Ratchet and Clank Future: The Homecoming - Chapter 20

Author: KiwiLombax15

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Which page was it again?"
Clank tried to wave away an inquisitive Zenithi chick while wrestling with the thick book, an uneasy task considering his size. The three heroes were gathered in the shade of a huge tree, the ordered chaos of Elysium bustling around them. Jasmine checked her briefing notes, then nudged Clank aside to check the index.
"Um, hang on, lets see…Where's the section on crystal harmonics?" She leafed through it for a moment. "Here it is. Cross reference…Bingo! Page 364. Ranaksium"
"Does it say where it can be found?" asked Drake, who had returned from whatever mysterious place he had vanished to.
"Just a second…'Ranaksium is an exceedingly rare crystal found in the wilds of Zanifar. Only one example was ever mined, and it currently resides in the crown of the tachyon's, the Cragmite ruling family…' Oh bugger. It's on Tachyon's crown…"
Her voice trailed off. Ratchet's ears lowered.
"Which is in another dimension!" he moaned.
Jasmine buried her face in her hands, the book falling to the floor unheeded.
"So by saving the galaxy, you doomed us all. Nice one, Ratchet. Real smooth."
"Well how was I supposed to know? I didn't even know you existed! Oh man, this ain't gonna be easy. I-"
"Ahem."
They looked over at Drake, who was shifting uneasily from side to side, a guilty look on his face.
"What?" said Jasmine suspiciously.
"I know…someone who might be able to help you. He lives out in the canyons, just beyond the grasslands. Regrettably, however, this means we must enter the territory of…" He shuddered.
"Azreal."

Azreal! There was no Zenithi on Elysium who didn't flinch at the name. Azreal was, there was no denying it, creepy. Gifted, but creepy nonetheless. He had hatched different. Unlike his brothers, Izual and Tyreal, he had been born unable to fly. No matter how hard he tried, his wings were little more than decoration. The Zenithi usually found a use for those born less than others. The temple librarian was blind, many skilled spies were hatched with one leg, and even those unable to teleport could make themselves useful. But what could they do with one who was flightless? They had been kind, but their pity had somehow been worse than if they had just ignored him. His sadness at his infirmity had mutated during his childhood to a deep, abiding anger, made worse by seeing his peers joyfully fledge their wings and take their first flights. Finally, he had left home and roamed Elysium, wallowing in rage and self pity. Unlike the naturally cheerful Zenithi, he became bitter and hard, resigned to being useless. Until the dreams began. They were strange, and vivid. And always came true. He settled in the canyons, where the numerous caves provided his home. The smooth cave walls also provided a canvas when he discovered his other natural talent. Painting. He would paint his dreams as an outlet, and as word spread of his uncanny gift, Zenithi came from far and wide to seek him out for advice. Something about him unnerved them, though, so he remained alone, needed but not liked. It was enough to take the edge off the bitterness, however, and gradually he made his peace with his handicap, adjusting to the solitude. Until Drake had approached him, and asked for a favour…

Now, Drake swallowed slightly as he saw the entrance of the canyons growing closer. They were trekking over the grasslands, the jungle having long fallen behind them. A few Feloisa worked around them, harvesting the fluffy seedheads for bedding material. Through the endless song of the wind in the grass he could hear Jasmine explaining the concept of bondmates to a fascinated Ratchet, who had been wondering about it ever since he had heard Drake mention it.
"So, it's kinda like a soul mate?" he said.
"Yeah, that's a good way of putting it. When you meet your bondmate, you kinda..I can't describe it properly as I've never felt it, but you…join, mentally. It can happen instantaneously or you can know someone for years before bonding. There's no way of telling. And once you've bonded that's it for life. Often if one half of a pair dies, the other half dies a little later, they're that closely connected-"
"We are here."
Overhead, the walls of the canyons loomed overhead, breathtaking towers of the golden brown stone unique to Elysium soaring upwards. On the canyon floor, a little stream trickled, and shrubby plants blossomed. Tiny rodents scuttled underfoot, and a songbird somewhere in the canyons sung a reedy little tune.
"Right." said Drake. "I think his cave is over that way, but he moves around a bit, so it's hard to be sure-"
"You wish to see me?"
Ratchet nearly swallowed his tongue. The soft, whispery voice had been right in his ear, coming from a patch of dark shadow. He looked around desperately for the source, seeing nothing. Until a patch of shadow moved into the light. It was instantly obvious why Ratchet had not seen him earlier. Azreal's scales were black as night, his bone white horns and eerie yellow eyes the only colour. Ratchet couldn't help but shiver as Azreal gave him a slow, thorough look. Some strange side effect of the second sight meant his eyes had no pupil. They were pure yellow and oddly dull and flat. Unlike other Zenithi, his scales lacked the pearly luminescence that made them so appealing. His were a matt black, seeming to drink the light. Azreal was a living, breathing, moving pool of shadow, living night. The dark Zenithi cocked his head curiously.
"Why do you bring Lombaxes into my domain?" he said, circling them. He even moved strange, flowing rather than walking.
Drake bit back his nervousness. He was in charge of the whole planet, for great skies sake!
"We need to see your helper. He has vital information for us."
Azreal flicked an eye at the three heroes.
"Are you sure. You know who he is, how much history there is between them…"
"I am sure."
"Very well. Follow me."
He set off, moving like liquid shadow over the canyon floor. Jasmine kept her hand on her wrench. This one freaked the crap out of her…
The caverns were seemingly endless, a maze of stone. Finally, however, they reached a cave, set into the cavern walls. Azreal called out softly, and a voice echoed out of the cave, one that chilled Ratchet to his core.
"Just a minute…"
Out of the cave…
Jasmine gasped and dropped her wrench, Ratchet cursed, and Clank opened his eyes wide. Out of the cave, stepped Percival Tachyon.
"WHAT!?" all three of them exploded.
"What's he doing here?" Ratchet yelled. "Is there anyone else here I should know about? You got Drek mowing the lawns?!"
"Well, it's a long story…"
"He nearly wiped out the Lombaxes!"
"He tried to destroy me and Clank!"
"That Cragmite is a thoroughly despicable person!
"He's a murderer-!"
"A monster-!"
Ratchet and Jasmine spoke in unison.
"He killed my father!"
They stopped and looked at each other.
"I'd say snap." said Jasmine. "But that'd be kind of ghoulish."
"Explain." Ratchet growled.
"Percival, it's your story, you do the honours." Drake said.
The runty Cragmite nodded. Even in his rage, Ratchet couldn't help but notice that he looked different. There was no haughty imperiousness, no medals, no finery. He looked small and sad.
"I wish to thank you, Ratchet." he said. "You defeating me was the best thing that could have happened to me. I wound up on a planet fragment, alone with only my thoughts for company. It took some time, but I finally realised…I had made a horrible mistake. The Lombaxes could have destroyed me as an egg, but they took me in and cared for me, and look how I repaid them. As my final act as Emperor, I placed myself under exile, and prepared to live out my days alone. Until he showed up." Tachyon nodded in Drakes direction.
"With proper mental preparation," Drake said. "We can travel between dimensions. But it's difficult and takes a week to get ready. We periodically check other dimensions to make sure everything is working as it should. We certainly weren't expecting to run across this fellow."
"They offered me what I wanted most." continued Tachyon."Redemption.I was placed here after they encountered problems with the temple workers. None of the outsiders were too keen on working with me. Angela whatsherface nearly knocked out one of my teeth."
"Good…"Ratchet muttered. Drake silenced him with a glare.
Azreal disappeared into the cave.
"Come, let us talk inside. I have some pigment prepared that I must use before it dries."
Drake shivered. He would really rather not go into Azreal's lair, but the others were casting murderous looks in Tachyon's direction. Even the robot was clearly unamused. He would need to make sure they didn't kill him.
Inside Azreal's cave, it was cool and dark, a few candles serving only to make the shadows less gloomy. A perch and bedroll on the floor were the only indications someone lived there. There were bags of dye making material scattered around the cave, and shallow depressions in the floor filled with paint. Azreal took up station behind one and dipped his wing feathers in it, brushing a streak of paint over a wall. Ever inch of the walls had been painted on, with the simplest, and the realest paintings Ratchet had ever seen. The Zenithi style of art captured the essence of something in a few lines. A tree was a simple stroke, yet he could almost hear the wind in the branches. And here…Unbidden, his hand gently brushed the painting. It was himself, a few coloured lines managing to capture everything he ever was. He traced the path of the paintings along the wall. They showed his history. He saw, with a sharp pang of grief, his final showdown with Alister, Clanks kidnap, the fall of Tachyon. Everything he had ever done, depicted in flowing lines of colour. He came across one set apart from the rest. Him, Clank, and Jasmine were facing a dark, looming presence. There was no shape to it, but hate flowed from every curving line. Azreal coughed politely, still engrossed in his work.
"You wished to see my helper?"
Jasmine tore herself away from a perfect representation of an Ishkhan, frozen in the act of pouncing.
"Oh yeah, that's right. Tachyon," She scowled with distaste just saying the name. "Where's your crown?"
The Cragmite blinked.
"My…crown?"
Drake nodded in confirmation.
"The crown gem is needed to bring the Lombaxes back home. If you truely regret what you have done, telling us where it is will go a long way towards putting it right."
Percival looked guilty.
"I don't have it any more…."
"What? Why?"
"It was too much of a reminder of my crimes. I threw it away."
"Where?" said Drake.
"Down towards the end of the canyon. I'll show you. Azreal? Are you coming?"
The black Zenithi shook his head, still painting.
"You go. I must complete this."
The cave was quickly empty as Percival scuttled off, the others following in his wake. Azreal returned to his task. A useful fellow, Tachyon. He thought, barely even focusing on his work. Even if his nightmares keep me awake. Still, he's useful with pigments. Hello, what have I got here?
He took a proper look at his painting for the first time. For a moment, all he could do was stare, before he covered his head with his wings and gave a shuddering sigh as the meaning of it sank in. He sighed, looked over his shoulder to check he was alone, then dipped his wings in a pool of white pigment and began to paint over it…

"Oh, by great sky! Shut up you two!"
Drake was peeved. The two Lombaxes had been hissing and growling softly non-stop, ears flat against their skulls. The idea of taking direction from their most hated enemy did not sit well with them. Drake didn't really blame them, but it was getting rather annoying.
The canyon got narrower, cliffs overhead blocking out the light. Drake's wings drooped as they passed an odd shaped boulder. He recognised it. He wished he didn't.
Please…He thought. Please don't be going where I think you're going…
They turned a corner, and a dead end loomed. On the ground, a hole gaped, leading down into the bowels of the earth.
"I threw it down there." said Percival.
"No…"
Drake staggered and slumped.
"Are you alright?" said a concerned Percival.
Drake shook his head.
"Unwittingly, Percival, you have doomed the Lombaxes twice."
"How? It's just a hole in the ground!" said Ratchet. "Bit of spelunking, problem solved."
"It's what's down there that's the problem. Down there is the caves of Tartarus, the lair of the Misshapen Ones."
"What are they?" asked Clank.
"Believe it or not, our distant relatives. They split off the ancestral tree aeons ago and went underground. The misshapen ones are as different from us as night is from day. They are killers, cannibalistic monsters. They are cowards at heart, so they mostly, they stay underground, but sometimes they work up the courage to attack. Most of us have lost loved ones to them."
"Then why do you not destroy them, if they are so deadly?"
"Because we need them. They ensure that the Balance on Elysium is kept. There must be evil to counterbalance the good, even here. Also, well…they keep us grounded. You see, we are a fortunate race. We are more intelligent than the average Terachnos sage, agile, one of only two races who can teleport, and we control the most powerful force in the universe. Without the knowledge of what our closest relatives are, there is a risk we could become conceited and abuse our power. They remind us that we aren't as special as all that. Besides, they do not attack us often. Generally, we leave them alone. But to actually enter their territory…it's suicide!"
"We don't have a choice, Drake." said Jasmine. "If the crowns down there, we have to go after it."
He sighed.
"You have a point. Percival, how fast can you run?"
"I can work up a fair turn of speed."
"Good. Head to the store rooms around the temple and get the Feloisa to bring a winch, some strong rope and torches. Bring Ace as well. We may need his strength."
Percival hared off, six legs skittering over the stony ground. Drake looked down into the depths of Tartarus and swallowed. You didn't need to be Azreal to see where the future was heading…

Percival returned 15 minutes later, Ace Hardlight and a number of Feloisa following. The ex gladiator was hauling a winch on his shoulders, barely even puffed from the weight. He dropped it on the ground with a thud, and the Feloisa began winding a long, thick length of rope through it. Drake gave the Lombaxes a quick brief.
"We need to be silent down there. Sound travels well in caves. And, regrettably, I cannot teleport down there."
"Why not?" said Ratchet, looking down the hole.
"The Misshapen Ones can no longer teleport themselves, but they have enough of that skill left to detect when we do. We have no choice but to do this the hard way. Right, those on the winch, listen up. When we are ready to return, we will tug on the rope. Two tugs means that those on the treadmill," He indicated the Feloisas positioned on the winches treadmill. "Will bring us up slowly and carefully, so we don't drop the crown. One big tug, however, means we have run into trouble. If that is the case, Hardlight, you pull us up as fast as possible. We will just have to hold on tight and hope it doesn't slip. Are you ready, you three?"
Ratchet locked Clank into his harness.
"Ready."
Jasmine unsheathed her blades.
"Bring it."
"Good. Let's go."
They grabbed hold of the rope, Drake nodded to the Feloisa, and they were lowered down into the black.

Drake shivered as he saw the circle of light above them grow smaller and dimmer. Already, the cold here bit at him. He was clutched against Jasmine's chest, her other hand clinging to the rope. Remarkably, she didn't seem nervous, looking around with interest.
"You are not afraid?" he whispered.
"No. Should I be?"
"Yes. Very much so."
She snorted.
"After what I've seen, nothing on this planet can scare me…"
"Famous last words…"
Ratchet lit a torch, the golden fire light lancing through the black. Ratchets ears perked up as he heard the gentle lapping of water.
"There's a river down here?"
"Yes, it flows down here from the mountains.."
"Well, I hope it's not too deep cuz- Yike!"
Ratchet yelped as he landed up to his waist in freezing cold water. Surprised by his cry, Jasmine lost her grip, sending her and Drake tumbling down into the icy water. Jasmine staggered to her feet, shaking her head and sending droplets flying.
"Holy balls, that's cold!"
Wings waterlogged, Drake scrambled up onto her shoulder.
"Keep your voice down. They could be anywhere in these tunnels."
Ratchet climbed up onto dry land and helped the others out. By some miracle, the torch had escaped the water, and he held it high over his head, examining the surroundings. Water trickled down rough stone walls, discoloured by green slime. Insects scuttled underfoot. It was a jarring contrast to the beauty of Elysium. Ratchet took a step forward, and something rattled away from his boot.
"What was that?"
"It was a skull." said Drake, calmly.
Something crunched underfoot.
"And that-"
"I don't want to know!"
"It was a stick, as a matter of fact. Now, if the crown was thrown down here, it would have landed in the river. All we need to do is move downstream to locate it."
They set off, grateful for the torches light. After a while, Drake realised something…
"Where are they?"
There were claw prints in the mud, and a strong, almost fishy odour, but no life apart from the strange, pale insects that crawled everywhere.
"I thought they'd be all over us by now." said Drake. "This place is deserted…"
"Better than being torn apart." said Jasmine. "You know, I think we may just pull this off…"
At that point, the torch went out. Darkness flowed back. They had never known darkness like it. No matter how long you looked into it, the eyes would not adjust to it. There was nothing to adjust to. It was darkness and mother of darkness, darkness absolute, darkness so dense as to be almost solid, like black velvet.
"It's bloody dark." said Jasmine.
Drake strained his eyes. Like cats, he needed some small source of light to utilise his night vision, and there was nothing to use. There was a thud behind him as Jasmine and Ratchet walked into each other.
"Uh bi' mah ton'ue." Ratchet moaned. Jasmine snickered.
"Shu' up!"
"Sorry, but you sound really-:
THUD.
"Ow! Mah ton'ue!"
"Hush!" This was Clank. "There is no telling where they are."
"Thorry."
"Follow my voice." said Drake. "There's a faint scent trail here. Just try not to-"
THUD.
"-Walk into things." Drake finished, rolling his eyes. They moved with agonising slowness, following the sound of the river and the rustle of Drake's wings. Drake was forced to bite on his tail to stop himself laughing at the sound of the two Lombaxes bumbling around behind him. There was a chorus of muffled yelps as they trod on each others tail, stepped on feet and walked into each other. From his harness, Clank sighed and shook his head in exasperation. Honestly… He looked around at the darkness and sighed. The jamming systems he had been exposed to during his imprisonment had left a number of functions offline, including his nightvision function. He would need to get Ratchet to have a look at that at some point…
Drake came to a halt as a faint light reached his eyes. There was the distant sound of chanting, low pitched and strange.
"Keep to the shadows." whispered Drake. "If they find us they will tear us apart."
As they got closer, the light got brighter, still faint, but strong enough to see by. They turned a corner, quickly ducked behind a broken stalagmite and cautiously peered over the top. What they saw…
It was like comparing vultures with songbirds. The Misshapen Ones were crude mockeries of their sleek cousins. They were short and squat, with bumpy, slimy, pale skin. Unlike the Zenithi's delicate, feathered wings, they had small, tattered bat wings, clearly useless in flight.The head was closer to a toad than a lizard, distorted by scaly plates and a wickedly sharp pair of horns. Pale milky eyes shone in the light from faint, guttering torches as countless Misshapen Ones intoned gibbering chants and circled a tall, rough stone pillar. Resting on top, gleaming in the light of two more torches…
"Tachyon's crown…" Jasmine whispered.
The crown of Emperor Tachyon seemed to have acquired god-like status among the simple minded misshapen ones.
"They must think it a gift from the heavens." said Clank, quietly.
"There's gotta be thousands of them." muttered Ratchet. "This is nuts…"
"I have an idea." said Jasmine. "One second…"
She rummaged in her storage compartment, pulling out a leather bag. Inside, a bundle of hooks gleamed. A long coil of rope followed.She held one of the hooks up.
"The base of these are covered in a molecular adhesive. I attach this to the wall and climb up to a point where I can stick another one on and connect the rope. From there it's just a question of whether I have enough hooks to get to the centre. Those things aren't really paying much attention, so I shouldn't have that much trouble. There's lots of those pointy rock things-"
"Stalactites."
"Thanks, Clank. Stalactites as well. This should be easy."
"Yeah, but they'll see you trying to steal it." said Ratchet, as she tied one end of the rope around the stalagmite.
"No, they won't." said Jasmine, with an evil grin. "They won't be seeing anything. I bet their eyes are pretty sensitive to light, huh, Drake?"
He nodded.
She pulled out a flare.
"One of these bad boys and they won't be seeing anything."
"Holy crap, how much stuff do you have in that thing?" said Ratchet, dumbfounded.
"I…don't really know, to be honest. They wanted me prepared for every situation, up to, and quite possibly including, Grunthor wrestling on a glacier. I'm not short of equipment, believe me. Now, it's very important that you guys cover your eyes when I give the signal. Otherwise you'll be blinded when it goes off."
She wound the coil of rope around her shoulders, attached the first hook, and began her climb. She planned to climb up directly over the crown, then release the flare and drop down in the same instant. If she timed it right, they would be blinded without knowing she was there. The rope would have been tied to the long stalactite growing at the midway point, allowing her to Tarzan swing back to the others once she had the crown. Then, it was just a matter of running…
The climb soon proved itself to be one of the hardest she'd ever done. They taught rock climbing at basic training, and she'd fancied herself quite good at it, but the rocks here, while rough and full of hand and foot holds, were slippery and wet, taking all her concentration just to hold on. She reached the halfway point, moving carefully as she tied the rope to the stalactite. Below her, the Misshapen Ones gibbered and screamed, the noise drowning out the clinks of the hooks.
She had almost reached her goal, when, with one final loud scream, the Misshapen Ones fell forwards onto their stomachs. Dead silence reigned. Clinging to a stalactite, Jasmine held her breath, peering down on the scene. A Misshapen One picked its way between the prone bodies, pausing only to lash out at any who moved or twitched. He was clearly some kind of high priest, decorated with a cloak of bones, that rattled as he moved. He stepped up to the pillar, and Jasmine noticed the hole at its base. The priest gave a rattling croak, and a shiver ran through the massed ranks. He stalked up to one near the pillar, and with no warning, sank his teeth into a wing and hauled it upright, screeching. Jasmine watched in horror as the wailing victim was dragged up to the hole, holding onto the ground with its talons, leaving furrows in its wake. The priest pushed it forwards, gave an unearthly shriek, then shoved the Misshapen One into the hole. There was a disappearing scream, then silence. The thronged ranks groaned in unison, then rose to their feet and continued to circle, resuming their chanting. Above them, Jasmine remained frozen in place, stunned by the callous murder she had just witnessed. Shuddering in horror, she manoeuvred herself over the crown, and took out her flare. She looked over at where the others were hiding and lashed her tail. She could dimly see them nod and cover their eyes. Jasmine closed her eyes and pressed her face against the stalactite, praying it would block the light. She took a deep breath, hit the timer.
And dropped it.
For a moment, there was nothing, then with an almost noiseless whoomp, harsh, white light filled the cavern. Even with her eyes closed, light still filled Jasmine's vision. She opened her eyes and blinked a couple of times, until the purple spots flashing in her vision disappeared. Below here, the Misshapen Ones were in chaos, screaming and wailing as they staggered about, blinded. Moving fast, Jasmine dropped down, snatched the crown off its pillar, and leapt. For a while, it all seemed to be going well, she could see the exit rushing towards her, see the others preparing to take off once she reached them. She was about halfway when the rope snapped. Her stomach seemed to fall away from her as she felt gravity take hold. Praetorian Guard reflexes took over, and she curled up, rolling when she hit the ground. She bounced to her feet practically the second she landed, snatching up the crown and looking around in panic. The Misshapen Ones were blinded, but it couldn't last for much longer. She could see the others peering over the stalagmite at her, horrified expressions on their faces. She clutched the crown to her chest and began to run. The gap between her and safety closed quickly. But not quickly enough. Behind her, the high priest shook his head, blinking as his vision came back. He looked up and saw the intruder in their midst, raising the alarm with a chilling shriek. The cry was taken up by the others as their streaming eyes cleared enough to spot her. Jagged teeth glanced off her armour as they ripped at her, leaping up in an attempt to drag her down. She struggled to stay on her feet, knowing if they brought her down, all was lost. Ratchet leapt out of hiding, throwing out Constructo-bombs left and right, clearing a path for her through the massed ranks of Misshapen Ones. She reached the others, panting and staggering.
"Time we weren't here."
They took off, Jasmine cursing the narrow tunnels that prevented her using her hover-wings. Behind them, the Misshapen Ones poured after them in a shrieking, gibbering wave. A few fore-runners lashed out at the fleeing Lombaxes. One would have taken off Ratchet's tail if it hadn't been for Clank's laser burning through its soft, vulnerable skin. Drake's sharp nose picked up the scent of the rope ahead, and he squeezed Ratchet's shoulder to get his attention.
"We aren't far from safety! Get into the river! It may slow them down long enough for us to get out!"
They jumped in, gasping as the cold water bit into them. Jasmines flailing hand found the rope, and she hauled on it with all her strength…

"Quit pacing, Percy." said Ace calmly. He was not a native of Polaris, so didn't have the almost ingrained dislike of the Cragmite as most Polaris residents. The two got on quite well.
"I'm just a little nervous is all. What if they don't make it? I can never achieve true redemption unless I can fix my mistake!"
"Don't worry, they've got Ratchet on their side. If he can take me down, he can sure as heck win against a bunch of-Oh boy."
The rope leading down into Tartarus had jerked. Once.
"Oh no!" squeaked Percival. "Pull, Ace! Hurry!"
Ace grabbed the handle of the winch.Muscles under his skin moved like greased footballs as he heaved on the winch. The rope began moving up quickly. If Percival strained his hearing, he could make out, over Ace's grunts of effort, cries of fear and a strange, gibbering shriek.
"Stand by!" he called. "They have passengers! And I don't think they're friendly!"
With one almighty heave, the Lombaxes were hauled up into the daylight. And sure enough, they had passengers. Misshapen ones clung to them, biting and growling. Jasmine flung the crown at Percival.
"Get this to safety!" She then unhooked her wrench from her back, and struck out at the Misshapen Ones tearing at Drake and ratchet. The golden Lombax had sheltered Drake with his body, knowing Zenithi were fragile, and had taken a beating. Under Jasmines onslaught, they detached and moved back, hissing and baring their fangs. Ratchet flung his wrench in a comet strike, knocking them back down into the bowels of Tartarus. There was a series of faint screams as they fell into the black. Drake smoothed a feather back into place.
"They'll land in the river. It won't hurt them. Ace, I would advise you to increase security around the forest. We've disturbed them. They may attack us."
A faint clink echoed around the cavern. Tachyon stood with the crown in one hand and the gem in the other.
"Here." he said, pressing it into Ratchets hand. "Good luck." He looked at the denuded crown with distaste and flung it down the hole.
"They can have it back. I don't want it. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the cave. There's a bunch of pigment that needs preparing."
He scuttled off down the canyons, soon disappearing around a corner. Drake looked up at Ratchet, who was watching the Cragmite leave with narrowed eyes.
"You still don't like him, do you?"
"Some things….some things take a lot of forgiving." he said, turning back to Jasmine and Clank, who were carefully examining the crystal. Jasmine held it up triumphantly.
"Bingo! Two more to go!"
Ratchet smiled. Not long now…



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