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Bionicle: Moirai

le-koro prequel

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#1 Online Palm

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Posted Mar 24 2014 - 04:12 AM

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

 

"She thinks she is deep-hiding, but what she does not realize is that she will perish like the rest of us!"

 

"You seem to believe that we will perish."

"And you do not?"

 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

Bionicle: Moirai

                                                            By Alex Palm

 

 

kongurisefall-rise-gifmadefastest2dark.g

 

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Chapter Select

:0:. Prelude

:1:. Silence

:2:. First Time

:3:. The Knot

:4:. -

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

 

     Before Le-Koro knew how to train and fly Gukkos, and before Kongu was the Captain of the Force, the village struggled heavily to defend itself against Makuta's forces, primarily against the Nui-Rama swarms: A powerful and merciless enemy characterized by vast numbers and sharp claws. Le-Koro - unable to properly combat the Nui-Rama - has built various squads to seek out and destroy Rama hives in order to drive back the enemy. These guerrilla forces live an incredibly dangerous life, full of doubts and deaths. But their job is too important to be left to nobody at all: They must protect their home.

 

     Hidden away in the trees, Le-Koro is hardly a village. It is at war, and it is losing. Hardly able to fight back on the front lines, Le-Koro is losing hope. With more and more casualties, their numbers are dwindling. They cannot hope to defend themselves from extinction unless a solution is found.

 

     Bionicle: Moirai follows some of the original defenders of Le-Koro during their war with Makuta, including Kongu. Kongu is the newest addition to one of the oldest teams of Le-Koro. who's made a name for himself as a capable warrior and Le-Koro's fastest leaf-runner. Struggling with ideological battles and the constant threat of death by the Swarm, Kongu's friend and fellow soldier Karata is searching for a last-ditch solution to the problem on everybody's minds:

 

     They cannot survive much longer.

 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

 

     Notably, in canon, we have never seen a full explanation for what occurred between the time that the villages were being built, and the time that the Toa Mata arrived to the island, leaving me with plenty of breathing space. That being said, I do not claim to not contradict canon. This particular story is meant to be a precursor to my iteration of Kongu that I play in the BZPRPG. This includes the implementation of certain aspects of the Gukko Force that I've built while playing Kongu there: Characters that existed but are never explored in canon, and original characters. I want to tell what the BZPRPG's Gukko Force's history is. And this is it.

 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 


"Lies are as relentless as the storm, and as treacherous as the Rama-swarms. Do not take comfort in them."

 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

 


:0:. Prelude
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     Hidden in the shadows, a figure was crouched quietly. Perched upon the strong thick branch, the figure's soft yellow eyes watched the darkness with great intent. Above his obscured head, one hand held onto a wet branch, the fingers wrapped tightly around it as if his life depended on it. In his other hand was a long spear knife, gripped just as tightly. Just under the stone edge was an assortment of beads and feathers. On his back he wore a heavy bamboo disk, covered in a dark ornate pattern, adding to the weight he had upon his perch. Additionally, around his waist the figure wore a long slender knife. Made of bone, it was clear that the blade had seen plenty of use. It had been discolored over time; stained by the insides of his enemy. The handle of the blade had been messily painted. The bright yellows, reds, and blues had begun to fade away as well, an indicator of its age. The figure readjusted his handle on the tree-branch, shifting his weight to his other hip.

 

     It had not stopped raining for over three days now.

 

     The Matoran glanced upwards, trying to see through the assorted leaves, his eyes blinking unintentionally as each drop struck his face. Through the heavy foliage and the falling droplets, the yellow eyes gazed upwards, longing for the stars to come out again. He had not forgotten that the clouds still covered them, but it didn't stop him from trying to see anyways. He breathed in, letting out a heavy sigh as he closed his eyes. He could feel the wet drops of rain roll down his face and his shoulders, cooling him off.

 

     Kongu wished to see the stars again almost as much as he wished for the war to be over.

 

     The Matoran of Air turned his gaze back to the darkness, letting his hand leave the first branch to grip onto another one. He moved forward away from the branch, closer to the darkness, Kongu's yellow eyes regained their attentiveness, just as a low whistle sounded behind and below him. Kongu did not remove his eyes from the deeper jungle, but he did return the whistle. After a moment, Kongu - under the sounds of the heavy rain - could hear the slight scuffing of foot on branch directly behind him. He turned his head to see the newcomer. She, like Kongu, had many dark complex tattoos along her body, wrapping mostly around her torso, but some extended to the forearms and lower legs. Her face was slim and serious, her muscular body pulling herself closer to Kongu. She whispered a simple greeting to her fellow Matoran of Air, "Kongu."

 

     Kongu gives her a small soft smile, "Kana."

 

     "How is your watch?" She asks, rather simply, stepping over to an adjacent branch. The wood bends slightly, and water falls from the leaves. Kana vanishes behind a veil of black-greens.

     "It is well." Kongu responds, "I have not heard nor seen any sign of trouble-danger since this morning." He says, pausing for quite a while, "I do wish the rain-fall would stop though."

     "I thought you liked the rain-fall," the faceless voice spoke from her position next to Kongu.

 

     "Rain-fall, yes. Crazy-storm, not so much. Not ones that last this long at least," Kongu sighs before suddenly speaking with a slightly more pleased tone, as if remembering something important to him, "The jungle-song is drowned out, and I cannot see the sun or the moon."

 

     "At least it slows them down." Kana says flatly. Neither say anything, the mere mention of the creatures they fight bringing the conversation to a sudden sullen stop. They sit for a long time, not speaking, totally silent. Kongu's gripping his spear somewhat nervously while Kana continues to look on; still invisible to even Kongu's eyes. After at least five or six minutes Kana looks over to Kongu, trying to spot an outline in his muscular form against the night. She's unable to as a result of the darkness. She changes the subject, "Do you think Karata has found her solution Kongu?"

     Kongu mulls this over for a minute, chewing down on his lip as he changes his position to a seated one, "I do not know," he says slowly, turning his head over to where he knows Kana is crouched, "What do you think?"

     "With respect," Kana starts, also sitting, "Nobody has ever ridden a Gukko before. I think that wind-flying is impossible, and Karata is wasting her time trying," the Leaf-runner says with a clear sense of disdain. Kongu's eyes remain affixed on the darkness ahead, having shifted away from his friend who continues, "It is nothing more than a foolish dream, and Karata is nothing more than a slow-thinking fool if she wishes to chase that dream while the rest of us are fighting. Some of us dying," Kongu doesn't say anything, remaining rather quiet, "I think she is simply afraid of the fate that awaits her out here in the jungle, and has constructed a lie to allow her to stay behind without consequence. She has tricked Turaga Matau in an effort to stay alive, when we all know very well-"

 

     He has heard a similar spiel before. Not just from Kana either. Kongu interrupts calmly, "That she will suffer the same fate we will?" already knowing the end of her sentence before she could've spoken it.

     "Yes! She thinks she is deep-hiding, but what she does not realize is that she will perish like the rest of us!"

 

     "You seem to believe that we will perish," The Matoran of Air says with a sense of defiance, finally looking away from the jungle depths and back at Kana.

     "And you do not?" Kana says with some volume of venom in her tone, "Kongu, you know better than I, the Rama-swarm is too great an enemy for us." Kongu falls silent. Time passes as quickly as the rain falls. Kongu now feeling the water not as a coolant, but as a heavy weight; bogging him down and making him feel weary. Kana looks down with a softened look on her face, hidden by the shadow. Her voice is slightly shaken and low, "The Captain said you can go back to the camp now." Kongu nods and pulls himself back up into a seated position, not saying anything, "And Kongu?"

     He stops, turning again to Kana, "Yes Kana?

 

     "Lies are as relentless as the storm, and as treacherous as the Rama-swarms," She looks to him, "Do not take comfort in them."

     Kongu doesn't say anything, and instead slips silently to a lower branch next to the trunk, leaving Kana to watch the darkness alone.


Edited by Palm, May 13 2014 - 06:32 PM.

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#2 Online Palm

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Posted Mar 26 2014 - 02:42 AM

Chapter 1.

:1:. Silent
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     Kongu managed to wind his way through the thick foliage of the upper jungle with ease. Despite the unending rains that had tortured much of southern Mata-Nui for days, the leaf-runner managed to move with a rather impressive level of control. He was so confident in his grace and his strength, that each step was executed with a clear purpose. He loosely gripped branches to change direction or his momentum, kicking to slow, or pushing to move faster. Kongu knew what he was doing. Although he would never be the one to point it out himself, Kongu had seemed to garner a level of notoriety as being the fastest and most skilled leaf-runner the guerrilla forces had to offer. It was because of this skill that Kongu was placed onto the Captain’s personal team.

 

     He leaped across a dark gap between the foliage, landing safely in the branches which bent to his will. He skidded along the wood while gripping branches above him to brake himself. Suddenly, a loud crunch/cracking sound sang into the jungle air. Causing Kongu to freeze. His limbs locked up, joints suddenly immobile.

 

     For the briefest of moments, Kongu could have sworn to hear buzzing in the distance. He prayed silently to be wrong.

 

     Kongu knew what encountering a Rama-swarm – even a rather small Rama-swarm – meant when one was alone. To this guerrilla team, Kongu was the newest member. But he was not an addition. He was a replacement. The previous member was unfortunate enough to be caught off guard by Rama while on patrol. According to Taiki, the previous leaf-runner was torn to shreds, leaving little more than the outer shell of his corpse and two of his limbs behind; hardly attached.

 

     Fear began to creep into Kongu’s chest. As he crouched with his spear in hand, he realized he was trembling. One’s best bet was to hope that the bugs would pass you by. Unless of course, you were close enough to reach some form of shelter. The second option seemed like it was preferred, but you would have to be incredibly fast to evade even a single Rama, let alone a small swarm. Not even Kongu could evade them for long before suffering a terrible fate.

 

     The buzzing grew louder, confirming his fears. There was Rama nearby. They had likely slipped past the scouting parties in the team's territory from the south. It was generally uncommon for smaller groups to squeeze past their gaze. Despite this, there was somehow still an expectancy for things like this to occur. The jungle sang of casualties each passing day. Generally, most of those deaths were not a result of poor planning: Le-Koro's commanders and captain were very good at what they did. The factors generally relied on other things. Kana was right about the power of the swarms. Le-Koro was simply unable to compete with them. Sometimes Kongu felt like they had to rely on luck just to make it into the next day, as if faith alone would drive a squad to see the sun-rise in the morning. Spouts of bad luck seemed to be the greatest killer out here. This was quickly beginning to feel like one of them.

 

     Kongu cursed under his breath, turning around as quickly and quietly as he possibly could. He skittered silently towards the trunk, attempting to get as close as he could to the most clustered section of branches. He unsheathed his bone knife. The main issue was that this tactic could only be useful to lower the chances of being seen. The trade-off was that if you were spotted, you were sure to perish: A Rama’s favorite place to nestle was at the trunk of a large tree. And with the rain the way it was, the bugs were likely to be “hopping” from tree to tree every so often.

 

     Suddenly, the rapid movement of the bug’s wings sounded loudly in the air as they flashed into view, passing directly in front of Kongu. The trumpeting cacophony of wings exploded screaming unintelligible notes into the air – the sound was made all the more frightening in part by the ruthlessly sharp claws and powerful jaws that came with the sound.

 

     Kongu had expected the swarm to be a dozen or so, but this was twice that size. His breathing was heavy, but clear, trying to focus on the image before him. So he stared, watching the flurry of Rama pass him by, their shiny exoskeletons flicking the rain away as each drop struck it. Kongu’s knuckles were white from holding such a strong grip on the spear and knife.

 

     Suddenly, to his right, he heard a scraping sound; hardly louder than the swarm before him. He turned his head to see a Nui-Rama had managed to tangle itself in the branches just above him; probably knocked out of the swarm by mistake while trying to pass through such a narrow clearing. Kongu ducked immediately, hoping that its compound eyes hadn’t spotted him. The Matoran of Air’s breath became held; stopping.

 

     The rain fell suddenly without a sound, leaving the world painfully silent.

 

     The world faded away, and all that was left was Kongu and a small piece of the greatest threat Le-Koro had ever known before him. Trapped in a tree.

 

     Kongu tried to squeeze himself into the trunk to appear even smaller, using his foot to search for a lower branch. He dared not to turn his eyes away from the lone Rama, still buzzing angrily in the leaves of the tree. He praised Mata-Nui for the dark of the night that had allowed him to live for as long as he had, while frustratingly scanning with his toes for another foothold. He couldn't seem to reach until Kongu overextended and slipped, slamming his head hard on the original branch. Sending him spinning downwards. Unable to catch himself, Kongu's spear and knife were lost from his hands as he tumbled into the untrustworthy arms of the jungle. Lower and lower he fell, feeling each hit like a powerful fist until he finally hit a cluster that stopped him entirely; landing on his back, knocking out his breath. He let out a quiet groan as he attempted to roll over to stand again.

 

     His breathing was coarse and hard as he awkwardly used the tree's branches to get himself upright again. Shaking his head, Kongu dazedly began to pick up on a rather upsetting sensation. He could feel a strong presence and knew what was going on before he had even turned his head to look at it. In front of him, just out of the tree's reach, the Rama hovered. With dark orange claws flexed slightly and the jaw opening and snapping shut, it simply floated there: Gazing at him with big blue compounded eyes. It must have dislodged itself during Kongu's fall, and drawn towards the racket the Matoran must have made while falling.

 

     Kongu felt another sudden wash of fear come over him as he rapidly reached for the only weapon he had left; a mere bamboo disk: Unsharpened and entirely inadequate.


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#3 Online Palm

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Posted Apr 11 2014 - 01:15 AM

Chapter 2.

:2:. First Time
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     Kongu quickly thought back to his first day with the Captain’s team. She had taken him aside after a day of fighting targets on trolleys in the jungle and spoke to him with a very clear and stern voice, “I cannot prepare you for the Rama,” she had said, “Nothing I or the others do will prepare you for a real conflict.”

 

     He could feel the uncertainty wash over him. He had heard plenty about the bugs before, but nothing compared to what he was seeing before him now. The sharp claws seemed even sharper than he imagined. The powerful jaws looked even more dangerous. And the way the life-less eyes stared back at you was more than enough to break one’s spirit. It was as if Makuta himself was looking into his very soul. ‘At least she was honest.’  He thought to himself.

 

     The wings buzzed angrily. Kongu fearfully adjusted his stance just before the Rama pounced upon him. He attempted to push back the Rama’s face with the bamboo disk, awkwardly striking the fangs of the Rama as they snapped open and close rapidly. It advanced closer, using its claws to keep from losing control and striking the tree’s arms. It pushed Kongu flat against the trunk. The Rama’s jaws continued to gnash at Kongu. He could hardly deflect the bites and didn’t know what he would do if the bug decided to use its claws. Luckily, he thought, the stinger was out of the question in such an enclosed space. This close, the wings were now creating a ripping sound as they struck leaves and twigs. They violently tore apart the leaflets and began to skitter against the hard branches. It was with this that an idea suddenly came to Kongu. If he could get it to break its own wings, he could escape.

 

     With his disk-shield hardly holding back the powerful bites, and his back against the tree, Kongu grit his teeth. He pulled back the shield and slammed it into the Rama’s face downwards, trying to force the wings into some lower branches in hopes of crippling the bug. The claws held fast, preventing it from getting too close. The Rama seemed only to be angrier, and the pair went back to their old routine of biting and blocking. The Matoran of Air suddenly began to tire, his muscles beginning to feel weary. It no longer felt like it was he against the insect, but he against the world. Kongu breathed in hard, mustering the last ounces of strength that he still had. He glanced upwards for the briefest of moments. Kongu waited for the opportune moment for the insect to pull back from a bite. He slammed the disk onto its face. This time, jumping upwards immediately afterwards, using the disk as a platform.

 

     Time slowed to a halt as his force sent him up higher into the trees. While airborne, Kongu desperately grasped for a grip on the wet branches, hoping to grab hold of his target.

 

     He could hear the thundering storm. It screamed loudly to him, dominating his senses. The only thing louder was the sound of the Nui-Rama rearing upwards towards him.

 

     Kongu’s hands struck the branches, his fingers curling expertly around them just before the Matoran yanked himself upwards. From below came a very loud snapping noise as the hard wings of the pursuing Rama hit harder wood. In the darkness Kongu could hear the insect falter before crashing into the trunk almost immediately, still clicking. He could hear the flesh and exoskeleton clearly in the rain, trying to work with broken parts.

 

     Kongu collapsed into the branches, breathing heavily. His breath was thick with relief. He lay there, forgetting about the broken buzzing beneath him for a few minutes, feeling rather sick to his stomach. His chest shuddered with each rise and fall, and when he lifted up his hands to look at them he noticed that they were shaking rather heavily. Kongu realized rather suddenly that he was in a state of shock. He began to shake more at this realization, until he heard a sweet voice from the jungle, “Kongu?” He rolled over in an effort to locate the voice, wondering if he had just imagined the call. It sounded again, “Kongu?” He recognized the voice immediately. Maro was calling for him.

 

     “Maro!” Kongu hissed into the darkness of the jungle, “Maro I am here!” His voice was as shaky as the rest of him. After a while of nothing, Kongu began to crawl towards the outer branches, hoping to spot his teammate.

 

     Nothing came. He tried again, a sense of desperation began to come over him, “…Maro?”

 

     Kongu began to crawl faster, panic suddenly overwhelming him once more. His branch bounced up and down under the weight of Maro as she dropped onto it. She wasted no time skittering towards Kongu, crouching in the darkness to minimize her chances of being seen, “Kongu?” Kongu groaned slightly. There was acid in his arms and legs. His muscles felt like fire.

 

     “Yes, I am here Maro.” Kongu said weakly, “I was-“

 

     “Attacked, yes I see that.” She glanced below the pair. Her small eyes flicked about the dark at the hard twitching of broken wings, “You crippled it?” She asked. Kongu nodded as Maro helped him up to a crouching position, “Good quick-thinking for your first time Kongu.” Maro looked back up, “Are you hurt?”

 

     Kongu shook his head, “I am not hurt. A little sick maybe.”

 

     “I cannot say that I blame you,” Maro started, looking Kongu directly in the eyes with a strong expression, “My first time alone did not treat me well either.” She turned her head to look into the darkness as light buzzing could be heard off in the distance over the rain, “Rest. We will not stay long.”

 

     “What were you doing out here Maro?” Kongu asked quietly. He began to lie to down. Kana had only just come to take Kongu off of watch. The third member shouldn’t be anywhere in the area for a few more hours, “How did you find me?”

 

     “Taiki spotted Rama south of camp.” Maro said, turning away from her teammate to watch the rain, “The Captain asked me to track them.” Kongu nodded thoughtfully. It made sense. Next to him and the Captain, Maro was the third fastest leaf-runner in Le-Koro. She had stamina to outlast most members of Le-Koro’s defenders too. She was sort of legendary in some ways back home.

 

     After a few minutes of silence Kongu, staring up at the dripping leaves, took a deep breath. He was still shaking; somewhat uncomfortably too. He began to wonder if he’d caught hypothermia from the never-ending rain. “Maro…” She turned her head to him in acknowledgement. Kongu lifted up his hands into his field of view. They hadn’t stopped shaking, “Are you afraid?”

 

     “Afraid?” Maro’s expression remained indifferent.

 

      “Yes, afraid… Of the swarm,” Kongu wiped his face, feeling suddenly meek and small, “Are you not afraid to die?” Maro continued to be silent, turning away from Kongu. She just listened to the rain as it beat upon the trees, weighing them down. It was a heavy burden for the foliage to bear. Often, defenders would describe their own experiences in the jungle akin to being part of the jungle. You would spend so long in it, you started to feel like you shared the jungle’s weaknesses. However, it didn’t seem like Maro inherited this herself.  To any onlooker, Maro was fearless. An unstoppable force, or maybe an immovable object. She had taken part in more hive raids than any other member of  Le-Koro’s forces, possibly even more than the Captain herself. Kongu, like much of Le-Koro’s uninitiated, once believed the stories too. It was a simple mathematical fact that most defenders didn’t live longer than a few months at the most. Yet Maro had lasted years. She’d seen as much action in the field as the Captain had. It was more than enough to be hailed a hero.  He had heard the stories about her, and even fantasized about meeting her one day. Kongu shifted on the branches. Maro’s shoulders fell as she let out a soft, low, ‘hmmm’.

 

     “I do not want to stay here longer Kongu,” she says with command, “Are you ready?”

 

     Kongu sat up, still feeling the stresses of his most recent encounter, “I think I can move, yes.”

 

     “Good. Come,” she helped Kongu to the edge of the branches, coming out of the cover and into the rain, “Do not be afraid. I am here.”

 

     "Thank you Maro," Kongu said, noting that she had not answered his question.


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#4 Online Palm

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Posted May 13 2014 - 06:30 PM

     Chapter 3.

:3:. The Knot
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     Maro dropped down. Kongu leaned on her for support as they moved through the branches. Kongu began to feel unsettled. They had stopped a number of times previously to listen for danger or rest. It wasn’t long before they reached their current encampment. It was unusual for guerilla defenders to stay in a place for a few days at the most. But the Captain’s team had been set up for weeks now. Their camp was minimal, as being spotted by the enemy was almost a guarantee of death. The notoriety of the merciless swarm had forced much of the force to focus solely on remaining unseen. The camps reflected this idea just as well.

 

     The place that members of a force would sleep or take shelter (if their camp remained unmoved for more than a few days) was known as a “knot”. The knot was designed from the outside to appear like a growth on a thick tree, disguised even further by branches and leaves to minimize being seen. The strategy proved somewhat effective. Kongu had a difficult time picking it out, and in this light would not have noticed it had he not been looking.

 

     They took to the lower entrance, Maro chirping as she helped Kongu up. The inside of a knot was characterized by the small tunnels that wrapped up the trunk in a spiral formation. Most of the time, teams would sleep in these hallways, but if a group stayed put long enough, the camp would once again be modified by burrowing into the tree itself to make small compartments. Crawling up the narrow tunnel, they were met with another voice, softened by the acoustics of the nest walls, “Kongu?” The voice called. Tora, a much younger member of the team poked his head out of his sleeping hole, “Maro? Why have you returned? I thought you were tracking a swarm?” He asked rather worriedly. She didn’t answer, only helping Kongu to a more comfortable position against the knots wall, “Maro, you know what might happen if the swarm turns this way! We will have no-“

 

     Maro responded quickly, giving a look to Tora, “First encounter alone,” she said flatly.

 

     To Le-Koronians, your first fight alone had a lot of implications. It meant you were initiated. A true member of the family that roamed the jungle. But more than that, it was another reminder that you were closer to death. On average, your time on Mata-Nui would come to a close before the season was over, “I am sorry. How many?”

 

     “One,” Kongu said meekly, “Just one.”

 

     Tora opened his mouth again to speak, but Maro chose to cut him off, “He handled the Rama by tricking it to break its own wings off.”

 

     Tora did not smile but nodded instead, “Good quick-thinking new-leaf. Always knew you were a smart one.” His attention shifted again to Maro who was already turning herself around in the narrow space to leave again, “Are either of you hurt?” Tora asked. Although all defenders were trained to deal with emergency medical situations, none in the force was as well-equipped as Tora. He had saved more lives than he could count. Tora, like Maro, was another small legend back home.

 

     “No,” Maro responded quickly, “Where is the Captain?”

 

     Tora nodded, “Higher in the knot,” he began to speak more rapidly, “Just finished a meeting with scouts from Boreas’ squadron north of the hives. They just left. She is not in a pleasant mood. She will not be happy to know you-“

 

     Maro pushed past Kongu and crawled towards Tora, hissing slightly, “You would not have left him. Remember your first time Tora?”

 

     “I did not say I would have,” Tora scowled, his voice hushed, “I am simply stating a fact. Maro, if that swarm moves this way-”

 

     “Then I will take full responsibility for it,” Maro said, a commanding intensity in her tone, “But for now, the Captain must know we are unsure of the swarms location.”

 

     Tora nodded, suddenly much more business-like, moving aside to allow Maro a better pathway up the knot. He turned his attention fully to Kongu, crawling towards him. He put a firm hand on his shoulder, and spoke warmly, “I hope you do not think that I disapprove of Maro’s actions Kongu,” he said, “It is simply part of the job to question our own and others’ actions in the jungle. I would have stopped for you as well... even if I was not the Captain’s field medic.”

 

     Kongu murmured in response, still too exhausted to really pay attention, “Thank you Tora.”

 

     Tora nodded before lifting up Kongu’s arm and feeling his ribs with a free hand, “Any cuts I should know about?” It was protocol for Tora to check those that returned to the knot for injuries and ask some standard questions. Kongu used to flinch, but just one week with Tora and he was already comfortable with him. Kongu shook his head. He didn’t have any cuts that he knew about at least, “Bruises or sprains?” Kongu pointed to a few sorer places on his torso. Tora lifted up a finger, after checking the sore spots, “Follow,” he said simply. Kongu obliged as well as he could. Tora seemed pleased, “I am surprised you are this responsive, new-leaf.”

 

     “You are?”

 

     “Yes. Maro was not poking fun or exaggerating when she asked me to remember my first lone encounter. I was in a state of shock that lasted all the night. Maro had to carry me through the jungle on her back. I felt as if I was already dead.”

 

     Kongu spoke breathlessly, “I felt as if the life left the stars.”

 

     “Cold?”

 

     “Yes. Very cold.”

 

     “I could hardly will myself to move…” Kongu shook his head in frustration, “Oh it seems so foolish Tora, I had fought Rama before! I-”

 

     The doctor interrupted, “It is true that you have fought them before. But you had not fought them alone until tonight,” Tora said, rather teacher-like. “You would think that the risk of fighting Rama would be enough to cripple us. And for many of us, it is. Fighting the swarm is truly a nightmare. But if there is one thing that is more frightening than Rama, it is dying alone,” Tora’s serious tone became very soft and quiet as he held Kongu’s shoulders in his hands, “Nobody wants to die alone.”

 

     Kongu’s brow furrowed as he frowned slightly. Tora’s smile vanished before patting his patient on the shoulder. He turned away and moved back up the knot, leaving Kongu behind to rest.


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