ShellShock - Ch. 1

Deviation Actions

chinara's avatar

Literature Text

Shell Shock

Denny and Leila
Rating: PG-RG
Warnings: Ratchet/Azimuth. Violence.
Disclaimer: We value our lives too much to even dare think about claiming Ratchet and Alister as our own. We borrow them for an RP, so don't worry. [Put the Wargroks back into your cage!]
Summary: Everyone's nightmare is to wake up in a cold, dark place without a clue where one is. Sadly, that's what's happened to us.  What's even better, we have monsters and weird encounters to endure as well. And then there's them…
Lucky, right? If I ever get out of here, I will need some therapy sessions.

Chapter 1


"Alister? Are you there?" Oh great, what had happened? He couldn't even see the shape of his hand as he touched where he felt his face swell slightly. Wherever 'here' was, it smelled both moist and a bit dusty.

"Yes. Right beneath you." A slight moan escaped the elder as he pushed the other a little away to sit up. His head hurt, probably from a hit he had received - but he couldn't remember from what exactly.

"Oh, sorry!" Luckily the darkness hid his embarrassed expression about not noticing he had lied on the other. He quickly kneeled next to, or in front of him, he wouldn't know. "Are you alright?"

"I suppose." Azimuth felt around to find Ratchet, not really succeeding. "But it would be nice to know where we are."

Ratchet heard the shuffling and tapping of a hand on the ground and he carefully reached out to where he guessed the sound was coming from, wanting to help Azimuth. "I think they hit me over the head, but more I can't remember. I was the whole time unconscious."

There! The Lombax felt the other's hand and closed his own around it. "Then we're two." His other hand reached out for his pocket, pulling out one of the torches and igniting it. Green light threw shadows on the walls, some thin trails of water wandering down. As it seemed the ground consisted of a merge between soil and stone as it was neither hard nor particularly soft.

The torch blinded the younger Lombax and he narrowed his eyes for a moment, shielding them with a hand. When opening them again, he was disappointed the light didn't reveal much. Everything beyond the light's radius of some cubits stayed in darkness but the sound of water hitting pools suggested a much bigger place.

"Seems like we ended up in a subterranean cave." Alister sighed and got onto his feet, pulling Ratchet on his feet as well. Not a good idea as it turned out - his head felt as if thousand needles were sticking in it, his sight blurring for a moment. Whoever had brought them down here knew at least how to hit.

"Alister?!" He quickly stepped in front of the other and supported him as he stumbled forward. A grunt escaped him as he hadn't expected the general being so heavy.

"I'm all right, don't worry." The elder grinned and straightened his back, looking at Ratchet with a thankful gaze. Then he waved torch around to see if there was a way out or not, finding out that there was indeed one. It just seemed quite narrow.

Ratchet's eyes went from a smile at Azimuth to a frown as he looked at the path. He doubted their attackers had carried them though there - it was hardly broad enough to let Alister walk straight forward without at least scraping hard his arms. Rocks reached from the walls above and into the path, some of them looked sharp enough to cut through his armour. Then, if their attackers had yet somehow brought them in that way, it meant there was likely no other exit. He rather not thought about the second option. A sudden splash made him jerk and he squeezed Alister's hand which he was still holding.

Azimuth looked at him, a bit surprised - but soon another smirk hushed over his lips.
"I didn't think of you as such a scaredy-cat." He chuckled and pulled slightly at Ratchet's hand as he wanted to follow the walls to get a better picture of the cave.

"I'm not a scaredy-cat!", Ratchet glared at the elder, "I just got surprised, that's all." At the raised eye-brow he received he glared only harder, but said with a softer voice, "Alright, it was more than surprise. Don't rub it in because you hold on to my hand like I'm a child."

"I can let go, if you want to." Alister looked at the other for a moment, staying silent. As there was no response, he chuckled lowly and led them on.

He stared down the path, head sunken and not saying a word. Even through the glove the other's hand felt warm and solid around his own.
He actually felt offended but in some way, Alister was right. A little tug made him look up. The worry in the other's amber eyes deepened as he saw his probably dejected face.

"Something the matter?" The elder stopped turning to Ratchet. "Did something come back to your mind?"

"No." That even sounded to himself flat and empty. Gathering his breath, he looked directly at the general. "Well, actually something did but not about how we've gotten here."

"... I see." Azimuth looked the other in the eye, a slightly inquisitive gaze demanding a bit of an elaboration. "What came back?"

Ratchet shifted a bit and rubbed his neck with his other hand. "I recently went to Merdegraw to find the Obsidian Eye there after IRIS finally found some info about the Zoni."

"The Obsidian Eye?" Azimuth's eyes widened slightly. "What did you use it for? Did you try to contact the Zoni?"

"Not really, I didn't even know about the Clock then. I just wanted to find Clank." The torch's green light blurred and he had to swallow before he continued, "But that's not what I mean. See, the Morrow Caves were really dark, kinda like here and many nasty things hid in there. I never knew if a Pythor would suddenly appear out of a gauge and hunt me. But even worse were the Thwogs, you can't defeat 'hem with any weapon and have to scare them away with light. I learnt to be rightfully scared when a sudden noise came from nowhere in the darkness."

Alister frowned a little as he listened to Ratchet. "I see." For a moment there was silence, the elder watching the other. Then, he let go of Ratchet's hand and stroked over his head as he would to calm someone down.
"Don't worry. I don't think any of these creatures will be around here - and even if, they can't win against two Lombaxes."

Ratchet looked wide-eyed at the touches. There hadn't been many times he had been touched like this in his life, the moments including mostly Sasha hugging him and this had been different. It was like the physical manifestation of care Clank always showed him - and it was nice to have another person to feel that way about him.
It even eased the sudden twinge in his chest at the wish he had used the chance on Reepor to show his care back for his friend.

Alister looked at the younger one, his hand resting on the other's head. His fingers slowly stroked over Ratchet's fur, calming him down. It was odd yet pleasant, just to stand there and to pat the other's head. His gaze turned distant for a second - but the moment when the other twitched under the touch, he quickly pulled back his hand and turned around.
"We should get moving. Time's wasting, and we have to find the Great Clock soon."

The Lombax startled a bit at the other's changed attitude and tone. Pathetic as it may sound, although he felt calm now he missed already the touches and he felt disappointed the other suddenly jumped back to business. On the other hand, Alister was right. They had to get out of here as fast as possible.
Not only because of the Clock though - who knew if their attackers would come back to kill them for real? Or if any creatures in the dark around them would do the job.

"Are you coming, Ratchet?" The elder had quickened his pace a little and was now a little in advance. He turned around and waited for the other, slight impatience visible on his face.

Ratchet rolled his eyes and shook his head. Did he look like this when he got impatient? That would explain why Clank sometimes pointed out to him he was acting rude. The young Lombax jogged to Azimuth's place, both standing in front of the narrow path. It didn't look any more promising than before but Ratchet followed the other.
He hid a little grin as he could walk normally, his narrow, small size helping him in this situation. The general on the other hand turned his body sideways after a rock had caught one of his shoulder pads. The light slowly moved with them, leaving the place behind them again in darkness.

The general rolled his eyes at the narrow space given in the path as he had to be very cautious not to scrape the walls whilst holding onto the light. If he hadn't known better, he would have suspected Ratchet to grin secretly to himself.
Oh boy, did he wish for the path to end soon.
Luckily they had to pass through the path only for around five minutes. They stepped into another chamber, Alister first waving around the torch. It didn't reveal more than the room before, only that the ceiling wasn't so high. Stalactites and stalacmites gleamed like greenish, pointy teeth and a stream run out of an opening to the right.

  The frown over Azimuth's eyes deepened as a low growl came from him. Really, he was wondering in what kind of place, or at least on which planet they were. Perhaps he could contact Perihelion?
... Well. If that was an option, he would. But...
"Ratchet. Have you already tried contacting Aphelion?"

The question stunned him. Right, why hadn't he thought of this? A dulled slap echoed through the chamber, followed by an "Ouch!" Ratchet realized this had been a bad idea as pain erupted behind his front and he rubbed the sore spot.
Azimuth had a hard time to suppress his chuckling, watching the other with an amused gaze. The reproachful glare in Ratchet's eyes didn't make it any better, exhilarating Alister even more.
"Don't look so constipated." He reached out for the other Lombax and stroked over his forehead.
"There. Better now?"

Ratchet's mouth nearly dropped open, instead his glare intensified. He turned away, crossing his arms and ignored the other. Suspicion rose in him that the other didn't take him seriously - treated him like a child that couldn't care for himself. He knew Azimuth likely just teased him and actually his own reaction would have been funny.
But this was the second time the elder touched his head. Before it looked apparent Alister had done it out of instinct to calm him down - now he grinned and petted him like parents did with their children when they hurt themselves and they used 'magic' to make the bruises not hurt anymore.

Alister pulled his hand back and turned around, walking along the cave walls. Again, there was nothing significant, just a few stalagmites and stalactites.
... Safe for that gap opening right beneath his feet.
"!" The Lombax jumped back and stumbled against one of the stalagmites, blinking surprised at the opening. As it appeared, it was not a simple hole in the ground - the edge of it was framed with old, rusty metal.

The yell startled Ratchet; he turned around, indignation forgotten. Inwardly he sighed with relief as he saw the other Lombax leaning back on a stalagmite, wondering what the heck he had done. Alister was staring down at his feet as if there a monster crawled or something like this.
He omitted this thought in favour of running to the elder to see what captivated his attention like this.

When Ratchet ran over to him, Azimuth stretched an arm to side to stop the other.
"Don't go any further." Slowly the elder kneeled down, holding the torch into the hole. As it seemed it was an old pipe, big enough for even him to walk in. Did that mean that there was a facility closeby?

"What the heck?!" The younger followed his companion, lowering his head to get a better look into the pipe. The metal gleamed, a thin sheet of moisture on the surface, some rivulets rolling down the walls from the water that collected around the opening. He gripped the edge and leaned forward, Lombax curiosity calling him. Suddenly, his fingers slipped, a yell escaping him with the fall forward and down.

"Watch out!"
Azimuth managed to get a hold of Ratchet's ankle, preventing the other's painful meeting with the ground. Slowly he let the younger Lombax down until he reached the bottom, letting go of the other.

He caught himself on his arms which gave out beneath him and he sagged to the ground. The metal against his cheek felt comfortingly cold against the vertigo which still reeled his vision and head - it was like he was in a ship barrel-rolling although he lied on firm ground.
Behind his forehead, everything throbbed and twisted and his fingers curled against the metal.

The general waited until Ratchet had moved aside before he followed the other. The green light was reflected on the moist metal, almost hurtful for the eyes. But, to see the good point, the Lombaxes could see a bit farther ahead in the pipe.

The sound of creaking boots, the resounding thump, the vibrations against his cheek should have risen Ratchet. It just seemed so hard in the moment to stand up or even move as his mind still made his body believe he was falling.

"... Ratchet?" Azimuth, who had already been on his way, stopped and looked at the Lombax. "Are you all right?"
As there was no response, the general worried. What was up with him? Slowly he walked back and kneeled beside Ratchet.

"Sorry." Ratchet words slurred muffled as he spoke against the floor, keeping his eyes closed as he heard and felt the other next to him. Alister's voice sounded distant and had a strange echo. Oh stars, his arms were shaking as he pushed against the floor - he nearly fell again as he drew his knees forward which felt like lead. Sitting back, he looked to where he assumed the General sat or stood. He faced a brown-whitish blur and heard a gasp. "What is with your eyes?"

Alister leant the torch against the metal, reached out for the Lombax and pulled his face closer. With the other hand he opened the eyes of the other a bit farther, staring at him with concentration. Then, his eyebrow was raised slightly in surprise, as if it was something unusual. Whilst not letting go of Ratchet's face, he took the torch back into his hand and frowned.
"Open your mouth, Ratchet."

"General? Is some-something wrong?" In fact it was a rhetorical question, Ratchet knew something was wrong when he had flinched as the hands framed his face. The touch didn't hurt, the movement had startled him more because he saw only a blur that was still some centicubits away when the gloves actually touched.

Azimuth kept Ratchet's mouth open, an examining glare in his eyes - but soon after he leant back.
"It seems that it's just a concussion. You hit your head pretty badly, and these are simply the symptoms Lombaxes get from these." The elder sighed in relief. "And I already thought you caught Canfela."
The general turned around and kneeled down, signalizing Ratchet to get on his back. "It's better if you don't walk for a while; otherwise the symptoms will worsen."

Keeping his eyes closed helped against the vertigo as he didn't see the room spinning and tilting what would upset his brain which actually knew he was sitting. At the other's words though he opened them again, relieved that the effect had lessened considerably. He still was too confused to notice what Alister wanted him to do. "Candela? What's that?"

"Canfela, not Candela. It's a Lombax disease that was quite the problem back then - and the symptoms of it are just the same as with a concussion, only that a swollen tongue is included." Azimuth turned his head around a little. "Get on my back, I'll carry you for the time being."

"Quite a problem back then?" More tremors shook Ratchet's leg as he slowly straightened and he took a hesitant step forward. Luckily he didn't stumble and with his hands supporting himself on Azimuth's broad shoulder set a wave of relief free. Usually he would have argued at least a bit to being carried - he didn't like to rely on others that way. He did appreciate help, nothing against this but he hated to feel like he was a burden or slowed his allies down.

"Yes. When it broke out the first time, several hundreds of us died. It was really a race against time for the Research facility, but eventually we managed to find an antidote." As soon as the general felt Ratchet on his back, he slowly stood up and made sure that the Lombax wouldn't fall off. Since he had to use both hands to carry the other, he gave the torch to Ratchet; then he walked down the pipe, careful not to slip. "Hold tight."

"What caused it?" The younger's typical Lombax curiosity perked and that in both senses. Azimuth had confirmed some days ago that curiosity ran as a basic drive through all of the Lombax species, but differed in intensity and pursued interests. And of course Ratchet was interested in every topic that concerned the Lombaxes. So little did he know about his own kind and even in his teenager years when he had more wanted to have adventures and explore, somewhere deeper he still had wondered. Wondered where came from, what was typical of his species, how much he adhered to it and so on. Now that he knew not only anyone who could answer him but one of his own kind, he could finally satisfy his questions. "And was Canfela deadly?"

"Not necessarily if you treated it early enough and properly." Their path was slightly tilted downwards, making it harder to walk on it. Azimuth decided to bend his knees and to slide down the pipe, careful to keep the balance. "The cause of it was the spores of the Canfel-plant. Some of our research troops had accidently brought some to Fastoon where it quickly turned into a disaster."

Somehow the idea of spores digging into lungs and growing there lurked unwantedly into Ratchet's mind. Shaking his head, he kept looking past Alister's head, more interested about what exactly had happened when the disease spread than where they were currently going. Still - he kept looking for movement on the ground from the corner of his eyes although he still couldn't see completely clear yet.
"'Accidently'? You guys knew how it came with you from whatever planet it came from?"

"... Yes. The researchers mistook it as another plant and brought it to our planet. Since they thought it was the Raleb-plant which is known for its healing effects, they didn't put it into an isolated container either." He leant to the side so that they followed the curve of the pipe. "As a result, first the research troops were affected by it, then their families and so on."

"What did it do to 'em?" The younger actually wasn't sure if he wanted to know given by how worried Alister had seemed to be before, but the question stood in the open now.

Alister remained silent for a moment, his gaze darkening.
"First they would have the symptoms you have right now, plus a swollen tongue. After that, the symptoms would disappear for about a month; you could be absolutely healthy for that time and not suspect anything, but after that..." Azimuth stopped sliding as the pipe was even once more, slowly advancing.
"The Lombaxes would first lose their control over their body - seizures, sudden fainting and all the like. In that stage, it would be hard to cure you already, but you'd still have a chance. If you reach the next stage, however..."

A shiver climbed down Ratchet's spine at how the other Lombax trailed off. The dizziness had stopped but the clarity felt uncomfortable as his mind pieced together what Alister's words might hinted at. "They died?" He didn't know these people, probably hadn't even been born by that time. He couldn't help but feel compassion for them and just as much for their unaffected loved ones, remembering how Ace Hardlight nearly had killed Al.

"... Yes. If it went fast." Azimuth realized that there was a grid at the side, indicating that there could be another path. He walked closer to it. "And if they were lucky." Leaning in to the grid, he tried to make out what was following afterwards, but all he could see was yet another metal wall. Perhaps the way went up?

"W-what?! 'If it went fast and they were lucky'? You mean, some lived but... like vegetated for the rest of their lives?" This would be an explanation why the General told death had been more favorable for the affected than living after that stage came to pass. The grid offered at least some distraction from the thought, though he couldn't look up or down the path behind it from his position.

"... No. If they reached that state, they all died." Azimuth shifted Ratchet's weight to one hand and touched the grid, thinking about how to break it. "But if you weren't lucky, your limbs would deteriorate first, you would lose your sense of morality - yet at the same time the disease would keep you alive until it destroyed your brain completely." The general turned quiet for a moment. "Not a pleasant image, is it?"

He helped the other by hiking his unsupported leg tighter around Azimuth's abdomen, but didn't say anything. In the silence that followed a low hum could be heard from somewhere beyond the grid. The younger finally sighed. "No," Ratchet bowed his head. "Not pleasant at all." Another sigh and he looked over Alister's shoulder, seeing his hand on the metal.
"Lemme down, you can open it easier if you can move freely." Alister turned his head to Ratchet, eyebrows rose at which he replied, "I'm feeling much better now. I've shaken my head some minutes ago and didn't feel dizzy, and I also can see clearly again." Alister still didn't seem to be convinced, before the general could open his mouth, Ratchet added, "I won't stand. Just put me down the floor next to the wall, I'll be fine then."

"... Fine. But don't move too much." Azimuth brought Ratchet to the opposite pipe wall, putting him down there and then turning back to the metal grid.
His hand reached for his double-edged wrench, slowly charging it. Then, as soon as a faint blue glow surrounded the heads, Azimuth spun it and sent a load of energy against the metal grid, making it break apart.

Ratchet grinned at the perfectly executed attack. He had always liked the other's wrench because it was, unlike his own omniwrench's actual function, a weapon through and through. "Did you get this wrench as part of the Praetorian Guard or build you it yourself?"

Azimuth turned around, holding his wrench firmly in his hand.
"Only the Praetorian Guard may carry these. Only them." A bit of pride was in his voice, and, perhaps it was just the green light, but it appeared that there was a proud gaze in his eyes as well. "To be allowed to use one of these is very much like one of the greatest honors a Lombax could get."

Ratchet's eyes widened, seeing the emotion in the elder's eyes and voice. Again he felt he had much to learn about the Lombaxes when apparently being in the Praetorian Guard meant so much in their society or at least to Alister.
"Mine were never that special, always purchased from either Gadgetron or Megacorp." He released his omniwrench from his manifestor, holding it up. "Though I've never been so proud to purchase an object because it was the first tool I could buy with my own earned money on Veldin."

"Hm. Understandable." Alister put one of the wrench's heads onto the ground. "A lot of Lombaxes I knew were nearly obsessed with their wrenches - you could even say that a Lombax without a wrench wasn't a Lombax at all." His gaze rested on Ratchet's omniwrench. "Your father wasn't different either."

"Wow. So I was basically drawn to wrenches, although I didn't know that they were so important to the Lombaxes. Though I'm not really obsessed." He tilted the handle a bit, bringing the tool's head closer to his face. "I change wrenches when they're too old or the one I have needs modifications which it can't hold. Though I have to admit, I always hurried even faster to get a new wrench than even a new weapon. This one here is the first I didn't buy - some friends built it for me. Ultra-light Teratanium, a hyper grid handle and maybe a little illegal technology. I didn't know Zephyr and Cronk could forge or were into engineering." He chuckled at the likely image that the two eccentric war-bots had squabbled like usual, as they worked to build the wrench, throwing insults at each other. He stopped when Alister looked half-suspicious, half-affronted at him. Ratchet grinned sheepishly, "I shouldn't have said that about the illegal technology, huh?"

"... Maybe." The frown over Azimuth's eyes deepened. "Lombaxes don't use illegal technology - that is, if it was someone else who put it into their wrenches." The general sat down in front of the other, his glare on Ratchet's wrench. Odd. It resembled the one Ratchet's father had posessed. How come that they looked so similar?
"Your friends... were they somehow associated with the Lombaxes before they vanished?"

Alister started as Ratchet broke out into more chuckles. "Sorry," he shook his head, grinning at the confused elder, "These two are a special case. You see, they're pretty old already and have grown some funny schtiks and they even admit that. For once, they love to tell tales about their 'impossible' adventures they participated in and they're really impossible.
"Like fighting their way out the 'Folsteriod Plateau'", he supported his tone of voice by an airquote, "against Undead Zombie Dung Dragons with nothing more than a roll of toilet paper and a rusty fork." Keeping his laughter in at the other's expression he continued, "Don't worry, I'll get to the part that I mean.
"One time, a year ago when Tachyon caused Clank and I to land in Polaris and we were on the search for the 'Lombax mystery', Cronk stated he was a renound expert in Lombax history while Zephyr told his mother had been a half-Lombax." Ratchet made a dramatic pause, tilting his head a bit before a smirk grew on his muzzle. "The object we had found was a map of Rykan V where a Lombax research facility was located - but Clonk claimed it to be a Zombie-death-ray-emitter. And Zephyr could have been hard to conceive for that 'half-Lombax woman' because he's, like Cronk, a warbot."

If anything was comparable to Azimuth's expression at that moment, it would have been one of a person had been unjustly slapped over the face. Slowly the general closed his mouth and swallowed, clearing his throat.
"... Yes. I see." He kept his hand in front of his mouth to hide the smirk and the chuckling from Ratchet. "You have very interesting friends."

Ratchet against General - 1 to 0.
Barely contained laughter at the other's more than stunned expression made Ratchet almost throw his head back. Azimuth couldn't fool him, he saw the smirk through the other's hand. "I also know the mayor of Kerwan who is also the daughter of Solana's president and knows how to kick butt; a geek who is more loyal than anything who was so gravely injured he had to be turned into a half Cyborg but thought it cool because he always wanted to be one. Two combat bots from Deadzone who got assigned to me after their former partner had been killed, one meek and a bit anxious, the other loud and forward. An one-eyed monkey who had his intellect swapped with a greedy-for-knowledge Technoid and now is studying quantum mechanics, and a dimwitted, green, bragging idiot who always takes the credit for every good deed Clank and I do. Oh, and of course there's is Talwyn, protegée of Cronk and Zephyr who wanted to throw me out of the airlock into space because I had intruded her space station and then didn't because I'm a Lombax whom her lost father studied. Shall I continue?"
"If you want to." Azimuth was now no longer hiding his amusement. Just listening to the younger Lombax was enough to make him chuckle. "Are there any other people you have met?"

"Well... this maybe sounds like I'm changing the subject, but are there Lombaxes who have no tails and whose ears are more like 'flaps'? Or do exist maybe sub-spe-" A movement in the shadows from where they had travelled from before made him turn his head.

Azimuth loosened mood vanished immediately. The elder grabbed his wrench and positioned himself in front of Ratchet, secretly preparing for a strike. Quietly he moved his lips, not daring to speak himself.
Keep talking. He lowered his hand and concentrated on the noise again.
Sounds comparable to claws scraping metal reached his ears, only faint but still there. What was it?

Ratchet felt the dizzyness return, if only slightly, as he tensed but he continued. "You see, I met a person in the Bogon Galaxy who looked like this, no tail, different ear from. I didn't think much of it because she looked completely different from me but now I'm curious if the Lombaxes have maybe some sort of cousins or like this."

"Was it a female?" Azimuth asked, his eyes closed. The source of the noise seemed to close in on them as the scratching turned louder. Was it already visible though? He couldn't tell; and so he would wait for another moment.
But... Perhaps it would be easier for him if he had Ratchet's help.
Slowly the general reached for the other's hand and held it slightly. At the puzzled gaze of the other, he moved his lips once more.
If you see the creature, press my hand.
Despite their pretending to keep up the façade, Ratchet didn't need to pretend the eye-roll. "Well, I said 'she looked, so I guess I meant a female," he joked, looking at Alister's face as the other Lombax closed his eyes again. This was the first time he could study the other's face up-close and freely like this. Almost haggard, whether it was age or maybe from strain his cheeks curved inward so that the cheek bones stood clearly out. With the square chin, his head resembled a triangular, strengthening the look of determination and hardness that shone in the lines of his face and the furrowed brow above his eyes.

"... I'm sorry." Azimuth smiled. "I wasn't too attentive." He paused for a moment, still listening for the noise. "Then that means that you have met a female Lombax. Oddly, they can either have or not have a tail, just - "

Suddenly his eyes snapped open as he realized what he had just said. His grip around Ratchet's tightened as he tensed up even more. "You've met another Lombax? Another one apart from us?"
Azimuth was agitated. Was it possible that there was still another Lombax out there? Could it be? Had he been so oblivious to the existence of other ones of their kind?
... No. Impossible. Except Ratchet, only Kaden and he had stayed behind. No-one else had.
"... How much different were the ears?"

Ratchet had winced, then nearly cried out at Alister's hand began crushing his, and leaned back in shock as the elder Lombax pushed his face forward nearly touching his own. He didn't try to show it but the elder's sudden mood change, if not scared, did make him highly uncomfortable.
The not-quite desperation flowed from both his voice and gaze, amber eyes glowed with a wish that seemed too urgent to be healty. Luckily, he could relax with Azimuth's hand - the elder seemed to calm down and realize what Ratchet had actually said about Angela.
"Not half the length of your or mine," Ratchet rushed to explain, "I'm not sure if it means anything, but each also had only two stripes."
Blast it. He hadn't known what to expect when he told about Angela's physics - but that defeat in the other's posture, how his ears were drooping now, that flat tone slapped him that hard that Ratchet almost wanted to take back what he said. Almost. There was no point in raising empty hopes in Alister, he had confirmed himself already Angela hadn't been whom the elder had hoped for.
A swallow. "What do usual Lombax ears look like?" Hoping he didn't drill deeper in that wound he had apparently, involuntary, opened.

"... They aren't much different from ours. A little bit smaller than ours, same pattern. They look pretty much the same as the ones we have." Azimuth said, his head still lowered. "In general, the figure of a female Lombax is a little slimmer than ours. Lithe as we are, simple as that."

"You know I know nothing about Lombax biology or anatomy but could it be she had been born with a defect?" Ratchet cringed - he made Angela sound like a cripple! "I mean that because her gene code is somehow different, her ears looked different? Then again, she had no tail, but..." Aside that he needed to clear out any doubt for Azimuth about whether or not Angela was lombax, Ratchet felt real curiousity about the question.

"It is a possibility. But..." Suddenly Azimuth's body tensed up as he turned around abruptly and slashed after the creature behind them, discharging a bolt of energy as well.
A long bloodchlling scream sounded through the pipe, followed by a muffled sound.
"Let me take care of that thing first." He let go of Ratchet's hand and charged his wrench another time, slowly approaching the creature squirming on the ground.

At the scream, Ratchet fell back against the wall, his heart pounding. Unwanted images of the Morrow Caverns crawled out of memory of the darkness of the place, the shapes blurry, disformed, vague like the creature writhing now in front of his eyes.
He couldn't look away, his mouth stood agape around the air rushing into him with frantic breaths. They hitched as light from Alister's charging wrench slowly fell on the creature lighting up its form. A blind head trashed on a scrawny, pale-blue body; short folds of skin flapped with the arms and legs which ended in long claws curving into the ground.
The trashing increased the closer Azimuth strided to it, but it was debatable if the Lombax was the cause. Trash as it might, it curled inward as if to protect itself as it scooted backwards, his screams getting even louder as the wrench was fully charged and shining with glaring electric light. Then, it flipped on his back and forward. It reared the head from behind like a whip on the long neck, but the maw didn't point to Alister. Despite that it had no eyes, Ratchet  felt as if it was glaring at him.

The elder Lombax was first surprised, then angered by the attempt of the creature to aim for the other one.
"Where do you think are you going?" Alister growled, the head of his wrench shutting the creature's neck and pulling it back. The Lombax jumped as soon as the neck was nearing him, smashing it against the metallic wall of the pipe. To his mispleasure their attacker got onto its feet very quickly once more, a piercing scream shaking the Lombax on the inside. Again it dashed towards Ratchet, and again Azimuth had to ward it off - but at the same time, it tried to close in to Ratchet from behind the elder.
Alister's eyes widened as he realized what was going on, immediately smashing the head of the creature against the wall and jumping in front of Ratchet to deflect the incoming part of the monster. As it turned out, it was yet another blind head, the teeth bared and full with saliva. Azimuth rammed his wrench between them and threw the creature back, now positioning himself directly before Ratchet. Why was that thing obsessed with the younger one?

Ratchet would later admit a scream tore from his throat as there was suddenly a second head coming around Alister's side. He scrambled back where he only found the wall. In his emerald, fear-widened eyes reflected the second head's image before Alister flung it away again and stood in front of him.
He couldn't grasp or create a clear thought through the haze of adrenaline. Maybe it was the concussion but since he had woken up, even when he felt calm there was distant pressure in the back of his mind. It was like he was tilting towards an abyss he didn't know was there, only sensed its emptiness. Stress, which usually heightened his senses and reflexes, shook him on the narrow path next to the gorge and his emotions came bubbling up like water from a geysir - unexpected, dangerous, uncontrolable.
What under normal circumstances would have reminded him with a shiver but remained uncomfortable, now resurfaced as abonimations in the darkness at seeing the two-headed beast.

Azimuth's glare was still directed at the beast crawling in the dark, now hissing loudly at them. Baring its teeth, it felt the ground around itself as if it wanted to prepare for the next strike. The elder frowned and reached for his pouch in which he stored the bombs, thinking about the possibilites of outcomes the use of them would bring. For one it would at least ward off that monster, but at the same time, the pipe was likely to be destroyed through it as well. It would be pretty unpleasant if they had to stay here for the rest of their lives...
Hadn't there been the shaft.
Not letting the creature out of sight, Azimuth turned his words towards the other Lombax. "Listen, Ratchet. As soon as I've thrown the bomb, hold onto me. We have to get into that shaft immediately, understood?"

Nodding mutely, the younger Lombax's gaze kept morbidly drawn to the beast. He started as a heavy but gentle pressure curled around his shoulder, but instantly relaxed and looked to the side at Azimuth who looked half exasperated, half amused at him. "You didn't hear anything of what I've said, am I right? I didn't know such an ugly thing would captivate your interest so much."
Ratchet grinned sheepishly at the first sentence, then scowled at the second. "As if, it hurts to look at it, though I'm pretty used to worse stuff by now. That thing just reminds me of the Morrow Caverns. But I think the hit on my head messed more with my brain that I first thought or wanted to admit." After taking a deep breath, he noticed that Alister was also paying attention to their unwanted third companion. "You've said something about a bomb?" A grin split his muzzle suddenly, anxiety all but forgotten at the prospect of an explosion. "Sounds promising, but I guess I should latch unto you because the place here is going to become cramped, am I right?"

"Your perception gets better and better with every second." Azimuth answered, a grin on his lips. Bending his knees a little, he prepared for the leap towards the shaft. "Are you ready?"
The sound of Ratchet getting back on his feet and approaching him was enough confirmation for him. The elder hauled off, hitting the detonator on the bomb and shooting it into the face of the creature. Then he grabbed Ratchet, put away his wrench and dashed into the shaft, activating his hoverboots and rushing upwards - just in time, as it turned out. Yellow light reached into the shaft, followed by smoke and heavy tremors. A scream, probably that of the monster, was buried in the overwhelming sound of the explosion, and the two Lombaxes headed farther and farther up in order to escape the shockwave right behind their tails.

Heat clawed at his tail but the younger appreciated it in this moment, it helped him concentrate on staying conscious. Eyes scrunched shut and arms tightly locked around Azimuth's torso, the speed at which they rushed up pressed against his skull and vertigo send his body instead in all directions, all at once. He was glad the elder pressed him against his side because he wasn't sure how long he could still hold onto him or if he would faint. Suddenly, he heard the hoverboots fire up once more. Azimuth's grip around his middle tightening, they accelerated. Before Ratchet comprehended what was happening, the elder abruptly changed direction and leant forward until they flew almost horizontally.
It didn't last long.

Roaring at having lost its prey, the fire wall rushed the shaft up, sending a shockwave as a parting gift into the opening. It slammed against Ratchet, the air in his lungs being forcefully expelled outside - given the grunt above him, Azimuth felt probably the same. He felt Azimuth fall forward, taking him with him, the repeated change of direction making Ratchet so sick he forgot to worry about that he would crash against the floor. Before that happened, strong arms pressed him against a solid chest and his position in the air changed yet again.
Alister didn't like the outcome of this, not even in the slightest. Being flung around like this was anything but pleasant - and, regarding Ratchet's condition, not very favorable. Stupid shockwave. Had to send them flying - but there was nothing he could do but weaken the collision with the ground for Ratchet at least.

Still spinning - god, couldn't it stop already? - Alister pulled Ratchet close and covered the younger's head, curling up to a ball; then they hit the ground and rolled over it several times, the general eager to take all of the damage so that Ratchet's condition wouldn't worsen.
That was it. Exhausted, was Ratchet lying on the other's chest, all emotions spent now that the adrenaline wore off. His head pounded, stomach twisted and turned and an odd ringing shrilled in his ears. Moaning in pain as he craned his neck upwards, he didn't even bother to focus his eyes as the worried blur appeared. "General, I'm falling…" The young Lombax never finished the sentence. Sleep called to him and his head sunk into the warmth, solid chest beneath him, the rest of his body following, with Azimuth's arm around his torso and his legs framing his own.

  "Hmph." Azimuth smirked faintly at the Lombax in his arms. Well, wasn't that a surprise. As it seemed the other was really exhausted - and so was he.
Lifting up the younger one, he followed the shaft for a little while until he arrived at a small round area, prefect for a rest. There he sat down and held Ratchet tightly, slightly nuzzling against the other's ear. ... Perhaps, though, would it be better to examine the younger Lombax one last time before both of them rested? ... Perhaps.
Lifting Ratchet a little, he leant him against the wall so that he could get a good look at the other; then, as soon as that was done, he stretched his fingers and approached Ratchet.
Time to do some examination.
That's it, guys!

The project my partner Leila [~Priestess-Shauni] and I have been hushing about --

ShellShock - Shattered Shells.

So, this is a fanfiction/RP about Alister Azimuth and Ratchet. Something we've been working on for some time now!

XD God it feels good that the release date is the same as my birthday. Good that I finished the cover in time!

So yeah, Welcome to our fanfiction. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Azimuth - =chinara
Ratchet - ~Priestess-Shauni

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FlyingCarpets's avatar
I've read the first chapter and you definitetely have me hooked & wanting to read more <3 

I really like how much talking you put in here, it was really nicely woven between the roaming the cavern and battle. I've rewatched cutscenes from the games so many times that I can now hear all these dialogues in their respective voices and it's kinda awesome XD And stuff they talked about was interesting too.
You write both Alister and Ratchet nicely in character. I'm always happy to see a roleplay based fanfic.

As to the bad/old writing you warned about, it's quite decent, I'd just encourage you folks to put this into spellcheck when you're bored one day because typos, typos everywhere! XD

Some random thoughts:

:star: When I read "The cause of it was the spores of the Canfel-plant. Some of our research troops had accidently brought some to Fastoon where it quickly turned into a disaster." I immediatelly thought of a certain someone accidentally brought to Fastoon and how quickly that also turned into a disaster XDDDD

:star: Alister fussing so much over Ratchet's concussion, like don't even stand mah boy, sit here, rest, don't move and then he throws a bomb and they're flyyyying away and I'm like: Mr Azimuth, you are a Lombax full of contradictions XDDDD

:star: Also it's terrible (sorry in advance) because we have a running joke that the wrench stands for Azimuth's dick so when they were going on about wrenches and how Lombaxes are obsessed with them I was having too much fun XDDD

But do not worry, I am taking this story seriously and it's lovely. I hope to read more soon. It's amazing to be reading a fanfic that isn't a one shot or consisting of 3 chapters. I was really missing having something long and good quality like this to read, where I know there's still so much to read <3 I guess it's a benefit of coming late to this party, I don't need to wait for next chapters to be written ;D

Edit: Aha also forgot to mention that ending line made me giggle XDDD