"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
This story is the third in a series of stories featuring the Matoran Inika. You can read it's companions, What We Become and What We Destroy in my library here. However, these stories can really be read in any order.
Well it's finally here. I apologize for being lazy as Karzahni the last year, but I have discovered my love of reading and writing once again. Hopefully my future updates will come much faster! As always, I would welcome any comments or constructive criticism. Kongu is next.
What We Create
Those Who Burn Episode Three by Yukiko
For a fire to start, there are those who must burn
Nuparu's first thought was that they must have arrived on Voya Nui.
However, when he felt around, his hands brushed rough dirt instead of the smooth metal of a toa canister. Two possibilities occurred to him then. The first was that they must have been drugged, which would explain his loss of memory, and imprisoned underground, which would explain the dirt. There was a second possibility that he was dreaming, but he tossed it out. In the dreams that he remembered, he had never felt as composed as he did now.
"Jaller? Kongu?" he called out, reasoning that his friends were most likely imprisoned with him. When no one answered, he started walking with one hand along the wall to keep himself oriented. He continued to call his friend's names every few seconds.
After several minuted, he began reconsidering his first assumption. This was more like a tunnel than a prison cell. He was just about to turn back and see if the other direction lead to a more concrete destination when he glimpsed two lights in the space ahead of him. Like all Onu-matoran, Nuparu had good night vision, but in the pitch darkness of the tunnel it was hard for even him to make anything out.
However, he clearly heard the hiss.
Those aren't lights, he realized. They're eyes.
Nuparu decided that going the other way was an excellent idea.
He kept his hand on the wall, fighting the urge to break into a sprint. It would do him no good to panic now. To panic would be dooming himself. The hisses were getting closer now, and he was sure they were overlapping.
There are more than one of them. This realization made Nuparu pick up his pace. He knew what they were, of course. He remembered the angular glowing eyes and hisses from the day when half of Onu-Koro had been buried too well. Rahkshi.
The creatures should have caught up to him by now. Unless they were toying with him...but then again why waste energy? Nuparu was an inventor, not a distance runner: he could already feel the burning in his muscles and hear his ragged breathing. He consider giving up and turning around. His brains, not his muscles, were his strength, and it would be an advantage to play to it.
Then the light appeared.
Nuparu's instincts took over at that point. He sprinted full ahead, abandoning all rational thought, pushing himself toward the dull golden glow ahead. He could hear the rahkshi's frustrated hisses , seemingly right behind him. He was not going to make it . He heard a crackle as one of the creatures behind him prepared to finish the job.
A figure blocked the light. Nuparu's heart sank, but he kept running, hoping the apparition would ignore him.
To his surprise, he only caught a glimpse of green eyes and a flash of silver before the figure brushed past him. More hisses and a clash rang through the tunnel, but Nuparu forced himself to concentrate on the glow ahead of him, which grew larger until it filled his vision.
That was when Nuparu decided that he could do without running.
When the room had stopped spinning and he could hear more than his own breath, he found himself staring at a rough earthen ceiling. He got to his feet shakily, brushing the dirt off.
He was in a small, oblong chamber, facing a set of stairs that lead up into darkness. He turned around and saw where he had come from, a metal door, now closed, with a console on its frame. The floor was packed earth, covered with bamboo mats. The only sight of habitation was a set of six wooden stools and a small metal desk pushed into one corner.
Nuparu squinted; the small light-stone set above the desk was to dim for him to make out exactly what lay on top of it. Moving closer, he saw a long bumpy cylinder glowing silver in the available light. Tools lay strewn around it, as if its caretaker had abandoned it in haste.
Nuparu was just about to touch the strange contraption when he heard a faint hum behind him. He rotated, locking eyes with the being that had emerged from the doorway.
The black and silver toa stared at him, and then spoke.
"Why did you go into the tunnels alone? Rahkshi are everywhere now, it's dangerous enough without matoran wandering off. I hope you didn't think yourself brave enough to vanquish one alone!"
Nuparu blinked, staring dumbly at the toa. He had no idea what he had expected, but a scolding hadn't been very high on the list.
The toa raised an eyebrow.
"I..." Nuparu said, blinking again. "I'm sorry. My name is Nuparu. I don't know how I got into the tunnels. I was traveling with my friends, and the next thing I know I have those rahkshi after me. If you could help me, I would be—"
He stopped, the toa watching him with narrowed eyes, his mouth half open. He doesn't believe me, Nuparu thought. But why?
The toa gestured at one of the wooden stools.
"Sit. I need to ask you a few questions, Nuparu."
His voice had an edge to it that made Nuparu nervous. He walked to the stool and scooted onto it. His legs dangled above the floor. He stared back at the toa. The toa distrusted him. Why?
"Tell me, where are you from, originally?"
"Metru Nui...well Mata Nui, if you want to go into—"
The toa raised a hand. "That's good, thank you. What was your occupation on Mata Nui?"
"I was an inventor."
Nuparu began to understand. The toa, for some reason, thought he was a spy for the Makuta or some other dark force. According to the toa, matoran wouldn't go into the tunnels because of the rahkshi. It was a perfectly sound theory, it was just wrong, and Nuparu found himself wondering how he would convince the toa that his intentions were innocent.
Nuparu shifted in his seat.
"What do you mean, exactly?"
"Describe to me how you created one of your inventions."
Even though he wondered how in world that information would help the toa, Nuparu launched into an explanation of the construction of a boxor. The toa must have been handy himself, for his eyes didn't take on the listless look that most people wore when Nuparu began describing one of his inventions.
He was halfway through detailing the placement of the third axle when the toa put his hand up.
"Thank you, Nuparu. That's enough."
Nuparu stared at the toa, bewildered. How had that information convinced the toa of anything? He searched the strange figures appearance as to why. The armor he wore and his bright emerald eyes marked him as a toa of earth, but there was something slightly...different. His armor had a much tighter look than that of the Toa Nuva, with rounder edges, and he could see tubes running up the toa's neck.
"Any reason as to why you're staring at me?"
Nuparu's face grew hot under mask. "Nothing...ummmm...you just are kind of...fishing looking?"
The toa's eyes narrowed, and Nuparu wanted to crawl under the table.
Then he burst into laughter. "I suppose that makes sense," he said. "My teammates and I are amphibious."
Nuparu felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as well. Of course it made sense: the sleeker armor would provide less resistance in the water, the tubes were some sort of breathing device, presumably, and the unusually bright eyes could probably see at depths where very little light could reach.
"So Nuparu," the toa said ", do you remember what happened before you found yourself in the tunnels?"
"It's a long story. Should I tell you everything or give you an abbreviated version?"
"The abbreviated version would be fine."
Nuparu stared at the floor, pondering how to explain his journey to the toa.
"My friends and I were traveling to the Island of Voya Nui. We went to assist the toa of our island, who had gone there on a mission. They didn't come back."
"A few matoran hoping to succeed where toa have failed?"
"We were desperate."
A nod. "I can relate."
"On the way, we wound up...imprisoned. We had to escape by climbing into some toa canisters constructed by one of the other prisoners. I must have lost consciousness somehow, because the next thing I know I'm in the tunnels being hunted by Rahkshi. This isn't Voya Nui, is it?"
"Where am I then?"
"An island much like your own, albeit a bit more...beleaguered."
Nuparu studied the doorway. "Why don't you just collapse it?"
The toa sighed. "I've been meaning to for a long time. But J-our leader says that it is better if we know where our enemies are coming from. I suppose he's right."
Nuparu nodded. The toa had taken out a small cube and was fiddling with it, turning its colored sides around and around. He didn't seem bothered by the silence, but then few earth-dwellers were. Nuparu himself appreciated the hush. It gave him time to think about what he should say next. The toa was irrationally familiar; there was something in his gut that told him he should trust him.
Nuparu, however, was not a matoran who listened to his gut. He listened to his head, and his head told him he had no reason to trust this strange toa. The toa had not even offered his name, a fact which Nuparu suspected had something to do with why he seemed so familiar. However, he couldn't yet put his finger on it, and he doubted that confronting the toa directly would yield any answers.
"You're an inventor too, aren't you?"
The toa started in chair, reminding Nuparu of himself when someone interrupted one of his projects. He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Once I was. Now I'm just a mechanic. I fix walls or weapons or people. Or I try to, anyway."
"Well, at least you fix something. My inventions didn't end up doing anything but breaking things."
The toa grunted in reply, suddenly fixated on his cube again. Nuparu considered his options for a moment, then continued.
"Have you heard about the Vahki? I guess you probably haven't, not being from around Metru Nui. Well, they were the city's enforcers before the great cataclysm. I created them. And then the Makuta used them to carry out his plan to put Mata Nui to sleep. So in an indirect way, I'm responsible for this situation."
He waved his hands about for emphasis. The toa had stopped fiddling with his little puzzle. However, he still wouldn't meet Nuparu's eyes.
"The funny thing is I don't even remember it. I lost my memory in the Great Cataclysm, so it's like the whole thing happened to someone else. It makes it so much easier to say: if it was me, I would have seen through the ploy. But it was me. And I wonder if all that time on Mata Nui was just me trying to atone for that, trying to build something that would help people for once."
Nuparu waited. The toa was still silent , still staring at nothing. Nuparu had played his strongest pity card, his best way of worming his way into the toa's head. Please answer, he thought. Please—
The toa met his eyes, and Nuparu's momentary relief turned to confusion. Once again, he wondered why he felt so comfortable with this toa, why those last few words had come out so easily. He certainly wasn't comfortable with spilling those secrets to just anyone.
"Nuparu," said the toa ", an invention is a tool, nothing more. It only becomes a weapon in the hands of a someone who wants to make it one. The Makuta deceived the whole city of Metru Nui, not just you. At least you still create. Me, I don't make anything new any more. I just try to keep what I have left from falling apart. And I hope, sometimes. But I would give anything to go back to what you have."
Nuparu sat in stunned silence, wondering why he felt so reassured, why the toa's words fit together so well in his mind.
Nuparu nearly fell of his stool. He knew that voice. The toa sprang to his feet, his green eyes wide with alarm. Nuparu slid off his seat as well.
"That is not who—"
"Mahi dung," Nuparu said, trying to meet the eyes of the toa, which were still focused on the stairs. "I want to you to tell me where my friends are, and why you've been lying to me."
"I don't—I haven't—"
The toa scanned the room as if looking for an escape. Then, he seemed to collapse and finally met Nuparu's eyes. He looked defeated, which was somehow disconcerting.
"I think it ends now."
"The new things, the creating. I think you have to learn to repair things now."
"What?" He could here footsteps on the stairs now. "I don't...what have you done with Kongu?"
"Kongu is as fine as anyone can be in times like these. We all are."
We all are. Those words came out of the toa's mouth and something in Nuparu's brain clicked. It made perfect sense, in fact it was the only thing that explained his sudden arrival and the toa's familiarity. Nuparu checked the ground beneath his feet; it felt solid. He stared at the toa, who returned his gaze calmly.
"You know how impossible this seems?"
"If you asked me several minutes ago I might have said the same thing."
"Nuparu, Jaller said that he needs—"
Nuparu heard Kongu's voice, but it was a lithe green and silver toa who emerged from the doorway, two metallic cylinders at his hip. He looked between the two of them in confusion.
"Who is that? Funny, he looks just like—"
"Me," the other toa finished. "When I was a matoran."
Nuparu looked at the toa of air, looked at Kongu and felt the twisted sense and perfect impossibility of his situation come crashing into him. It was a few seconds before he realized that a firm hand was grasping his shoulder, pushing him towards the metal door.
"What are you doing?"
"There's no place for you here, Nuparu. You have to go back."
The ground beneath him felt horribly real.
"Wait, you can't—you can't do this to me. I'm you."
Nuparu looked into his own eyes. He had never considered himself a coward, yet in that moment he felt cold all over and he was sure that he did not want to go back into the dark tunnels. Something was coming and it was going to hurt like Karzahni, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. As he felt himself pushed into the mouth of the tunnel, he wanted to say something, anything that could assuage the helpless expression reflected on the face of his toa counterpart.
"When you said you couldn't create something. You hope sometimes. So you can still create that."
For a moment there was something in the toa's eyes, just a glimmer. Then the doors closed and Nuparu was left alone in the dark. Next to the silence, his previous words felt weak. He groped for the wall, his heart pounding.
But the ceiling found him first.
"Why don't you just collapse it?"
"I've been meaning to for a long time."
He new it would come to this, almost. He couldn't breath, he was swaddled in earth and he couldn't feel anything. His spine was probably broken. Nuparu closed his eyes in the dark and he stopped breathing. He gave up his lungs and his eyes and hands, and the earth took him. He felt himself spread into the cracks and into the great mass of the city. The tunnels were his veins; he felt the roots of sparse greenery tickling him. But he was still small, so small compared the great consciousness he felt holding his own.
Nuparu woke with an unusual sense of claustrophobia. He fought it down with reason. Of course falling asleep in the unfamiliar environment of the canister would cause him to be confused.
When his hand hit the top of the canister, the feeling was renewed. He was almost sure that the canister hadn't been this small. Maybe I hit my head, he thought, feeling around his body for any hints of injury.
He felt he should be surprised. But the only thing he felt was understanding, as if he was working a machine that he had been shown the schematics to a long time ago. It made sense.
The matoran had said that only toa could ride in these canisters, after all.
Edited by Yukiko, Sep 07 2012 - 08:59 PM.