Though it is quite hot (and most would find it uncomfortable) on the planet Deresan, a certain familiar finds it quite relaxing. Being a Lombax, he is just fine in the planet's natural desert climate, seeing as it is his species' natural environment. This familiar is a Lombax by the name of Ratchet Nebula. He is known universally as the hero of the universe. Not here on Deresan, though. The residents have yet to identify him as the hero he is, but he's just fine with that. It provides him with a more peaceful environment for relaxing and just thinking. He isn't one to ponder, but he needs to at the moment, and he needs peace for that. For once in over half a decade, Ratchet is seen without his robotic friend, Clank. About three weeks ago, Sigmund had contacted Clank, panicked, saying there were major problems at the Great Clock, and only Clank could fix those problems. As a result, Clank had gone to assist Sigmund, telling Ratchet that he would return as soon as everything had been finished. During Clank's absence, Ratchet had taken the opportunity to return to all of the places he had been to in his previous adventures: Veldin, Pokitaru, Cobalia, Mukow, Fastoon…Toren IV… After he had visited every planet, moon, and asteroid on his charts (collecting a few lost Zoni along the way and making a note to return them next time he was at the Great Clock), he did not return home. Instead of returning to Kerwan, he decided to do a little exploring of worlds he had never been to before. The first had been quite dangerous, crawling with Leviathans, space pirates, and all sorts of nasty creatures that would kill him without a second thought. The second, and previous planet, held nothing of interest. It had been but a desolate marshland, infested with bugs and a few small reptiles. It is at his current location, Planet Deresan, where our story begins. We find Ratchet in the busy market of a fairly large and diverse town. The golden Lombax is taking everything in, from the colors and architecture to the sounds and smells. The town itself seems to be something pulled out of the Arabian Nights. The buildings, tall and close together, are the color of wet sand, roofs flat. Merchants stand under colorful awnings, trying to catch the attention of potential buyers. Children are gallivanting about, playing, while men and women mill about, either searching or buying. In the distance, at the center of the town, a large white and gold castle-like structure looms above all of the other buildings. All seemed peaceful. Until… "Stop, thief!" a voice cries out suddenly. At the mention of a thief, Ratchet turns. A small creature is fleeing from a merchant, easily outrunning the large man. The child moves too fast for Ratchet to tell exactly what it is, but he catches a glimpse of sandy-white and coal black. The young one weaves this way and that to avoid carts, people, animals, and such as the merchant struggles to keep pace. The merchant stops next to Ratchet, breathing heavily. "Nasty little brat," he says, glaring after the child. Looking over at Ratchet, he continues, "That filthy rat's been a-stealin' me apples again! I swear; I can't take it no more! Someone ought to do somethin' 'bout it. I say the Guardians ought to lock him up in the dungeon!" "How long has he been a problem?" Ratchet asks, simply out of habit. "'Bout six or seven years or so," the merchant replies. "That darn kit is always stealin' me apples." He shakes his head in disgust. "Once I catch him, he'll wish he ne'er set eye on me apples, I swear ta Allah on that!" "There's no need for that. Maybe I could just talk to him," Ratchet suggests, not wanting any young one to be hurt for such a simple thing. He then glances at the merchant. "And I'll pay for all the apples he has stolen in the past six months." The merchant looks at Ratchet incredulously. "You'd do that? Fer a thief?" The Lombax shrugs absently, still staring out towards the alley the child had disappeared in. "He's a street-kid. Nothing more. What else would you expect from one who's probably starving out there with no home or family? He can't find a decent thing to eat just lying about, so he steals to survive. I bet I can talk sense into him." I can relate, after all, he added silently. Without another word, he follows the child's trail at a lively pace. It is fairly easy for Ratchet to follow the young thief; the boy had left deep tracks in his flight, not bothering to cover them in his rush to escape the angry apple-seller. After about fifteen minutes walking, the tracks become shallower, indicating that the young thief had slowed his pace. These tracks are also a lot fresher than the previous. He is close. "Li nan oke," a voice says suddenly. Ratchet stops and listens. "Pa enkyete yo, mwen pa pral fè ou mal." The voice is one of a young boy, possibly the same one Ratchet is searching for. He follows the tracks until they turn sharply to the left. Peering around the corner, he sees two small figures. The taller one, hidden in shadows, is likely to be the young apple thief. The boy holds an apple out to the other, a very young Novalian girl. She seems frightened, but slowly relaxes as the thief speaks to her calmly. "Ou ka genyen li," he says. "Mwen pa reyèlman bezwen li tout ki anpil. Ale sou. Li nan oke." Slowly, the girl reaches for the bright red apple, snatching it away from him the second her hand touches it. A small chuckle is heard from the other. "Ashica!" a harsh voice calls out suddenly. The girl turns her head towards the voice. "Kote ye ou? Jwenn plis pase isit la, lari-sourit!" She stiffens, dropping the apple, and hurries away. "Worry you not, Manke Ashica. It won't be long." Ratchet blinks. Is this really the same boy he had been tracking just moments ago? He seems so kind. It's possible. Not very likely, but possible. At the worst possible time, the wind decides to pick up a little and stir up the dust. Try as he might, Ratchet cannot help but sneeze. A gasp is heard, and swift footsteps recede from the area. Ratchet rushes around the corner, but there is no sign of the thief.