IC: the coroner
Bohrei Tantarus had just finished putting away the last of her dead for the day when she heard the quake.
It arrived quickly, as all quakes did. There were the murmurs, first, unconfirmed reports and worried-looking Matoran relaying messages to and from the Guard, then panicked footsteps, shouts and commands that rumbled through the earth and reached her lab below the Guard’s headquarters.
When it finally reached her ears, she began to move slowly and methodically, half by age and half by habit. She gathered what would be necessary: a clean black labcoat, carefully cut to accommodate a Skakdi’s spines; a bag, unassuming and resilient, packed with scalpel and pliers and spreader; three empty notebooks. She did not rush to join her comrades – it was not her place to try and stop the quake.
Her place was in the ruins.
She had stayed at the Lavapool Inn once, when she first came to Ta-Koro, and so she allowed herself a pang of regret as she stepped over the foundation and into the smoking husk. Who attends to the death of a building?
All around her, members of the Guard were picking through the rubble, barking orders, searching. Few paid any heed to her, as they had learned to do, and so she paid no heed to them. She closed her eyes a moment and focused. When she reopened them, she could see what she needed to.
Beneath a fallen pillar, a single red hand lay lifeless. Silently, she joined the guards in teasing out the rest of him.
When it was done, she knelt, shrugged her bag from her shoulder, and began. The Matoran’s armor was crushed to his body; wordlessly, she pulled the pliers from her bag and attempted to slot them into the crack between the neck and the chest. No good. She frowned.
“You,” she called to a guardswoman ten feet ahead of her, a stocky, short Toa. The guard jumped, then looked around nervously, her eyes wide behind her Hau.
“Yes.” Bohrei gestured to the body. “I need you to hold him still for me so I can open his armor.”
The guard took a step back. “I’m – meant to be keeping a lookout-“
“You and half a dozen others. This will only take a moment. If you can’t handle a body, ask one of them.”
She saw the guard swallow, then cross the distance between them in two sharp steps. “Good. Hold him here and here.”
She adjusted the angle of her tool, slipped it into a ridge along the middle of the chest, and gave two short, sharp twists.
The armor split off with a bloody crack. The guard’s hands were shaking. Bohrei noticed, gave no comment, and peered into the Matoran’s chest; the layers within him faded in and out of view as she ran down a mental checklist. She drew a pen and notebook from her bag.
The guard jumped. “Uh, Telana-“
“I, er, let me check his personal effects-“
While she waited, she filled in the rest of the preliminary data. Young adult. Average height and weight for elemental affiliation and gender. No obvious pre-mortem physical deformities. Cause of death:
She paused and looked the body over once more. The Matoran’s mouth was open, pushed against his Kaukau.
Suffocation due to crushed lungs. Likely accelerated due to hemorrhaging from internal trauma. Full examination to follow.
“Mysel,” Telana said, looking very hard at the Matoran’s wallet and not the Matoran.
“Good,” she said, and snapped the notebook shut. “Next.”
The guard blinked nervously. “You mean, again?”
“Until there are no more left.”
“The coroner! Is the coroner here?”
She sighed and held up a hand; Telana lowered the lifeless head of a girl they’d found under what was left of the bar with obvious relief. The voice belonged to a Ta-Matoran of the Guard, one she hadn’t seen before.
She stood to meet him. “I’m the coroner, and as you can imagine, I’m rather busy. What’s happened?”
“It’s – at the Suva, ma’am. They’ve called for you specifically. They say it’s an emergency.” The messenger was wringing his hands
She closed her eyes and sighed. “Take me there.”
Behind her, Telana ventured, “Do you need me to come with, miss-“
“No. Believe me, child. Your life will be a better one if you never know what a coroner’s emergency entails.”
For a long time, she said nothing. The inspector who had called for her watched in silence.
When she finally spoke, her voice was cold. “Cut her down. She’s coming back with me.”
After she handed her report to Inspector Mataara, the coroner returned to the victim and offered her a prayer.
“You died alone,” she said softly, resting her hand on the remains of the woman’s. “Doing what you thought was right. You had nobody waiting for you back home, and so you thought that would make death hurt less. In the end, it didn’t.
“Your death was defiled. Someone made it a twisted thing, ensconced in lies and chaos. Your killer hid his tracks well, not because he thought we wouldn’t catch him that way, but because it pleased him to know he could cause any small confusion.”
She put her hand to what remained of the body’s cheek. “If Mata Nui is good, you know some semblance of peace now. But I promise you: your death will not be forgotten. And though bringing the truth of it to light may do nothing to change it, it does not deserve to be buried in cruelty and deception forever.”
The room was silent. Bohrei stood there a while longer, and then went to her bag. She had yet to open the third notebook. She did so now, calmly, and lifted her pen from the table.
Name: Patunga Miralis
Little had changed when she stepped back out into the Ta-Koro evening, and to an outside observer that included her. She took a deep breath. There was much that needed to be done. Speak to the inspectors and review the scene. Interview witnesses. Examine the other victims from the rampage. The first would take her to the Suva, the last to the hospital, and the second – wherever it had to.
The quake had passed; it was time to listen for the aftershocks.