I now present my first foray into the Jak and Daxter fandom!
It's a totally indulgent little story set during Jak 3, just after the Spargus defense mission and before Damas gives Jak his third battle amulet. That whole scene is going to take a somewhat different turn here.
It was a typical evening for Jak and Daxter. That, of course, meant that the two were wildly racing their way around Spargus in search of their next meeting with the king. Their freshly wrangled Leaper Lizard was a big help, but even its speed could do little to direct them if the driver had no idea where he was going.
"Hey Jak-uh, I don't mean to rush you buddy but we're kinda sorta in a big hurry. Ol' Sandy's waiting!" yelped Daxter, clinging desperately to his friend's shoulder. And Daxter had thought Flut Flut rides were bad!
"Chill out, Dax, we're almost there, " Jak said, yanking sharply on the reins. Just around this corner, over that sand dune, and…"
"And if you don't want my lunch all over your shoulder, I suggest you find Damas RIGHT now," Daxter cut in.
Jak shook his head sharply, nearly smacking Daxter with one of his ears. "Come on, Dax. We're almost there. I know the shortcut's right over-"
"Face it, we're lost!"
"No we're not. It's just over here-"
"So help me, if you don't pull us over and ask for directions I'll-"
The sudden noise brought a quick end to the argument. In the next second, Jak had dropped the reins and leapt from the Leaper Lizard. He raced over to the source of the noise, gun at the ready, half-expecting another shoot-out.
All Daxter could do was cling limply to Jak's shoulder, riding out the nausea.
Target spotted. Jak's hand shot out to knock aside an object that was definitely not a gun. It almost looked like it had a barrel, but nothing was coming out of it. It made that snap noise again, but a small flash of light was all that appeared. The owner of this object quickly retreated, her faded yellow skirt flapping as she curled around her camera protectively.
"Whoa, hey! You're really camera-shy, aren't you?" She blew a strand of brown hair out of her eye to get a better look at the photo's subjects. She already knew of the famous Jak. He was slowly becoming the talk of all of Spargus, especially after that rebellious display in the arena. Not just anyone could earn Damas' mercy after pulling a stunt like that. Sig had helped, but this boy had to be someone special.
"I thought you were shooting at me!" Jak accused, though he'd definitely dropped some of the tension when the object hadn't been a weapon. He was nearly a citizen of Spargus now, with two battle amulets, but that didn't mean he was naïve enough to believe that everyone trusted him. It was better than Haven here, absolutely. But trust wasn't so easily gained these days. Not since Sandover.
Daxter placed a reassuring paw on Jak's head, nodding his agreement. "Jak's the one who does the scaring around here. Doesn't like it when other people do it," he whispered, earning a sharp nudge from Jak.
"Gotcha," the girl nodded, hanging the camera around her neck once more. "Sorry about that. I know we've had rough lives. I just forget that not everyone's met a camera yet. They're pretty rare in Spargus." She offered her hand with an apologetic smile. "I'm Lexi. I just wanted a picture of our new guy, that's all. And you two were great models."
"Models?" Daxter shot down Jak's arm, all smiles now. He gripped Lexi's hand with both paws, shaking it eagerly. "Well you've just found yourself one! And I'll have you know that there are two new guys! Don't worry, you'll like me even better. Ever thought about animal photography?" he suggested, sporting a sly expression.
"Come on, Dax," Jak groaned, tapping the ottsel's shoulder. He took his turn at shaking Lexi's hand, shaking his head. "Sorry about that. I haven't seen a camera since Haven. They make me nervous. Anyway, I've gotta get going. We're meeting Damas in the palace."
"Hey, I wouldn't want to anger the king," Lexi agreed, though she stepped to the side of her home's little entrance as if to welcome them in. "But the palace is this way. There's another door on the other side of my house, it'll put you on the right street."
"Thanks. See Dax? Told you the shortcut was close." Jak wasn't entirely calm, but he sensed by now that the girl wasn't a threat to him.
"Oh, don't give me your lip, Jak. We were lost and you know it." Daxter was riding high in the saddle…well, on the shoulder now. Being off the Leaper Lizard did wonders for his mood. He could now enjoy the brief look through Lexi's house.
They passed walls and walls of photographs, showing just about every angle of Spargus and the surrounding wasteland. One darker wall seemed to show life in Haven City-obviously taken before Lexi's exile. Hundreds of photos, a chronicle of an entire life.
"Never thought I'd meet a Wastelander who was into photography," Jak said, watching the desert's landscape pass by in a series of photos. The desert was shown in every light imaginable: daylight, night, a brewing storm.
"We're always so busy," Lexi started to explain as she cleared her gun from the table, pointing out one of her favorite photos of the palace. "While we're moving, we don't get to stop and look at what's right in front of us. If I take a picture, I can always go back and look at it later. It's hard to scavenge enough film, but it's worth it. There's a lot of memory here."
Jak nodded and returned to studying a picture of the Hip Hog Saloon's exterior. Lexi would probably like to see it now: if it was still there, of course. That giant ottsel was just begging to be photographed.
"Once in a lifetime opportunity to see Orange Lightning at his finest, right here!" Daxter called, desperately trying to get Lexi's attention as she fiddled with her camera. As it turned out, the little ottsel was begging to be photographed too. Daxter had found a wall featuring photos of Spargus's people, and he was eagerly twisting into what might've been a seductive pose. "We'll make room for me right here, let's just take this one and-"
When Daxter was silent, something was clearly wrong. Jak moved past Lexi and the camera to join Daxter at the wall, waiting for the ottsel to finish. Daxter held a photo he'd yanked from the wall, but rather than slamming it down and replacing it with his own picture, he simply gaped at it. Something about that picture had clearly grabbed Daxter's attention. And as soon as Jak looked over his friend's shoulder, his attention was grabbed too.
Not even Daxter could steamroll over this photo. The photo featured two very happy and muddy people, a man and a small boy playing in what must have been Spargus's wet season. The man rested on his hands and knees in a puddle, though his head was tilted to face the boy with an expression that was openly fond. A very happy boy was leaning against the man's arm and smiling, holding a little clay shape aloft. It didn't show just any Wastelanders or just any shape, but two very familiar people and one startlingly familiar shape.
The man in the photo was Damas, the king they were still due to meet that afternoon. He looked younger and happier by far than Jak had ever seen him, though Jak knew the picture couldn't have been taken more than about two years ago. He knew this ecause the other person in the photo was Jak. To be more precise, it was the younger Jak he'd met in Haven a year ago, the Jak who was now in Sandover Village with a younger Samos. There, that boy would meet Daxter, grow up, and save the world just in time to be thrown into the future again. And the clay shape in the younger Jak's hand was a crude recreation of his red amulet, the one the boy had given to the older Jak before departing to the past. Its weight still rested in Jak's pocket.
Jak touched the edge of the photo reverently, wondering what it could mean. Clearly his younger self had lived in Spargus before coming to Haven. Maybe that helped to explain why the sandy desert felt more like home than Haven had ever did. And Damas had cared about him, but what did that mean? Was Damas just fond of children and a friend of his parents? Or could it be more than that? He'd have to ask Damas about it, and what better time was there than the present?
A quick glance over his shoulder showed that Lexi was still busy with her camera. She was probably getting ready to develop the picture of Jak and Daxter she'd just taken. When he was sure she wasn't going to look at them any time soon, he pocketed the original photo and leaned down to Daxter. "Keep her busy for me," he whispered. "If she asks about the empty spot, just have her take some new ones. I'm gonna go ask Damas about this."
"Just like that?" Daxter hissed back, folding his arms across his chest. "Oh no. You're not doing this without me. I want answers too."
"I'll tell you all about it," Jak promised, "but this is something I've gotta do myself. Understand?" He then tried something he almost never used these days: the begging eyes. When Jak's eyes went wide and his mouth turned down just the slightest bit, he clearly wanted something. He wouldn't show this vulnerable expression to anyone else, but Daxter was worth it.
"…oh, all right. But I'm getting paid for this! And I'm getting a hundred photos!" Daxter shouted. Manipulating Daxter was so worth it, Jak thought.
"A hundred?" Lexi asked, finally turning around now that her photo was on its way to developing. "I don't have that much film. And what are you talking about?"
"Daxter wants a photoshoot," Jak explained smoothly, walking to the door that would lead to the palace. "I've got an errand to run. I'd take him, but he really wants some good shots."
"And I do my best work when he's not breathing down my neck," Daxter chimed in, racing over to Lexi with his most winning smile. "What do you say, babe? Just you, me, and your camera. How about it?"
Lexi smiled indulgently at Daxter, lifting her camera again. "Can't promise you a hundred, but I'm not missing this! I've never had a chance to take pictures of anyone like you before."
"That's the spirit! Come on, let's make some magic," Daxter goaded her, waving a big goodbye to Jak. "And hurry back! Wouldn't want you to miss my big debut."
Daxter may have been gloating with his words, but his expression was more solemn. Good luck, big guy, he thought. Whatever was going to happen with Jak and Damas, it was sure to be interesting. Jak might need an ear and a shoulder later on.
"Right. See you soon, Dax. And don't let him do anything too crazy, Lexi!" Jak warned, waving a playful finger at his friend-though he smiled and nodded. He'd gotten the message loud and clear. Whatever waited ahead…he could always come back and find support. He wouldn't admit it, but he'd probably need it.
Damas was beginning to wonder where his newest citizen of Spargus was. The summons had been sent an hour ago. Surely that had been enough time for the pair to be found, and then for Jak to return to the palace? There was no real urgency to this celebration, but it wouldn't do to have his new warrior flagrantly ignoring a summons from the king. Yes, that was certainly the reason Damas was anxious. It wasn't a desire to see Jak on Damas's part, of course it wasn't.
But where was he? It wouldn't do to appear impatient, so Damas settled on the steps leading to the throne and waited, smoothing his hands over the hardened sand. The second his gaze wandered to the lift, he heard it cranking. Moments later, a head of blond hair appeared. Jak. Damas quickly suppressed a smile as the young warrior approached.
"Sorry I'm late. Daxter and I got a little…sidetracked," Jak said breathlessly as he entered the throne room, one hand resting on his pants pocket. "He's waiting up for me back there. I just wanted to ask you something, if it's all right. I know you want something from me too, so I thought we could both get something out of this."
For something that was just a question, Jak appeared strangely hesitant. "Well, out with it! A question unasked is a question unanswered, Jak. Fail to ask now and you may miss your chance." Damas knew this from experience. So many questions he should have asked were now forever unanswered. He rose to his full height and stood in front of Jak, curious. What was so important now?
"Right." Jak took something out of his pocket. From the back of it, it appeared to be a photograph, likely one of Lexi's. Damas was definitely intrigued. "But before I ask, I have to tell you something about me. You probably won't believe it, but I swear it's all true."
"Many previously unbelievable things have happened, and you have earned our respect with your victories. I would be a fool not to consider whatever you have to say," Damas answered sternly. "Tell me what's on your mind."
Jak's shoulders visibly slackened with relief. So maybe Damas wouldn't laugh at him after all. He nodded, then sat on the step and gestured for Damas to join him. "It's kind of a long story. You might want to sit."
Damas accepted the offer and tilted his head toward Jak, all ears. Judging by Jak's thoughtful expression, this was clearly something important to the boy.
"I didn't exactly have a normal childhood. I was born…somewhere, I still don't know where, or who my parents were. Most of what I know now is because I met my younger self last year. I didn't know he was me at first, I thought he was just a kid that the Underground over in Haven was keeping around. We got along well, and then...I found out that he was me. The Metal Head leader was using us to destroy the last Precursor, but we stopped him."
What a strange story so far. How could two Jaks exist in the same time? More questions burned at the back of Damas's mind, but Jak noticed this and held up a hand. Let me finish. Damas nodded, slowly being drawn into this ever-stranger story.
"But two of us couldn't stay in the same time. So we used a Rift Gate to send my younger self back in time, where he could grow up in a safe place. And I did grow up in a safe place-in a place called Sandover Village. The huts the villagers lived in were where Dead Town in Haven is now.
I grew up with my best friends Daxter and Keira, and we went on an adventure together. I saved the world from some dark eco sages, and then we found a Rift Rider. We didn't know it at the time, but it was the same one my younger self had come to Sandover in."
Damas had to fight back the urge to interrupt several times. Time travel? He'd never heard of such a thing, but as he knew, the Precursors hid a great many secrets. He wouldn't argue the point with Jak just yet, not until he'd seen this photo. Damas nodded, urging Jak to continue.
"We didn't know what would happen when we used it. I couldn't remember ever coming back in time, but when we activated it and went through the Rift Gate, we came forward through time again. We landed in Haven, and after two years as the Baron's lab rat becoming that 'animal-man' you saw in the arena, I broke out and met the kid on my way to my revenge." Jak finished his story in a rush, pressing that photo against his leg. Damas still wondered what it could be, but an even more pressing question had bubbled up in the meantime.
An odd expression of pain had passed over Jak's face as he'd mentioned the prison. That display in the arena hadn't been a natural power, and that by far was the part of the story that Damas believed without question. It had been tortured out of Jak. The boy was obviously not willing to talk about the worst of his experience to a relative stranger, but he could still use some support. Damas leaned closer to his young warrior and briefly touched his wrist.
"Baron Praxis has wronged us both. If he were not already dead, I would join you in your quest."
Jak met Damas's eyes for the first time since the story had started. It might have been Damas's imagination, but the boy didn't look as burdened as he had when it began. The two of them had something in common. "That's right. He had to banish you too, huh?"
Damas let out a low chuckle, pulling his hand back. "Oh, it was a little more than that. He betrayed me. I was once the leader of Haven City. Now, I lead Haven's outcasts in the desert."
Something about that had interested Jak. Jak's hand brushed over his pocket, over what was probably a small object inside. From his expression, Jak seemed to be wondering something about those words. Whatever it was, it spurred Jak to continue onward.
"You were? Man, this just gets more and more complicated," he grumbled softly, touching the back of the mysterious photo once more. "Anyway, I met a girl named Lexi on my way here. She has all these pictures of the town and the people. Do you know her?"
Damas nodded. "I have posed for my fair share of her pictures in the past. It's a strange hobby out in the desert, but I appreciate the memories the photos share."
Jak looked relieved. "Then you probably know what her house is like. She helped me out on my way here. We had to go through her house to get to the street that leads here, and I was looking through her pictures when I found one that didn't make sense to me. It's me as a child, the same kid I met a year ago. But he looks a little younger than that. The weird thing is that I found him in Haven, and in this picture he's here in Spargus. With you."
Damas furrowed his brow. He didn't understand. Assuming that Jak's wild tale was true and that he'd been sent through time twice, he couldn't remember meeting a child who looked like Jak in Spargus. He'd seen no blond children who had suddenly disappeared. The only child he could remember losing track of lately was…his son, Mar. Damas suppressed his sorrow and nodded, holding out his hand. "If your tale is true, I do wonder what you might have been like as a child. Show me."
Uncertainty flickered across Jak's face again. Was he afraid that Damas didn't believe him? They would sort this out soon. When that look faded, Jak passed the photo into Damas's hand. True to Jak's word, Damas saw himself in Spargus posing with a young child, but the child wasn't a younger Jak. He couldn't be. That was Mar, his lost son. And with that little face came a fresh wave of pain that Damas couldn't entirely suppress
Anger crossed Damas's face. He gripped Jak's arm, staring down at the boy. "That cannot be you, Jak. That is my son, Mar. What you claim is impossible!"
"I thought you said nothing was impossible!" Jak shot back, anger replacing the inexplicable shock that had been there just seconds before. He faced Damas head-on, closer than he'd ever been. A headstrong young man, utterly convinced that this wild story must be true. But it was simply unfathomable that Damas had lost his young son to time and been unable to shield him from all the pain of Jak's story.
"How could you be my son? Time travel is a tall tale. There isn't a shred of proof."
"Oh there isn't, is there?" Jak plunged his hand into another pocket, shoving a familiar object into Damas's face. The Seal of Mar. The shinier, newer seal that had been made for his new son, a match for the weathered seal Damas carried. The king reached for his own seal, compelled to compare the two no matter how unlikely the story sounded. Surely it was a fake. A crude version of the seal had appeared in the photo, after all.
After a few long moments, Damas was reluctantly forced to conclude that the amulet was his son's. The seal was marked with the same tiny inscription in the script of the Precursors that he had forged for his son long ago. And the little dents indicating a crocadog's bite marks were perfect. That dog would bite on almost anything.
"This is my son's amulet," Damas confirmed, denial slowly cracking. "So you've met him, and he gave it to you."
"He gave it to himself," Jak insisted, unwilling to back down. He set his hands on Damas's arms and focused his stare. "Look. I can't prove that time travel is possible to you, not anymore. The last Rift Ring was destroyed when we sent my younger self back in time. But I wouldn't lie to you about this!"
Jak swallowed and lowered his arms, looking for the right words to say. Something about that gesture struck Damas as familiar…he could almost see a much younger face denying any wrongdoing when the palace walls were mysteriously colored green. But it couldn't be, could it?
"You took me in when no one else would. Spargus accepted me. You gave me chances, you gave me advice. I was really looking forward to becoming a full citizen. I don't want to lose you either!" he insisted, throwing the earlier remembered words back into the king's face.
"I told you that I didn't know my father. When I saw the picture, I thought you were just a family friend, or maybe you knew where my parents were…I didn't think it could be you. But when you said that was Mar, I thought it could be."
Damas sighed. He studied Jak's wide eyes, and he knew that his warrior was being honest. Jak fully believed all that he was saying and he wasn't trying to hurt Damas, not at all. But how could it be true? If Jak had seen his younger self, how could it be Mar? Mar had green hair. Jak's was blond…
…unless it lightened in the sun. When Damas looked closely, he discovered that the roots of Jak's hair were green. From there, he watched Jak's eyes. They were lighter than Damas's own, but he thought he'd seen their shade somewhere before. Jak's facial structure, the way he moved, the sharp defiance that defined him…all of it was fitting far too well into the puzzle. Damas was forced to look away this time, studying their reflections side by side in the mirror.
Who was Jak? Jak was…a lost young man who had been through more than many others his age. Words from the past echoed in Damas's mind, demanding answers.
"You have a reputation for being rash. Didn't your father ever tell you to pick your battles wisely?"
"I didn't know my father."
Or did he? Damas stared down at the photo, at the scruffy little boy who was his lost son. He glanced up at the young man still staring into the water. Damas was now painfully aware that he was already fond of Jak. He'd given Jak his protection, worried for his safety, expressed his pride…as if he'd already begun to accept Jak as a substitute son, Damas realized.
And when Jak met his gaze again, presumably in his haste to get up and leave, he remembered where he'd seen the exact shade of Jak's eyes before. In the photo. Those eyes were Mar's, they matched perfectly.
"Forget it," Jak whispered, rising to his feet. "I'm sorry about your son. Now go ahead and tell me why you brought me here. If you still want to." He turned to stand further away, but he failed to make it even two steps before Damas grabbed his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks.
"Mar." The name wasn't a question. It was a declaration.
"Don't tell me you believe me?" Jak said, spinning around in disbelief. Oh, that feeling was all too familiar for Damas. But the truth demanded acknowledgement.
"Now that the pieces are in place, I see what was in front of me all along," Damas confirmed, gently taking his son's shoulders in his hands. "You are my Mar, and…you have become a fine man in my absence. For that…I cannot ask for your forgiveness."
Forgiveness? Jak waved him off, tentatively thumping his father's arm. "Considering what you've been through, I'd say we're even. Come on, what do you keep telling the Wastelanders about the future?"
"It's still ahead of us, and don't waste it," Damas said to himself, nodding. What a strange afternoon this was already! But he saw opportunity here as well: there was still the reason he'd summoned Jak here in the first place to consider. "And speaking of your future…"
"I originally called you here to commend your victory in the last battle," Damas pressed on, turning from Jak to approach his throne. He picked up two items, bringing them back over. The first was a piece of an amulet.
"For your defense of Spargus, you have earned your third battle amulet. The complete amulet is a beacon. If ever you need help, use it, and we will be there. You are one of us now, though I now know you were a Wastelander all along," Damas said with a rare smile, admiring the completed amulet in Jak's hand. He always knew his son would pass the tests with flying colors someday.
Jak watched as his father lifted something else. It was a chest plate, in the same color as the other scattered pieces of armor Jak wore. Damas approached Jak with the piece in hand, gesturing to Jak's torso. "May I?"
"Yeah," Jak agreed, swinging his arms out of the way. Damas carefully snapped the armor into place, then stepped back to take in the sight of his young warrior. Now that he knew what to look for, it was clear-Jak was his son, through and through.
"This armor was said to have once been worn by the great Mar himself. I was saving it for my own son, but it was my intention to pass it on to you today. I am…relieved to know that my son will be the one to wear it after all," Damas explained, pride shining in his eyes.
Jak placed a hand on the armor in wonder. It was a perfect fit. "Thanks…but I don't have anything for you."
Damas laughed heartily, wrapping an arm around Jak's shoulder. "You've given us hope, Jak, in more ways than one. And a father is certainly allowed to give unconditional gifts to his own son!"
"That's true…I think," Jak agreed, shrugging his shoulders. "Sorry. I've just never had a father before. That I knew of."
"Then it's a fine time to start," Damas decided, guiding Jak to the lift. "We have much to learn about each other."
Jak agreed with a nod, separating from Damas when they reached the lift. "Huh. The lift's gone," he said, glancing down the shaft.
"Someone's coming," Damas noted, taking a few steps back. "Perhaps we'll let them in on our new secret."
Jak smirked. Oh yes, this could be fun. He hurried back to Damas's side, mirroring his father's commanding stance. The two of them stared down the approaching Wastelanders, who greeted them with a SNAP! To their credit, the king and the prince of Spargus remained stony-faced. They were both familiar with a camera by now.
Lexi lowered her camera, greeting them with a tentative smile. "You said I could photograph the throne room today, King Damas? And I thought I'd get my photo back while I was at it," she added, ponytail swinging as she turned her gaze to Jak.
Daxter leapt from her shoulder in the next moment, approaching Jak with an accusing stare. "We used up all the film for my photoshoot! You've been gone a real long time, Jak. We were starting to worry."
Jak's stern expression cracked first. "Geez, Daxter. I don't need you to act like my father. I already have one," he smiled, turning his grin to Damas, who smiled back. "And here's the photo, Lexi. Sorry about that. I had something I needed to do. But do you think you could you make a copy of it?"
"Since you remembered to ask this time," Lexi conceded, carefully taking the photo back.
"Today is a joyous occasion. Lexi, I must ask you to spread some important news. My son has returned to Spargus at last," he said proudly, pulling Jak into his side.
"Whoa, wait a minute. You have a father, Jak? Since when? Wait, old Sandy? HE'S your father? I knew you were close in that picture, but man! That's huge. Details, I need details!"
"You'll get them, Dax. Hold your yakkows."
"Hey, you're the one who told me to stay behind! I am not missing out on this! It's the biggest story of the year! Well. Other than my incredibly daring adventures with you as my sidekick."
"I will need to hear your stories as well, Daxter. I have the impression that they are a vital addition to Jak's story, though your claims sound far-fetched…"
And as the three of them argued playfully, Lexi snapped one more picture to be added to her wall. The prince of Spargus and his best friend pointing fingers at each other and an amused king overseeing it all.
This was just the beginning of a whole new wall in Lexi's gallery, a mishmash of photographs that grew as the royal family slowly got to know each other: a dozen poses of Daxter decorating the top, followed by individual shots of Damas and Jak, and a few new poses of the king and prince. Standing stoically at the elevator, Jak and Daxter poised on an armrest of the throne where Damas sat, the three riding a buggy together, Jak and Damas crossing weapons in a sparring match, and a night shot that had been rather tricky to get-Damas and Jak side by side at the window, arms thrown over each other's shoulders while Daxter curled around their arms.
In the center was the picture that had started it all: the two muddy royals in happier times, smiling at the camera. How fortunate it was that they could now do it again.