Everyone loves a blondie, right? Run for your frickin' life, Jak!

… yeah, another one. It jumped my throat last night and I ended up marathon writing until two in the morning. Valentine’s day parody for Jak and Daxter, set in the second game. Have to admit that I’m really rpoud of this one, especially since I haven’t had a writing frenzy in ages. Even if Erol is the only one momentarily in character. And maybe Krew. Hard to tell about Praxis. scratches head

Anyway, let the madness commence!

<u>A Hero’s Lament</u>

Nights in Haven City were normally a lot more pleasant than the days. During the days, you ended up seeing all the nasty things that had happened during the night, in broad daylight. Darkness was preferable.

But this night was different. The tension that even normally filled the air had intensified so much that it seemed like the slightest spark would make it explode. No pedestrians were out – the people of Haven had developed survival instincts that would make a psychic turtle proud. Only a few Krimzon Guards wandered the streets, but they too felt the strange air and formed bigger patrols than normal, muttering about unsettling rumors to excuse themselves. But they all knew that there was something else, something they could not quite figure out. But it scared them, even those who had been hardened by the cruelty of their superiors until no emotions seemed to remain in the harsh shells of their hearts.

The tension stood up on its back claws and pawed the night air with a howl of perverse delight as nervous reports began flying between the soldiers, mentions of shadows seen from the corner of their eyes but disappearing before they could investigate. The KGs huddled closer together.

From the balcony on top of his palace, Baron Praxis gazed down upon the city beneath him. Even up there he could sense that something was wrong.

Something was afoot in the slums.

A shadow zoomed through the empty, cracked streets, a steady buzz surrounding its flight a few inches above the ground. Labored breaths hissed through tightly clenched teeth as the figure turned his wild eyes back and forth, zigzagging from one side of the road to another.

On top of a nearby house, a pair of long ears twitched as the buzzing reached them. The lips belonging to the same person who owned the ears, curled upwards in a cold smile. It appeared that the patience had been worth it.

The waiting hunter stood up and hung the barrel of his gun onto his shoulder, squinting one eye shut as he aimed through the telescopic sight, and heavy tails of brown hair swept against each other in the chilly wind.

“Come here, my pretty little pawn…” a hoarse voice whispered.

In the last moment the fleeing silhouette noticed the shape of a man against the foggy moon, and desperately somersaulted forwards through the air. A dart hit the ground instead of his back, and a curse was heard from above.

“Don’t think you can get away from me!”

The escapee did not even look around, only increased the jerky movements of his flight to be harder to hit. But no more darts came, and he drew a careful sigh of relief at the possibility that it took the hunter such a long time to reload that his prey had managed to get out of range.

He rounded a corner… and heard a beep.

Beep?

The next thing he heard was the buzz coming to a sudden halt, as did his momentum. With a half-strangled cry he hit the ground, but managed to curl into a ball and roll to protect his head. Disoriented he sprawled out, gasping for air as he tried to get his bearings straight again. Light footsteps approached and his eyes widened in fear – he knew those steps with every fiber of his being.

A shadow hovered over him, and a manic giggle sounded through the dark air.

“You didn’t think I’d build something without a remote control, now did you, silly?”

Hands rose up against the weak lamplight, fingers bending like claws as the harpy dived at her catch with a triumphant cackle. He blindly flung himself away, scrambling to his feet and lunging forwards. He felt her nails scratch his legs for the briefest moment, but that only sent another shot of adrenaline through his system, throwing him forwards with even greater ferocity.

“Come back here!”

The steps followed him, but he was far quicker and soon rounded another corner. Flinging himself into a dark alley he dashed further out of sight and dove for cover behind a few trashcans. The steps halted for a moment, hesitated and then disappeared into the opposite alley. Silently praising his luck the refugee scrambled backwards as silent and quick as he could. He reached the other side of the alleyway and peered out onto the street suspiciously. There were only a few Krimzon Guards passing by, and they did not even take note of him. From their tense movements it seemed mostly like they wanted to get away from everything and purposely missed important stuff only to get moving quicker. Well, he was not going to complain.

Eyes darting around, he stepped out. One of the KGs muttered something to his companions, but they took one look at the slightly trembling silhouette and concluded that whatever nut that was, he was already half dead and nothing to worry about.

That was, until he jumped with a surprised shout as something hit the ground beside his left foot, ripping up a small puff of sand.

“Surrender!” a commanding voice snarled from the rooftop on the other side of the street, and the KGs found themselves close to throwing down their weapons by pure instinct.

They looked up at the shade against the sky in confusion, unsure what to do.

“Aha!” came a female voice from the small alley.

The trembling figure cursed under his breath and dashed down the street, away from the soldiers. From the rooftop came another string of cussing as the man up there took another dart from his belt and began reloading his hunter rifle. He looked up from his work as he heard the call from below.

“Which way did he go!”

The hunter studied the dainty, huffing lady on the street for a moment, then grimly nodded to himself.

“That way!” he called, pointing in the direction of the fleeing man.

“I’ll try to cut him off!” the woman shouted back and took off.

“Great, I’ll be there in a sec…”

He was about to return to the reloading business, but caught sight of the silent troop of Krimzon Guards.

“What are you looking at?” he snapped.

The soldiers quickly turned away and hurried in the opposite direction, muttering excuses that the hunter could neither hear and nor cared about. As soon as they thought that they were out of sight they hurriedly exchanged glances and nodded. The leader reached for his helmet and pushed the red button on his communicator.

“Report. There seems to be a manhunt going on in sector three, commander.”

Pause.

“Well, uh… ex-commander and traitor Torn seems to be involved, Sir.”

The reply almost sent him crashing into the nearest wall, and even his comrades in arms heard the furious buzz from their superior’s roar. It sounded like a very obvious and very angry question. The leader staggered back into balance, pressing a hand to his head. He gulped.

“Uhm… because he was scary, Sir.”

Another pause, longer this time. The speakers appeared to be rather silent as well.

Finally there was a silky whisper from the leader’s communicator.

“Yessir,” the KG said, “yessir. Nossir. Nossir. Nossir! Yessir. Right away, Sir!”

He pushed the button again and surveyed his nervous comrades.

“Either we find out what’s going on or we’re all volunteers for the raid against the metal head nest,” he announced.

Glances were exchanged. As were swearing.

In the industrial section, there were more curses flying as the pursuing woman furiously turned her head back and forth, searching for the quarry she had lost. Muttering under her breath she hurried along the main street, glaring at all possible turns for the faintest track of the escapee.

But the one she sought for was already far away, diving into even the faintest openings between buildings that he could press himself through as he fled. Finally he stopped for a moment to catch his breath, trying to convince himself that he would be okay – he knew this place like the back of his hand after months of hiding from Krimzon Guards.

Okay, calm and steady…

He pushed away from the wall and took three steps forwards, only to have his feet caught on something which caused him to fall smack on his face. Cursing, he heaved himself up and looked around, brow furrowing dangerously.

He froze as he heard the snicker.

“Thaaat’ll be as far as you go, big guy,” a drawling voice announced from the shadows.

“You!” he snarled, scrambling away from the small shadow emerging from behind a heap of crates, “you can’t do this to me!”

“Why couldn’t I, partner?”

The shadow stepped closer, teeth glistening in the blinking illumination from a broken sign above them. The small figure casually rounded up the rope he had used to trip the refugee. It was him – the only one who knew these streets as good as the hunted, the only one who knew all his tricks.

“Now just sit still and let me tie you up, okee-doee?” the little one said.

“No!”

He scrambled to his feet and stumbled away. He did not get far, however.

The small shadow loudly sighed.

“Ttt,” he tsked, “I expected as much, ya know. Your turn, Big S!”

Big S?

Ka-click.

“Agh!”

The refugee skidded to a halt and staggered up with his back against the nearest wall, stare alternating between the massive barrel a few inches from his chest and the red glow in the darkness above it.

“You heard the rat,” a husky voice smoothly said, smirk apparent in the words, “it’s the end o’ the line, chili pepper!”

“You-”

He gritted his teeth, then suddenly sent his knee upwards. The barrel was knocked out of the way and the owner let out a roar of exasperation as the movement accidentally caused him to pull the trigger. A chaos of ropes exploded from the barrel, but the one it was thought for had already wormed his way through another thin alley when the net hit the ground.

The small shadow stepped up to the heap of thick threads, sniffing the air thoughtfully. The grin returned. Noticing this, the angry giant ceased his cursing and hunched down to have a look at his partner in crime.

“Got a trace there, lil’ buddy?” the big one asked.

“Oh yeah.”

A chuckle.

“Nothing to worry about, my tanned friend, I could find this babe in my sleep!”

And with that, he hopped forwards and easily leapt through the crack between the two buildings, where the game had disappeared.

Meanwhile the center of everyone’s attention stumbled onto the harbor, ducking behind every Krimzon Guard troop coming into sight. He got a few strange looks, but did not have time to bother about it. He quickly passed the turn to the main street up to the palace and continued forwards as fast as he could handle. For a few minutes of jogging, nothing happened. Then…

“Psst!”

The hiss made him jump and he spun around, glaring suspiciously at the blond woman waving at him from a nearby doorway. Her fine figure was lit up by the flashing pink sign hovering above the door.

“Don’t worry, I know what’s going on!” she called as loudly as she dared, “come on, you can hide in here!”

He hesitated, fearing a trick. But his heart was beating its way through his chest and his throat almost bled from all the gasping. Would it not be worth the risk, just to rest for a minute?

After a few moments of swaying, his body decided that hell, at least he could try to get his breath back before he started to run again.

“Okay,” he slowly said and headed closer to the entrance, “but if you try to trick me…”

She vigorously shook her head and hurried inside. He moved slower, taking a very suspicious peek around the nearest area on the other side of the entrance before he actually stepped inside. It seemed like the coast was clear, and he cautiously closed the door behind him.

A throaty laughter nearly made him jump out of his skin, but he had already noted the owner of this voice and could handle it fairly well. A disgusted glare met the amused one as the laughing man hovered down to the still mildly gasping refugee.

“So, the hero is the hunted now, ‘ey?” the, uh, thick voice of the place’s owner gurgled.

He gave a toothy grin and swept up to the middle of the room.

“I’m looking forwards to the, mmm, result!” he chortled, “I’ve put my money on a couple of ah, safe bets. But keep it up, lad, it’ll be an amusing dinner tale!”

The hunted did not even consider giving an answer to that. Instead he chose to completely ignore the owner, and stalked over to the bar to get something to lean on until his whole body had stopped throbbing. He could feel his pulse all the way out to his fingertips.

“You look exhausted,” the blond woman said and gave him a sympathetic look, “here, have a drink.”

A glass with a golden liquid was gently pushed into his hand, and he lifted it to his lips without thinking.

“Thanks-”

In the last moment he caught himself, and a quick glance at the woman revealed the flicker of impatience in her eyes. She smiled at once, trying to cover it up. But it was too late.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” he said and quickly put the glass down.

Her smooth brow furrowed and she grabbed the glass.

“Damn! But if you wanna do it the hard way, pal…”

She ripped up a washing cloth from beneath the counter and emptied the contents of the glass onto it with a swift motion. He was already halfway through the door when she swung herself over the bar and lunged at him. Gasping he propelled forwards and kicked the door shut, hearing a reassuring crash and curse from inside. Without another glance backwards he hopped onto an available zoomer and took off towards the park, going as high up as the vehicle allowed.

Inside the bar, the woman picked herself up from the floor, rubbing her sore nose with the hand not drenched in the knock out drug.

“Sorry, boss,” she groaned, “it was this close!”

“No bonus for you, ‘ey,” he mercilessly scoffed.

She sighed, but perked up as the door opened. In the opening stood a fuzzy little thing with sadly drooping ears and shoulders.

The boss rolled his eyes as his employee squealed in delight and swooped the depressed little creature into her arms.

“I lost ‘im,” the hugged one whined, “that cheater grabbed a friggin’ zoomer!”

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” the blonde said as she marched through the door, “we’ll hunt him down together, right?”

“Don’t come back unless you win, ‘ey!” the floating lard ordered.

“Yeah, yeah…”

The door closed.

“Fatso,” the woman muttered.

She glanced around and spotted another free zoomer, conveniently and strangely enough parked just where the escapee had gotten his half a minute earlier.

“Let’s ride the wind, sweetheart!” she grinned and popped her little darling onto her shoulder.

“Oh yeah, baby!” he cheered, rubbing his hands against each other.

During this, the hunted had reached the park and as he flew past high above the rare grass, the thought hit him that maybe it might have been wiser to just fly out above the harbor and stay out of reach above the water for a while. At least until everyone had returned from being completely nuts. And also, it might have been wiser not to go to another area where there were a lot of stuff for enemies to hide behi-

Bang.

He cursed all existence to hell as his zoomer jerked and a dangerous amount of smoke erupted from its backside. Another shot rung out before he had managed to gain control again, and the steering became even more difficult.

“Third time’s the charm, pretty-boy!” a nasal man’s voice came from the shadows on the ground.

“Not you too!”

With all his weight he geared the protesting vehicle downwards and flung himself off it before the third shot sounded through the night air. The poor zoomer crashed into one of the walls and the explosion destroyed a nasty portion of the precious green life on the ground. For the second time he curled into a ball as he fell, rolling into a pair of feet.

Crap.

He gazed up through the crack between his arms, only to be met with a puff of smoke and the sweet, stinging smell of tobacco. A hand reached down and grabbed his collar.

“I think I win, blondie. It’s a fine payback from the bite you failed to protect me from down in the sewers.”

“You’re all frickin’ crazy!”

With a snarl the refugee grabbed the offending wrist and twisted his whole body around. The criminal screeched in protest as he was flung through the air, but fell silent after a loud “ugh!” and a punch to the stomach.

“Nothing personal…” the prey grimly snarled.

He rubbed his knuckles as he rushed towards the bazaar, gritting his teeth every step of the way.

Only a few Krimzon Guards were around in the silent market as well, and they did not attempt to bother him either.

Actually, he was starting to miss the times when those bastards were his main problem. He could always count on their slowness. Well, no use lamenting that for too long – he had to focus on staying out of sight.

Ducking into an alley he leaned against the wall and tried to catch his breath again. It had failed to prove a good idea so far, but he was about to faint from exhaust.

Unbeknownst to him, only a few hundred yards away a pair of blood red, full lips twisted in a hungry smirk as their owner listened to a report.

“He’s ju-just in at the entrance to the park, in an alley, ma’am,” a shaking, high-pitched voice crackled through the communicator in her hand, “you know where they sell the anti-metal head charms.”

Pause.

“Could you get me one for this favor?” the jittery voice hopefully asked.

“It’s a small repayment, I assure you,” the woman softly said, gazing into the night like a hunting wolf.

“Ni-nice. Good luck, I have to take my pills and- holy hyperventilating!”

The woman jumped slightly, looking down at the screen with a frown disturbing the tattoos on her forehead.

“What? What is it?” she demanded.

“Oh dear, oh dear… there’s someone we haven’t counted on, madame! He’s in danger!”

She calmly took her handgun from her belt and surveyed the dart loaded into it.

“Oh yeah, he’s in danger alright…”

“No! I mean real danger!”

“What?”

In the alley, the refugee’s ears twitched at the new sound. Flapping?

He looked up and glared at the jerking shadow unsteadily hanging in the air just outside of his hiding place.

“Oh no. Hell no. I swear I’m gonna break your feathery neck,” he snarled.

“No, no, no!” the shadow hurriedly said, heavy accent lining his every word, “I’m not in on this, I swear! Really!”

The escapee surveyed the intruder with suspicion for a few moments longer, then pushed away from the wall, slowly. He was not prepared to trust anybody, especially not after what had almost happened in the bar.

“So, then what?” he demanded.

“I was sent to warn you,” the flyer said, “for there is a hunter which not even the hunters themselves expected to see on the chase. You must be very careful, for he-”

Click.

“- is just behind you. Eeek!”

Shrieking, the strange half-bird fled.

The refugee stood very still as the cold, metal circle of a gun was pressed against the side of his neck from behind.

“My… fancy seeing you here,” a low, husky voice whispered into his ear, “what’s a young, blond thing like you doing in a place like this, and at this hour?”

“This is the last thing I need right now,” the hunted hissed, eyes darting back and forth as a gloved finger twirled a lock of his hair.

“Oh, I hope I always am such a thing. Move it.”

The finger left his hair, but the relief was short since the whole hand then grabbed his shoulder and shoved him around, further into the alley. The gun moved, hovering in front of his face as he backed, holding both hands up in defeat. His captor followed his every step.

“My men keep sending me reports about a blond man with a green goatee being hunted through the whole city,” the armed man said, “out of pure curiosity, what’s going on here, Jak?”

“Hell if I know!”

Shining red moved into the corners of his vision and hands clad in gloves made of dark metal grabbed his arms, wringing them up behind his back. He winced, but kept glaring at the man in front of him.

“Erol, look, they’re crazy, you-”

“Who?” the commander asked, raising an eyebrow with vague interest.

Jak shook his head wildly, blond hair splaying across his cheeks.

“Everyone! Even Keira!” he said, near panic.

Slowly Erol’s head tilted to the side.

“Just a second here… what?”

“I don’t know!” Jak groaned, “all of a sudden everyone – everyone! – was fighting over me for some godforsaken reason!”

“And… now they’re hunting for you to see who gets you?” Erol guessed.

His lips were starting to twitch.

“Err, no.”

Jak’s head dropped, but Erol bent forwards and lifted it up by his chin.

“Then, what?” the commander asked, silkily.

“They were, uh, going to play a game of Go Fish to set the winner, but they, ah… have to catch me first.”

There was a pause, before Erol’s left eye twitched with a spasm. A second later the gun fell out of his hand and he crumbled to the ground in hysterics.

“Oh come on!” Jak exclaimed, trying to break free from the perplexed guards, “you think I’m going to just stand there and take that crap?”

Erol had to make several tries before he managed to calm down enough to actually form a coherent sentence.

“I- I thi-think I might kno-ow… what’s wrong…! Gahahaha!”

He stood up, still shaking with laughter and rubbing the back of his hand against his eyes to free them from the tears of mirth. Squinting at the fuming Jak through slit eyelids did not help him gain better control of himself. After a few attempts he at least managed to draw in a deep, if trembling, breath and grinned like a maniac at the blond prisoner.

“It’s Valentine’s day,” Erol said, unsteadily but managing, “don’t you know that weird things start happening around here then? You must have been around before.”

“Guh…”

Jak’s crushed sigh sent the commander toppling over the edge again, and he desperately pressed one hand against his mouth while ramming the other repeatedly into the nearest wall.

“It was never this bad before!” Jak snarled.

“I-I-I’m sure! Bwahahaha!”

“Erol!”

They both looked up as Ashelin’s voice snapped through the air. Erol tried to salute her, but was giggling so much that he was forced to lean against the wall instead. Jak rolled his eyes.

For a brief moment Ashelin was stunned at the sight of the crazed commander, but she caught herself and straightened up.

“That’s enough, commander Erol,” she said, “I’ll take care of the prisoner from here.”

A trembling hand with only the pointing finger stretched out went up and wagged at the air.

“Ah-ah-ah, madam,” Erol said, snorting one final time before getting a hold of himself.

He reached out his other hand and cupped it under Jak’s chin, lifting up the grimacing head further.

“I think I want to play this game, too,” the commander said.

“Uh…” Ashelin started, eyes darting between the two.

“I caught him, didn’t I?” Erol pointed out, “I think I have the right to set the rules.”

That was the last drop. Jak ripped his head out of the hold, feet scraping against the ground as he struggled to break free. The Krimzon Guards had to reinforce their grip of him, and still he fought.

“Oh no, no way in hell!” he howled, “Praxis, Kor! Anybody! Just kill me now!”

His wish was not fulfilled, but something happened.

“Well, that sounds boring, doesn’t it dear sister?” came a terribly grating male voice from above.

The whole assembly looked up in surprise only to see two thin shadows, both with long hair, standing against the moon that earlier had helped Jak spot Torn. The one with more hip leant her fist on it and waved her other hand in a fake kind of coquette acting.

“Truly so,” she said, “he deserves far better, I say.”

Jak’s shoulders dropped.

“Shouldn’t you two be dead, or at least still locked into the dark eco silos… or something?” he asked, almost pleading.

“Oh no,” Maia said with an evil little smile, “that really would be no fun at all.”

And with that she and Gol crossed their hands, sending a force wave of dark eco energy into the alley. Despite shouts of protest every last elf down there was thrown down by the never before heard of attack by the dark siblings.

Blinking like an owl Jak was brought up from the ground by the same kind of power, too dizzy to even struggle against the invisible force carrying him.

Or maybe, just maybe, he was losing the will to fight. That worked too. He just sighed as he felt a dainty, grey hand on his cheek.

“Hello there, hero,” Maia smirked.

Jak opened his mouth to say something, when a bright flash tore through the dark air and barely missed Gol’s left ear. The dark sage and his sister disdainfully glared down at the other side of the building.

“Hands off the goods, freaks!” Daxter shouted, heard just barely above the fizzling of Sig’s Peace Maker being recharged.

Click. Click.

“Treaty?” Ashelin said.

Erol grimly met her gaze and nodded. Seeing the silent promise she quickly pulled out her communicator.

“Vin! Call the others, Jak just got grabbed by some weirdos in the bazaar- aw, crap. Get back here!”

She threw the communicator onto her belt and joined Erol on the climb the wall. From the other side came snarls as Sig, Daxter and Tess followed suit.

They had to hurry, because Gol and Maia were already skipping off far away, cackling and dragging the suspended Jak along.

The poor hero looked up at the sky and sighed.

Only nineteen hours left of Valentine’s day. He might even survive with his sanity intact, if he was lucky.

The End…?