It had been three weeks since they departed for unknown lands beyond The Brink in search of an energy source large enough to rival that of the Eco Core. The airship they were on was luxurious. It was a gift of the Aeropan people following Jak’s discovery and revival of the Eco Core during a perilous time where Light Eco was all but exhausted. The ship had been a monument of the Aeropan’s for centuries, and after a few technological upgrades from Tim, it was a treasure that took to the skies. The ship sported a titanium frame – a rare metal buried deep within the earth, attainable only by those with an unwavering resolve and extremely deep pockets – that stood encased in golden beech wood, trimmed with copper plated rods and ringlets; together casting a deep red glow over the interior of the ship in the rising sun. Deep in thought, Jak set the bearings to continue west, further from The Brink and closer to the uncertainty that kept twisting the insides of his stomach.
“Hey Jak buddy, ol’ pal”, Daxter began as he climbed onto Jak’s shoulders, “you know what this ‘adventure’ needs? Babes. There’s only ONE BABE on the ship and she’s off limits! Besides, she couldn’t handle the sexy fur anyway. She keeps complaining about finding it on her clothes and I SWEAR I don’t go anywhere near her! The other day she actually thought I meant to walk in on her while she was –”
“Dax…” Jak said solemly. Daxter’s mouth had the tendency of getting them into all manner of troubles during their travels. “There’s something odd about this…” Jak couldn’t quite place the queer feeling he had in his stomach ever since crossing beyond The Brink.
“Are you talking about the eerie silence? The starless skies? The ominous feeling that death lies around every corner!? I swear if I didn’t have myself to look at in the mirror I’d be a steaming pile of Eco waste by now. But seriously, just look at this face!” Daxter turned to Jak, his face brimming with joy as a grin cut him from ear to ear. For an Ottsel, Daxter definitely held himself in the highest esteem, since discovering he was transformed into a Precursor, his vanity has been inconsolable.
“Tim should have been here” although their latest adventure had been Keira’s doing, Jak couldn’t help but miss the tech savvy Aeropan. “I’d bet Tim would know what was wrong with the Seeker.” Since crossing beyond The Brink, the golden orb that guided their path to locating the Eco Core stopped functioning. Each time Keira tried to infuse it with Eco Energy, a bright burst of light would erupt from her hands and The Seeker would fall heavily to the ground. She theorized that it was like an open ended circuit, and each time she forced energy in it had nowhere to go but back. The fact that The Seeker could no longer draw upon the power of the Light Eco within it made Jak suspicious of their new unexplored environment. Each day they went deeper into the void, and each morning brought new suspicions and unease to Jak’s heart.
“Jak wake up!” Keira’s voice was sharp and alarming. Jak’s eyes shot open, instinctively rolling off his bunk and landing safely on his feet. The ship rumbled and shook violently, throwing him off balance as he rushed to the helm. Jak found the Eco Sage attempting to steer the ship, but her small figure prove to be little match for the rough advances of the ship, as it attempted to spin wildly out of control.
“Keira! Hold on!” Jak yelled as the ship bodied him against a wall. The airship began to groan loudly as the turbulence stressed the frame to breaking point.
“Jak! That doesn’t sound good!” Daxter finally woke up and was looking around franticly. He could sleep through a hurricane so long as he wasn’t moved. “We’re all gonna die! I knew it! The next time you think about inviting me on one of your adventures… Don’t!”
Jak had difficulty finding his footing as he fought against the slanted floor. “Keira, just hang on I’m almost there!”
“Jak, I have no other choice! To be honest, I don’t think I’m steering the ship!” she yelled back at him, the ship crying out as its frame twisted yet again.
“Dead! We’re all dead!” Daxter’s despair rang through the room as he clung tightly to a long lever fixed firmly to the wall.
“Dax!” Jak yelled, “pass me the Zero Gravity Boots!”
"Zero Gravity what!? Since when did we have Zero Gravity Boots?” Daxter protested, “and how do you suppose I find these magic boots you’re talking about!?”
“They’re right above your head Dax!”
“Oh, those…” Daxter’s face fell as he realized the boots were fixed firmly in a cutout in the wall. He reached desperately for the boots, holding firmly onto the lever that was preventing him from face planting on the slanted floor. “Jak, they’re stuck. It was a great idea but, it’s been nice knowing ya!”
“Daxter!” Jak said, “You’re holding onto the lever to unlock the boots.”
Daxter turned away and mumbled to himself, “of course I am” throwing all his weight onto the lever. As the lever drew halfway the boots unlocked, and Daxter hastily threw them as far as his Ottsel arms could muster.
“Great jo-” Jak began, “Dax, look out!”
Daxter’s weight pulled the lever further, unlocking a closet full of bits and pieces of scrap collected on their journey that they had yet to find a use for. A large chunk of metal flew from the overhead storage, encouraged by the now slanted ship and slammed purposefully into Keira’s head.
“Oops…” Daxter said under his breath as Keira fell unconscious to the ground. Without her subtle guidance, the ship threw itself into a full 360 spin, and Jak and Daxter found themselves gripping tightly to whatever they could find to prevent themselves from tumbling away as well. Keira’s arm was caught in the wheel of the ship, and she lay limp – half strung out on the ground, half wet rag on the wheel – as the ship spun mercilessly downwards. Jak tried to muster up the strength to reach Keira, but the force of the ship spinning was far too strong. The floor cracked, and Jak could hear Daxter wandering off on a tangent audible only to himself, he reached up once again and before he knew it – darkness.
Jak’s head throbbed as if ready to burst. He could hear a fire crackling nearby, and feel the warmth of the flames against his cheek. He was face down in the dirt. Slowly, he went through a mental check list as he wiggled his toes, fingers, arms, and began to gently push himself into a seated position. All he could remember was that they were in an airship, and they had fallen from the sky. His memory was foggy and he had trouble recalling specific details as to how he ended up on the ground. As his eyes adjusted, he took in the smell of burning wood, and the thick sulphur that was choking his lungs, as if to squeeze the life right out of him. The darkness was no longer impenetrable, and he began looking around for his friends. Standing up, he noticed the ship had been scattered into many pieces across the would-be cave. “Keira! Daxter!” he called out for them, and when he was greeted with silence his heart fluttered with fear. He knew from experience that a crash of that magnitude would leave little to be found of his friends if they were half as lucky as he was. Frantic, he began stumbling through the darkness, grabbing and pulling at every log, metal rod and leg. Jak nearly tossed Daxter, mistaking him for a piece of wood when he pulled on his leg, drawing him from the rubble.
“Not so rough baby,” Daxter began, his eyes still closed “I just got my fur conditioned.”
Jak rolled his eyes and let go of his Ottsel friend, allowing the floor to kiss his face.
“Wha- What?” Daxter shook his head violently in an attempt to clear the fog, “Jak, where are we?”
“I have no clue” he replied, “but I can feel strong currents of Eco nearby.” Jak had felt it the minute the ship began to spin out of control, but he had to focus on finding Keira, or whatever was left of her. “Dax, if you’re OK, help me search for Keira” he said and they began searching in opposite directions. The walls of the cave were damp, there must be a water source nearby as he could feel the moisture in the air with every breath. Jak continued his search for Keira, his feet navigating the cave floor as if it were an old friend, stepping confidently over holes, dips and troughs. His mind was blank, yet his body moved as though it knew exactly where to go to find what he was looking for. Trusting his instincts, Jak allowed himself to wander, moving ever closer to the pulsating Eco energy now coursing through his body. The radiation of Eco was enough to make Jak feel like the plane crash had never happened, and he picked up the pace with curiosity leading his steps.
“Jak, stop.” Keira’s voice was firm. She stood with her back to him, facing a large crystal jutting up through the ground nearly five feet into the air. The crystal pulsated green, pink and dark blue light, in close succession of one another, casting a myriad of colour across the cave walls as the light refracted and bounced aimlessly.
“It’s beautiful…” Jak muttered, as he stared at the crystal in awe. Keira still hadn’t taken her eye off of the crysal. She stood staring at it rather ominously, refusing to break her gaze. “Keira, are you –” Jak began as he stepped closer.
“Jak NO!” she yelled, throwing her hand out to stop his advance, ever keeping her eyes on the crystal in front of her. “There is a dark energy buried deep within this crystal Jak.” She began to explain, “It is reminiscent of the Dark Eco infused within your body, and I fear that you coming too close could awaken it.” Her eyes were fixed firmly on the crystal as she continued, “I woke up beneath this crystal after the crash. My body had no cuts, no broken bones… no pain. I know I was thrown at least forty feet from the ship’s wreckage, yet I don’t have a scratch on me.” Jak looked back to where the airship lay strewn across the cave floor – he hadn’t noticed that his feet had taken him so far. “Jak, it feels almost as if this crystal was imbued with both Light and Dark Eco… like you, Jak.” Her voice softened with the news, as if to make gentle the delivery of a death sentence. She turned and looked at him for the first time, her eyes glowing bright with energy.
“Keira” Jak began, “Your eyes…”
“I know, Jak.” She sounded distant, as though her mind were somewhere else. “It’s all clear to me now Jak, the Eco, the contrast between Light and Dark, and the part I must play in all of it.” She turned back to the crystal as she continued her story, “This crystal is Grey Eco Jak. It is extremely powerful and can alter the fabric of our Universe.” Jak had known Eco Sages before – Keira’s father Samos for example – yet never had he met someone with such a powerful aura and clarity about them as Keira now stood, “our universe is but one thread among an entire canvas, Jak. I can see the entire picture quite clearly now.” Keira’s hands went to her chest, as if to quell a deep ache within her heart. “The Grey Eco has the potential of altering the design of the canvas, twisting and mixing the threads with one another to create a new picture… for better or for worse. Jak, this is a very dangerous tool that runs so deep in the ground our eyes would never see the bottom. If this were to fall into the wrong hands… Jak, I’m so scared” She began to sob. He could only imagine what horrors she was now privy to with her new found clarity, and he wanted nothing more than to reach out and hold her close and calm her suffering.
“Then we destroy it.” Jak said, with certainty in his voice, “although, I do not know how.”
“It cannot be destroyed.” Keira stated, “Grey Eco is as necessary to our universe as air is to your lungs. This crystal is as old as our universe, and was created at the inception of all things, a sort of key to every lock, a final knot in the fabric that holds everything together.” Her eyes widened as she recalled something, “We have to get out of here Jak. NOW.” Her voice rose to an alarming level as she began to stride purposefully towards him. “The Grey Eco has a defense mechanism, that if activated will cause all the threads of all universes to tangle in an attempt to preserve itself, and change its present situation by sending those near it tumbling through time and space.”
“Do you know what activates this defence mechanism?” Jak asked.
“What defense mechanism?” Daxter seemed to pop up out of nowhere, posing with one arm against the stone wall, the light from the Grey Eco dancing across his hand. “Ooooh, a pretty crystal” Daxter reached out and touched a very small piece of Grey Eco jutting sideways out of the stone wall where he stood.
“Dax, NO!” Jak and Keira yelled simultaneously.
“Whaaaaat! What’d I do?” Daxter asked as the cave began to shake and tremble. “Oops…” he said with a shy grin on his face as he shrugged.
“I swear Daxter! One of these days –” Jak began, and was cut off by a loud silence that filled the cave. The crystal glowed bright with clear light, and a gentle warmth ran through his body. Jak and Keira attempted to speak but no sound would come out. Jak could feel his mouth moving, his vocal chords attempting to create sound, yet it was as if they had been thrown into a void filled with… nothing. There was a deep humming that seemed to echo inside his head, the crystal flashed bright and again… darkness.
Jak opened his eyes. It felt as though he had merely blinked, yet his entire environment had changed. He stood in an open field, the sun shining bright on his face. There were trees the like he had never seen, and the earth had a strange texture to it. The air as well somehow smelled different, and Jak knew he was no longer on The Old World.
“You really did it this time Jak,” Daxter climbed up on his shoulders unapologetically, “where’s Keria?”
Jak snapped out of his shock and began looking around for Keira, desperation in his face. In the distance, he saw her body lying on the ground. As he stepped closer, he noticed the bones strewn across her, mixed with makeshift pieces of metal.
“Keira!” Daxter shouted, yet she lay limp unconscious. “Jak, look out!” Daxter warned as the bones that covered Keira began to move. Within moments the bones stood up, towering over them with sword and shield. The creature made a sound reminiscent of mumbling, as if trying to ward them off.
“Get… away… from… her” Jak said, his teeth tightly clenched in anger. What had this monster done? Was Keira a victim of circumstance? Jak could only hope that they had made it in time, before this creature had its way with her. It began to mumble wildly, waving its arms while stepping back, tripping over Keira’s legs and landing loudly in the dirt.
“That’s it Jak! You got ‘im on the run!” Daxter shouted, “Skin it alive for what it did to Keira!”
The creature began to stand, but it was too late. Jak was already upon him.