Daxter leaned against a crumbly gray wall, hands tucked into his pockets; the fingers of his left hand toyed idly with a pocket knife. His flame-like plume of hair was glowing like a torch in the late afternoon sun. He chewed at the inside of his cheek—the only sign of restlessness on his otherwise well-schooled features. Crystal blue eyes scanned the throng of miserable proletariats as they milled about like yakows in a pen.

He sighed, discouraged. The slums certainly weren't the ideal place for pick-pocketing, vacant as they were of promising targets, but he could usually score something. Besides, they were a hell of a lot safer than anywhere else in the city—the KG couldn't give less of a shit about the people here, so long as they weren't killing each other. Besides that, Daxter had already snuck into the industrial district this week, and he didn't want to push his luck.

Still, this totally blew. He'd been standing in the same place for near on two hours, and not a single person had caught his eye. Unease stirred at the back of his mind. He couldn't afford another profitless day; he'd finished all the food he had last night. Already, his stomach was drawing in on itself, quietly begging for a scrap; his scrawny legs trembled beneath him. But Daxter always ran on intuition, and his intuition said to wait. Wait, just a little longer. Life will throw you a bone. Of course, it had been saying that since he started prowling the streets at seven in the morning. Stupid intuition.

He was just about ready to give up—he could always pay a visit to the dumpsters, if he had to—when an unusually bright head of hair caught his eye. Fancy that. He'd seen blonde, and he'd seen an earthy sort of green, but he'd never seen a hair color so positively… chartreuse. Seriously, the guy looked like a frickin' highlighter. Daxter watched as the mysteriously-colored fellow paced out of a curved alley, hooking a hefty-looking back of something into his belt.

Bingo. Target acquired.

Daxter knew a delivery boy when he saw one—usually some young, tough looking guy, too well-dressed to be impoverished (i.e. he had a job), but not well-dressed enough to justify owning whatever was in that bag that looked miraculously like a yakow's ball sack. Oh yes. Daxter loved delivery boys. Come to papa.

Honestly, they were good for his conscience. Daxter hated nabbing something, knowing it could be a father's only means of feeding his child. Unfortunately, Daxter had needs too. With delivery boys, however, Daxter felt almost zero guilt. He wasn't stealing anything from the target—he was stealing it from their boss, who tended to be a rich and portly gentlemen. And sure, he was cocking up the guy's career, but really, what kind of career is that? Running errands for fat assholes all your life? Oh yeah. That'll take you places.

Also, delivery boys tended to be beautifully easy targets. There were two types: 1. those that were so nervous about losing the goods that they forgot to pay attention to them, and (even better) 2. those that were so arrogant, they assumed they were untouchable. Meanwhile, all Daxter had to do was trail, approach, lift, and disappear before they noticed—like candy from a baby.

Blondie looked to be a number two, which suited Daxter just fine. He let the target pass, counted to seven, and pushed himself off the wall, stumbling slightly as his stiff legs got to working. Time to close the distance, sneaky-like.

Daxter adopted a brisk pace, keeping closer to the wall than his unlucky mark. He kept his eyes trained on that citrine head of hair, noting that it got blonder and blonder as it cascaded down. Could this guy really be from around here? He also had exceptionally long, droopy ears, and his skin was somewhat more bronze than the average citizen of the rainy Haven City. Weird, but whatever.

There were only ten feet between the two of them now, and Daxter was growing in confidence. Then, the blonde turned his head, glaring at an unsuspecting KG as he passed. Daxter felt his heart sink. Peaking out from behind the funny board-thing strapped to Blondie's back, right where the golden curtain of hair usually fell, was a nasty looking gun.

Daxter felt his pace falter.

Guns were very, very illegal in Haven City, except for the KG. Therefore, those who owned them were usually very dangerous, i.e. members of the fabled Underground. Not that Daxter didn't support the movement in his own, silent way—anyone who could stick it to the Baron had Daxter's hard-earned respect. Only problem was, it was a total pipe-dream. There was no way in hell these guys would ever be successful, but they would sure as hell take down the city trying. It was safer to stay out of their way, and to offer no aid—getting caught helping them was worse than shooting a baby, as far as punishment was concerned.

What if this guy was making a delivery for the Underground? A guy with a cause was a million times more dangerous than a guy with a job.


He nearly gave up right then and there, nervousness leaking into every step he took. But he needed to get something today, or face the grimy city dump. Could he even find a scrap of food that wasn't rotten? Daxter sighed, face screwing up with indecision…

Damn it. Shit. Damn it, damn it. Damn it all to hell!

… And continued after his mark.

After that, he felt even more pressured to finish the job and be done with it. The distance between them closed much more quickly than Daxter normally would have allowed. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves.

Relax, Dax. You've done this a million times.

He was careful, now, not to stare at the target. Don't tip him off. Don't trigger that funky sense that people have when somebody's watching them. Do not blow your cover.

He was standing right behind the guy, now. They were approaching one of those tight little roads left over from where some idiot had thought it was a good idea to stick a building in the middle of the square. The guy's ear twitched, and Daxter snapped his gaze to some little fruit stand on the side of the road, praying he wouldn't turn around.


Daxter slammed into the back of the suddenly immobile target; rigid gear stabbed into Daxter's chest, and he jerked back as his face pillowed against the soft blonde locks, only to collide with another body behind him.

"Sorry!" he stammered, hurriedly disengaging himself. The man behind him only grumbled, but the target turned halfway around, and their eyes connected. Daxter immediately noticed two things: one, that the mark was completely gorgeous, and two, that he looked pissed as hell.

"Whoa, hey, I'm sorry," the redhead yelped, rubbing at the base of his throat where the board had jabbed him. "Totally my bad sir, I wasn't watching where I was go"—

"It's fine," cut in a low voice. The target's eyes softened, barely, and he turned away again.

Daxter let out a shaky breath, eyes wide. What the hell had happened? Way to play it sneaky, idiot, he grumbled to himself. Then he glanced around, suddenly noticing that he was surrounded by stationary bodies, and all of them were trying to look over each other to see some hoopla ahead. What was going on? He tried to get a look, but even on tippy toes, Daxter still couldn't see past the heads in front of him, adding frustration to his flustered state. He wanted to know what was happening up there, for Precursor's sake!

Daxter glanced at the man in front of him. He wasn't particularly tall, but he was still taller than Daxter… maybe he could see. Would he answer, if Daxter asked him? Or was he still angry? Why did Daxter even want to ask this guy? Talking to the target was never a good idea! But before he knew it, Daxter was acting on the most horribly stupid impulse he had ever, ever had.

He rolled up on his tippy toes, positioning his face next to the mark's ear. In the back of his mind, he noticed that the mark smelled different than the rest of the city. He smelled fresher, somehow, like he hadn't lived in this muck for all that long. Maybe he worked in agriculture? Whatever, it wasn't important. Daxter placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Hey pal. Can you see what's going on?"

A massive twitch jerked through the target's shoulder, and his head whipped around to look at Daxter. What was that facial expression? A mixture of irritation and confusion? Murder and intrigue?

He seemed to remember himself after a moment, because his eyes snapped forward again and he let out a surprised cough, answering, "The KG are arresting a couple guys. Not sure why." He continued to stare forward, as though they hadn't spoken.

Right. Daxter lifted his hand off the target's shoulder and let himself drop back onto his heels, brow furrowing. Suddenly, it occurred to Daxter that running into the target would have been a perfect moment to lift. He looked down at the bounty, and wondered if he shouldn't try to nab it now. But if the guy noticed before the crowd cleared, he'd have Daxter at his finger tips, and the redhead had no doubt that the blonde could pound his scrawny bones into the ground. No, it was better to wait. The mark was too alert right now, anyway. Daxter had drawn way too much attention to himself.

They stood there for a minute or two more before the ordeal was over and they were allowed to continue through the street. Daxter kept close, but not too close. Once, the target glanced over his shoulder, and Daxter was sure he saw him. He watched the purse, looking for a sign that said, "I know what you're trying to do"—marks always held onto the bounty if they thought it was in immediate danger. But nope, it hung loose and free. Daxter couldn't help but wonder what the hell was the deal with this guy. Was he clueless? Was he taunting Daxter? What was going on!

They were almost to the industrial district. Daxter glared at the red-lit streets. He had to make his lift before they went in there, where the KG gave half a shit about the residents. He just needed an opening… Daxter watched as the target's pace faltered for a moment, and the target glanced down at his belt. Then, he tugged out a communicator and held it to his ear. Perfect distraction.

It's now or never, Daxter. You've got to make your move.

His whole body buzzed nervously. He hadn't been this anxious for a lift since he picked Erol, the city's racing champion's pocket. But this was nothing that extreme. He just needed to relax. He kept up his usual pace, coming within a foot of the target. Directly behind him, he smoothly reached around, unhooked the purse without so much as a tug on the belt, and turned on his heel. His heart pounded in his ears as he walked away with a casual stroll, every inch of him screaming to run like hell.

Don't look back. Don't look back. He'll see you if you look back.

He started counting backwards from ten, forcing himself to breathe at every count. 3… 2… 1… He closed his eyes, relief seeping through him. If they didn't catch you in the first ten seconds, they never did. The familiar sense of giddiness that always accompanied success made his head feel light and airy, and a grin spread unbidden across his cheeks.

And then, a hand wrapped around his bicep, fingers digging into his skin. His heart slammed into his throat and his feet took off as his fingers plunged into his pocket, whipping out the knife. He was immediately yanked back by the iron grip. He whipped around, flying towards his captor, brandishing his blade. Another hand caught his wrist, stopping the knife inches before it slashed into that face. The target.

"Get the hell off me!" Daxter immediately started to squirm and pull, letting his legs drop out from under him in an attempt to break the target's grip. Strong arms held him up and gave him a violent shake, causing Daxter's vision to roll. He started kicking and biting, and then—

"Hey! Calm down!"

Daxter went rigid, looking up into those hateful blue eyes. Silence stretched between them.

Then: "I'm going to let go of your wrist, and you're gonna put the knife away. Okay?"

Daxter stared blankly. Why was he still alive?


Daxter nodded numbly and, true to his word, the target released his wrist. A flurry of options whizzed through Daxter's head—cut his other hand, cut his face, stab him, run—but he felt his thumb sliding the blade back in place and a light thump as the knife landed in his pocket.

"Come on."

Suddenly, Daxter was being dragged through the industrial district, the bounty still in his grip. Everything around him was red, and all sound seemed to be drowned out by the pounding of his heart. What in name of all the Precursor shit Daxter had ever seen was going on? Where was the target taking him? And why was he taking him there?

They came out in an enormous avenue that Daxter had never been through—he didn't have a pass for this part of the city. He could see the port at the other end, the wide expanse of deep blue surrounded by an enormous wall. The target's grip on his arm had loosened a lot since he first took hold, Daxter noticed. He might even be able to escape… But no. He'd only get caught. Daxter was fast, but he was also weak and lightheaded. Not to mention, more than a little curious about where this stranger was taking him.

The turned right at the port, the target grunting, "This way."

They followed the water's edge around a corner. Daxter saw the infamous Hip Hog Heaven Saloon's neon sign beckoning him. They drew closer and closer, approaching its entrance. Daxter glanced up at his companion, but the blonde didn't look back. He ushered Daxter into the building, finally letting go of his arm, and muttering, "Keep quiet."

Daxter looked around. It was smaller than he'd expected. The lighting was dim and theatric; red carpet covered the floor. The target stepped around him and walked towards the bar in the back, beckoning for Daxter to follow, which he did, cautiously.

As they stepped around a small boxing ring in the center of the room, a whirring sound caught Daxter's attention. He glanced up and saw, much to his horror, an enormously fat, bald man in a silky green suit flying into the room. Like, literally. He flew into the room. He was in some sort of hover chair. Daxter felt the blood drain from his face as the man floated down in front of them, and tendrils of a raspy, gargling voice met his ears.

"Jaaaaaak," the man purred, chuckling to himself. It seemed like a struggle.

The blonde—Jak—inclined his head, folding his arms across his chest. "Krew."

"Nnnnngh… You've got my monthly payment, I prrrrrresume?" He rolled his Rs grotesquely, and his twiggy legs kicked impatiently.

Jak nodded, holding a hand out to Daxter. Daxter handed him the bag, pouting as he did so.

"Mmmm… Give it here. Haven't got all day, eh?" His chubby fingers twitched, and jewels flashed. Jak tossed the bag onto his lap, making the man grunt quietly. There was a standoffish moment of silence, as though each was waiting for the other to turn around first. Then Krew's eyes flicked to Daxter, and his lips parted, revealing largely toothless gums.

"What's this, eh?" He swooped around to the redhead and reached out, tangling sausage fingers in the fiery plume of hair. Daxter ducked, but was unable to escape. "A new"—Krew interrupted himself with a gasp—"frrrrrriend?" He laughed at his own joke, sounding strangled and wheezy. "I wonder, boy, if you would like to join my girls, eh? I have them put on a wild show three nights a week, and I think you'd make"—gasp—"a brrrrilliant edition."

Daxter gaped at him, cheeks swelling with heat. "Listen, tub o' love. I'm not some piece of"—

Jak stepped between the two of them. "He's not interested."

"Eeuuuuh, yes, well. Doesn't hurt to ask, eh?" He whizzed away, dejected.

"Yeah, buzz off, ya creep." Daxter glared after him, irritated. He let his eyes fall to his blonde companion, and was startled to find that he was already looking at him. A small smirk lightened the dour man's features, making Daxter's heart skip a beat. Wait, what?


Jak shook his head, and started towards the door. "Come on," he muttered, though it lacked the same bite as before.

Daxter trotted after him, stepping out onto the street. Jak was scanning the traffic; his eyes zeroed in on a man who was parking his zoomer next to a pink, neon sign.

"Wait here."

Jak jogged over to the zoomer as the man walked away, dropping his keys. It looked intentional to Daxter. Jak picked up the keys, eyes alert, and threw his leg over the zoomer. He drove it over to Daxter and halted next to him.

"Hop on."

Daxter raised his eyebrows and fidgeted nervously. "Why?" He was surprised by how guarded his voice sounded, even to himself. "What if I want to go home?"

Jak shrugged. "I can take you home."

"Okay, but why? What's yer motivation, buddy?"

Jak looked away for a moment, seeming a bit perturbed.

Daxter sighed, placing his hands on his hips. "Boy, you really know how to sweet talk 'em."

"Do you want a ride or not?"

Daxter stared at Jak for a moment, trying to figure out his game.

" Sure, I guess. A ride world be nice."

With that, he threw his leg over the zoomer behind the blonde and wrapped his arms around the torso, causing him to jump and twist in his seat to look at Daxter.

"Jumpy, aren'tcha? I gotta hang on, big guy."

He rolled his eyes. "Where to?"

Daxter shrugged, grinning. Why the hell was he grinning? "I dunno."

One green eyebrow quirked. "I thought you said you wanted to go home."

Daxter lifted a finger. "Ah-ah. I said what if I wanted to go home. Big difference, buddy."

Jak snorted, and turned away. He revved the engine, and before Daxter could get a firm grip, he pulled out onto the road. Then, glancing up, he switched zones, causing Daxter's stomach to drop. Jak started weaving through traffic (quite illegally and much too quickly) and pulled out over the water.

Daxter leaned forward, pulling himself close to Jak's ear. "Name's Daxter, by the way!"

He got no response.


They whizzed through the square where Daxter had first started following Jak. It was dark, now. Jak changed zones as he pulled into a curling alleyway, and Daxter's felt his butt lift out of the seat and then slam back down-quite painfully, by the way.


"Sorry," Jak mumbled. He parked the car and dismounted, pulling out of the redhead's embrace. He looked around uncertainly as the pale boy crawled off the bike, skinny legs shaking. He still hadn't eaten today, and it was starting to take its toll.

"Do you have somewhere to stay?" Daxter glanced up to see Jak staring at him intently.

Daxter screwed his mouth up, shrugging. "Kinda? I got a couple places I can crash, but no place that's mine." He leaned on the wall, shoving his hands into his pockets and crossing his legs. "Sorry about earlier, by the way." He stared at his boots.


Daxter shrugged. "Tryin' ta swindle ya. Just gotta find a way to eat, ya know?"

There was an awkward moment of silence. Then: "You don't work for the Baron, do you?"

The redhead's eyes shot upwards, flashing with anger. "WHAT! No! Would I be pickin' pockets if I did? Sheesh. Don't offend me, buddy."

Jak smirked. "Good." The blonde turned on his heel and walked away.

"Uh…" Daxter looked around, confused, and decided to follow, trotting after his new aquantance. "Why's that good, again?"

Jak didn't answer, simply walking down the alley. He approached a door covered in green graffiti and knocked on it in a specific pattern. It slid open, releasing a pool of light to spill over the cobblestones. Jak smiled at Daxter and nodded towards the door.

The redhead raised his eyebrows. "You do realize I don't have a soundtrack to tell me if this moment is eerie or touching, right?"

Jak rolled his eyes and walked in. It was up to Daxter, whether to follow or walk away. He glanced over his shoulder. He could leave. He didn't have to go down there. But Daxter always ran on intuition, and right now, his intuition was telling him that life had finally thrown him a bone.

He followed the blonde into the building, a grin slipping across his face.