Disclaimer: I do not own Ratchet & Clank, or any of its associated characters and lore. That right belongs to Insomniac Games.
Deadlocked Too Soon
Captain Qwark's Headquarters, Planet Umbris, Umbris System, Solana Galaxy
Having gone through the challenges presented by galactic hero, Captain Copernicus Qwark, Ratchet and Clank were told to enter his "ring of heroes" before the three of them could work together against the Blarg from terrorizing the galaxy. While Ratchet had an uneasy suspicion at the time compared to Clank's enthusiasm and Qwark's seeming innocence, he did not stop Clank from pulling him into the ring when booming sounds were then heard and the entire building shook and came apart from the impacts.
"What the heck?!" Qwark exclaimed in fright while Ratchet and Clank were stumbling in surprise. "I didn't do that!"
Looking through the cracks of the ceiling, Clank noticed a fleet of six Blarg warships as well as an unknown star cruiser flying over Qwark's estate. In realization, he shouted. "Drek's located us! Captain Qwark, I hope you're ready to fight with us now!"
"Forget that!" The so-called hero rebutted before using his remote to move the hover platform he was on. "I'm getting out of here!"
Seeing Qwark hover away, Ratchet put Clank on his back while saying unsurely. "Okay, Qwark's sheepishness aside, he's got a good point, Clank. We can't fight Drek's whole fleet with the ship we have."
With reluctance in his voice, Clank replied. "Agreed, but how do we escape?"
Before Ratchet could answer that, he was then shocked to see three large and heavily armed robots in red teleport around him and Clank at gunpoint. "Uh, Clank?" Ratchet said to his robotic partner in a tone that indicated he really needed advice at that time.
"These don't appear to be of Drek Industries' design, Ratchet." Was all Clank could comment about before the robots grabbed the both of them and they teleported away.
On the bridge of the Leviathan , Umbris orbit
"Oh, come on, Chairman, I mean, Supreme Executive Chairman Drek!" Qwark pleaded to the diminutive industrialist responsible for the Blarg offensive on Solana, Alonzo Drek, while on his knees after being apprehended when he tried to board the latter's flagship. "I was so close to getting rid of Ratchet and Clank!"
A cruel laugh escaped Drek as he said. "So you say, my dear would've been spokesman, and perhaps you would've succeeded."
"Then why are you throwing me under the rug before we can finalize our deal?!"
"What deal?" Ratchet's voice called out accusingly as Qwark stood up and turned to the bridge entrance to see both the Lombax and his robot friend join them collared alongside a red armored robot.
"Well, I- "
Drek, however, interrupted Qwark curtly. "I bribed your "ideal hero" with a profitable, endorsing spokesman job for my new planet in exchange for keeping nuisances like the two of you away from my operation."
"What?" Clank uttered in a betrayed tone of voice.
"Qwark, you and Drek are so gonna pay for this!" Ratchet exclaimed in anger.
A demented laugh then come from the bridge's control chair in the center as it then turned around to reveal a blue robot with a green domed head narrowing his red eyes at Ratchet and Clank excitably much to the gasping surprise of Qwark. "Oh, don't be like that, Lombax. He's going to be your friend again soon enough, after all, rather you like it or not. Speaking of whom." The robot then turned to a shriveling Qwark with a sinister sneer as he said. "Hello, Copernicus Leslie Qwark. It's so terrifying to see me, isn't it?"
Qwark gulped at the sight while Ratchet's sense of humor kicked in and he laughed. "Qwark's middle name is Leslie?!"
"Ratchet." Clank urged with concern at the situation before their red captor pressed a remote button that shocked the Lombax down to the ground much to Clank's concern.
Regaining his focus on the robot who addressed him, Qwark eventually found his words. "Doctor Nefarious. I thought you went down under years ago."
Rising from his chair, Nefarious said with a nod. "Oh, I did, my old archenemy, but I decided to make an early comeback when I had a very cruel and beneficial idea for revenge." Gesturing to a smirking Drek, he continued. "When I learned that you accepted such a scandalous offer from the Blarg, I first thought of waiting out before I could find the right time to expose it and watch the entire galaxy form an angry mob on you, assuming your dear sponsors didn't tear you limb from limb first, but then I realized that this crisis would be the perfect opportunity for my own rise to power."
"So you loaned your cruiser and robots to help Drek in exchange for betraying Qwark?" Clank asked for confirmation as a detective would while helping Ratchet back on his feet.
Shaking his head in the negative, Nefarious answered. "You're close on the mark, Clank, but you've only scratched the surface. You see the Leviathan is my cruiser, but those no-nonsense robots that collared you are actually the design of a different enterprise altogether."
"My enterprise to be more exact!" Exclaimed a new voice whose owner just came onto the bridge.
With all eyes turning to the source, Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark saw a shark-like humanoid with a cybernetic left arm in a red suit who smirked menacingly at the three, even though Qwark was prompted to identify him. "Wait! You're that media mogul from the same sector of space as the last Blarg home planet! Uh, Gleeman Pox!"
"That's Gleeman Vox, you idiot!" The newcomer snapped at the sheepish "superhero" in green before shaking his head in annoyance and then turning to his robotic enforcer. "You can collar him whenever, you know."
"Uh, right." The robot replied awkwardly and then obeyed Vox's order while saying. "Sorry, Mister Vox."
Once Qwark was collared, Vox then joined his unlikely allies at Nefarious' right with Drek at the left as all three stared down at their captive audience.
Nefarious then took it upon himself to explain. "All right, losers, after intense negotiations among myself and my two business partners here, things will move forward like so." Pointing at Qwark, Ratchet, and Clank, he described. "You three will be out of Supreme Executive Chairman Drek's hair by being made contestants on Mr. Vox's holovision blood sport, DreadZone, just as Drek Industries has agreed to sell Planet Orxon and any other mudballs that they will inevitably pollute to Vox Industries cheap, who will use them as DreadZone battlecourses at the very least." Grabbing Qwark by the chin, Nefarious then added. "And since I'll be watching you suffer all the way, Qwark, I will provide my scientific knowhow for both companies to expand and prosper with a cut off both the profits and the industrial products."
Drek chuckled as he then said. "In other words, gentlemen, as your suffering continues to get worse, our wealth will grow larger."
"Our feared reputations will get even more well-known." Nefarious added.
"And we will each be one step closer to owning all of known space." Vox concluded as the three villains then broke into evil laughter.
As Clank and the others processed what their foes said, he then had a shocked realization. "Wait, Chairman Drek. You three mean that your own efforts to build a new home for your people was all about the money? And that you planned to restart the whole process once the Blarg move in?"
Drek and his cohorts chuckled at Clank's naivety before the Blarg then said. "You're quite imbecilic, aren't you? Surely you should know that real estate is a thing."
Ratchet, Clank, and even Qwark looked unsettled at the reality of what they found themselves in, but before the three could properly retort, Vox then raised his arms up saying. "But enough with dirtying your silly ideals, boys. It's time you three got moving to the Shadow Sector." Taking the remote from his robot, he added. "And remember, your shocking experiences with those deadlock collars can each be made for quite a blast with the push of a button."
Battledome, DreadZone Station, Shadow Sector
Cylindrical in design, the space station where DreadZone was hosted had its main arena, the Battledome, placed in the center of it. Having arrived in the Battledome via a Vox Airways shuttle, the newly christened Team Darkstar consisting of Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark were preparing to be ready for their first fight while the Vox News anchormen, Dallas Wanamaker and Juanita Alvaro, provided commentary.
Exhaling tiredly as he held his omniwrench, Ratchet then said to the newly and fully upgraded Clank as well as the uncertain and out of touch Qwark words he had to get off his chest right then and there. "Okay, guys, I admit that I'm still mad about the both of you getting me into this mess, but if we're going to survive and avenge all the wrongs Drek, Nefarious, and Vox pulled off, we'll need to work together starting here and now. Got it?"
"I understand, Ratchet." Clank said while in his taller mode. "For what it's worth, I'll fight with you all the way."
Holding his own blaster tight, Qwark then admitted. "Okay, guys. I'll do everything in my power to be the hero I was supposed to be for this team and galaxy, and when we get out, I'll take responsibility for what I did with Drek."
Grinning in spite of himself, Ratchet asked. "So, you guys ready for this?"
"I do believe I am." Clank answered with a prepared stance and eager smile that actually encouraged Qwark out of his fearful stupor.
"I was born for this line of work." Declared Qwark with a smirk.
And as Team Darkstar got ready to fight, the battle commenced.
Looks like a cool alternate universe idea for a more long-term story than a one-shot, but this is the best I could come up with for now.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Team Darkstar's containment suite, DreadZone Station, Shadow Sector
After their latest fight on Planet Sarathos, Team Darkstar consisting of Ratchet, Clank, and Captain Qwark were immediately escorted back to their luxurious apartment that they were forbidden to leave unless called for. It had been only four days since they were forcibly made contestants on DreadZone, and the unlikely trio were not anywhere closer to escaping their predicament.
Even worse, due to all news in the Shadow Sector being regulated through Gleeman Vox's own company, the three captives had no idea what Vox's newest partners, Drek and Nefarious, were doing in regular space, or how the Solana Galaxy's authorities were responding to their activities, if at all. Deciding that enough was enough, Qwark whispered to Ratchet and Clank a desperate idea that would ensure not only their own escape, but all the other contestants' as well. They all knew it was a risk, but given the circumstances, they decided to invite the top champion of DreadZone into their suite after giving him a call.
After an hour of waiting, Ace Hardlight, the notorious Captain of the mostly famed Exterminators, had arrived with an expression that mixed boredom with contempt as he sized up Team Darkstar's members, who glared back at him defiantly. Scoffing with a sneer, he told them. "You idiots are so pathetic. Those jerks in the crowd may cheer your names, but the cold, hard truth is that your victories are a result of luck and no real skill."
Folding his arms across his chest, Ratchet replied. "You know, I heard of you when I was a kid, Ace. You were supposed to be a hero that vanished. I can't help but wonder how Vox was able to capture you without the galaxy realizing it."
"Or why you're still in this despicable blood sport after Vox removed your collar." Clank added with narrowed eyes.
Ace laughed aloud as he retorted. "We Exterminators chose this line of work from the start, Tinman. The fans may jeer me all they want, but the truth is, I'm the real star out of them all, you nitwits included. Still, so long as I have fun, who cares about the money and fame, anyway?"
It was then that Qwark smirked purposefully as he asked. "Really? You hate all heroes, then? Even if you're the only Sonic 7 member competing?"
Ace's smirk turned upside down as glared hatefully at Qwark. "What did you say, Q-boy?"
Qwark kept a mask of nonchalance as he answered. "Oh, you know, the heroic group that raised you up to be their best before you guys accidentally destroyed a planet. I remember that Bolden 3 had a special place in your heart, too."
"Shut up!" Ace finally snapped with a punch to Qwark's face, knocking him to the floor. "Don't you dare mention either my backstabbing ex-team, or my home planet while you're still alive on this show, Qwark!"
"Why shouldn't he?" Ratchet asked rhetorically yet no less angry. "Because deep down inside you recognize what kind of scumbag you've allowed yourself to become? That the audience is right to hate you for all you've done with a prideful smile?"
"You fleabag!" Ace yelled as he turned his attention to the Lombax, only for Clank to block his way with his small body.
"If you have any regret for your actions, Ace Hardlight, please end this madness already." Clank said to the mad gladiator.
Calming down, Ace then smirked once more while Qwark got himself back up. "I see now why you called me here. You're trying to make feel guilty and help you out. Well, too bad, jerks. I'm Ace Hardlight and I'm proud to be Ace Hardlight."
"So you say." Qwark commented as he massaged his nose before turning Ace with a questioning look. "But are you happy with your life also?"
Before Ace could respond, Gleeman Vox appeared on a nearby monitor with a disapproving look. "Is there a problem, boys?"
"No, Mr. Vox." Ace answered before turning to Team Darkstar and saying with emphasis. "Nothing that I can't fix in the Battledome right now."
Thinking it over, Vox chuckled as he said. "What a coincidence, Hardlight! Nefarious was getting tired of watching Qwark and his friends survive their challenges, anyway."
Immediately sent to fight each other, no matter how unconventional it was for the Exterminator Captain to go up against a rookie team so soon as Dallas and Juanita noted to the audience, Ace fired his blasters at Qwark, Ratchet, and Clank with a vengeance as the three kept shooting back and evading his attacks.
"And what a spectacular performance this is, DreadZone fans!" Dallas exclaimed before adding. "I'm honestly proud that I turned down Annihilation Nation, so that I could co-announce this event!"
Throwing a grenade at Ace that forced him back, Qwark took an opportunity to retort at Dallas' expense. "Yeah, Wanamaker! At least Annihilation Nation would've made sure you got arrested and institutionalized at best, you wig-wearing psychotic!"
"What?!" Dallas screamed in anger even as the audience and Juanita laughed at Qwark's quip.
Juanita, however, got the event back on track upon noticing Ace preparing to embark on the offensive once more. "Ace is about to fire upon Team Darkstar rapidly, everyone!"
With Qwark and the others taking cover from Ace's blaster fire, it was only a matter of time before the Exterminator ran and grabbed hold of Qwark by the throat.
"Let him go, Ace!" Ratchet demanded with his own blaster aimed at the fallen hero. "Qwark may be a lot of things, but I'm not letting you kill him!"
"Ace." Qwark groaned out with his foe's right arm choking him. Once he saw that he had Hardlight's attention, the green-clad superhero then added. "You didn't tell me that you were happy."
Ace choked Qwark harder at the latter's words with a snarl before he then teared up and silently replied. "I wish I could say yes, Qwark." Letting go of the Captain, Hardlight then aimed his blaster at the stand where Dallas and Juanita were providing commentary, and fired upon it with a roar.
"Ace, darling, what are you doing?!" Juanita asked in terror, even as the protective force field shielded her and Dallas from Ace's attack.
Ace, however, paid the robotic anchorwoman no mind, as he then took out a remote from his armor, and with a push of a button, the deadlock collars that that shackled Team Darkstar to the control of DreadZone immediately fell to the Battledome's floor.
However, it was just the beginning as Clank in his Qwark-sized battle mode turned to Ace with Ratchet and Qwark providing extra security against the approaching robotic armies of Vox Industries. "Were the other prisoners freed as well at this moment by any chance?" The defective Sentry-bot asked the now rogue Hardlight.
"The remote only works in an immediate range." Ace explained as he gave his remote to Clank before firing at the DZ robots alongside Qwark and Ratchet. "You're going to have to work on boosting the signal station-wide."
"Fair enough!" Clank, Ratchet, and Qwark replied in unison as the unlikely trio, aided by an unbelievable ally, kept Vox's enforcers back from getting to them.
On the bridge of the Leviathan , New Orxon Escort Fleet, Hoven orbit
"Wow, Qwark really showed nerves of steel, even when he was being choked on." Doctor Nefarious commented to his robotic butler, Lawrence, as well as the recently retitled Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Alonzo Drek as they watched the current DreadZone episode while the Blarg forces of Drek Industries on the surface of Planet Hoven uploaded a new type of missile weaponry for the corporate battle fleet responsible for the protection and towing of the soon to be completed planet of New Orxon.
"And initiative, my good Doctor." Drek added with a half-impressed smile at how far Qwark and his teammates survived DreadZone and were close to escaping it. "I didn't think he had it in him, either."
As Nefarious nodded in agreement, the monitor quickly buzzed to reveal a frantic looking Gleeman Vox. "Guys, you gotta help me! I've just been told that not only are Qwark and his little troublemakers causing trouble with all the Shadow Sector watching, but my broadcasting equipment has been sabotaged! I can't use the deadlock collars to force Team Darkstar back in line by targeting the other contestants, and DreadZone is being picked up in the home of the Galactic President himself!"
"Really, old Phyronix is watching your show now?" Nefarious said in a rhetorical voice that sounded too innocent much to Drek's interest and Vox's ire. "You've really come up in the universe, Gleeman."
"Don't make light of this, Nefarious!" Vox shouted in anger. "It's only a matter of time before the Galactic Rangers and any other heroes come to my station to save their friends and throw me in jail! I need help now!"
Drek then interjected with a faux polite manner. "I'm deeply sorry for this, Gleeman, but given the circumstances, I'm afraid that we'll have to cut you loose moving forward."
"But don't worry, we'll take good of everything your company has built and earned." Nefarious added as he and Drek exchanged grins while Vox slowly came to realize a stunning fact.
"You're the ones who sabotaged my gear!" He accused his supposed partners with a finger pointed at them. "You played with me all along, so that you could steal everything that's rightfully mine!"
"Goodbye, Gleeman." Drek said with finality as Lawrence then turned off Vox's communication to them. With Vox gone and out of sight, Drek then exhaled tiredly as he turned to Nefarious. "Once his death is confirmed, I'll send my people to take as much of Vox Industries' technology and bolts for ourselves. I'm sure they'll come in handy for New Orxon's development phase."
"Indeed, Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman." Nefarious nodded before turning to the rest of the fleet and adding. "And with the PlanetBuster Maximus' being mass produced, all we need do is send our message all the way to Capital City on Marcadia with some live demonstrations here and there, and no one will go against your company and race ever again."
"I'm looking forward to it." Drek then made his move to exit the bridge, but not before stopping to look at Nefarious. "Still, Doctor, what will you desire once the Solana Galaxy begins to live in fear of the Blarg, and me especially?"
Nefarious shrugged noncommittally. "I think I'll try to conquer the Bogon or Polaris Galaxies and let you have fun with Solana. As much as this galaxy holds a lot of memories for me, a deal is a deal, after all."
"Of course, Doctor." Drek finally replied with a seemingly nonchalant look. "Until then."
As soon as Drek was confirmed to be far from the bridge, Lawrence turned to Nefarious saying. "Remind me again when we are due to betray him next, sir?"
Showing the palm of his left hand negligently, his employer responded. "As soon as New Orxon is completed and up for grabs, Lawrence, as I told you before. Still, let's be careful what we say and do around that puny, squishy Blarg. He's a lot craftier than I gave him and his kind credit for."
"His kind being his fellow Blarg, or his fellow organics in general, sir?"
Humming in thought, Nefarious ultimately answered. "Might as well be both, Lawrence."
"I suppose that is fair, sir."
As I said to certain readers beforehand, I have now continued Deadlocked Too Soon. Be sure to expect another update at some point in the future.
Honestly, learning how Insomniac was close to making Ace Hardlight a Lombax, I am kind of disappointed that it did not happen, even though I understand why. He would have made a good antagonist like that as Turles among other Saiyans did to Goku of Dragom Ball fame in my opinion.
As much as I would like to imagine how Vox would betray Drek and Nefarious, I am afraid he is not going to last long compared to those two. As for that joke I had Qwark make about Dallas, well, it is no secret that Vox News is managed by obvious sociopaths that apparently did not face criminal charges for their complicity with their boss' evil actions.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
On the Bridge of the Starship Phoenix , Approaching DreadZone Station, Shadow Sector
The pride of the Solana Galactic Fleet, the Starship Phoenix, under the command of Captain Sasha Phyronix and crewed by robotic soldiers known throughout the galaxy as the Galactic Rangers, had spent several days investigating the mysterious attacks on planets like Novalis and Eudora before coming into battle with the Blarg upon word getting out that the latter reptilians were responsible for the attacks at the command of their corporate dictator, who had recently, arrogantly retitled himself for the third time in a row, Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Alonzo Drek. However, while Captain Sasha still wanted to take the fight to Drek and protect the galaxy from his madness, her father, the Galactic President himself, had recently tasked her for a sudden and dangerous, but no less important assignment in the lawless Shadow Sector.
Although Sasha's logical mind knew that the Blarg attacks took priority at that time, her moral compass also agreed that DreadZone had to be stopped once and for all, especially when Captain Qwark and another famous hero who went missing years before named Ace Hardlight were confirmed to be held captive on that underground gladiator show as well. And with the Phoenix in close proximity of Gleeman Vox's headquarters, she knew that she and the Rangers had to act quickly to rescue the contestants and bring Vox to justice for his crimes no matter what else happened then.
Once the starship was in suitable range to deploy boarding craft, Sasha turned to the intercom and said with authority in her voice. "Attention all Rangers, this is your Captain speaking. Your primary task is to secure all prisoners and civilians onboard the space station. Capturing Gleeman Vox and any of his staff is secondary compared to saving the innocents they've endangered. Good luck."
With the dropships deployed and heading straight for DreadZone Station to let out the Rangers, Sasha monitored the ensuring battle and listened to the Rangers' sporadic behavior as they fought Vox Industries' own robots. Apparently, the joker who programmed the Rangers figured it would be funny to give them somewhat cowardly personalities, even though they would be prompted to take their duty seriously during the heat of battle and when led by an inspiring officer.
Nonetheless, Sasha held confidence that her troops would eventually reach the Battledome, evacuating several gladiators and audience members as well as capturing the commentators for questioning along the way, and a video communication was shortly established to reveal Qwark, Hardlight, and their two allies, one a male Cazar-like creature that she shortly recognized as a Lombax and a robot that reminded her of Blargian Sentry-bots, fighting against DreadZone's enforcers even as they noticed that Sasha wished to speak with them while her Rangers kept Vox's goons at bay.
The Lombax, getting a good luck at Sasha, smiled eagerly as he said. "Hey, baby, what's shaking?"
"Ratchet!" His companions all called out on him in response while Sasha herself could not decide whether to feel annoyed or flattered.
"Sorry!" The Lombax, Ratchet, said back nervously. "I guess I need to work on my socializing skills, but she does look nice."
"Just keep firing at the DZ bots, you dumb kid!" Hardlight snapped which prompted Qwark to turn to Sasha with haste.
"Captain Sasha, I don't know how you confirmed DreadZone's existence, and it's not important right now, anyway. I'm speaking for everyone when I say that it's best to leave pronto!"
"Emphasis on "pronto"!" Ratchet agreed as he fought the robots before he instinctively turned to Qwark. "Wait, you know her, Qwark?"
"Ratchet, this is the worst possible time!" The one robot on their side yelled in annoyance.
Ratchet looked disappointed in himself as he replied. "You're right, Clank, sorry!"
Pulling her sympathizing attention away from the sorry-looking Lombax, Sasha told them all firmly. "Just follow the Galactic Rangers' lead, people. We're going to get everyone out of this nightmare one way, or another!"
With sounds of assent from those involved, Sasha heard over the comm Qwark and his impromptu team fighting their way back to the dropships as many more Rangers reported that all the imprisoned heroes and cutoff audience members had been located and were being escorted back to the ships as well. It gave Sasha a chance to decide if they could capture Vox himself before he escaped, but just when she was about to give such instructions, one of the Rangers at the Phoenix's controls reported frantically.
"Captain, we're detecting a Blarg carrier ship entering the system!"
"What?" Sasha said aloud in shock since she had not expected the Blarg to drop a surprise attack so soon. "Any chance we can scan for how well-armed it is?"
Another Ranger answered. "We're trying, ma'am, but it's too far away for our scanners to pinpoint what it's carrying!" Only a moment later, he then added. "Wait! It just deployed some kind of missile that's heading for the space station at a fast rate!"
Sasha wasted no time as she got back on the comm to order. "Everyone, get off the Station immediately! A Blargian weapon is heading straight for it!"
After only a minute and a half, the Ranger managing the comm station reported. "Captain Sasha, we have confirmation that all dropships have departed with all the people found!"
"Good, now let's move away fast!"
At Sasha's order, the Phoenix quickly turned away from DreadZone Station with the dropships following it and they all charged their engines to flee just when the missile collided with the space station in a massive explosion another minute later.
"Brace for impact!" Commanded Sasha as she could tell that the blast was larger than any of them could give it credit for and was close to contacting her ship and dropships unless they all went as fast as they could possibly get. Thankfully, they were all able to elude the explosion, and it gave Sasha a breathing moment before she demanded. "Damage report."
A Ranger saluted as he answered. "Ma'am, engineering reports that our main core is overheated, but no less sustainable. So long as another near miss like that happens again, we should be fine."
Another Ranger then added. "All dropships report that they are doing fine as well. Some of the passengers received minor injuries, but are otherwise alive. However, Gleeman Vox is reported to not be on any of them as none of the Rangers encountered him onboard the space station."
"Here's hoping that maniac went down with his media empire." Sasha commented with a frown before she then ordered. "Patch me through to Captain Qwark."
A moment later, Qwark, Hardlight, Ratchet, and a smaller robot that looked similar to Clank all appeared on the vid screen. "It's a good thing that we all escaped, Captain Sasha." The robot said in a voice that indicated he was indeed Clank but smaller. "From what my own sensors informed me about that missile and the resulting explosion, it was powerful enough to destroy an entire planet."
"A planet killer?" Ratchet commented incredulously and Sasha could not blame him. "Now there's two words I never thought I would see put together in real life."
"Vox did mention that Drek Industries was working on a "PlanetBuster Maximus" that Nefarious was offering consult on." Hardlight informed them gravely. "To top it off, I wouldn't be surprised if they built more where that came from."
Sasha did not like the sound of the Blarg having additional "PlanetBusters" in their arsenal, but her curiosity was peaked when she heard that other name, prompting her to ask. "Wait, you're saying Doctor Nefarious himself is in on this?"
Qwark coughed into his right arm awkwardly before saying. "Captain Sasha, when we come aboard, there's something I'd like to confess."
"We both do." Hardlight added with a similarly regretful look.
Although Sasha did not know what they were on about, and doubt she would like the answers regardless, she nodded in acceptance as the dropships reentered the Starship Phoenix, which then began to take its leave of the Shadow Sector.
Elsewhere in the same Solar System
As the Phoenix made its return back to law-abiding space, an Interplanetary Transport designed by Vox Industries and used by both DreadZone personnel and gladiators was being flown away from the former starship's course to make a separate getaway. While the now freed contestants were kept from hacking the navigation systems of such vessels at the risk of the ship's self-destruction, a special clearance code available only to the robots of Vox Industries allowed them to travel to their own destination instead of automatically to a Battlecourse. That was how many prior contestants had been captured before and how, due to the code being in his cybernetic left arm, Gleeman Vox was able to survive the destruction of his media empire.
Once it was made clear to him that his company's days were numbered, Vox had ordered his robotic enforcers to keep his rebellious contestants and the arriving Galactic Rangers occupied while he emptied out the hidden safe in his office followed by escaping via Transport with only six billion bolts and a week's worth of food for both himself and his pet, Slugha, who was the only other DreadZone refugee aside from himself, not counting the robots and the ever-inept Dallas Wanamaker who would be facing criminal charges, if they were caught by the Rangers. Having seen DreadZone Station's destruction from afar, Vox supposed that he and his pet should be prideful of having escaped the law and death itself, but instead, he felt lukewarm of having to escape the end of everything he had ever built before it consumed him also, and Slugha was intelligent enough to read her owner's mood and so, had a despondent expression on her cat-like face as well.
In order to make them both feel better, Vox petted Slugha while they both were at the controls. "I know, old girl." He said to her in a rare empathetic voice. "It's gonna be a challenge for me, too."
While six billion bolts was a hefty sum that could be spent on setting up a new enterprise elsewhere and in style, it would not produce results fast enough to get what Vox wanted right then. Revenge. And he really wanted revenge on all those who destroyed his life's work. Unfortunately, even with all the money he had in his spaceship, Vox could not think of a good plan on how to use it without attracting the attention of the galactic authorities.
Turning back to Slugha as he leaned in the back of the pilot's chair, Vox commented. "Almost makes you nostalgic for Oozla, huh?" Which brought a genuine laugh out of the gastropod, who remembered how life was hard on her home planet before Vox, who was seeking good public relations and had a genuine affection for her species of the same name as herself, organized multiple rescue operations to save the Slughas from being preyed upon by the predators of Oozla. Thinking about Oozla and what was said to be occurring in that part of the Universe, however, did give Vox a developing idea for a comeback.
It would require some patience, and he would have to miss out on the action going on in his home galaxy, but it would be no less beneficial and exciting.
With his mind made up, Vox then set up a communication line between his moving vessel and the base of operations for an organization he had dealings with in the Bogon Galaxy. Once established, a red-eyed, blue-skinned reptilian was shown on the view screen. "Thugs-4-Less, if it ain't broke, we'll break it." The creature then showed a more pleased than professional look when he noticed who was calling him. "Hello, Mr. Vox. The boys and I were hoping we hadn't seen the last of DreadZone."
Vox smirked wickedly as he replied. "Oh, don't worry. Things haven't nearly become dreadful just yet, and I'll need your help to make sure that they do for everyone else. How does a full billion bolts up front sound with even more to come along the way?"
The Thug Leader reciprocated the smirk eagerly as he asked. "When do we start?"
"Send some of your people to pick me up along the intergalactic route between Solana and Bogon, and I'll explain in greater detail when we meet face to face."
As much as I would have liked to depict the other Exterminators in this piece, I cannot tell right now if Reactor joined them in-between Up Your Arsenal and Deadlocked, or much earlier, so I decided to exclude them. Whether this makes them killed when the Station was destroyed, or they survived and have gone independent is up for interpretation, but I can assure you that we have not seen the last of Gleeman Vox, who I hope nobody minds that I gave him a sincere soft spot as while he is a clearly evil villain, I can imagine that, for the most part, he does hold his pet in the same value as money. Kind of like how the Shredder from the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a complicated relationship with Karai.
And yes, I am planning on pairing Ratchet with Sasha Phyronix in this as I already did him with Angela Cross and Cassiopeia. Would not mind any ideas for how to pair him up with other female characters as well.
Lastly, I would like to ask a question. If you had Drek keep the PlanetBuster Maximus followed by making several more of it, what locations in the Solana Galaxy would you have him hit them with aside from Veldin and, I suppose, New Orxon?
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Captain's Office, Starship Phoenix , exiting the Shadow Sector
Upon meeting up with Captain Qwark and his group, Sasha was disappointed to hear that the once boastful hero had conspired with the Blarg on their current offensive before they betrayed him just as Ace Hardlight willingly participated in DreadZone. Having her Rangers place the two fallen heroes in the brig until things could be decided for them later, she then called for Ratchet and Clank to join her in her office to better understand the circumstances from their perspectives.
Once the two told Sasha as much as they were able to tell her, the starship captain grasped her hands in thought before saying. "For what it's worth, hotshots, I'm sorry the both of you got tangled up in a great deal of trouble, and I'm grateful for the good work you've done by far. Still, I'm a bit at a loss of what to do now with the Blarg allying with Doctor Nefarious, and having a good amount of PlanetBuster Maximuses."
"Isn't there a way you can pit Drek's people against him and Nefarious, now that we told you what motivated him from the start?" Ratchet asked for the sake of argument.
"I do not believe it would be that simple, Ratchet, even if I wished otherwise." Clank said in response. "Without substantial proof on our part, the common Blarg will not turn against their leaders."
Sasha nodded at Clank's logic before turning to Ratchet. "I think a more covert approach will be needed all the same, considering they've got planet-shattering missiles compared to our own weapons." Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she then said. "In the meantime, with Qwark and Hardlight about to do time, can I ask what the both of you plan on doing now?"
Looking back at Ratchet for a brief moment awkwardly, Clank finally answered. "Speaking for myself, Captain Sasha, I would like to help you against the Blarg and Nefarious."
Smiling at Clank's words, Ratchet then said. "And I'll be sticking with Clank for as long as I can." Seeing the little robot's surprised look at him, the Lombax then added nonchalantly. "What? I didn't want to get involved in the first place, but then some tinplated know-it-all pointed out there won't be a lot of places to see if Drek keeps destroying planet after planet."
Clank could not help but chuckle at that. "I will accept that much responsibility."
Sasha smiled at the two, pleased that they would continue to fight the Solana Galaxy's top two villains. However, the three of them then heard a beep come from the nearby Telescreen which prompted Sasha to turn it on to reveal a Galactic Ranger calling her.
"Captain Sasha, the Phoenix is receiving a galaxywide broadcast from Drek Industries. I think you might need to look at it."
Presidential Office in the Palace of Capital City, Planet Marcadia
Having been told by his secretary of the upcoming broadcast, President Phyronix, the Cazar Head of State and Government for the Solana Galaxy at large, waited with bated breath until the announcement from those threatening the galaxy finally became clear.
With a patriotic anthem, Chairman Alonzo Drek of the Blarg finally appeared aboard his flagship with an affable smile that Phyronix knew from the start was false.
"Hello, people of the Solana Galaxy, Blarg and otherwise alike!" The small dictator said with apparent mirth in his voice. "Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Drek here with an update on the New Orxon Project as well as a warning to those that would seek to stop Drek Industries from creating the perfect home for the Blarg people."
Not liking the sound of that last sentence, Phyronix continued to listen as Drek went on to say. "Ever since our campaign for a new home began, the Solana Galactic Rangers as well as the so-called heroes of our galaxy have selfishly opposed our efforts from spoken condemnations to force of arms. But that changes today."
The camera's angle then changed from Drek to a nearby window out into space showing that the Blargian Space Fleet was located near a rocky, even volcanic planet best suited for industrial activity than anything recreational that Phyronix recognized all too well.
"Fort Sprocket?!" He exclaimed in affronted shock with his right fist slamming on his desk.
The Galactic President then heard Drek chuckle sinisterly before he said. "Yes, Fort Sprocket. Right near Solana's own galactic core, this harsh planet has long been home to the sole Bolt Foundry in our galaxy. Everyday, new bolts are manufactured and distributed all over to serve as any currency should serve." He then added in sing-song kind of way. "But no more!"
The camera then shifted to outside Drek's flagship where a large and wide star carrier was shown releasing a just as large missile before the ballistic space weapon hit Fort Sprocket dead center. Phyronix could not believe his eyes when he then saw the planet explode into pieces shortly before the camera redirected back to Drek, who was barely holding back a cruel laugh.
"Through our cooperation with a brilliant as well as vengeful scientist, Drek Industries has produced multiple PlanetBuster Maximuses that we have the ability and will to launch at any targeted planet we choose." With a visible grimace, Drek then said. "So listen up, politicians and soldiers of the Solana Galaxy, you'll stay away from our operations for good, or the next planet we'll destroy shall be Kerwan, followed by Rilgar, and then Marcadia itself!" Forcing a brightened-up smile, he then concluded the announcement by saying. "Thank you all for watching and listening! Goodbye for now!"
With the speech and demonstration concluded, Phyronix then started to call his daughter to strategize their way around this, or negotiate if necessary.
Bridge of the Starship Phoenix
Upon seeing what had just occurred elsewhere in the galaxy, the Galactic Rangers onboard as well as Sasha, Ratchet, and Clank were all on the verge of apprehension. It was, after all, not everyday that a planet destroying superweapon had been successfully used on live Holovision. At the same time, Ratchet had a burning question that he could not help but ask Sasha as she sat in the large Captain's chair in absolute dismay.
"Not to make the situation look even worse, but now that the Bolt Foundry is gone, are we going to have a financial crisis or something like that no matter what happens next?" Seeing both Clank and Sasha glare at him, Ratchet looked away sheepishly as he added. "Just wondering."
Exhaling, Sasha answered. "Fortunately, the Galactic Government has the means to establish a new foundry elsewhere, so whatever financial crisis that will follow will be eventually resolved. All the same, no amount of money will bring back the workers we lost on Fort Sprocket."
"And now that Drek has demonstrated his ruthlessness and firepower, how will we be able to stop him and Nefarious?" Clank asked for clarification.
Before Sasha could answer, the Ranger serving as a communications officer declared. "Captain Sasha! We're receiving a transmission from Marcadia marked urgent!"
"Put them through." Sasha ordered, and in an instant, a larger, male Cazar appeared on the screen with a worried look on his face who Ratchet instantly recognized as Galactic President Phyronix. With a small yet worried smile, Sasha greeted the President. "Hi, Dad. I trust you saw Drek's latest demand?"
While both Ratchet and Clank were stumped to hear that Sasha was the President's daughter, the older Phyronix, nonetheless, replied with a troubled tone of voice. "Unfortunately, I did, Sasha, and as a result, I don't know what to do. Even if we approach this in a small infiltration kind of way, we'd be risking the lives of entire planets that the Blarg haven't targeted yet."
Sasha looked down at her father's words as she added. "And yet, if we do nothing, there's no guarantee Drek won't use the PlanetBusters later on for whatever reason."
Everyone within hearing range of the discussion from Ratchet and Clank to the Galactic Rangers, turned their gazes down to the floor either in defeat, or something close to it at Sasha's pessimistic yet true words.
After a moment of silence, however, another Ranger informed aloud. "Excuse me, Captain Sasha, Mr. President, but our guard at the brig reports that both Qwark and Hardlight wish to offer consultation on how to beat the Blarg-Nefarious alliance."
Bridge of the Leviathan , Fort Sprocket Debris Belt
"I must admit, Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman, I never thought you had it in you to destroy a whole Bolt Foundry, considering how greedy you are." Nefarious commented to the hologram of Drek, impressed by both the planetary destruction he and Lawrence witnessed as well as the level of commitment the short Blarg had to his ultimate goal.
Drek grinned at Nefarious's praise as he nonchalantly replied. "There can always be a new Foundry to be made in the future, Doctor. It's like New Orxon will be suffer the same fate as the old one in just one day, after all."
The two villains shared a brief chuckle at that before Nefarious asked. "Still, what are the odds that Phyronix and his people won't try anything heroic at some point?"
Drek frowned knowingly at the question, but ultimately said. "Even if they do, we'll be ready for them and to enact a proper retaliation as well. Drek out."
The hologram then dissipated, leaving Nefarious to sit on the bridge alone with Lawrence standing by his side.
The butler then made his moment to report. "On the bright side, sir, the new Blarg homeworld is at eighty percent completion. We should be ready to make our move soon enough."
Glaring at the remains of Fort Sprocket surrounding them in determination, Nefarious nodded at his assistant's words with utter seriousness in his voice. "Yes, Lawrence. Soon enough."
I did not get any suggestions for what worlds the PlanetBusters would be used on, so I decided to take out Fort Sprocket from Secret Agent Clank for the sake of argument, so that the villains would make their point to the entire galaxy.