"That wasn't me!" Jinx shouted out in the darkness. Shuffling and shifting sounds were heard and then a small click and a light torch flickered to life in the bomb expert's hand.
Recovering bodies were suddenly illuminated in a small circle of area that the damaged light gave off. Sig brushed Daxter off his shoulder where the ottsel had landed and checked all his armor, then his emergency supplies and gun. Ashelin also checker her armor, but failed to find her gun. Tess handed her one of the spares she carried and the two women grinned. On Ashelin's part, the grin was more like a smirk of amusement, but no matter.
While Jinx checked his gear, to make sure there wouldn't be another explosion that would be his fault, Daxter looked around, stood in the center of the circle of people, and asked, "Where's Jak?"
At Sig's back was a broken wall and some debris, so Jak obviously wasn't in that direction, but the dark space expanded farther than Jinx's light did.
Beyond the light's edge, they hear a scratching sound on the stone and the sound of some debris falling to the floor. Following that was an, "Over here," in Jak's voice, which had taken on some of the roughness recognizable in Torn's.
"Are you wounded, cherry?" Sig asked, checking his supplies again.
"No, but I can't move."
"Why not?" Daxter immediately scurried forward in the darkness and was illuminated a moment later by Jinx's new, stronger light. Jak was sitting among some rubble against a side wall. The stone of the wall looked strong and sturdy, due to little damage, but there was a piece jutting out just on the edge of the light far above and directly overhead. A thin, broken stream of water was falling from it and onto Jak's head, already beginning to soak his hair.
"This water," Jak motioned to it, "has dark eco in it."
There was a pool of water around Jak, and it was spreading outward. Daxter jumped over it to reach Jak.
"That water doesn't have any eco in it any more."
"But you just said it did."
"I absorbed it. But if I wasn't sitting here, then the water still coming out would be tainted." Everyone's attention was drawn specifically to the stream of water still pouring on his hair. With the better lighting, they could all see that the purplish glint of the water was gone from the pool and the water streaming around Jak's ears and down his face.
Jak broke the silence that followed as they stared at him. "What happened? We were exploring the catacombs beneath the palace..."
"We found the room with a broken vent and were moving on when there was an explosion." Sig tapped the stone behind him. "No going back that way."
"The vent must have still had eco in it," Jinx spoke up as he tried to light a cigar. "Been blocked up, and then we triggered the boom somehow."
"Wasn't this a hallway?" Tess looked around.
"Yeah. It was. Isn't one anymore, though. There's more rubble blocking that way."
Jinx got up and moved his light until he was at level with Jak and the light reached an undeniably broken door with more debris.
There was a purple flash as a dark eco energy spark jumped from the end of Jak's ear to his hand. "Hey, uh," Daxter laughed nervously, "is your hair changing color?"
"It's the eco, Dax. There's more in the water than it seems like."
"But you've gotten pretty good at channelling that stuff!"
"If I sit here too long, I won't be able to hold off changing."
"We'll have to go through the other wall," Ashelin motioned towards it. "We can't go back the way we came. Even if we got through that way, there's the broken well to deal with.
"Well, then. I'll just--"
"No, Jinx. The wall is unstable, and we're in a closed area."
"Yeah, that's right. No boom, or we'd be cooked. Hafta do it the slow way."
"The wall is still unstable, and trying to go through that door could bring more stone down on us."
"That would be bad." Daxter gulped and Jak snorted at him.
"Hey, can't you use that dark eco?"
"That would still be an explosion, Dax. Or I could trigger another one."
Jinx, with aid from Tess and Sig, set their efforts against the wall. By the time the debris was clear of their working area, Jak's hair was pale gray and his nails were black and sharp, though still normal size.
"Well, there's already a door here," Sig said as he ran his fingers along the edge of it. "Maybe we can cut through the seams."
Ashelin spent the time pacing, drawing maps in the air with her fingers and glancing at Jak every minute or so, watching the slow transformation as his skin paled by degrees. Thankfully, his eyes stayed normal, and that provided some peace of mind.
For a while, the sounds of the trio working at the wall and Ashelin's footsteps were all that could be heard. "We might be able to get through to Mar's tomb from here," Ashelin said suddenly, making Daxter jump from his spot on Jak's lap. Normally he'd be sitting on a shoulder, but the shoulder was slick with water. "Or we'll find a way back around to where we came in."
Jak's horns started to grow as his skin continued to pale. "Jakkie boy," Jinx said after a glance, "move off and take a break. We're not going anywhere fast."
"That's the problem," Jak said, his voice still his own, but he scooted away from the wall anyway. One entire side seam was cut through the doorway by then. The dark eco spread almost instantly through the pool of water, which immediately began to expand faster than when Jak had been sitting in it. When energy sparked to a tool Tess was holding a few minutes later, Jak moved back. Ashelin and Daxter watched in fascination as the dark eco in the pool flowed back to Jak like he was a magnet. His nails immediately lengthened and the horns and skin tone, which had been restored slightly, also returned to their previous stage of progress. Jak took a deep breath and continued to watch Jinx, Sig, and Tess intently.
By the time the top of the door was cut and the second side seam was a third of the way finished, Jak was almost completely dark. The only difference from his berserker form was the normal eyes, which had continued to be a slight comfort to everyone else stuck with him.
Jak took deep, slow breaths continually now in a concentration technique Samos had tried to teach him. He'd never had the patience for it, but now there was a real need. "Hurry," he said quietly when the second vertical seam was halfway cut.
A hand's breadth from the floor was left of the seam when it happened. Jak inhaled quickly, a notable sound when he'd been breathing slow and silent for the last several minutes. Everyone's eyes shot to him and they all froze in motion. Jak's eyes were shut and a shiver ran down his entire body.
"Jak?" Daxter asked, looking up with concern and a glance at everyone else.
Jak's eyes, when he opened them again, were as black as concentrated eco, and a low growl rolled across the room. With obvious control, Jak's hand twitched and he tensed, but he placed them flat on the floor and relaxed back against the wall with difficulty.
"Keep...going," he said in a voice much more like Torn's now.
Jinx started cutting horizontally to the floor, the last cut for freedom.
Every few minutes Jak would twitch and dark eco would spark away from him, because he was still absorbing it from the water. Each time he would master the impulse to slash whatever was nearest.
"Done!" Jinx cried triumphantly, causing Jak to jerk forward and tense automatically. More carefully, the tools were all withdrawn from the door and Sig and Jinx both set shoulder to the stone slab and pushed. It shifted about a finger's width.
Jak stood up upon seeing their results and they all moved back as he approached. Daxter 'helped' him push the door, and it slid open steadily, eventually creating an opening wide enough for the armored Sig.
Everyone was quickly through the door and in a relatively undamaged room. "That door must have contained the blast," Jinx commented as he looked around.
"We still need to find a way out." Ashelin took out her map, which she had looked at a few times while the door was being cut but not often so as to not waste the battery.
"Hey, Jak, why aren't you changing back?" Tess asked.
"Still too much eco, and I can't use it in here."
"He might cause another explosion, or the walls could collapse on us."
Daxter climbed up on Jak's shoulder and noticed that his friend was glowing slightly. He could see a purple haze if he looked at the end of Jak's ear the right way. Jak glanced up at Daxter and they shared silent expressions about the fact, just like in those years before.
When Jinx's light suddenly overloaded and blew out, everyone noticed the eco's light on Jak.
"Chili pepper, can you light our way?"
"But the glow isn't..." Tess almost contradicted, but Jak was pulling more energy to his hands, almost as if he were going to do a dark bomb, and they were glowing much brighter. The same light had disappeared from the rest of him. A bright hovering ball of eco was produced, and Jak held it forward to light the passage. It was dimmer than Jinx's light, not as far-reaching, and a malevolent purple color of dark eco, but it was adequate.
Jak moved to the front of the group with Ashelin, who was holding the map.
"This way," she said, continuing down the tunnel.
Up ahead are several passages, but they come very close to rooms in Mar's tomb. We might break through a wall, or even find a door.
"I'm hungry!" Daxter whined. They'd been in the catacombs for hours, and Jak was still dark, though apparently stable. The glowing light hadn't reduced at all, because just holding it out wasn't causing Jak to spend it.
Tess came over to comfort him, as she had the last few times he'd spoken just to break the silence. "Don't worry, my fuzzy one, I'll feed you as much as you want when we get out." She smiled, and rubbed Daxter's back, knowing he liked it.
They entered a large circular room with several branching passages.
"Which way now?"
"Any of those middle four. Look for a door of some kind. If we don't find one, Jinx, you'll need to cut through another wall."
Jinx fashioned a few small lights like the first one he'd made after the explosion. Jak and Daxter took the outer left tunnel, Jinx the inner left, Ashelin and Tess the inner right, and Sig the outer right.
After a few twists and turns, the tunnel Jak and Daxter had chosen came to an end. It was a dead end, doorless, so they returned and waited for the others. Only a few minutes later Jinx, Ashelin, and Tess were back. Sig was last, and he came bearing news of what looked like an old door at the end of his old tunnel.
Everyone spent the next few minutes excited, until the reached the door and discovered it was Precursor metal, uncuttable with the tools on hand. It seemed extra-reflective in regards to Jak's eco light, so he stepped up close to allow inspection of the door, even though no one really wanted to stand that close to him with all the dark eco he was channelling.
"There's writing," Ashelin said as she ran her hands over the surface, "and Mar's symbol, and something else..." The third symbol, below the seal of Mar, was also circular, but looked markedly different and was unfamiliar to Ashelin. Jak obligingly lifted his hand as she stood back up to better see the inscription.
Daxter looked at the symbol Ashelin hadn't recognized. "Hey, Jak, does this look familiar?"
Jak angled his hand to shine light back down for Daxter to see better.
"I'm sure I've seen this before. Any ideas?"
Daxter could tell that Jak's attention had partially focused on the door by his tall friend's posture. Full attention could not be devoted for obvious reasons.
"Hey, chili pepper, it does look familiar," Sig spoke up. The symbol reminded him of the desert city Spargus for some reason, though Daxter wouldn't have the same reference. The ottsel and his companion had never even been to Spargus, though at the rate the politicians were rallying against the city's dark saviour, they might become involuntary visitors soon.
Jak, who had difficulty speaking while in his dark form and almost never spoke anyway when channelling more than residual eco, had been resorting to the silent communication between him and Daxter that they still used often but usually only when alone. After a few moments, he intentionally shifted his hand to say, It's something about eco.
"What kind, do you think?"
"Any, huh? Well, how are they the same?"
Maybe...the eco wells. The symbol is like a well cap.
"You're right! I haven't seen one in so long I didn't see it right away. Eco wells!"
Daxter's one-sided conclusion reminded Sig of the eco well in Spargus. He didn't pay it much mind, so he wouldn't have immediately considered it.
"That is like an eco well," he concurred aloud, "but why's the symbol on the door?"
"I'm done," Ashelin withdrew from the door. She had been scanning the writing into her map display so it could be translated later. She'd also scanned the symbol of Mar and now needed to see the eco well sigil to scan it.
Jak and Daxter both moved to the side, and Ashelin had Jak lower his dark eco ball to be level with her new source of interest on the door.
Jak's fingers twitched while Ashelin quickly scanned the last interesting piece of the door and she tried not to flinch in reaction to the movement of the long sharp claws.
It's pulling on my eco, Jak told Daxter, who promptly looked at the ball of eco Jak was holding. It did seem to be offset from the previous balance on Jak's hand, as if the door were pulling it closer. The glow of light was definitely stronger on the side near the door.
"What would that mean?"
Ashelin abandoned her spot by the door and Daxter quickly took her place with Jak almost directly behind him. The more the dark warrior seemed to focus on the door, the more the eco ball drifted toward the well symbol. Daxter watched this with interest. Jak suddenly seemed to realize what was occurring and pulled the eco ball back in place.
"Why not see what happens?" said the furry Orange Lightning. "It's not like you don't have plenty to spare."
True. I must get rid of the eco eventually. Holding so much is...not good for me.
"So do it!"
"Hey, blondie, what-!" Jinx had enough time to get out before Jak suddenly shoved his palm, with the ball of dark eco before it, onto the eco well symbol in the door. Then he and Daxter seemed to hop back a step as the residual light from the eco ball flashed and disappeared, leaving everyone in near darkness.
When their eyes adjusted to the almost nonexistent glow Jak's figure gave off in the absence of any other light, they saw the door was sliding open. Jak created another ball of light, faster and smaller than the last one. At the turn of the tunnel was a very faint orangish light, though they could see nothing of the floor or walls before then.
"Well," Ashelin said, "now we're in Mar's tomb, somewhere beneath where the wall is located."
"The wall?!" Daxter shouted, exasperated. "We're way out by the wall?!"
Daxter's imminent comment was silenced as Jak moved forward, feeling a sense of familiarity. He was one of the only people who'd been in the tomb, after all.
Halfway towards the light, a scraping was heard behind them and they all turned to watch the door--featureless from their side--slide shut.
Daxter had to say it; "No going back now."
The hallway led, after multiple increasingly-light turns, to a well-lit room deep within the tomb that Jak recognized from his trials of manhood. They were several heights below the main platforms that he'd run across last time. This was one of the rooms that seemed to fall into a bottomless abyss, and from Jak's lower perspective, it still looked that way.
The doorway in the wall opened into a small platform in a corner against the side of a higher platform.
Ready to climb?
"What?! Climb up that?"
"We aren't gettin' up another way," Sig told Daxter as he looked at the challenge himself, having stepped out onto the platform after Jak and Daxter.
Come on Daxter, let's go, Jak said with a tilt of his head and an amused expression that made his pale face look slightly more normal.
Daxter sighed and climbed up to his spot on Jak's shoulder that he'd temporarily abandoned to exercise his legs so they didn't get stiff and uncomfortable. Jak immediately tackled the wall, somehow shortening his claws so the length didn't cost him his grip.
"Hey!" Sig's shout made Jak look down. Daxter turned and grabbed the rope that Sig had thrown, almost being pulled from Jak's shoulder by the weight of it. He was unbalanced enough that he did fall after a slight delay, but by then Jak had shifted to free a hand and grab both Daxter and the rope. Daxter returned to Jak's shoulder and took a strong grip of the armor plate and leather straps so he wouldn't fall again. "Secure that for us once you get up there!"
"We will!" Daxter replied as Jak bit down on the rope to hold it while he proceeded to climb higher. With his significantly amplified strength, it only took a few minutes to climb all the way over the edge of the platform.
Daxter leapt off upon reaching relative safety. "Now what can we tie the rope to?" He looked around while Jak set off toward a new target. "What did you see?" Daxter looked toward where Jak was heading. "Oh, that should be good. Let's tie the rope there." A massive stone torch stuck out from the wall. Daxter helped Jak not shred the rope while Jak tied a secure knot around the base of the torch.
"The rope is secure!" Daxter yelled down when he walked back to look over the edge at his waiting friends. Jak looked around the room, recognizing it as one of the colored platform rooms by the few spread out platforms and embedded buttons.
With a quick, I'll be back, that Daxter almost didn't catch, Jak ran back through the doorway and further into the tomb.
Sig and Ashelin had both climbed up by the time Jak returned, and Tess was currently climbing with Jinx behind her.
"Where'd you go?" Daxter asked immediately.
We can't go back.
"Why not? Wouldn't it be shorter?"
Probably. But there's another room like this that way, and you can't go backwards through them. Look at the buttons.
"Oh, you're right."
"What did he say?" Ashelin asked. The group had figured out by now that Jak and Daxter had a silent mode of communication. Well, Jak did, and Daxter interpreted.
"We can't go back, so we have to keep going forward until we get back around to the entrance."
Jak pounced on the first button and all the colored tiles whooshed forward from the darkness below, much to the surprise of everyone except Jak and Daxter. "Wait, and then repeat what we do, okay?"
Jak jumped forward onto specific tiles designated by their flashes and was soon on the last tile. When he landed, all the other tiles fell back. Tess couldn't help but take an involuntary step forward as concern for Orange Lightning propelled her. She sighed in relief when Jak jumped onto the second platform and the last tile fell.
"Why can we only touch the flashing ones?" Ashelin asked as Sig stomped on the button next.
"Touch one, and you'll see. Don't actually stand on it, though."
Ashelin bent down, careful of Daxter's warning, and touched a tile that didn't flash. After a short alarm sound, all the tiles collapsed.
"Only one at a time, and only on the flashing tiles," Daxter said as Jak stepped on his button again. A different sequence of tiles flashed this time, taking him to a third button platform. Sig went and untied his rope, recoiling it while Jak jumped across. This time Jak waited while Tess followed the tiles all the way to Daxter; while Ashelin, and Jinx after her, jumped to the second button; and while Sig shot some encroaching spiders that had appeared, staying with the first button. Jak pressed the last button and everyone watched as, upon touching the last tile, all the others fell away and the door opened. Jak leapt through quickly, safe, and then waited and watched as everyone else slowly made their way to him.
They walked to the next obstacle and Daxter again instructed, "Swim under while the electricity is going and climb up when it's safe," as the bright light of arcing energy reflected in their eyes. Jak went first again, and Sig last, and Daxter found much joy in Tess's wet shirt.
In the next room, everyone helped shoot the giant baby spiders while Jak hit the pairs of sounding stones until they were all sunk into the floor and the door was open.
Jak ignored the button on the ledge that revealed the massive entrance hall of the tomb and instead leapt onto the small platform that had appeared shortly after the door opened.
One by one they all went down to the water's edge. Only Tess and Jinx were unbalanced by the platform's movement, but they recovered and reached the water safely. Jak led them quickly around a column and to the thin stone ramp that led back up to the tomb's entrance.
Tess, now that safety was in sight, finally commented, "Good thing the boy didn't do this."
"Yeah! The Precursor statue in the wall was closing the door again when it realized the Heir was just a little kid! Then this big guy here had to drag me through it and I got chased by a boulder and then a HUGE spider!" Sig's attention was immediately captured as he realized the important parts of what Daxter had just said in connection with where the group currently was. He tried not to look too intent, though, or he could risk not getting any more information.
"Boy?" he asked. "Why would a boy be at the tomb of Mar?"
Daxter looked at Sig faux-critically. "You don't know? Oh well, Jinx hasn't heard the story either, I don't think, though Ashelin and Tess know."
"What happened?" Sig gave the outward appearance that the information wasn't extremely important to his mission from Damas, the King of Spargus.
Daxter pulled lightly on Jak's ear--which was in just the right spot to be grabbed with his head turned to the side like that--and asked, "Hey, Jak, can I tell it?"
Jak shrugged and proceeded up the ramp toward the town entrance while Daxter situated himself backwards on Jak's shoulder to tell the story to the people following behind in single file. Sig was in front of the line for once, though he was also a few paces behind.
"We'd just found the tomb of Mar," Daxter began, "and had come to the entrance with Kor, Samos, and the Heir of Mar, who was this mute little kid with a crocadog that followed him around everywhere. The door Precursor recognizes him and the big door starts to open, showing us this." Daxter gestured to the massive entrance hall, which everyone but Jak glanced back at. "Then it notices that the kid is just a little kid and starts shutting the door again; this is when Jak drags me through the door just before it shuts on me, because we really needed to be in the tomb to get the gem for Mar's gun.
"The gun by the nest?"
"Yeah; we used the Precursor stone to activate the gun and attack the nest. You see--and you should have definitely heard this part--Kor was actually the Metal Head leader!" Sig nodded, having, in fact, already known that particular fact. "And he'd kidnapped the Heir because he wanted both the stone and the Heir. We leap into battle with the Metal Head...!" Sig tunes Daxter's action-pact and mostly fictional battle narrative. Jak mentally comments, More like fell into battle, but Daxter ignores him. "...And he's dead! So we go find the Heir, and he's perfectly fine, playing with that crocadog now. Keira and the two Samoses appear on the lurker lift--"
Sig interrupts. "Two Samoses? How could that be?"
"That's the good part! Lemme get there!" Daxter resumes his story-telling pose. "So Keira and the two Samoses show up on the lurker lift with Keira's rift rider because the rift ring is in the Metal Head nest. It's starting to break apart, so we need to go right away before it shuts down all the way. Jak, Keira, old Samos and I really want to go back home after being stuck in Haven City for over 2 years."
"Why do you need a rift ring? Can't you just go back the way you came? And what is a rift ring?"
"Okay, okay, I'll explain that. Before, um..." Daxter looked pointedly at Jak. "Before he was captured, we were at home normally, getting ready to go through the first rift ring we found with a special rift rider that took FOREVER to bring back to Sandover."
"Sandover is your home?" Daxter nodded. "Where is Sandover?"
Daxter appeared saddened by a memory. "It's here, actually. When we went through the rift ring, we were taken many years to the future, to Haven City. Jak's old house is actually the Sacred Site in Dead Town."
"That's why we needed the rift ring to go back home; we lived in the past. But the Samoses told us that young Samos and the Heir had to go back to the past and we had to stay here. Young Samos would need to become a better sage or whatever and get older to come to the future again. So would Jak."
"Well, before I rescued him a few months ago from prison, he'd never spoken a word, ever. Everyone thought he was mute, actually. The Heir is mute too, and when Jak was younger, I remember his hair looked a lot like the Heir's. The Heir had to go back to the past with young Samos so he could grow up to be the Jak we know now and fulfill his destiny and stuff. We never found out the kid's name, but I guess since young Samos met the older Jak in the future and the older and younger Samoses together figured out that the kid was the younger Jak, younger Samos named him Jak when they went back to the past. Jak, even though he was just a little kid when it happened, even remembers the fight with Kor!"
I remember the Precursor light.
Jak was again ignored. SIg looked skeptical, and Daxter didn't ignore that. "We have proof! Jak, you have your seal, right?"
Yeah. You get it, I don't want to break the leather strings with my claws.
Daxter's hand dove down the back of Jak's jacket and fished around until he grabbed something, indulging in self-victory. He pulled up a tied leather string that was hung around Jak's neck beneath his jacket. Pulling it around, the seal of Mar that young Jak had given his older self was revealed. "This is the Seal of Mar that the kid had and gave Jak as a token of gratitude or something for saving his life."
Sig stared at it. That was Mar's seal! Damas's son Mar! And if young Mar becomes Jak in the past and then returns to the future, Jak is Damas's son. Damas needs to know, but...how will he take it? The wastelander carefully controlled his face.
The group was at the top of the ramp at the inner door, which was open.
Tell them to go ahead. I need to spend all this extra eco so I can change back.
"You guys go ahead, we'll join you in a little while." Without more warning that that, Jak shot back down the ramp at a much faster speed than he'd gone up it. Wired with so much dark eco, it was to be expected. He wasn't that fast even normally transformed.
Sig pondered on Daxter's story as he exited Mar's tomb with Jinx, Ashelin, and Tess. As he had moved to the back of the group, no one noticed the difference in his behavior.
With a non-specific comment, he left for a transport that would take him back to Spargus.
Jak went into one of the rooms that had a pool of dark eco in it channelled all the excess back out of himself and into the pool. Usually he had to do something more violent, but with such a big supply present, like would attract like and it would all go back to the pool easily in exactly the same way residual eco floating around would be attracted to Jak. Though, because Jak was so skilled at channelling eco, he was also a bit of a magnet for the stuff. It took much longer than an immediate, explosive release, but all the eco Jak could get rid of was gone into the pool and he transformed back to his typical self with only the small eco reserves that were the reason he could channel at all.
Half an hour later, Jak was back at the Underground headquarters, passed out from exhaustion from being in dark form channelling so much dark eco for so long. Daxter was sleeping sprawled above Jak's head, snoring loudly while Jak himself was as silent as years passed.
Daxter dreamed of warm sunny days of youthful play. Jak dreamed vague memories of the past-future with a worm bright light, a rushing tunnel, and sand and ocean like home.
Ashelin rested in her palace, while Tess went to the Naughty Ottsel to have a drink. Jinx also went to the Naughty Ottsel and had several drinks to try to get over the stress of being in the presence of dark Jak for several hours.
Sig sat in the transport, worried as he travelled to Spargus.
Ashelin, as she relaxed, translated the message on the door. It wasn't too difficult, but it took some time. Eventually she finished, and her eyes widened as she read the entirety of the message.
"Baroness Ashelin Praxis, when you read this, the politicians are likely beginning to campaign for Jak to leave Haven City. They aren't strong yet, and not all agree, but Jak must be exiled to continue his path. Encourage them secretly, so the young warrior doesn't know. The world will be placed into very great danger if you do not. (Signed) Mar"