Short chapter this time. And a nice quick update, even though it meant I stayed up too late.. AGAIN.
Don't own R&C blah blah blah.
My head felt like it'd been split open.
I blinked several times. It remained dark. Eyes open or closed, it made no difference.
I realised I was shivering. It was cold. Very cold.
I shifted despite my pounding head. I tried to sit up but couldn't. There wasn't enough room.
Where was I? What was going on? What'd happened? I tried to get my thoughts back in order, tried to piece things together.
I'd been with Max in the docking bay. He'd asked me to help him unload something from his ship. I'd felt a hard blow to the back of the head and then, nothing.
Ok. Not the most promising start but it was a start at least. Ok, someone had knocked me out, obviously. And put me here, wherever this was. My head was killing me. That could only be from the blow. What else? What else was wrong?
I shifted again, my thoughts clearing up as I managed to make more sense of things. I couldn't sit up because I was trapped in something. I tried to move a hand to check myself and make sure I wasn't hurt anywhere else but something stopped me. My hands were stuck. I swore under my breath, feeling around my wrist with my other hand. They were bound behind my back. There was only one very thin line tying them together but it felt hard and dug into me painfully when I pulled too hard. 'Zip-cuffs' my brain offered.
Ok. So trapped in a box with my hands tied. What else? Well, the plastic from the cuffs were cutting in my wrists, so I wasn't wearing my gloves. I could feel the steel floor against my shoulder and chest so no shirt and more importantly, no harness. That meant no nav-unit and no way to communicate with any-one. Crap. Also no helmet, no shoes and most importantly, no wrench. The only thing I had on me were my pants and I'd emptied its pockets before going to bed.
Ok, next. The box I was in was freezing cold. I was shivering and it felt like I'd been shivering for a while. The bottom, top and sides were made of metal. It had a lot of room length and width wise but not a lot of height. There was nothing else in it besides me.
I lay still, pricking my ears as I tried to listen for any sounds from the outside. I realised there was a low throb that I could feel running through the entire thing I was in and when I listened, I could pick up a soft rumble from somewhere behind my back. It was the only wall of the box that was warmer than the others.
The realisation hit me hard as I put it all together.
Oh God. I was in the trunk of a ship.
I could feel a sense of panic starting to set in. Behind the steel in front of me there was the vast, empty vacuum of space. The trunk of a starship was not designed to have proper life support. The temperature was very low, not as much as the void outside but cold enough to be uncomfortable. I wormed my way closer to the wall that was warmer than the others. The thrusters. It had to be near the ship's thrusters which heated it up slightly. I curled my legs against my chest, wrapping my tail around myself to keep any warmth I had.
How did I get here? Yeah ok, blow to the head. But how did I get here? Who'd hit me? I'd been so focused on Max and why he was so worked up I wasn't aware of any-one else being in the docking bay. Oh crap! Were the others ok?! What if whoever'd hit me... I dunno... did something to them? Where was Max? Why was I the only one in this trunk?
No. No he wouldn't. That's crazy. Max would never do that! But he was the only one there... But he wouldn't! What reason could he possibly have for knocking me out and stuffing me in here?! It made no sense! We'd had a fight but we were still on ok terms I thought. And why feed me some bullshit story and then do something like this? It made no sense! It just made no sense.
But I couldn't focus on that right now. I needed to think of what I was gonna do. Trying to get out of the trunk was complete suicide. Even if the ship landed and I managed to get out I could be walking out onto a toxic planet, or an asteroid without an atmosphere, or somewhere that you needed protective clothing for. I had no choice but to wait until whoever had grabbed me let me out. Ok, so then what? I was completely unarmed. I cursed myself for not taking the two minutes to grab my wrench as I left my room. Without any weapons I was gonna have to act carefully. Best option was to do whatever the person wanted and bide my time until I could get away. If I had one thing going for me it was that I was fast, and I was flexible. Depending on what the landscape looked like I could probably either find somewhere to hide or just make a break for it and hopefully not get a laser blast in the back.
It wasn't much of a plan. It wasn't even worth calling it a plan. I needed to know more about who'd locked me in here and where we were going before I could figure out something better. So I lay and waited.
The trip didn't take as long as I was expecting it to. About an hour at most. Hopefully whoever'd grabbed me was stupid and we weren't very far from the Apogee Space Station. The other option was that I'd been out longer than I would've liked. Whatever the reason, I felt the change in speed as the thrusters adjusted and there was a brief moment of vertigo as the internal gravity shifted to compensate for the change of speed. About 15 minutes later I felt the ship touch down and the engines slow before shutting down.
I waited, tensing up. I hoped whoever it was was gonna let me out before they did anything else. There was no cushioning in the trunk and I was sure I was gonna be bruised when I finally got to stand up again.
It only took a few moment before I heard the clicks of the trunk's locks opening and the slight hiss as the lid was lifted. After the darkness the sudden glare from a very hot sun felt like it was burning my retinas out and I made a noise, wishing my hands were free so I could shield my eyes. As soon as I felt the sting subside I turned to look back out. I needed to know who'd caught me. I needed to know where we were.
I stared up at the face as it looked me over, presumably to see if I was still in one piece.
"...Max..." I managed.
He said nothing but reached in. I instinctively flinched as he grabbed me by my upper arm and lifted me out, putting me on my feet again. The ground underneath me felt sandy but moist. It had baked warm in the sun but I was still shivering. I didn't bother giving the surroundings a look. I stared up at Max in disbelief, giving my head a slight shake.
"Sorry about the less than luxurious trip kid." He said without his usual good-natured tone. "Couldn't risk you waking up on the backseat and try to grab hold of the wheel, you know?"
"Max...Are... Are you insane?" It came out in a whisper at first. "Are you insane?! Are you insane?!"
He gave me a piercing stare. "What else what I suppose to do Ratchet? Especially after the Lombax Space Station."
I shook my head again, hard this time. "You're out of your mind! What the hell are.. Max what the HELL are you thinking?! Why?! WHY?!"
The hard stare remained but I was too furious to feel intimidated in any way. I was so angry I could barely speak.
"Look." He said, stepping aside so I could get a better view of where we were. Behind him stood what looked like an ancient building. It was made from stone, intricately carved and with thousands upon thousands of painted swirls, worn away by rain, sun and wind. The stone itself was stained black and green with centuries of moss and lichen. In some places giant trees had taken root on higher tiers of the building and massive roots cascaded down walls, ripping apart brick as they went. The building was cubic. Not a perfect square in of itself but rather it had sharp, 90 degree corners and had several layers or floors to it. The higher floors each having something of a balcony from the roof of the previous floor. Stone carved figures adorned spires that rose brokenly from some places. There were black, perfectly square windows carved into some of the walls, along with large semicircles that had to be doors. Beside one of these stood two larger than life statues guarding an entrance. The statues had giant heads with enormous eyes, but small bodies. I recognised the species instantly.
"This is the Zoni temple." I said. It wasn't a question.
Max gave a nod. I felt him take a hold of one of my upper arms again and the feeling of friction against the zip-cuffs binding my wrists. After a second I felt myself freed and started to rub the place where the plastic had dug into me the most. I turned and gave Max something between a furious glare and a deeply pained expression.
"Why'd you bring me here? Why did you do this?!"
Max gave a deep sigh and shook his head although he didn't look as upset as I felt he should. "Kid. I was hoping we could've ended up here differently. I was gonna ask if you'd wanna come, but after the space station you made it clear you wouldn't have accepted the offer."
"What are you talking about?!" I yelled again, spinning to face him. "Don't play games with me Max! Answer the damn question!"
His eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "I've spent the last 10 years of my life here." He turned his gaze away from me, staring at the temple unseeingly. "Ten long... long years. You'd think I'd have learned everything there is to know about this place, wouldn't you? It was my reason for waking up each morning. My reason for living. And yet there are still things we can't even begin to guess about this place."
I had a brief second where I thought about turning and running when he looked away, but before I could consider it seriously he turned back to me. "a Temple to the zoni built tens of thousands of years ago. But with Lombax modifications added in the last 30. Why? What were they doing? No-one has managed to figure that out. I'd been trying to get into the deeper chambers for an entire decade with no luck. But now, with you here," I saw something resembling the old grin return. "we can finally put it to rest. We can finally get to those deep chambers and see why this place was so important. Why it is so important. That's why I had to bring you here kid. You said you were done with helping me unlock doors but you had to come here."
I felt my eyes narrow as I balled my fists. "You knocked me out, stuffed me in a trunk and dragged me all the way out here so you could use me as your own personal crowbar to get into an ancient tomb. You are insane."
"This was my life boy!" He suddenly raised his voice. It was like his laughter in that it was deep and booming. It was as much felt as heard. "This was my entire life! Ten years in this tropical hell! Ten Years of my life wasted! Ten years that I could've spent with a daughter and a family and built a career and bought a home! Instead I was trapped in this sweltering greenhouse and just this collection of rock for company! And for what?! To learn nothing of its secrets?! No! No I won't accept it! There's a reason I was left here! There' something for me to find! And I will be damned if I let a malnourished orphan like you keep me from that!"
He calmed down but kept breathing heavily, he glared daggers at me. I was gritting my teeth. I could feel all the bristles standing upright down my spine.
"You're going to open those doors Ratchet," He said with a calm but dangerous tone of voice. "and we are going to find what's inside this thing."
My fingers dug into my palms painfully as I stood rooted to the spot, almost shaking in anger. "I'm not setting one foot in that place Max. I don't care what obsession you have with it. It's locked for a reason. And I'm not gonna be used like a glorified lockpick any more."
His face hardened but I did nothing to back down, glaring with just as much poison as he did. I said nothing else. There was nothing to add, and nothing to argue about. I wanted to be clear on that.
"Take me home." I turned slightly towards the ship but I kept an eye on him.
He stood frozen in place. The only motion came from a hand which reached around to a back-pocket before coming forward again, a barrel pointed right at me. I froze, turning my head to stare at him again.
"Don't make me a murderer, kid." He said with a hushed, sharp tone.
Talwyn's face flashed in my mind's eye. I knew, in that second she came to mind, I couldn't do that to her. I couldn't do any of this to her if her father pulled the trigger.
I turned back to him stiffly, every muscle in my face hardened as I tried to hate him to death.
He nudged the blaster towards the temple's entrance.
"We'll get this over with and then I'll take you back to the station. You have my word son."
"Don't ever call me that." I hissed softly, a growl in my throat as I walked past him and marched towards the entrance.