Posted Sep 06 2012 - 03:22 PM
Chapter 6: "The Excavation"
Kiasu felt something weave into her mind at what felt like midnight. It was a prodding voice, demanding that she awaken. Kiasu, of course, did not feel like obeying. She simply rolled over and covered her ears. Unfortunately, this was a relentless voice that hands over ears could not hinder, but still Kiasu ignored it.
Suddenly, a piercing headache struck her, and she jumped out of the bunk. “Okay!” she cried, “Why should I be awa--” Her sentence was muffled as some sort of hand covered her mouth.
The voice spoke again, this time insisting that Kiasu should not struggle. Kiasu once again disobeyed, and received another attack, this one so powerful that it hurt to think. After that mental attack, Kiasu fell limp for a moment before pulling herself up to see two red eyes glowing about four feet above her. The voice repeated its order not to struggle as the hand grabbed her wrist and led her through the blackness of darkness so thick it was almost tangible. As she walked and followed the guidance of the hand, Kiasu heard the voice speak again, this time commanding her not to speak.
Is there anything it does want me to do? Kiasu thought to herself in a sarcastic tone. Her mental retort was quickly answered with another headache, though smaller than the previous ones. She groggily rubbed her forehead as the voice continued to lead her. After about five minutes of walking, a light suddenly turned on, and the hand took its grip off. Wise One was snuffing out a match that was used to light the gas lamp sitting next to him as Akla and Artesano draped the windows with the dark gray blankets from the bunks. Kiasu looked behind her to see Romus scanning the area outside the door with a Phantom Rifle, probably getting ready to fire on anyone who may have been watching Kiasu follow the voice.
Thinking of the voice suddenly caused Kiasu to look around for it. She looked all over the room, but as tired as she was and with the limited light, there was no way she was going to find anyone that didn’t care to be found at the moment. For a moment she thought that the voice might have been Romus, but it seemed awful high-pitched compared to the deep, rumbling bass voice of the hulking Skrall. Then again, she had just woken up and besides, Romus was the only one of them that had red eyes anyway. She would have asked him about it if he hadn’t been busy with a Phantom Rifle, and if Wise One hadn’t guided her over to the lamplight where Akla and Artesano had already walked over after covering the windows.
“Welcome, Kiasu.” Wise One said. “I apologize for having you wake up so early, but it is necessary if we are to excavate those computers you spoke of, and also vital to our survival on Izumal. The seemingly excessive secrecy is also important, as, in the hacker world of Izumal, newly discovered computers can turn a once peaceful village of would-be hackers into a miniature Barrawahi.”
“So you did bring me here? Who was it that led me, Romus?” Kiasu asked, gesturing to the Elite Skrall with the Phantom Rifle over by the door.
“Ah, no.” Wise One said. “That was the final member of the group that you did not meet, and that probably would prefer that you didn’t. That is her way, after all, but being roommates, that will clearly be impossible.”
Wise One pointed to a corner where a cloaked, toa-sized being was sitting. The being rose and walked over to Kiasu, and then the voice entered Kiasu’s head again.
Hello Kiasu. I am the Voice. It’s a seldom-used codename, however, and my true name is even more seldom used. Of course, that is simply because my existence is meant to be kept as secret as possible. I take it that you are good at keeping secrets? Otherwise, you may very soon find yourself out of Izumal, and into Karzahni.
Kiasu was frozen for a moment, obviously intimidated by the Voice--or rather the Voice’s mental powers.
“Leave her alone, Voice.” Wise One said, rebuking the cloaked being, who kept using her powers to petrify Kiasu. Wise One waited a few moments before he mumbled for a short while, and then his Mask of Conjuring glowed, as a strange force suddenly knocked the Voice backwards, breaking her concentration.
“I apologize, Kiasu. Firstly for waking you so early, secondly for the Voice’s behavior, and lastly for the fact that you’re going to have to room with her from here until the day we either escape or are captured by the Agents.” Wise One said. “The Voice is a little tempermental, as you can see, but it’s none of your fault. It’s more that she had a disagreement with Macrosteel being the one to handle the Phantom Rifle she built, and it’s well known how female skrall get along with male skrall.”
“I understand, Wise One.” Kiasu said.
“Thank you, Kiasu. Now, concerning those computers--” Wise One began, “What’s the situation? We need to know what status they’re in, where they are, and how to best get them out, although that last part we have a good idea of how to execute.”
“They’re in that cave at the end of the tunnel Akla found me in. They shouldn’t be too difficult to find.”
“Oh yes they should.” piped up Akla, feathers ruffling as he pointed towards nowhere inparticular. “That tunnel was brought down recently. The ship above it that Kiasu crash-landed in was obliterated by a Io-Toa Agent who also softened the protogold and protosilver it was sitting on top of. A cave-in then ensued, burying whatever computers are hidden down there.”
Wise One rubbed the chin of his mask for a short moment before turning back to Kiasu. “Could they still be intact, do you think?”
“Maybe,” Kiasu replied. “but they’d have to be repaired, most likely.”
“Something we can easily handle.” Artesano replied.
However, we need some way to dig undetected. Said the Voice. All the beings in the room besides Romus turned to face the cloaked being in the corner, so apparently she was speaking into all of their minds. A Hagah Plasma Cannon will easily take care of that, but that means we’ll need to take parts from the macrochips and our other weapons to build it.
“A Hagah Cannon?” Kiasu asked, surprised. “Even if you do have the parts, who knows how to build such a thing.”
“The Voice used to work as a weapons technician at a factory on Promathus. She’s can build basically every weapon that comes out of there, so long as she has the materials.”
And sometimes even without the right materials, though they malfunction often. Such as this Hagah Cannon probably would. But that’s something we can easily handle.
“That sounds good to me, Voice. You and Craftsman can get started on the cannon. Macrosteel will continue watching the door. Avian--that’s Akla’s codename, just so you know, Kiasu--and I will focus on keeping the other hacker groups in here from suspecting anything. Kiasu will stay here. Her arrival has already got the other groups suspicious--so much that it’s best if she stay unseen.”
The group’s members all nodded, with the exception of Romus, who was still watching the door.
As it turned out, everyone but Akla and the Voice had gone to bed before the Hagah Cannon finished being built. It had taken longer than expected, as the Voice had to do a lot of improvising before she could build a working model due to a lack of parts. It took the entire day, forcing Artesano and Romus to take shifts watching the other camps, although during the daytime they simply went outside and intimidated anyone suspicious--not a difficult task for two natives of Barrawahi. Since they had been up all day watching the door, it was decided by Wise One that Akla would watch the door the next night, since his birdlike eyes made him almost a better sniper than the two Barrawahi warriors.
Kiasu was asleep when the Voice finally came back in. The skrall was obviously worn out, as she was stumbling slowly into the hut. Kiasu kept one of her eyes open to see the Voice take off her cloak and hang it on one of the bedposts on the other bunk. Kiasu then noticed something unusual, at least for a female skrall. The Voice was wearing armor under her cloak, something female skrall never wore, believing that it was unneeded due to their psionic powers.
I hear your thoughts. Why shouldn’t I be wearing armor--anything that can make it harder for our enemies to fight us is worth having, and the pride of my power does not fit in that category. One of the very, very few things I ever learned from Macrosteel. Now go to sleep. It is too late to talk, particularly when we have to wake up so early tomorrow.
Kiasu was about to ignore the Voice once more, but remembered what happened last time she decided to pipe up out of turn. Kiasu turned over and went back to sleep, dreaming about what had happened to her in the past few days, and having nightmares about what might have been happening to Laro in the Silver City.
Kiasu once again woke up through the bidding of the Voice, surprised that the Voice had awakened so early after getting to bed so late.
Why should you be surprised, matoran? You were a pilot, weren’t you? Abnormal sleeping hours are expected in both the occupations of pilot and hacker. At least a hacker on Izumal should expect it.
Kiasu simply continued following the Voice through the cave, wishing she felt the warmth of the sunlight that had been in the cavern the first time she came, when something suddenly came to her mind. Sunlight? How is there sunlight in a cave?
Her answer came soon afterwards from the cloaked figure leading her. In the center of the cavern ceiling is a protoglass dome containing the equipment necessary to generate warmth and light to make it feel as if we were outdoors. The machinery amplifies the power of the lightstones and heatstones inside the glass, creating light for the cavern. I designed it along with a few of the other hacker groups a few decades ago.
You’ve been here for decades? Kiasu asked, somewhat stunned.
If you are to be a hacker here, you have to get used to being an exile. The only other option is going to the city to be brainwashed with what they call enlightenment--and what we call evil. The Voice said bitterly, showing her disgust with the city inhabitants of Izumal.
They soon entered the other hut, where Romus was hoisting the Hagah Cannon on his back, while Artesano calibrated it. Akla was busy fiddling with what looked like a greenish-silver, feather-shaped blade. Wise One was the only one not doing anything at that moment, outside of welcoming the Voice and Kiasu inside.
“Hello there, you two.” Wise One said, guiding them towards the Hagah Cannon. “The actual digging should be easy, so long as no Agents are lurking close enough to hear the cannon in action. The hard part will be getting in and out of this cave during the day without the other groups noticing. My Mask of Conjuring should help by programming it to work as a Noble Mahiki, but I’m not sure if a noble-level power of illusion would be able to hide us all, so we’re going to need the Voice’s help in keeping the other groups unaware of our departure.”
I’ll see what I can do. replied the Voice.
“Good. Meanwhile, Kiasu and Avian will guide us to the computers. We’ll write the word ‘Voice’ in Matoran along the tunnels we travel, so you’ll know where we are as you cover our tracks.” Wise One said. “We’ll have to leave soon--before the lights turn on in the cavern. That way, we will only have to come back in the daylight, rather than both to and from.”
Over the next hour, Wise One’s group got ready for the expedition. Dawn was about half an hour away, and so they needed to get moving quickly. Wise One was the first to exit, using his mask to hide himself behind an illusion of even darker shadow. He scanned the area, and saw only a few night watchmen still outside the huts at this point of day, but none of them were actually awake. They were all propped up against the walls of the huts, slumbering. Wise One then signaled for the others to exit the hut and follow him, while the Voice stayed behind and used her mind powers to create illusions in the night watchmen’s minds, keeping them asleep. Akla then led the small procession through the tunnels, with Kiasu helping. The group marched in a winding, twisted path through the tunnel system, which only grew more contorted as Akla was forced to take detours from the tunnels that went straight up, since none of the others had his bizarre wall-climbing abilities. Every once in a while as they traveled, Wise One would take a small carving tool and scrawl the codename of the Voice into the wall, and then run farther up to get back with the group. After a while, the tunnel reached a strange formation of metal, which had obviously melted over the end of the tunnel.
“Here’s where we start blasting.” Akla told Wise One.
“Good. We’ll wait for the Voice to arrive, before we try to operate this makeshift cannon. Meanwhile, Avian, use your sense-feathers to try to detect any Agents on the surface.” Wise One said.
Kiasu watched as Akla’s feathers suddenly began vibrating, as if he was ruffling them like many birds did. She looked over to Wise One. “What’s he doing?”
“Avian’s feathers aren’t for flying--something that disappoints him--but rather, they give him the ability to detect what is occurring in his surroundings, much like a fabled sixth sense. If he exerts all his mental strength he can detect what is happening in an entire village, but it puts him into a trance.” Wise One explained.
Akla soon turned back towards the others telling them that the surface was clear. Romus gave a soft groan as he laid down the plasma cannon, and then Artesano rechecked the calibrations, and adjusted them as needed. After a short while, the Voice arrived, silent as usual, outside of mental communication.
Are we ready? she asked Wise One, although everyone could hear it in their heads.
“Yes, Everything is set.” Wise One said. “Fire away.”
The Voice walked up to her creation, and looked towards Artesano, receiving a nod. Kiasu guessed that she had probably asked Artesano mentally whether the cannon was set correctly. With that, the Voice fired the first blast, and the excavation began.
It was late in the afternoon when the computers finally had the last chunks of protosilver and protogold chipped off of them. They were rather damaged, but not beyond repair, even with the limited resources that they had. Romus and Artesano slowly hefted the computers out of the cave. They started following the trail of ‘Voices’ that Wise One had put in the wall after the Voice got a head start on the rest of the group. Wise One led the rest down the tunnel, with Akla and Kiasu close behind, assisting Artesano and Romus with hauling the computers whenever they could, although Romus was insisting he could still carry the computers himself along with the cannon without help, including Artesano, but the Skakdi wouldn’t hear of it.
As they approached the end of the tunnel, Wise One signaled for them to quiet down. “We may be lucky enough to get back after it gets dark, when most of the others go back inside.” he said.
They ended up reaching the hut without drawing attention rather easily, and they all made it to bed that night except the Voice, who was selected to be the night watchwoman. Kiasu happily walked to her hut when she noticed a piece of paper nailed to the door. After tearing it off she walked inside to see more papers nailed to bedposts, the desk, the chair, and about everything else in the room in some somewhat orderly yet completely mad arrangement. She took a glance at each of them, including the one in her hand, and realized they all had the same thing written on them.
This is a summons to appear in a hearing of your crimes as interpreted by the Judge. You will receive a fair trial and verdict from the members of the Jury, after which your punishment will be given by His Honor the Judge.
Kiasu scanned over the note in her hand once more. Whoever the Judge was, and whatever ‘crimes’ he thought she had committed was unknown to her, but one thing was sure. Someone knew who she was, where she lived, and probably did not want her to enjoy her time on Izumal. Of course, it could just be a prank by Akla, or something like that, but she still didn’t feel comfortable.
Kiasu laid down, hoping that when she woke up the next morning, she’d hear Akla asking her how she enjoyed his prank, but she still worried, for this sort of thing had all the signs of the work of madness.
Kiasu woke to the gentle nudge of someone’s hand on her shoulder.
Ugh, Voice. What time is it? Kiasu asked, drawing herself up drowsily and turning to look at the Voice, although her groggy eyes were too clouded to recognize the Voice at the moment. Slowly, her vision began to clear, and she was about to mentally repeat her question when she suddenly realized that this being wasn’t wearing a cloak. It was a pastel blue color, as tall as a Glatorian, with a sleek helmet with three prongs coming off of the back, and also bore wild orange eyes and held a small, hand-held energy cannon towards her head.
Kiasu suddenly became alert, sitting straight up as this seemingly crazed Dendrokan simply held his weapon pointed at her head. Unable to reach any weapon, she grabbed the nearest object within reach--her pillow--and hit the Dendrokan upside the head with it. She sped away from the Dendrokan and went out the door to find Romus or Artesano. Remembering Wise One’s warning about drawing attention, she tried to walk through the cave as casually as possible, before entering the safe refuge of the main hut.
Wise One turned to greet her as she entered. “Ah, Kiasu. Glad you’re adjusting to our schedule. I thought we might give you a rest, but it’s good that you woke in time to help. Now…”
“Someone broke into the other hut!” she said, interrupting Wise One.
“Who?” Romus said, as he held up a macrochip Artesano was working on.
“I don’t know. It was a Dendrokan, and he was crouching beside my bed with some sort of handheld energy cannon.” Kiasu replied.
Wise One looked to an empty corner of the hut and rubbed the chin of his mask in thought. “Describe the cannon.” He said.
Kiasu brought the cannon up in her mind, along with the image of her grinning, wild-eyed invader. “It was about two feet long, colored orange and gray, and had several glowing blue modules, including two glowing blue parts near the back of the weapon that resembled insect wings. It also had a sight, and seemed to have been tinkered with quite a bit.”
Wise One nodded and frowned. “It’s a Judgement Cannon. Relatively rare throughout Aethion, and only one group on Izumal is known to use them. It’s not good news.”
Kiasu was about to ask him who, but Wise One spoke first. “Was your hut covered with several notes, saying you were summoned to some sort of court?”
“Yes, there were.” Kiasu said, pulling a crumpled note out of a slot in her armor for storing small items. She flattened it out and handed it to Wise One.
Wise One read the note and crumpled it again. “Everyone!” He said, turning Akla, Artesano, and the Voice from their work, as Romus had been paying attention from the start. “I’m afraid Kiasu has drawn the attention of the Judge, and one of the Jury has invaded the camp twice. We’re going to have to leave the caverns sooner than planned. Since this is on such short notice we’re going to have to assign Kiasu a temporary codename now. For the course of this operation, everyone will call each other by codenames only, since it will be much harder for both the Judge and the Agents to locate someone with a name that isn’t real. Kiasu will be known for now as Prospect, and once we’ve been set up and gotten off the trail of the Judge and Jury, it’ll probably change. In the meantime, get everything into order so that we can get out of here, and set up shop quickly enough that the Agents won’t find us.”
All of the hackers nodded and turned back to their work as Kiasu walked over to Wise One. “Who are these people?” she asked.
Wise One looked over to her and then walked to his desk, pulling out a map of known Izumal hacker and anti-hacker camps. “It is believed that the Judge was once an Izumal agent who went mad after going through an anomaly and landing on Promathus. He abandoned his life as an Agent and bought an element key of Psionics, using it to turn himself into a Toa of Psionics from whatever element he previously had. In addition, he learned how to build Judgement Cannons while he was there, and memorized the technique. He would eventually find a way to travel back to Izumal through anomalies and lived as a fisherman on the coast of Izumal, while stealing Izumal technology to upgrade his judgement cannons.” Wise One took a pause and flipped the map over to show her a diagram for an upgraded judgement cannon, pointing to a special module. “He discovered how to use nanites to turn the cannons from a weapon that could simply influence the decisions of beings, to a weapon that could outright control their minds. His madness would eventually escalate to the point where he believed himself to be some sort of sacred being, and that for anyone to travel through anomalies to Izumal was a crime, as he had developed the notion that it was something only he should do. He then began using his cannons to take control of the minds of the first 12 interplanetary travelers he caught, and they became the Jury, which is simply the name he gives to his twelve goons. The Dendrokan you met was one of them. Over the decades, they have turned themselves into a group whose main goal is to kill all new beings who travel through anomalies, while taking control of the minds of all who try to help them. Fortunately, none of us drew their attention when we were trapped here, but with your arrival, we all are in danger.”
“I understand.” Kiasu said. “What am I going to do in the meantime, though? What if the Dendrokan comes back.”
“Firstly,” Wise One said, “The Voice will no longer be our night watchwoman. It’s better she stays with you at night, since to her, a madman’s thoughts ring out like they were screaming them. Secondly, we’re moving out of here tomorrow night, once we get all the macrochips and computers ready to move, and ready to cloak us as we move.”
Kiasu nodded, and then asked “Anything I can help with?”
Wise One scanned over the other hackers, to see how they were progressing in their work. “You should probably give the Voice as much help as you can. She’s trying to get the cloaking device to work when we‘re carrying it out of the cave.”
Edited by LewaLew, Sep 24 2012 - 01:13 PM.