drew a circle in the air, then held up four fingers on his other hand. After giving Sig a significant look, he closed the four fingers and sailed them through the ring he'd just drawn. My friends and I went through a Precursor ring.
"Whoa, hold on there," Sig interrupted him with a glare. "I said talk, not lead an orchestra!"
Jak sighed. So much for that. He lifted a hand and pointed at his throat, then shook his head.
That, at least, Sig could understand. "You tellin' me you can't speak?" he asked flatly. When Jak nodded, the man all but growled. "Oh, now that's convenient."
Hearing the sarcasm in Sig's voice, Jak scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. I'm not lying!
Sig scoffed. "I'll believe that when Metal Heads hand me their gems on a platter. You ain't foolin' nobody, kid. I heard you yellin' when you fell from the sky. If you're mute, then I'm a giant kangarat."
This conversation was getting more and more frustrating by the minute. Jak made an exasperated noise in the back of his throat and threw his hands up in the air. I never said I was mute. I said I can't speak! There's a difference! Darn it, where was Daxter when you needed him?
But Daxter wasn't here. In fact, he might be the one who needed Jak, and in order to find him, Jak needed information. He had to make himself understood. But how?
His eyes fell on the cup of water in front of him and an idea popped into his head. It's not as good as sand, but... He spared a glance for Sig, then picked his cup up and plopped himself down on the floor, motioning for the other man to join him. Let's try this again. Dipping his finger into the water, he began to draw in the thin layer of grime that coated the floor.
A circle. Four people. And there was the monster, although Jak wasn't certain how well he communicated that concept. Even besides the fact that he was no artist, it was hard to draw detail. He drew a box around the scene, then moved to another section of the floor. The four people were in the machine now, with lines behind it to indicate motion. They were headed for the monster.
At first, Sig just looked at him askance as he sat and drew on the floor, but as Jak's story unfolded, he became more interested. Finally, he got out of his chair and crouched beside the boy.
The explosion was perhaps the easiest thing to draw, with the four people flying off in different directions. Jak didn't actually know if that was true. Maybe he was the only one who had been separated from the others. But it seemed as good a guess as any and it got his point across more clearly. He gestured toward the door. And that's how I got here.
Sig studied the drawings for several long moments before finally speaking. "So," he said slowly, "let me see if I'm getting this straight." He reached out to tap the four figures in the first scene. "You and three other people were... someplace, when a Metal Head tried to bust down the door." His finger swung to the second picture. "The four of you got in a zoomer and rammed him. 'Course, that wasn't good for the zoomer and it exploded, dropping you in Haven City and them who knows where. That about sum it up?"
Jak had no idea what a Metal Head was, but he didn't know what the monster was either. For all he knew, maybe it was a Metal Head. The rest, though... He hesitated, then shrugged and waved his hand. Close. He pointed at the circle and shook his head. Not a door.
"Not a door?" Sig unconsciously echoed. Maybe he wasn't as bad at reading Jak's 'language' as Jak had first thought.
In response, Jak dipped his finger in his water again and started sketching another picture. This one wasn't meant to tell a story. It was just a figure with large bug eyes and an elongated snout. Simple as it was, anyone who had ever seen one of the oracles would instantly recognize it for what it was.
Sig's eyebrows flew up in surprise. "A Precursor?"
Jak nodded, then pointed at the ring.
Sig made the connection immediately. "A Precursor door. That's what you flew through."
Close enough. Jak sat back on his haunches, satisfied.
The man rubbed his chin thoughtfully, mulling this information over in his head. "I know someone," he said at last. "Someone with a lot more experience with Precursor stuff. I could ask him what he thinks about this next time I see him."
Jak wanted to ask who, but the cautious way Sig had spoken made him think that he wouldn't get an answer, so he just nodded. Still, his ears pricked up with interest. He gestured eagerly. When can you talk to him?
Sig shook his head, ignoring the question, or perhaps not understanding. "You got a name, kid?" He turned his full attention from the drawings on the floor to the teenager beside him, watching intently to see how Jak would answer. Unused to such heavy scrutiny - and the strange glass eye didn't help - Jak fought the urge to squirm.
The water in his cup had formed a slight film on the surface from all the grime that had transferred from Jak's finger, but it parted easily when he touched it. Slowly, carefully, he scrawled one symbol, then another, then a third.
J. A. K.
Reading and writing was not something that came to him naturally. He didn't like sitting still for Samos' lessons, didn't like showing up for those lessons at all when there were much more interesting things to do with his friend Daxter. But this much was easy, one of the first things that Samos had ever taught him.
He looked at Sig. My name is Jak.
"Jak," Sig said out loud. Short. Simple. He liked it. After eyeing the word written in the floor's filth for a moment, he turned a speculative look on the boy. "You can read and write?" That would make things a whole helluva lot easier.
The kid made a face at the question and rubbed the back of his neck. It didn't take a genius to figure out that he was embarrassed, or to guess as to why. Jak held out his hand and waggled it from side to side. Sig interpreted that to mean "Sort of." Damn. How the hell has he lived this long without learning how to communicate? Yeah, sure, the kid seemed used to explaining things with pictures and gestures, but as they were both finding out, that was only good for so much. What did he do when he inevitably pissed the wrong person off? Hand waving wouldn't save his hide from a Krimzon Guard or a Wastelander with a burr up his ass, and those were two very common things. Something didn't add up here.
"Where are you from?" he demanded. Maybe that would shed some light on things.
"Where the hell is Sandover?"
For the first time since Sig had found the boy, a look of genuine alarm crossed his face. He motioned urgently with his hands, but whatever he was trying to say was lost on the older man.
Sig scowled and caught the kid by the wrists. "Whoa, calm down, cherry! You're not makin' any sense." Jak shook his head and tried to pull free. The strength behind the effort took Sig by surprise, but he was larger, older, and stronger. Jak didn't stand a chance. "I said calm down!"
It took a few more futile tugs for it to sink into the boy's head that he wasn't going anywhere, but eventually Jak stilled. The teenager looked up at him with large, blue eyes that showed entirely too much emotion. He might have stopped struggling, but he was still upset. Sig released his hands.
"There. Now sit down and take a few deep breaths. I'll be right back." He didn't wait to see if the kid did as he was told, just turned and headed straight for Tess. The barmaid had kept tactfully out of the conversation, even when it was loud enough that she couldn't help but overhear, but when Sig approached, she jerked her head in Jak's direction.
"Is he all right?"
Sig grunted. "Just peachy." Tess was a good enough girl, although he suspected that she did more than just bartend for Krew. He had no problem with that himself. Hell, he'd be a hypocrite if he did. He just didn't feel like sharing his - or Jak's - personal business. "You got any paper and somethin' to write with?" Drawing in the dirt just wasn't cutting it.
Especially when he considered that it wasn't just dirt.
Tess eyed him, a little too shrewdly for her barely adult years, but she didn't call him on essentially dodging her question. That was what made her a good bartender. She knew when to press an issue and when to keep her mouth shut. "Yeah, I've got some scraps for keeping track of people's tabs. Hang on." As she reached down below the counter, Sig could hear the faint rustle and clink of items being moved around. A moment later she pulled her hand back up, clutching a pen and several sheets of wrinkled paper. "Here you go," she said. "I want the pen back when you're done with it."
Sig nodded. "Thanks." Taking the pen and paper, the Wastelander went back to where he'd left Jak. The kid had apparently listened to him and was sitting in his chair, though from the expression on his face he was still very stressed. Sig dropped what he was carrying on the table.
"All right, Jak, here's what I want you to do." He pushed the pen and paper forward. "Draw me a picture of Sandover. Or a map. Tell me where there's trees or rocks or water. Anything significant. Tell me where the sun rises and sets. If you know how to write the words, give me names of places and people. In fact, try to label everything you can. Think you can do that?"
Jak looked from Sig to the stack of papers, then nodded and picked up the pen. Sig smiled and clapped a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Good. You do that while I go make a few calls. I'll ask Tess to keep an eye on you. If you need food or water, ask her, but whatever you do, don't leave the bar until I get back. Understand?"
Another nod, serious enough that Sig believed it. He might have scolded the kid for trusting a virtual stranger so easily, but it worked in his favor so he let it go. Now to convince Tess to watch an underage and unaccompanied teenager and make sure he stayed out of trouble. I'm gonna owe her big for this, he mused ruefully. But it couldn't be helped. This needed to be reported and he needed more information.
He needed to talk to Damas.
-End Chapter One-