Orkahm ran a hand through the gukko’s feathers. The Rahi produced a garbled sound through its beak, watching him in case he gave an order. The sound of footsteps could be heard, making Orkahm sigh.
“I already told you, I’m not going through with your cross-wired, half-thought-out, crazy—“
He was cut off by a raspy laugh. “Did you really speak-say all that, Orkahm?”
The Matoran turned around. His eyes went wide as he realized who was there.
“Turaga Matau! I-I-I’m sorry! I thought you were—“
“Kongu, right?” Matau said. He shuffled towards Orkahm, using his staff for support. “He and some of the other flight-riders were celebrating in the square. Something about a new dive-trick Kongu had test-proven?”
Matau patted the gukko as Orkahm replied, “Yes. He got a thought-plan about the volo lutu launchers used in dodge-racing…said if we leap-jumped off our gukko in mid-flight and shot-fired at a branch, we could swing using the pull-force, just like a vine.”
The Turaga nodded. “Yes, he explained. Sounds brave-daring!”
“Sounds foolish,” Orkahm mumbled. “If you’re fall-diving, how can you steady-aim? I convinced them to use catch-nets for their practice. Do you know how many of them would have crash-died if they hadn’t?”
Orkahm shook his head. To himself, Matau chuckled, “Stubborn as ever, I see…”
“Er, nothing! I’m ever-glad you were able to convince, them, Orkahm. You have my true-thanks. Le-Koro would be in great dark-trouble if so many of its wind-riders perished.”
Orkahm lit up. “So, you agree with me?”
“Not so quick-fast,” Matau said, pointing at Orkahm. “Though I agree-think you need a catch-net while practice-testing the trick, I see nothing wrong with practice-testing it in the first place.”
His expression deflating, Orkahm muttered, “Oh…”
“Kongu is definitely a bit mad-crazy—I’m right-sure he only thought of this to show-off. But once the Gukko Force learn-masters this move, it may just save their lives. How many times has a Nui-Rama quick-grabbed a rider and thrown him off? There are certainly no catch-nets in those situations. Being able to fast-save yourself with a tool you’re already hold-carrying will do a lot of good, right?”
“I…hadn’t thought of it that way…”
Matau put a hand on Orkahm’s shoulder. “Orkahm, I’m going to be plain-frank. You’re as stubborn as a Kane-Ra protecting its pack-family. But you know, that’s exactly why we like-value you as a member of the Gukko Force. You never give up! The others would never admit-say it, but you’re a real inspiration to them at times. For that, never quit-stop being stubborn. But even when you’re stubborn, it doesn’t pain-hurt to be a tiny-small bit flexible sometimes.”
He paused to laugh. “True-trust me, I know! First-hand mistakes taught me the rough-hard way!”
Orkahm nodded. “…You think I should test-try it, don’t you?”
“With the way you tight-ride, I don’t think you’ll ever use-need it. Still, you never true-know. It’s your decision to say-make, Orkahm. Anyway, I just wanted to quick-stop by—I need to go see-check some other matters.”
Matau shuffled away. Looking back to his gukko, Orkahm said, “I don’t know…what do you think?”
From Ka’s back, Kongu oversaw the training session, watching as several riders practiced diving with the volo lutu launcher. It was going better than the day before, that much was certain. Much as he hated to admit it, Orkahm had been right: things would have gone very badly without the net.
Orkahm and his gukko hovered just below the canopy. There were plenty of tree branches reaching out into the small clearing, but enough open space that three or four riders could practice the maneuver at once. He looked down to make sure that the net was being held high enough above the ground, also scanning the masks of the riders holding the corners to make sure they were paying attention to their job.
“Orkahm!” Kongu called. “If you’re just going to sit-watch, we have other maneuvers you can practice.”
After considering this for a moment, Orkahm shook his head. Gripping his launcher tightly, he stood up in his saddle and wobbled back and forth.
“He’s never going to leap-jump,” Kongu muttered. Ka squawked in agreement.
Orkahm stared down at the net. A short chirp from his gukko snapped him out of it—the creature seemed eager to see whether or not he was going to act.
“Oh, alright,” he grumbled.
Spotting a sturdy-looking branch nearby, Orkahm took a deep breath and, holding the launcher in both hands, jumped. As soon as he felt his feet leave the saddle, the Le-Matoran twisted in mid-air, trying to point himself towards the branch again. It was impossible to be sure, but he did not have time—he fired the launcher, shooting a sphere that arced towards the branch and stuck to it.
Pulling the trigger again, Orkahm felt himself being pulled up towards the sphere. However, due to the way he had positioned himself, the force hit him at an odd angle, wrenching the launcher from his grasp.
Orkahm continued to spin as he fell. He hit the net hard, nearly tearing it from the hands of the Matoran holding it. The launcher, no longer sensing pressure on the trigger, cut off its attraction function and fell to the jungle floor.
Kongu laughed. “You need to work on your pose-form, Orkahm! Nice try, though!”
Pulling his limbs out of holes in the net, Orkahm found himself thinking only one thing: