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Courier 6 and Ratchet and Jak & Daxter

Level 5 - (43/50) EXP (+3), Level 5 - (10/50) (+3), Level 2 - (8/20) (+3)
Location: Land of Adventure - Coral Highlands, Redgraccoon City - Charnal Lane
Word Count:2824

The journey to where these wigglers were hanging around wasn’t too long, especially considering his new stead, and allowed the Courier to survey the land quite a bit. With the map on his pip-boy updating automatically with the landscape around him, it was only a matter of time before he had a much more accurate and impressive lay of the land than that rudimentary, not-to-scale paper drawing they had found in the castle. Maybe he could sell copies of it to the guild or other locals as he continually updated it?

Thoughts of an easy buck aside, he had to marvel at the wondrous landscaping around him. Rolling hills were one thing to a man used to a flat desert, but hills made of coral? No sight had ever compared before, not even the beautiful canyons and trees of Zion Park, where he had met Joshua Graham. Coral, he wasn’t sure what it was at first. Instinct told him it was some manner of alien land, but the more he looked it over the more he recognized it was very much an earthborn phenomena. He had been to the oceans of California, swam in the waters and seen coral, but very little of it remained after the Great War. It took a few minutes to click what it all was around him, but once he understood plenty of options raced through his mind. He would take some samples of the coral to place in his pack, no doubt he’d be able to craft some nice chems with it, as well as grabbing some fungus and moss along the way. Once he got past the lowlands, that was.

His stead seemed a bit hesitant to cross through, wary of something. ”What’s the matter, Drumstick?” he asked, assigning the chocobo a name. It shook its head, feathers a bit ruffled, but continued to march forward at his insistence. He knew to keep a lookout, what with this animal’s instincts recognizing danger. He just didn’t expect that danger to take the form of giant living bullets with guns of their own, merrily taking potshots and just about everything in sight!

The first sign of these bizarre creatures came from the gunshots. Soon as he heard that, the Courier was put on high alert. ”What in the hell?” he mumbled, stopping his chocobo in its tracks. ”I’ve tangled with aliens, mutants, ghouls, magic, ghosts, an’ all manner o’crazy shit, but I never thought I’d see the day a bullet pulled the trigger itself.”

Some of the bullet creatures caught sight of him, and that meant going on the defensive. With their big handguns they fired, but thankfully the distance meant their sidearms couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. The Courier dove off Drumstick and urged it behind a big rock, where it dutifully followed.

Scoping out the situation, he had to make some choices. ”I could probably take a bunch of hits if’n I just charged in, but could get overwhelmed. At this distance my revolver and shotgun won’t hit shit, and that machine gun I got from Gaige chews through ammo so fast I’m already close to bein’ out. Luckily…” 6 pulled out his Ratslayer rifle and the spare box of rifle ammo from that loot box Peach had demonstrated earlier that day, more than enough to take out all the targets pinning him down and still keep going. He brought up his rifle, aimed down the scope, and fired.


The first of the bullet creatures died without any fanfare, and its companions didn’t stop to mourn. It was as though these creatures were utterly obsessed with just blasting away anything and everything they could with those big goofy smiles, like taking lives was a fun pass time. He didn’t much care for that. Blam! Blam! Two more down, the second scoring a critical hit.

With the threat neutralized, at least for now, 6 stood up from his cover position and signalled for Drumstick to follow. He moved slowly and methodically rather than riding his oversized bird, so as to not be a larger target and attract the attention of more bullet creatures. A few dozen meters through the foothills and something new caught his watchful gaze, just before the coral hills. A wild Pokemon! At least that’s what he assumed it to be. It had the same “feel” to it as the other Pokemon he had come across so far. It was surrounded by bullets, pelting it with constant barrage of… Well, little bullets. Gah, these creatures made keeping a straight line of thought impossible!

This absolutely couldn’t stand! Still keeping the element of surprise, 6 deployed his eradishield generator, not for himself, but in order to keep Drumstick safe from any stray gunfire. He had no intentions of staying out of the fray. ”YEE-FUCKING-HAW!” he cried out, charging forward with his shotgun in hand, pokeball in the other.

”Heracross! Throw me up!” he yelled, throwing the ball a little ways ahead of himself. Heracross, having had time to rest and recover from its earlier fight, popped out raring and ready to go! The Courier jumped up on the back of the giant bug’s shell, who launched him high into the air with its horn! BANG! BANG! Two shots went off from the shotgun taking out two bullets.

”Let’s go, Bastion!” he cried, still in freefall. The robot striker manifested around the Courier, allowing him to ride atop its shoulder. It landed on the ground with a heavy, shaking THUD, gun in hand. Bastion recognized the threat against a beautiful creature of nature and unloaded its firepower into the bullets, spraying around in an arc. Many fell, but others were nimbled and dodged around, taking their own potshots.

Most of the bullets failed to do any real damage to Bastion, while a couple hit the Courier. He winced in pain, getting shot was never pleasant, but he was used to it and his sub-dermal armor protected him from most of the injuries. The donphan was clearly surprised at the sudden arrival, but it didn’t attack or lash out at the robot or man now standing directly in front of it, recognizing the Courier as a friend and ally. Instead the donphan narrowed its eyes on the nearest bullet, curled up into a ball, and began spinning like a revving motor. Faster and faster, but not moving anywhere. Then suddenly, as though someone had just taken off the brakes, the donphan rolled out, trampling the bullet into the ground.

The fight was far from over, and many of the bullets remained. Happily, insanely dodging around and shooting, a stray bullet hit the Courier in his neck, where the armor was weakest. ”Gah!” he gasped, clenching the wound. Careless, he had been too careless. That little bastard had done pissed him off and that was the last mistake he’d ever make. Responding to his mental commands, Bastion threw the Courier at the offending bullet. Just before colliding, the Courier swung his Equalizer pickaxe with all the force he could muster, piercing the creature through and planting it firmly in the ground to die.

Another bullet hopped up right in front of the Courier’s face, absurd happy grin that it had, and planted its gun right up against his forehead. In that instant the Courier flashed back to that night Benny had kidnapped him, shot him in the head twice and buried him in a shallow grave. Could he survive a third bullet to the head? As fate would have it, he wouldn’t need to find out. Heracross came from nowhere and swung its arm at the bullet like it was doing some sort of karate move, like it was trying to do some sort of Brick Break. The bullet died in an instant, chopped in half by the large beetle protecting its trainer.

”Good on ya, Heracross!” 6 commented, tilting his hat up. ”I should give ya a name, shouldn’t I? How about Bugfoot?” Bugfoot danced happily, apparently ecstatic at the new name.

Courier 6 took a glance around to measure the state of the battle, only to find there was no more battle. The bullets were all dead, each and every one. The donphan and Bastion were busy cleaning up the rest while he was congratulating Bugfoot. Even Drumstick recognized the danger had passed and come out from the cover of the eradishield. ”Good work, y’all,” he assured. Bastion vanished, becoming a spirit once more.

6 approached the donphan, holding out a stimpack. ”I reckon ya could use some healin’, an’ so could I. We’re not hurt too badly, so this one should be able to cover us both. What do ya say?” The donphan nodded in acceptance, though it seemed to be rather disappointed at having to take his generosity. The creature seemed to be a very proud one, very self-reliant. Still, it was nothing but relieved as its wounds closed up with the use of the stimpack.

With both of them healed up, the Courier pulled out his second, and last, pokeball. ”Yer a pretty tenacious one, ain’t ya? Remind me a bit o’myself. Want to join my posse?” The donphan looked from the pokeball to the heracross and narrowed its eyes on the giant bug. It let out a grumbling roar and lifted its trunk up, as if to challenge Bugfoot. The normally happy and eager heracross recognized the challenge and pounded its fists together, then took what could only be described as some sort of fighting stance. ”Oh, so y’all wanna fight each other, do ya?” Both Pokemon gave what sounded like a positive response. ”Well I wouldn’t mind lettin’ y’all have a brawl together here’n there, so long as we got the time and place, but this ain’t neither right now.”

Both Pokemon looked back to the Courier, then to one another, holding their gaze for another moment until, ultimately, they relaxed themselves. The Courier casually tossed his pokeball at the donphan, who didn’t struggle or fight against it one bit. He officially had his second Pokemon partner. ”I’ll name ya Ivories.”

He then looked all around at the fading spirits of the bullet creatures, placing the pokeball on his belt. ”Awright, time to get crushing these spirits.”

”Don’t worry, I can keep them off your back!” Ratchet called out, determined to prevent any of the zombies from interrupting Nero and the others’ efforts in rescuing the van. With the bombuilder’s limited ammo regeneration he decided it would be better to, for the moment, switch to another weapon. He pulled out the handcannon. ”Ew, this thing is gross,” he commented, feeling the warm fleshy weapon in his hands. He took aim at the nearest undead shambling its way over and pulled the trigger. Less of a machine setting off and more of a biological retching, it fired out a long shard of some sort of bone which pierced through the zombie. ”Bingo bongo, and that’s one out!”

But of course, more were coming. Quickly he stuck another tooth-like shard into the gun and fired. Then again, and again. They pierced with remarkable power, sticking through multiple zombies and upping his death toll. ”We’ll catch up to Jak in no time!” he happily exclaimed. Only, uh oh, he ran out of shards to fire off. Well something like that never took Ratchet out of a fight! He pulled out the small pistol and removed its clip, tossing the handgun back into the hammerspace from whence it came, then loaded the bullets into his handcannon. No doubt this biological gun had far more firepower than that tiny pissant gun anyway.

Blam! Blam! Blam! Bullets fired out, casing and all, striking the zombies as they approached. Just as he expected, they were fired off with more power than the little sidearm they were originally made for. Unfortunately zombies were swarming in on his position in greater numbers than he could take down with this weapon. That was, until Gene insulted them which somehow attracted the attention of most of the swarm. ”Huh. Guess he’s so annoying that even the brainless don’t like him.” Ratchet shrugged and swapped back to the bombuilder. So long as they were all converging on Gene, they’d tear him to shreds the second his invincibility ran out. Two proximity bombs were fired into the amassing group, blasting them to smithereens by the dozens! But that only left enough charge in the bombuilder for 1 more proximity bomb. Not even enough for a remote detonator.

Dark Jak crashed into a tombstone and stopped moving, leaving deep cracks in the rock. A four armed uppercut from the suffering would have, and should have, killed him if it weren’t for Mar’s armor, but that didn’t mean he was feeling great. Hell, if it were his regular form and not Dark Jak that took the blow, the armor wouldn’t have been enough to save his life. Bottom line, he was lucky to have both on his side at the moment of impact, but bones were definitely broken. Dark eco leaked from cuts and open wounds, arcing out his body, utterly destroying the nearby plantlife. Jak was breathing heavily as Daxter sat on his shoulder, watching in silent open-mouthed terror as two skeletons conversed nearby.

Daxter couldn’t hear what the bone heads were talking about, they weren’t close enough for that, but skeletons too? Oh great. Wait, what was going on? One of them was charging in? ”Watch out! There’s a skeleton coming to-”

“Here to help!” Lightning blasted a zombie, then another and another.

”Nevermind!” Daxter shook his head in disbelief. What a day, am I right? ”Alright Jak, we’ve gotta get you back in the fight! Now… How exactly are we gonna do that?” Daxter tapped his chin, looking over his injured best friend. Still in Dark form, Jak wasn’t much for conversation or ideas, but clearly he was too injured to get up and charge back into the fray. ”I got it!”

Daxter crawled behind Jak to where the jet board was holstered on his back and activated it. The advanced machine expanded outward, hovering above the ground, now with Jak sitting atop it. The little ottsel grabbed the base of the board and adjusted it, aiming just right until it was facing the horde of zombies and, more importantly, the suffering. Then Daxter slammed his palm on the “turbo” button, sending the jet board flying across the graveyard like a racecar!

”Have a nice trip, Jak!” he called out, waving. Whew, that was a lot of work. But now nobody could say he didn’t help out, right? And he got to stay out of trouble too! Beaming with self-assuredness, Daxter almost missed the saliva dripping onto his shoulder from behind. ”What, now it’s raining? Who said it could rain toda-YAAAAAH! Wait for me, Jak!” Daxter barely dodged out of the grasp of a zombie, running away with both arms above his head.

Meanwhile, the jet board did its job of zooming Jak straight into the fray. Injured and unable to run around, Jak could still move his arms without a problem. He steered the jet board up into the crowd, bouncing off a zombie’s back, then threw himself off it in middair right above the suffering he had tangoed with a moment ago! ”I SAID DIE!” Dark Jak landed atop the beast, which reacted to his presence with a roar and a buck, but Jak wouldn’t be so easily tossed off. Already he sank his dark eco claws into the suffering. With his other hand he tore at the demon’s flesh, ripping out large chunks and tossing them aside, dark eco flooding the wounds with every slash of claw. After only a few seconds Jak pierced into the suffering’s brain and the demon let out its final death throes. It collapsed in a heap as Jak rolled off the side, his body shrinking, his skin returning to normal color.

Jak was left surrounded by enemies utterly exhausted, devoid of his dark eco powerup, his partner scrambling around in fear.

”Uh-oh. Clank!”

“Right away, Ratchet!” Clank manifested with his jet boosters and took off to help out Jak. Small and weak he may be, his metal body would at least keep him safe from the zombies.

Courier 6 and Ratchet and Jak & Daxter

Level 5 - (40/50) EXP (+3), Level 5 - (7/50) (+3), Level 2 - (5/20) (+3)
Location: Land of Adventure - Outside Lumbridge, Redgraccoon City - Charnal Lane
Word Count: 2771

Unusually for the Courier, he was worryingly silent for a pretty long stretch of time. Leaving the guild hall accompanied by Bowser and Linkle, they met up with a strange new man who looked like he came right out of an old Groknak the Barbarian comic book, with fantasy style armor, medieval weaponry, and strange eyes suggesting he wasn’t quite human. He had a gruff, grizzled appearance to him that matched the Courier’s own, and the mailman felt something of a kindred nature to this “witcher,” if not in ability then in theme. He could feel this Geralt (as he introduced himself) felt the same way. Maybe there was some sort of psychic connection between those who died and came back from the brink? An unknown connection? Bah, these weren’t the sort of thoughts he normally cared for.

The koopa king’s wizard rejoined them as well, saying he had visited the Master of Masters, which instantly caused the Courier’s blood to boil. The red in his face would be visible to anybody who even half paid him any attention (ironic for a professional gambler to have such a terrible poker face!). According to Kamek, the MoM had no relationship whatsoever with the local guildmaster, and their similar wardrobe choice had more to do with a primordial force of evil magic in their world than any particular group. Naturally the Courier found this claim to be highly suspicious, but he couldn’t write it off as lies so quickly. After all, the best liars knew when to include the truth to bolster their lies. Damn, if only he knew magic himself, then he might be able to figure out what the MoM was up to, or force him to tell the truth. Maybe he could learn magic. Either by being taught, or through a much faster way… With a spirit.

The Courier’s thoughts were forced back to the present as Din rejoined them alongside another dancer, who claimed to also be a fortune teller. This woman offered to tell all their fortunes, something that Linkle was all too happy to lap up. What the hell? The Courier wasn’t one to deny any free service, and who knows? The Forecaster back home was always right, and he was just a little kid. A psychic little kid that amplified his natural gift with a helmet sure enough, but a little kid all the same. Who knew what sort of results could come from a magical fortune teller who had more years to hone her craft?

The Courier watched the shadows move and listened to their master speak, interpreting the events. First a tall figure with long sleeves running in fear, then enveloped in fire. The fortune teller said that they would soon “understand the task” implying they didn’t fully grasp their current reality, which 6 thought was fair. But which task? Killing Galeem’s cronies to get to the ball of light itself? The quests this guild gave them all? Something they hadn’t even run into yet? The next vision was a bit more explicit, with what appeared to be Linkle and another long-eared individual, coupled with the narration that there would be a betrayal, but one that would be beneficial to them all. Curious. Could his own plotting against the Master be seen as a betrayal to the group? But what role would Linkle and this other individual play into that if true? Kamek reported that, according to the Master of Masters, his group wore animal masks. If that was a kernal of truth, then perhaps… The scene faded as both were attacked by large blades, only to be replaced by a separate scene of Bowser and Kamek, utterly unmistakable, with some statements about discovery and choosing sides (perhaps the betrayal earlier would fracture the group?). A smaller figure appeared to be absorbing a spirit, becoming, as the fortune teller said, “what was meant to be.” Fuck that, nothing is meant to be. Choice was the only thing that mattered. Finally the last image, a man and woman with swords, apparently about to battle? But they did not want to, according to the teller’s interpretation.

Apparently the adventure would be full of incredible revelations as they carried onward. Not unexpected, really. This was a hodgepodge of dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of worlds. There was absolutely no way they could have a full understanding of what was going on so early on in the game. Especially not when much of that exposition was given to them by him. Best to place down their bets and spin the wheel. After that, whatever happens, happens.

After that the fortune teller excused herself, leaving the group to mull over what they had just witnessed. The Courier kept his thoughts to himself, for obvious reasons, and didn’t comment on the others. Instead he focused on the flying alien spaceship passing overhead. Nobody else seemed to pay it any mind, so the Courier figured it must have been a local and didn’t bring it up, even as it disappeared over the horizon.

Since Linkle had agreed to accompany the Courier to go wrangle up some wigglers (which Bowser deemed as potentially dangerous and used in his own army, which meant that they couldn’t possibly be harmful) he decided to stick around with the group as they meandered and wasted some time. First was a trip to a kitchen, where Bowser was given a list of ingredients. Mmm, some down home cookin’, using whatever you found out in the wild. That was his style. His style, but not his quest. He’d leave such a “dignified” quest to the monarch.

Courier 6 was about to leave Lumbridge when Linkle (obviously) got distracted. He was about to reprimand her when, shock of shocks, she was attracted to a strange breed of chickens. He had seen pictures of these animals in books from before the Great War, but never in person. Like most animals in his world, chickens had gone extinct. Fucking nuclear wasteland. Linkle called them her friends. Really now? So she was good with animals too? This was just too precious to ruin with a good tongue thrashing. He approached and held his hand over the fence alongside the hylian girl, where a “cuccoo” landed on his hand and bawked happily. For the first time in a while he broke his silence.

”Heh. I reckon they like me. No surprise there, most animals take a shinin’ to me even more’n the master they’ve loved fer years. Don’t know why.” He turned to face Linkle and, with Din’s own affirmation, nodded in agreement. ”I’ll make a promise to ya, pardner. We’ll get yer little friends back no matter what, an’ I never break a pardner promise. If’n Boone or Arcade or any of the old posse were here right now, I know they’d tell ya what my word is worth.”

With that said, the Courier took off South, heading for the area where he was supposed to be catching up some wigglers. That was the plan he had laid out, after all. Go south, get wigglers, then head east to the fish monster problem. Two nearby quest areas in a quick pinch, yee-haw! Ah, but walking would take a while, wouldn’t it? If only they had a faster way of getting out there… That’s when the Courier spotted some of those giant birds that were roaming around outside the town. They looked mighty strong, and were certainly big enough to be a good mount! Better than his heracross, anyway. He didn’t imagine the giant beetle was a fast runner.

”Howdy birdies!” he hollered out, waving his arms. A small group of three chocobos stopped what they were doing to stare at the Courier, puzzled and curious. He waved them on over, an invite they took. Though they showed no signs of fear to the Courier himself, they did appear to be wary of his companions. ”There there, birdies. It’s alright,” he said with a drawl, patting the nearest chocobo on the beak. It cooed in appreciation, so he hopped on up without a fuss.

”Perfect. Y’all are welcome t’see if’n they’re willin’ ta let you ride them. In any case, I’m off to wrangle me some wigglers. Feel free to saddle up with me, either way I’ll be headin’ off t’the fish monsters right after. YEE-HAW!” And with that his chocobo mount took off South, running far faster than he had anticipated.

The shoulder slap and encouragement from the pretty boy did nothing for Ratchet, mostly because what he assumed to be Ratchet wasn’t actually there. His hand phased right through the Dec0y hologram. The real Ratchet, invisible, was right up in the thick of the action already bashing the tank zombie around the head, standing atop its shoulders. His invisibility phased out as the Dec0y was spotted for what it really was, but he had already gotten several good thwacks in with his omniwrench. Unlike Gene however, he knew when to get the heck out of dodge. That beeping was signal enough, especially for a lombax who used enough heavy firepower weapons himself. With some well timed backflip hops he was safely out of the danger zone. Gene? Not so much.

The tank exploded violently, spreading ludicrous gibs all over the place. Jak landed, his wings dissipating into the air like a thousand little fire embers dying out, his light form doing much the same. ”Not the brightest bulb in the kitchen, are you?” Jak asked a bit more smug than was necessary.

”Yeah, we were all the way up in the sky and we still recognized the sound of a bomb! What a dingus!” Daxter added.

”Hold up guys, I mean, he took that bomb to the face and still walked away from it,” Ratchet reasoned. ”He’s probably weaker than normal, like the rest of us, and just went off of muscle memory. Maybe at his full power that kind of explosion wouldn’t phase him? After all, you broke your car trying to ram him earlier and didn’t leave a scratch on the guy.”

”Hmf. Fair enough. But he needs to watch himself, because I’m not pulling any of my punches.”

”Guys, guys, set that all aside and let’s focus on the important stuff!” Daxter intervened, sounding abnormally like the voice of reason. ”Who had more kills?” He narrowed his eyes on Ratchet with a condescending grin. Well, that voice of reason lasted all of two seconds, a new personal best. ”Because by my count your puny boom boom gun didn’t do JACK while I-” Jak glared at his friend. ”-I mean WE, took out a dozen, no, a hundred, no A THOUSAND slobbering zombies!”

Clank appeared to counter Daxter’s ludicrous claims. “By my observation the ensuing shrapnel of Ratchet’s explosions fell three nearby zombies, while Jak’s vulcan fury pierced through and destroyed thirty-nine. Would you like a visual playback?”

”Clank!” Ratchet shouted. The little robot ever so slightly recoiled back in surprise.

“... Not helping?”

”Not helping,” Ratchet agreed.

“Then pardon my intrusion.” Clank gave a little bow, then vanished again.

At about this time Nero called for everyone to pack up and head out. Jak and Ratchet were about to race each other over to the tank zombie’s spirit, only for it to have already been taken by one of the others. Damn, too much time arguing! Oh well, there would be others.

Nero pointed out some sort of spire that looked like it was made not from any normal construction material, but of flesh and blood. “Eeeewwww, groddy!” was the thought through Daxter’s head, but he didn’t vocalize it (for once in his life) as they were to be moving through quietly. Even he recognized the importance of not drawing attention to yourself when surrounded in enemy territory! So Jak and Daxter hopped back into the van while Ratchet got back into his kart, and they all took off.

The van came to a halt in less than ideal circumstances, the Blue Falcon kart right behind it. A huge crater blocked their path, necessitating a detour. Situations like these always seemed to be ripe with ambushes, so every hero was alert: Ratchet, Clank, and Jak out of vigilance, and Daxter out of sheer anxiety. The van’s detour took it through a graveyard, first busting down the gates and then bouncing around the stairs. ”WOAH WOAH WOAH HEY! WATCH THE ROAD YOU CRAZY DAME!”

”Oof! I don’t think the kart was made for terrain like this!” Ratchet commented as he followed behind. Something was knocked loose in the engine and parts of the frame cracked. Great that was going to need extra work. The engine began smoking and died, the kart slowing to a total stop near the van.

That’s when all Hell broke loose. A huge demon howled, bursting onto the scene and showing off its ability to turn corpses into yet another variety of zombie. ”Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Jak jumped out of the van, Daxter atop his shoulder. Ratchet sighed and hopped out of the now-dead kart, mourning its loss. Then another of these demons burst from the wall, knocking the van aside and into the void! Gasps came from all three heroes.

”We almost just died!” cried Daxter. Jak didn’t have the time to chastise his friend’s sense of priority, and Ratchet was already springing into action. Nero was displaying absolutelyinhuman strength by planting his feet and single handedly keeping the van from falling to its total doom, but this was taking everything the young demonslayer had, while enemies were quickly advancing on his position. Ratchet decided that he’d be up for some crowd control with his bombuilder, flipping right in front of Nero’s position.

”Locked and loaded!” he said, firing off a proximity bomb into the swarm to thin the numbers early and quickly. It landed directly on the corpse one of the suffering was in the middle of reviving, blasting the thing to smithereens and taking out a good chunk of the surrounding zombies with it… But the suffering only looked to be pissed off.

”Get’im, Jak!” Jak needed no encouragement. He lived for this kind of grim fight. His morph gun switched to blaster form and he unloaded shot after shot of high powered yellow eco into the swarm, each ball of energy burning a chuck out of the zombie it hit. He charged forward as he shot until he came face to face with the suffering that was about to charge.

”Prepare to die!” In a sudden surge of dark eco, Jak gained tremendous muscle mass, pitch black eyes, grayed skin, and long claws. Rippling with the power of dark eco, Dark Jak was ready to tussle with the suffering head on!

“ROOOOOAR!” The suffering slammed him aside almost effortlessly with two massive arms. Dark Jak tumbled along the ground, bouncing like a rubber ball.

”Jak? JAK?! What happened, buddy?!” Daxter shouted into his friend’s face, his own nature protecting him from the dark eco radiating off Jak’s body. Suddenly and without warning Jak’s eyes opened and he let out his own roar. Nearly throwing Daxter off, Jak jumped up and grabbed the nearest object to him, Ratchet’s broken down Blue Falcon.

”Hey! I was gonna fix that!” Ratchet’s protests went unheard and ignored. The metal and plastic began to warp, twist, and burn away. The dark eco arcing through Jak’s body destroyed parts, and altered others so the kart was unrecognizable from its original state. He charged forward, bashing zombies out of his way with the huge club until he came to the suffering again.

”RAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” Dark Jak smashed the kart, rippling with dark eco, right into the suffering with both arms, screaming with rage and adrenaline all the way.
Cassim and Iago

As Iago flew selfishly away, Cassim was left to defend himself and the others with naught but wit and blade. It two short slices two of the shadow creatures fell, dissipated by his swordsmanship. He silently thanked Allah they were so weak, much of a surprise that was, due to the sheer number of them that threatened to become an overwhelming tide. In a shorter skirmish the King of Thieves knew he had nothing to worry about, but this wasn't looking to be a short fight and he was no spring chicken. Cassim knew he might need to trust the rest of these intrepid adventurers more than he was used to trusting.

Unfortunately one of those intrepid adventurers happened to be the boorish hunter from inside the tavern, more concerned with something in the distance than the immediate threat that surrounded them all. He ignored the man as his blade dispatched another shadow on the back swing, leading to Cassim kicking off the alley wall of the tavern and into the open streets where he plunged the blade into another monster, vaporizing it immediately.

The creature Gaston was concerned with made its presence known, attacking the creatures with incredible strength, but this was no beast as the hunter claimed. A stout man with a hunched back, his face disfigured but Cassim saw in this one a powerful heart. Esmerelda and her soldier man recognized this disfigured boy which gave Cassim all the evidence he needed to leave the hunchback alone. He spun his scimitar above his head, slicing the hand off a shadow attempting to get the drop on him, then turned to illuminate the monster with his lantern. With a pained cry, it too departed this world.

Cassim took a deep breath and reoriented himself amidst the chaos. In such a short time more had joined the fray, including a man with skin as tanned as his own but remarkably goofy and uncoordinated, as well as a powerful stead without a master. In addition, the Pumpkin King made known why he held such title, somehow having become wreathed in flame and with a jack-o-lantern upon his bony head. Cassim grinned with excitement, for such legends to be witnessed by his own eye were truly fantastic!

The skinny tanned man was getting overwhelmed, so Cassim reacted with the speed of a whip. He directed his lantern toward the group, and tilted the broad end of his scimitar to focus and reflect the light into a sharp point which cut through a number of the shadows and giving Kuzco an opening with which to escape. "Hurry boy!" he called out. "Group with a partner, don't let yourself get surround-Guk!"

Had he headed his own advice, perhaps Cassim would not have found himself with black wisps encircling his throat, crushing his trachea. That one of these creatures could sneak up on the King of Thieves, well it was unthinkable. And that is exactly why it happened.

"I AM NOT A CHICKEN!" Iago flew overhead, dropping a large brick from his talons. The building block plummeted on a crash course for the shadow constricting Cassim, slamming through its vaporous body, dissipating it and saving his friend. However Iago did not descend to join the rest of them in the battle. "I just don't have a death wish like the rest of these bozos, you talking salamander!"
Courier 6 and Ratchet and Jak and Daxter

Level 5 - (37/50) EXP (+3), Level 5 - (4/50) (+3), Level 1 - (2/20) (+3)
Location: Land of Adventure, Redgraccoon City
Word Count: 1354

Jak&Daxter Level up: Light Jak - Just as the dark eco torture left Jak mutated and able toi transform into a dark beast, so too has his Light Within, along with a little blessing from the Precursor’s themselves, allowed him to transform. Light Jak is luminous, radiating holy light. This form allows him access to a number of powers blessed upon him by the Precursor’s but offers no physical benefit.
  • Flight: Light Jak sprouts pair of ethereal wings that resemble eldritch tendrils, held together with thin membranes not unlike those of a bat. With these wings Jak can fly to reach new heights and maneuver around, though it is somewhat slow and clunky. This ability takes so little light eco to power it may as well be nothing.

Ratchet was taken aback by the apparent durability of these demons. By all accounts, they seemed to be the small fry of their kind, but the pack had taken an explosion from his bombbuilder head on and still gotten up. It seemed like he would have to take Nero’s words more seriously and not let his rivalry with Jak rile him up too much… But damn, it was so unfair! Jak already had most of his weapons, and had superpowers too! Ratchet was able to compete against Jak the last two times they met thanks to his enormous arsenal, why did he have to get pulled into this world without any of his guns?!

The lombax couldn’t waste another bombbuilder shot on the large swarms of zombies, or the demons. It took some time to regenerate its shots after all, and the city was not only swarming, but also would no doubt have much more dangerous enemies to deal with. Since the only weapon he pulled from those spirits was a tiny handgun, clearly a desperation sidearm, he had to conserve the big gun for when it mattered.

Meanwhile Jak was plowing through zombies with his Vulcan Fury. It’s piercing capabilities really took them down, as a single shot of blue eco could splatter a handful of the suckers and send them all flying. Add to that how rapid fire the gun was and entire swaths of the monsters were nothing but bloody chunks in only a couple seconds! After about five seconds of shooting Jak took his finger off the trigger to shoot Ratchet a smug grin, which Ratchet returned in a mocking way. Nearby Nero obliterated the empusa demons through expert swordsmanship and high-tech weapons that came with his prosthetic arm. Jak smiled, clearly impressed, while Daxter had a giant toothy grin.

”Why don’t we get a sword like that, Jak? Part zoomer-cycle, part sword, ALL danger! V-v-vroom!”

”Maybe we will, if we crush the right spirit.” Jak replied, switching the morph gun to its much more compact and easy to carry scattergun mode. He turned back to Ratchet. ”I’d say that’s about forty for me. Maybe you got one or two in that bomb blast?” he teased.

Ratchet would’ve turned red with the indignity if his fur would’ve showed it. With an expert flick of the wrist he threw his omniwrench toward the defeated empusas, collecting one of their spirits as the wrench returned to him. ”It wouldn’t be any fun if I left you in the dust the whole contest. Letting you get ahead, then overtaking you late game? That’s where the real excitement is.” He crushed the spirit, then stored whatever gear it created for him away in his extradimensional storage space.

”Yeah, sure, whatever you gotta tell yourself to sleep at night, buddy,” Daxter taunted. Ratchet opened his mouth to argue, but it was time to go. Nero and his associate in the van weren’t waiting any longer, not to mention the rest of his crew were ready to get going as well. They had to catch up with the four young men. Resolving to finish the argument later, Ratchet followed.

The van, and other associated vehicles, crested a nearby hill to come across a heated battle already in progress. One hulking behemoth of a zombie was engaged with the four they were looking for, and though they had clearly dealt their fair share of blows it showed no signs of slowing down. The four used some form of magic to stay alive, but clearly it was a struggle just to keep up. Good thing help arrived, signalled by Nero shooting the monster to get its attention.

”Wait, we’ve gotta fight that thing?! Daxter exclaimed, his voice cracking in obvious fear. Jak and Ratchet both turned their heads to stare him down, causing the little ottsel to backpedal. ”Heh, I mean, no problem! That’ll be too easy! We’ve taken on bigger and meaner bruisers back home no problem, right Jak? Why don’t you go all mean and nasty on him?”

”I’ve got something different in mind,” Jak replied, switching the morph gun to Blaster mode. ”When we first got here, the dark eco felt a lot closer, and I couldn’t use my light powers. But the darkness feels… Far away again.”

Ratchet perked up. If Jak was going to do what he thought, and he had Clank with him, this bad boy was absolutely toast! ”You’re gonna freeze time? You know Clank and I have got your back!”

Jak’s entire body suddenly enveloped in a bright luminescence, bright light shining down as if from the Heavens above. It all coalesced around his form, turning Jak into a being of the light. two wings made of pure light sprouted from his back to complete the change. ”I haven’t absorbed enough Light Eco for that yet,” answered Jak. Still, the change was impressive and with some powerful flaps he took to the air, Daxter hanging onto his shoulders. From above Jak began to fire shot after shot of yellow eco from his blaster gun, striking with long range precision damage to the tank’s head and upper torso.

Ratchet shook his head. ”No, it wouldn’t be that easy.” Flipping to the side, Ratchet Ratchet threw his omniwrench at the tank’s knee from behind to force it down, rendering it less mobile and less dangerous while everyone else unloaded into it.

Courier 6 listened closely to the guild woman as she explained how things worked around here, extremely hesitant to give out the ultimate quest to Bowser and the others as a first time mission. Though the Koopa King could intimidate her, the Courier knew and understood where she was coming from. There’s a certain way you build up status within new groups, after all. Everyone starts at the bottom and gradually proves themselves as they work up. That’s how he had to operate within the Brotherhood of Steel, within the NCR, and so many other groups. 6 was about to intervene himself when…


That asshole?!

The guildmaster came sauntering over, and though he bore an uncanny resemblance to the Master of Masters (insofar as a dark cloaked and hooded figure that never shows their true appearance can resemble another), it was clear immediately from his body language and… Language language that they were, in fact, two separate people. Yet the relationship could not be denied. 6 intended to ask questions, to pull some information from this person to gain a stronger understanding of their organization, and just as he was about to speak… Linkle beat him to the punch and completely ruined any element of secrecy he’d be able to operate from.

Grumbling to himself, the Courier took one of the contracts and signed on it with a simple number 6. As Linkle suggested simply completing all of the quests, the Courier nodded in agreement. ”Couldn’t agree more. Already logged them all right here,” he said, tapping his trusty pip-boy on his arm. ”Automatically keeps tabs on all quests and jobs given. See?” He offered a look to Linkle and any others who wanted to give it a gander, scrolling through a number of quests from his own world still marked “OPEN,” as well as the most recent in the “COMPLETED” section: All the Way Home - Escort Bowser and Kirby safely to Mushroom Kingdom castle.

”I reckon I’ll go tangle with them wigglers first. Should be easier’n a bottle of whiskey if’n they’re like any other animals. From there I’ll head over a bit east to deal with them walking fish monsters. If any of y’all want to join me, I’ll welcome the company.”
Cassim and Iago

”CHICKEN?! Watch it buddy, or I’ll bop you right in the snout!” Iago curled up his right wing like a human fist, threatening Mushu in a fight that probably would not end very well for him despite Mushu being a rather pathetic dragon.

Cassim was about to respond to Milan’s declaration of battle, but kept getting cut off by new arrivals. First a scrawny man in a dress tumbled in scared out of his mind and doing terribly to hide it. He babbled at Mulan, clearly having met before. An opening presented itself and so Cassim opened his mouth to-

Once again get cut off, this time by an extremely drunk young woman with massive red curls. What was she even saying? She got uncomfortably close and appeared to be asking a question? Well clearly she was too intoxicated to pay any attention in this dire circumstance-and she has a bow, excellent! Cassim rolled his eyes and jawline, hoping this drunk wasn’t about to turn them all into a pin cushion.

The King of Thieves drew his own sword to prepare for a fight as strange shadow creatures drew near. If his clothing and skin color didn’t give away that he was a foreigner, the curved scimitar absolutely would. ”If any of you happens to see a tall skeleton accompanied by a ghostly hound, they are allies! The King of Halloween is a friendly figure I have already run into tonight.”

Cassim threw himself into battle with the nearest shadow monster, one of the more humanoid looking ones, swinging his scimitar with great skill. Iago on the other hand took to using his most successful and oldest battle tactic: ”I’m out of here! Good luck pal, don’t get killed!”
Courier 6 and Ratchet and Jak and Daxter

Level 5 - (34/50) EXP (+3), Level 5 - (1/50) (+3), Level 1 - (9/10) (+3)
Location: Land of Adventure, Redgraccoon City
Word Count: 2257

Ratchet Level up! New Ability - Clank Zoni Biology: A robot that is also part of the Zoni people, Clank technically exists outside of time. This grants him immunity to time based shenanigans (such as being able to notice/detect changes to the timeline and still being able to act and move if time is frozen). He can confer this benefit to others as long as he maintains physical contact with them.

Courier 6 settled himself back into the Bowsermobile for the rest of the ride toward the Land of Adventure, even taking the liberty of connecting his Pip-Boy’s radio to the car’s speakers again, without asking for any sort of permission. He thought it was peculiar that the only radio station coming in was Radio New Vegas, the same one he was used to back home. Was Mr. House’s AI disc jockey really situated somewhere in this strange new world? If that smooth talking, charismatic as all hell AI was operational and putting on the music, 6 hadn’t heard him coming on air for any news segment since he woke up. Not that he had had the radio on the whole time, it was only in spurts, so maybe he just missed it? Well now would be the time to find out for certain, he guessed.

6 leaned back and settled in for the drive, enjoying his tunes up until they took off. Ah, so the king was driving again. Perfect opportunity to address his continued pay, since the dragon turtle couldn’t get away or change the subject. ”Howdy pardner. We got some business to discuss.” The Courier sat forward to attention with a big ol’ smile. ”As you know, my services, well they tain’t free. That forward payment you gave me was mighty fine an’ all, but the job was to deliver you and Kirby to Peach’s castle an’, well, we’ve since moseyed on from there, ain’t we?”

The Courier paused a moment to let the facts sink in so Bowser could draw his own conclusion. ”If’n I’m gonna be doin’ more job for ya, I’ll be needin’ some compensation. If you ain’t got anything, then some favors should do nicely. First pick on equipment and such, yeah?”

Before the (most likely very angry) koopa king could respond, the music cut away to a familiar voice introducing himself over the airwaves. A smooth, strong man’s voice with the charisma to drop panties and melt hearts. His speech was both professional yet endearingly casual. Recognizing this as exactly what he was waiting for, the Courier shushed Bowser to listen intently.

“That was Kay Kaiser with ‘I Got Spurs (That Jingle Jangle),’ one of our bigger hits here on Radio New Vegas, and now you’re listening to me, Mr. New Vegas. You know, despite all the changes that have been going on lately I’ve got to say that I’m excited to have so many new listeners. But to my old friends out there, don’t worry, you’re not being replaced. I still love you.” The Courier couldn’t help but smile even as he rolled his eyes. He knew Mr. New Vegas was one of Mr. House’s AIs but that didn’t stop him from being damn endearing. “And now the news. Reports are coming in from down South that the Mushroom Kingdom Castle has been liberated from the evil clutches of the tyrannical King Bowser. Now details are a bit sketchy, but it seems a large group of assorted heroes were seen entering the castle where they deposed the Koopa King and restored the rightful ruler to the throne. But that’s not all my beautiful listeners, get this. Some say that one of these heroes was, in fact, Bowser himself! Ho boy, what a time we live in, eh?

“Our second story comes from Redgraccoon City. Eyewitnesses report seeing a giant wearing a black trenchcoat and hat roaming around the area. According to reports from these eyewitnesses, he doesn’t look like the zombies infesting the area, but he will still ruin your day. One individual spoke on the record, ‘X gonna give it to ya.’ Let me tell you my beautiful listeners, I wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley with someone like that.

“Our final story comes from a paid advertiser. ‘The Void Trader has returned. This weekend only, if you've got the money, you can find wonders both dashing and deadly for sale at a Tenno Relay.‘

“Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today. Before I start up the music again let me just take a moment to say that you’re all looking especially wonderful this morning. Yes, even you. Now here’s ‘I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire’ by The Ink Spots.”

Right on cue the disc jockey faded out and in his place a classic song from way way back began to emanate through the speakers. Not one of the Courier’s favorites, he found it too ironic given the world they lived in, but he largely ignored it anyway, too deep in thought. Mr. New Vegas was, in fact, still operational in this new world, and still providing news segments. That meant that he was somehow gathering information. Back in the Mojave he largely got his knowledge from the armies of Mr. House’s robots feeding data through the network they were both connected to. Would that be the same case here? Was that robot army not too far off from the castle connected to House’s (and thus Mr. New Vegas’s) network? If so, did that mean Mr. House was here and alive, the fascist dickhead? There was a lot to ponder. So much so that 6 remained quiet the rest of the drive to the Land of Adventure…

Once the group arrived at the LAnd of Adventure, they gave pause to view the expansive horizon and the Courier could not help but be awestruck. He had never seen so much beautiful green in his entire life! Sure, in his trips to Montana the scenery was far more friendly than his home in the Mojave, but this was something else entirely. So many plants and creatures running around, so lush and full of life. Wow. Life. So different from his world, where mankind caused the death of the planet.

The break did not last long however and soon they were off again, heading down to a town. Good, civilization. That meant quests. Quests meant rewards. Rewards meant happiness. Plus someone here might be able to point them in the direction of Galeem’s next guardian. The Courier hopped out of the Bowsermobile and, tipping his hat to the three young guards watching the door, headed on through. One of the guards suggested they check in with the Guild, which certainly sounded promising to 6. He joined alongside Princess Peach rather than break from the group, as the Hat Kid did.

As they approached, a sheriff and deputy came by to eye the group, something the Courier was familiar with. When human civilization was decimated, small settlements and rebuilding survivors tended to hand the law to a single individual to watch over everything. He was no stranger to a sheriff/deputy dynamic. The lawman’s large dog also eyed everyone as if just waiting for an order to attack. 6 walked in closely and smiled at the great hound, which relaxed instantly in his presence. He gave it a friendly scratch behind the ear and then left the sheriff behind with a simple, ”Howdy.”

Once inside the Guild a large number of adventurous looking types from old comic books and video games joined in the staring contest. By this point the Courier was starting to feel a bit annoyed. ”Ain’t no zoo animal, y’all should mind yer manners.” Well, admittedly most of the people looking him over were pretty damn attractive. Only one seemed to be strange and WHY WAS HE A BLOCK?! Instantly falling to hypocrisy the Courier could not help but stare slack jawed at the cuboid wonder that was Steve. What? How? HUH?! In a mishmash world of mutants, demons, magicians, plumbers, and aliens the one thing that gave the Courier pause… Was a man whose body resembled blocks.

After some brief deliberation it was decided that Ratchet would follow behind Nero and Nico’s van in the Blue Falcon kart, same as he had been driving, while Jak and Daxter would ride in the back of the van. Jak wanted to ride alongside them on his jetboard in turbo mode, but Daxter thought that left them way too exposed and he wasn’t in any mood to get chomped on by some zombie. Thus a ride in the back of the van it was.

Daxter of course made himself no end of nuisance for the owners of the vehicle, commenting on the plethora of trophies and gadgets inside, darting around to touch things he had no business touching, and speaking rudely about Nico’s crazy driving all the way up. Thankfully the much more level-headed Jak kept Daxter from doing anything too dangerous, but even he had to admit that while Nico was a badass driver, she was a rather reckless one. He couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel and show them how a real driver handles a vehicle.

As the sky grew darker, all parties took notice. Ratchet couldn’t help but feel how appropriately named the Dead Zone was, given the ambiance. ”Jeez, who turned down the dimmer on the sun? This place is more sour than Jak’s face whenever he gets pissed off.” Daxter commented, perching himself up on the armrest of Nero’s seat.

The group passed by a large sign indicating the name of the city: Redgraccoon City. Weird name, didn’t seem to mean anything to any of them. Red made sense, but what was a “graccoon?” Well it didn’t matter, because soon enough the zombies Nero promised were in sight. And Nico made an effort to crush as many as she could as they made their way up.

Following a decent distance behind, Ratchet suddenly had an idea. ”Hey Clank?”

“Yes?” answered his little robot buddy, appearing in striker form.

”Ever since we got here, my arsenal has been really lacking. Let’s take advantage of the zombies getting run over to restock!”

“Hohohohoho, most definitely!” Ratchet and Clank immediately got to work, slowing down a bit to give them a better reaction time. Ratchet steered the kart to close in on crushed zombies while Clank extended his arms out, stretching them with his robotic abilities, to snatch up the spirits as they went by. Some were still too dangerous to go after, and some were missed, but the duo worked hard at keeping pace with the van and collecting as many spirits as they could. Then Nero shot a couple of demons out the window, opening up a new opportunity.

”Hold on, Clank!” Ratchet jerked the wheel hard to the side, drifting toward a ramp made of wreckage. The Blue Falcon kart jumped through toward the demon Nero had crushed with a street sign, injured but still alive. Ratchet pulled out his Omniwrench and, with both arms and added momentum from the kart’s jump, crushed its head. As they passed by, Clank stretched out his arms, barely grabbing onto the still-forming spirit orb. ”WOOHOO-aw crud!”

A zombie torso, severed at the waist but still alive, fell from up high and landed right on the hood of the kart! ”Get off! I can’t see!” Ratchet yelped, smacking at the undead abomination with his wrench. It ignored the first few whacks, reaching forward with clammy, bony hands, but another good hit to the temple sent the torso off the side. Ratchet was once again back in control, and now in possession of a few spirits he could turn into equipment!

After a few more twists and turns the van, and thus Ratchet behind, came to a halt at a ruined intersection. Nero came out of the van giving orders and brandishing a greatsword, which was gorgeous but honestly didn’t impress Jak or Daxter too much. Ratchet on the other hand was more willing to play along with Nero’s orders.

”You know what’s going on better than we do. I’ll just have to trust your advice on this on-”

”Listen here snowflake-head! We didn’t come here to help you clean up the trash! Jak and I have taken on every scare thing the world can throw at us, including mutated dark alien gods, for more adventures than I can count!” Jak leapt out from the van, Daxter in tow and morph gun in hand, grim determination on his face.

”You asked us to come kick some ass, so don’t complain when we do it. You in, Ratchet?”

The previously cautious Ratchet threw all hesitation out the window with his rivalry with Jak reignited. He crushed each of the spirits in his hands, one in turn, then fired two explosive proximity charges into the swarm of empusas using his bombbuilder. Jak answered the call to action by switching the morph gun to Vulcan Fury mode and began firing into the crowds of zombies and demons alike with rapid fire high-penetration rounds of blue eco. The kill contest had officially begun!
Courier 6 and Ratchet and Jak and Daxter

Level 5 - (31/50) EXP (+3), Level 4 - (38/40) (+3), Level 1 - (6/10) (+3)
Location: Hammerhead
Word Count: 1765

Ratchet, Jak, and Daxter arrived at the Hammerhead only a little ahead of the others who stayed behind to fix up the monster truck. They hadn’t taken off that much sooner after all, and drove at a fairly leisurely pace so that Ratchet could explain the rest of their situation to the Dark and Light Brigade. He had covered everything they learned so far, from Galeem to the spirits that remained after killing someone, to their various uses. This veered into the rather uncomfortable topic of Clank’s current situation, having been relegated to a striker, a mere shadow of his former self. Upon seeing the situation Daxter gulped, having no desire for the same fate to befall him. Jak was less concerned and reassured his little buddy that no matter what, they always got through thick and thin together. This did little to ease Daxter’s concerns, though.

Once they arrived, Ratchet parked the Blue Falcon kart and hopped out, while Jak dismounted his jet board and reattached it to his back. ”Sheesh! This place looks more run down than a discount brothel in Kras City! I wanna complain to the manager!” Daxter said to nobody in particular, never one to exercise discretion or use an indoor voice.

”Hey, it’s a workshop! Nice! I wonder what kinds of machines and vehicles they work on here?” Ratchet was clearly interested in the Hammerhead, paying little attention to the nearby diner establishment.

”Hey, you said that everybody is under Galeem’s influence, right? All these people have got that red eye thing going on,” Jak said to Ratchet, keeping on track. He eyed everyone around warily, arms crossed.

”Yeah, what about it?” Ratchet retorted, his jaunt toward the garage interrupted to answer his fellow hero.

”So then why isn’t this place a war zone? Seems pretty peaceful.” Peace, that was something Jak wasn’t used to ever since getting flung into the future. Into Haven City. He instinctively distrusted it, especially this kind of peace. It just didn’t sit well with him.

”Like I said, it’s subtle. Unless Galeem or a giant hand comes around to take direct control, people seem to mostly act as usual.” Ratchet shrugged, but Clank manifested to offer more insight.

“Through my own observations and personal experience I have determined that unless acted upon by an outside force, most individuals behave under normal conditions with a 97.8% reliability, give or take a 2% margin of error.” Ratchet thanked Clank, who immediately dissipated back into spirit form until next he would be needed.

”Really…” Jak muttered wistfully.

”Whatcha thinking about Jak? Eh? Old buddy? Hey! Earth to Jak, anybody in there?” Daxter knocked on the side of Jak’s head like a door, rousing his friend from his own thoughts.

”It’s just that if everyone acts like they normally would… Then why would we have joined those bandits? That psycho Needles, and the reaper guy? And why would I have prioritized that alliance over our old friend?” Jak gestured to Ratchet, who had taken to leaning up against his omniwrench.

”Oh yeah, that is a good point…” Daxter mused, tapping his little furry chin.

”Well anything could have happened while you were under, I guess. If you can’t remember then you can’t remember. The important thing is that now your will is free again and you know how to fix it for everyone else.”

”I guess, but I can’t help but think that if Galeem didn’t directly affect my actions, what could those psychos have said or done to convince me to side with them over you? Assuming I was still working in my normal mindset.”

Daxter quickly interjected. ”Sheesh! Way to bring down the mood! Come on Jak, all this heavy introspection ain’t like you! Let’s just get a move on already!”

Clank was next to interject, manifesting for only a brief moment. “If I may, one of the core alterations I have observed seems to be levels of aggression. I have noted that anyone under Galeem’s influence that has engaged in battle seems incapable of surrender or withdraw. As you were already engaged with Gene prior to the arrival of Ratchet and myself, I hypothesize that any feelings of loyalty you had toward us were overridden at the time by the necessity to continue combat at all cost.”

”Or it could just be your anger problems! Haha!” Ratchet gave Jak a quick finger gun gesture, but before Jak or Daxter could rebut, something else caught their attention.

A scuffle seemed to be going on near the garage of the Hammerhead! A number of their allies were embroiled in a battle against some sort of robotic bird. They all rushed in to help, but before they could lift a finger the fight was already over: the eagle was scrapped and Din took the spirit into her body. Jak got to watch a spirit absorption firsthand for the first time. The results left him visibly impressed, though he said nothing. Daxter was, in a rare occurrence, at a complete loss for words, simply gesticulating wildly .

It was around this time that Gene announced to everyone that there was a second possible destination they could all head for, one with deadly demons to battle and something bizarre sounding called the Qliphoth. Jak looked over to Daxter with a wide grin. Daxter shook his head no wildly, but it was no use. When Jak made up his mind, it was already a done deal.

”Count us in! Sounds like a hell of a good time.” Jak eagerly agreed.

”You mean count you in while I’m forced to tag along! Ugh, I just hope none of them have a taste for ottsel…”

”Then that means I’m going too,” Ratchet put forward, showcasing his omniwrench. ”Both times we met up before our contest was interrupted. This time I’ll prove to you who the better hero is!”

”A demon killing contest, eh? I like the sound of that!”

Inside Grillby’s Courier 6 was having a hell of a good time playing poker. He appreciated the flaming cocktail the waiter provided, it gave the drink extra burn as it went down his throat, and the dogs were easy pickings for the well practiced gambler. After all, they barely seemed to have an understanding of the game at all! He hardly needed to be the man banned from every casino in New Vegas to take on these mongrels. Still, for some reason his exceptional luck wasn’t working so he had to rely entirely on skill and guile. That just made it more fun, honestly.

The dogs were extra trusting of his calls too, which made it far easier to bluff them. It seemed his natural animal magnetism affected these humanoid puppers to some extent since they trusted him so easily. He started the first round testing the waters with a small bet: 10 caps in the pot. That the bottle caps did not match the dog treats the rest were betting with didn’t seem to be an issue. The round took some time as the dog wearing a black mask didn’t understand what cards he had. He just barked anytime someone else moved and treated his own hand like it was invisible. Eventually he laid down his cards, a pair of sixes. The Courier had nothing, a total pig hand, and so lost his ten caps. Winner that round was the large buff dog with a small head.

That got their confidence up. Good, he could strike while the iron was hot. The next hand was dealt and the Courier had a pair of queens, but nothing else. He made another small bet of ten caps, then waited for the exchanges. Some of the dogs exchanged cards, some didn’t. The Courier chose nothing. New round of betting. ”All in,” he said, emptying his entire savings of caps onto the table. The masked dog immediately went crazy, barking left and right. The long necked dog looked at his pair of queens and, failing to understand it wasn’t as strong as the bet, folded. One by one the dogs all folded, implicitly trusting that there was no way the Courier would make such an extravagant bet if his hand didn’t match. He took the round based on his bluff alone.

The next round was a little trickier and would require more skill than a blatant bluff, as some of the smarter dogs caught on. Now that he had some dog treats, the Courier could bet with those instead of his bottle caps. 2 treats to start, and his hand was strong: three 9s. Then came the exchanges. The Courier tossed two cards, but neither of them helped his hand in any way. Three 9s was all he would have. ”I raise 5 treats,” he bet, keeping his face stone cold. Most of them matched his bet, but the amalgamate opted to fold. Then came the reveal: the Courier won the round with his three of a kind. Ironically, the only one that could have beaten him was the amalgamate, who chose to fold while it had a full house: two kings and three 4s.

So the rounds continued like this, with the Courier losing a couple here and there but winning the majority, all the way up until he had, as declared when he sat down, taken the whole pot. The dogs looked disappointed, whimpering even, as he shoveled the dog treats into his travel bag. ”Pleasure playin’ with ya, hombres. Here’s a little somethin’ fer yer troubles.” He tossed a single treat in the middle of the table for them all to share, or fight over, however they chose to solve the dispute wasn’t really his business.

No sooner had he finished the game than it was time to head out. The Land of Adventure awaited them all and, actually thinking back on it he wasn’t getting paid for this work, was he? No, he only charged Bowser to escort him and Kirby to the castle. Everything since then had been pro bono! Oh, well in all the excitement of everything it seemed he forgot to make a new deal. That would have to be rectified soon…
Cassim and Iago

Cassim briefly looked to Mulan as she addressed him, but he was quick to reattach his sight to the true prize he was after: Mushu. Though he was not a thief without proper manners, he still spoke back to the Chinese warrior. "Perhaps you can help, but not with a hiding place. I am more than capable of holding my own, or finding somewhere to hide if the chips are down. No, I'm rather enamored with your dragon." Cassim pointed to Mushu rather dramatically, closing the distance on the red scaled monster, getting all up in his face. "Tell me, are you the treasure hording kind, or the weather controlling kind? Or perchance you're the wish granting variety of dragon? Hm, doubtful your powers would be on par with a genie, but an amazing ability still. Speak your wisdom, mighty beast of flame!"

"YEOUCH!" bellowed a familiar cry of pain from up above. Iago had just been nailed in the tailfeathers and was now in freefall straight down. Cassim rolled his eyes and, with a bit of flair, whipped out his cloak in such a way that it caught Iago safely and softly.

"You should be more careful, friend. And remember that you have wings." Cassim clasped his cloak back into place as Iago perched on his shoulder once more. Still trying to hold onto the illusion that he was a normal bird, Iago said nothing yet his displeasure at such a taunt could plainly be seen to anybody who paid even the slightest bit of attention.

Not that Cassim could enjoy teasing his companion any longer, for the boorish hunter was still trying to pick a fight. Of course he was not the most important figure in the conflict anymore. Not once the owner of the establishment made her displeasure exceedingly clear. Cassim put up his hands in a show of good faith. "As you wish, madame. Far be it from me to disrespect the wishes of such a fine lady." As ordered, Cassim strode toward the door, pausing only to drape Gaston's belt over the man's shoulder in a bit of a taunt... And for another purpose.

Once outside, Cassim darted quickly around the corner. Immediately both began to laugh in absolute joy. For several seconds they shared a guffaw, before Iago unfurled his wings to reveal in his right talon he clutched a sizable handful of gold and silver coins. "The idiots were so busy throwing coins around, and they never think to look up! Hahahaha! What's your take?" Cassim held up a brown change bag, pilfered from Gaston in all the confusion.

"Why don't we find out together?" he asked, drawing open the string.
That’s odd, since you haven’t approved anybody. Oh well. Have fun!
How do you feel about a character’s name shortening to JoJo (in the case of what I have in mind GeoJo for George Jones)? Also your initial post says that we’re about half through the school year at March 19th but... that’s only 2 1/2 months left in the school year (as American high schools end the year at either late May or early June). Just thought that I’d point that out.
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