All That Glitters
The world is an interesting place...to say the least. Living here, life can take you to some dark and strange places. And just when you think you've figured out the pattern that life follows, the entire structure is modified. That's what brings me here; I'm a victim of the uncertain flow of life. That's why I am dying one day at a time in this prison, and not in my home. Of course, all events are connected to those that precede them, and my story has yet to deviate from this rule. My name is Ryaric. I am a Ta-Matoran. And this is my account of a terrible crisis in the City of Legends.
<<<Seven Months Ago>>>
"Another homicide," Ryaric sighed, gently shaking his head. He studied the Ta-Matoran's corpse carefully, unable to tear his sight away for long. A dagger remained in the victim's heartlight, having clearly killed him instantaneously. For a moment, Ryaric imagined it was his own body lying there on living room floor. This was one of his kindred, a fellow soul of the fiery district in Metru Nui. "You find anything, Vitram?"
A Ko-Matoran came walking out of the bedroom, a Kanohi in hand. A pair of frustrated eyes sat behind his snow white Huna. "It's a match."
Ryaric hesitated. Briefly adjusting his crimson Kakama, he extended a hand. "Let me see it."
Vitram handed over the Kanohi and stared at his partner's expression. Ryaric was cringing, carefully handling the mask and looking it over. It was a cerulean Kanohi Hau. Thanks to his time working in the forges, Ryaric could tell this mask was made by a shoddy craftsman. Weak Kanoka had been used to build it, but the feature that most stood out was the shimmering bits of disks embedded in the mask face. The disk bits gave off an unsettling gleam as Ryaric slowly tilted the mask in his hand.
"Yeah," Ryaric said at last, glancing up at Vitram. "This was the same murderer. I'm getting used to those Kanoka shards jammed into the masks. Whoever he is, it would take a careful amount of force to jam those fragments in, especially without destroying the already weak mask's integrity. The crafter paid little attention to building the mask, but was very particular with those shards."
"So, what's the tally now?" Vitram asked, more to himself than Ryaric. "Two Matoran found dead in each district, save Onu-Metru, and each found with a blue Hau nearby the corpse."
"And no leads," Ryaric muttered. "I suppose we should head back to the office and file an official report to Turaga Dume."
"You want to head back to that cramped little room in the Coliseum already?" Vitram smirked. "Maybe we should be a little more thorough here. There's bound to be a clue somewhere."
"Cut me a break," Ryaric glared. "This Matoran was a forger, like I was! Remember when we had to search the pair of corpses in Ko-Metru?"
"Fair enough," Vitram conceded softly. "All I'm saying is that if you want to keep your job as a criminal investigator, we might want to get our success rate closer to that of the Vahki."
"There are some things a machine can't do," Ryaric smiled. "You can't replace a good intuition with a computer on legs."
"That may be," Vitram agreed, narrowing his glossy, emerald eyes, "but the Turaga doesn't have to put his computers on legs on city payroll."
<<<The Following Day>>>
Despite their destructive persistence in pursing lawbreakers and Rahi, the Vahki were efficient at apprehending criminals. Not long after the Cerulean Hau Murders began, a Dark Hunter was captured by the Zadakh for attempting to steal tools in Po-Metru. The criminal was promptly imprisoned at the Coliseum and informed that his brethren would be contacted. This was mostly to prevent any backlash by the Dark Hunters upon the city. I had a message sent off to an informant on Stelt, where it would be returned to Odina by a Dark Hunter operative. The message was in regards to the imprisoned Dark Hunter and an inquiry on any information they might have about the Cerulean Hau Murders. Until otherwise proven, their organization was being treated as a suspect, given the history of their activities. I received a message back rather promptly, learning that the Dark Hunters wished to make an exchange. They had captured a Po-Matoran at sea some time back, and were willing to turn him over to the city if the Dark Hunter was to be returned unharmed. I agreed and they consented to meet on a specified date to make the transaction.
It was midday in Le-Metru, and the overcast skies left a sense of gloom over the city. A storm was on the way, but the southern port was bustling with activity. Airships were coming and going, but craft by sea were a common appearance as well. A pair of Vorzakh held a topaz armored Dark Hunter in place, making sure he wouldn't escape. His ruby eyes darted here and there, making his anxious state rather apparent. Ryaric and Vitram stood nearby, waiting for the Hunters to arrive.
"You think it was right to trust them?" Ryaric wondered, feeling the first drops of rain land upon his mask.
"The Dark Hunters are a band of lawless renegades. What do you think?" Vitram replied sarcastically.
"You better watch your mouth, Matoran," the Dark Hunter growled at Vitram. "We might own this city some day."
"Silence," one of the Vorzakh ordered, tightening its grip on the criminal's arm. Neither of the investigators understood the ultrasonic message, but the Hunter felt its insinuation.
Vitram rolled his eyes, turning back to scan the Silver Sea. An ancient vessel was fast approaching, scarred with the damage of years on the waves. It was an onyx craft, seating six comfortably. Along the sides, Vitram could tell some sort of turrets were once connected to the boat.
"It took them long enough..." the Dark Hunter grumbled.
The watercraft pulled up to the pier, allowing the three passengers to disembark. One was a tall, ebony armored figure. Her features were lithe though suggested incredible strength. Ryaric noticed one of her arms to be entirely mechanical and let his imagination wander in search of the cause. In the fingers of her mechanical limb was a Po-Matoran, scared and confused. He was without a mask, and appeared exhausted. Oddly enough, his chest plate was violet in color. The other Dark Hunter seemed to be staring blankly at the city. He was a well armored individual, and as Vitram looked him over, he seemed to be entirely made of armor.
The female Hunter motioned to her ally, pointing at the Vahki. "Kraata-Kal, please get our friend from those machines. And make sure to bond his hands."
The other Dark Hunter strode forward, walking past the pair of Matoran as though they did not exist. The Vahki let their captive go and he took a few steps forward. Kraata-Kal stepped around him, pulling his arms back and holding them together with energy shackles. He then shoved the Hunter forward, suggesting he board the craft.
"And this now belongs to you," the female Hunter added, letting the Po-Matoran go.
He ran to the investigators, glancing back at the Hunters with an expression of terror. Kraata-Kal did not meet his gaze, busy walking his fellow Hunter to the boat. Only the female stared back, glaring into his eyes.
"Thank you," Ryaric awkwardly smiled at the female Hunter.
"Yes, of course," she replied apathetically, turning away for the craft. She then looked back over her shoulder. "Oh, and, the Shadowed One wishes to inform you that no Dark Hunters are presently assigned to missions in Metru Nui. He expresses his hope, however, that the killer will be brought to justice."
How long did it take you to memorize all that? Ryaric thought, clearly doubtful of her message. "Yeah...we're working on it."
Vitram nodded slowly, turning his attention back to the matter at hand. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked the Po-Matoran.
"I will be," he muttered. "Spending six months with the Hunters was...torturous. If it's fine with you, I'd rather not discuss the particulars right now."
"That's understandable. Do you have a name?" Ryaric questioned.
"Selnocra," he replied, as if trying to remember. "My name is Selnocra."
"Nice to meet you," Ryaric grinned. "My name is Ryaric, and this is my partner, Vitram. We work at the Coliseum as criminal investigators. I hope nothing else unfortunate befalls you, but we're the Matoran to speak with if it does. Also, we need to get you a mask."
"Thank you," Selnocra said, trying to smile back. "You're very kind."
As the Vahki departed and Ryaric struck up a conversation on Metru Nui's better features, Vitram visually trailed the Dark Hunter vessel from port. Keeping focused on the Hunters aboard, he watched Kraata-Kal punch the bound operative across the jaw.
<<<A Week Later>>>
Ryaric sat alone in his tiny office at the Coliseum, tilted back in his chair. A faint lightstone rested in the middle of the ceiling, barely offering significant luminance. Vitram knew there was a blizzard warning for Ko-Metru, and wanted to return home before it intensified. It was getting late, and sunset had come a few hours ago. As Ryaric read over the reports on each of the Cerulean Hau Murders, there was no solid evidence pointing to a specific killer. It appeared to be random stabbings being committed across the city, but targeting two Matoran in each district seemed too intentional. Ryaric leaned forward, putting the papers back in their file and readjusting his Kakama. As he stared lazily at the calendar on the far wall, he recalled that the Archives closed early on this particular day of the week. It allowed the many Onu-Matoran who worked there to return home early and feel more energized the following day. Only the higher ranking archivists would be working tonight - a few lonely souls roaming the dimly lit halls. As this idea sunk further into Ryaric's mind, he suddenly felt sick. Grabbing his disk launcher, a terrified Ryaric dashed from his office without delay.
Ryaric sprinted to his home, throwing the door open. Feeling the wall for the light switch, Ryaric flipped it. Nothing. Flipping it back and forth a few times, it was clear that the power had been cut. Creeping into the dark of his house, Ryaric spotted luminescence coming from a lightstone he kept in the corner of his living room. Crawling along the carpet, the Ta-Matoran could feel spots of moisture soaked into the floor. Ta-Metru was always warm, so the wetness was caused by something recent. Deciding not to dwell on it, Ryaric scooped up the light source and headed toward his bedroom.
"Lucky me," Ryaric muttered, taking a disk off the wall. It was a high level paralyzing disk, forged by a few of Ryaric's co-workers when he left to become an investigator. They joked with him that if he used it to capture a criminal, he should tell Turaga Dume to give the crafters a pay raise. Ryaric loaded the disk into his launcher and held the lightstone out.
"This is trespassing!" Ryaric yelled, rushing headlong for the bedroom. Whirling back around quickly, he found that no one was following him. Turning his attention directly back to the bedroom, Ryaric illuminated the far wall and dropped the lightstone almost immediately.
"No..." Ryaric whispered in shock. He had to get to the Archives.
Ryaric hurried toward the pride of Onu-Metru. Shoving the doorway open, Ryaric flashed his badge to the nearby service attendant. Ignoring his sarcastic commentary, the Ta-Matoran bolted down into the darkness, grabbing a lightstone from the wall to aid him. Running past the countless chambers and pods containing Rahi, Ryaric caught a glimpse of only one other Onu-Matoran at work. Ryaric went unnoticed, as the archivist appeared enthralled by a creature he was studying.
The investigator was tired, and began to slow his pace. Keeping his disk launcher ready, Ryaric pointed the lightstone down a far staircase. Carefully approaching it, he could see something at the bottom of the stairs, positioned directly beneath a shaft of light. Ryaric glanced over his shoulder and took the steps one at a time, becoming more and more paranoid as he neared the bottom. Halfway down the staircase, it was clear what Ryaric was staring at. It was an Onu-Matoran, dead on the floor - a dagger sticking out of his broken heartlight. More shafts of light could be seen dotting the floor ahead, and another Matoran was standing beneath one. Ryaric narrowed his eyes on the biomech and dashed down the stairs.
"Don't move!" Ryaric shouted. "I'm with Coliseum investigation!" The Ta-Matoran leapt from the last step and landed next to the Onu-Matoran corpse.
"Ryaric!" Vitram yelled, completely startled. "What're you doing here!?"
Ryaric trained his loaded disk launcher on Vitram and glared at him. "I found a bunch of blue Hau masks in my home tonight. The kind full of Kanoka bits. That didn't say much on its own, but the wet footprints covering my floor certainly did. I know there's a blizzard in Ko-Metru tonight. Maybe some of that blizzard melted off my home invader?"
"I can explain that," Vitram said slowly, reaching for his own launcher. "I can explain that archivist too. Listen, I was coming down here"-
"Hands up, Vitram," Ryaric interrupted. "I don't want to fire on you. I really don't."
Vitram froze. "Okay. I'm...I'm sorry, Ryaric." With unprecedented speed, Vitram reached for his launcher and fired.
Ryaric trusted his friend to do the right thing, and was left defenseless as the disk flew at him. From the darkness behind Ryaric, a red laser blast intercepted the disk, burning it into dust. Vitram stared into the shadows and a second laser shot him straight through the heartlight - killing him before he hit the floor.
"Who's there!?" Ryaric shouted, whirling around to face the dark.
Stepping down from the stairs, armed with a laser cannon and a disk launcher of his own was a familiar Po-Matoran with a violet chest plate.
"Selnocra?" Ryaric breathed.
Selnocra fired his launcher, bringing Ryaric to the ground. Walking up to the Ta-Matoran, he stared mischievously into Ryaric's eyes. "Hello again, little detective."
"What did you do to me!?" Ryaric stuttered.
"That was a paralyzing disk I just struck you with. Not a particularly powerful one, but obviously weak enough to floor a Matoran like yourself."
Ryaric cursed himself for being such an easy target. "What are you going to do now?" he struggled to reply.
Selnocra suddenly shapeshifted into an Onu-Matoran wearing a jet black Miru. "I'm going to complete my assignment."
"Your...what?" Ryaric muttered, trying to hide his fear.
Selnocra morphed once again, this time into a teal Vortixx. "I work for the Dark Hunters, Matoran. It turns out that shapeshifting can be quite the lucrative ability if you're employed by the right individuals." Slowly pacing around Ryaric, he stared with laughing eyes at the helpless investigator. "The Shadowed One heard about the message regarding a serial killer here in Metru Nui, and did not like our organization being falsely indicted. And so, we decided on a plan that would allow me to infiltrate the city as a Matoran, and return our foolish, tool thieving operative at the same time. I was sent here to determine the true killer and publicly reveal him."
"What about the Matoran you captured?" Ryaric growled, futilely attempting to stand.
The Dark Hunter grinned. "There never was a Matoran." Grabbing Ryaric by the leg, he began to drag the Ta-Matoran back to the upper levels of the Archives. Ryaric groaned and snarled as the Dark Hunter tugged him across the floor. "The killer is dead, but you remain quite the loose end. Given that I overheard you talking about several blue Hau masks being planted in your home, I think telling the Vahki that you are the killer will prevent them from believing any stories you might have about Dark Hunters being sent here. The evidence will be against you, I'm afraid."
Finally dropping Ryaric, the Dark Hunter shapeshifted back into an Onu-Matoran and hurried off to find the Rorzakh. Lying on the cold floor of the Archives, Ryaric stared at the far wall and wondered what his future would bring. They might imprison him in the Coliseum, but there was always the possibility that he would be spending the rest of his life in the Pit. Ryaric tugged at his limbs, desperately begging them to respond. As if by a miracle, he was beginning to regain feeling in his body. Through an underestimation of Matoran strength on the Hunter's behalf, Ryaric had enough vigor to get to his feet and limp from the Archives. He hobbled out into the dark of the night, heading frantically for Le-Metru. As his mind raced, Ryaric knew he would have to elude the Vahki and board an airship. For a moment, his heartlight sunk as the gravity of the situation fully sunk in. Ryaric would have to leave Metru Nui forever.
I broke into an awkward run that night, traveling as fast as my body would take me. As fate would have it, I snuck onboard an airship through an unattended cargo hatch. I rode it all the way to Stelt, where I disembarked to start a new life. I replaced my armor, my Kanohi, and my identity. As far as the world is concerned, Ryaric the Ta-Matoran is dead. But Ticryo, the hopeful criminal investigator from the Tren Krom Peninsula is alive and well. This is my existence now, my prison, if you will. To be honest, I suppose it could be a lot worse.
Ryaric glanced up from his desk, seeing a Steltian standing in the doorway of his office. He was a tall, sturdy individual, wearing armor of cobalt and slate - clearly a wealthy biomech. "Please, come in."
The Steltian took a seat before the desk, staring hard into Ryaric's eyes. "Listen, Detective Ticryo. There was a brutal murder last night that I need you to inspect. Someone who lived alone was stabbed through the heartlight. His name was Delanax."
"This isn't exactly the safest place in the world," Ryaric pointed out, leaning forward in his chair. "Do you have any information on Delanax? Any possible motives or leads?"
The Steltian shook his head. "He had no known enemies and nothing appeared to be stolen. We've really got nothing. Just this."
Ryaric watched the Steltian pull a Kanohi mask from his back and display it to him. Ryaric stared blankly into the eyeholes of the cerulean Hau, covered in tiny Kanoka disk shards. As the Steltian slightly turned the mask in his grip, Ryaric watched the twinkling fragments give off an unforgettable shine - as if their glitter served only to torment his memory. A cold fear gripped Ryaric's body, and it took all of his willpower not to scream.