Keira hummed to herself as she walked along the street. All her tasks for the day had been finished early, allowing her to close the garage and wander through the market. She carried a large bag of fruits, cheeses and vegetables, her mind abuzz with recipe ideas. She was determined not to eat any more meat for a while, Jak loved such ingredients but it could get expensive.
The city economy’d better recover soon. King Mar should be getting more luxuries without treasure-hunting in the desert. Her mind drifted to the thought of treasure-hunting with Jak. He did say he’d take her along one of these days, but she was convinced he preferred doing it with Daxter.
She pushed those thoughts away as she approached the door, happy at the thought of not having soup for the first time in a while. (Jak had been on cooking duty the last few evenings and only chose to cook soup for whatever reason.) She opened the door. There was no obvious sign to tell her whether he was in or not. She closed the door, put down the bag and went to look for him.
"Jak? You home?"
By instinct, Keira walked into the living room. And froze. Jak was there alright. He reminded her of a shell-shocked war survivor, his eyes wide while sitting very still. The mechanic found herself unable to move, for he was watching her, closely, as if assessing whether she was worthy enough to approach him. She found herself clueless, unsure of what to do.
Jak seemed content to let this stand-off last a while. Eventually, he reached for something on the coffee table. "Remember this kid?" he asked in a quiet, dry voice. He held up a photo, in front of him but to the side. Keira stepped closer, stunned to find it was a photo of the younger Jak, looking exactly as she remembered him looking the day they had left Sandover Village. Except, the boy in the photo looked visibly anxious. Seeing this photo next to Jak, as he currently looked, brought back a painful memory: finally seeing both Jak and Daxter after nearly two years of separation, simply standing in her garage; Daxter hadn't changed but Jak, with his narrowed eyes and almost constantly clenched teeth, as well as his suspicious attitude, had changed so much she could barely recognise him. Finding out he had been working for Krew and hearing the stories about his Dark form had led her to keep her distance from him, leading to their first fight.
She marched towards him and took the photo, examining it. It was only on the second look she noticed the top of the prison uniform. "When-where was this taken?"
Jak was still watching her. "At the prison, the first day I got there, during the questioning. I never knew they took a photo of me."
Keira decided the photo was utterly depressing. That was the day that the young, sweet, caring potential hero had been taken and forced into a dreadful situation, changing him so much and hurting him so badly, that he was still trying to heal years later. Suddenly, she hated Praxis too. She used to just ignore his propaganda and policies, focusing on her own need to survive. Now she hated him, for forcing the boy, who had signalled good night to her from his hut across the village, who used to sit with her stargazing and singing songs, who had brought her an ever-growing bouquet of flowers for three of her birthdays, who had gone out of his way to find the tools she needed for her various machines...She hated Baron Praxis for forcing him to become someone else. Someone she had feared for a short time.
She looked down at the table, finally registering an aqua blue and red folder. "You picked up the records?"
"The blue one's my medical records, the red one my records as a test subject," he said in an almost-mumble.
Keira felt the blood rush away from her cheeks. "You read through them? All of them?" He nodded. "Jak..." She dropped the photo and dropped down next to him, wrapping her arms-
He stood up away from her and marched across the living room. Agitated, he turned around and marched back in a brisk pace. "I fell for it!"
She blinked. "What?"
Jak gave her an angry look. "I hated Praxis, I hated Erol, I hated that stupid prison and even this city! But I thought I wanted to. They set me up!"
"OK Jak, you really need to calm down-"
He burst out laughing. "Calm down?" He looked manic as he stalked towards her. "Those...arrogant...assholes wrote about me like I was something to be toyed with, studied, something they could mould, something that they owned." Keira prepared to run. Jak had clenched his teeth, balled up his fists, purple leaked into his blue eyes. "They moulded me alright." Something shimmered in his eyes...they were tears. He was holding back tears.
"What they did to you was horrible - that's an understatement, I know. If you want to cry, just cry."
He narrowed his eyes in merciless anger. "No." He marched away from her.
This time she chased him. "Jak, put all this to one side for now. Think about it again when Yerran gets here-"
now!" She found
herself locked in his furious eyes.
"You don't want to eat something first?"
"No I don't want to eat something first! Just get her here! NOW!"
Keira opened the door as soon as she heard the ringer go off. "Come in, both of you. Sorry for making you come here this early."
Yerran watched the young mechanic carefully. "That's quite alright, it sounded like an emergency. Now how are you?" Pern closed the door behind her, her trepidation obvious.
Keira danced on the spot. "Um, a little shaken, worried, I guess."
"He hasn't hurt you, at all?"
me, I was
Nothing and no
"Why are you out there talking to her? You're here for me!" shouted Jak from the living room.
the two guests
got you those
he stated in
Pern seemed surprised at the sight of them. She quickly picked up the red folder, only glancing at the first page and tipping it on the side to measure its thickness. "What's the blue one?"
"Medical records," he answered stiffly.
"You read through them all?" she exclaimed. He nodded.
"What is the concern here?" asked Yerran, addressing her granddaughter.
"I'll need way longer than an hour to go through these."
we need to
calm you down."
"Do you recall
He blinked in confusion. "Uh, you said your ancestors were studying how it worked?"
Yerran answered in a single nod. "Correct. I also told you I would likely use the technique during one of my visits. Now, tell me any time you have felt relaxed, truly at peace."
time I got my
Take a seat."
herself at her
while Jak took
his. Keira was
Pern was still
but opened the
relax as much
down, making sure
the crook of
his neck was
back of the sofa.
He frowned at
did as she
said, but the
and his fists
He visibly and
audibly took another
Until this moment, Yerran had not been wearing her perpetual slight-smile. It appeared now, and when she spoke her voice sounded calm and flowing. "From this moment on you will only hear my voice. You concentrate on my voice, do not think of anything else. Only consider my voice and what it tells you. Right now, you are in a dark, open space. There is nothing near you, all you see are the stars in the night sky. In that sea of stars there is just one star that catches your eye. Only look at that star and fly towards it. You can feel that you are no longer on the ground, the stars are all surrounding you, rushing by you. You never lose sight of that one star you are flying towards." Keira was amazed. Very subtly, Jak's frown had disappeared and his tight fists uncurled slightly. He almost seemed to be meditating. "There are less stars around you now. You are flying quicker towards your chosen star. There are now no stars around you, there is nothing but darkness and the one, large, bright star in front of you. You are getting closer and the star is bigger. Once you are close enough, that star will take up your whole vision and you will see, that within it is the temple where you were given your Light Eco powers. When you are ready, step into the temple and tell me what you see."
Jak found almost his entire vision taken up by a bright, white flash, in the middle of which was the Monk Temple, exactly as he remembered it. He 'walked' eagerly towards it and in no time at all, was standing opposite the Oracle inside that temple. He felt compelled to speak; his voice sounded quiet to him and had the tone of someone recalling a distant memory in their bedroom. "It's really big, the colour everywhere is blue. It's all made of stone. I can see the Oracle opposite me. It's a large statue, but it can talk and has powers. I can also see the Light Eco vent."
Yerran's smile grew fond. "The Oracle is giving you your Light Eco powers, what is happening to you?"
Jak could see
and feel this
voice took on
tone. "I feel
a burning, inside
but it's quick
and then I'm
look up to the
so bright I
close my eyes,
but I still
see it. The
in me, through
me, I can't
tell if my
Then my body's
I feel new and
awake, I have
energy and I'm
my Dark self
away and I can
"You are now leaving the temple, Jak. You are walking down some stairs. Keep walking, while I count from 3; after 1, you will open your eyes. 3, 2, 1."
On the unspoken zero, Jak opened his eyes. And blinked. And blinked. He found himself staring at a point just above Yerran's head. "Wow." He lifted his head slowly, eyes wide in wonder. He was convinced he had just experienced a miracle.
Keira stared in awe. "How are you feeling, Jak?"
His eyes snapped to hers. "I feel...great." His trademark lopsided smile grew on his face. "I haven't felt this good in months." He looked at Yerran reverently. "That felt so real, I thought I was there."
Yerran's smile did not grow, she merely nodded. "Now that you are calm, perhaps you would like something to eat?"
Jak could only be confused by this remark, but his stomach reminded him that he had had no supper. He looked to Keira sheepishly. "I guess I am a little hungry, after all."
The elderly woman chuckled. "Then fetch yourselves something to eat while Pern and I study these records."
soon as they
were in the
to show their
at coming much
sooner than arranged.
Jak heated up
some soup for
the pair of
up some of the
had bought for
he stirred the
soup, he found
at his good
"Keira?" She responded with a mumble. "I'm sorry."
She looked at him directly. "For the yelling?" He nodded. A kind smile revealed itself on her. "It's okay, you were under stress..."
The mechanic was surprised when he stepped towards her and grabbed her shoulders. He was not rough, but the movement was sudden. He frowned. "Don't forgive me so easily. I could've..." His eyes betrayed his fear. One hand stroked her cheek tenderly.
"But you didn't. You said you'd never hurt me, that you'd never let your Dark powers get the better of you."
Jak sighed. "Until now I never realised how...close that anger's been lately. I was so tempted to unleash it earlier." He dropped his hands to his sides. "Maybe I'm not as in control of my Dark powers as I thought I was." He turned back to the soup.
"So you can train some more? Study? Learn some new techniques?" Keira suggested.
He frowned at her. "How? Where can I go for that?"
"You can ask my father, an Oracle, Onin, the monks in Spargus. And don't those monks have a library? They should have books on Eco usage." She began preparing a dip.
Jak considered her words. "I can definitely ask those monks. I need to go to Spargus soon."
The pair had their soup in comfortable silence, only breaking it to comment on what other snacks they could prepare for their guests. They finished the soup quickly and started bringing the snacks they had prepared to the living room. The guests thanked them kindly and only asked for water for their drink. Yerran continued to read the files, seemingly ignoring the food in front of her, while Pern immediately grabbed some, eating eagerly. Jak smiled slightly. He preferred seeing Pern act her age, rather than expressing all that she knew about the mind and attempting to act like an adult in the process.
When Yerran asked about the feelings he had experienced during those moments, Jak wore a sinister grin. “You have no idea how good it feels. Hurting, and feeling helpless all those months, then finally making someone afraid of you. I felt like the one in control.”
Yerran frowned in thought. “Were you prepared to kill those guards?”
He considered the question. “Yes.”
"What stopped you doing so?"
He shrugged. "They were quicker."
then asked Jak to
guide her through the general process of his mindset
change: he had killed for the first time during
his second escape attempt,
at the time he had been shocked
and began questioning
how much like a villain
he had been becoming, also wondering if these were the effects
of the Dark Eco being pumped into him. However, the longer he
had stayed in the prison, the angrier he had gotten,
the more desperate he had become to escape;
he could not remember when, but
Jak recalled one day
in which he had realised
longer cared. He had realised that in order to escape, even survive
the unknown world outside, he would need to kill and to not
regret it. A dark gleam came to
his eyes when he expressed those
times in his cell,
those times when he fantasised about the different ways he
would kill different
"You had killed a number of guards when you successfully escaped?" clarified Yerran. He nodded. "What were your strongest feelings then? And what are your feelings now?"
Jak frowned in concentration. "I just remember lots of anger and being able to unleash it. I remember Daxter freaking out too."
did Daxter react the way he did?"
"He couldn't believe I was killing the guards. He shut up after a while, telling me where to go in order to get out. Thing is, he found me under the Eco Injector, left there for some reason. I was still...passed out from the injection, that was a really long one. When I heard Daxter's voice I thought I was dreaming, I thought Praxis was playing another trick and I could feel my anger growing. He'd just told Erol that he had to finish me off." Without realising it, he gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. "He called me a thing. I wanted to be happy to hear Daxter's voice but I couldn't believe he was there, standing on me. I don't remember changing, not consciously, but I could break my restraints off. I almost attacked Daxter. That was when I realised I'd changed. He talked a lot, as usual, telling me where to go to get some new clothes. His plan was to get me to climb into a vent and sneak out...or something. I didn't care. I just attacked any guard I saw. I remember changing into my Dark form, but I don't remember exactly when or why. I was just...so mad and I felt so strong." The look on his face was merciless, malicious. "I loved the destruction I caused. I loved throwing guards against the wall so hard, they left dents in the wall and fell to the floor, not moving. I could feel myself tearing open their armour. I snapped some of their necks. I think I got shocked a few times but they didn't bother me; they made me mad. I wanted to destroy more."
Pern and Keira looked visibly pale. If Yerran was similarly affected, she kept that hidden. She observed Jak as he stared away from the people around him, in no particular direction, lost in his memories of primal expression. "How did you feel as soon as you were out of the prison?" she asked curiously.
"I...I felt...it felt unreal. I couldn't believe I was finally outside. But I was staring at the sky, Daxter was on my shoulder. And I had no idea what to do. I knew I had to get away and hide, but after that? No clue. I was still angry too, I didn't know what to do about that. I knew I wanted to kill Praxis asap."
Yerran considered this answer. "How do you feel now? When you think about these memories, how do they make you feel?"
Jak was silent for a long time before he gave an answer. "Makes me a little sad I never killed Praxis in the end. Kor did that, I just beat Erol in 2 races and killed him instead. I'm a little interested too, I mean, when I first got to Haven City, back when I was 15, I wanted to look around and explore. When I broke out, I didn't care. But then, when I got to Spargus later, I did want to explore it. I want to know why that is. I also can't believe how badly I controlled my Dark Eco powers. I really couldn't control them back then. I could've hurt innocents."
"So what do you call the Krimzon Guard members that you killed?" asked Pern in a quiet, shaky voice.
The Eco channeller looked directly at her, with a hardened visage. "They worked for Praxis, they were not innocents. They were in my way." He softened his look towards her. "I know what you're thinking. I should feel regret. But I don't. I just feel nothing."
Yerran checked the time and confirmed the session had lasted long enough. She bid Jak and Keira good night, coaxing Pern into picking up her notes and accompanying her to the front door. The two folders containing the records of Jak's imprisonment were neatly stacked on the corner of the dining table.
The couple were rather subdued when they bid their guests farewell. They quietly began the process of tidying away the food and drink laid out on the coffee table in their living area. They exchanged a few quiet comments between each other, agreeing which foods could go into which container before going into the fridge. As they started the cleaning up of the kitchen, Jak found himself feeling more like his usual self, and checked on Keira. He found her unwilling to look at him. He asked her what was wrong. No answer. He asked her again. This time, she paused, readying herself to say it. She then gave up and continued. Jak continued his part of the cleaning duties, making sure their respective tasks were completed. The little remaining to do was being finished off by Keira, so he tried again. He asked her how she was, pleading that she talk to him.
The mechanic hesitated. She knew what she wanted to say, but she was afraid of how he would react. She turned around, finding him watching her. "Jak...it was bad enough when uh, over 2 years ago I really wanted to see you again. I was so happy when you were just standing in my garage, you and Daxter both, but...you were so different. You weren't the kind, sweet boy from Sandover who dreamed of being a hero. It's only been during the last week I've understood why, I now know what really happened to you. And I like you as you are now, but...there's an ugly side to you, Jak. I saw a little of it when you raced in Kras City but I thought it was some, I dunno, basic survival instinct kicking in? It was a brutal set of races and you had to destroy other cars, killing people even. And I wondered if it was a bigger part of you than I realised, when you started attacking Freedom Guards in your Dark form, when you had those 'day-mares'. Just now, you said that you liked it when you killed the Krimzon Guards. You were angry back then, but now you feel nothing?"
During her rambling explanation, the look on Jak's face gradually changed from kind understanding to hardened annoyance. "I was being honest. You wanted me to lie?"
"No. No, that's not it at all. Jak, I don't know if I can live with you, with that part of you in there."
He sneered, stepping unconsciously towards her. "You're afraid."
"Not for me! I believed you when you promised you'd never hurt me, I still believe you. I'm scared for everybody else."
"So you don't trust me?" He glared down at her angrily. Keira found herself backed against the sink and leaning over it slightly. "I came back from Spargus! I showed you my Light Eco powers, I told you my Dark powers were under control! Did you ever believe me? Even back then? You were the one that pranced around our apartment like we lived in a Fairy Tale! If you were just putting on an act this whole time, why didn't you say anything?!"
"It wasn't an act! I really felt that way a lot of the time! And I thought you liked our home and life together!"
"I did! So what's the problem?"
problem is there's
and stared. ...
Keira deflated, taking a shuddering breath. "I refused to see it, but the signs were there. You're heartless to most people, uncaring. And you're still so traumatised by your time in the prison. I know who to blame but I'm still here, trying to deal with their mess. Now that those roaming people are here, that Yerran's here, I know you'll be fixed."
either side of
Keira. He gritted
his teeth in
described as a
he was, he
the eyes he
loved to stare
back at him in fear. He turned and marched
Keira took a few breaths, stunned by what had happened. It took her a few moments to realise she was hearing the sounds of Jak putting his boots on. She rushed to the little hall. "Where are you going?"
"Out," he answered curtly.
This set off her internal alarm bells. "That's not a good idea-"
With a huff, he stood up. "Keira, I won't start any fights and I'm not getting drunk. I just need to get away from you." With that, he exited their apartment, slamming the door behind him.
Numerous heads turned when Jak walked into the Naughty Ottsel. The ever jubilant bartender was confused by the sudden decrease in volume, but as soon as he saw his best friend engaging his customers in a thunderous staring contest, he became just as wary.
"Jak, as your best bud, I'm tellin' ya this right now. There's no way I'm servin' you a drink, not with you lookin' like that!"
From the front entrance, Jak narrowed his eyes at Daxter. He marched across the bar, ignoring the wary stares of the customers (and the concerned look of Tess). "I'm not here for a drink!" Once he was close enough, he spoke a lot quieter. "I just wanted to know if I could sleep at your place tonight."
Daxter quickly became sly. "Sure, I told you it's always ready for ya. And you know where to go." He smirked. "So why did Keira kick you out?"
The stunned Daxter looked to his side to find Tess bounding towards him. "He ran out on Keira," he explained in disbelief.
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by Ruth Hüneke 2013
© Naughty Dog and Sony