A BZPOWER STORY
PROLOGUE: “THE MAD GREAT BEING”
---Sixteen Years Ago---
---24 AR [After Reformation]---
He crept through the trees, keeping a wary eye on the slowly setting sun as it drifted down the sky. It would not do to be caught in the dark of night without shelter; he could already feel the creatures of the night beginning to stir; they would soon wake up.
In the fading light, he could make out an ancient building, crumbling and covered with vines. A quick mental signal enhanced his visual perception, clearing the image and brightening it so that he could make out more of what was clearly some sort of ancient fortress. The sandy-brown stones were out of place amongst the layered greens of the jungle, and would have been better suited in a desert. As he approached the fortress, he was able to make out ancient carvings, from a dialect so old even his translator systems could not determine their origins.
This fortress was from a time long since past.
As he came close enough to reach out and touch the building, he stopped, turned, and then began to walk around it, circling it once to examine all four of the massive walls. Even in his decrepit state, the various systems in his body allowed him to accomplish the task within a few short minutes; a task that would have taken most others hours. Nonetheless, by the time he was finished, the sun was almost gone, and like clockwork, the jungle behind him was coming to life. His only shelter for the night would be inside the fortress itself.
Returning to the side of the fortress where he had discovered what once was an ornate entrance, he confidently stepped inside, somewhat surprised to find the halls within lit by torches. He had not seen any evidence of anyone other than himself being outside, and yet the torches, if his scanners were to be trusted, had been blazing for less than an hour.
This information did not trouble him; he had dealt with far more dangerous - far more sinister - things than this. It would take more than mysterious torches to bother him. So he continued on, working his way through the labyrinth-like halls towards the center of the fortress, where he felt a strange compulsion to be, as though someone were calling him.
He would have considered that strange, except that whoever was summoning him had made second-guessing the decision impossible.
When he found himself entering a room with a solitary jail cell and a massive stone slab slid into place, blocking the way he had come - and inconveniently, the only exit - he did indeed find it strange. Despite this, it was not half as strange as the being sitting cross-legged upon the floor of the cell. They were tall - taller even than him - with emerald green armor, and they wore an ornate helmet. Their head was bowed, and their eyes shut. He took a tentative step towards them, only to freeze in place when they raised a single hand, palm facing him.
“...hello?” he asked. His voice was ragged from disuse, mechanical against his will.
The being frowned, opening their eyes and tilting their head up to look at him. Then their eyes widened slightly and they nodded, as though he had somehow answered an unspoken question.
“Interesting,” they murmured. Their voice was like a thousand lines of silk, all sliding across each other. “A Matoran, when I first created you. Now a robot, long past your time.”
He frowned. “You… know who I am?”
They nodded, but tilted their head to the side, re-examining him. “Curious… you are not him. So I did create you, but somewhere else. You are not from here. You’ve come a long way.”
“Look,” he started, stepping forward, clenching his fists. “I don’t know who you are, but you’re gonna start answering some questions right now. Who are you? Why are you here? How do you know me?”
The being was silent for a long moment before asking, “where is your staff?”
The question threw him off and he involuntarily stepped back into his original position, his frown deepening as he realized that his staff was no longer in his hands. He twisted, intending to go look for it, but found himself rooted in place; his legs would no longer move. He wrestled with them for several seconds before giving up the task and turning back towards the mysterious being, his eyes narrowing into a glare at the sight of his staff hovering at their side.
“Once, long ago, I helped to create you, or rather, another me did.” The being said, seeming to speak as much to themselves as they were to him. “You were a Matoran of Gravity; my first contribution to the Matoran race. I named you.”
“I don’t go by that name anymore,” he snapped, scowling. “It’s meaningless to me - the name of a murderer, and so much worse.”
The being laughed - a rich, intoxicating sound, addicting in its pure and unadulterated pleasure. “No, no, you are mistaken. You bear the name now, as you should; you have gone by it for many years now, although nowhere near as long as I would have preferred. You go by Voltex, yes? That is what I called you.”
His scowl turned back into a frown and he shook his head, unable to understand. “I… I don’t….”
“I touched the Mask of Life, and it cursed me,” the being told him, their eyes shining. “Everything I touch comes to life. Isn’t that interesting? But it was a curse, for I made a mistake, and oh, the other Great Beings, they never tolerated mistakes.”
“You’re insane,” he decided. “You have to be.”
“If assuming that will help you to keep your own insanity then certainly,” the being replied, their voice full of mirth. “The ‘Mad Great Being’ they called me, until they locked me in here and forgot about me forever. What a quaint little title. I admire it; perhaps I am insane. I would not know; you are the first I have spoken to in many millennia.”
He wanted to move, wanted to leave. His head was beginning to spin. The Mad Great Being appeared to both know this and take immense pleasure in the knowledge.
“I had rivals, you see. Enemies. Some of them thought me foolish, as though I were some little child. Thought that they could turn my own creations against me, modify them for their own purposes without my knowing…” here, their gaze locked with his own, and if his robotic body could have felt chills, Voltex would have shuddered. “They changed you. Tried to wipe away your programming and replace it with their own, with a portion of themselves, and very nearly succeeded, yes. But I am very clever, for here you are; for unknown to them, you were always still in there, simply waiting to be let back out. Their plans were their own undoing, for they played right into mine.”
He shook his head. “I don’t understand where you’re going with this. What is this supposed to mean?”
The Mad Great Being shrugged. “Alone out of the Great Beings, I have always had the gift and curse of foresight. I have foreseen it all, and here, in this universe, you are my salvation. For only a Great Being can tear down the bars of my cell and the walls of this fortress. Only at the hands of a Great Being can I become free… and you have a part of one locked away inside of you.”
The Mad Great Being shook their head, studying him more closely. “No, that is not correct… ooh, he is clever indeed. You have… two? Really?”
“Two of what?” Voltex asked, eyes narrowed.
He sighed. “You’re something else, aren’t you?”
“Well, I am a Great Being,” they replied, their voice light and cheerful, “and besides, as you so succinctly put it, I am insane. Although if we’re both honest with ourselves - and I do believe we should be - you are as well. We both know you should be dead, not locked away inside a Maxilos unit! Gone and turned yourself into even more of an artificial intelligence than you were before!”
“Before?” he asked, at this point completely lost.
“Well, yes. You Matoran were all mostly mechanical. And besides, you can’t just make souls and personalities. You were just highly specialized AIs - and you, specifically, have managed to break your programming rather spectacularly. But then, if I had been called something as silly as ‘White One’, maybe I would to. Velika was always so awful with naming things…” the Mad Great Being trailed off, lost in their ramblings. Voltex had just opened his mouth to speak when they suddenly turned back to him. “How long has it been? Since the Reformation?”
“...about twenty-four years,” he answered.
“Interesting,” they murmured, looking away once again.
He coughed. “You… said something about a Great Being inside of me?”
They shrugged, waving the issue away. “Oh, yes, Velika. That nutter. Really, if any of the Great Beings deserved to be called ‘mad’, it’d be him, not me. He managed to override your coding by essentially inserting a small portion of his own soul into you. Made you stop being Voltex and start being him. And then when you broke through, came here and stopped the other you, and the other you found a way to transfer his thoughts into you as memories to preserve himself, because both of you are too clever for your own goods. Unfortunate, isn’t it darling? You’re a ticking time bomb.”
“Thanks,” he muttered. “I’m really feeling your appreciation.”
The near-blinding grin he received in response suggested that the Great Being seated in the cell with his staff had long since lost the ability to perceive sarcasm. “Thank you! I do appreciate you! That’s why I brought you here, of course. Because you’re you, and that means you’re lugging him around too. Or, you know, a part of him. It works!”
“What works?!” he cried. “Why did you call me here?!”
“To let me out, of course,” the Mad Great Being said, sounding confused. “Did I not explain it already? You have a bit of Velika inside of you. Just grab the bars, picture whichever version of those different White Ones inside of you that you want, and they’ll be deleted in exchange for freeing me!”
“That sounds… overly complicated,” he muttered.
The Mad Great Being shrugged cheerfully. “I don’t make the rules, dear.”
Resisting the urge to groan, Voltex took a deep breath before slowly nodding. “Okay. So I grab the bars, lose some memories that were never mine to begin with, this whole place comes down, you get freed, and I get to walk away?”
“Awesome. The answer is no.”
“Great! Let’s just - wait, no?”
The Mad Great Being frowned, seeming perplexed by his refusal. “No, you see, you have to say yes. Because I foresaw myself being freed. So… it’s happening. You can’t stop it.”
Voltex shrugged, trying to ignore the gears that fell loose and clattered to a floor as a result of the action. “I think I can. Even if you won’t let me move, I’ll just stay here as long as it takes. I can induce a permanent sleep-state in myself, you know. One of the perks of this body, despite its state. Maybe somebody else will come along and free you, but it won’t be me.”
“I specifically saw you freeing me. Robot body and everything,” the Mad Great Being replied, sounding frustrated before beginning to mutter to themselves. “Hmmph. What did I do wrong? Did I miss something? What if… no, no, that wouldn’t work. But then… no. Maybe…? Oh! Yes! I will give you a reward!”
“A reward,” Voltex replied.
“Yes!” the Mad Great Being exclaimed, holding out for what appeared to be some sort of data stick. “Free me and you get this! A map to all of the other Great Beings still on Spherus-Magna!”
“Why would I want that?” he asked.
“Because I know one, he was always friendlier than the rest,” the being said, sounding excited. “Never wanted me locked up, liked you all a lot. His name was Angonce. He can fit you with a fancy new upgraded body and everything! Better than that piece of junk you’re stuck inside right now, at least.”
“Come on, we both know you can’t refuse it! You were practically programmed to survive before you became a robot! Now it’s like… you just have to! Right? You can’t refuse something that’ll help you survive!”
“...you seem to know a lot more about me than I know about myself,” Voltex replied, more wary than before.
The Mad Great Being tapped their head. “Foresight, remember? You’ll discover it for yourself and share the information someday. And then you’ll die.”
“And then I’ll - wait, what? Why would you tell me that?!”
“Because you deserve to know!” the Mad Great Being responded, still annoyingly cheerful. “So, are you going to bust me out of here or what? Quickly, too. It’s almost nap time!”
“Nap… what? I don’t even… I don’t even understand.”
“You don’t need to! Just break the bars! Forget one of those White One fellows and break me out, darling.”
He shook his head. “I still don’t trust you.”
“Oh, you don’t need to trust me; you just need to free me! Come on now, dear Tex. I might as well be your mother, of a sort. Would you really leave your own mother to rot inside of a jail cell for all of eternity?”
“...I don’t even know what a mother is,” he muttered, shaking his head before snapping, “and don’t call me Tex! What a stupid nickname! My real name isn’t that long.”
“Oh please, you know you love it,” the Mad Great Being replied, waving their hand dismissively. “As for what a mother is, well, I can give you the answer to that along with the map to the other Great Beings! How does that sound, Tex?”
“Stop calling me Tex and you have a deal,” Voltex replied, scowling. “You have got to be the single most irritating person I have ever had the misfortune of meeting.”
The Mad Great Being clapped their hands together, giggling gleefully. “Excellent! Very well then, darling Voltex! Grab the bars, and shatter them with your robotic might! Forget one of those ugly White Ones inside of your head! Free me!”
With a great deal of reluctance, Voltex did just that. The dilapidated Maxilos unit he was inhabiting sputtered and sparked, his footsteps clanking upon the stone floor as he approached the jail cell and grabbed onto the bars, forcing down the feeling of trepidation that he felt. He shut his eyes and concentrated on the memories that did not belong to him - and just as quickly as he had pictured them they began to vanish, as the bars to the cell shimmered out of existence until he was clutching thin air. He opened his eyes, barely managing to keep his balance as he nearly toppled over. The Mad Great Being chuckled, pressing his staff back into his hands as he stared at them, dumbfounded.
“Here you are, darling,” they said, handing him the data stick. “A map to the Great Beings, starting with Angonce, as well as a dictionary and a few other miscellaneous pieces of information. Should it ever be necessary, I do hope that they will help you to integrate with the cultures of the locals with more success than the rest of the Matoran are having.”
“I… okay,” he muttered, his gaze falling to the stick in his hand. “Um… cool. So now what?”
“You need to get going into the jungle, I expect,” the Great Being responded, patting him on the shoulder lightly. “It’s almost nap time for you, darling. You’ll understand what I mean when the time comes! As for me… I do believe I shall travel the world!”
They laughed at the confused expression on the face of the Maxilos unit as she walked away. Upon reaching the now-open exit, they briefly turned back to face him.
“Good luck Tex, darling,” they said, giving him a small smile. “Do try to take care of yourself.”
Speechless, Voltex was only able to nod; it was only after the Mad Great Being had vanished that he realized they had continued to call him ‘Tex’, causing him to curse with frustration.
---40 AR [After Reformation]---
The tall, lithe being shifted her weight from one foot to the other, pulling the hood of her dirty brown cloak up so that it hid the ornate helmet that she wore; what little of her emerald green armor could be seen gleamed in the sunlight. She rested one black gloved hand upon the pommel of her sword, the other shielding her eyes from the sun as she took in the sight of the city before her.
Sixteen years of wandering had led her back to civilization at last.
At her side, a small bronze Matoran of Fire was jittery, hopping from one foot to the other, the Kanohi Kakama on his face practically vibrating with excitement.
“New Atero,” he whispered, his excitement flowing out of his mouth alongside his voice. “Is this really it, Lady Araina?”
The gloved hand that had been shielding her eyes was lowered to rest upon the excitable Ta-Matoran’s head, gently freezing him in place; she laughed lightly when he glanced up at her, his expression worried; at the sound, his face shifted back into its excited expression.
“Yes it is, my dear Bronze,” she replied. “This is where we shall find the rest of our team.”
TO BE CONTINUED!
In CHAPTER ONE, we will officially meet the rest of the team - as well as getting some interesting backstory for Bronze!
And perhaps a few other appearances as well?