Chapter 9

Forced to whisper so Jade wouldn't hear them - especially over her continuous pounding against the sides of the Grub Truck - the group kept going in their conversation. "So, is he still in this world?" Jak asked.

"You askin' me?" Festus said. "He's lost, buddy. That's the point. Nobody knows-" Here he was interrupted by a sudden titter from Cat.

"Sorry," Cat said. "Another Harry Potter joke, not that any of you would know what that means. I guess I forgot I was among friends, huh?"

Festus rolled his eyes. "If you say so, little girl. Back to your question, Jak: Nobody. Knows. Where. The. Lost. Sage. Is. Got it memorized?"

Jade rattled the metal shutters on the windows. "Friggin' open up already! I just wanna talk to Cat, Festus! Come on!"

"So what's Jade's story?" Jak asked.

Cat glanced nervously at the shutter before answering. "She's actually not from our world, but because she's been here, where there's a huge eco deposit, she's been...erm...mutated."

"Like with Dark Eco?"

"Uh-huh." Cat frowned. "Not that this place is full of Dark Eco, of course. Most of it is Orange, actually."

"And Purple?" Keira asked.

Cat shook her head. "The Purple is very rare. I think it's only found in two places on this planet. One is Yerba, and the other is Seattle, way up to the north."

As Jade continued attacking the shutters, everyone inside noticed they were starting to deform, as if powerful fists were trying to crush them. "Yeah, she's gotta be using her Dark power now," Jak said, clenching his fists as small pinkish-purple sparks sprouted around him. "We gotta get outta here. Okay, one of us should run interference, distract Jade while the others get back to the Retro Room."

"Why the Retro Room?" asked Keira.

"And what is the Retro Room, anyway?" asked Festus.

Cat smiled. "Festus, you need to get outta this smelly Grub Truck sometime. How about today?"

"So, who's gonna cover us?" Daxter asked.

Simultaneously, Jak, Keira, and Cat responded, "I will," then they all looked at each other oddly.

"It can't be you, Cat," Jak said. "You know the way better than the rest of us."

"Neither of you knows how to properly handle Purple Eco, though," said Cat.

Keira tutted. "Excuse me? Who's the young Eco Sage around here?"

Daxter growled loudly for attention, and he received it immediately because nobody expected such a god-awful noise to emerge from a tiny Ottsel's mouth. "We can only have one hero among us, all right? And, based on past experience - for full details, see our five previously published works - I'm voting Jak."

"Well, how's your Light Eco power?" Cat asked, rooting around Festus's fridge until she found a small vial of the stuff.

Jak poured the contents of the vial into his hands and then raised them into the air, briefly slowing down time with the Flash Freeze. After it ended, he said, "Good enough for you, Cat?"

"Definitely," said Cat. "I'm convinced."

Keira nodded solemnly. "I guess they're all right. Good luck, Jak." She reached out to give him a hug good-bye, only to suddenly jab her elbow into his solar plexus. Jak was knocked flat on his ass, sending small tremors through the Grub Truck, while Keira leaped over his curled-up form and raced out the door.

"Should've ducked out while you were doin' the freaky stuff, Jak," Daxter said, most unhelpfully, earning himself a nasty death glare.

"Guess she got out just in time," Cat said, pointing out the door, where a small black car squealed past, chasing Keira down until it bumped into a light pole, knocking its side mirror off.

"Cat!" called out a female voice. Cat looked towards the entrance to the school building and spotted Tori waving at her. "Whatcha doin', Cat? You've been acting funny all-"

Cat shook her head repeatedly. "Tori? Oh, Tori! Um, sorry, no time to talk, gotta run!" She jumped out the door, and Jak and Daxter followed her reluctantly.

In all the commotion, Jak forgot to put Daxter in his backpack, and he was balanced on his shoulder again, so Tori was extremely shocked when Daxter said, "I can't be the only one not making sense of any of this crap!"

"Wait a second," Tori said. "Did that...animal just talk?"

"Ya hear that, Jak?" Daxter crowed. "Finally, someone in this world appreciates me!"

Cat slowed down to a stop. "Um, Tori, you're kinda not supposed to be here right now..."

"Cat, seriously, can you tell us what's going on?" Andre asked as he ran up behind Tori.

"Jade's on a Dark Eco rampage," said Cat, pointing to the black car, which was idling next to the light pole it had just hit, Jade having abandoned it so she could chase Keira down on foot.

"Dark Eco?" Rex asked. "Do we gotta make a sacrifice? I volunteer this guy!" He pointed carelessly backwards at Robbie.

"All right, we get it," Jak said. "You hate yourself, but hey, everyone does at some point. Big friggin' deal. And more to the point, how do you even know what Dark Eco is?"

"It brought Rex to life," Robbie said cryptically.

Tori's mouth dropped open further with each second as her surprise grew. "Dark Eco rampage? What the hell is going on here?"

"Sometimes, babe, I ask that question myself," Daxter said. "And to be honest, I really don't care, as long as I'm there for the ride."

"I, uh, take it that Keira girl isn't really your sister, then?" Andre asked Cat.

"Jesus, you think?" Tori griped.