the dreams leave
was aware of a pitter-patter comfortably close. He was
warm, relaxed, comfortable. He lay where he was and
listened to the rain water tapping against the bedroom
window. The only other sound he could hear was Keira's
soft breathing. He opened his eyes, finding himself lying
on his back and staring at a vacant spot in the ceiling.
He looked to his left, finding the curtains closed.
Pulling back his blanket, he walked over to the window. He
drew back the curtains and was entranced.
Outside, water covered everything. The trees and grass had
their colours enhanced by the wet sheen, buildings somehow
looked darker; one of the statues in the square of
fountains produced a waterfall out of the rain water. Most
amazingly, the town was silenced. Jak had no trouble
imagining all the people tucked up in bed, or wrapped in
blankets on the sofa, staring at the rainfall. While the
rain outside was in motion, time had no indication. He
found himself surprised when a sleepy Keira called out his
Keira was surprised to wake up alone. She shuffled around
in her bed a little, while struggling to open her eyes;
once she did, she stared at the sight of her unclothed
beloved staring out the window. He seemed entranced.
Annoyance spouted within her briefly, she could not fathom
why he was so entranced by rain, he had
seen it before. But she froze. There was a certain look,
the expression on his face...it was so reminiscent of his
childhood self, who stared at the dancing fireflies in the
forest or at the stars in the night sky or at the sun
rising and setting. She sat up, pushing the blanket away,
calling his name. Her tired mind could not understand why
Jak was expressing such a feeling at that moment.
Blue eyes met her own. A gentle smile graced his features.
"Have a look."
She shuffled out of bed. Unlike her beloved, she was
wearing a nighty, which Jak normally enjoyed staring at.
This time, he expressed no interest. He looked back
through the window.
"Isn't this beautiful?"
Keira could only frown. "In what way? It's darker than it
has been, a lot wetter; will be colder too. I was enjoying
the heat the last few days, this is a real mood-killer."
He turned back to her, surprised. "But our plants need
water. They'll get refreshed, the sun will come again.
Right now, this city's so quiet. All the life and activity
will come back in when the rains stop. It's like the city
gets new life."
The mechanic sighed out of gentle nostalgia. Jak had
always been the more patient, still child; she had been
far too loud and active. Why
I got into machines, I guess. "You had a good
He flashed Keira a wide smile, lopsided as usual. "I slept
great. Don't remember ever thinking this clearly, not for
a while anyway." His features shifted, reflecting the
sadness that overwhelmed him. "I've been a jerk to so many
people. I have to make it up to them, all of them. Samos,
Torn, Ash, you."
"Jak, you weren't thinking straight-"
"Keira, don't do that! I know I wasn't thinking straight,
but I still did it. I still need to show them...I'm sorry,
that I'm really sorry. And...I know...all this, everything
I went through and did, it was hard on you. I did
see that and I didn't want you to get hurt but..." He
sighed. "I'm gonna be so busy the next few days."
Jak found himself in a warm embrace. He embraced her back,
treasuring the feel of her.
Torn was trying to read a book. The book itself was
interesting, but on this evening, like the previous few
evenings, his stray thoughts kept distracting him. When
trying to talk about his feelings towards Jak with
Ashelin, the pair had found the both of them dissolving
into rants and tirades against him. So the couple had
chosen to only discuss business with each other. It meant
that their shared free time was rather stony as of late.
Ashelin was a rather active woman, who always took great
satisfaction in completing tasks, so she was spending the
evening doing a top-to-bottom house clean. Unlike a lot of
citizens in Haven City, they did actually live in a house.
Torn was surprised when he heard the familiar rumble of
his Firebat's engine. At first, he wondered whether he was
hearing things. But Ashelin shouted at him that his
Firebat was approaching their drive, adding her
satisfaction that it had been properly repaired. He put
down the book and strode to the front door, anxious to see
one of his few possessions of pride and joy restored.
He opened said door, finding his restored Firebat in park,
fully restored to its previous condition. He saw Jak
climbing out of the driver's seat. Huh,
only fitting. Torn had an idea of what the blonde
was intending to do, but he had no intention of making it
easy. He folded his arms, watching him sternly instead.
Jak looked up. Torn's stern look was making him nervous.
He could not recall ever feeling so nervous around the
older man. "Hi Torn, I wanted to bring this back to you,
and say I'm sorry."
The veteran soldier's expression did not change. "That's
it? You think you can get Keira to fix the Firebat, so you
can just bring it back, make amends and we go back to
The blonde frowned. "Keira didn't do a thing, I
fixed it. She made sure none of the electronics were
damaged, so I did all the bodywork. The seats, too." He
sighed. "If you can't forgive me, I get it. I just wanted
to say I'm sorry."
It was Torn's turn to sigh. "Why did you wreck my car? If
it was something I said, I thought I was being
"You were, but my mind was...I was messed up. I had
another flashback, I got freaked out, then my anger rose
up. I'd been doing that a lot, trying to conquer my fear
with anger." Jak shrugged. "It didn't work, as you know."
Ashelin emerged from within the house. "If it's back, put
it away! We can't keep this door oh-" At the sight of Jak,
"Hey Ash, I've got something for you too." He turned
around, reaching for the pile in the passenger seat.
Nervously, yet earnestly, he presented a red, velvet coat,
adorned with yellow-golden borders lining the hem, the
sleeves, the belt-line and along the shoulders. The
baroness stared at the new coat, unsure how to react. Jak
approached her slowly, stretching the coat towards her.
She took the coat, inspecting the size and material. One
thing she noticed was that it had been re-sized to better
fit her. She rubbed the familiar material between her
fingers. "This is the old coat. You re-used the bits from
the torn-up coat?"
The blonde shrugged. "One of the tailors gathered up the
pieces. She said it was good material and a shame to waste
it. I paid her for the new coat she made."
Ashelin stared at an empty patch of red, where it would
cover her chest. "The Praxis Arms are missing."
"I didn't know if you'd want the old ones or a new set
that I could present you."
The red-head stared at him evenly, almost as if she were
testing him. "I want the old ones, if that's okay with
you?" Jak nodded. She folded up the coat with a gruff
sigh. "Dammit Jak! Ripping up the coat was a shock,
but...I guess, knowing how you were, I should've known
better and left it behind. Honestly, that wasn't what
hurt. You were just...such an asshole! You embarrassed me
making me afraid for my life!" Torn's glare grew harder,
if that were possible. The blonde kept nodding at her
words, repeating his apology. "Now
you're sorry?" she mocked. "What stopped you from saying
that in our office?"
Jak took a breath. "I always hated it when I had a
flashback and freakout in public. I felt embarrassed,
except, I never noticed my embarrassment, not for very
long anyway. I just had my anger grow instead and I'd lash
out. I never realised I had been hiding what, I, really
felt." The looks of the couple he had hurt were no less
harder. "You probably don't believe me."
"I believe you," Torn cut in.
"Is it fixed?" demanded Ashelin. "Your head clear? No more
nightmares and flashbacks?"
Jak shook his head. "The last few nights, I slept like a
baby." Unwillingly, half his lips curled upward in a
bashful smile. "But uh, I'll still be seeing Yerran once a
week for...months. She said no one's mind heals that
quickly." His half-smile faded. Uncertain, he fidgeted.
"Look, I haven't thought this clearly in a long time.
Torn, I understand what you mean. I only think about my
own life like most people would, but I have to think about
everyone in the city. And I guess the Freedom Guards don't
like me too much... I really need your help but I decided
I don't want to order you two to do anything. We should
all work as a team. So, I'll listen, I really will,
just...tell me what I should do."
Torn considered the younger man's words. He inspected the
young man standing on the ground below him. The Freedom
League Commander was convinced the young monarch was not
ready to rule, but he was certainly ready to listen and
learn. It's a start.
"This time you'll pay attention. You get to my office
tomorrow, 0800. I'll give you the grand tour and you'll
know what they go through to defend our city." The blonde
Ashelin gave her beau a sidelong glare. "Don't you have
something else to say?" she demanded through gritted
teeth. Jak watched in silent confusion as the pair
exchanged a series of angry facial expressions. Torn was
confused at first, followed by Ashelin being adamant, then
he sulked, then she locked her jaw. Some gestures were
exchanged. Jak gradually realised that Ashelin had
originally defended him after he had wrecked the Firebat's
bodywork. Such a revelation stunned him.
Torn sneered. "Alright, I admit it. I really wanted to get
those thoughts off my chest but picked bad timing. We
Jak's initial reaction was of jubilation: it was so
good to know he wasn't the only one at fault! But he
quashed this feeling; he wanted to stick to his newfound
sense of responsibility. Outwardly, his eyes and mouth had
merely widened, before he blinked them closed again. He
shook his head. "It's not about being even. I just wanted
to be honest and...make sure I didn't lose you as
friends." He took out his Jetboard. "See you tomorrow."
Samos was sitting in the corner of the park. There it was
very peaceful, one of the quietest areas in the entirety
of Haven City, in fact. It came as no surprise to anyone
that Samos chose to set up his home in one of the park's
sprawling grounds, in one of the larger trees. At this
moment, the Sage was meditating. He was trying to, at
least. He was able to focus on his plants, make sure all
of them were able to feed from the recent rain. After
that, his thoughts turned to those worrying about his
daughter, as well as the young man he considered a son.
The Eco Sage had to blink. I
must be old, I'm turning deaf too. He had not
heard Jak approaching.
"I wanted to come and say I'm sorry. But I'm not sure just
saying that is enough..."
Samos did not even twitch, he just focussed on Jak's
voice, as well as the energy he felt in the younger man.
The younger man was a lot calmer, in every sense of the
word. He turned to the apologetic blonde, motioning him to
kneel by him. "Saying sorry really is
Adjusting his kneel, Jak searched his mentor's face with a
frown. "It is?"
The Sage laughed bitterly. "I won't lie, what you shouted
at me hurt. But the way you yelled at me, well, that's how
a child yells at his parents. Do you know the reason a
child takes out most of his frustrations on his parents?"
The younger man shook his head. "It's because they feel
safe with them, the child is certain they will never leave
him. And...I'm sorry too, for prying so much, for
over-worrying. I'm even sorry about the mistakes I
made years ago, I could have done much more to find out
your lineage. Instead...other matters distracted me." He
looked at a point in the distance, staring wistfully at
whatever had caught his attention. "You and Keira...you've
always had your own little world. She's just moved away
from me now, so you two have been more distant from me.
I'm honestly feeling a little useless, as if I don't have
a role in your lives anymore."
"That's not true! Why would you say that?"
Samos shrugged. "We didn't exactly talk much when we were
in Kras City."
Guilt rushed through Jak. The events of the time had
distracted him well enough, much like how the younger
Samos had had much on his plate. "You know, with my father
gone, we'll need you to stick around so you can be a
grandfather to our kids."
"HOLY YAKKOW! Kids?!? Already!?!"
The younger man was forced to wave his hands in front of
him in a panic. "No! No no! Keira's not pregnant! I
Samos took deep breaths, pressing his hand against his
chest. "What were you trying to do! Scare
me to death?"
Jak had to laugh. "We've been talking. I mean, being King
means I have to plan, right?"
The Sage stared at him, breathing deeply. He eventually
nodded. "Planning's good. Planning's always good. Just
remember that plans can fall apart. But it's always better
to have a plan."
The two of them spent the next hour chatting, catching up,
reminiscing. Jak was even forced to talk about the
offences he had committed against Torn and Ashelin, as
well as what he had had to do to make it up to them. He
even spoke about the impressions he got when Torn gave him
the promised tour of the Freedom League operations.
Eventually, Samos revealed that he had visited the prison
to retrieve Jak's old scrapbook, which had been brought
with them through the Rift Gate. The book was presented
and handed over. The blonde felt many tears in his eyes as
he flicked through the pages and stared at the collections
of recorded memories.
Keira stared at herself in the mirror. Jak had simply told
her to look her best for their date tonight. She knew he
was waiting in the living room and could only wonder what
he had planned. Her hair was up, her earrings dangled
eagerly, her make-up seemed flawless. She smoothed out her
royal green ball gown and wrapped the black cloak around
her, to protect her against the evening chill. She opened
the bedroom door.
She stared at a very regal young man, who stood proud in
his dark slacks, the matching silver sash and jacket, with
a crisp, blue shirt. He faced her, beaming while he bowed
deeply. "My lovely Keira, you look absolutely divine," he
said in his attempt to mimic various flatterers, as
portrayed on television.
Keira giggled, obliging him with a curtsy. "And you look
amazing in that outfit."
The proud Jak led her outside, to the waiting chauffeured
Cruzer. The couple were driven to one of many smart
buildings in the city, boasting themselves a quality venue
for a night out. The particular place they were visiting
specialised in holding 'dinner and dance' evenings, where
guests were treated to a three-course meal before dancing
to live jazz music. Keira stared around her as soon as
they stepped in. The lights were dimmed, to provide a
romantic atmosphere (she surmised). She noticed the
clientele were somewhat older than they were, with only a
few other people their age inside. The tables were
immaculately set and the glasses were all polished to a
perfect shine. She felt somewhat small and out-of-place,
as this was not usually how she and Jak spent their time
together. At the same time, the mechanic felt very
flattered yet humbled.
At their table, the couple handed over their jacket and
cloak to one waiter, while another poured them a bottle of
wine. Once they were alone, Keira had to ask: "What's the
Jak's response was a soft smile. "I'm treating you, extra
special. This isn't what we normally do, but uh, I really
wanted to do something that made you
feel taken care of. You've done so much for me, been
through a lot the past 2 weeks. I felt bad about putting
you through that so...this is a start to making it up to
you. I hope."
Keira felt no less uncomfortable. Deep inside, she knew
that what she really wanted, for Jak to make up for all
the strain she had been under, was for him to acknowledge
the harm caused by his indiscriminate killing of Krimzon
Guards, and for him to start making amends. On the
outside, she attempted a smile, but it couldn't reach her
eyes. She fully understood the sincerity her beloved had
shown; she also knew that while he tried to act like he
normally did, it was within their flat that his confident
posture would sag and his real, somewhat fragile self
would be exposed. Once or twice, she had tried to bring up
the issue, but he had brushed it off, saying he was tired
and trying to deal with more immediate concerns. At this
moment, seeing her failed smile, Jak asked what was wrong.
She sighed. The last thing she wanted to do was ruin the
night he had planned for them. Keira decided to reveal
part of what made her anxious. "I just feel like I'm out
of my depth. At least...at least about us. I mean, I was
so happy, really happy,
when after not seeing you for 2 years, you just walked
into my workshop. But then I noticed how different you
were. I...I questioned, if my fantasies could come true,
those dumb ones where you'd give me flowers." Her smile
grew wide. "That first time we kissed, you said you loved
me, you looked like the boy I once knew. You weren't angry
all the time after that, and I thought, that was it. You
might talk about your time in the prison but, we were in
love, you could be happy again, that would be it. Except
for all those times you'd have to go off saving the
world!" They shared a chuckle. The mechanic sobered
herself before continuing. "I think, I started thinking
about this a little some months ago. People were afraid of
your outbursts and would complain about them to me.
The last 2 weeks made me really question if love is really
so easy. I love you, but I was so hurt and angered by you
and sometimes scared of you. I'm only 17 you know, maybe
we rushed things a little?"
Jak swallowed a large lump. He seemed less certain than a
few moments ago. Shakily, he lay a hand on Keira's,
massaging it tenderly. "Loving you is
easy. Doing things that make you happy is easy.
Making love to you is easy. The hard parts are...they're
the times the other person makes a huge mistake."
"When you hurt the other person because you assume they'll
just stick around for you," she added.
"And when you hurt the other person because you find out
they don't agree with you."
"When both are not thinking the same way, having different
thoughts and ideas, not acting the way you expected them
He sighed. "I want to work through all that. Move forward
It was Keira's turn to swallow a large lump. She moved her
hand covered by his, so that the pair could clasp their
hands. She nodded. "Me too."
They shared a quiet few minutes, simply holding each
others' hands in solemn solidarity. Once the starters were
served (Jak had pre-chosen all their meals), their
conversations were more light-hearted and casual. After
dessert, they moved with the other guests to the dance
floor to dance to the live jazz music. During the slower
numbers, they held each other close. Keira could not
remember the last time they had held each other like this:
calmly and feeling safe in his arms. Jak was thinking
along similar lines, feeling glad that his arms were
wrapped around Keira in a protective embrace.
When they did leave, hours later and late in the night,
they walked home, strolling easily through the empty
streets. They said little. They felt no need to say more.
They were happy enough to keep a hold of each other while
looking around and above them. Once they arrived home,
they remained quiet after closing their front door shut.
They took off their cloak and jacket and...chose to look
at each other, almost aware that this magical night would
soon be over. There was a lingering feeling they wanted to
keep...he leaned in.
Instinctively, Keira gripped and massaged his shoulders.
His arms wrapped around her waist. She closed her eyes and
sighed as Jak pressed his lips against hers. It was a
long, slow, passionate kiss, similar to their very first.
In such an act of bonding, she thought that perhaps, she
could forgive Jak completely. Slowly, so slowly, he leaned
back. They opened their eyes; blue eyes stared into blue
The handsome blonde laughed. "Um...this is kind of
embarrassing." His bashful look was very reminiscent of
his younger self, complete with the rosy cheeks. "When I
planned all this I figured...I really thought we'd come
home and get into bed, make love to each other." His look
turned quizzical. "I don't actually want to do that, I
just want to talk to you a little more. Is that weird?"
The marine-haired mechanic found this far more flattering
than the idea of ending their evening with a romp in the
bedroom. She grinned, shaking her head. "Not at all."
They chatted easily as they disrobed, changing into more
comfortable nightwear. Before making their way to the
sofa, Keira picked up a relatively large book that Jak had
in his stack. This one looked at various palace designs,
looking at what had been built and why, as well as the
designs that were never built. The pair flicked through
the pages together, learning why the built palaces, used
by Jak's ancestors, were built in the styles they were,
their aims and goals, or how the designs simply reflected
the styles of the era. They started pointing out the
elements they liked, what they would ideally have in their
palace. Jak was surprised to learn how many palaces had
been built from designs submitted in competitions,
deciding that he would also like to hold a competition in
Haven City (especially considering how many citizens
desired to see a new palace, his thought was that they
might as well design it too). Their discussion of their
possible future home continued as they got ready for bed
and climbed in, remaining sat up to study some more of the
book. They read through and admired the designs, pictures
and scenes of everyday life until they could not keep
their eyes open; they switched off the light, the book was
put aside. The young couple fell asleep in each other's
Jak walked in to the abandoned barracks that the nomads
called home. There were quite a few people about but the
mood was calm and subdued. He noticed the various people
looking at him; some in surprise, some non-plussed. As he
walked along, it took him a while to notice that a morose
figure was staring at him. He looked back, trying to work
out why anyone would look at him like that. He then
realised that he recognised the morose figure. The city's
ruler slowed down, unwittingly staring at the morose
figure as he tried to match the familiar face to a scene
from his past.
In alarm, the morose figure hurried away, seemingly
ashamed of something. Jak stared after the man running
down the entrance corridor. He turned back around, still
forcing himself to recall where he had seen that face.
Suddenly: The lead
He whirled around, opening his mouth to call out
something. The man had just turned out of his view. The
younger man stood in his place; he started to wonder what
he would have said, could have said. The realisation fully
hit him that those scientists, who had carried out the
experiments on him, must feel wracked with guilt. He felt
sad for them; he considered the situation and realised, he
honestly did not hate nor blame those scientists for the
actions against him. He now just felt sorry for them; he
had no idea how to ease their pain. With a sigh, he
continued his journey.
The King entered the waiting room, impressed by how
organised the place was. A grand desk was in the middle of
the cube-like room, a play area for younger children stood
in one corner, the large display screens dotted about the
room displayed information about the facilities available,
as well as announcing the next visitor to be seen. There
were clusters of chairs in different parts of the room;
some were occupied by relatives of visitors, others
occupied by first-time visitors waiting to meet their
assigned practitioner. Someone else had come in very
spontaneously, for she appeared to be having a nervous
breakdown. One of the nomads knelt in front of her,
talking to her with soothing words. He held a cup for her,
which he encouraged her to drink out of.
Jak approached the large, central reception desk. He gave
his greetings to one of the occupants and provided his
therapist's name and appointment time.
"Good afternoon, your Majesty," she grinned. "Yerran said
she wanted you to see her in her office." She proceeded to
provide the directions.
The young man thanked her and continued on his way. Behind
the desk, he could either continue forward up the stairs,
turn right or turn left. His instructions included turning
left at this point, but curiosity got the better of him
and he wandered to his right. It seemed there was a large
gathering of people, most of whom were already in a
spacious meeting room. At the moment, they were chatting
and sharing drinks and biscuits, reminding Jak of an
easy-going community gathering. What added to this
impression was the sight of a number of children running
around in the corridor, with adults or their parents
lounging against the corridor wall and warning them to
slow down. He watched the scene with a soft smile. Some of
the children noticed him and...hardened. They regarded him
suspiciously before running back into the meeting room,
other children seemed rather confused by this. Jak then
noticed some of the adults giving him dirty or suspicious
looks. He responded with a blank look, completely unaware
of the reason for such a reaction. Awkwardly, he shrugged
and reversed his direction.
The corridor he wandered down had previously been used as
dorms by more senior officers, hence giving the illusion
of one wall being adorned by a line of closed doors, a
line of windows along the other. They all had a large
number adorning them, somewhat crudely, and a timetable
pinned to the door. When he found the correct door number,
he noticed that the timetable for the week showed the days
and times used by different specialists from the nomadic
group. Yerran was one of three names that adorned the
timetable. He knocked on the door, entering when her loud,
clear voice bade him.
Inside, the furniture had been re-arranged. The complete
removal of a bed and the wardrobes made the room seem more
spacious, with the desk and various shelves of books and
folders taking up one corner and side. The remaining bed
had cushions and blankets adorning it, intended to make
the visitor as comfortable as possible. Yerran sat on one
of two chairs. They exchanged pleasantries and, after
checking the correct conduct, Jak chose to sit on the bed,
shoes off and legs crossed.
Yerran's first question was to ask him what he had been
doing during the week since their previous session.
"Mending fences, mostly." He summarised what he had done
to apologise to the three people he had hurt or offended.
"I've been studying too."
"What have you been studying?"
"Torn kept his word and showed me around the Freedom
League HQ. I already knew the layout, really, but he was
showing me how the guards are organised, what they do,
their goals. Main goals are to protect the city and
serve...me. I still can't get around that, but he kept
repeating it, to make sure I got it. Later I was in the
office I share with Ashelin, at the Council Building. We
were meant to have another fitting but it got cancelled.
Councillor Turza came to see me anyway." Jak gave a rueful
smile. "She wanted to apologise. I didn't get why but she
told me: she expected me to know how I carry out my
duties, how I'm meant to act, or think even. Except, she
later realised I had no clue. Turns out she's a history
teacher at the college. She knows all about the royal
line...my family. She told me that children who grow up in
palaces are trained their entire lives in...protocol,
behaviour, their history and their duties. She gave me
some books." Yerran's eyebrows raised in slight surprise.
"They're really specific. One is about the typical lives
of the royal family during various points in history,
another describes all the ceremonies that have ever taken
place. The third book looks at palaces built and designed.
It's all really interesting." He blushed slightly. "Keira
and I read through the palaces one."
Yerran nodded approvingly. "You have been busy. Was there
ever a moment you found yourself thinking about your time
as a prisoner?"
Jak frowned in thought. "One time...I think it was just
one time. I thought about it a little, felt sad, then
thought about something else. It's...easy now. A little,
overpowering maybe, but I can stop thinking about it when
I want to."
The elder quickly asked her visitor whether he wanted to
read through the notes made the previous week. He
declined, explaining that conquering his dark memories had
made him less paranoid. He elaborated when asked about it.
"It's like, the memories of being trapped trapped me
today. And, being King of Haven City, that made me feel
trapped too. I just, I didn't understand that I could
negotiate a little. I've always followed someone else's
orders, I never made my own decisions too much. So, I'm
now in a position where I'm expected to make lots of
decisions, except a lot of people judge. I still don't
like that. But I focussed too much on my role, what others
think. I didn't think about what I could do, or want to
do...um, what's going on?"
The last question had been the result of voices being
heard outside. Yerran wore only a stony frown, but she
also seemed unsure. "Let me find out. Stay here."
He watched the elderly woman slip out through the door. He
thought he had heard Pern's voice as the door opened and
shut. The voices sounded like they were coming from a
crowd, some words were clearly shouted. He thought he
heard his own name at one point. Yerran then began
addressing them. Curious, Jak crept to the door, trying to
hear as much as possible. Yerran must have been standing
quite close to the door, as he could hear her voice
"Speaking frankly, you have all come here under an
emotional strain. You claim you wish to speak to Jak but
you have no plan. Is there something constructive you wish
to gain from confronting him like this?"
Yerran's harsh lecture had driven the voices to silence.
Jak leaned closer to the door, convinced that chatter was
beginning again but unable to hear anything resolute. He
heard some voices pipe up again. They sounded demanding,
but he could hear few words. He felt desperate to know who
it was outside and what they wanted with him. He quickly
grabbed his shoes.
The door opened and the young King of Haven City stepped
out. Everyone silenced. His roaming blue eyes scanned them
all, landing on a few of them every so often. Jak
recognised the familiar faces; he had seen them gathering
in the communal hall when he had entered the complex.
There was a pair of unidentical twins, one clasping each
side of their mother, staring at him warily. Their mother
seemed grief-stricken. A younger child stared up at him
searchingly. Other adults glared at him accusingly.
"Who are they Pern?" he asked without facing her.
The young girl seemed alarmed, almost as if a secret had
been discovered. One of the male nomads supervising the
group spoke instead. "Your Highness, all of these people
are members of a support group. All of them have known or
been close to a member of the Krimzon Guards, who were
killed during the waning days of Praxis' regime."
Anxiety darted in his stomach. Jak instinctively knew what
came next, but he felt the need to ask anyway. "Who killed
The nomad sighed. "You did."
He froze. His head instantly drained of blood. There's
no way I killed that
many. He forced himself to look through the crowd
again. He assessed how many of them stood in the crowd,
how old they were, trying to figure out the relationship.
The children in attendance were clearly offspring of the
guards killed, a number of the people were surviving
widows, older people were parents, others might have just
been additional relatives and close friends. They stared
anxiously, voices firmly silent. They're
afraid. It seems he had killed so many after all.
They're afraid of me? But
he had been so convinced that no one missed the killed
Krimzon Guard members; no one had ever spoken of grieving
for them. "None of you ever said this before. No one
talked about grieving for a Krimzon Guard."
"It became taboo!" growled an upset man. "The first law
the Council ever passed was to ban any sort of statement
supporting the Krimzon Guards and Praxis' regime, that
included anyone who wanted to grieve for a killed member
and no one could ask for compensation." Jak must have worn
a questioning look, because the angry man then gave a
lop-sided smirk, or huff, and said, "No, it wasn't under
you, it was under Ashelin."
"It didn't help that most of us didn't know the real cause
of their deaths," said a woman quietly. "I was told my
brother had been killed in an attack by the Underground. I
only found out this year it was you. I didn't even know
you were an Underground member, I thought you were just a
hero that came out of nowhere and took the spotlight as a
racer." During his days as a fugitive and a rebel, Baron
Praxis had kept it quiet that a prisoner with Dark Eco
powers had escaped. Jak had only appeared on wanted
posters after he had acted as an Underground member.
Why did it matter if it
was me or another Underground member? thought Jak
bitterly. Looking around, he settled his gaze on a man's
face. There was something familiar about his face. He
noticed the man wore a Freedom League uniform. That
used to be red. The blonde became angry. "I know
you. You were one of my jailors. Why the hell are you
so pissed off? You got to zap me everyday!" That guard had
been unmasked the day he had smashed the monitor in his
"And you think I enjoyed
it?" challenged the Freedom Guard.
Jak gritted his teeth. "Why wouldn't you? You dragged me
everywhere like I was some monster. Sometimes you looked
down on me after I got chained up, or restrained.
After I smashed that screen you just zapped me!"
"So we're not allowed to defend ourselves? You were
half-transformed and you were about to rip me to shreds!
My partner too!" He narrowed his eyes. "Deny it, I dare
In all fairness, the former prisoner couldn't. "And those
"You were classed as a dangerous prisoner. Most of us
didn't believe it when you arrived, you were just a kid,
it was a miracle you lived that long. But then you started
to lose it." The guard stepped forward. "I knew about the
carnage you created before most of these people. I was
there when you escaped, when you slaughtered at least 20
of my friends and co-workers. You weren't transformed much
of the time but you fired that gun like crazy and enjoyed
it! I'll never
forget, how badly I pissed my pants and hid in that hatch,
praying to the Precursors you'd never find me, while
hearing the screams and shouts as you threw them, shot
them, broke their necks!" Jak remembered doing this very
clearly. He also remembered how clearly he had enjoyed
inflicting this carnage. Now he felt sick. "So I think you
can understand, how much of a sick
joke it looked, when you, a mass-murderer, became
saviour of Haven City, hero that saved the world and then,
finally, the long lost prince of the royal line. Almost no
one believed me when I said you'd freak out again. But you
did." The guard showed no satisfaction in his accurate
Outwardly, Jak stared at the Freedom Guard blankly.
Inwardly, he felt weak and queasy. He was unable to
dispute anything the guard had said, he remembered every
action described perfectly. He remembered the thrill in
being able to toss and maim the guards after being
incarcerated for so long! But until this point in time, he
had had a perfect justification for his actions. Now he
felt the opposite. The former prisoner swallowed,
preparing to say...what? What could he say? For some
reason, the guard's look softened, becoming a little
"Did you hate my Dad?" asked a small child's voice
anxiously. Jak looked behind him, finding that the boy of
the pair of twins had emerged from the crowd uncertainly.
The boy pleaded with him with his eyes; he clearly could
not understand the situation he was in. Jak felt for the
boy. He had felt the same sense of loss and confusion when
Damas was killed. The blonde shook his head stiffly. In
one way, he was revealing the truth; he had truly never
hated the boy's father. "So why did you kill him?"
Jak blinked several times. What could he say? He
wore a mask like the rest of them, I couldn't tell them
apart and I didn't care. I killed him to get to Praxis.
He would certainly not say that. "I was...angry, I
let it control me." He wondered how much he should tell
the young boy, but he felt the child deserved at least the
truth...even though he would be too young to understand
it. "I didn't see the Krimzon Guards as people," he
admitted in a thick voice. "I was hurt, I wanted revenge,
and if those guards were protecting something, I killed
them to get to it."
The boy's pleading look did not abate. His mother,
however, broke down in tears. Her weeping was accompanied
by others doing the same action.
"I hope you're proud of yourself!" snapped an angry woman
in a different part of the crowd. She stood with her arms
crossed, glaring at him. "You hurt this many people!
Because of revenge?
Was it worth it?"
Jak shook his head weakly in response to the challenge.
"No. It wasn't. I'm sorry." Those words sounded pathetic
and hollow in his ears. Others must have thought so too,
as they scoffed in disbelief. "I'll...I'll help you
somehow, I'll..." This time, he allowed pure instinct to
overcome him. He submerged his anguish and regret into the
overwhelming presence of his Light Eco self. This form
seemed to frighten half the crowd, who stepped back; the
other half stared in fascination. He focused, summoning
his healing energy. He was unsure how effective this would
be, as he had never managed to spread this ability to
others, but he did not allow this uncertainty to doubt
him. He spread his hands and produced blankets of healing
white light, shining it over every distraught, grieving
and angered face. He seemed to spread just enough healing
energy, as the Light Eco visibly calmed them. Jak reverted
to his usual self. "Just a token." He addressed Yerran,
who seemed emotional herself, but moved, as if she had
witnessed a miracle. "I have to cut it short." In
response, she bowed her head reverently. Pern only just
then noticed her grandmother's unusual behaviour.
The king took her bow as his cue to leave and strode
purposefully along the corridor. His fast-beating heart
only gradually slowed down, as he could hear some people
behind him laughing in relief. (Not in disbelief or
mockery, the laughter was light-hearted and cathartic.) He
marched straight through the reception area and towards
the entrance, ignoring everyone that he passed. He wracked
his brains, thinking of how best to atone for his past
actions, thinking how best to make it up to these people.
Once outside, he stopped moving. He remembered reading
about some of the past monarchs, who had made a public
apology through some sort of ceremony. Resolutely, he
brought up his communicator.
"This is Talia," answered the young woman's voice
"Talia, this is Mar," snapped Jak in his most commanding
voice. "You have any plans you need to keep today?"
"Um...no, Your Highness."
"My office asap! And prepare to organise a funeral!"
by Ruth Hüneke 2013
Naughty Dog and Sony