Disclaimer: Ratchet and Clank and all related characters, locations, and concepts belong to Insomniac Games. All other ideas and characters are my own. I am not a lawyer.

Author's Note: So, I've decided to take a crack at writing some chaptered fanfiction. This takes place sometime after A Crack in Time. I'm not sure whether it'll end up fitting in with the comics and All 4 One, though. There will be spoilers for ACiT, though I'm not sure if those are considered spoilers anymore.

It may not be entirely apparent at the moment, but I've based this on the premise that changing a timeline has repercussions, even if it's done within the 'six minutes' that seem to be the general rule in the Ratchet and Clank universe for some reason. Expect to see a lot of characters, though of course the story focuses on our dynamic duo.

Anyway, reviews are appreciated, since I'm not sure if I know what I'm doing here.

The Problem with Paradoxes

Chapter 1: Awakening

In the Cerulean Sector of the Polaris Galaxy, a medium-sized desert planet hung in the midst of a battle. Fighter ships circled it, firing at each other even as they plummeted towards its surface, their thrusters destroyed. Dropships delivered their cargo; reinforcements to fight a battle in which the tables were quickly turning against Fastoon's inhabitants. On the surface of the planet, in front of the court of Azimuth, two figures—one larger, one smaller—exchanged blows. Despite having a disadvantage in size, the smaller one managed to stand his ground. For the moment.

"You'll never get away with this, Tachyon!" the smaller figure said.

The Cragmite in question snickered as the Lombax barely dodged a rocket. "Actually, I will. I'd be happy to kill you now, too. Unless you decide to do me the favour of telling me where you hid the Lombax Secret!"

As he put some venom into the last word, the Cragmite fired another blast charge from his throne. The Lombax deflected it with his wrench.

"Never, Tachyon! The Lombax Secret dies with me!"

The Cragmite charged up his throne's vaporizer cannon, gloating as he did so.

"Then I'll kill you as I did your wife! Say goodbye to your son, Kaden! I'll hunt him down when I'm done with you; him, and the Lombax Secret!"

Tachyon then did a double-take, realizing that the Lombax was no longer in front of him.

Instead of listening to the crazed villain's banter, Kaden had started to run off, searching for cover. He was out of nanotech, and certain that he wouldn't survive another hit. He thought for a moment of the broken hoverboots he had left behind on Torren IV, assuming that he would have time to fix them later. Had he brought those with him, he would have been able to escape fast enough to survive the blinding flash of light that soon followed. Instead, he had left them behind in anticipation of a 'later' that he now knew would never come.

"Ratchet… Ratchet…?"

The Lombax groaned, stirring. Another nightmare. Ever since Alister's death, he'd been having the same terrible dreams. It was weird, since the dreams described events he'd never actually seen. He figured that he'd heard enough about for his subconscious to internalize them. Tachyon killing his parents. Alister dying. One dream even involved Alister killing him, though obviously, that had never happened. He was alive and kicking. For the most part.

"Ratchet," a familiar voice said, "are you all right?"

It's okay, Ratchet thought to himself, you're safe now. He opened his eyes.

"Morning, Clank," the Lombax said, then yawned.

The robot stood by the HV set; Ratchet realized that he had forgotten to switch it off. Judging by the fact that he was lying on the couch, he realized that must have fallen asleep while watching holo-vids. Once he had switched off the HV, Clank turned to address the drowsy Lombax.

"Good morning, Ratchet." The robot squinted at his friend for a moment, assessing the Lombax's state. "You appear to be tired, despite the fact that it is already 1200 in the morning. Did you stay up late again?"

The guilty look on Ratchet's face gave away his reply before he spoke.

"I tried, Clank, but I can't get to sleep. Either the past is haunting me when I'm lying awake staring at the ceiling, or it's haunting me in my sleep. The only way I can sleep now is if I watch HV till my eyeballs burn out."

Clank frowned. "I noticed that you were muttering while you were asleep, but I did not wish to wake you. Was that another nightmare, then?"

Ratchet sat up and rested his elbows on his knees. He rubbed his eyes, trying to clear the images from his head.

"Yeah. I dreamed about Tachyon killing my dad again."

Clank approached Ratchet, unsure of what to do. Being a robot, despite having a soul, he still had trouble figuring out what to do in delicate situations. Perhaps talking about the nightmares would make Ratchet feel better. Sitting on the couch, Clank hesitantly put a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"The fact that you have such nightmares is understandable," Clank said. "While you do not remember your father, you have recently lost a father figure."

Both of them fell silent. They had discussed this before, but doing so was never a pleasant experience. Although Clank had never really met Alister Azimuth, he knew that the elder Lombax's betrayal and subsequent sacrifice had affected Ratchet. The hurt in Ratchet's eyes whenever he talked about Azimuth was clear, and it hurt Clank to see his friend upset.

After a moment, Ratchet nodded, and the robot continued.

"You never knew who your real father was, not until recently. While I was…" Clank paused, searching for the right word, "… away, you encountered someone who was not only another Lombax, but a good friend of your father, as well. Naturally, you grew attached. However…."

Clank trailed off. Alister's betrayal did not need mention, nor did he want to talk about the elder Lombax's death.

"At any rate," Clank said, "I believe that your nightmares are the result of the grief you experienced from the loss of Alister Azimuth."

Ratchet looked away, his face impassive.

"He was a hero in the end, though, right? You know, despite—" Ratchet pinched the bridge of his nose "—despite what he did?"

For a moment, a memory flashed through Clank's mind. A concentrated beam of energy hitting Ratchet in the chest, Ratchet keeling over, the surprised expression frozen on the Lombax's face as he fell into nothing. Clank stopped that thought. He had been modified to be capable of enduring temporal paradoxes, but dwelling on them made him feel sick to his sisterboards.

Still, Clank couldn't help but recall a brief instant, a moment of eye contact between himself and Azimuth before the latter had sacrificed himself, a moment during which he saw the realization in Alister's eyes as the Lombax recognized what he had almost done—what, thanks to Clank's intervention, he had failed to do—yet what, in another doomed universe, had happened—

"Yes," Clank said, "he was a hero in the end."

Feeling a rare twinge of unease, Clank decided to change the subject. He pointed towards the garage.

"Now, what modifications were you planning for Aphelion?"

As Ratchet babbled about warp drives and fusion coils, Clank pondered the implications of his friend's nightmare. Such was the benefit of parallel processing; he could carry on a conversation about one topic while thinking about another.

This was not the first time that Ratchet had experienced such a nightmare. Clank took less time to recharge than Ratchet took to get a good night's rest. Sometimes, while going about his morning tasks, the robot could hear his friend muttering in his sleep. After the Great Clock incident, Ratchet's nightmares came with alarming frequency. The years of saving the Universe appeared to be finally taking a toll on the Lombax's psyche.

The fact that they were staying in Alister's old residence on Lumos probably wasn't helping. Ratchet had insisted that they needed to search, but his exhaustion had led him to settle down instead. At least Ratchet kept busy by repairing Aphelion; doing something constructive kept his mind occupied. Still, a change of scenery would be beneficial.

Clank started, struck by an idea. Perhaps there was something that could lead them on the right track to finding the Lombaxes.