The autumn of our lives asks us to recede, determining whether we shall last the winter…
Episode 00: My World Has Changed
My name is Adrinor and I was born in the universe of the Great Spirit, Mata Nui. In this world, for 14,000 years, the League of Six Kingdoms controlled many realms with a forceful grip. Their reign was simple and their demands as well: align yourself with the League or become their enemy. By declaring these enemies to be in conflict with Mata Nui as well—having received the divine right to rule the universe—the Barraki were able to dispatch their rivals without remorse and gained a fearful respect as the mighty warlords they were. In time, the world was not enough, and the Barraki sought the one seat of power seemingly out of our reach – Mata Nui's. This betrayal was revealed to the mysterious Brotherhood of Makuta, and one of their kind flanked by his noble legions managed to successfully put down the attempt to usurp Mata Nui's throne. In a single day of battle, the League's warriors were defeated and displaced, bringing a swift end to the rule of the Barraki.
It was their abrupt departure that gave rise to the burden of choice throughout the universe, allowing islands to elect leaders that put the interests of their kind before the orders of a half dozen warlords. An organization known as the Dark Hunters began operating out of Odina during this time, nearly monopolizing the business of hiring out biomechs to perform unscrupulous tasks. Elsewhere, relations began to sour between the districts of Metru Nui, and what had begun as minor disputes among the Matoran led to all-out civil war that divided a once prosperous city. Without their labor, a Great Disruption began throughout the universe and it became abundantly apparent that Mata Nui fell weaker with each passing day. Suns lost their shimmer, seas fell quiet, and the wind carried an icy touch. These were the darkest and most desperate times the universe had ever seen. Everything we knew was shutting down slowly, but surely, and we were hopeless to stop it.
I have seen a great deal during my lifetime, but the story I am about to tell is from an era of terrible memories. This is ultimately a story of responsibility and the battle between light and darkness that surrounds us all. Looking back, it would be arrogant to say I lived through those days. On the contrary, I barely survived them.
Episode 01: Soldier On
A powerful light shone down through my window, illuminating my face and stirring me awake. I squinted against the intensity of the sun, feeling the warmth of a familiar star as I slowly sat up in my bed. I was three stories above the ground level, peering out at the island of Stelt with mixed feelings. The island's caste system made the elite Steltians (their self-proclaimed title) the undisputed rulers of the land with Matoran ranking just below them. The Ohnbiek, meanwhile, were relegated to being laborers and the Pontiir were slaves to slaughter one another in the arenas. My employer, a Steltian named Voporak, had agreed to allow my crew to rent out several rooms above one of his coliseums. Few buildings lasted very long on Stelt, but anything that supported a good fight was sure to hold. After the first few years, I grew accustomed to sleeping through the sound of biomechs being murdered beneath my room.
While Steltians went about their morning in the dirt roads below, I pulled my weapon out from behind my bedpost and set it at my side, carefully examining the silver and obsidian wonder. It was a gunblade, a specially crafted weapon made many centuries earlier. It once belonged to a friend I had the misfortune to dig a hole in the dirt for, not long after the League collapsed. Unlike the revolver gunblades sometimes manufactured in Nynrah, my weapon possessed a thinner blade and a long, bayonet-shaped attachment on one side. This was where my bullets fired from, activated by a sequence of gears that connected to the trigger. The grip piece of the weapon was slightly curved, allowing me better control whether I needed to shoot or swing. Above that was a guard piece that arced back from the protosteel blade, doubling as a stabilizer when I took long-range shots. The gunblade was a fine weapon, finer than any I could have asked for.
I placed the weapon on my back and stared down at my armor for a moment, shades of crimson and ivory composing my sleek parts. A male Meldin, my form was similar to that of a Toa, minus the elemental powers. In spite of that fact, after years of using the gunblade and many decades as an outlaw, I had trained and achieved a physical strength that rivaled some of Mata Nui's champions. I was living a dream, pursuing a life of freedom alongside a crew of likeminded biomechs. I described my gunblade so particularly because it was the catalyst of my freedom, the instrument that took me across the Matoran Universe, exploring new lands and carrying out jobs for the right price. My team was like a privatized sector of Dark Hunters and, as you might imagine, we were on the Shadowed One's radar.
Voporak's clan offered my crew a degree of protection from wandering Dark Hunters on Stelt, though I remained conflicted about how their island operated. Whenever I broached the subject with Voporak, however, he politely reminded me that it was not my place to argue the matter. He was a clan leader, not me. I was not even from Stelt - my native land of Meldio just south of the Southern Continent. Steltian society was the concern of the Steltians and, if they were content to wage war until the end of the world, that was their business.
I opened my bedroom door and shut it behind me, whistling as I headed down the corridor to speak with Voporak about new work. I heard a weak grunt echo above me and instinctively drew my weapon, pointing it toward the ceiling. One of Voporak's guards, a Steltian named Sidorak, was forcibly connected to the ceiling by what appeared to be magnetic force. He suddenly dropped, crashing on his face and passing out.
"I traveled a long way to speak with you," a voice called from around the corner. "Your friend seemed to think his arm blade would stop me."
I smirked at the thought as I lowered my weapon, flipping Sidorak onto his back with a push of my foot. "This Steltian is an insincere, power-hungry moron. Had you done this to one of my actual friends, my patience would be much thinner right now."
My visitor stepped into view, a lone Toa of magnetism. His gunmetal and black armor was scratched and scraped, suggesting he'd seen as much of battle as I had. He wielded a launcher of unknown origin in his left hand and a magnetic weapon in his right. I paid close attention to his lime green eyes, staring me down from behind his jet black Kadin.
"You have a name, hero?" I asked.
The Toa held his stern expression. "You're Adrinor, right?"
"No one's told me otherwise," I said, relaxing a little bit.
If the Toa wanted a fight, we would have been fighting already. Toa did not dance around their intentions often, it was not in their nature.
"My name is Jovan. My team heard about you a couple months back," he told me. "You were on an assignment in the Northern Continent, escorting a Toa with some dangerous enemies. I was told the mission went successfully."
"I got paid, if that says anything," I replied, letting one of my fingers wrap around the trigger of my weapon. "I don't like the suspicion that I'm being followed, so you might want to make your point soon."
"Then I'll dissolve any suspicions and tell you outright that my fellow Toa and I have been on your trail," Jovan said awkwardly before clearing his throat. "After seeing your team in action, I think you're exactly what we need. I'd like to hire your crew as security detail for my own."
"And where would we be going if I accepted?"
"Before I say," Jovan started uncertainly, "I'd like you to accompany me out to the balcony momentarily. I need you to see something."
Sidorak groaned and rapidly blinked his eyes, glancing up at me. "What happened?"
"Business transaction," I muttered. "I'd tell you not to run off in case things turn against me on the balcony, but I have a feeling you'd just accidentally shoot me anyway."
I followed Jovan out onto the nearest balcony of the coliseum, watching him put his weapons away. I stepped out further then, catching sight of four more Toa near the building's entrance. They had incapacitated an Ohnbiek guard by the name of Krekka, his burly form collapsed into the dirt. Nearby Steltians went about their typical morning activities, walking by or chatting up merchants with wares for sale. The sight of Toa on Stelt was a rarity, but no one was terribly interested in starting anything with them.
"Mata Nui is dying, Adrinor," Jovan said sadly, looking into my eyes. "Stelt is still fortunate enough to have a sun shining in the sky, but there are other lands not quite so lucky. This place is a brigand's haven, not a home for a Toa, and yet I do not wish anything ill on the biomechs that call this place home. My team and I want to save the universe and we're in desperate need of someone who can protect us."
I nodded slowly. "Then I'll ask again; where are you headed?"
"Metru Nui," Jovan replied, suddenly lowering his voice. "The Onu-Metru Archives are legendary for containing rare and one-of-a-kind items among their exhibits. I recently encountered a rumor that the Archives may contain information about a Kanohi that could save the Great Spirit from death. Furthermore, they may also hold a Kanohi that can ascertain its location, called an Elda."
"Sounds valuable," I mused. "I don't know a lot of biomechs who would willingly step into a warzone, even if the belligerents are mere Matoran. That said, I think you and I can set up a business arrangement. I presume this security detail job will begin on Metru Nui and conclude once your mythic Kanohi is retrieved?"
"That's correct," Jovan replied. "Now, how much were you hoping to receive in terms of payment?"
I grinned. "Well, let's see. My team's initial hiring fee is the first number that comes to mind. Then you'll be paying for our munitions, labor costs, and there's a daily charge as well. I also need to factor in a "saving the universe fee," which, is almost too great to put a price on. Alas, the price will be tacked on to your final bill."
Jovan gave me a surprised look. "You must be joking."
"Mostly, yes." I chuckled. "Why don't you tell me how much you've got and we'll go from there."
The Toa of magnetism reluctantly handed over a small pouch and I let it rest in the palm of my hand. It was definitely heavy for such a tiny size. I pulled the strings apart on the bag's opening and peered inside, finding a couple dozen gold coins. I shifted the bag's contents around, allowing me to see how each coin had a Kanohi Hau on one side and the number 500 on the other. I looked back up at Jovan with a smile and he politely smiled back.
"My team has saved some wealthy individuals in the past and, while we try not to accept payment for our services, some biomechs won't take 'no' for an answer."
"May the Great Spirit bless them," I replied sarcastically, shaking Jovan's hand.
"So we've got a job from a Toa, huh?"
Jovan and I whirled back to see my crewmate Hadliek staring at us from the doorway. Holding his large caliber pistol up toward the sky, he lightly clicked the activator switch back and forth. Roughly my height, Hadliek wore matte black and cerulean armor, his eyes a shade of soft teal. He was a Todrano, from the eastern chain of the Southern Islands. His weapon, on the other hand, was manufactured in Xia. A heavy pistol, the barrel could hold 10 rounds, while an activation switch on the side could give them an incendiary kick.
"Yeah, we've got a job," I said. "Jovan, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Hadliek. Hadliek, this is Toa Jovan. We'll be protecting his team on a mission to Onu-Metru."
"Nice to meet you, Hadliek," Jovan said cordially.
"Same to you, hero; I haven't been to war in a while," Hadliek replied in his most casual tone, holstering his weapon at the hip. He possessed a natural cool that made being debonair look simple. "What kind of money is he walking around with to make you agree to that, Adrinor?"
"Enough," I said slyly.
"You know we could just take the money and save ourselves the trip," Hadliek suggested with a sinister grin.
I watched Jovan begin to reach for his launcher before I gently put a hand to his shoulder. "That's not how we operate."
"Forgive me," Jovan replied, "but you are hired guns. I've watched you steal."
"Well…yeah," I said inelegantly, "but that was on assignment. We don't usually…I mean, not unless we have to." I sighed for a moment, trying to focus my thoughts. "Jovan, we have a code in this crew. Don't bite the hand that feeds you."
"And yet you request payment to ultimately save the life of the Great Spirit. Ironic, wouldn't you say?" Jovan asked.
I smirked. "If Mata Nui cares to notice, I still need to eat and reload my weapon from time to time. I don't exactly see him dropping any favors on me."
"The ways of the Great Spirit are mysterious indeed," Jovan said assuredly.
"Won't argue with that," Hadliek told him.
"Let's continue this conversation down in the ground floor lounge," I proposed. "I'd like to meet the Toa I'll be protecting."
"Yes, assemble your crew and I'll see you down there." Jovan lifted himself off the floor—presumably pulling himself by his magnetic parts—and smoothly descended to the ground below.
Hadliek and I departed from the balcony and a quick scan of the corridor left me proud. The other three members of my team had been waiting silently, weapons loaded in case our guest was restless for battle. Elendra stood to my right, both of her revolvers ready to fire. She was an edgy sort of biomech, her ice white and violet armor never hinting at the volatile individual underneath. A Trelban from Trelbin, Elendra's frost-colored head was shaped like a Mask of Possibilities, mirroring the rest of her Toa-sized kind.
On my left was Kyrhus, a platinum and black Gekalan. Kyrhus had very reptilian features (common in the Gekalan species) - a snout, scales, sharp claws, and a tail that ended in a blade. His dark forest green eyes were like staring into an alien world, but for all his formidable qualities, Kyrhus was the most kind-hearted of us. He held a sniper rifle at his side, an energy bullet-based weapon that had impeccable range with the right user. Kyrhus was certainly one of them.
"Good morning," Kyrhus greeted in his usual, refined tone. "I see we have company."
"Toa, of all things," Elendra said with a chuckle. "They must be desperate to have come to Stelt. I didn't quite catch your entire conversation."
"They want to save the universe," I told her matter-of-factly. "I imagine they would've gone to the edge of the Southern Islands if they needed another crew like ours."
Elendra raised an eyebrow. "The universe? Okay, I'm interested now."
"As am I. They're waiting downstairs," Hadliek said.
Our fifth member dropped down from the rafters, ducking into a roll when she hit the ground. She leapt to her feet and placed her sonic assault rifle on her back, innocently smirking at us.
"Good morning, Celvey," I said, holding back a laugh. "Were you waiting for an invitation up there?"
"Just waiting for the sake of it," Celvey replied sweetly.
Celvey was an interesting individual, to say the least. East of Xia is a pair of islands. The north island is Nohtal, inhabited by biomechs imbued with natural darkness. These Nohtalians live in harmony with one another for the most part. South of Nohtal is an island inhabited by biomechs imbued with natural light. The island is almost constantly at war, ironically enough. This island is called Ilisi and, by extension, Celvey was an Ilisian. Her figure possessed more natural femininity than Elendra's, the contours of Celvey's form being more rounded, yet still defined. She was a lithe entity, armored in light silver and auburn, but able to hold her own in combat. Celvey favored a "civilized" alternative to a gunfight, but in our line of work, that was not always an option.
The five of us marched downstairs, passing Voporak's empty office along the way. He left the coliseum from time to time to deal with personal matters among his clan, often times simple territorial disputes. A favorite—and quite clandestine—agent of Barraki Mantax during the era of the League, I could not begin to imagine what sorts of secrets he harbored from that age of the world. We met one another mere days before the League fell and I was never one to pry about the days of old.
I stepped inside the lounge and quickly noticed Jovan sitting with the four Toa I had seen on the ground, his team taking up half a large booth near one of the windows. I led my crew through the lounge and we took our seats across the table from the Toa, settling in for a chat.
"Good morning, everyone," I greeted the Toa. I looked to Jovan and asked, "So, should we all go around the table and introduce ourselves, or…how would you like to do this?"
"I'll start," the Toa of magnetism replied. "My name is Toa Jovan and I am the leader of this team."
Jovan looked to his right and nodded at a Toa of plant life. "My name is Haltryox," he said in a kind voice, "and I am the deputy leader of the team."
Next down the line was an Olmak-wearing Toa of earth who introduced himself in a gruff tone as, "Argeph. I'm not a leader, more of an enforcer."
"Would you mind sharing the difference with us?" Hadliek asked pleasantly. "We don't get to learn about the lifestyle of Toa very often."
"Jovan here sets the rules as leader, be it for our group or criminals we've apprehended. If someone thinks about overstepping those rules, I'm more than willing to remind them of their place."
"Don't worry, he's got a soft heartlight under all that talk," the next Toa down the line giggled. A Toa of water, she continued with, "My name is Valtriak, by the way."
"And last, but not least, I am Ticonahk," a Toa of plasma at the end of the table said with a grin.
"Nice meeting you all, my name is Adrinor and, since it's already been established that you've seen me at work, I'll let my crew get their introductions out of the way."
"My name is Hadliek and my hobbies include shooting things, shooting other things, and getting paid when a job is finished."
"What a well-rounded Todrano," Valtriak said facetiously.
Hadliek shot her a slightly impressed smirk. "Oh, and long walks under the moonlight."
Elendra gave him an annoyed look and began, "My name is Elendra and if you're pinned down under fire, I'm probably nowhere in sight."
"My name is Kyrhus and…I really couldn't think of anything off the top of my head the way Hadliek and Elendra did."
"You have a very polished voice, Kyrhus, if you don't mind my saying," Haltryox noted. "Forgive me, but your appearance suggested a more…feral creature."
Kyrhus smiled. "No offense taken, the Gekalan are often mistaken as such."
"And my name is Celvey. I am the newest member of the crew and," she paused, glancing down the table at me, "may I tell them?"
I frowned and shook my head. "Not here."
Her voice lowered to a whisper as she added, "Another time, I suppose."
Jovan clapped his hands together. "Well, a pleasure to meet all of you. Now that we're up to speed in the personality department, I think we're going to get along on this mission just famously."
I grinned. "Don't let that magnet-head of yours get too attached to us. We're still some of the finest killers you'll meet in this town."
Jovan's expression suddenly turned more serious. "I can overlook that for the time being, given that you're willing to assist us in the greatest endeavor in the history of the universe. Saving the life of the Great Spirit, well…it's not the kind of work I'd expect a team of hired guns to usually sign up for. My team is ready to journey north this afternoon if yours is."
"Slow down, Metru Nui wasn't built in a day," I replied. "And don't sell yourself short either, Jovan. You'll be doing the hero stuff. We'll just be watching your backs for gunfire."
"At any rate, the Great Spirit cannot wait forever for his saviors," Jovan told my crew. "I'd like to be on my way to Metru Nui before sundown."
"Metru Nui?" Kyrhus repeated, clearly taken aback. "That city is a warzone."
"Need I remind you how this town turns into a warzone from time to time?" Elendra asked him. "Not to mention Steltians seem bred for war in a way Matoran will never be."
"Well the conflicts here never last hundreds of years," Kyrhus muttered.
"Even so, these are only Matoran," Elendra said, trying to reassure him. "They have powerless masks and can't aim a weapon to save their lives."
Jovan went to stand up, but I quickly pulled the heavy pistol from Hadliek's hip and held it near my head, pointing the barrel square at the Toa of magnetism. "I think you'd do well to sit back down, Jovan."
Argeph went to grab the pistol, but I triggered the incendiary activator and said, "Any closer and I'll light him up."
"Stand down, Argeph." Jovan resumed sitting and gave me an angry look. "What do you want, Adrinor?"
"The truth," I replied, slowly lowering Hadliek's gun and flipping off the activator. "You think I would readily believe anyone, even Toa, would blindly run headlong into Metru Nui on the basis of a rumor? The risk is too great for anyone to enter that city over a bit of gossip. So you're going to tell me exactly what you know, or I'm going to count to ten and drop the number of Toa on Stelt by one."
Haltryox glanced at Jovan. "I don't think we need-"
"No, he's right. Adrinor deserves the truth." Jovan turned his attention to me and whispered, "My team was approached by an agent that spoke on behalf of Mata Nui."
"Did this agent have a name or were you able to determine his species at least?" I asked, still holding the gun ready.
"Yes, he was a Dectraz by the name of Trylac."
I felt my heartlight skip a beat as Jovan finished speaking. Looking down the table at Elendra, I could only imagine I was wearing the same expression of disbelief. When the League fell 900 years prior, when Makuta Teridax oversaw the defeat of the Barraki in a single day, I had not yet become a leader. That title belonged to another, to the Nohtalian who once wielded my gunblade. And it was his crew that contained a Dectraz named Trylac who was shot out of the sky, presumably murdered.
"Are you all right, Adrinor?" Jovan wondered, clearly aware he said something disturbing.
I lowered my head and returned the gun to Hadliek, my thoughts still racing. "I watched a Dectraz named Trylac fly off one day…right before he was shot and plummeted to his death. Only his broken rifle was recovered from the crash site and we thought his body was destroyed."
"Isn't it possible that Trylac merely left the scene, perhaps limping away in his damaged condition?" Haltryox asked.
I glared at him, my fury rising again. "He would've looked for me! He would've come back, okay?"
"If you truly think Trylac died, we were planning to meet up with him on the Southern Continent in a matter of days. You can talk with him there and resolve your misunderstanding," Jovan replied. "It's funny, Trylac actually pointed me in your direction to begin with. He seemed to think you were very capable of protecting my team."
"We should return to the coast soon," Valtriak said. "Our watercraft is decent, but it will be a long journey to Metru Nui."
"Elendra," I said, turning to her, "I think it's time we put your side project to the test."
She smiled at me before looking at Jovan's team. "I've been hard at work on an experimental aircraft kept beneath this coliseum. Looks like it'll finally see the light of day."
I felt a sense of hope welling up in my mind. Trylac had been watching my crew for quite some time, it seemed. But why he kept up the secrecy, how he evaded our detection - it was all beyond my ability to comprehend. I knew then that I had to see him on the Southern Continent; I needed answers.
Edited by GSR, Oct 08 2014 - 02:16 AM.
Adding tags per author's request.