OMG, another short chapter!

Yes, I know, but oh well. That's just the way things go, I guess.

EDIT: Fixed a mistake I found in this chapter. Instead of Torren IV, I had said that Ratchet had fought The Shadow and its lackeys on Lumos, when actually, he hadn't gone to Lumos in this one. Somehow, I always manage to get the Vullard planets confused (tell me I'm not the only one who has this problem...^^; ).

Location: Praxus Sector

"Clank, I'm telling you, it's broken!" Spike growled as the robot carefully examined her left arm. She'd been trying to convince him for the last ten minutes that it was broken from the impact of her fall during the assault on Kerchu City. All the same, he insisted he have a look at it to make sure. He placed a hand on her shoulder, but she backed away with a grunt of pain. "Spike, please," he said calmly. "I need to have a look at it." Reluctantly, she eased back into her seat and allowed him to inspect her injured shoulder.

After a moment, he looked back at her face, still twisted in pain, and said, "The good news is it is not broken - it is dislocated, but can be easily remedied. The bad news is-"

"It's gonna hurt like heck to snap it back into place…" she groaned. He sighed and nodded. "Wonderful…"

"I am going to need to push up on your arm in order to relocate it." He took her left hand in his and placed his right hand on her right shoulder. "I will not lie to you - this is going to be very painful…"

"Just do it." She clenched her teeth and braced herself. Then, with all the strength he could manage, he pushed up against her arm. It moved back into place with a loud pop, forcing an agonized scream from the Kerchu. After writhing in pain for a moment, she sat back again, breathing heavily. When she wearily looked back at him, he was rummaging around behind the seats for something. "What are you doing now?" she panted.

"I need to find something to use as a sling for your arm," he replied, still searching. Finally, he turned back to her holding a black cloth in his hand. As gently as he could, he tied it around her right shoulder and placed her left arm in it. "It is certainly not the best, but at least it will help."

"Thanks, Clank…" She paused for a moment to catch her breath, then continued. "I just have one question… How do you plan on finding ol' what's-his-name?"


"Yeah, that one."

He didn't reply before he turned to the dashboard and spoke. "Aphelion, try contacting Ratchet. If he is traveling from planet to planet, he may be using Venus's ship."

"I am sorry… My memory banks seem to have been damaged. I no longer have a record of any starship's signature…" Clank sighed in defeat. Unfortunately, he didn't know Atrion's signature either. "It looks like we are just going to have to search for him…" He looked back at Spike and noticed her almost distrusting expression. "What?" he said with a shrug.

"Because I feel sorry for you," she began, "I'll help you find your friend. After that, I'm going after Gigatron and his pet. I'm not gonna hang around with you and the Lombax. More than likely…you'll never see me again after that." He looked blankly at her for a second, then nodded empathetically. He understood her rage, but wished she wouldn't be so headstrong. However, he had had many past experiences with the Kerchu - not all of them pleasant, of course - and if there was one thing he knew about them, it was that there is no reasoning with a Kerchu. "How exactly are we gonna find him, anyway?"

"If it helps," Aphelion chimed in, "I'm picking up multiple distress signals from Rykan V."

"Is Gigatron is there, then he is probably after the lava refineries," Clank said. Spike understood him - she knew as well as he did that the lava refineries of the planet were the main source for most of the metals in the most advanced armor in the galaxy. Still, there was something she didn't understand. "Okay…" she began, "but what does that have to do with your furry friend exactly?"

"If Ratchet knows that Gigatron is there, then he may either be on his way there on be there already. If I know Ratchet, then I know that much is true."

"I sure hope you're right, tin can." She turned back to face the stars again. Clank sighed and shook his head as he scooted back to the other side of the ship. He understood her sudden rage…he only wished she wouldn't act on it.

Location: Planet Cobalia

14th of September

1:37 P.M. Local Time

Run. That one simple word repeated itself in the Lombax's mind thousands of times as he dashed through the overgrown swamps of Cobalia. Several hours prior, he had landed Atrion outside the spaceport and made his way through the wilderness, only to find that The Shadow had carried out Gigatron's command to take it over, targeting its gelatonium plant. Its robotic minions ran rampant throughout the bridges that connected the various platforms, capturing as many civilians as they possibly could.

Of course, Ratchet being Ratchet, he had attempted to fight the monstrous machines, only to be overpowered by them. They were much stronger this time than they had been when he fought them back on Torren IV. He wouldn't be running if he had a halfway-decent weapon at hand, but unfortunately, all he had was his Omniwrench, and that barely seemed to be doing any damage to the behemoths.

He knew he would be safe once he reached Atrion. Her weapons would easily be enough to destroy them with a single well-aimed shot.

The word echoed through his mind once more as he nimbly leapt from stone to stone, making his way through a particularly large swamp. Run, Ratchet. Don't look back.

Finally, he reached the clearing where he had left the Lombaxian starship…only to find out that he wasn't the first one to arrive there. Standing in front of her were perhaps a dozen of the troops, accompanied by their ruthless leader. Atrion had apparently been incapacitated - one of the silver space cruisers had attached a tether to her and was now towing her away, and she was doing nothing about it. Now, the metal dragon slowly and menacingly stepped toward him, its arms crossed. "Take one final look, my comrades," it said, motioning toward the Lombax with the soft swipe of a wing. "for this will be the last time you will see such a rare sight as a Lombax in the dimension!"

"I managed to escape you once, Shadow!" Ratchet spat venomously at the monster.

"Yes, my dear Lombax," it retorted, looking over its fingers. "But if memory serves, you still had your ship that time. Now, your precious starship is the rightful property of Master!" He scowled at it as he imagined what its leader would do with her - most likely either destroy her or somehow turn her to his side and force her to do his dirty work.

"So," it began, taking yet another step toward him. "Are we going to do this the easy way, or the hard way? You can either come quietly and I'll let Master decide what to do with you…or you can fight a battle you know you'll lose. The choice is yours, Ratchet."

"I'd rather die than give in to you!"

It sighed and shook its head at his decision. "What a shame…" it muttered. "Master might've let you live in exchange for your services…perhaps you could've been commander someday." Right after that, it quickly extended its claws from its hands. "You've just signed your own death warrant, Ratchet!" Without warning, it leapt at him, taking a slash at him, but luckily missing and merely scratching his helmet. The attack, however, had still knocked him off balance, and he fell to the soft earth, a little dazed from the blow to his head.

After a moment, he looked back up at it…and just in time, too. As he did, he saw the menace quickly lunging its claws downward, this time aiming for his neck. He rolled out of the way just before its attack landed, causing the green claws to dig into the ground. Its moment of disablement had opened a window of opportunity for the Lombax to strike back. He kicked it hard in its left side, then the second it rose back to its feet, he swung his wrench at its face, hitting its right side.

The robotic troops stepped in to help as it fell onto its back, but then, it reached out to them, commanding, "Do nothing! He's mine!" Obeying their master's command, they stepped back several feet as it launched itself back onto its feet. It crouched menacingly as the two glared at each other. "Face it, Ratchet!" it shrieked. "There's no defeating Master! If you were wise, you'd join us instead of resisting us!" He didn't say anything in response, but continued his glowering, keeping his wrench held out in front of him.

Then, it quickly unsheathed its sword from its hip and lunged at him in an effort to skewer him, but he blocked the attack, holding it at bay with the wrench. It moved slightly closer to him until its face was mere inches from his. "Is this how you want it to end, Lombax?" it shouted. "Is this how you want to die?"

"I'd rather die fighting against you," he began, "than live fighting alongside you!"

"Then allow me to grant you that final wish!" At a blinding speed, it swung its sword around in a circle, ripping the wrench from Ratchet's grasp, then grabbed him by his shoulders and slammed him up against a nearby tree. With one hand, it held him there; with the other, it held its blade against his neck. He glared back down at it, obviously unafraid of the eminent death that lay before him.

But it did nothing.

It simply stood there and stared at him for a long moment, almost as if in thought. His expression of anger turned to one of confusion. "Commander Shadow?" came the voice of one of its underlings. This seemed to snap it out of its self-induced trance - as soon as it heard its voice, it growled loudly and slammed Ratchet's head against the tree trunk, knocking him out. When it finally let him go, he fell limply to the ground. It stared down at him for a second before another one of its troops spoke up again. "You are going to finish it, are you not?" it said.

The Shadow remained silent for a long moment before finally replying. "No…" it said. "I believe Master would want him alive…" It then began walking away as one of the space cruisers landed softly in front of it. "Someone take him. Master will be most pleased."

I may decide to go back and redo this chapter later, but for now, it stays as is.

I go wait for inspiration now... :)