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There was something odd about the concept of becoming something you weren’t before, to Jak, and yet also a certain kind of bitter truth to the whole idea.

He knew he hadn’t always been like this. He had plenty of people telling him so and he remembered, sort of, being someone with more love and happiness in his chest than rotting sludge and empty space. Remembered the exact moments where the love and happiness had been forcefully beaten out of him.

But even knowing that, even knowing there was some truth to the idea you could become something you weren’t…

He had never really thought about it with Errol.

Didn’t care enough, usually, but also just didn’t think it applied.

As long as he’d known Errol, he’d known him to be a disgusting, angry slimeball with the same kind of chest-rot and hollowness Jak had. He’d been there while they pumped him so full of Dark Eco that he couldn’t even breathe without pain and he’d laughed every time Jak screamed, in the early days. And he knew that had been Errol because he knew his voice. Even if he hadn’t recognized him when he saw him, he’d have recognized his voice.

And when he’d been turned into that mechanical monstrosity, later on, Jak hadn’t been surprised. Errol cared more for himself and his own revenge than he could ever care for the city. For Keira.

Jak wished he could say they were really any different from each other.

But he knew they weren’t.

They were both rotting, hollowed out vessels who didn’t give a flying rat’s ass about anything beyond their own anger and pride and sadistic pleasure. They both would have put the person stupid enough to wrong them under their boot and crushed them given half a chance. They’d both tried to. One of them with marginally more success than the other and it boiled Jak’s blood to know Errol had overall had that success.

Still.

He’d always thought that Errol was always like that.

And maybe he was.

Maybe that hollow, rotting man was born that way and just grew up even more crooked because Haven didn’t exactly foster good behavior in anyone. Anyone weak enough to be kind would have their life or their kindness stomped out of them without hesitation. It would stand to reason that the most rotted out, disgusting men would be the ones to rise to power.

But he guessed, while he was feeling particularly empty today, like he did more and more frequently these days as things calmed down for the most part, his mind had grabbed onto that idea in particular.

He and Errol didn’t have a whole lot of differences that he could pick out―why should Errol have been evil from the get-go?

Jak hadn’t been.

What made Errol any different?

Maybe, just maybe, Errol had been a decent person once. Maybe he’d even been a good person. Someone who wanted to do good and did good and tried to help his city. Maybe he’d had that crushed out of him like Jak had, or maybe it had just rotted away as he got older. As he got wiser. As he figured out that Haven didn’t care about nice people. That history was written by the victors and being nice didn’t lend itself to being a winner in a place like this.

Jak doubted it, but he’d never know for sure.

He didn’t believe there had been any ‘becoming’ in Errol turning into a monster other than the physical aspect of it.

A cold, heartless, ruthless person who lived for the suffering of others and his own power fantasy… And he’d nearly sacrificed himself out of nothing but toddler-like anger when Jak had beaten him at a race. And when he’d re-emerged on the scene, he’d been towering and metallic and no different as a person than he’d been before, except now he didn’t even spare the courtesy of pretending to give a shit about the city or the people in it.

The Errol that Jak knew had always been a monster.

He just hadn’t been a mechanical one.

And even if Jak was right, even if they really weren’t any different from each other, even if Errol had started out sweet and caring about his city and the people in it, Errol was long dead.

He was long dead, and so was Praxis, and the monster they’d made was still here.

Jak got the feeling he wasn’t dying any time soon. Didn’t think that the universe was going to let him. Going out like Errol, taken down by a monster stronger than he was, would be too easy. He’d have to keep fighting the other monsters that the world threw his way, and keep winning, and keep feeling the rot consume anything else that tried to take up residence in his chest. Keep fighting and winning until the day finally came that he couldn’t anymore.

He couldn’t remember much of who he’d been before Haven.

But every day his mind wondered what would have happened to that kid if he’d just stayed in Sandover instead of going to Misty Island.

… What would he have become then?