A.N. This was born of one question that I always asked myself whenever I played Jak 2. What would have happened if Sig found out where little Jak/Mar was during the second game? After reading some other alternate ending/timeline stories, I got the inspiration to start writing this and find out where the Sculptor's Muse leads me. And it took me on quite a journey. What I thought would only be a few chapters turned into one of the longest stories I've ever written. Thank you, Muse! (Even if you are a pain to catch in the first game...)
MAJOR SPOILERS for the Precursor trilogy and the Daxter PSP game. My story starts midgame in Jak 2 and alters almost every event thereafter, so I suppose I should call it AU. I prefer to think of it as a mashup of Jak 2 and 3. For those who are interested, the amazing fanfics that inspired this were Revelations (and the sequel Expectations) by Von, and A Matter of Time by Burenda.
Romance is not the main genre for this story, but it's a hefty slice of the pie, so let's not bash my choice of pairings, please? I'm going with the traditional canon pairings of Jak/Keira, Torn/Ashelin and Daxter/Tess, but there will be some tiny hints of Jak/Ashelin. The two of them certainly have potential, and I'm really fond of Ashelin as a character, but I can't bring myself to abandon Torn or Keira.
Thanks for reading, and wish me luck!
Chapter One - Gone
"Spread out! They can't have gotten far!"
"Suspect is fleeing on foot—!"
"The boy is the primary target! Don't let them get away!"
The Krimzon Guards really were some of the least observant idiots on the planet. But at least it worked to his advantage. Jak sincerely hoped they never learned that the easiest way to escape them was by hiding right under their noses. Booted feet clomped past the sewer grate above Jak's head as the guards rushed toward his crashed zoomer. Alarms blared in the distance and echoed eerily in the gutter. Jak hovered back in the shadows, nearly doubled over to fit in the narrow passage with his boots soaked in filthy rainwater. He had the kid balanced on his hip to keep him out of the water, ready to clap a hand over his mouth if he so much as sneezed.
But the boy was quiet. Jak felt him shiver each time the voices came too near, but he never screamed or cried. The closest he had come was a surprised gasp when Jak grabbed him and made a rolling dive out of the flaming zoomer just before it exploded. He glanced down at the little green-haired head tucked under his chin. Either he was far braver than he looked or he was too terrified to even make a sound.
Or maybe he was used to this level of danger. That wouldn't be a surprise at all, Jak thought grimly, eyes dropping to the dull red amulet hanging around the kid's neck. An heir of Mar would never be welcome in this city, not as long as Praxis remained in power.
A noise from above made Jak recoil, but the furry face that appeared above the grate was a welcome sight. Daxter waved at him to be quiet, still scanning around nervously. "Some of 'em are clearing off, but it looks like a couple are planning to hang around. You're in for a fight if you come out now."
Jak gritted his teeth with another look at the kid. Wide blue eyes blinked up at him timidly. He couldn't carry the boy and fight at the same time, but the kid couldn't run very fast, and Jak would be hindered trying to protect him. They needed to avoid meeting more guards at all costs. He looked up and down the gutter, getting his bearings. "This probably goes all the way to the Port. Think you can make it that far on your own?"
Daxter grinned cheekily and flexed his biceps. "Just what do you take me for, Jak? Those morons don't stand a chance against Orange Lightning!"
"Just stay out of sight," Jak warned him. "We'll hole up at Krew's place until the coast is clear and make another try for the Tomb then."
"The old geezers won't be happy about that," Daxter informed him, but he seemed more amused than concerned by the prospect. He spoke in a long-winded drawl that supposedly was his imitation of the Shadow. "Now remember, we're counting on you, my boy! Be on your guard as you make your way to the Tomb, which is only smack dab in the center of the city where all the guards and turrets and the freakin' Palace are located! Surely you can handle it, my boy!"
"Kor and The Shadow are just going to have to wait," Jak said darkly. "I don't know about you, but I'm not eager to see what they have planned for this kid."
Daxter sighed, uncharacteristically grim. "You and me both, pal," he muttered and hurried off. Jak waited a moment to make sure Daxter had made a clean getaway before he slogged down the passage, ducking past the sporadic grates and pausing when he heard a guard speaking into his comm. From what Jak could glean, they were planning to make a sweep of the nearest buildings and then move off toward the slums. A contingent had already been dispatched to the entrance of the Port to keep him from going that way.
A contingent that he would bypass entirely, Jak thought with a smirk. He hefted the kid a little higher on his hip, arms aching. Damn, he was heavy. Briefly, he wondered if he should have let Kor take the kid like they'd originally planned, but the sudden and spectacular destruction of the Baron's vanity statue had put the city in an uproar. All things considered, Jak had decided he would feel better if he took the kid to the Tomb himself. He had taken a detour through the Industrial section to avoid detection, but as his crappy luck would have it, some jackass KG had turned a sharp corner and nearly collided with him head on.
And once the KG in question had recognized him as the blond-haired, eco-infused fugitive, all hell had well and truly broken loose.
Something growled behind him, and Jak spun. The sewer alligator snapped at him, eyeing the tasty morsel in his arms. Jak huffed irritably and crushed the thing's skull under his boot. Dark blood seeped into the water around his ankles. The kid took one look at it and shuddered, nose buried in Jak's shirt.
"We're okay, kid," Jak murmured absently. He rounded a corner, relieved when the passage widened and ended at a circular grate as tall as he was. All that he could see beyond was water, and Jak craned to look at the pathway above. They were on the far edge of the Port and there was no one in sight, which of course meant no zoomers to hijack.
Jak unlatched the grate and swung it outward before setting the kid down. "Don't move for a second."
The kid gave him an uncertain nod, hands braced on the grimy wall while Jak approached the ledge. He reached over his shoulder and took out his Jetboard, throwing it at the water and jumping at the same time. The Jetboard bobbed when Jak landed, making a small splash. He maneuvered closer to the grate where the kid watched him with his mouth hanging open.
"Jump!" Jak ordered.
The kid hesitated, then squeezed his eyes closed and leapt straight into his arms. The Jetboard wobbled dangerously, but soon Jak regained his equilibrium and sent them zooming across the Port at a speed that made his eyes water. This far from the streets, he didn't have to worry about being recognized. At some point, the kid opened his eyes, and his entire face lit up. He pointed straight ahead in a wordless demand to go faster, and Jak decided that he loved this kid. Grinning recklessly, he leaned lower to pick up speed, jumping a few buoys just for fun and earning a joyful whoop from his charge.
He sped up the ramp just below the Hip Hog and ended the ride with a neat backflip before he slipped the Jetboard into his pack. As he set the dizzy boy down, Jak grimaced when he realized the flaw in his plan. The last thing he wanted was to expose a child to the kind of things that went on in the Hip Hog. Worse, if Krew learned the kid was important to both the Underground and Praxis, the crime lord would have no qualms about profiting from it somehow.
Jak examined the kid critically. He didn't look like anything special at first glance. Scruffy was the term Daxter would use. The only thing that stood out about him was that amulet. Jak leaned down and snatched the seal of Mar from around his neck. The kid reached for it with a soundless cry, for the first time looking truly upset.
"I'll give it back soon," Jak assured him. He made sure the kid was watching as he hung the amulet around his own neck and tucked it beneath his shirt and out of sight. "Look, I'll keep it right here, see? I'll keep it safe for you."
The kid's bottom lip quivered, eyes fixed on the bump in his shirt where the amulet was. He turned a pleading look on Jak. You promise?
"Yeah, I promise."
The kid didn't look thrilled with the idea, but he offered up a wobbly smile. Jak tried not to let it get to him, but damn, the kid's guileless trust made his heart ache. This horror-filled world would never be good enough for trust like that. Jak rested one palm on the boy's head as he escorted him into the bar, keeping a sharp eye out for trouble. Thankfully, there was no sign of Krew. The only people he saw were Tess, Sig and a few regulars who didn't give them a second glance. Sig had his elbow propped on the bar while Tess giggled up a storm, and Jak didn't have to wait long to discover the object of their attention.
"So there I was squared off with fifty Krimzon Guards!" Daxter said dramatically, his tail whipping around as he spun back and forth between his audience of two. "They had me surrounded on all sides, packing enough heat to start a war and spewing all their crap about, Surrender or die in the name of Praxis! Wanna know what I did next?"
"I'm guessin' you didn't surrender or die," Sig chuckled in amusement.
"You're damn right, I didn't!" Daxter exclaimed. He leapt around in a pantomime of a glorious fight. "I dodged to the left, and again to the right, and while they were looking the other way, I went for one of them Hellcat Cruisers! I just went hiya, and while the driver's down for the count, I grab the steering column and plow right through all sixty of 'em! Strike, baby! It's too bad Jak and the pipsqueak were so busy high-tailing or they woulda seen Orange Lightning in action."
"Don't worry, I'm sure I'll see it one of these days," Jak snickered, taking a seat. The kid clambered onto the stool next to him and plopped his butt on the bar, staring in awe at the hundreds of multi-colored liquor bottles behind the counter.
"There you are!" Daxter said petulantly, hands on his hips. "Oh good, you've got the kid too. I was gettin' worried there for a sec, I thought I'd have to rush back out there and save you again..."
"Oh, he's so CUTE!" Tess squealed. Daxter blinked in shock when his number one fan abandoned him to ruffle the kid's hair and pinch his cheek. "I love kids! Now how come you boys never brought this little guy around before, huh?"
"You...love...kids?" Daxter croaked. It seemed the possibility that Tess had a motherly side simply hadn't occurred to him. Jak pursed his lips as he watched Tess tickle the giggling boy. For some reason, he had assumed she would already know about the kid. But it was possible her position in the Underground wasn't well enough established to warrant letting her in on their greatest secret, the existence of an heir of Mar. Maybe he should reconsider keeping the kid here, but it was too late now.
The back of Jak's neck prickled in warning. He glanced sideways, realizing for the first time that Sig was staring at them with a very strange look on his face. Surprised and struggling not to show it, his one eye flicking between Jak and the kid. Jak tensed, his hand twitching with the need to whip out his gun. He trusted Sig a great deal—there was no way he couldn't after the number of times they'd fought back to back—but the Wastelander was one of Krew's hired guns. If he recognized the kid as the one the Baron wanted...
"Hey, you feelin' alright, Siggy? You look kinda peaky. Indigestion acting up?"
Daxter waved his paw in front of Sig's face, breaking the spell. Sig spared him a glance and grinned hugely. "I'm fine, chili pepper. I just never took our boy Jak for a daddy, that's all."
Tess gasped, and Daxter howled in laughter as the blood drained from Jak's face, all thoughts of Barons and crime lords flown from his head. "The kid's not mine!" he sputtered, mortified at how high his voice jumped. "I'm just looking after him for the day. That's all."
"Aw, you don't gotta pretend with us!" Sig said with a booming laugh, punching his arm lightly. "I'll bet you're a great daddy!"
"Don't call me that! And stop laughing, Daxter!"
Daxter reigned in his hysterics long enough to direct huge, watery eyes on him. "Aw, b-but Daddy, we're having so much fun!" he mocked.
Jak's next words were nothing more than a growl of frustration. He groped blindly for the nearest bottle behind the counter, but Tess slapped his hand away. "No drinking while you're babysitting," she said sternly. "I want Little Cutie to be in good hands."
"You don't have a thing to worry about, sugar!" Daxter piped up immediately. He gave Tess a sweeping bow and nearly bonked his nose on the bar. "Your very own Orange Lightning won't let this kid outta his sight! I'll watch him like a hawk, and if anyone tries to mess with him, they'll answer to me!"
"Oh, I know I can trust you, Daxxie," Tess said warmly and smooched the gratified ottsel on the cheek. "You'll look after our boys for me, won't you?"
"Of course!" Daxter said, grinning at Jak wickedly. "Our boys are in good hands."
Jak propped his chin in his hand and rolled his eyes at the bewildered kid. "Some days I think the whole world's gone insane," he confided in the boy grumpily.
The kid beamed and pinched his cheek in a perfect imitation of Tess. Sig choked on his drink and had to cover his mouth to hide his chortling. When the kid looked at the Wastelander, his eyes bugged out. He scooted across the bar and trailed a hand over the metalhead skull on Sig's shoulder in fascination. Sig held still for the full-scale exam that went from his armor to his graying hair and ended with his mechanical eye, which the kid tapped with his finger in puzzlement until he spotted the peacemaker leaning against the bar. Sig deliberately moved the weapon out of reach, giving the kid a peculiar look. "Funny, most kids are scared by the sight of me," he said.
"This kid's seen a lot," Jak remarked, and Sig glanced at him sharply. "The first time I met him, he saw me fight and kill a bunch of KGs. And I was in my dark form."
Sig whistled impressively. "No offense, cherry, but I nearly wet myself the first time I saw you go dark."
Jak shrugged. "Don't blame you."
"So why are you looking after him in the first place?" Sig asked with a slight frown. He took a casual look around the bar to make sure no one was paying them attention and lowered his voice. "I didn't think your other employers considered babysittin' a top priority."
Jak hesitated, checking to be sure Daxter was otherwise occupied with Tess and wouldn't go blurting anything out. "He's...one of the orphans the Underground picked up. I'm just moving him to a safer place. Wasn't much else to do, and I needed a break from the KG and metalheads."
"Oh now, cherry, that ain't the way a Wastelander should talk," Sig chided him. "We live for bashing metalheads!"
"Good thing I'm not a Wastelander then," Jak snorted. "I don't think I'd survive long."
Sig seemed on the verge of saying something else, but he was cut off when the bar's automated door whooshed open. Jak scowled when he heard the unmistakable sound of Krew's hover chair. Damn, he hadn't wanted the kid anywhere near that bastard. Before he could decide whether to stay or leave, Krew's resentful voice drifted in.
"...just keep it short this time, will you lads? Your last inspection put my customers off their drink, and I just can't have that in my bar, you see? People come here to relax, not to be interrogated!"
"We're just having a look around, sir," an impatient voice answered. "We believe a dangerous fugitive may have fled into this sector, it's for your own safety."
Jak went rigid, shoulders hunching instinctively. Damn, damn, damn. He peeked at the door. Krew seemed to be stalling the KGs for as long as possible, and he wondered why until Tess' head shot up from the purring ottsel under her hands. She gave Jak a meaningful look and tilted her head at the door behind the bar. Jak nodded in understanding. Of course Krew would have a back door. Many of his hired guns were criminals and often in need of a quick getaway.
Jak rose and scooped up the kid, only peripherally aware of Sig still watching him. "Dax, let's go."
"We're leaving already?" Daxter whined. He nuzzled Tess' neck, no doubt treating himself to a lovely view. "But Jaaak..."
"Now," Jak said shortly. He circled the bar with quick steps, but he and the kid were still clear in the open when the first KG swept inside and approached the bar. Jak was about to reach for his gun when Sig's large back appeared right in front of him, shielding them both from the guard's sight.
"Get movin', chili pepper," Sig said in low tones, settling into a wide-footed stance that made him look very much like a bouncer. An armed and armored bouncer that the KG took one look at and decided to avoid at all costs. Gratefully, Jak slipped through the door behind the bar and marched purposely down the dim hallway. He found the back door easily enough, a sturdy metal portal that was securely locked. He only had to wait a moment before Daxter came trotting up with the small keycard in his paws.
"Is my lady something or what?" Daxter said smugly as he passed the card to Jak. "Brains, boobs and balls! Of course the third one's only figurative, but hot damn, even if it wasn't I don't think I'd care!"
"Too much information, Dax," Jak muttered. He swiped the card through a scanner, and the portal opened onto a veritable maze of alleyways that looked and smelled like they had become a collecting ground for the city's refuse. Jak left the keycard on a shelf just inside the door and let the portal shut behind them. Setting the kid down, he led the way forward with a firm grip on his wrist. The last thing he needed was for the kid to run off back here. He'd probably never find him again.
Daxter hopped up on his shoulder nimbly, making a disgusted noise. "Ugh, this must be where all the rats hang out. Did you see the size of that last dropping? It was almost as big as me! Yearrgh! Let's just hurry up and get there before those geezers die of old age..."
A distant squeal of metal hinges made Jak flatten himself to the wall and glare back the way they'd come. It had almost sounded like someone opening the back door of Krew's place, but he couldn't hear any further footsteps or voices, and the Krimzon Guard was notorious for being so loud that a deaf criminal could hear them coming and make his getaway an hour in advance. The thought that it might be Sig crossed his mind, but Jak shook off his misgivings uneasily and picked up the pace. Just to the north he could hear a steady hum of zoomers and a multitude of voices which meant they were nearing the bazaar. It would be easy to lose themselves in that crowd.
As he helped the kid over some debris, Daxter tugged on his ear. "Hey, Jak? You're all, uh...tense. And not in a good way. Should I be worried?"
"Possibly," Jak replied, and he heard Daxter gulp. "Just watch our backs once we get in the open. I'm feeling paranoid."
"Is that cause of Sig?" Daxter said with an insight most would find surprising. "Oh yeah, I noticed that too. It was like he recognized the kid or something. Do you think he, ah...knows?"
Daxter waved his hand in a vaguely mystical way, his method of referring to anything that had to do with the Precursors or Mar or history in general. Jak cast the Palace looming over them a dark look. "I don't know, Dax. The Baron hasn't exactly made it a secret it's the heir of Mar he's hunting. Most people think it's just a rumor, but...there are plenty others who'll turn in any kid that even remotely fits the description for a few credits."
"Hey, Sig ain't like that!" Daxter protested. "Come on, we've known him for how long? That big lug wouldn't hurt a fly! Well okay, if it was a metalhead fly, but other than that he wouldn't."
Jak remained silent and kept his reservations to himself. But Daxter had a point. Maybe sometimes Sig was forced to do some unpleasant things in his line of work, but at his core, he was a decent man. Hurting a child was a line he wouldn't cross, not for anything. Jak hoped so, at least.
At long last, they turned a corner and the bazaar came into view, throngs of shoppers and vendors offering all the anonymity he could ask for. Jak crept to the mouth of the alley with the curious kid at his side. The alarm didn't seem to have spread to this part of the city, and the only guards in sight were relaxed as they carelessly went about their patrol. Once they were out of sight, Jak took a step forward. "Okay, I think it's as safe as it's ever going to—"
"Jak, look out!"
The warning came too late. Footsteps rushed him from behind and something slammed into Jak's temple with enough force to bash his head against the wall. He collapsed in a heap, ears roaring. He pressed a trembling hand to his skull and his fingers came away bloody. He could hear Daxter bouncing around him, urging him to get up and move, move now, but even a tiny attempt to rise made the world spin and bile rise in his throat. Jak let his head flop back down, sick with dread when he realized there was only one person who could have gotten the jump on him like that.
"Sig, w-what the hell did ya do that for?" Daxter shouted from his place crouched by Jak's head. But his own horror over what the Wastelander had done made his voice crack in panic. He buried his fingers in Jak's hair, shrinking into a tinier and tinier ball as Sig approached them. Jak made a feeble grab for his gun, but Sig's got there first and kicked the weapon aside.
"I'm sorry, cherries," Sig said, and for a moment Jak almost believed him. "I can't explain...and I can't let you stop me."
With that, Sig seized the kid by the wrist and led him away through the crowded bazaar. The boy couldn't have resisted even if he tried, and he was too frightened to do anything but stare at Jak's prone body. Jak gave an inarticulate cry, a surge of adrenaline bringing the world into sharp focus for an instant. No! he thought in helpless rage. No, don't you dare take him! No, no, NO!
Daxter made as if to go after Sig, but aborted the action with a backward glance at Jak. After another attempt to get up failed, Jak slammed his fist to the ground hard enough to make the ottsel flinch.
Daxter bolted, weaving through the forest of ankles with amazing agility. For the moment, Jak just focused on breathing and staying conscious no matter how much his pounding head wished he wouldn't. An eternity passed as he wrestled with the dark curtain and finally pushed it back for good. Painfully, Jak rose to his hands and knees, cradling his head in one hand. When he finally found the strength to look up, it was to see Daxter return to the alley.
"I-I'm sorry, pal. T-They got a zoomer, and I tried, but I c-couldn't k-keep up...and they're gone, Jak. The kid's gone."
A.N. As stated in my profile, I never start a multi-chapter unless I intend to finish it. Most of this story has been written, and the rest is in my head just waiting to be written. So never fear, I won't leave you hanging! Updates may not be as consistent, but I'll shoot for about every two weeks. Earlier, if I'm in a good mood and have the time. Later, if catastrophe strikes and the ever-so-faithful Muse leads me into a pool of dark eco.