Order Rebuilt Preview
Defilak entered the room with the pilots in tow. The lab had gleaming chrome walls and floors, with blinking screens and large contraptions whose purposes the newcomers could only guess at. All kinds of Matoran and Agori rushed from place to place, creating a blur of motion and a cacophonous atmosphere. Some of the engineers stopped to salute Defilak before hurrying on their way.
For all the marvels within the massive laboratory, what drew the most attention was the glass wall on the far side. This window provided a view into a massive hangar inhabited by what could only be the Exo-Vahki the Matoran had been promised. The machines were much larger than expected, each about the height of a Tahtorak. Every one bore the familiar head of a Vahki, but that was the sole uniformity.
“Welcome to the hush-hidden Vahki Lab,” Defilak announced proudly. “Allow me to introduce you.”
He began to point to the robots one-by-one, assigning a Matoran to each.
“Kapura, you’ll have the Exo-Nuurakh. It was fortified to withstand any strike-hit you can imagine!”
This was in no way a boast. The red Exo-Vahki had more armor than the other five combined, giving it a stout, bulbous appearance. Its three-fingered hands held no equipment—its very body was a shield.
“Hafu, you get the Exo-Zadakh. It may not reach the speed of bright-light, but it can cross-travel the entire planet in minutes.”
This suit looked the most like the original Vahki, with the only noticeable difference in design being slimmer shoulders to make the unit more streamlined. It was lean and lightly armored, and seemed to crave freedom to run.
“Onepu will pilot-ride the Exo-Rorzakh. As team technician, it’ll be up to you to repair-save the others in battle.”
Exo-Rorzakh’s armor was not as thick as Nuurakh’s nor as thin as Zadakh’s. It’s right arm ended in what appeared to be a blowtorch, but this was its only remarkable feature.
“For Kazi, the Exo-Keerakh. You’ll be responsible for seek-scouting enemy territory so the others will know what to prepare for.”
The snow-white robot had the lightest armor, even less than Zadakh. It looked fragile, as if one hit would shatter it. Two appropriately-sized daggers were attached to its waist.
“Here’s the Exo-Vorzakh! Tamaru, this one is built for nothing but raw smash-strength, and its weapon is one-of-a-kind. We’ll detail-talk about that later, though.”
While Exo-Vorzakh had notably heavy armor, its cladding could not compare to that of Nuurakh. Resting next to it was a massive broadsword, one as wide across as an Exo-Vahki and longer than any were tall. The blade was a dull gray with a silver, tendril-like shell reaching out from the hilt and grasping the sword down its length like a hand.
“And finally, the Exo-Bordakh for Macku. This one doesn’t really have a niche-role, but it can adapt to most situations easily. We’re also gift-granting it the Nui Staff, a very important weapon that you’ll have to use wisely.”
Matching its lack of specialty, the moderately-armored Exo-Bordakh lacked any striking characteristics. The Nui Staff, also, seemed nothing special—just a large metal stick that inspired no sense of awe.
Turning back to the Matoran, Defilak said, “Alright, now’s the time-chance for questions.”
Tamaru rushed right up to the glass and pressed his mask against it, excitedly muttering to himself. The others took some time to think over their responses, though for Onepu it did not take very long.
“I’m sorry, technician?” the Onu-Matoran sneered. “You want me to be a support unit?! I think not!”
“I’m still not convinced,” Kazi said. “Besides, wouldn’t Piruk be better for scouting? Unless that would mess up your color-coded system.”
“Any chance I can switch with Tamaru?” Hafu asked.
At mention of his name, Tamaru’s attention snapped back to his companions. “Huh? Oh, I’m ever-fine with that. I just want to pilot one!”
Defilak sighed. “Nobody’s switch-changing. And you aren’t allowed to decline—I already told you!”
A hand grasped his shoulder. He turned to see Berix, whose expression made him realize that his temper was beginning to show itself.
“How about I take it from here?” the Agori offered. “In the meantime, Nuhrii and Balta are having an argument you can mediate.”
After a moment of hesitation, Defilak nodded. “Okay. Everyone, this is Berix—he’ll guide-help you from here. If you’ll excuse me…”
When Defilak was out of sight, Berix faced the Matoran and smiled. “Hey everyone. So, I hear you wanna change mechs.”
“Mechs”? Macku silently repeated. Is that some Agori word for robot?
“There has clearly been a mistake,” Onepu insisted. “I was Captain of the Ussalry, Hero of the Makuta Wars, Right Hand to Turaga Whenua! I am no mere battle medic!”
Kazi rolled his eyes. Berix suppressed a similar urge as he explained, “Well sorry, but all assignments are final. The Exo-Vahki power up by resonating with the dormant Elemental Energy within the pilot. It’d take about a week to recalibrate it for a new Matoran, maybe more.”
“That’s silly,” Macku replied. “Why not make its activation simpler?”
“Can’t do that,” Berix answered. “Giving the system a direct connection to the pilot makes it easier for you to control them. Your thoughts will have an influence on the Vahki’s actions, something that’ll become even more effective the more you get used to it.”
Hafu shrugged. “Okay then. Strength sounds better, but I’m sure I can work with speed.”
Kapura, a thoughtful look in his eye, asked, “Wait…that means only Matoran can pilot them. With all due respect, I have to admit I’m a bit surprised the Agori leaders agreed to that.”
Scratching his head, Berix said, “Yeah, they, uh…took some convincing. But we drew up a prototype that didn’t use the Elemental Resonance System, and it was too complicated for even us engineers to operate. So many buttons and levers and pulleys and pedals…”
A visible shudder passed through Berix. Tamaru, who seemed ready to explode, asked, “So…can we get in the Exo-Vahki now?”
“Huh? Oh, sure,” Berix said. “Right this way!”
Berix headed for a door that would lead into the hangar, with Tamaru and Hafu right behind him. Kapura followed a bit more slowly, but the other Matoran hung back a bit.
“I can’t believe this,” Kazi mumbled. “How is this supposed to solve our problems?”
“It will be helpful, no doubt,” Onepu argued. “Nuparu was good at what he did, and these other engineers seem…competent. But they made a grave mistake in squandering my talents.”
“We don’t have a choice,” Macku reminded them. “This is our new assignment. We have to go along with it.”
The Ga-Matoran headed off the join the others. Onepu came a few paces behind, but Kazi hesitated a while longer. The others waited at the door and stared at him. With a heavy sigh, he too went to meet up with them.
When the door was opened, Berix led the Matoran onto a catwalk high above the floor of the chamber, extending the long way to the other side where the Exo-Vahki waited. The platform then turned sharply and ran behind the robots, providing access to the open hatches in the back of each machine’s head. One at a time, the Matoran stepped into their respective vehicles.
The cockpits were poorly lit but surprisingly spacious. A seat with four metal clamps sat at the center, surrounded by a semi-circle of control panels displaying a multitude of screens, levers, and buttons.
Onepu sat down in the chair and noticed a red lever labeled START jutting out of the floor. As soon as he pulled it, the hatch sealed shut and the clamps locked in place around his torso. A jolt of energy rocked the Matoran’s body as the screens flared to life. Two white levers molded for an easier grip sat directly in front of him, so he tentatively reached out and took hold of them. The far wall lit up—it was a massive viewscreen, Onepu realized, displaying what lay directly in front of Exo-Rorzakh.
“Hey, don’t get a head start,” came Berix’s voice. “The others are still booting up.”
Onepu looked around and spotted a speaker built into the wall. There was motion on the viewscreen—when the shock wore off, Onepu processed what had happened. Exo-Rorzakh had moved its head the same way he had.
…Well that’s definitely efficient, Onepu thought. I won’t have to pause to operate the controls. It should be really fluid to command…if a bit unsettling.
The experience was more surreal than he had expected. Judging by how the other robots were stumbling about, the rest of the Matoran were having similar reactions.
“Alright, let’s get to work,” Berix announced. Several more Exo-Vahki heads swiveled as the Matoran within located their respective speakers. “Take the two handles right in front of you and push them forward to make the Vahki walk.”
Onepu gently exerted pressure on the levers. A whirring reached his ears as the mechanisms activated—the world on the viewscreen lurched forward, and a heavy BOOM echoed as Exo-Rorzakh took its first step. The Onu-Matoran immediately let go. Amazingly, Rorzakh maintained its balance perfectly.
“Just take it easy,” Berix warned as the other Vahki started moving. “Too much and you’ll—“
He stopped short as Exo-Zadakh broke into a sprint. Berix could be heard shouting at Hafu, but it was in vain. The brown machine slammed face-first into the hangar wall, sending a tremor throughout the lab and knocking the engineers off their feet.
Inside the Zadakh, Hafu shook his head. The impact left his mech slumped against the wall, giving the cockpit a harsh tilt that would have flung him at the viewscreen if not for his restraints.
“Ah…sorry,” the carver sheepishly apologized. More carefully, he pulled back on the levers. Zadakh attempted to step backwards but ended up collapsing in a heap.
“It’s not that simple,” Berix grumbled. Other angry voices could be heard in the background. “Remember, the Vahki is connected to your thoughts. Picture yourself getting up after a fall, and then pull back on the levers.”
Scowling, Hafu closed his eyes and concentrated. He quickly played through a memory of getting back on his feet and gave a short yank on the controls. This time Zadakh put its arms out to steady itself, and was easily able to stand tall again. Hafu opened his eyes and surveyed his work.
“Huh…that wasn’t so bad.”
“It looked pretty bad from here,” Kazi commented over the speaker.
Angrily, Hafu looked over his shoulder. It jarred him a bit when Zadakh turned to face Keerakh in compliance. “I don’t see you doing any better, Karzahni scrap.”
Kazi was already feeling extremely frustrated. Hearing Hafu’s insult was more than enough to push him over the edge. Spotting a button labeled FIRE, he slammed it and watched to see what would happen.
A compartment in Keerakh’s hand opened up, and a cluster of Kanoka flew out. Unfortunately for Kazi, Keerakh had not raised its arm first, so the disks struck the floor and released their weakening power. Even the reduced weight of the scout unit made the metal buckle and give way, sending Exo-Keerakh falling onto its back. Kazi reached for his Kanohi to prevent it from being dislodged in the impact.
Zadakh reared back as Hafu laughed. “Well, at least we know you’ve got a knack for self-sabotage!”
Kazi began counting in an attempt to calm himself down. Nuurakh shakily stepped in between him and Zadakh, Kapura demanding, “Stop this. We’re a team now; that means we need to develop a sense of unity.”
Nudging just one lever, Kapura focused on Nuurakh’s right arm. The red Vahki offered its hand to Keerakh. Instead, Kazi instructed his mech to reach for the wall for support instead.
“Unity?” Kazi scoffed. “Don’t tell me you still believe in those garbage virtues. A lot of good they’ve done us.”
With an instinctive impulse from the Ko-Matoran, Exo-Keerakh moved to dust itself off. The resulting sound of scraping metal brought an instant halt to that thought.
Tamaru, having eagerly set about practicing, was elated at his progress. Through trial and error he was already discovering how to make Exo-Vorzakh leap, crouch, punch, and more. Pulling hard on the controls, he spun the machine into a whirling kick that nearly pulverized Bordakh.
“Oh—ever-sorry, water-sister!” he apologized. “Guess I’m getting rush-carried away, haha!”
Macku’s glare reached right through both robots to bore into Tamaru. Setting the matter aside, she steered herself towards the window to the lab.
“So how long are we going to just practice walking?” asked the Ga-Matoran.
“Until the Exo-Vahki run out of power,” Berix answered. “There should be a monitor to your left that’ll let you keep track.”
It did not take long to find the monitor in question. A light blue silhouette of Exo-Bordakh was displayed next to a yellow meter, with a random jumble of words running along the bottom of the screen. Just above the meter, “100%” was displayed in bright, flashing numbers.
“…Do we really need to spend that much time on it?” Macku asked.
“Yes,” Berix responded. “So come on—quit complaining and get moving!”
“Remember,” Kazi mockingly said, “we don’t have a choice.”