Chapter 13: "Schism"
Akla groaned and pulled himself up from the gold and silver plain of Izumal. He quickly shut his eyes until he adjusted to the light, and then let them focus and clear up the foggy image in front of him. In front of him was Craftsman and Macrosteel, both of whom had gigantic dents in their armor. They're not fighting. Macrosteel must have used a judgement cannon on him.
Think again. the Voice said, as Akla whirled around to see a blast of energy strike him squarely in the head, and instantly, he fell to his knees, remembering all that he had done the first time he had been warped by the cannon.
Kiasu lowered the cannon and turned to the Voice. "Did it work?"
Suddenly the telekinetic skrall used her powers to rip the judgement cannon from Kiasu's hands and snap it in half violently. Yes, for the last time.
Kiasu waved her hand over her shoulder, signaling that they should leave. "We've got to set up camp again as best we can, until we can find Wise One."
"We don't even know who the Judge really is, let alone where he would go now that his courtroom is a pile of molten precious metals." Romus commented. "And without Wise One, we won't be able to do any sort of hacking. Only he had the software skills we need. I think we would be better off searching for the Judge the old-fashioned way."
"I would agree," Artesano added, "except that the Agents destroyed all of the evidence of where he might have gone."
"I might have a way to solve all of those problems," Kiasu said, as they began walking as far away from the former Courtroom site and the city as they could, "but I don't think any of you will take kindly to it."
Akla was about to make some sort of quip, but he gave it up; it was too soon after his artificial change of heart for him to be quite as chipper as he usually was.
"The reason we were left behind when the Agents raided the Courtroom was because of the leader of their team." Kiasu said, pulling some cooked fish that she had caught for her friends when Laro had sent her away so the Agents could destroy the Courtroom. "She's not one of the enlightened. She's a friend of mine who came from offworld with me when I came here by anomaly. She fell out of my plane and into the city before I crashed outside the caves."
Then why is she an agent? the Voice asked in a tone that could not even be described as skeptic, but rather outright accusatory. And why are you affiliated with her?
Kiasu was about to answer but Akla butted in first, obviously a little more concerned about avoiding any agent confrontations than self-pity. "Something tells me you happened to tell this agent where you were going to be, am I right?"
"Not exactly. You see--"
"If it's even slightly the case, I am skipping town." Akla said. "I'd rather go back to the cave to fight again than to spend the rest of my days in a nanite birdcage."
"But she's not one of them!" Kiasu insisted. "She had some sort of amnesia, they probably thought she was new!"
Just as well. If she's been "enlightened", then she's not whoever she was before. If she has some way of finding you, I'm with Akla.
"Now let's give it a chance." Artesano said, once again playing the part of Kiasu's advocate. "Think about it--why would an agent put us back out there just so they could capture us again? They could have just as easily rounded us all up with the Jury and hauled us away."
"I don't think so." Romus interjected. "In Red Skull, we would sometimes allow prisoners to go free to catch more. The Agents might be using us as bait to catch the Judge and Wise One."
Kiasu couldn't think of any other way to argue her point. "Will you be going with the Voice and Akla, then?" she asked Romus.
"No." Romus replied unhesitatingly. "I have no reason to distrust your judgment. While they may be setting a trap with us, I'm more willing to rely on someone I can afford to have faith in, than an assumption that the Agents are same sort of cutthroats Red Skull are."
"She is an amnesiac." Kiasu reminded them. "I need to fi some way to restore her full memory, if possible. The problem is that I don't know how to do it. There's nothing left from the plane that I can try to use."
What you need is a Mask of Memory. The Voice stated.
"I don't know if you noticed or not, but we don't have any of those. How in Aethion are we going to get one?" Kiasu said.
Don't ask me, I'm not staying.
"They have some of virtually every kanohi in the city." Akla mentioned.
"Maybe so, but they're all in the city. It's not as easy to steal as a computer system--if you call that easy." Artesano mentioned, before suggesting "I don't suppose you would know how to get one."
"Nope." Akla said. "But I do know someone who does."
"Who?" Kiasu asked, slowing down to walk alongside Akla.
"He's a Steltian. Goes by Statorak Furax." Akla said. "He collects items from the city that hackers can't steal from their keyboard. I used to be one of his competitors before I entered the cybercrime community."
"How do I contact him?" Kiasu asked.
"You don't." Akla replied, then turned his head to face her. "Statorak has been under the radar for a while. About the time you came around the agents had high activity around his area, investigating a crash or something--might have been your friend. Anyway, he won't let anyone except old friends (using that term lightly) contact him."
"Would you count as an 'old friend'?"
"In the 'lightly used' definition, yes. But then again, I'm going to be back in the old cave, laying low." Akla said. "And you have a date with the Izumali authorities."
"Couldn't you just give me a hand contacting this 'Statorak' before you go?" She asked. "You don't have anything to lose by just putting me into contact with him. The agent wouldn't come this quickly anyway."
"Wrong. The agent could be there tomorrow, or could wait a thousand years." Therefore, I won't be there tomorrow, or a thousand years from now. You can't predict an agent." Akla was growing frustrated. "I'd give you a hand, but I'm not going to throw my life away doing a favor for someone who doesn't have enough sense not to throw hers away too." Akla turned to Artesano and Romus. "You guys know. The agents may not kill, but Matoran can live for a very long time otherwise. I'm not sure of whether I want to test my sanity in a prison for 100,000 years."
"And you think Macrosteel and I do like the prospect?" Artesano asked rhetorically. "Kiasu's our friend, and why should she make up a story and deceive us? I've got her back, just as she's got mine."
"I don't owe anything to anyone!" Akla nearly shouted, throwing his arms in the air. "You guys are my friends, but so was the last camp I ran with. You don't see me running around doing favors with insane risk for them, do you?"
"Now you're wrong." Romus said. "Kiasu made sure the agent left us behind and risked imprisonment to come back and wake you and me out of the Judge's power. I'd say that was a pretty large amount of risk for an unsolicited favor. You and I--all of us--owe plenty, Akla."
Akla ruffled his feathers and glared down at his reflection in the gilded landscape. He clearly was burning inside at the mention of the Judgment Cannons and what he did while under their influence. He didn't say anything more, and remained silent for the next hour, not mentioning anything about the favor or the agent.
Soon, they arrived at the location Wise One had intended for them to go. "Close enough to the ocean for catching fish," he had said, "but close enough to the city to maintain a strong wireless connection when hacking through their systems."
I'm leaving for the cave. The Voice said. Are you ready, Akla?
Akla frowned and kicked a silvery pebble down one of the nearby hills. "I'll go ahead and help them set up shop first. Least I can do."
"I'll say." Romus commented, pricking once more at Akla. The Le-Matoran didn't say anything.
Kiasu stood from her work on rebuilding one of her old fighter computers and installing it into the wall of the macrochip. "Just out of curiosity, Akla, how long would it take to get a hold of Statorak Furax?"
Akla suddenly grew angry, ruffling his feathers again and pointing at her mask. "I already told you, I'm not going to stick around here for that!"
"Well, as it turns out," Artesano butted in, "Kiasu and I have already gotten the computers up and running. And since you are staying anyway to help us set up, I thought instead you could go ahead and give her a hand with finding Statorak."
"It could take hours to get a hold of him. The agents probably have been tracking us, hoping we'd hook up with a larger camp or something. I'm not staying. I'll just help tune up a couple of macrochips, then leave."
Romus shoved the pieces together to form a neat little structure just big enough to hold all of them and the computers. "Craftsman and I have got the macrochips. If you're going to help at all, then help where you're needed." The skrall stood up from his work and turned to Akla, casting his finger out towards the horizon over the continent. "Otherwise, get out now."
Akla's feathers began vibrating more than ever as his anger swelled. He hated being lectured, and even though he tried to hide it through anger, the guilt he felt could be seen through his mask.
"I'll try once. Then we'll be even. If it doesn't work, then I'm done, and I'm off with the Voice." Akla surrendered. he walked over to one of the computers and began establishing a link that bounced through a series of communication systems all over Izumal. Eventually, it reached an Izumali home phone, with the video disabled, for security purposes. "Figures it would work first time." Akla mumbled.
"Hello, who is calling?" the party asked.
"Alka." Akla said. The reverse of his name apparently served as a codename back when he worked in the city as a thief.
"What is your business?"
"Collection." Akla replied, referencing the business he was trying to contact.
"What do you collect?"
"Old Kanohi, if Memory serves." Akla said, emphasizing the word "Memory".
"Depends on the quality. Do you have any high quality product that you'd like to have taken off someone's hands?" 'High quality' meant 'Great Mask' Kiasu guessed.
"There's a few prospects. I can have you take one off my hands." The party on the other end gave him an asking price and a location that would need to be 'worked on' before they could finish the deal. "Alka, one more thing. Featherhead?" the voice asked.
"Furry." Akla replied.
"Okay, that should do fine. Call you back when the item's collected." Then he hung up.
"What was all that?" Kiasu asked. "I could guess most of it, but what on earth does 'featherhead' and 'furry' mean?"
"Insults we used to throw at each other when we were competitors. I called Furax 'Furry', and he called me 'Featherhead'. We use those names to make sure we're talking to who we think we are." Akla weeded through the system to save some files concerning the 'item'. "Statorak will need the location listed here shut down so he can break in and steal the Roku for you. After that, you make the payment, and he sends one of his crew on over with the item."
"Will we need any of the coded stuff for that?" Kiasu asked.
"No. You're going to be hauled away by agent by then." He said, getting up from his chair. "But should they wait, yeah, just greet him with the name 'Alka' and when he says 'Featherhead', reply 'Furry'. That should be all."
"And you?" She said, almost pleading for him to stay with the group.
"Good as gone." He said coldly, picking up his bag and walking off with the Voice.
Kiasu sank into her chair, as two of her friends abandoned them. No Laro, no Wise One, and now no Voice or Akla.
"G-Goodbye." she cried out halfheartedly to the departing pair, before closing her eyes and, suddenly realizing her weariness, fell asleep.