"Matero. This is your haven of peace in a tumultuous and changing world. Out there is war. Out there is fear. Out there the Toa are dead. In here you are safe. In here the Toa are your protectors. Here there is no crime! Here you need not live in fear! This is your city of dreams!"
Toa Aerix stopped speaking. A riot of cheers and applause. A deep voice intoning, "This has been a civil reminder/inspiration, brought to you today by the Cobala Corporation. We now return to Matero Music with 'My Ga-Matoran Left Me' by M.A.S.K."
If I was an Agori those four words might have broken my heart. But I'm a Fe-Matoran, and my heartlight flared until I thought it might crack.
Do you remember the first time we heard that song? I hope so. It was the day we met. I'd just blown the Aybabtu championship game and I'd gone to the diner to drown my sorrows in a glass of "energized protodermis." Before the drink had a chance to cross my wires the song drifted down from the speakers and you walked in the door. It was a day I've never been able to forget. No matter how hard I tried. It was the day we fell in love.
This time I shut the radio off on the first note. This was the day we broke up. I'd gone home to drown my sorrows in a dark corner by the window with all the lights off and the radio at half-volume while I gazed out at the nighttime streets dyed bronze by the glow of the lightstone streetlamps.
In my mind I ran over the things we said.
"Karattru," you said, and my name was beautiful on your voice, "I just feel like we haven't had any time for each other lately."
"Well," I said, "we have time now."
We were strolling together through the Nokama Botanical Gardens park in the power district.
"But Aybabtu takes up so much of your time now, and my job--"
"It's just the Aybabtu season. The championship game is coming up. After we win, I'll treat you to a victory dinner, just the two of us."
"And if you lose?"
"Well . . . you can treat me to a consolation dinner."
You didn't find it funny. "But even in the off-season, you have meetings, and then there are the appearances, the benefits, the parties--"
"But you always come with me."
"That's just it. You don't understand how I feel tagging along to those things. I--I don't fit in. You're a celebrity, and I write about celebrities."
"What's wrong with being a news chronicler? I don't see why that should come between us. I have nothing against newstablets. I'm pro-chroniclerism."
"Don't joke. I'm serious. I feel like--like we live in two different worlds."
"We're where those worlds meet."
"It doesn't work that way."
I was silent. Something in your tone worried me.
"What are you saying?"
You sighed. "I'm breaking up with you, Kar."
"But--but Obitu," I stammered, "I love you. I mean--we love each other, don't we?"
Your voice shook just a little. "Of course I love you, Kar, but . . . you have your life, and I have mine, and they just don't fit together."
"Please don't make this any harder," you said, turning away. "I have to go."
"Don't follow my, Karattru." Then you walked away and hailed a chute lift, and I watched until it lifted you away to the platform and the chute whisked you away.
I tried to close my mind to it but that last image of you echoed in my memory. I turned the radio back on and switched the channel. Toa Aerix's voice crackled through.
"This is your haven of peace in a tumultuous and changing world. . . ."
* * *
After a few days you hadn't answered any of my mitter calls and I figured you just needed to call off. After a week I hadn't heard anything and I couldn't wait any longer. Early in the morning I showed up on your doorstep in the knowledge district with a bouquet in my hands. I knew you didn't have anything to do on Sidordays, and I'd called off practice so I could spend the whole day with you. I hoped that would convince you to give me another chance.
Your hutmate, Thren, opened the door. She seemed surprised to see me. Her eyes fell on the flowers and she took them with a sad smile.
"Thank you," she said. "It's sweet of you."
I cleared my throat. "Those--those are for Obitu."
"Of course. I'll put them with the others."
We looked at each other, confused and embarrassed.
"Oh--please, come in," she said after a moment.
She stepped out of the way to let me in. I was surprised to see boxes strewn throughout the hut, some of them open, filled with your things. Thren shuffled past and set my bouquet down in a pile of flowers on a table. It didn't make sense--I couldn't piece it together.
"Could I--see her?" I asked.
Thren seemed horrified. "Of course not!"
I couldn't understand her behavior. "I--uh--why not? I mean, isn't she here?"
Thren stared. I stared back. Suddenly her face cleared, and she gave me a pitying look.
"You--don't know, do you?"
My heartlight flashed faster. "Know what?"
Her voice broke a little. "I'm sorry. I--I thought you would've known." She wrung her hands. "Obitu's dead, Karattru."
* * *
When I got home I dropped the box in my arms on the floor. It was the box with all the things I'd given or lent you, that you'd given Thren a few days after we broke up, and she'd given to me. I stepped into the room and flipped the lightswitch on, and flipped it off, on and off and on and off and I tried to rip the switch out of the socket but I couldn't get a firm grip. So I kicked the wall instead and fell down and cried.
* * *
You'd been found lying in an alleyway in the tech district. The official statement was that your death was Matoranslaughter, a mere mugging gone wrong. I couldn't buy that. You hated the tech district, and you never carried anything worth stealing, much less killing for. Why should you have been walking alone through such a dangerous part of the city? What would you have been doing there in the first place? It didn't make sense to me.
That night I visited the spot. It was a dirty alley on a dirty street in a dirty corner of the district. It was one Karzahni of a place to die. What could've taken you there?
A drifter was digging through a dumpster, sorting old parts into a bag slung around his shoulder.
"Hey, buddy," I called.
"Look, Mator'n, this ain't a crime," the Zesk grumbled, peeking out at me over the edge of the dumpster. "One being's trash 's another being's treasure, am'right?"
"You know it," I said. "So if you have a little information to throw out, I have some old widgets I was about to toss, anyway." I took out a handful of coin and jangled it around in my palm.
The Zesk looked at me with more attention. "Well . . . I mi'know a thing or two. Knowledge is the greates' treasure there is, I alw' say, and I open m'eyes for anythin' val'ble. You, eh . . . lookin' for somethin' in pa'tic'lar?"
"You been here before? Say, in the evening, about a week ago?"
"You talk'n about tha' Ce-Mator'n?"
My heartlight skipped. "That's the one." I jangled the widgets. "You saw her?"
He pointed a finger across the street. "I's divin' in the dumpster over there 'at night, doin' wha' 'tis I do, y'know, when I see'd this airship come down over here and drop ou' tha' bundle o' scrap an' take off. She did'n' move, I just figgered she was dead, y'know?"
"Anything else? Any words on the ship? Any logos?"
The Zesk scratched his head. "Well, I migh' remember som'n, but tha's a week ago, hard to remember prop'ly . . ."
He looked at me expectantly.
I filled his hands with copper widgets and flashed a silver in front of his face.
The Zesk's face lit up. "The ship was 'n Orkahm. Wanna know the registration number?"
* * *
A bored Orkahm Transportation customer service agent promised to check the number and get back to me promptly. Four days passed and I got a call. Model #C12215 had been part of an order of ten airships purchased by Hafu Building Co.
I lived in the sports district; the construction district was its only neighbor in the Stone Sector. I took a porter to Nuparu Station, next door to the Hafu Building Co. Main Office. The receptionist was able to give me a list of warehouses. There were four within the city's limits. I checked the technology district first on a hunch, but none of the airships docked there was the one I was looking for. I checked out the warehouse in the shipping district next but there was no sign of #C12215. That left the power district and the construction district. I tossed a widget and power won.
The warehouse was in a quiet part of the neighborhood, surrounded by a few abandoned plants, and offices and warehouses that would be empty by night. Even the power district's famous lights were few and dim here. It was like walking through a graveyard. I flinched at shadows and looked around at every sound, but the closer I got to the warehouse the fewer souls I saw, until I didn't see any at all. Unless there was a lead waiting for me, I was the only life within miles.
When I got to the warehouse I found a Hau fence closing off the docks, from the air and ground both. But it would take more than that to keep me out. I'd known a forger once who worked with Zemya Depot and he'd told me the closely-guarded secrets to their Hau fences. They had a failsafe: remove the Hau inside the central post, which was always numbered 4-CR. Knowing that, it was a simple matter of locating the central post in the fence, hacking the lock, removing the Hau, and putting it back once I was safe on the other side. The elevators were shut off, as I'd expected, and I had to scale the framework to get to the airdock. But it paid off.
There were five airships docked at this warehouse. The first three had the wrong registration numbers. The fourth was #C12215.
It was unlocked but empty. I didn't know what I could've expected to find in the airship, anyway. If there were any secrets to find here--they would be in the warehouse.
* * *
Here there is no crime.
This was no warehouse for a building firm. All I saw was a torture chamber. From my hiding-place in the ventilation shaft I looked through the grate into a room full of machines and gears and racks everywhere, scattered masks, some of them broken, and on a distant table, metallic parts I couldn't quite make out and wasn't sure I wanted to.
And there was something else in that room. You, Obitu. You and a Bone Hunter and an Agori and an Onu-Matoran. You were watching them strap a De-Matoran to a table.
One of the Agori turned to you and said, "First time in the Chamber, Disse?"
You nodded. Why did they called you Disse? You weren't Disse. I tried to convince myself that she wasn't you, that she was Disse, but she was you and I knew it.
"Watch closely. I think you will be impressed by the things we do here."
The others were busy poking wires into the De-Matoran on the table. Then the Onu-Matoran threw a lever and turned a dial and a machine began to fizzle. The De-Matoran began to scream. I looked away and covered my ears until the screams died out. The machine stopped fizzling. The De-Matoran wasn't moving.
Your voice was flat. "What did he do?"
The Agori beside you shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"Probably got in our way, somehow. We just follow orders. We don't get all the information."
I took a deep breath. I didn't know what was going on here, and I figured what I was about to do was pretty stupid, but you were there, and for all I knew you were next. It was time to put a stop to this.
I counted backward from ten and gave myself my pre-game pep talk. "Nerves of iron," I whispered to myself. "Heart of protosteel. Roar like a Muaka. Run like a Kane-Ra. Fight like a Toa. It's like a game. Breathe in, breathe out. That's it. It's just another game."
I slid the grate silenty out of the way and dropped like a sandbag, landing lightly on the cushioned soles of my Aybabtu boots. I ducked behind a pile of crates and peered through a crack. You and the Agori were still standing together, watching the others remove the De-Matoran's restraints and lay a variety of tools on the table. I put my hands on one of the upper crates and pulled myself upward.
"This is what you do here?" you were saying. "Dispose of our--our--"
"Liabilities?" the Agori suggested. "Inconveniences? Yes. Anyone we're delivered, even if we don't know who they are. We just deal with the bare facts. And the fact," he said, pointing at the unmoving body of the De-Matoran, "is that this Matoran is no longer a problem."
"Here's another fact: You're sick."
Everyone all jumped and turned toward me at the sound of my voice. I had already dropped silently right into the midst of the group. I dropped the Bone Hunter with a quick one-two punch. I dodged around a swinging Onu-Matoran with big fists and kicked him in the back of his knee, ripping off his mask as he fell over.
Next to me your Agori friend leveled a Kanoka-gun at my head. I grabbed his hand and twisted it to the side. The gun fired into the air and he screamed and let go. I put the Agori to sleep with the butt of the weapon and holstered it.
Your eyes looked like they would overheat and explode.
"Karattru--how are you here?"
"Why aren't you dead?" I retorted.
"What the Karzahni are you doing here?" you said. "You're going to ruin everything! Shut up," you added before I could speak. "You shouldn't be here. Do you have any idea what you're up against? Come on. You have to get out."
"Why aren't you dead?" I repeated. "I thought you were dead! Do you have any idea how that made me feel? Do you know what I've gone through to find out what happened to you? Is this some kind of sick joke?"
You scowled. "There's no time for this! We need to get you out of here!"
You nearly yanked my arm out of its socket as you tried to drag me away, but I wouldn't budge. I grabbed your wrist and pulled you back toward me until your Kanohi was close to mine.
"Why did you really dump me?" I said. "I want the truth."
"To protect you." You leaned forward and touched my mask with yours. "I should've known you'd be a Spikit-brain and come looking for me." Your voice was soft with affectionate sarcasm, but it became sharp. "You saw what they did to that De-Matoran, didn't you? You have to get out of here, now! Come with me!"
You gripped my wrist tight and this time I let you lead me out of the chamber, through a door, down a long hall. She ran to every corner and peered cautiously around to make sure it was clear and then ran on again.
We rounded a corner and I trembled in terror at the sight of a massive figure towering over me. I raised my gun and realized an instant later that Toa Nilam was staring down the muzzle. I went limp with relief. You squeaked beside me.
Nilam looked calmly down at us with his hands folded behind his back and a slightly amused expression on his Arthron.
His voice was metallic and hollow as he murmured, "Please, don't shoot."
I lowered the weapon. "Toa Nilam, thank the Great Beings!"
"Come," Nilam said. "Let's get you out of here."
But when I turned to you your eyes were wide with fear. "No," you gasped hoarsely, then louder, "No!" You turned and ran back the way we had come. I was shocked into immobility and stupidity.
Nilam gazed after you with dull, steady eyes. He took out a mitter and glanced at it, pressed a button, and shook his head. "Find your friend before she gets herself killed. I'll clear a way out."
He had hardly spoken the first syllable before I was off down the hall and around the corner. You disappeared into a doorway near the end of the corridor. I ran, heartlight flickering, shouting your name again and again. I wonder if you heard me?
I barreled into the room and nearly tripped over you. The first thing I saw was your unlit eyes and the scorch mark on your chest and the smoking Kanoka-gun in the hands of the Ta-Matoran standing over you. The second thing I saw was the Kanoka-gun in my own hands and the hole I put in the Ta-Matoran's Kanohi.
My head was throbbing and a black haze was closing around the edges of my vision as if I were in a dream. There was an Agori in one corner of the room, fumbling with a key at a locked door. I shouted and aimed my Kanoka-gun at him and he paused.
I opened my mouth but couldn't form words. I tried again. "Why did you kill her?" I said.
"Why did you kill her?" I shouted.
"Orders! Just--orders! I don't know why--"
The Agori looked at me and looked over my shoulder. Before I could react to stop him he unholstered a Kanoka-gun and shot himself.
I didn't understand any of it. Nothing made sense. I fell to my knees, dropped my weapon, clutched at my head, but it still didn't make sense. What were you doing here? Who faked your death and why? And why--why did they kill you? My head refused to work, like I was asleep and couldn't wake up.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw your lifeless body awkwardly cradled in one of Nilam's arms. You. Dead. Toa Nilam. None of it made sense.
In here the Toa are your protectors.
"Come on, Fe-Matoran. Let's get you somewhere safe."
Here you need not live in fear!
I looked up into Toa Nilam's cold eyes. Without being quite sure what I was doing I pushed his hand away and threw the Kanoka-gun at his Kanohi and dove out a window into the dark, empty night.
This is your city of dreams!
* * * * *
Unless you've skipped here to the end (in which case I refer you to the beginning of the story where you belong), you have just finished the first in a new series of short stories collectively entitled "The Tales of Matero," a series I am co-writing with two of the most horrible people on BZP (AKA two decent buds who can actually write kinda goodly). The purpose of these short stories is to usher in an epic we are currently working on getting written. Keep reading for another paragraph and I'll tell you a little bit about it. Almost there. Just a little further.
The story is set some 100,000 years after the Fall, that is, the F.A.L.L., the "Foiling of the Antagonist via Lame Lunar-rock" (love you anyway, Greg). Mata-Nui has been gone for millennia, and even the Great Beings are gone, and the world has changed. In the city of Matero (Mat[a] + [At]ero, not to be confused with that beloved guy who died) a new hero will rise, and some stuff will happen, and people will do things, and there will be some ties to earth-shaking attempts at world conquest, and some memorable characters will make appearances and there will be drama and feels and lots of exciting literary devices and suchlike to engage your interest. So if you like stories and epics and drama and emotions and characters and awesomeness and all things BIONICLE, you may or may not enjoy our epic (we'll let you be the judge of that). And you may or may not want to keep an eye out for it (you can judge that, too), which may or may not be coming soon (unfortunately we reserve the right to be judges of that).
tl;dr - You just read a 3,000 word short story, and you can't read two paragraphs? srsly?
Saturday is named for the Roman god of agriculture, Saturn. Sidorday just sounds good, because the resemblance stops at the assonance.
I chose the Orkahm airship's registration number, #C12215, because L is the twelfth letter of the alphabet, U is the twenty-first, E is the fifth, that spells CLUE, and I'm just that creative.