LAP 18
Clank's Adventure

Director Tanaka has a mission for Jody Summer: a research group were sent to investigate a transport ship that crashlanded on Sand Ocean, but have not been heard from since, along with an unrelated mining crew. Due to the ruins near where it crashed, they believe the area is cursed. Jody sets out to investigate...

The transport ship is a dire sight. Totally empty with no signs of life, dust and debris lining the walls... and her footsteps are the only sound to be heard. A sound comes from behind her, and she's surprised at what she finds - it's a boy!

She asks him the wherabouts of the ship's crew, and the boy informs her they've all been killed... by Zoda and his troops. More footsteps emanate from behind them, and soon a wave of Dark Million robots are chasing them. The two flee, and Jody aids their escape by launching an energy web at the robots from her blaster.

Meanwhile, Ryu storms into Falcon House, evidently not the first person to ask where Clank has disappeared to. Burt answers he had "something to do," and Jack assumes he's probably out dating if he's been gone all night. Lucy reminds him the boy might be avoiding him after he said to him the day before.

Yesterday, Ryu had found Clank snooping about in his Dragon Bird, analysing its machine data. Lucy had admonished him for looking without permission, but Ryu called him a mischevious computer cracker, a remark Clank objected to strongly. Maybe he should not have been so judgmental. Urgent business from Dr. Stewart calls the three Platoon members back to headquarters, forcing them to postpone the search for Clank. His café empty, Burt removes his apron.

In the White Cat, Jody asks Clank why he was in that vessel, who explains he ran away from home to get aboard the transport ship. He asks why an old matron like her in investigating this, forcing Jody to formally introduce herself; after Clank introduces himself, she tells him to buton his lip from now on. Bad news, however - Zoda's forces are in hot pursuit!

And they're packing heat! They open fire on the White Cat, but Jody boosts ahea to gain some distance. The chase leads them to the ruins where Jody tries to lose her enemies amidst all the corners.

They successfully evade them by hiding behind some rocks, and the two believe they're safe. Not for long, however - they're sitting on a great big pile of quicksand! Not even the powerful boosters of an F-Zero machine can pull them out of this one, and the White Cat is pulled under.

There's been no word from Jody since Tanaka assigned her to the mission, and the director is most upset; what is she turns into a mummy? How will he explain that to the chief?! Not to worry - Ryu, Jack and Lucy are on their way to Sand Ocean, travelling through the warp gate.

Jody and Clank find themselves in a vast underground pit, lined with the bones of man and man-beast alike - they believe them to be the remains of the researchers. A horrible roar rumbles from deep in the pit, and they encounter what they believe to be the real explanation behind the curse...

... it's a bleedin' great scorpion thing! And what's worse, this is its nest! Jody lets loose with her blaster, but the shots have no impact whatsoever on the beast, even as it gets closer and closer... until it's looming right over Jody!

A sound suddenly rings out, sending the beast stomping back to wherever it came from. Clank tapped into the White Cat's gravity direction separator, which, conveniently enough, uses the exact same frequency that the space scorpion uses to know it's not wanted. Jody is impressed by the boy's solution, and wants to know who he really is. Clank deems it unimportant. The two have a cave to explore!

And what a cave! Gaping pools of fiery lava; impressive walls of steep rock; pits lined with spikes and traps that breathe fire. With a little bit of co-operation, the two get through the ordeal...

... and finally make their way back to the surface.
Meanwhile, the three others have caught up to the transport ship, finding the robots Jody had blasted earlier, but no other signs of Dark Million or Jody. The Platoon wonder what would have brought the criminals here - but more importantly, what could be so valuable to them to prompt such an attack?

The two survivors camp out in the ruins until morning, Jody watching the fire while Clank sleeps. The boy asks her if anyone would miss her if she died and was never found again... because he knows he wouldn't be. He's alone, and no one would grieve his loss. Before she can respond, the boy is fast asleep.

Jody, in a brief flurry of maternal feelings, imagine what life would be like if Clank were her child. She tucks him in, and Clank unconsciously holds her hand, tears welling in his sleep. She accidentally notices a strange object stored on Clank's wrist computer...

... and not far away, the two are spotted by Zoda's sentries.
Come morning, Clank wakes up to Jody reprimanding him, informing him that the object he had came from the transport ship, and she wishes to know what it is. Clank snatches it back and fesses up - it's a computer virus he made back when he was Zoda's hacker-for-hire, but the reason he got aboard the transport was to reclaim it and use it against Zoda.

Unfortunately, Zoda wishes them good morning with a rocket launcher aimed at the ruins. The two leg it, but he and his Dark Soldiers are there to give chase - and they haven't the White Cat to save them this time!

Clank falls, but Jody raises him to his feet, visions of her as the mother he never had assisting him. However, running can only take them so far - there's an impassable gorge just ahead of them, and Zoda quickly have them cornered.

He asks for one thing and one thing only: to have the virus returned to him. Imagine the planet-shattering destruction and mayhem he could cause with this thing! Jody tries playing dumb, but Clank offers to return the virus so long as Jody goes unharmed. Zoda promises, and takes the virus from him.

Surprise! Zoda's a bit fat liar and aims his gun at Jody anyway. Clank tries to wrestle it from him only to get tossed on his arse - but he managed to gank the virus back in the process. Zoda is shocked for all of two seconds, before he realises he's going to shoot him and take it from his corpse anyway. He fires one shot...

... and Jody takes it in her shoulderpad, blasting her and Clank back across the ground and off the cliff! He cries out over losing the virus, but even more trouble has come his way: Ryu Suzaku and company have come to stop him!

Zoda sics his robots on him, but Ryu sets the Dragon Bird into a spin, spraying sand all over the robots' windscreens... allowing Jack to fly over a hill and crush them before they know what's coming.

Lucy does the same trick, spraying sand over an escaping robots' windscreen so it crashes straight into a wall. Ryu pursues Zoda, but the villain reminds him his allies have just fallen over a cliff; what will he do about that!
Mercifully, Jody is holding onto Clank and has a handle on the cliffface... but given the strain on her cybernetic arm, she might not last for long!

Suddenly, a cable is thrown over the cliff, allowing the two to climb up to safety. At the top, they find no one holding the cable; only a pin holding it down emblazoned with a falcon.
The Platoon catch up to her, relieved she's safe, and are curious what Clank has been doing on this little escapede.

While tugging the White Cat out of the quicksand, Clank has had enough of the trouble the virus has caused, and stomps it beneath his feet. His cracking days are over. He turns to Ryu and offers him some enhanced data for his Dragon Bird that'll help it perform better; he apologises for using it without permission (and the time he stole it, for good measure), and Ryu apologises for calling him a cracker.

Jody is safe and the White Cat has been retrieved, so their business is done here. Ryu offers Clank a ride as the Platoon prepare for a friendly race home, but Jody tells the boy he lied to her: he's not alone, he's surrounded by friends who love and care for him. As the group depart, Captain Falcon watches from afar.

Burt's F-Zero Classroom: "How much do F-Zero machines cost?" The answer: nothing lower than seven figures. Duff old machines can cost a few million space credits, your average vessel costs around five hundred million, and the Galaxy Mobile Platoon use only the highest class of machine, which cost around a billion credits. You can't put a price tag on a beauty like the Blue Falcon, though!