Arc the Third: Renegade
Chapter Four

The water lasted long enough to get the worst of the sludge off. Dax glowered at the dripping showerhead, but that was nothing to Jak's expression. If there'd been any justice in the world, the thing would've caught on fire with how angry Jak looked.

Then again, the sludge might've been gone, but the stench lingered. It was pretty nasty.

Pity they couldn't blame anyone for their slip into the so-called water down in the water slums.

Then again, if there'd been a person responsible, Jak would've killed them.

They walked back out to what Dax was starting to think of as the main room crossed with Torn's office. Torn's room? Something like that. Jak didn't bother wrapping the scarf special around his head, just left it looped around his neck. It actually looked better than Tess's 'special wrapping', but it left his horns just a little too visual to walk around town like that.

Not for the first time- and likely not the last, either- Dax wondered just why people were willing to ignore Jak's appearance so long as his horns were hidden. Even the KG didn't do more than look at him.

Unless not even the KG knew much about Jak... That was possible. Dax knew there were ranks, after all, and he doubted most people who joined up would be willing parties to Baron Praxis' little experiments. Most of them wanted to protect the city. Not torture people.

He sighed, and shook his head. "Ey, Torn!" Time to distract himself.

"What?" Torn asked. He was spinning a knife, the blade easily as long as Dax's tail, with one hand.

"You got a timer on the shower or som'thin'?"

Torn shook his head, and slammed the knife, point down, into his desk. "The Baron turned the water off to the slums. Congratulations, I think you used up the last of it."

Jak- well, he couldn't blanch, but he looked like someone had shoved a two-week dead fish down his pants. Horrified, with a pinch of going to be really, really homicidal in five seconds. "But how are people getting water to drink?"

"By paying for it outside the slums, while still paying taxes for the water they're not getting," Torn said. He curled his upper lip. "I'd send men to the pumping station to 'fix' things, but it's overrun by metal-heads. More than any of my men could handle, even in a group." He eyed Jak, and Dax supposed that beneath the tattoos and anger, there was a healthy dose of speculation.

And yeah, okay, hope, too. Dax could understand that. Jak was just one man... But he made people, even utter strangers, believe that he could save the day. And he could.

"Jak an' me could go there," Dax offered. He ignored Jak's surprised and vaguely irritated look. It was exactly the offer Jak would make, if he didn't have to struggle against two years worth of torture and distrust.

"You could," Torn allowed. "It'd put you on the Baron's radar."

"I'm already there," Jak said. He flexed one hand.

Torn frowned, then turned to his desk. He looked through several papers, and Jak and Dax both waited with varying degrees of patience.

"Fine," Torn said, putting the last paper down. "If you get the water back on, I don't think anyone will be turning it off again. It's one thing to come down here and roust people from their homes, it's another to try and drive us out like this. Several KG I wouldn't have pegged for it were caught trying to get out to the pumping station, and were exiled. I'd assume it was because they were going to turn on the water."

Jak blinked, and yeah, okay, fair enough, Dax hadn't expected to hear that either. "Most people here," he began, but couldn't finish. Didn't know how to.

Torn rubbed a hand over his face, palm scraping over the stubble on his jaw. "The Baron's personal guard is full of sociopaths and monsters," he said. "The rest? Do your best not to kill them, alright?"

"How am I supposed to know?" Jak asked. He seemed to be staring at Torn's desk, but he could just as easily have been looking at Torn, at the floor, or just staring at nothing.

"The personal guard wears yellow armor. I'm not going to say every KG in red's a saint, 'cause most of them have let the power go to their head, but there's limits. You know?"

Dax nodded. Hell yes, there were limits. That was why Sig helped hunt down the crazies and the KG let him.

Torn opened a drawer in his desk, and pulled out a uni-blaster. There was already a red eco mod. Dax could feel himself salivating at the sight of it.

Most guns in Haven seemed to be based on the 'bigger is better' principle, with a side of 'bullets are for wimps'. The uni-blaster, on the other hand, was small, small enough Dax could shoot it semi-comfortably, and could be modified real easy to shoot regular bullets, eco-charged bullets, or eco-pulses.

"Take it," Torn said, and tossed it to Jak. Dax grinned wide enough his face hurt. "Sometimes you don't want the bad guys close up before you kill them."

Jak turned the blaster over in his hands, and then shrugged. "Can't hurt."

It took a few minutes, before they figured out the best way to sling the gun over one shoulder where Jak would hardly notice the weight, but once they had it, Jak was able to pull the gun out in a split second, and put it away almost as fast. Dax would also be able to pull it, if he needed to.

"Alright," Dax said, once they were finished. "Jak an' me'll head out to the pumping station."

"I assume you know where it is?" Torn asked.

"C'mon," Dax muttered. "Absolutely," he said, louder.

"I'm onto you, rat."

"Hey, I'm friends with Sig. It ain't that difficult to figure out..."

"I've got information for him."

Dax nodded. "I'll pass it on when he gets back."

"When he gets back?" Torn repeated softly. He shook his head. "Get going."

Dax adjusted Jak's scarf, and then they set off.

Dax kept an eye on the streets, but people once again seemed to be looking at Jak, and then away. But it was working for them, so... Don't question it, or it'll stop.

"What did Torn mean, he was onto you?" Jak asked.

"Sig deals in information brokering. I was helping him out with it, while we kept trying to get into prison and rescue you."

Jak looked over at him, and then angled so he was walking towards a zoomer someone had parked on the street. It was easy to hotwire, and they took off without wasting any time.

"So where..." Jak began.

"We're going to see a friend first." Vin would know the pumping station, and Dax knew the value of information. Besides, maybe Vin knew something to help Jak with the whole 'tall, dark, and gruesome' thing.

It was worth asking.

They didn't draw notice until they reached the industrial sector, and even then it was only because most people walked. There were zoomers, sure, but considering there were so many overhead walkways and obstacles, it was easier for drivers to just go around unless they absolutely couldn't.

Jak left the zoomer parked in a little corner that was more or less out of sight of the street, then followed Dax's directions to Vin's little hidey hole. Dax had almost panicked, when he realized that no one had told him where Vin hung out when he wasn't getting attacked by metal-heads, then remembered Sig had escorted the man back after the whole rescue mission had gone down. And Dax might not have been all too great with directions, when they weren't written down, but he could remember which way to turn just by going off landmarks, so hey.

Vin's door was... not locked, surprisingly. Jak scowled when he walked in. Maybe all the blinking lights were giving him a headache.

"Yeaaaah!" A wrench was thrown in... almost the right direction. "Go away! I don't have any!"

"Vin?" Dax checked on Jak, but he looked bemused, not homicidal. "Vin, it's me, Daxter. I know this isn't Sig, but c'mon, talking rat. Talking orange rat, no less." Kind of slightly memorable.

"O-oh." Vin stumbled out from around a large, blinking pillar. "I'm s-sorry, I th-thought you w-w-were someone else."

Jak blinked at Vin. Vin looked at Jak, squeaked, and hunched his shoulders. Dax wasted a moment in being very, very amused.

"Vin, this is Jak, he's my friend. Jak, this is Vin, he's a terrified genius."

"Alright," Jak said slowly. He sounded bemused, not just looked it. Thankfully. Bemused was a great deal better than homicidal rage was. "So he can tell us about the pumping station?"

"Should do," Dax said. He jumped down onto something that might have been a counter, or might have been part of another computer. Who could tell? "Vin, what can you tell us about the pumping station?"

"It's overrun with metal-heads!" Vin shook harder for a moment, then moved over to... another computer, but this one had a keyboard, so Dax was actually able to recognize what it was. Yay!

Score one for the country boy who'd previously thought electric lights were amazing wonders of technology!

"Yeah, we know," Dax said. He motioned for Jak to stay where he was, which of course meant Jak grabbed him with one hand and followed Vin, until they were close enough a human could've heard the poor man gasping for breath.

Dax sighed, and scrambled back onto Jak's shoulder. It was more comfortable there, anyways.

"I've got a map," Vin said.

"Could we have a copy?"

Vin looked over his shoulder, and jumped, like he hadn't realized that they were right behind him. "S-sure," he said, once he'd stopped trembling too hard to speak. "Absolutely. Why do you want it, anyways?"

"Because we're going to kill the metal-heads," Dax said. Simpler than explaining the whole plot.

"...You're going to die!" Vin reached forward and grabbed Jak's collar. "Don't go! You'll die!"

Jak snarled, teeth bared and claws fully extended. Vin screamed, let go, stumbled back, and fell down.

Dax sighed, grabbed Jak's ear, and twisted.

Well, what do you know? Same reaction as when they were kids.

Jak stopped writhing on the floor after a second, and glowered at Dax. "You..."

"Me," Dax agreed. "You were about to make Vin into fish fillets. That would've been very rude. We're going to have to work on that touching thing, aren't we?"

Jak just stared at him, rubbing one hand against his abused ear.

"Okay, Vin? Sorry about that, but Jak's got a thing about touching, so. D'you think we could have that map, still? He's very sorry to have scared you."

Vin stared at the both of them, then shrugged. "Everything scares me. Sure. I'll just print it out for you."

Dax grinned, and hopped back on Jak's shoulder. Jak growled, but didn't toss him off.

"We need to come up with a better method," Dax murmured.

Jak snarled, nodded, and then moved to brood next to a blinking pillar.

Vin returned with a paper copy of his map after a minute, and managed to hand it over without too much flinching. Dax sighed, but it was Vin. Apparently, this was normal for him.

"Hey, Vin. Y'know what we were talking about last time?"

Vin nodded, and wrung his hands together. "It's taking longer than I expected, I have to hide my research from the Baron and his men, and they keep watching me, it's like they know what I'm doing... They must have bugged my place!"

"I don't hear anything, so no, they didn't," Dax lied. He couldn't actually hear electronic bugs, and considering the computers whirring and buzzing and clicking he wouldn't have been able to tell the electronic bugs from everything else even if he could, but even if they had bugged the place, Vin was still here, which meant they hadn't. If they'd known Vin was helping out the Underground, the man would've been in prison. Or dead.

"O-oh. Well. That's something, at least." Vin bit his lip, then spread his hands. "I'm looking into it. Why?"

"D'you think it'd be something that could be tweaked to help Jak? He's not supposed to look like this, he's supposed to be blond."

Vin raised his eyebrows, and scrunched up his face. "Maybe? Dark eco too?"

"Yes."

"I'll look into it," Vin promised, sounding for a moment like he wasn't terrified for his life. The moment passed, and he looked over his shoulder. "If they don't take me away for my subversive actions!"

Dax sighed, and poked Jak in the side of the head. "We'll be going now, Vin. Thanks for the help."

"Beware the metal-heads!"

"Absolutely."

Jak remained quiet until they were several blocks away. "So, he was kind of a nut."

"You're one to talk."


The pumping station was much nicer than Old Town. For one thing, there was green stuff. For another, the water wasn't lethal. Granted, the odd little shooting bot... thing... in the water was, but it only shot when Jak waded out past knee depth.

There weren't any metal-heads right next to the wall, so Jak crouched down and scrubbed at his arms. Dax figured they still felt dirty; his fur still felt like things were crawling through it. Hopefully he hadn't gotten fleas again.

Jak straightened up, and flicked water off the tips of his claws. They were growing again, six inches and still longer, and the sight of the slowly extending black stilettos was kind of creepy.

"Which way?" Jak asked, his voice getting rougher.

"That way," Dax said, and pointed away from the wall. He had the map, because what else was he going to do? Fight? Yeah, no.

He could figure out which way they should go and keep an eye out on Jak's back. That would have to be enough.

Jak stalked his way along the pumping station, growling under his breath. After a moment, Dax realized why; he and Sig had managed to rescue Jak from the KG here, where he'd been fighting metal-heads and the Guard. Jak must've been here loads of times before, and it was doubtful he'd have any good memories of the experience.

"It's okay, buddy," Dax murmured, and pressed up against Jak's neck. "Totally different now."

Jak growled louder, but the tension in his shoulders eased up. A little.

Dax was going to count it as a win anyways.

They spotted the first metal-head prowling near a building Dax figured was the foreman's little shack or something. The metal-head's shoulders were about even with Jak's head, and its claws were as long as Jak's.

Not that it mattered. Jak saw the beast, and then lunged, tearing into it. The metal-head didn't even have time to realize it was being attacked before its head was wrenched sideways, neck snapping. It collapsed and immediately began decomposing into gobs of stinking, dark eco. Only the skull gem didn't disolve.

"Hey, pick that up. We can sell it."

Jak grunted, but passed the skull gem up to Dax. Dax made sure it was secure in Jak's little pack, and eyed the dark eco warily.

Sure, the dark eco pools were dangerous, but they didn't smell like that. If it were possible for dark eco to get corrupted, then the stuff the metal-heads gave off when they died was definitely tainted.

The gobs shifted back and forth, like they were being blown by the wind, and then they shot forward and hit Jak's legs. Dax yelled, and relaxed only slightly when Jak didn't seem hurt by the experience.

"Yeah," Jak said. His voice was even rougher, sounding more like it had when he'd first started talking in Seem's temple. "That happens."

It happened three more times, and then Jak stopped talking. He responded, still, but it was like he was caught in a 'don't touch me' rage.

Only much, much angrier.

Dax could only hunch on Jak's shoulder and wait. And, okay, honesty here, shake like a leaf, but he was still on Jak's shoulder so it counted!

There were a lot of metal-heads. Most of them weren't as big as the first one, a few were even bigger, but Jak didn't care. They died, whatever their size, and the gobs of eco they produced kept shooting towards Jak.

Dax pressed up against Jak's neck, and kept talking in a quiet murmur that wouldn't distract the guy, but would hopefully remind him he had a passenger.

Then there were no more metal-heads. It wasn't going to be a permanent thing, sadly, but hey, Dax would take what he could get.

"Okay, Jak. We need to find the shut off valve. The shut off valve. What are you, a berserker? If you are, it explains a lot, actually, but it's kind of annoying when I need you to use your brain. If I were the person who'd designed this place, where would I put a shut off valve?"

Jak growled, and started walking around. He had enough presence of mind, or maybe he was just coming back to himself, but he remembered to pick up the skull gems and give them to Dax.

Dax let him wander, and just kept his eyes peeled for something that looked like a shut off valve. The map was marked, they were definitely in the right area, but that didn't help when he didn't know what he was looking for.

Well, okay, he knew what he was looking for, but not what it looked like.

Finally, he decided it had to be the funny looking wheel thing attached to a large pipe, and pointed Jak over to it. It took a little persuading, but Jak finally turned the wheel.

Several pipes clattered and banged against each other, and Jak skittered away with a snarl. But then everything calmed down.

"That's done it," Dax said, and relaxed. "Okay. Back to headquarters we go. And hopefully you'll be all the way calm when we get there.

Jak looked at him, and Dax wouldn't have sworn to it but he was sure his buddy looked doubtful.

Dax patted Jak on the forehead. "Just think positive thoughts. Everything will be fine. And if everything isn't, we'll figure something out. Let's go."


It's still Monday.

So, the night shift is not working out the way I'd hoped and planned, but job means money means I get to keep my car and can pay my bills. So that's something. I might even look into Toronto- apparently there's quiet areas and more job opportunities for people without experiance. And the people here are jerks who don't tell you that no, you're not actually coming in for an interview after all, they filled the position, until the day OF the interview really early in the morning. Argh.