Welcome back to Behind the Hero. Tonight, what happened to Ratchet and Clank? After the incident with the creature collector, the famous intergalactic duo simply vanished from the face of the universe. Are they kidnapped, dead or-
"Turn that crap off, will ya, Clank?"
The diminutive robot scowled at his friend.
"Ratchet, I am watching this"
"At least turn the volume down. I have better things to do then listen to every Tom, Dick and Harry's theory as to where I've gone"
Clank obediently turned the volume down. He was starting to worry about his friend. After the whole "Creature collector" mess, he had been quite relieved when Ratchet had suggested they take a "holiday" in Fastoon, the idea being, no one would think of looking for them on a ruined planet, but lately Ratchet had gone…quiet. More introspective. Often Clank had seen him gazing at the night sky with an expression of quiet longing. He made up his mind.
He got off the chair and entered the garage where Ratchet was working on Aphelion.
"Ratchet, I must talk with you"
"In a minute, Clank, I gotta re-adjust this…"
That caught his attention. Clank never spoke in that tone of voice.
"OK buddy, you got my attention. What is it?"
"I am worried about you, Ratchet. Over these past few weeks I have noticed you are…not yourself"
"Oh you did, huh? Well stop noticing! Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to yell. I just…" He sat down on a crate, looking glum.
"I've just been thinking about things"
Ratchet rubbed the back of his head. How to convey to a robot the feeling of loneliness that came from being the last of his kind? Knowing that when he died, there would be no others?
"Organic stuff. You wouldn't understand"
Clank folded his arms.
He froze. Clank watched in confusion as his friends fur bristled in a way he'd never seen before.
"Ratchet? What is…?"
Ratchet slumped, holding his head and moaning in pain. Clank's sensors picked up a sudden drop in pressure, like before a thunderstorm. But that was insane! There wasn't a cloud in the sky, there never was!
Ratchet arched his back, gave one last cry, then stopped, panting.
"C-Clank, what was that?"
"My sensors indicated a rapid and unexplained drop in pressure"
"Weird or what? Arrgh, my head still hurts! I think I'll go lie down for a… Clank, look!"
Clank followed Ratchets pointing finger.
About 50 feet above the old, ruined Plaza, a hole was tearing open. It was an odd purple shade, and left unsettling shadows on the edges of his optic sensors. As he watched, a tiny speck detached itself from the hole and began to fall. Clank was sure he heard a distant scream, before the ever-present wind ripped it away.
Ratchet got to his feet.
"Come on, Clank!"
Clank leapt up onto Ratchets back, locking himself onto the harness Ratchet wore. The lombax took off towards the plaza, leaping over rubble and ducking vines that had grown up over the years.
He reached the Plaza. The thing that had fallen had already landed, throwing up a crater of dust. He instinctively slowed his pace, years of being shot at teaching him to always be on guard. Sometimes things are less dead then they appear…
The first thing he saw was a helmet, knocked off by the landing. The next was a tail,similar to his but pitch black, draped limply over a piece of rubble. He took a look in the crater, hand on his Combustor in case the…whatever it was the tail was attached to… was playing dead.
If it was, it was a good actor. Dust and sand thrown up on impact obscured it, but he could see it was bipedal, and around his height.
Long black hair had flown over its face. He gingerly reached out, bracing for a possible attack, and swept the hair aside.
He noticed two things before his mind went blank with shock. It was female, and it… it was a lombax.
He was dimly aware of Clank jumping off his back and walking over to investigate. A searing pain in his hand snapped him back to his senses.
"I apologize for the laser burn but she needs medical attention, Ratchet!"
He took a closer look. As always, Clank was right. Her breathing was harsh and ragged, and a streak of blood leaked from her mouth, shining like a ruby against her ebony fur.
"Clank, she might have a spine injury, can you scan her and see if its safe for me to pick her up?"
Clank quickly bio-scanned her.
"She fell from a 50 foot height, and has sustained no other injuries then a concussion and some broken ribs!"
"Really? Wow, she must be as tough as nails! You go ahead and get some nano-tech for her, I'll bring up the rear"
"Don't take too long, she does not look at all well" said Clank, before he ran off as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Ratchet gently scooped her up. Even with the armor, she weighed nearly nothing. Something about her rang a bell, but he wasn't sure what… oh well that wasn't important.
By the time he arrived back at the house, Clank had already set up what appeared to be a miniature hospital.
"Jeez, Clank! I'm not taking out her appendix or anything, she just needs first aid!"
"You cannot be too careful, Ratchet"
He gently laid her on the couch. She coughed and whimpered gently, and his heart clenched. She was so beautiful, so delicate… he mentally shook himself… and she needed help.
He opened a jar of nano-tech, watching closely for any adverse side effects as the blue light swirled and disappeared into the gaps in her armour. He sighed with relief as her breathing calmed and slowed. The faint memory was really bugging him now. What was so familiar?
"Ratchet, does that armour look familiar to you?"
"Yeah it looks kinda like…"
He froze, as recognition struck. Her armour was exactly the same as…
"…Alister Azimuth's" he breathed.
"Clank, she's a Praetorian Guard!"
"Hmmmm" Clank looked thoughtful. "I wonder what she is doing here?"
"Isn't it obvious? She's here to bring the Lombaxes back!"
Ratchet was silent for a moment, practically vibrating with excitement, then..
"Clank, you keep an eye on her. I'm going back to the plaza to see if she dropped anything. She might need it later"
He quickly pulled on his hover-boots and jetted off.
Clank pulled up a chair. The girl was still asleep, so he had plenty of time to think. He had noticed the smitten look on Ratchet's face. Clank chuckled. This should be amusing…
Today had not been a good day for Jasmine. Ginger had warned her the transition through the portal would not be comfy, but she hadn't expected that. It was amazing she still had her limbs! And of course, there was popping out of the portal into open air. She was vaguely aware of lying on a comfy couch, and was quite happy to stay there, before her guard training kicked in and jolted her to full consciousness. She stayed still, eyes shut, carefully listening. She couldn't hear any breathing, or smell anyone there. Moving with stealth that made a ninja sound like a marching band she swung her legs off the couch…
Though it might have been a good idea to check for robots as well.
Cursing herself for not thinking, she looked down. A tiny robot, barely 2 feet high was smiling up at her, his green eyes remarkably expressive for a robot.
"I am glad to see you are awake. You gave us quite a scare"
"My friend has gone looking for your equipment. Tell me, are you feeling alright? You had a nasty fall"
"Um… a bit of a head ache but otherwise, OK. Thanks for asking-?"
"Oh! How rude of me. My name is Clank"
She gave the Guard salute.
"Corporal Jasmine Cain, of the Lombax Praetorian Guard" She rose. "Where exactly am I?"
"You are on Fastoon"
Her reaction surprised Clank. From what he had seen of Alister, he had thought that Praetorian Guards were staunch, serious fighters. He was not expecting…
"S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that's the way you spell success!"
She sang, doing a little dance.
"I don't believe it! I was sure I was going to wind up in the Zanifarian Death Weasel dimension! I hit the jackpot first time! Woo-hoo!"
"Well done" said Clank "I have sent a signal to my friend. He should be here shortly"
Jasmine checked the storage compartment on the glowing symbol set in her breastplate.
"I hope he has my gear. That stuffs damn near irreplaceable"
"I am sure he will do his best"
"Move you stupid thing!" Ratchet groaned.
After a long search he had finally located her wrench, which had firmly lodged itself between two bits of rubble and was strenuously resisting any attempts to be removed. In desperation he twisted, and wound up flat on his back. The wrench had unscrewed, revealing two wickedly sharp blades.
"Whoa! She's beautiful and deadly!" he said, swishing the sword through the air. He removed the other end, being very careful not to cut himself, and carefully slid the two halves back together. Looking at it he could hardly tell they were there.
He placed it on the small pile of things she had scattered in her landing. Her helmet, the wrench, a few assorted doodads and what appeared to be a very flat backpack. He picked it up. It was an odd blue shade, with glowing yellow lines streaking across it. It didn't seem to have any way to get inside it.
"I wonder how you open this?" he said to himself.
He soon regretted that.
open said a mechanical voice, and the backpack unfolded large metal wings that resembled those of a dragonfly. He only had a few seconds to digest this information before-
"Waaahoooo!" The wings blurred, yanking him off his feet, and shooting off into the sky. Ratchet hung on for grim death, watching the ground get smaller below him. Thinking fast, he shifted his weight. It worked. Sort of. Instead of rocketing off into space he was now dropping towards the ground at a breath-taking rate. He shifted his weight again, and the wings changed direction, flying between the houses.
"Ooff, argh, ow!" Vines snagged him, pieces of rubble got in his way, then he lifted his head, eyes streaming from the wind, and saw the Hall of Azimuth loom bigger and bigger and…
He woke up to the sound of his communicator beeping. The "backpack" had folded up again, with no sign the wings had ever been there. Nonetheless, he picked it up gingerly by a corner, before checking his message.
Come back to house quick. Clank
His head still reeled from his landing, so it took a while for the meaning of the message to sink in. Then-
"She must be awake!" he gasped. He hover-booted over to her gear, gathering it up as quick as he could.
A few nano-phytes tried to take a chunk out of him on the way back, but a swipe of his wrench scattered them. The journey back seemed to take forever, but finally his house appeared on the horizon. He slowed down, and from inside he heard laughter.
"He did not!"
"He did! I'm tellin' ya, it was the funniest thing I've ever seen!"
Ratchet gave a hesitant knock.
The door opened slowly, and he looked in. The girl was sprawled across the couch, one slim leg dangling over the side. She looked up, and he caught his breath. Her eyes were the bright, shining purple of amethysts, with the cheeky gleam of the born prankster. Thick black hair tumbled over her shoulders. She was so beautiful…
"So, are you gonna introduce yourself or just stare like an idiot?" she said, grinning.
"Ah, sorry, I just…its good to see another…I, uh…"
She raised an eyebrow.
"Ratchet! My names Ratchet!" he stammered, holding out her gear.
"My stuff! Thanks, man! This gear would have been really hard to replace. What happened to your face?"
Ratchet pointed to the backpack.
"Yeah, hover-wings'll do that. Ya gotta watch 'em. I'm Jasmine. Corporal Jasmine Cain"
"Ratchet. That's not a lombax name"
"I was raised on Veldin"
Ratchet moaned. He knew what was coming…
"If ya'll think a bug zapper and a six-pack is high quality entertainment, ya'll might just be-a Veldinite! If ya'll can't marry your sweetheart cuz there''s a law agin' it, ya'll might just be-a Veldinite! If your-"
"OK, can we skip the jokes and get to why your here, please?" Ratchet said, flattening his ears in annoyance.
"That information is classified. However, I would appreciate it if you could help me find a working ship"
"Well,Jasmine, I'm sorry to say that the only working ship on this planet…is mine"
"Is that blackmail?"
"No! Not at all! Its just that-"
He lent against the wall.
"You don't really have any other choice, do you? Besides staying here. You know, I could do with the company"
Jasmine thought for a while. Then-
"How can I trust you? I don't even know you"
Clank reached into the storage compartment in his chest, pulling out a bundle of newspaper clippings. Ratchet handed them over.
"I think these will prove my credentials?"
She looked over them.
""Veldin teenager defeats Drek", "Proto-pet menace defeated by brave Lombax", you've been a busy boy, Ratchet!"
She read further, then stopped.
"You defeated Tachyon?! No way, he wiped out half the Guard when he attacked! He was one of the threats I was briefed on before I left! OK buddy, I'm convinced. I'll explain on the ship. Lets go!"
"Thought you'd never ask" he said, picking up his wrench. "Aphelions in the garage. Follow me"
Jasmine stepped outside and froze. The sun was setting over Fastoon, golden light coating the ruined buildings.
"It's beautiful, Isn't it?"
She jumped. Captivated by the sight, she hadn't heard Ratchet approach.
"I felt the same first time I saw it"
She took another look at the sunset, the sun had slipped lower, giving the gold a red sheen.
"Yeah. Well, staring at sunsets isn't getting anything done. Come on!"
She shook herself and stepped into the garage after Ratchet and Clank. A few moments later, Aphelion rose swiftly into the sky. And from the cover of a ruined building, reptilian eyes watched them go.