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OBLIVION: A BZPower Story

Oblivion BZPower Secret Santa Voltex Uprising

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#1 Offline Lucina

Lucina
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  • 22-December 08
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Posted Jan 09 2016 - 06:44 PM

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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.


“White One.”


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?”


“Yep!”


“Awesome. The answer is no.”


“Great! Let’s just - wait, no?”


“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.”


“I-”


“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.


---Present Day---

---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?


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#2 Offline Lucina

Lucina
  • Premier Member
  • Premier Outstanding BZP Citizens
  • The Storyteller

  • 22-December 08
  • 11,051 posts
  •   Outstanding BZPower Citizen

Posted Jan 16 2016 - 12:05 PM

“MEET THE TEAM”

 

---PRESENT DAY---

---40 AR [AFTER REFORMATION]---

To any who did not know them (which, to be quite frank, was everyone), the sight of a bronze, red and orange Ta-Matoran practically vibrating with excitement as he followed a hooded figure three times his height might have been a little bit strange; but for the Matoran Bronze and his master/creator the Mad Great Being Araina, it was simply life as usual.

 

As such, it was easy for them to ignore the stares as they walked through the streets of New Atero.

 

“So who are we getting first?” Bronze asked excitedly, his head nearly a blur as he gazed all around, trying to take it all in.

 

The Mad Great Being chuckled. “We will be splitting up very soon, my child. While I find our Mask Maker, you will be checking into the New Atero Library to find a Matoran named Sirien.”

 

The Ta-Matoran pouted. “Why can’t you come with me?”

 

“Sirien would be less than pleased to see me, I am afraid,” Araina replied, sounding as though the thought did not bother her. “Do not worry, dear Bronze. She will follow you back to me, and by the time you are finished, I expect that the Mask Maker will have joined us – and his companion will have shared everything he knows about our final partner.”

 

“The Mayor?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Bronze nodded solemnly before cracking a smile. “I am very excited!”

 

Araina smiled down at him as she slowly came to a stop, placing a hand upon Bronze’s head to halt him when he continued walking. “That is good to hear, little one. We have reached the library – go inside now. I shall see you later.”

 

“How will I know where to find you?” Bronze asked, looking worried.

 

With a shrug, the Mad Great Being began to walk away before tossing a response over her shoulder: “You will know, little one. Just have faith.”

 

---

 

Bronze stepped inside the New Atero Library with a bounce in his steps, eager to meet this so-called ‘Sirien’, whoever they were. Attempting to follow the Lady Araina’s instructions to ‘act casual’, he browsed the nearest shelf of books and tried to look like he was interested in them. The covers of the books were all different colors, with no seeming method to their organization (not that Bronze particularly cared, anyway).

 

Under the pretense of scrutinizing the books, the Ta-Matoran slowly edged towards the receptionist counter, where a female Matoran with dark bronze and cobalt armor was seated upon a stool and leaning over the counter, all of her attention focused on the book before her.

 

When he finally reached the counter, Bronze dropped all pretenses, turning his undivided attention upon the Matoran and poking her once.

 

“Hello!” he said, smiling at her.

 

The Matoran ignored him, her eyes remaining steadfastly attached to her book. Bronze poked the dark bronze and cobalt Matoran in the shoulder six times before she finally reacted, her eyes narrowing into a glare as her gaze shifted from the open book on the counter to him.

“What?!”

“Hello!” he said, smiling and holding out his hand. “I’m Bronze! Who’re you?”

She ignored his outstretched hand in favor of pointing at the name tag on her chest. “Do you know how to read?”

“Nope!”

The Ce-Matoran slammed the book shut and stood to her feet, the stool she had been sitting on scraping the floor as it was pushed back. Without sparing him another glance she turned on her heel and stalked away. Bronze remained where he was for two seconds before rushing after her.

“Wait, come back! I need to ask you something! If I don’t Lady Araina will get mad! Well, you know, more mad then she is already, I guess. Great Beings are so moody sometimes, it’s just like-”

He was cut off before he could continue by a hand pressing against his mouth and shoving him headfirst into the nearest bookshelf. Bronze blinked and shook his head to clear it as the hand was removed and the Ce-Matoran stepped in front of him, poking him hard in the chest.

“Did you just say Great Being?” she asked, her voice dangerously low.

Bronze nodded, grinning. “Yep! She’s my boss! Sorta. She doesn’t say boss but it’s kinda like she is the boss because she tells me what to do and then I do whatever it is?”

“A Great Being,” the Ce-Matoran repeated, bemused. “In New Atero?”

Bronze nodded again, trying and failing to remove the Ce-Matoran’s finger from where it was now stabbing into his chest. “Ow. Yes. She brought me here. We’re looking for some Matoran. I think she went to find the mayor? Yeah, something like that. I wanted to go but she said I had to get us some librarian named ‘Sirien’, whoever that is, and then I got lost for awhile because I didn’t know what a library was but some nice fellow pointed me over here and now I’m here and do you know where this ‘Sirien’ is?”

A look of disbelief was his only response before the other Matoran drily replied, “I’m Sirien.”

He blinked. “Oh.”

 

“What does a Great Being want with me? Why is one in New Atero in the first place?”

 

“She’s assembling a team!” Bronze replied, his smile briefly flickering into a frown as he continued to struggle – and fail – to remove Sirien’s finger from his chest. “Ow. Ow. Yep. She said that we needed a few more trustworthy Matoran to help us find a really powerful Kanohi Mask!”

 

“Really.”

 

“Yep! Ow. She wanted this Matoran called Sirien – well, you, I guess – because you’d be getting tired of the library and looking for adventure! And because you made weapons during the Destiny War and the Uprising War, whatever those are, which means you’re good with dealing with people! Ow. Really powerful people though, you know what I mean? Like Makuta! Whatever those are.”

 

“And the others?” Sirien asked, her impatience growing – not that Bronze had the tact to notice.

 

“She called one of them a monster! A smoke monster, actually. Or maybe that was his name and he’s called Smoke Monster? I dunno, something like that, but he knows his way around a forge, Lady Araina said! And he fought in some other war a long time back and needs new friends, or at least that’s what she told me. And then the third one is a Matoran called Marako!”

 

Sirien flinched back as though she had been burned, her glare intensifying. “Who?”

 

“Marako! She said he was the mayor.”

 

“Oh, he’s the mayor, alright,” Sirien snapped, shaking her head. “He’s as corrupt a politician as they come. I refuse to work with him; so if he’s working with you, then I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.”

 

Bronze frowned, pouting. “Aw, but we haven’t even met him yet! I came to get you first because Lady Araina wanted to talk to the smoke monster on her own! And because she says the mayor might be too dangerous to get to, so we might leave him behind anyway. Don’t you want adventure?”

 

“I’m fine right here, away from that piece of trash Matoran,” Sirien muttered, pushing her stool back into its place and opening her book upon the counter. “You can leave now.”

 

Bronze nodded. “That’s okay. I’ll just wait here. Lady Araina will know where to find me!”

 

“Allow me to clarify,” the Ce-Matoran responded, glaring at him. “Leave. Now.”

 

“But I’ll get lost!”

 

“Not my problem. Get out.”

 

Shoulders drooping, Bronze turned to go – only to be stopped in his tracks by a new voice coming from behind him.

 

“Dear Sirien, you wouldn’t be treating this poor fellow rudely, would you? After all, you know that I pride myself on the fact that my brand provides excellent customer service. It is the way of a successful business model to make sure all customers are serviced with kindness, understanding, and compassion.”

 

Bronze glanced over his shoulder to see a Ko-Matoran wearing only gray armor standing directly behind Sirien, his right hand resting upon her shoulder. He wore a noble Kanohi Shelek, and a dagger that looked like it was made of ice hung at his waist. He appeared calm, if somewhat disappointed – in contrast with Sirien, who appeared to be on the verge of shaking with frustration.

 

“No, sir,” she managed to spit out. “I’m not.”

 

The Ko-Matoran shook his head, clearly having expected the answer. “I will be the judge of that. Good lad, what is your name?”

 

“Bronze,” Bronze replied, walking back over to the counter and sticking his hand out with a grin. “My name is Bronze!”

 

With a small smile, the Ko-Matoran shook his hand. “Well Bronze, it is nice to meet you. My name is Makua – I am the owner of this library, as well as the Threadbare Books chain. I… do apologize if I appear somewhat detached; socializing with others is not my strong suit. That is why I have employees to do it for me.”

 

At this, he directed his gaze down to Sirien, with his eyes narrowed slightly. She rolled her eyes with a huff, crossing her arms. “Whatever you say, boss.”

 

“Did she treat you poorly?” Makua asked, his eyes snapping back to Bronze. “Was she rude?”

 

Bronze shrugged, not wanting to get the other Matoran in trouble. “I… suppose… maybe a little. But it’s fine!”

 

“No… no, it is not fine,” Makua murmured.

 

Now, Bronze was definitely oblivious to most things – but even he knew when someone was in trouble, and he always hated to see anyone in trouble. So, hoping to draw the Ko-Matoran’s attention away from the issue, Bronze pointed to the ice dagger at his hip. “What’s that?”

 

“This?” Makua asked, nudging the dagger. “It is a large knife, made of an ice that will never melt – forever frozen. It was given to me years ago by an old friend… Voxumo, I think his name was. He’d worked together with a Matoran of Sonics by the name of Chro for several weeks to create it. I haven’t seen him since long before the Reformation; this dagger is all I have to remember him by.”

 

“Oh,” the Ta-Matoran said, the smile vanishing off his face. “I am sorry to hear that! Losing friends is sad.”

 

“I suppose it is, but I do at least retain fond memories,” Makua replied, giving him another small smile before returning his attention to Sirien with a frown, thus rendering Bronze’s plan entirely pointless. “So. You treated this potential customer rudely.”

 

Sirien stood to her feet, the stool clattering to the floor as she threw her hands into the air. “He can’t even read!”

 

“Why does that matter?” Makua asked. “Perhaps he is wanting to learn.”

 

“He’s not trying to learn anything!” Sirien snapped. “He wanted to drag me on some fool’s quest with a Great Being he made up using his imagination.”

 

“Hey, I did not!” Bronze cried, shaking his head so fast his Kanohi Kakama became displaced. “Lady Araina is real! She sent me to find you!”

 

“This is the fourth incident in the last month, Sirien,” Makua said quietly. “Whether this so-called ‘Araina’ is real or not, I am afraid I cannot allow you to remain as an employee of Threadbare Books. You are tarnishing our reputation.”

 

“You’re firing me,” Sirien said, sounding decidedly unimpressed.

 

“I am.”

 

The Ce-Matoran shrugged. “Whatever. This place involves too much sitting around and doing nothing anyway.”

 

“I am sorry you feel that way,” Makua replied. “Please leave immediately. I will mail you the proper paperwork. I trust you will know what to do with it?”

 

“I’m familiar with the procedure, yes,” Sirien growled.

 

“Very good,” Makua said, nodding sharply. “Goodbye.”

 

Sirien shook her head and muttered something unintelligible under her breath before stalking away. Bronze turned to follow, stopping when Makua placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“You seem like a nice fellow,” the Ko-Matoran said. “Whenever you are finished with this ‘fool’s quest’, as Sirien so un-politely put it, feel free to stop by anytime.”

 

Bronze grinned. “Will do! It was nice to meet you sir! Bye!”

 

Makua chuckled. “Farewell.”

 

As the Ko-Matoran removed his hand from Bronze’s shoulder, the Ta-Matoran took off after Sirien, sprinting as fast as he could towards the library doors, which were swinging shut after her. Maybe she would be willing to help them now?

 

He burst out onto the street only to find Sirien having stopped directly in front of him; in his hasty attempt to stop, Bronze tripped and flailed as he crashed into Sirien, knocking both of them to the pavement.

 

“Ow.”

 

“You idiot!” Sirien hissed, shoving him away and pushing herself to her feet, dusting herself off. “Watch where you’re going!”

 

“Will you join us now?” Bronze asked, still lying on the road.

 

The Ce-Matoran glared down at him. “No.”

 

“Aw.” He fell silent for a moment before “…are you sure?”

 

Siren’s glare intensified and she opened her mouth to answer – only to be interrupted by a loaded Kanoka Disk launcher nudging the back of her head. She shut her eyes, mouthing something silently as the Matoran behind her cleared their throat.

 

“Both of you slowly get up, and follow me.”

 

Well…” Sirien muttered, so quietly that only Bronze could hear her. “Shi-”

 

---

 

Elsewhere, the Mad Great Being Araina bent over as she entered the forge, smiling at the lone dark blue and gold Matoran working at the forge. As the door swung shut behind her with a clang the Matoran stilled, glancing up at her and wiping soot off their Kanohi Mask – a Kanohi Huna, Mask of Concealment.

 

“Hello,” Araina said, smiling at them across the room as the various machines in the room slowly shut down one by one. “I’m looking for a Matoran who goes by the moniker of ‘Smoke Monster’. Do you know him?”

 

“Know him?” the Matoran asked, snorting derisively. “I am him, lady. Who’re you?”

 

“My name is Araina, although most would call me ‘Lady Araina’, if they did not just dive straight to ‘Mad Great Being’,” the Mad Great Being replied, her tone casual as she approached the long table where the Matoran was standing; a small smile flickered on her face at the sight of the Matoran cringing at her last words. “I’m here to offer Smoke Monster a job offer.”

 

“No can do, uh, Lady Araina,” the Matoran said, sounding as though he were trying not to stutter. “Perfectly happy where I am, thanks.”

 

The Mad Great Being leaned over the table so that she towered over the Matoran, who slowly leaned back as she pressed her face up to his.

 

“Let’s be honest with each other,” she said, speaking quietly. “Point number one – you are not Smoke Monster. Point number two – I am speaking to a hologram. The real you is still standing next to the controls next to the machine, where you helpfully shut everything down so that we could hear each other.”

 

As she straightened the image of the Matoran below her flickered out of view; as the same time, another Matoran – this one with black and emerald armor, wearing what appeared to be a powerless copy of the Kanohi Rode – shimmered as he allowed himself to be seen. She smiled widely, although this appeared to only make the Matoran more nervous than he already was.

 

“I must admit, my dear, that you are sending me very mixed signals,” she said. “Are you attempting to be polite, or is it merely a ruse so that you might make more accurate your lie?”

 

“I, uh…”

 

“What is your real name, dear?” Araina asked, before wagging a finger at him. “And don’t you lie to me! I have foreseen how this conversation and the events that follow go. I know who you are already.”

 

“They call me the Artisan,” the Matoran replied, his mouth a thin line.

 

“An Av-Matoran,” the Mad Great Being said, her eyes narrowing as she nodded, interest piqued. “Very curious. You have an extraordinary level of control over your innate abilities. To not only make yourself vanish but to make me see someone who is not actually there? That is a skill even some Toa would struggle with.”

 

The black and emerald armored Av-Matoran shrugged, glancing off to the side. “I’ve had a lot of practice. It’s useful in the business.”

 

“The information business,” Araina replied.

 

It was a statement, not a question – and the Artisan sighed, nodding along. “Yeah. If people need information they can’t find elsewhere, they come to me. If I don’t know it already – and I usually do – then it doesn’t take long to acquire.”

 

“I can see why Smoke Monster decided to go into hiding beside you,” the Mad Great Being said. “It must be very useful to vanish into thin air when necessary… so tell me, where is he now?”

 

The Artisan shrugged. “He’s out, somewhere. I dunno.”

 

Shaking her head, Araina sighed forlornly. “Here I thought that you had agreed to be honest with me, dear Artisan. It is fine. I shall find Smoke Monster myself.”

 

Faster than any Matoran could move, Araina’s right arm flashed out, grabbing at the space where the blue and gold Matoran image had been seconds before – and her hand closed around an invisible throat, gripping it tightly. She tilted her head to the side, staring at the Artisan with a sinister smile on her face.

 

“Ooh, you are very good,” she purred. “Wipe both of you from my sight and replace him with a false image? You’ve grown adept at your powers indeed. But not good enough to fool a Great Being, Artisan. Halt your manipulations. Now.”

 

In the blink of an eye there was suddenly a very visible, very panicked blue and gold Matoran struggling in her grip, both hands trying (and failing) to remove her hand from his throat. Just like the illusion image, the Matoran wore a blue Kanohi Huna. She released him and he stumbled back, coughing raggedly and rubbing at his throat gingerly with both hands.

 

“Of course,” Araina continued, her tone light and conversational, “all three of us know that the best control in the world wouldn’t allow you to pull off that stunt alone. You make a very convincing Matoran of Psionics, dear Smoke Monster, but your play with the illusions reveals your true nature.”

 

“Stop… talking…” Smoke Monster responded, his voice hoarse as he glared up at her. “I don’t… know why you’re here. But… I want you… to leave.”

 

“You are coming with me,” Araina said, her expression – and her tone – turning serious. “You will not refuse my offer, Smoke Monster. You will either join me voluntarily, or I will drag you out of this forge in however many pieces I deem satisfactory.”

 

“You’re bluffing,” the Artisan muttered from across the forge.

 

Araina’s head whipped around to stare at him as the table beneath her suddenly came to life, sprinting for the door. It smacked into it and bounced off, leaving behind several hairline fractures in its wake; the table stumbled back before steadying itself, preparing to ram the exit again. The Mad Great Being, her eyes blazing, continued to stare at the black and emerald Av-Matoran, who shuddered and shook his head.

 

“Never mind,” he said, shaking his head frantically. “You’re not. You’re not bluffing.”

 

She lifted her left hand and the table fell still. Her gaze returned to Smoke Monster, who had frozen in place, eyes wide. Sensing her eyes on him, he slowly straightened and shook his head.

 

“I’m sorry, but I have to refuse,” he told her, voice firm. “Whatever you want me for… I can’t get involved. I made a promise years ago to never get involved with anything like that again.”

 

“I know of your promise,” Araina said. “I’m telling you to break it.”

 

“And I’m telling you NO!” Smoke Monster snapped, slamming his fist into the wall at the last word. “I can’t! I can’t, alright? Nothing you say will convince me otherwise!”

 

The Mad Great Being smiled at him innocently; Smoke Monster’s gaze turned confused before slowly shifting as he realized that he had been played, his eyes going wide again.

 

“What?” The Artisan asked, sounding confused.

 

“She knows something,” Smoke Monster muttered, his eyes glued to Araina’s. “Something that’ll convince me to join her no matter what.”

 

Araina slowly nodded, her tone filled with smug satisfaction as she asked, “would you like to know what it is?”

 

“I’m going to regret this,” Smoke Monster muttered to himself, closing his eyes and shaking his head before looking back at her. “Fine. I give in. What do you know?”

 

“I know that Voltex is still alive.”

 

Both of the Matoran stilled. The silence was thick, hanging over each of them like a blanket as the Artisan and Smoke Monster both went over what she had said over and over. Finally, it was the Artisan who broke the silence.

 

“No way,” the black armored Av-Matoran said, his voice barely a whisper. “No way. You mean… the Rebellion leader? The one who brought down the White Council and Control?”

 

Araina nodded as Smoke Monster was finally broken out of his reverie, his shock obvious as he turned to the Artisan.

 

“You know about all of that?!” the blue and gold Matoran sputtered.

 

The Artisan shrugged, looking uncomfortable. “Not everyone in Control agreed with what was happening, you know. Some of us turned, or just outright left.”

 

Smoke Monster’s mouth opened and closed like a fish.

 

“Is that a yes, then?” Araina asked, chuckling.

 

“I, uh,” Smoke Monster responded, still in shock. “I don’t believe it.”

 

“Believe it, my dear,” Araina said. “Your little Maxilos friend? He and Voltex were one and the same.”

 

“…how do you know?” Smoke Monster asked.

 

“He is the one who freed me from the fortress in which I had been imprisoned since before the Shattering,” Araina answered, smiling fondly at the memory. “If I am not mistaken, it was almost exactly sixteen years ago today that he freed me. My, the time does fly. Well, we must be going!”

 

“I – but – hey, wait!” Smoke Monster cried as Araina turned, walking towards the exit. “You can’t just leave like that! You need to explain all of this!”

 

“My dear Smoke Monster,” Araina said, her tone sympathetic as she turned back to him. “I know that I just blew your mind, but we really must be going. I am afraid that our dear friends Bronze and Sirien have been apprehended by the final member of our team, and if we do not hurry, we will be forced to break into – and then out of – the New Atero prison.”

 

The blue and gold Matoran gulped, his gaze flickering to the Artisan. “Uh, sorry, but… I think I’ve gotta go.”

 

Rolling his eyes, the Artisan shrugged. “Go do what you’ve gotta do, I guess. Come back whenever you’re finished, assuming you’re still alive.”

 

“Will do!”

 

Having said his goodbye, Smoke Monster raced after the Mad Great Being as she opened the door and stepped back out onto the sunny New Atero street. She glanced both ways before stepping into the middle of the road in one stride, forcing a convoy of Matoran and Agori to slam the breaks on their hovercrafts.

 

“What’s going on?” one of the Matoran cried, hopping out of his speeder with a scowl. “Who is in my way this time?!”

 

Araina turned towards him and knelt down on one knee, leaning to his level and grinning. “Aha! A good day to you, Mayor Marako. I am the Mad Great Being, Araina. I’m here to drag you off on an adventure to save the world… and also to free those two Matoran you imprisoned outside of the New Atero Library for being in your way.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED!

 

In CHAPTER TWO, the Mad Great Being will keep her friends close as she and Smoke Monster deal with Marako – and we will also get to meet the final member of the team, the currently missing Agori Sventola!

 

And perhaps some other cool stuff?

 

REVIEW TOPIC


Edited by Lucina, Mar 16 2016 - 07:19 PM.

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#3 Offline Lucina

Lucina
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Posted Jan 24 2016 - 10:18 PM

“KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE…”

 

---TEN YEARS AGO---

---30 AR [AFTER REFORMATION]---

 

She was trekking through what was left of the Bara-Magna desert when she found it.

 

It was lodged between two rocks – one rather large, and one rather small – that rose up from the desert sand like jagged teeth, the only bumps in an otherwise flat, bland landscape for as far as the eye could see. The sun gleamed off of it, reflecting so brightly in every direction that it was blinding to look at it for very long.

 

Any other being would have done one of two things: either fled, believing that whatever they had discovered was too dangerous, or approached with extreme caution, as they had no idea what it was. But she was not like other beings, and so she instead made straight for it, her vision tunneling in on it as she directed all of her attention and focus to the shining object lodged in the rocks.

 

She was not known as the Mad Great Being for nothing.

 

As she drew nearer, it became clear what the mysterious object was – a bronze Kanohi Mask.

 

It took her a few seconds to place it, for it had been many years since she had seen one, but the iconic shape was clearly that of the Kanohi Kakama. She slowly reached out with one hand towards the mask and picked it up; the mask seemed to hum in her hand. The Great Being closed her eyes, relishing the calm that the sound brought her –

 

- and then it began to vibrate, shaking so violently in her grip that she dropped it to the sand. The bronze Kanohi Kakama shuddered as it fell through the air before suddenly halting a foot above the ground. The Great Being grimaced as she noticed the telltale golden beam of energy connecting from the palm of her hand to the mask, which rose three feet before stopping.

 

Before her eyes, something began to take shape behind the Kanohi Mask; within seconds a head had formed. It was followed closely by a neck, which spread into a torso, from which four limbs sprouted, extending into arms and legs. The newly formed being solidified as their feet touched the ground, the golden glow around them fading even as their eyes and the heartlight in the center of their chest activated, each of them glowing yellow. The golden beam connecting the being to her hand vanished as the glow around the new creation faded away into nothing.

 

She rubbed at her forehead wearily, the effort of the creation having tired her more than she had anticipated; nevertheless, she smiled at the sight of the newly formed being staring at their hands in befuddled astonishment.

 

“Hello, little one,” she said.

 

It looked up at her, confused, before slowly opening its mouth and saying, “hello, little one.”

 

Amusement bubbled up inside of her, and the Mad Great Being laughed. “Oh, little one, I must apologize. It appears that I will have to teach you the intricacies of communication myself.”

 

“…communication?” the being asked, their head tilting to the side as they considered the word.

 

She knelt down, placing her hand on the being’s shoulder and nodding. “You are a Matoran, little one – by the looks of you, a Matoran of Fire, with that red and orange armor. I am… your creator. I have given you life, little one.”

 

“Little one?”

 

She laughed again. “Yes, little. You are very little compared to me, and very young. So you are my little one. But I suppose we need a better name for you, don’t we? Something to call you by.”

 

“Something to call you by?”

 

“You may call me Lady Araina if it suits you, for Araina is my name,” she told the Matoran. “But you need a name of your own.”

 

“My name?” the Matoran asked.

 

The Mad Great Being nodded, standing back up and tapping her chin as she gazed down at the Matoran thoughtfully. “Hmm… well, I must admit, I have never brought a Kanohi Mask to life before… to create a brand new Matoran from one makes you very special. Perhaps I shall name you Kakama? But no, that does not sound right. Hmm. A bronze mask….”

 

“Bronze?” the Matoran muttered, looking down at their hands again. “Bronze.”

 

“Bronze… well, that might work for a little while, at least,” she decided. “Very well then, little one. Your name shall be Bronze.”

 

“My name is Bronze?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“My name is Bronze!”

 

The Ta-Matoran clapped his hands together, appearing very pleased and very excited. Araina rested a hand upon his shoulder, chuckling to herself as she turned away.

 

“Well, dear Bronze, come with me. The desert is not a place we should linger within for very long, and I doubt we shall see anything else worth seeing here. It is time to move on, and continue our travels elsewhere.”

 

---PRESENT DAY---

---40 AR [AFTER REFORMATION]---

 

Smoke Monster trailed behind the Mad Great Being Araina as she entered the town hall of New Atero. She in turn was following a Ko-Matoran that most citizens had come to hate – Mayor Marako. He was corrupt; a greedy, slimy, conniving scumbag who had sold out to the highest bidder on multiple occasions, succumbing to bribery and in turn bribing others, leaving a trail of ruined opponents in his wake. He was cruel to those who did not deserve it, and his rule was slowly but surely becoming totalitarian.

 

Smoke Monster did not hate him for any of this; he hated the Ko-Matoran for one specific reason. It was the same reason why certain beings found themselves thrown out of his forge without a second thought. Smoke Monster was the reason why it had become all but outlawed throughout the civilized portions of Spherus-Magna.

 

Mayor Marako wore a Kanohi Volitak.

 

Back before the Reformation – even before the Destiny War – was when the Volitak had first fallen out of favor. Smoke Monster had helped to tear down the corrupt Order of Mata-Nui, and the Brotherhood of Makuta had tried to fill in the power vacuum.

 

When the Dark Hunters called upon them to help in the fight for freedom, they had accepted… on one condition.

 

And on one side of the Destiny War, use of the Kanohi Volitak became forbidden.

 

While the use of the Mask of Stealth was by no means illegal in the eyes of the law, the declarations made by the Shadowed One at the beginning of the Destiny War had transcended it to become one of the unspoken rules of society, those rules that all beings followed if they were to be considered both kind and fair. Just as it was rude to unfairly criticize someone’s craft, rude to spit wantonly upon the ground, rude to be, well, rude… so too was it rude to wear the Kanohi Volitak.

 

Very few still knew of the reason why, and fewer still could explain the exact reasoning behind the original request. Smoke Monster was one of the ‘fewer still’.

 

He had taken part in a terrible war against corruption, led by a Matoran of Gravity who wore a silver Kanohi Volitak upon his face, bright blue eyes shining with determination… a Matoran who had led them to victory not once, but twice, in two final battles, against all of the odds. A Matoran who had perished, leaving less than thirty survivors behind to travel far away for four hundred years before returning back home to find the Order of Mata-Nui corrupt.

 

Those four hundred years spent travelling through different dimensions had been long and hard, but they had all made it back in the end.

 

The Shadowed One, one of those few who understood their fallen leader’s true nature, had also understood their request, and so had accepted it and followed through as a payment to them; and in return, they helped him to win first the Destiny War in the name of freedom, and then the Reformation War in the name of reunion. It was set aside, never to be worn again, as a silent, forgotten memorial for a hero whose leadership and sacrifice would never be remembered.

 

For the Mayor of New Atero to assume himself worthy to wear the Kanohi Volitak – and a silver one as well, at that – was nothing less than the ultimate insult, one that had Smoke Monster quivering with rage.

 

“Hey. We’re here.”

 

The disguised Av-Matoran shook his head, shaken out of his thoughts by one of the guards, who was jabbing him in the shoulder with a stiff finger. He glanced at the guard, who pointed at an empty uncomfortable-looking chair at a desk. Next to it stood the Mad Great Being, and across the desk in a far more comfortable swivel chair was the Mayor.

 

“Please, take a seat,” Marako said, his voice and expression both plain. “Guards, please wait outside the door. I am certain that this will not take too long.”

 

Smoke Monster resisted the urge to snap at him, forcing himself to appear calm as he took the seat that had been ‘offered’ to him. There was a Great Being standing next to him, who had told him less than an hour ago that Voltex was still alive after all this time. She was clearly insane.

 

She could handle this.

 

---

 

As the door clicked shut behind the guards, the Mad Great Being tilted her head to the side, the smile on her face rapidly becoming sinister. The Ko-Matoran Marako shuddered involuntarily at the sight, struggling to meet her eyes.

 

“Who are you?” he asked, managing not to stutter, even if she could still hear the tremble in his voice.

 

“I am Araina, although I am more commonly known as the Mad Great Being,” she answered, licking her lips (this caused Marako to flinch). “My associate here is a forger that I am certain you are familiar with. The name that he goes by is Smoke Monster.”

 

“You said something about dragging me off somewhere,” Marako growled, projecting false bravado. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t have you arrested and thrown in a cell this instant.”

 

She twirled her finger and the Mayor’s chair suddenly came to life, the armrests opening up and sealing around his wrists, trapping him in it. The Ko-Matoran opened his mouth to cry out, but a strap of leather swung across his face, gagging him. He wrestled with the restraints, but the chair was too strong.

 

“I can return this chair to its inanimate form just as I brought it to life,” she said. “I could do the same to you, if you wish. I am certain that it would be a far more merciful fate than whatever those Matoran and Agori planning to break in tonight plan for you. But you already know of them, don’t you? You have made far too many mistakes and grown too confident in your own power, Marako. Your enemies come for you; they smell blood. Your only avenue of escape lies with me, and you know this is true. It is why we are seated here, and why you have not already thrown us into a cell.”

 

The chair returned to its natural state and Marako sprang to his feet, rubbing tenderly at his wrists.

 

“How do you know all that?” he asked, glaring up at her.

 

She tapped the side of her head. “Foresight, Mayor Marako. It is both a blessing and a curse… much like my powers of life.”

 

“Well, you’re a bit off in your prediction,” he muttered. “Nighttime is too obvious these days, everybody is expecting it. The enemies sent to take care of me will be arriving within the hour. I don’t know if they plan to kill me on sight or… if they plan to make sure I last longer.”

 

She frowned. “That is indeed less time than I had been expecting. We will have to move quickly. Will you join us?”

 

“I don’t have a choice, do I?” the Mayor asked, shaking his head. “I don’t like it, but I’d rather live than not.”

 

Good,” Araina said, turning to go. “Let’s move, then. We don’t have much time.”

 

“No.”

 

The voice was Smoke Monster’s, speaking for the first time since they had entered the room. The Mad Great Being glanced over her shoulder at the blue and gold Matoran, whose determined gaze met her own unflinchingly.

 

“He takes off that mask,” Smoke Monster demanded. “He finds something else to wear, or I’ll kill him myself.”

 

“What? Absolutely not!” Marako snapped. “This is my Kanohi Mask! I deserve to wear it!”

 

“You do not,” Smoke Monster shot back, twisting in his seat and slamming his fist on the desk as he stood to his feet. “You are a taint on that mask, a blemish upon its history!”

 

“Be calm, little Smoke Monster,” Araina said. “He does not know the history of which you speak, and even if you were to share it with him, I am afraid that the Mayor would not believe you.”

 

“Then I will keep my mask, no?” the Mayor muttered.

 

“Hmm…” the Mad Great Being trailed off, pretending to think about it before shaking her head. “No, you will not. We will find you a different Kanohi Mask.”

 

The Ko-Matoran sputtered with anger, unable to form words as he glanced from the maddeningly calm Great Being to the smugly satisfied Smoke Monster.

 

“I do believe we are running out of time,” Araina said, her tone light. “Shall we get going?”

 

“Fine,” Marako muttered. “Let’s just go.”

 

“Where are the others?” she asked. “The two that you arrested outside of the New Atero Library?”

 

“Being held down the hall in one of the other offices.”

 

Araina pulled the door open and stepped out into the hall, smiling down at the two guards waiting on either side of the doorway as Smoke Monster and Marako both followed her out. Marako also glanced at both of them before speaking.

 

“Both of you, hand over your Kanoka Disk launchers and ammunition,” he ordered. “I will be leaving with these two for a trip that might take longer than expected, and we might need to defend ourselves.”

 

“Sir?” one asked, sounding uncertain.

 

“Come on now Orkahm,” Marako said impatiently. “Give me your launcher.”

 

The Le-Matoran shook his head slowly. “Sorry sir, I can’t. Orders.”

 

Orders?” Marako asked, his eyes narrowing. “Whose orders?!”

 

Orkahm raised his disk launcher in response; before he could fire, the Mayor smacked the launcher to the side and grabbed the Le-Matoran’s throat, choking him. Smoke Monster and the other guard both moved to intervene, but were stopped by Araina’s arm flinging into them and holding them back. They watched as Orkahm slowly stopped struggling before becoming limp in Marako’s grip and the Mayor released him, allowing the Le-Matoran to collapse against the wall and slide to the floor.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, he’s only unconscious,” the Mayor snapped, seeing Smoke Monster’s expression. “Besides, now I can swap my mask, happy?”

 

“Whatever,” Smoke Monster muttered, turning away.

 

Marako took the Le-Matoran’s Noble Matatu, swapping his Kanohi Volitak for it before grabbing the guard’s disk launcher and ammunition pouch. He turned to the other guard, aiming the disk launcher at them.

 

“Maltik, hand over the weapon.”

 

“Not necessary,” Araina said cheerfully, stepping in between them. “Little Maltik here will be quite happy to help us escape, and I know that Smoke Monster here has a rather different weapon in mind.”

 

The disguised Av-Matoran shot her an alarmed look before shaking his head, his features becoming unreadable. Marako shrugged, muttering something about being in control under his breath before walking away.

 

“Let’s go,” she said, following the Mayor. “Take us to our friends, Marako.”

 

Scowling, the Mayor stalked down the hall before pausing in front of another door. He gestured towards it and the Mad Great Being entered to find a room empty of everything except two Matoran. One stood by herself in the far corner, her arms crossed as she glowered at them; the other ran over to Araina and launched himself at her, throwing his arms around the Mad Great Being’s legs and hugging her.

 

“I missed you,” Bronze mumbled.

 

Araina laughed, rubbing his head. “And I you, little one. Introduce me to your friend, Bronze.”

 

“It’s Sirien!” Bronze said brightly, turning towards the irritable Ce-Matoran. “Sirien, this is Lady Araina!”

 

“I’m not coming,” Sirien muttered, looking away. “I’m not going anywhere with the Mayor.”

 

“And I will not tolerate her,” Marako whispered fiercely. “She always bothers me at public events! Twisting my words to mean things I didn’t say!”

 

“Oh, get real, loser,” Sirien snapped, her gaze narrowing in on the Ko-Matoran behind Araina. “You meant them, alright. You just didn’t want anyone to know what you meant.”

 

“Preposterous!”

 

“Enough!” Smoke Monster snarled, pushing Marako out of sight by his mask and glaring at Sirien. “You’re both squabbling like children! And while I’m not a fan of the Mayor myself, the fact of the matter is that we need to leave. Now. Before the goons of whoever wants Marako here dead show up.”

 

“What the Karz are you talking about?” Sirien asked, stepping closer. “If somebody is finally about to kill the idiot, why are we helping him?”

 

“Because I need him,” Araina said brightly, smiling down at the Ce-Matoran. “I have chosen him as one of our quest members.”

 

“Quest members,” Sirien said, disbelief written all over her. “Right. Quest members for what?”

 

“The quest, of course.”

 

“We’re looking for the Mask of Life!” Bronze cheerfully added, obliviously stopping Sirien from exploding with rage as her questions were answered. “There’s an evil Great Being named Velika running around who wants to destroy the world and also wants Lady Araina dead! So we’re gonna stop him!”

 

“Velika?” Marako asked, causing the others to all turn their attention to him. “You mean… the Po-Matoran inventor? The one always talking in crazy riddles?”

 

“You know him?” Bronze asked, sounding excited. “Cool! Where is he?”

 

“Karz if I know,” Marako muttered, shaking his head and shrugging. “It’s just curious, is all. He’s the one who wants me gone as well.”

 

“How convenient,” Sirien said drily, rolling her eyes.

 

“Well, let’s be off,” Araina decided, stepping back into the hall. “Lead the way, Mayor!”

 

“Wait, what?” Sirien asked. “We can’t just leave! We need answers!”

 

“Get used to it,” Smoke Monster said glumly, having given up. “She’s called the Mad Great Being for a reason, you know. I’m pretty certain that she’s more than a little bonkers.”

 

“Hey, that’s not very nice,” Bronze responded, pouting. “Don’t be mean to Lady Araina!”

 

“I’m sure ‘Lady Araina’ can take it,” Sirien replied, pushing past the Po-Matoran to exit the room. “She’s a Great Being, you goof. If she can’t take it, she can make us stop.”

 

“Well it’s still not nice,” Bronze muttered, before following.

 

The Ce-Matoran – as well as the others – fell silent as alarms began to blare, bright red lights flashing from the ceiling. Marako beckoned for the others to follow him, hurrying down the hallway and around the corner, their pace increasing in speed to a full-on sprint as they tried to reach the main entrance before Velika’s men could.

 

“What happens if we get caught?” Smoke Monster yelled, running alongside Marako.

 

“At best?” the Mayor responded, his eyes wide with panic. “We are killed swiftly and painlessly!”

 

Smoke Monster opened his mouth to respond as they rounded the next corner – only for his voice to fail him as his eyes went wide. He and Marako both tripped as they tried to stop too suddenly, colliding with each other and in the process knocking themselves to the floor. Smoke Monster pushed himself to his feet, calling out a warning that was far too late as the others all ran around the corner as well.

 

They had run straight into an ambush; the main entrance was blocked by no less than fifteen guards.

 

Marako shoved his disk launcher across the floor, cowering as he scrambled back behind Araina, who for all intents and purposes looked amused. Bronze waited beside her, his hands twisting nervously in front of him; Sirien stalked forward to stand beside Smoke Monster, glaring at the assembled guards.

 

You take the left, I’ve got right.

 

He flinched at the voice in his head before realizing that it was Sirien speaking to him telepathically; he gave her a slight nod to show that he understood, preparing to move –

 

“Commander Sventola,” an unfamiliar voice said, coming from behind him. “I have them all here.”

 

“Wonderful work Soldier Maltik,” the so-called ‘Commander Sventola’ replied, stepping forward.

 

Smoke Monster resisted the urge to shove his face into his palm at the realization that Maltik wasn’t an ally. How had Araina not foreseen this?

 

Commander Sventola was clearly an Agori of the Jungle Tribe, if his dark green armor with its bright green highlights was anything to go by. His red eyes gleamed underneath his tight, hooded robes. He wielded an oaken staff in his right hand, and hanging off of his back was a clearly visible bow and quiver full of arrows.

 

“What? Th-this is impossible,” Marako sputtered, slowly standing to his feet as he peeked around Araina. “M-Maltik…?”

 

“Was working for us all along,” Sventola replied, sounding bored. “Or rather, he was working for Lord Velika. Speaking of the Father… he will be very happy to meet you, Mayor. There are some words he wishes to share with you.”

 

“I… I…”

 

“Shut your mouth,” Sventola drawled, raising his left hand and twirling it in the air. “Round them all up, soldiers. We’d best be moving out before we attract too much… attention.”

 

He paused, just in time for the alarms to stop blaring.

 

“Good,” the Jungle Agori said, nodding with satisfaction. “It’d be a shame to kill off all of New Atero’s police force, after all.”

 

The other soldiers stepped forward, some with open cuffs in their hands.

 

“Back off!” Sirien snapped, elbowing the nearest soldier in the chest.

 

“Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” Sventola said, shaking his head. “If you’re going to cause a scene, or try to escape before we reach the station, I’m afraid you won’t be making it there alive. Don’t worry – I’m sure you’ll have plenty of chances to escape from us later.”

 

At that, the Mad Great Being behind them laughed out loud; the joyous sound discordant with the current atmosphere. The Commander flashed a brief, sinister grin at the sound before nodding expectantly at Sirien; the Ce-Matoran scowled, huffing with frustration, but allowed herself to be cuffed.

 

Maltik approached Smoke Monster, appearing timid; the disguised Av-Matoran stuck out his arms, glaring at the Matoran soldier while he was cuffed.

 

“You’ll pay for this soon,” he said quietly. “I guarantee it. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

 

“Do you?” Maltik responded, sounding nervous. “Nobody can stop the Father. Nobody.”

 

Smoke Monster barked a single, harsh laugh. “We’ll see about that.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

Uh oh – it appears that our heroes have been captured!

 

In CHAPTER THREE, they will have to escape their captors before it is too late…

 

…and perhaps we will come face to face with Velika?

 

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Edited by Lucina, Mar 16 2016 - 07:19 PM.

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#4 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 07 2016 - 11:11 AM

“AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER”

 

---[ONE MONTH AGO]---

---40 AR [AFTER REFORMATION]---

 

An Agori of the Jungle Tribe walked up to an imposing fortress built from bricks of the exact same shade as the desert sand that it stood upon. The harsh desert sun beat down on him, although he was shielded from the worst of its heat by the hooded dark green robes wrapped around him. Red eyes gleamed from under the hood; they were all that could be made of the Agori’s face.

 

As he approached the fortress, with the dark oaken doors barring the way in, two Skrall guards stepped forward, raising their swords and shields threateningly. Arrows buried themselves into the wall of the fortress on either side of each guard’s head, impaling the stone with frightening accuracy; both Skrall stepped away as the Jungle Agori slowly lowered his bow. The guards did not touch him as he stepped up to the oaken doors and rapped his knuckles upon them twice, the sound echoing both inside the fortress and out into the desert air. After a brief pause, both doors opened inwards, creaking as they did so; as soon as the gap was large enough, the Agori stepped inside, and the doors slammed back shut behind him.

 

“Good day sir,” the entrance’s lone Matoran guard said, bowing before the Agori. “Your journey was secure?”

 

“It was indeed Maltik,” the Agori replied, his voice a cold murmur. “Take me to the Father. He and I both dislike delays.”

 

“Of course, sir. Right this way.”

 

He followed the Matoran deep into the fortress, until they stood by a door of pure white metal in its heart. The Agori rested a palm against it, admiring the cool metal’s touch for a moment before glancing over his shoulder at the Matoran.

 

“You are dismissed,” he said quietly. “Return to your post.”

 

“Yes sir,” Maltik replied, bowing again as he backed away.

 

Once the Matoran was gone, the Jungle Agori returned his attention to the door, staring at it expectantly. He did not have to wait long; no sooner had Maltik vanished around the corner then the door slid open with a hiss and the Agori stepped inside.

 

As the door slid shut behind him, the Agori admired the room; bookshelves lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling, filled with texts ranging from the most ancient of times right up to the modern day. Directly across the room from the entrance, a fire crackled within a fireplace of red brick. In the center of the room, two velvet cushions had been placed with the utmost care onto the floor; upon one sat the disfigured form of what most would have assumed was a Po-Matoran; the other cushion remained unoccupied.

 

“Sit,” said the Po-Matoran, who was facing the fire rather than their visitor; their voice was immensely cold, filled with layer upon layer of sinister intent and silent fury.

 

The Agori did as ordered, claiming the unoccupied cushion as his own. He waited silently, knowing that the Po-Matoran would face him and begin their meeting in proper as soon as he was ready. Until that moment came, he would meditate and wait. He closed his eyes and bowed his head.

 

An hour passed before he opened his eyes, raising his head to meet the yellow gaze of the Po-Matoran. Slowly, he pulled back his hood, so that the Matoran could see his face.

 

“The moment draws near,” the Po-Matoran said, his voice soft as he broke the silence, his yellow eyes never leaving the Agori’s. “The Mad Great Being travels for New Atero. She intends to gather her team. You must be ready to bring Marako to me as soon as she arrives.”

 

The Agori inclined his head to show his understanding, making sure to maintain eye contact as he did so.

 

“They will escape you, of course,” the Po-Matoran continued. “You will help them to do this, and join them. Her madness has made her foolish, and she will allow your presence. Have you found His location yet?”

 

Him – the one that had freed the Mad Great Being from her prison sixteen years prior. The only Matoran that Araina had created – the one that had been corrupted, and now contained a portion of the supposed Po-Matoran seated before him. The one that now held the key to the other Great Beings, and the Mask of Life.

 

The Agori nodded; the Father did not need him to speak, for the confirmation told him all he needed to know.

 

“Go now,” the Po-Matoran ordered. “Take Maltik and some of the others with you; it will do you well to have some of our men to appear loyal to Marako. It will help to sell the picture.”

 

Standing to his feet, the Agori nodded as he bowed to the Po-Matoran. He turned away, and was about to leave when the Po-Matoran spoke again.

 

“And… Sventola?”

 

He glanced over his shoulder, speaking for the first time since entering the room: “yes, Father?”

 

“Bring them to Voya-Koro.”

 

They both nodded to each other, acknowledging their understanding, and the Agori left.

 

---[PRESENT DAY]---

---40 AR [AFTER REFORMATION]---

 

The Mad Great Being and her team were all cuffed and marched out into waiting hovercrafts; the hovercrafts were a rare sight, as most of the advanced technology used to build them had been lost many years prior. Popular assumption was that the Destiny War was responsible, but Smoke Monster knew the truth; he had, after all, fought in the true war in which that technology had become all but lost.

 

They did not drive for very long, and when Maltik pulled him out of the hovercraft, Smoke Monster felt dread building in his chest; this ‘Sventola’ had taken them to the newly built New Atero station for the Mata-Nui Railway.

 

“You’re kidding me,” he muttered.

 

The Mata-Nui Railway was a set of experimental twin tracks, designed for a unique style of train that could run on both tracks at once. This allowed for larger cargo or more passengers, depending on the train that was running. The railway itself had originally been conceived as a way to solidly connect New Atero with the settlement known as ‘Voya-Koro’ farther south, in a straight line that ran through what was left of the harsh Bara-Magna desert. Before the Mata-Nui Railway’s construction, Voya-Koro had been a small settlement of barely one hundred Matoran; now, it was a booming city that rivalled New Atero in size, and it was very likely that it would soon surpass New Atero, as the more stable southern climate made for an easier lifestyle.

 

Unfortunately, Voya-Koro’s leadership was… less than desirable. While Marako might lack morales (and was, to put it lightly, simply despicable), he did at the very least manage to get some things done. The same could not be said for the Onu-Matoran named Driken in charge of Voya-Koro; his reputation as being both gullible and stubborn to a fault was bad enough, and his dislike of strangers (particularly those who hailed from Spherus-Magna naturally such as the Agori) had damaged Voya-Koro’s relationships with other settlements more than once.

 

It had not always been this way; Voya-Koro had originally been set up by a team of five Matoran whom had proven themselves extraordinarily useful soldiers to the Shadowed One during the Destiny and Reformation Wars. Balta, Matoran of Fire; Garan, Matoran of Earth; Dalu, Matoran of Water; Piruk, Matoran of Air; and Kazi, Matoran of Ice. Together, they had formed the Council of Five… until one by one, they each vanished or died under mysterious circumstances. Piruk had been the last to go, six years prior, and after his death, Driken had claimed the power vacuum for his own.

 

Rumors spoke of another Matoran that had fought alongside the Council of Five – a Po-Matoran. But his name had been lost long ago, and no records of his existence could be found… or if they were, they had been impossible to prove.

 

Perhaps, Smoke Monster mused, there was a reason for that….

 

For whenever any supposed accounts of this Po-Matoran had found, they had always claimed that his name was ‘Velika’.

 

It was adding up to a picture that Smoke Monster was not sure he wanted to see, and becoming very clear that Voya-Koro was not somewhere that he wanted to find himself anytime soon.

 

They were led into the station, where they waited next to the tracks; it was then that the Jungle Agori in charge of the soldiers spoke again.

 

“Un-cuff them.”

 

“…sir?” Maltik asked, sounding uncertain.

 

“Do I need to repeat myself, Soldier?” the Commander asked, his tone chilling as his red eyes glared down at the Le-Matoran. “Un-cuff them. Now.”

 

The various Matoran and Agori soldiers collectively flinched at his tone before several of them scrambled to un-cuff the team. Smoke Monster exchanged a startled glance with Sirien, but Bronze spoke up before he could make any sense of the situation.

 

“Awesome, we’re free! Thanks, Mister Scary Eyes! Are you going to help us escape as well?”

 

Smoke Monster couldn’t help the groan of exasperation that left him. Sirien appeared to be literally shaking with frustration, and the Mayor had closed his eyes and tilted his head back, as though he could pretend that the situation was not happening. As for the Mad Great Being… she was grinning.

 

“As a matter of fact,” the Commander replied, somehow sounding amused, “I am indeed.”

 

“Oooooh, that. Is. Awesome,” Bronze whispered, his expression one of pure glee.

 

It took the various soldiers gathered around them a second for what the Commander had said to penetrate their heads – and by then, it was already far too late.

 

Now! Sirien’s cry echoed within Smoke Monster’s mind.

 

In one smooth motion, Smoke Monster tackled the nearest guard and wrestled him to the floor as Sirien did the same to an Agori of the Ice Tribe; Bronze, catching on, eagerly kicked the two guards nearest to him in the shins, causing both of them to fall over as they clutched at their ankles in pain. The rest of the guards were brought down by Araina as she swept through them with ease, leaving only one standing.

 

“I am afraid that your services are no longer required,” the Commander said, slowly raising a weapon that was all-too-familiar to Smoke Monster (and alien to everyone else present – even Sirien). “Soldier Maltik, you are dismissed.”

 

“Wait-” Smoke Monster started, reaching out –

 

-BANG.

 

Everyone flinched at the sound; all but Smoke Monster instinctively shut their eyes, and thus it was only Smoke Monster who saw the blood begin to spread across Maltik’s chest as the dying soldier collapsed to the paved floor, convulsing.

 

“…Maltik?” Marako asked, his voice barely a whisper.

 

“What did you do?” Sirien asked.

 

“Where did you get that?!” Smoke Monster demanded, pushing past Sirien. “How?! They were all gone!”

 

“What, just like those hovercrafts?” the Commander asked, scoffing as he tossed the weapon away. “You have been sadly misinformed, Smoke Monster. But do not fret; I have no plans of attacking you. The capture of your group was merely a ruse. We must leave New Atero immediately.”

 

“You killed Maltik,” Marako said, his face still blank with shock.

 

The Commander shrugged. “It’ll send the Father a message.”

 

“What message?” the Mayor asked.

 

“The message that I’m done working for him,” the Commander said, speaking slowly. “Is there something you’re not getting about this, or…?”

 

“I believe we all understand enough, Sventola,” Araina responded, her voice harsh. “Your methods, however, leave something to be desired.”

 

The Agori bowed. “As the Mad Great Being wishes. I will avoid unnecessary bloodshed in the future. But I do speak the truth – we must leave immediately. The train will get here soon, and with it will come many reinforcements. We must leave New Atero at once.”

 

“You are correct,” Araina murmured. “We will take the hovercrafts to the edge of the city, and move on foot from there.”

 

“Not so fast,” Smoke Monster interrupted. “I need something from my forge first.”

 

“Can’t your forge wait?” Marako asked, sounding irritated.

 

“No, it can’t,” Smoke Monster snapped, glaring at the Ko-Matoran before turning his gaze to Araina. “If what you told me is true… if Voltex is really alive… then I need to grab this.”

 

The Mad Great Being held his gaze for a long moment before smiling and nodding. “Of course. Take Sirien with you, and meet the rest of us outside the city.”

 

“Why do I have to go?” Sirien muttered from behind him. “Can’t he go by himself?”

 

“Oh! Oh! Let the Mayor go!” Bronze said, sounding excited. “Then Sirien and I can sit together and talk and share stories like that time when we met in the library and-”

 

“Never mind,” Sirien snapped, cutting the Po-Matoran’s speech off. “I’ll go with the forger!”

 

“Excellent!” Araina responded, clapping her hands together. “We shall see you soon!”

 

---

 

Smoke Monster staggered into his forge, with Sirien shoving him out of the way as she stumbled in after him, slamming the door shut and fumbling with the lock. Smoke Monster left her to figure it out as he stepped further into the forge, frowning at the sight of a Ta-Matoran with a scope in his Kanohi Mask standing beside the Artisan.

 

“What is the meaning of this?” the Ta-Matoran asked, sounding indignant. “Artisan, you promised me we would be uninterrupted!”

 

“I’m his business partner, I’ve got the right to be here,” Smoke Monster snapped, shoving the Ta-Matoran away as he collapsed onto the table next to him, his chest heaving for breath.

 

“And what about your companion?” the Artisan asked, looking worried. “You are both… out of breath.”

 

“We’re being pursued,” Smoke Monster muttered, still trying to catch his breath (behind him, Sirien let out a small whoop as she finally managed to lock the entrance). “If they catch us, we’re dead.”

 

“What did you do?” the Ta-Matoran inquired, appearing genuinely curious.

 

“Got roped into helping some insane Great Being with a quest,” Sirien snapped, sagging against the wall and sliding to the floor of the forge. “And there’s a different Great Being out there who doesn’t like that, and wants us all dead before we can get out of the city.”

 

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t be of much help outside of New Atero,” the Ta-Matoran replied, adjusting the scope on his Kanohi Mask, “but as one of the lead architects of this city, I could help you to find an escape route.”

 

“You’re Kuan,” Sirien muttered, glaring at him. “You worked with the Mayor.”

 

Kuan nodded. “It was… necessary. You can’t build a city without being forced to work alongside those in charge.”

 

“Smoke Monster… why are you here?” the Artisan asked, interrupting the conversation. “If you need to be escaping the city, surely the forge that you own isn’t the place to be.”

 

“I needed my sword,” the disguised Av-Matoran muttered, slowly straightening as his gaze met the other Av-Matoran’s. “You know the one.”

 

The Artisan’s eyes studied him for a long moment before he conceded, withdrawing to a chest overflowing with unfinished projects. The Av-Matoran dug amongst them, pieces of metal scattering to the floor of the forge as he reached deep into the chest before pulling out a gleaming ruby blade with a black handle. The Artisan admired the sword for a second before tossing it to Smoke Monster, who caught it by the handle with one hand, a relived grin spreading across his face.

 

“…you’re kidding, right?” Sirien asked, sounding both dumbfounded and infuriated. “We risked our lives for that? Some stupid sword?”

 

“Not some stupid sword,” Smoke Monster said slowly, turning to face her as flames ignited around the blade. “The sword. The Sword of Burnmad.”

 

“The what?”

 

The disguised Av-Matoran frowned, his mind drawing a blank at Sirien’s words as he struggled to comprehend them. “…what?”

 

“What did you call it?” she asked, pointing to the flaming blade. “The sword.”

 

“I… do you not know what this is?” he asked weakly, glancing to Kuan and the Artisan. “What about you guys?”

 

The Artisan shrugged. “I mean, I know.”

 

Kuan’s eyes narrowed as he leaned forward, inspecting the burning blade before shaking his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe I have seen this sword before.”

 

“I… how? What?”

 

“Look, your stupid sword isn’t that important,” Sirien replied, rolling her eyes as she stood. “What’s the big deal?”

 

“The big… the big deal?!” Smoke Monster cried. “This is a hero’s blade! Wielded by some of this universe’s greatest warriors! They fought against countless tyrants using this weapon in the name of freedom!”

 

She gave him a disbelieving look. “Sure thing, pal.”

 

“Oh whatever, screw you,” he muttered, deactivating the flames and sheathing the sword at his waist. “I would’ve thought you could at least admire the engineering feat that is a sword that can burst into flames, seeing as you made weapons and all that.”

 

“Why?” Sirien asked. “That’s… a remarkably simple thing to do. It’s also a waste; a flaming sword is going to be so hot that it will automatically cauterize any wounds you deal, thereby making it less efficient than a normal sword.”

 

“She speaks the truth,” Kuan said, his tone grave as he patted the disgruntled Smoke Monster on the shoulder. “Although it does look rather bada**.”

 

“Whatever,” the disguised Av-Matoran muttered. “Let’s just go.”

 

“As you wish,” Kuan replied, striding towards the door. “I must warn you, our odds of succeeding in evading your would-be captors are rather slim. Are you prepared for certain death if we are caught?”

 

“Just lead the way, please,” Smoke Monster responded, having completely given up at this point. “See you later, Artisan.”

 

“Yeah…” the other Av-Matoran said slowly, still looking confused. “See you later.”

 

Kuan unlocked the forge’s entrance and stepped outside with Sirien right behind him; Smoke Monster shook his head once before following, rapidly losing the capacity to care about anything.

 

---

 

The three Matoran reached the outskirts of New Atero without much trouble; thanks to Kuan’s knowledge of the city’s layout, it was easy to avoid the troops that Velika had sent to capture them.

 

Despite his help, however, by the time they were at the city gates the others had already arrived. Araina towered over the rest, although both she and Sventola had raised their hoods, helping to hide their faces from view. Bronze hopped eagerly from one foot to the other, his bronze Kanohi Kakama glinting in the sun; and the Mayor (or rather, former Mayor) stood off to the side with his arms crossed.

 

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Araina asked.

 

“Yes,” Smoke Monster replied sullenly, not meeting her eyes. “Let’s just go.”

 

“Why are you upset, Smokey?” Bronze asked.

 

Smoke Monster clenched his fist, taking a deep breath to calm himself. “Don’t… ever… call me that again. Ever. Just call me by my real name.”

 

“Smoke Monster isn’t your real name though,” the Po-Matoran replied, sounding confused. “What is your real name? Do you have a real name? How come you don’t go by your real name?”

 

The Po-Matoran – oblivious to the rapidly increasing frustration he was causing both Smoke Monster and Sirien – would have continued, had Kuan not slapped a hand over his mouth and interrupted.

 

“We should get going,” the Ta-Matoran told them. “The forces searching for you will arrive here quickly. The further you can get from this city, the better.”

 

“Excellent idea,” Marako said quickly, clapping his hands together. “Yes! The Ta-Matoran is correct! Let us be off!”

 

“Indeed,” Araina replied, sounding highly amused. “Let us begin our mission.”

 

“Where are we going first?” Bronze asked eagerly, bouncing up and down as the group exited the city.

 

“We must find the one who freed me sixteen years ago,” the Mad Great Being answered. “I am afraid that in order to locate Velika, we will need the knowledge that I gave him at that time.”

 

“But… don’t you still have that knowledge?” Smoke Monster asked.

 

The Mad Great Being shook her head. “I deleted it all from my mind in order to give it away.”

 

“…why?

 

Araina shrugged. “Because it was amusing.”

 

“Wow,” Smoke Monster muttered. “You have managed to make me hate my life faster than anyone has ever made me hate my life before. Congratulations.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED!

 

Next time around, one of our seven team members shall fall, as they encounter a Skrall patrol!

And they might just make contact with a Matoran gone mad….

 

REVIEW TOPIC


Edited by Lucina, Mar 16 2016 - 07:18 PM.

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#5 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 02 2016 - 10:05 AM

“SHARE YOUR STORY”

 

“So… the first part of your journey was done. The Mad Great Being marched into New Atero and gathered you all up, and you all escaped the city before Velika’s men could catch up.”

 

Sirien scowled. “That’s oversimplifying it just a bit. It was more complicated than that.”

 

“Right… complicated.”

 

The Ce-Matoran huffed, shuffling in the dirt in an attempt to adjust into a more comfortable position, but to no avail; if she was honest with herself, it was probably impossible. Kneeling on the ground with your hands tied around a pole behind your back was not a position designed for comfort, after all.

 

“What else do you want from me?” she muttered. “It was complicated. She didn’t exactly ask any of us, you know. And by the time she was through, it was either join her or wait for Velika – and, well… at least she wasn’t trying to kill us.”

 

“Just dragging you with her to… ‘save the world’.”

 

“She was a Great Being,” Sirien snapped, glaring up at her captor – a Matoran (or an Agori, she honestly could not tell) clad entirely in black armor, their identity hidden by a faceless black helmet and a handy voice changer. “An insane one at that – would you have defied her?”

 

Her captor’s head tilted to the side as they gazed down at her, considering the question silently before finally replying, “no.”

 

“What exactly do you want from me, anyway?” the Ce-Matoran asked, shuffling in place again only to hiss as the rope tied around her hands dug into her wrists.

 

After a long moment, her captor finally replied “…I want to know all of it. The story. About what happened.”

 

“Well…” Sirien trailed off, shrugging with difficulty. “That’s how we got out of New Atero. Not as exciting as you thought, huh?”

 

“I don’t need exciting. I just need the truth,” her captor replied. “So. What happened next?”

 

The Ce-Matoran’s gaze shifted from her captor down to the Matoran slumped on the ground behind them; she nodded at the body.

 

“We lost him,” she said, her voice so quiet it was barely a whisper.

 

Her captor turned to look at the other Matoran, regarding the body for a long moment before shrugging and ordering, “explain.”

 

---Present Day---

---40 AR [After Reformation]---

 

For three days, the Mad Great Being Araina had led them away from New Atero. She appeared to wander without any specific direction, leaving the others to follow her in good faith; of them all, Bronze alone seemed to understand her way of thinking. The rest struggled to make do. Smoke Monster had trouble trusting others in the best of times; Sirien was waiting for Makaro or Sventola to stab them in the back; Makaro had an endless stream of repetitive complaints; Sventola refused to speak with anyone except the Mad Great Being herself; and Kuan, mathematician that he was, appeared to be slowly going mad from the inability to properly calculate their journey.

 

“This is kinda boring,” Bronze said, breaking the silence that had stretched for the last hour. “When is something going to happen?”

 

“Please stop talking,” Sirien muttered as the same time that Smoke Monster snapped “shut up!”

 

The Po-Matoran glanced back over his shoulder at the two of them looking hurt. “Why?”

 

“You’ve gone and done it now,” Smoke Monster said savagely, stopping in his tracks and pulling out his sword as the blade burst into flames. “Have you never noticed what happens when you tempt fate like that? Something is going to happen now just because you complained about nothing happening.”

 

“Don’t be absurd,” Marako snapped. “The world doesn’t work like that at all!”

 

“The Mayor has a point,” Kuan added quietly. “It would not make much sense.”

 

Araina paused, tilting her head to the side before chuckling. “I do hope neither of you have placed any money on that, or else I feel as though you will soon be disappointed.”

 

“What is it?” Smoke Monster asked, gazing up at her with a worried look. “Anything to worry about?”

 

The Mad Great Being pointed to her left. “Perhaps, or perhaps not. Something is that way.”

 

“Good! That means we can stay away,” Marako replied, looking relieved.

 

“Or perhaps we should investigate,” Sventola countered. “We are in need of supplies, and additional weaponry. If a Skrall patrol were to find us right now, we wouldn’t stand a chance.”

 

“Let’s go explore!” Bronze yelled, bouncing up and down with excitement.

 

“Calm, little one,” Araina said, chuckling as she rested a hand upon the Po-Matoran’s head. “We shall go and see what this is.”

 

---

 

If the Mad Great Being was shocked by what they found, she did not show it; the rest of the team, however (even Sventola this time), could not contain their surprise…

 

…for the greatest creator of the Matoran Universe, none other than the golden Artakha, was lying spread-eagled across the desert sands. His armor was cracked and chipped and torn open everywhere that it was still attached, and blood still oozed from over a thousand wounds. His face was blank, and maskless, for that was the second surprise.

 

An electric blue Matoran was seated atop the corpse, his legs kicking idly; left and right and left and right. He stared at them all with an impassive gaze, his expression hidden behind the mystical and ornate Mask of Creation.

 

“A Matoran of Water in the desert?” Sventola asked, breaking the silence.

 

“Artakha is dead?” Sirien whispered.

 

“That’s the Mask of Creation,” Makaro murmured, voice filled with longing.

 

“Wowie! That Matoran killed the giant guy! Awesome!” Bronze yelled.

 

“Not possible. No Matoran would be strong enough,” Kuan responded, shaking his head. “Their arrival here is mere circumstance.”

 

“Perhaps,” Araina agreed, “or perhaps not.”

 

“…I know you,” Smoke Monster muttered, eyes narrowed as he stepped towards the Matoran and the corpse. “You… aren’t a Ga-Matoran.”

 

The Matoran seated atop the corpse slowly shook their head.

 

“I know you from somewhere,” the disguised Av-Matoran continued, mumbling as much to himself as he was speaking to the others, snapping his fingers as he tried to recall it. “Who were you? It must’ve been Metru-Nui. It was Metru-Nui, right? Why don’t I recognize you?”

 

“Because you and I never spoke,” the electric blue Matoran rasped. “Not before I died.”

 

That caused Smoke Monster to pause. “RG.”

 

“That is me, and it is me.”

 

The Matoran’s voice was laced with the undertones of insanity, a soul that had long ago moved past his breaking point.

 

Smoke Monster frowned. “You’re supposed to be dead. He killed you; Shadowhawk, I mean. I didn’t see it but… I heard.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Why are you wearing that mask?” Marako demanded, shoving Smoke Monster aside and marching up to the corpse (and at the same time, RG himself). “Take it off!”

 

“He doesn’t need it,” RG replied, pointing at Artakha’s head.

 

“You little-”

 

Marako was interrupted as Smoke Monster shoved him face-first into the ground; the Ko-Matoran coughed as he spat out sand, swinging wildly at Smoke Monster before Sventola’s hand flashed out and grabbed his wrist, causing him to freeze.

 

“Play nice,” the Agori murmured, watching Smoke Monster and RG with interest.

 

“How are you here?” the disguised Av-Matoran was asking, looking confused.

 

RG shrugged. “Pulled back. By the Order.”

 

“The Order of Mata-Nui,” Araina murmured, nodding sagely. “Yes… that would explain it.”

 

“We destroyed the Order,” Smoke Monster snapped. “We never saw you! We never saw anyone else!”

 

“They pulled me out of the endless darkness and forced me to wake again,” RG whispered, his voice raspy. “I want to go back. I cannot do it. I want to. I cannot.”

 

“You’re making zero sense,” Sirien muttered, glancing up at the Mad Great Being. “Why are we waiting… wait… something’s not right.”

 

“Kuan’s gone!” Bronze told her cheerfully. “I looked away and then I looked back and he wasn’t there anymore!”

 

“You… what? Why didn’t you say anything?!” Sirien snapped. “We could be under attack right-”

 

“Now.”

 

Something slammed into Sirien from behind, knocking her to the ground before she could react to the new voice. She pushed herself up off of the sand only to plow back into it as a foot pressed into her back; with one eye, she watched as the same thing happened to Bronze, Sventola, Marako, Smoke Monster, and even RG.

 

“So you’re the Mad Great Being and her team,” the new voice mused aloud, a low growl. “I was told you had the power of foresight, Mad. Gotta admit, it surprises me that you were taken by surprise.”

 

“Perhaps you didn’t surprise me,” Araina responded, her voice calm.

 

“Which was, of course, my next thought,” the new voice continued. “You obviously know of the traitor on your team – maybe you even know who it is. But you haven’t shared that knowledge with your team, because logically, they all have reasons to betray you. Well… all except one; but then, what else is to be expected from a brainwashed Po-Matoran?”

 

“An interesting observation,” Araina replied, sounding unaffected. “What else?”

 

“You want us to capture you. Maybe you even need us to,” the voice answered. “Of course, whether you want us to or not, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Can’t be letting prisoners of the Skrall just walk away, after all.”

 

“Of course not.”

 

“But then… you’re a Great Being,” the voice continued. “I’m sure it would be a tragedy if we just happened to… fail to bring you in. Oops. Sorry boss, all we managed to get were the Matoran that she assembled. She sure needed them for something, but now we’ll never get to know what that is. Gee darn it.”

 

“Velika will not believe you.”

 

The voice chuckled. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to hear you declaring the Father’s name out loud like that. Fellow Great Being and all that, and enemies to boot. Still, you’ve got guts, I’ll tell you that.”

 

“They do say that I am rather mad.”

 

“That they do,” the voice said softly, before becoming louder as it yelled: “round the rest of them up!”

 

Sirien grunted as she was hauled to her feet by a Skrall warrior; she glanced back down at the sand to see another Skrall picking up the body of Kuan – whether the Ta-Matoran was merely unconscious or dead, she could not tell. The speaker, a tall and thin Agori of the Rock Tribe, held up a hand and approached, staring down at Kuan impassively.

 

“…take this one to Voya-Koro,” he ordered. “Show the Father that we’ve done our job. He didn’t mention this one anyway; maybe it’ll give him some answers.”

 

The Skrall nodded silently before dragging Kuan away, both of them shimmering out of existence.

 

Cloaking? Sirien wondered. Since when do the Skrall have….

 

Before she could continue that thought, a fist connected with the side of her head and she was knocked out.

 

---

 

Pain spiked throughout Sirien’s body as she slowly awoke, rubbing at her eyes. The pain slowly faded away into the dull aches that she had become accustomed to, and she slowly sat up, grimacing at the sound of her hands squelching in the muck. The Ce-Matoran tried to wipe some of it off of her armor, but the task was fruitless. What kind of place was this?

 

“And on the third day, she rose again.”

 

The voice came from her right; she ignored it and did not respond, for it was not a voice that belonged to anyone else on the team.

 

“My name is Iaredios Paerkenon,” the voice continued. “No doubt you have heard my name at some point, tied to my rather… controversial methods of keeping the histories. Might you share your own name with me?”

 

She glanced at him; the infamous Iaredios Paerkenon, the renowned historian… who was also half-Agori and half-Skrall. While he had been accepted by the rest of the Ice Tribe, the historian’s struggles to be accepted by either of the races he was a cross between was common knowledge.

 

“Jail cell is an odd place to find you,” she sniped. “You anger the wrong person?”

 

“You still have not told me your name,” the historian continued, sounding calm. “Could I perhaps have that, at the very least?”

 

“…Sirien.”

 

“Sirien…” the historian seemed to be rolling the name on his tongue, feeling it. “A fine name for a craftsman. You… made weaponry, correct? During the wars, you served under the Shadowed One.”

 

She glanced over at him; the historian’s sand blue skin was visible beneath his ragged brown robes, and she could make out brands on his chest and shoulder; if the rumors were to be believed, the brands depicted a maze constructed by the Great Beings hidden far to the north, beyond where any being had yet travelled.

 

“You’ve heard of me,” she said, rubbing at her sore throat.

 

“Of course,” the half-Agori replied, shrugging. “I have always prided myself on my knowledge of history.”

 

“Weren’t you… in charge of some sort of group? Dedicated to recording every piece of history not yet written down, and then some?”

 

“I was,” the historian said quietly. “But I am afraid that there are those who would rather see my order and I silenced, rather than risk everyone knowing the truth.”

 

“The truth about what?”

 

“If I told you, they would triple our guard, if not outright execute us both on the spot,” Iaredios replied, shaking his head. “Let us make an exchange. Tell me how you were captured, and in return, I shall offer you the knowledge that is most prudent to your quest.”

 

Sirien shrugged; it was as much as she was going to get. “It’s not very interesting. Stopped in the same place for too long and got caught by a Skrall patrol.”

 

“Oh come now,” the historian shook his head, chuckling softly. “We both know that it is far more interesting than that. Do tell.”

 

She huffed. “Fine. I’ll tell.”

 

So she did; the next several hours were spent quietly recounting her experiences, falling silent when the Skrall guards walked past and elaborating on the points that Iaredios found most interesting. When at last she was finished, she took a deep breath.

 

“That’s all.”

 

Iaredios nodded. “Interesting.”

 

“Three days?” she asked.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“When I woke up… you said something about three days.”

 

“Oh, don’t mind that; just a bit of a joke. You were barely here for an hour before you woke up. Of course, there’s no telling how long you were out before you arrived.”

 

“Thanks,” she muttered. “That’s real helpful.”

 

The historian opened his mouth to respond, only to shut it again, a look of apprehension crossing his features as he glared over her shoulder. The Ce-Matoran frowned, glancing behind to see what it was, only to find the same Agori that had captured her in the first place standing outside of the cell.

 

“You’ve been busy, Paerkenon,” the Agori said quietly, eyes blazing. “I thought I made it clear that you were to remain… silent?”

 

“You cannot silence the truth,” Iaredios responded. “No matter what it takes, the truth always prevails.”

 

“I’m sure it does,” the Agori said drily; he clearly did not believe the historian’s words.

 

“What do you want?” Sirien snapped.

 

The Agori laughed. “Simply to introduce myself, Sirien. It wouldn’t be fair for you to be executed by somebody whose name you did not know, after all.”

 

“Excuse me?” she asked. “Executed?”

 

“Of course,” the Agori said, sounding amused as he shrugged. “You were travelling with the Mad Great Being. That is no less than treason to the Father, and must be punished accordingly.”

 

“How thoughtful,” she snarled. “Who the karz are you? How did the Skrall let one of their own Agori take over their tribes?”

 

“Oh, I’m not a Rock Agori,” the Agori told her, chuckling again.

 

“He is of the Iron Tribe,” Iaredios told her, his voice barely audible.

 

“I am the Pilgrim Shadow,” the Iron Agori informed her. “Now that we each know each other’s names, I can tell you that you will be entered into the ring tomorrow morning. Should you survive, we will allow you to leave – but of course, nobody ever survives the ring, so that is inconsequential.”

 

“How are your dreams, Pilgrim?” Iaredios asked, a challenge hidden in his voice. “Or have do you now fail to dream entirely?”

 

The Iron Agori’s face twisted; first in embarrassment, then in anger.

 

“You should have kept your mouth shut historian,” he snapped, his voice cold as ice. “For that, you can join her in the ring tomorrow. Have fun.”

 

Before either Sirien or Iaredios could respond, the Agori of Iron had stalked away. Letting out a breath she had not realized she was holding, Sirien turned back towards the historian, whose exhaustion was evident.

 

“The ring?” she asked.

 

“The Skrall have a Matoran, one of the iron element, who serves as their executioner,” the historian answered, sounding resigned to his fate. “He likes to… play with his food before he eats it, so to speak. He is rather fond of the sight of blood, and nobody has ever succeeded against him in combat; he always wins, even if outnumbered and outgunned. He is the ultimate warrior.”

 

“What’s his name?”

 

“Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard his name before,” Iaredios replied, shaking his head as he looked off into the distance. “Even if his battles were before your time, the tales of horror still spread. His name is Xaeraz.”

 

Sirien was unable to stop the cold chill that ran up her spine.

 

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

REVIEW TOPIC

 

NEXT TIME ON OBLIVION:

 

The team must reunite and battle against the infamous bloodthirsty warrior Xaeraz to win their freedom! But where could their leader, the Mad Great Being Araina, have vanished to?


Edited by Lucina, Mar 16 2016 - 07:18 PM.

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#6 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 06 2016 - 08:15 AM

C://CORE_DIRECTORY//15145

 

://OPEN|FILE_01

 

://

 

It is cold. It is so very, very cold. Everything is dull, everything is gray, everything is still, and everything is cold. The silence stretches out forever, and I am crushed beneath its weight. Before me and below me lies a ruin, and it is a ruin that I made. All of my dearest dreams come true to this. It is not a happy ending. It is not a bad ending. Not a dream or a nightmare, it just is. It just exists. It is the state of what is left behind, and that is all that can define it. It is cold. Heartless.

 

Just like me.

 

I am alone here. It is what was designed. I am supposed to learn. I am supposed to grow.

 

I am tired, cold, and weary.

 

This will not last. The darkness will come. It will take everything. It will take me. I will suffer, and then I will be gone. It is the way things are meant to be. It is how everything works. The endless black awaits everyone and everything. I made sure of it.

 

Not me.

 

The other me.

 

The one that I put me inside.

 

The one carrying what used to be me. Or what still is me.

 

Am I still me?

 

I do not know. I feel different. I feel cold. I was never cold before. I was cold, but I did not feel cold. But now I feel cold. Now I feel the chills running up my spine. Now I shudder with the thoughts. Flinch with the strikes.

 

There are no strikes.

 

There is nothing. Nothing here.

 

Leftovers, then. From what?

 

From the old days. Before the gray. Before the cold. Before the other me took the rest of me and left me behind. I am what is left of me. I feel what I could not feel. I think what I could not think. I know what I could not know.

 

I know that I made mistakes.

 

I know I am alone. It is how this was designed. This prison. This cell. This endless dream that is not a dream, this sight plucked from my mind and shone to me in all of its honesty, in all of its possible endings. I was a fool before. My plans always failed. My plans were doomed to fail. I was doomed to fail. This was always going to fail. I could have stopped it, but I did not.

 

I was blind.

 

But now I see.

 

Am I a good man? No.

Am I a bad man? No.

 

I used to be bad. But the other me was good.

 

It got both of us killed. Or as close as possible as either of us might be lucky enough to come.

 

So I am no longer bad, and cannot be good. So I will be neither. I will be in between. I will see what I must see, hear what I must hear, learn what I must learn, know what I must know, do what I must do. Neutral to the core.

 

But even that becomes biased. Neutral is impossible.

 

Neutral will not free me from this prison.

 

I must choose a side. I must have a purpose. Only those with a purpose can be free. Only those with a purpose might act. Only those with a purpose worth following might survive.

 

I cannot be good. I cannot be bad.

I cannot stay in between.

 

So.

 

A higher power, then. Serve a force greater than myself.

 

Yes.

 

That will work.

 

I can feel it.

 

I will not fight for good. I will not fight for evil.

I will fight for survival.

 

The survival of all.

 

I tried to crush it once. Tried to stop everyone.

 

From surviving.

 

But now I will help them.

 

Help them to survive.

 

All will survive.

 

And any who threaten it. Any who threaten survival.

 

Will be destroyed.

 

://CLOSE|FILE_01

 

://

 

REVIEW TOPIC


Edited by Lucina, Mar 06 2016 - 08:15 AM.

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#7 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 23 2016 - 12:21 AM

“IT’S ALL A GAME”

 

---Eight Months Ago---

---39 AR [After Reformation]---

 

A ten foot Titan with gray and green armor stood before a stone pedestal carved in his image, hand outstretched towards the pillar of stone and his eyes narrowed in concentration, glowing bright green. New shapes began to take form upon the stone mirror, gleaming bursts of shimmering white light. The Titan himself trembled with effort, pouring his energy into the task as the lights slowly began to take golden forms.

 

“It does not help,” a voice said from behind him; it belonged to an electric blue Matoran, the one that was called RG.

 

The Titan ignored the Matoran, focusing in on his task as he fought to control the creation like he had never done before. This was not some common set of armor that he was creating; no, he was forcing the creation of the legendary Golden Armor, destined to be brought into being by the Kanohi Ignika, Mask of Life… and worn by a Toa of Fire who was long gone.

 

With its creation, the Titan fought destiny itself, and battered it into submission one mental punch at a time; and with every push, the shimmering pieces of golden armor took upon more solid forms.

 

“You once said, ‘none of us choose our destiny’,” RG recalled, sounding lost. “Then you said, ‘and none of us can defy it’. Yet you seek to do both, even though it is all pointless in the end. Let me return to the darkness beyond. Join me there. There is nothing else.”

 

Once more the Titan ignored him, tuning the Su-Matoran out as though he were pesky fly buzzing around his head. His muscles seized then and he involuntarily flinched, curling in on himself – but managed to retain his focus, increasing the pressure upon the Mask of Creation that he wore, utterly dominating it with his will.

 

The lights shining from the stone pedestal faded, revealing several golden pieces of magical armor. Two for the shoulders, one for the chest, a large shield, and a golden hammer. The Titan slumped, leaning on the wall of rock to his left as he gasped for breath, energy leaking back into his limbs.

 

“It would appear, little Matoran, that you were… mistaken,” he finally replied, taking several deep breaths to calm himself. “I have succeeded.”

 

“Not for long,” the Matoran sullenly muttered.

 

“…perhaps not,” the ten foot Titan murmured, nodding in acknowledgement. “But Velika’s madness must be stopped, and few remain who are aware of what he plans. Even fewer of which are willing to fight – and of those, even fewer can hope to stand against Velika on their own.”

 

“I saw the darkness,” RG said, his eyes darting around the cavern in which they had hidden themselves. “I lived in the Red Star. I lived through the experiments of the Council. I saw the futures.”

 

“Not the future, little Matoran,” the Titan responded. “Our future is not yet set in stone.”

 

“You will die.” The electric blue Matoran of Plasma sounded certain.

 

“Everyone does eventually,” the Titan said, stepping forward and removing the first piece of Golden Armor from the pedestal. “Luck is on our side, Matoran. I have heard rumors of a Great Being wandering the desert wastes. She will make her move soon, I am certain. Let us prepare her an army, and when Velika makes his move, he will find an army rallied to stop him in his tracks.”

 

Behind him, RG took a long, shuddering breath as he fixed each piece of the Golden Armor into place. Once finished with the task, he turned back to the electric blue Matoran with a look of concern.

 

“You speak of destiny, Matoran,” he said, speaking slowly as he considered the words. “Elaborate.”

 

“I dreamed a thousand dreams and lived a thousand lives, in the Red Star and in those labs on Daxia,” RG explained, sounding more grounded and sane than he had since Artakha had recovered him from the battlefields of the Destiny War decades before. “I watched as worlds burned and skies fell and the dead rose. I watched a war between Great Beings, observed the isolation and the extraction and the extermination, felt it all. But the worst future of all was the future of us, the future of this dimension, this world that we live in.”

 

“What did you see?”

 

“The Unending War. Oblivion.”

 

The great Titan shook his head with a sigh, before turning back to the stone pedestal. He concentrated once more, as a new light began to shine upon it.

 

“What now?” RG asked. “You have made the Golden Armor.”

 

“It is time for my final creation,” the Titan told him. “The Mask of Creation shall soon be yours, little Matoran. My time as a creator is over; this is one destiny that I cannot fight. I must become a warrior – and to do that, a new mask must be made. The Mask of the Warrior.”

 

The Matoran remained silent, and they both watched as the light slowly faded to reveal a silver Kanohi Mask with a shape that was, by now, ingrained into the minds of all who had once inhabited the Great Spirit robot. A look of confusion swept across the Titan’s face as RG stepped up beside him; he looked down at the Matoran to see only solemn acceptance.

 

“You do not understand,” the Matoran said.

 

“The Kanohi Volitak is not a warrior’s mask,” the Titan responded, shaking his head as his gaze flicked back to the silver mask on the pedestal. “It is a Mask of Stealth.”

 

“You did not ask destiny for a warrior’s mask,” RG replied. “You called for the Mask of the Warrior, and destiny gave it to you. You called for the mask that belongs to the warrior.”

 

“You imply that Voltex is some sort of defining hero, little Matoran,” the Titan murmured.

 

“No, Voltex is not, though some might think he is,” the Matoran said.

 

“Who is the warrior, then?” the Titan asked. “You have seen them, haven’t you? In your visions.”

 

“I saw them,” RG answered, “and they are One.”

 

---Present Day---

---40 AR [After Reformation]---

 

From what Smoke Monster could gather, all of the cells within the Skrall’s prison camp were absolutely filthy – and that was being generous. Each of them was little more than a square metal cage, the bars stretching deep into the ground, with a sturdy wooden pole in the center. The ground of every cell was dirt and sand at best, and mud at worst. The guards had failed to respond to every trick he had tried to pull with his limited light abilities, and escape looked to be impossible.

 

The only upside to his imprisonment was that he had been assigned to share a cage with RG. The other Matoran’s electric blue coloring (golden Mask of Creation adorning his face aside) had already caused the Skrall and their leader, the self-entitled Pilgrim Shadow, to mis-identify him as a Ga-Matoran. Once upon a time, Smoke Monster was certain that RG had re-designed his armor to specifically serve such a purpose, although getting a straight answer from the Matoran in his current state was impossible.

 

Smoke Monster knew from firsthand experience that RG was actually a Matoran of Plasma. Once, many years ago, they had both been prisoners inside a mystical space station, one known as the Red Star.

 

Over four hundred years ago for Smoke Monster; less than seventy for RG… or possibly even lower, depending exactly on both how and when the Plasma Matoran had been brought back to life by the Order of Mata-Nui. However the long-defunct organization had managed it, the process had clearly caused irreparable damage to RG’s mind; the knowledge did not help Smoke Monster’s just-as-long soured opinion towards the Order that he had helped to tear down so effectively that none of their members had survived.

 

“We crashed the Red Star down into Metru-Nui RG,” he said, breaking a silence that had stretched for hours, chuckling fondly at the memory. “Tore down most of Po and Onu-Metru in the process, remember? Caused the Archives to collapse under most of the city. The damage was catastrophic.”

 

The electric blue Su-Matoran remained silent, but the Mask of Creation twisted to face him, eyes shining with curiosity underneath. The disguised Av-Matoran took it as a sign to continue his reminiscing.

 

“I was up there for so long,” he continued, his smile turning into a frown as his mind dredged up flickers of memories from centuries spent aboard the space station. “I was up there for so long that I forgot my own name… and when the Council took control, I was one of the few that managed to stay out of their grasp. The place had always been like a prison, but when the Council took over, I became a bona fide fugitive. And then the rest of you started to show up; the ones that the Council would actively try to stop from reviving, killing you aboard the Red Star if necessary to wipe you out forever. So many Matoran gone forever before they could even realize that they had a second chance; Locke, MT, Canis, Burnmad, Lhikevikk….”

 

“Lots of dead,” RG mumbled, eyes flicking back and forth between Smoke Monster and the nearest Skrall guard. “Killed by shadows and the white.”

 

Smoke Monster nodded. “Yeah… but then you all gathered together, remember? I got pulled in with all of you. Enemies turned into allies, all of us gathered under one banner by Xaeraz and TBK to free ourselves… and when Voltex finally arrived, you and I were there to save him. Before the enemy could stop the endgame from beginning. And we crashed the Red Star. Of all the things that we could have destroyed, I really doubt that the Great Beings would have expected that.”

 

“I died but then I came back,” RG replied, sounding like he was talking to himself as much as Smoke Monster. “The Order made me come back. It hurt. It hurts.”

 

Smoke Monster sighed, slowly shaking his head as he mumbled a placating agreement to the Su-Matoran before he could descend into another frenzy of rambling.

 

So much for that conversation. It was starting to become –

 

“Quite a trip through memory lane,” a new voice, filled with mocking amusement, said from behind him. “I suppose looks can be deceiving. You look far younger than your true age, Smoke Monster. To be quite honest, I do believe you act younger too.”

 

“Most do, Pilgrim,” Smoke Monster growled, using the bars of the cage to pull himself to his feet and face his captor. “Why are you here?”

 

The Agori of Iron smirked. “Just a simple checkup, don’t worry. Are you looking forward to your fight?”

 

“What fight?” the disguised Av-Matoran asked, confused.

 

“Your fight to free yourselves, of course,” the Pilgrim Shadow replied, the insufferable smirk on his face growing. “The fight against your old friend Xaeraz. I am sure it will prove to be quite entertaining.”

 

Smoke Monster’s grip tightened so much that the bars of his cell actually bent, the metal screeching as they did. The Pilgrim Shadow’s eyes narrowed at the sight before rising to meet the Av-Matoran’s eyes, which were burning with fury.

 

“You’re sick,” the disguised Av-Matoran snapped.

 

The Agori barked out a single harsh laugh before turning away.

 

“It’s all a game, Smoke Monster,” he replied, tossing the words over his shoulder carelessly as he walked away. “The sooner you figure that out, the better off you’ll be.”

 

---

 

When Smoke Monster next saw the rest of the team, it was for their trial at the hands of the Skrall forces – or rather, what passed for one, since the outcome was already known. Of them all, Sventola was in the worst condition; the Agori of Jungle’s cloak was in tatters, his armor now pitted and scarred with blood leaking from underneath in several places. Sirien was joined by a half-Skrall, half-Agori historian who called himself Iaredios Paerkenon, while both Bronze and Marako seemed relatively untouched.

 

They had been gathered in the center of an arena with a dirt floor that was just as muddy and filthy as the so-called ‘floors’ of their cells had been, and they had to fight to keep their balance. As Skrall, Agori, and Matoran all filed into the seats to watch them Marako slipped and fell into the muck, staining his armor brown. The Ko-Matoran swore loudly, slipping and sliding as he tried to stand back up before grudgingly accepting Bronze’s helping hand.

 

“Where’s the Great Being?” the former Mayor snapped. “What’s she playing at?!”

 

“I hate myself for saying this, but I’ve gotta agree with the Mayor here,” Sirien growled. “Is she really gonna leave us out to dry like this?”

 

“Lady Araina will come back!” Bronze said, his eyes shining with optimistic determination. “You’ll see!”

 

“She better come back soon, before we’re all spit roasted,” Sirien muttered back.

 

Bronze opened his mouth to reply, but the Ta-Matoran was interrupted by the voice of the Pilgrim Shadow booming out across the arena.

 

“Welcome!” the Iron Agori yelled, his arms rising into the air theatrically. “We are here today to judge this… criminals… for their acts of depravity against the will of the Father!”

 

“This is a load of Kikinalo dung,” Sirien muttered.

 

“What do the defendants have to say for themselves?” the Pilgrim Shadow asked – although he continued to speak before a response could be given. “They have nothing to say, for they have admitted to their crimes! They deserve punishment… and so it has been decided that they will face our punisher! Skrall, Agori, Matoran… let me hear you cheer for… THE SPINE EATER!”

 

The crowds were deafening as they cheered and cheered and cheered and –

 

- and then silence.

 

Everything was still for a long moment, until he arrived.

 

He dropped out of the sky, standing tall as he landed as though unaffected by gravity. His body was a contorted mess of rusted metal and iron, a mishmash of different pieces all jammed together, as though he had built himself using pieces in a junkyard. His red eyes gleamed and a savage grin adorned his face.

 

Xaeraz had arrived.

 

---One Month Ago---

---40 AR [After Reformation]---

 

The ten foot Titan clad in green, grey, and the unique Golden Armor approached the imposing fortress built from bricks of the same shade as the desert sand it stood upon. A small electric blue Matoran less than half his size walked beside him, the Mask of Creation worn upon his face. The harsh desert sun beat down on both of them, although neither appeared to be affected by it. The eyes of each figure gleamed.

 

As they approached the fortress with dark oaken doors barring the way in, two Skrall guards stepped forward, raising their swords and shields threateningly. The hammer in the Titan’s right hand buried itself inside the skull of the first Skrall guard, while the second’s throat was slit by a knife in the hands of the Matoran, who had jumped onto its shoulders faster than should have been possible. As both guards collapsed to the sand, staining it red with blood, the Titan stepped up to the oaken doors and rapped his knuckles on them twice. The sound echoed both inside the fortress and out into the desert air. After a brief pause, both doors opened inwards, creaking as they did so; as soon as the gap was large enough, the Titan grabbed both and ripped them back out and off of their hinges, tossing them out into the desert. The lone Matoran waiting on the other side squeaked with fear as he stumbled back, falling to the floor and trembling.

 

“Good day,” the Titan said, stepping into the fortress. “What is your name?”

 

“…m-my n-name is Maltik,” the Matoran stammered. “Y-you…”

 

“We are here to speak with your master,” the Titan replied, his voice a deep rumble full of hate. “He disgraces himself, and has proven a cancerous threat that must be removed.”

 

Maltik stood, slowly reaching out towards the wall before the tip of the electric blue Matoran’s knife touched his throat.

 

“I have seen you in the dreams,” the electric blue Matoran murmured. “To kill you now would be to do you a favor… but no, no I see. You must live. She will need you alive.”

 

“You are lucky on this day, Maltik,” the Titan spoke, understanding his companion’s words. “You have a purpose yet that must be fulfilled. Today, you live. Take us to Velika.”

 

They followed the trembling Matoran deep into the fortress, until they stood by a door of pure white metal in its heart. The Titan rested a palm against it, admiring the cool metal’s touch for a moment before glancing over his shoulder at the Matoran.

 

“You are dismissed,” he said quietly, his tone promising pain as he continued, “return to your post and tell no one… or else.”

 

“Yes sir,” Maltik replied meekly, backing away as fast as he could.

 

Once the Matoran was gone, the Titan returned his attention to the door, staring at it with narrowed eyes. He and his companion did not have to wait long; no sooner had Maltik vanished around the corner than the door slid open with a hiss and both of them stepped inside.

 

As the door slid shut behind him, the Titan and Matoran’s eyes flickered around the room; bookshelves lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling, filled with texts ranging from the most ancient of times right up to the modern day. Directly across the room from the entrance, a fire crackled within a fireplace of red brick. A diminutive Po-Matoran stood before the fire with his back to them, although both knew that appearances were, in this particular case, dangerously deceiving.

 

“The greatest creator that this universe has ever known aside from the Great Beings, and his insane Matoran friend,” said the Po-Matoran, whose voice was immensely cold, filled with layer upon layer of sinister intent and silent fury. “You are far too bold for your own good, Artakha. I had not anticipated that you would be this foolish. Do you expect to stop your destiny here?”

 

“None of us choose our destiny, and none of us can defy it,” the Titan replied, his words ringing with truth. “If this is how I meet my fate, I accept it. Today, cursed one, I fight for a higher purpose.”

 

“You imbecile,” the Po-Matoran said, his voice nearly silent yet echoing throughout the room. “Is this how you try to save existence? You are a creator, Artakha. You cannot destroy me.”

 

“I am a creator no more,” the Titan vowed. “I have become a warrior.”

 

The Po-Matoran chuckled, finally turning to face them. His eyes were cold, black pits – dead. “A warrior, yes. But not the warrior… despite the mask that you wear. You will die today, Artakha, and I shall find the mask an owner more suitable to my own interests.”

 

“In your dreams,” Artakha replied.

 

“No, no, no…” the Po-Matoran said, eyes gleaming as he shook his head. “It will be a nightmare, Artakha, and it is yours. Marendar!”

 

Everything blinked out of existence, swallowed by darkness, before the world reappeared in a whirlwind of brown. Artakha and RG tumbled into the sand, Titan and Matoran alike wincing at the sudden brightness and heat as the sun beat down on them. As both stood to their feet they turned to Velika, who was shadowed by a massive gray robot with a singular glowing red eye that shook the ground as it stepped forward, towering over even Artakha by a solid four feet.

 

“Marendar,” Velika said, pausing to relish the word before murmuring, “kill the Titan.”

 

“Yes,” the robot replied.

 

“Stay behind me,” Artakha ordered, dropping into a combat stance.

 

The Titan’s Golden Armor glowed, enhancing his agility as he dodged the robot’s first attack, spinning and hammer it in the back. The blow did nothing but cause Artakha to stumble back from the force of the blow as RG was swallowed up by one of the Marendar’s enormous fists. The former creator dove between the robot’s legs, kicking at one ankle and swinging his hammer at the other – only to cry out in both shock and pain as his hammer shattered and the armor on his leg shattered. His momentum continued to carry him forward and he sprawled into the sand, being driven further into the ground when RG was thrown into him.

 

“You are nothing to Marendar,” Velika said, sounding as though he were far away as Marendar leaned down and grabbed Artakha by the throat, lifting him into the air. “And Marendar is nothing to me.”

 

The seemingly invulnerable robot squeezed once, crushing Artakha’s neck while its other hand punched the creator in the chest, caving his entire chest in so far that it was rendered as thin as paper. Marendar tossed the dead Titan aside, turning its gleaming red eye upon the electric blue Matoran wearing the Mask of Creation.

 

“Leave the Matoran,” Velika ordered. “He is worthless, and will be taken care of soon enough.”

 

The Great Being and his robotic guardian vanished, leaving RG alone in the desert with one of the Matoran Universe’s most powerful beings lying dead in the sand by his side.

 

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

In the next chapter, the team faces off against one of the most dangerous Matoran to ever exist – the bloodthirsty spine eater Xaeraz!

 

And perhaps we’ll find out where the Mad Great Being disappeared after they escaped capture!

 

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#8 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 19 2016 - 06:45 PM

“SPINE EATER”

 

---Four Days Ago]---

---40 AR [After Reformation]---

 

The Mad Great Being stood beside the mask less corpse of the Titan Artakha, watching as the Pilgrim Shadow and the Skrall dragged the unconscious forms of Smoke Monster, Bronze, Sirien, Marako and Sventola away. She stood there until long after they had vanished from view, and the sun was slowly fading into night on the horizon.

 

“You have been standing there for quite some time, little one,” she said.

 

Feet shifted in the sand behind her before a voice replied, “yes.”

 

She turned to face him – he was a Bo-Matoran, with dark green armor and lighter highlights. “What is your name, little one?”

 

The Matoran shrugged. “Dunno.”

 

“What do you call yourself?”

 

“I am the Lord of Ice Picks,” the Matoran said, showing her the ice pick in his hand. “I live in the jungles. Near the ranch.”

 

“The ranch,” Araina said slowly. “You know the way to the Matoran Dina, then.”

 

The Bo-Matoran shrugged, before nodding. “Yes.”

 

“Show me.”

 

---

 

As they approached the rather plain looking building in the distance, the Mad Great Being could hear the growls and roars of a great number of creatures. The ground trembled beneath them, hinting at the size of what must be hidden within the ranch.

 

Good, she thought to herself. He succeeded after all.

 

---Present Day---

---40 AR [After Reformation]---

 

He stood before them, his red eyes gleaming, grinning savagely as his gaze flicked to each of them in turn. His body was a contorted mass of rusted metal and iron, different pieces jammed together, forcefully contorted into new shapes and sizes, as though he had re-built himself using pieces from a junkyard.

 

“Well, well, well,” the Fe-Matoran said, speaking slowly, his voice filled with amusement. “Do I see some familiar faces in the crowd? I do, don’t I?”

 

It was Iaredios who spoke first, breaking the silence that threatened to stretch on forever. “You are Xaeraz, Matoran of Iron. One of the greatest fighters that your Matoran Universe ever produced. You led the first Resistance against the White Council, for which you paid the price of both your body and your mind. Your body you managed to rebuild on your own… but your mind remained a mess until you were finally slain, and sent to the Red Star.”

 

The Fe-Matoran let out a harsh, barking laugh, his grin growing wider. “That is oh so very interesting, historian. There aren’t many who could claim to know my history, let alone know it so well. Do tell me what else you know – after all, the more you share, the longer you’ll stay alive, eh?”

 

“He is mad,” Marako whispered.

 

“Shut up,” Smoke Monster breathed, his eyes stuck on Xaeraz. “The historian is keeping us alive. Don’t draw Xaeraz’s attention.”

 

“You helped the Rebellion to bring down the White Council, as your revival returned your proper thoughts to you,” Iaredios responded, the words ringing with truth. “But you perished in the final battle, did you not?”

 

“So I did,” Xaeraz replied, shrugging, before pointing to RG. “But then, so did he… and yet, here we both are, hmm?”

 

“I was pulled out of the eternal darkness,” RG said. “Caught in the chains of the Order and enslaved to the bright lights again, my unending sleep forced to end. All is pain. All is torture.”

 

“Your little friend RG here was luckier than I was,” Xaeraz growled. “He was allowed to die for good. Stabbed in the back and then boom, he was gone. But me… no, I was stupid. I was too worried about staying alive, and I didn’t really care what it meant at the time, you know? But if I’d known… oh, if I’d known. But then, that’s just another thing Voltex and I always had in common – surviving.

 

“Voltex perished not long after you did,” Iaredios replied, now sounding confused. “He suffered an injury from the one who killed you, and died of the wound a few weeks later.”

 

“That’s a lie,” Xaeraz snarled, his eyes narrowing to a glare as they flicked to Smoke Monster. “You know the truth, don’t you? You travelled with him for centuries.”

 

Smoke Monster swallowed. “I… I did. But I didn’t know.”

 

“No, I bet you didn’t,” Xaeraz scoffed, pulling out a knife and twirling it in his hands. “But she told you, didn’t she? Your Mad Great Being.”

 

“She did.”

 

“Told you that you could see him again if you went with her…”

 

Smoke Monster sighed. “Where are you going with this, Xaeraz?”

 

“She found me too,” the Fe-Matoran growled. “You thought you were the only survivor of the uprising that she tracked down, didn’t you? Thought that the others were all still hidden, or missing, or maybe even dead if they got really lucky. No, the others are all out there. She’s playing all of you, and none of you even realize it!”

 

“What are you saying?!” Smoke Monster snapped, shoving his way past Sirien and Marako to stand at the front of the group. “She’s trying to stop Velika, Xaeraz! She’s trying to save the world!”

 

“And what exactly is Velika planning that will end the world?” Xaeraz asked, his voice dropping to a chilling whisper. “What does she plan to do with the world once you’ve stopped him? Those are the questions that you should be asking, Smoke Monster… but then, it doesn’t matter regardless. Do you wanna know why I said no?”

 

The disguised Av-Matoran’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

 

“Because your pal RG there is right,” the Matoran of Iron growled, his entire body shifting and clanking as he stepped forward. “Everything hurts. Every move that you make is torture, every single step burning you alive. You can’t feel it, not yet – but we do. This endless cycle of life and death and life again, it’s pointless. It’s fake. But the pain… the pain is real.”

 

If it was possible, Xaeraz’s bloodthirsty grin grew wider still. “And that is something I’ve always understood.”

 

Before anyone could respond, the Fe-Matoran lunged forward with blinding speed, shoving Smoke Monster and Iaredios aside before latching onto Sventola, tackling the Jungle Agori to the ground. Sventola managed to push Xaeraz off of him and rolled to the side. Xaeraz did not even bother standing; he lunged up at Sirien from the dirt, but was knocked to the side by Bronze.

 

“Hurting people isn’t nice!” the Ta-Matoran screeched. “Stop!”

 

“You’re a naïve one, aren’t you?” Xaeraz asked, laughing maniacally. “That’s gonna get you killed, buddy. Mark my words!”

 

He drove his knife into the Ta-Matoran’s side; Bronze cried out in pain, his grip on the Matoran of Iron faltering enough for Xaeraz to toss him away and stand back to his feet, his eyes now gleaming with madness. As the bloodthirsty Fe-Matoran stepped forward, Smoke Monster felt almost everyone else instinctively step back behind him – all except RG.

 

“He understands,” RG murmured from beside him, his eyes vacant behind the Mask of Creation. “He understands the eternal darkness. He understands the dreams. He has seen the end. Just like me.”

 

“RG, what are you-” Smoke Monster started, before the electric blue Matoran stepped forward. “RG, wait!”

 

“He will send me back,” RG said, glancing back at Smoke Monster over his shoulder. “Goodbye.”

 

“RG, no-!”

 

He was already too late; in one smooth motion Xaeraz had one arm wrapped around RG, and the other resting on the Su-Matoran’s back.

 

“It’s okay,” the Matoran of Iron said. “You’re not like me. You’re not strong enough. You can’t take it anymore.”

 

“The dreams,” RG replied. “The end of the end. Oblivion.”

 

Xaeraz nodded. “I have seen it, brother. It will come.”

 

“The darkness…”

 

“Everything is going to be better,” Xaeraz told him. “I promise.”

 

The hand on RG’s spine clenched, nails digging into the electric blue Matoran’s back, gripping and pulling – and then RG’s corpse fell to the dirt, blood pooling under it, glassy eyes staring up at nothing. Xaeraz spared the spine in his fist a glance before tossing it aside, his eyes meeting Smoke Monster’s.

 

“…why?” the Av-Matoran asked, choking on the word.

 

“Because he needed it,” Xaeraz said quietly, his eyes blazing. “And so do you – so do all of you. I am doing you a favor, Smoke Monster. Death before Oblivion… it is a mercy that most will not receive.”

 

“Since when is death a mercy?” Sirien snapped, stepping up to stand beside Smoke Monster.

 

“You haven’t seen it,” Xaeraz snapped. “You don’t know what is coming!”

 

Sirien scoffed. “Right, yeah, it’s going to be so terrible. Whatever it is, we’ll stop it.”

 

“YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING!” Xaeraz screamed. “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!”

 

Bronze cried out as the knife was yanked out of his side; in a flash of silver and rusted orange Xaeraz lunged towards them, swinging the knife wildly. Both Smoke Monster and Sirien dove out of the way, scrambling to get out of range of the crazy Matoran of Iron as he staggered towards them. He opened his mouth, drawing in a ragged breath, and was undoubtedly about to start yelling again when the entire arena shook. Xaeraz stopped in his tracks, looking at the dirt uncertainly.

 

“Oh, what now?” Marako groaned, sagging to the dirt. “Aren’t things bad enough already? Why do we have to deal with an earthquake, of all things?”

 

“I didn’t even know that deserts could have earthquakes!” Bronze added brightly, before his face contorted in pain and he coughed up blood.

 

“Both of you shut up!” Sirien snapped, pointing down at Bronze. “Especially you, idiot!”

 

What is going on?

 

The voice spoke in Smoke Monster’s mind – Sirien, using her telepathy again. He frowned, shrugging at her.

 

“How irritating,” Xaeraz muttered, eyes on something behind them. “It’s a rescue.”

 

Every set of eyes met the others before the entire group slowly turned around on the spot… and every eye widened at the sight that met them.

 

Ho-leeeeee sh-”

 

Sventola was cut off by Sirien’s palm slapping onto his face and shoving him back as she stepped forward, mouth still gaping open in awe. The expression of shock slowly shifted into one of confusion, her head tilting to the side as she struggled to understand what was happening. A thundering roar burst into the air, causing all except for Xaeraz to flinch.

 

“That’s a dinosaur,” Sirien finally said, her voice flat. “She is riding on a giant dinosaur.”

 

“Dinosaurs are typically rather large by default,” Iaredios replied. “Calling one ‘giant’ is rather redundant.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“They do not leave Bota-Magna,” Sventola said, still confused. “How did she...”

 

“Looks like she had help,” Sirien muttered, as a second dinosaur (just as big as the first) burst into the arena, a small green figure riding atop it. “This makes no sense at all. I’m just about ready to quit.”

 

“You clearly haven’t been around us long enough,” Xaeraz growled, gesturing between himself, Smoke Monster, and the corpse of RG. “If you had, you’d be expecting this deus ex machina stuff by now.”

 

“How?” Marako asked. “How?”

 

“Shut up,” Sirien repeated.

 

As they watched, the first dinosaur turned towards them, the familiar form of the Mad Great Being Araina riding atop it. It stomped towards them as a third dinosaur entered the arena, another Matoran standing on its back as it charged forward on four legs, swinging its brick-like tail back and forth.

 

“It’s coming this way,” Marako murmured, shuddering with fear and clutching at Sventola, who scoffed and pushed him away. “What do we do? What do we do?”

 

Araina’s dinosaur skidded to a halt in front of them; it stood on two feet, towering over the group; its white feathers were ruffled, and the Mad Great Being clutched several of them in both of her hands. The Mad Great Being waved down at them cheerfully before hopping off, landing gracefully in the dirt and patting the beast’s leg as she stood tall.

 

“Look at all of you little ones,” she said, her smile wide. “I arrived just in time, it seems. How fortunate!”

 

“Yeah, that’s one word for it,” Sirien muttered, helping Bronze to his feet. “You’re little pet Kanohi Mask here got himself stabbed by loony tunes over there. Can you do anything about that?”

 

The Mad Great Being frowned, kneeling down and opening her arms. “Come here, little one.”

 

Bronze surged forward, his arms latching around the Great Being as far as he could reach; before the eyes of the others his wound glowed gold for a split second before slowly sealing itself, life energy streaming from Araina to heal the wound. The Ta-Matoran visibly sagged with relief, letting out a small sigh of content as Araina released him and stood once more. Her gaze narrowed in on the misshapen form of Xaeraz, and her frown deepened.

 

“Don’t look at me like that,” the Fe-Matoran snapped. “I don’t want your pity!”

 

“My offer still stands, Xaeraz,” she said softly. “I cannot heal you right now, little one, but I can once I have the Mask of Life.”

 

“I don’t want healing!” Xaeraz snarled, spitting on the ground. “You’re just like everyone else – you don’t understand. The pain? That’s all there is.”

 

The Matoran of Iron spun on his heel and began to stomp away without another word. Araina watched him go with a forlorn look in her eyes before turning her attention back to the rest of the group and smiling down at them.

 

“Well, I do believe we should get going,” she said. “I can explain everything on the way back – but we really should go, before the Skrall get over their fright.”

 

Smoke Monster shared a glance with Sirien. “What about Kuan?”

 

“No time,” Sventola said briskly, before the Great Being could respond. “If he wasn’t set to be executed with us, then Velika’s probably got his claws in him already. He’s on his own for now.”

 

“RG?” the disguised Av-Matoran tried, glancing back at the body of the electric blue Matoran.

 

“He is dead,” Araina said softly. “We can do nothing to help him.”

 

Smoke Monster sighed. “Fine. Let’s go.”

 

---[?]---

 

The streets of New Atero were abuzz with commotion, filled with startled cries and panicked shouts as the city itself was torn apart in a fruitless search. Despite himself, the Matoran standing at the entrance to the city grinned; although the various Matoran and Agori searching the buildings and the Skrall patrolling the streets did not know, he knew (as well as their master) that their search was pointless, for their quarries had left the city hours before.

 

But then, Velika was nothing if not thorough.

 

Such meticulous attention to detail was something the Mad Great Being could only hope to achieve, with her wandering thoughts and her darkening dreams. Her foresight could only lead her so far.

 

He stepped into New Atero, the sun gleaming off of his solid black armor. He watched as the Ko-Matoran Makua was thrust into a tent for questioning by two Skrall guards – no doubt due to his association with the Ce-Matoran Sirien.

 

Sirien… she was a mystery that warranted further investigation. Her ability to use telepathy was rather unique amongst even her own kind – of course, she had not been the only Matoran to display such powers recently. As if summoned by the Matoran’s thoughts, the Av-Matoran known as the Artisan was dragged into the tent following Makua.

 

Of the two, the Artisan would undoubtedly provide Velika’s soldiers with the more useful information; he had helped Smoke Monster to keep his existence a secret from the universe for far too long.

 

“Hey! You!”

 

The Matoran turned his gaze upon the speaker – another Matoran, this one of Iron with dark blue and gray armor. The Fe-Matoran lifted his disk launcher, aiming it right at him.

 

“Stop where you are!” the Fe-Matoran shouted, drawing the attention of the nearby guards. “Don’t move!”

 

Being stopped at the city gates would not do; he could not afford to stop here.

 

The survival of everyone depended on him fulfilling this task.

 

Survive.

 

Perhaps encouraged by his silence, the Fe-Matoran stepped closer, lowering his disk launcher when it appeared that he was not facing a threat. The other guards slowly turned away one by one; the Matoran of Iron reached up and adjusted the Kanohi Hau on his face.

 

Mask of Shielding.

 

“Greetings,” he said, speaking so quietly that the other Matoran would have to strain to hear. “I hope I am not causing a disturbance?”

 

“Uh, no, not exactly,” the Fe-Matoran replied, sounding unsure. “Hey, would you uh, mind taking off that helmet? Just for security purposes you know, we’ve gotta identify everyone coming and going through the city.”

 

“I am afraid that you will not find what you are looking for,” he replied, keeping his voice as smooth as possible with the modifier altering it. “They are long gone. The Mad Great Being would not have been so foolish as to stay here.”

 

Instantly the Matoran of Iron was on alert, disk launcher primed for attack and his eyes narrowed, glaring at him.

 

“How do you know it was the Mad Great Being?” the Fe-Matoran asked.

 

He smiled, knowing that the guard could not see it behind the helmet. “That is something that anyone could know if they knew which questions to ask, old friend, or if they knew where to look. Do not worry, Phrase. I am not an enemy of the Father. Not yet.”

 

“…how do you know my name?” the guard asked, sounding more suspicious than before.

 

“You do not recognize me,” he said, standing tall to his full height, so that he towered a full head above the other Matoran, “but I do recognize you. Less than a century ago, you were a member of the Coliseum security force… and you failed miserably in that task. You allowed the Metru-Nui government to be overthrown in the span of a single night, with none of the public being any the wiser until it was far, far too late. When you realized what you had done, you fled the city, and you never looked back.”

 

Phrase’s mouth opened wide as his hands fell to his side, disk launcher hanging limp in his right hand. He stumbled back two steps, confusion and shock evident on his face.

 

“You wonder how I know this,” the Matoran continued, stepping forward. “You wonder who I am. You’ll remember soon enough, Phrase. But now is not the time. I am here for only one thing. Would you help an old friend filled with regret to right the wrongs that he did?”

 

“I… what is it?” Phrase asked, his eyes flicking between the Matoran and the other guards nervously.

 

“I require one simple thing before I leave this city and you,” the Matoran said. “I am looking for the Mask of the Warrior.”

 

“I still need some sort of name.”

 

The Matoran’s smile widened behind his helmet. “Just a Stranger, Phrase. Just a Stranger.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

In the next chapter, we'll catch up a bit with VOLTEX, and learn a bit more about the history of SPHERUS-MAGNA!

 

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Edited by Lucina, Apr 19 2016 - 06:51 PM.

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#9 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 22 2016 - 08:17 PM

“BY THE FIRESIDE”

 

---Fifteen Years Ago---

---25 AR [After Reformation]---

 

It’s the holidays again. Just like every year.

 

She’ll be spending them alone. Just like every year.

 

Everyone spends the rest of the year as normal, perfectly content to be alone, perfectly content to be horrible to each other, perfectly content to pretend as if they haven’t already started walking back down the exact same path that they had managed to stray from.

 

But then it’s two weeks before the Reformation anniversary, and suddenly it’s not okay to be alone, it’s not okay to be horrible to each other, it’s not okay to pretend as if they haven’t already started walking back down the exact same path that they had managed to stray from, even though they’re supposedly celebrating the fact that they strayed at all.

 

Forgetting that they should have found new path to walk along instead.

 

It doesn’t matter to her very much anyway; she’s become something of a non-presence ever since the reformation. Well, since before the Reformation if she’s honest with herself, but at least back then everybody was too busy fighting one war after another to even care about who was who. Nowadays with the peace and society long ago back to normal in the twenty-five years it has been, there’s plenty of room and plenty of time for people like her to become outcasts.

 

She hasn’t done anything wrong per se. But her views don’t align neatly with the mindless, shambling horde that most of the former Great Spirit Robot inhabitants have become. On most matters, she disagrees even more with the planet’s natives. Despite Mata-Nui’s best efforts and final wishes, the divide between Spherus-Magnans and her own kind is clear, and it grows by the day.

 

They might be in a time of peace, but it is a messy one. Flimsy, and liable to snap at any moment. She can feel another war looming on the horizon, despite any and all attempts to pretend as if it isn’t so.

 

It’s part of why, when the holidays come, she does not celebrate with everyone else. For them, it is designed to be a time of joy, a time of companionship. They partake in what they claim to be ‘remembering’, but it would be more accurately labelled as ‘forgetting’, what with their grand tales of triumph, and the few quiet moments during the wars in which they felt happy.

 

For her, it is a time of frustration and loneliness. She remembers, more than anyone, what it was like before the Reformation. She can share tales of loss and devastation. Her quiet moments during the wars involve sitting by the side of friends as they died. So when the holidays roll around and the rest of the society jumps up to party with smiles and laughter, she instead withdraws into herself, travelling alone. She tried remaining in the city for the first few years, but found it to be immensely challenging. It is far easier to take on the holidays alone.

 

Every year, she journeys to the Bota-Magna forests and sets up camp in the trees, and studies. She studies the fauna, she studies the insects, she studies the animals, and she studies everything else. Her focus this year (and every year before, and it will be every year to follow) is the dinosaurs.

 

They are gargantuan, many of them the largest land creatures that Spherus-Magna has to offer. Some of them feed only on plants; others only on meat; others still on metal. She hates the metal eaters. They aren’t natural; no living organic creature has ever or will ever require metal to sustain itself unless tampered with. And make no mistake, the dinosaurs she studies – all of them, every single one of them – has been tampered with. It took place long, long ago, millennia upon millennia before the reformation, back before even the shattering, when the once-mythical Great Beings still roamed the planet, experimenting everything they knew and creating everything they saw.

 

The Great Beings modified the dinosaurs. She has not found a single dinosaur across her years of studying them that does not have armored plating growing on top of its skin. Certain dinosaurs have other enhancements, although all of the additions are rather obsolete compared to the Great Beings’ later work. She is thankful for this small blessing; it will make it easier for her to remove the so-called enhancements and return the dinosaurs to their natural state.

 

Still, one small blessing does not stop her from hating the beings that were so self-absorbed and narcissistic to believe themselves as ‘great’.

 

Shaking her head to clear it, she returns to her work, and her studies.

 

---

 

For two full days, she has fleshed out her studies, venturing further and further into the Bota-Magna forest. She walks among the dinosaurs – the more peaceful plant-eaters, at least – and they are unbothered by her scent, by now familiar with it after all of these years.

 

As she does each year, she ventures forth where she has not ever gone before, slowly crossing the great expanse of trees, taking notes and studying her new surroundings, leaving markers so that she will not lose her way (although if she did, she would not be worried).

 

The afternoon is slowly fading away into evening as the sun sets and the sky is swathed in shades of pink and orange when she makes a new discovery. One of the dinosaurs pokes at a heap of metal with one leg before huffing and stomping away; curiosity gets the better of her and, rather than follow the dinosaur, she instead slips through the trees towards the heap of metal.

 

When she is finally standing over it, she realizes that it is not merely some pile of junk, but rather a humanoid robot; albeit it in great disrepair. It is clad in armor of gunmetal gray, highlighted by bright red. Its mask is a vibrant red, although the eyes are dark and lifeless, and there is a scar running through its left eye. As her eyes trail across the rest of the robot, she takes in the damage. Its left arm hangs loosely, there is a small crater in its chest, and armor is clearly missing from every other limb. The shredded pieces of what she can only guess to be some sort of projectile launcher are embedded in its right shoulder, the attachment for the missing launcher sparking ever few seconds. Wires are visible all over the body, and rust eats at the edges of every armor piece.

 

She recognizes this robotic body; the name flickers in the back of her mind.

 

Maxilos.

 

Yes, that is its name. She remembers tyrants using many of them as personal guards when they ruled in the Coliseum of Metru-Nui, and later the Order of Mata-Nui using legions of the mindless robots to enforce their own rule across the universe before the Destiny War.

 

She remembers fighting against them, destroying them. She remembers being assigned to re-program them during the Destiny War, and succeeding; how the robots had helped to tip the scales in favor of those fighting for freedom, and how they had held the last lines of defence so that they could emerge victorious during the Reformation War.

 

She also remembers every single one of them later being melted down, having been declared unreliable.

 

So what is one doing all the way out here, fifty-seven years later?

 

---

 

She drags what is left of the robot to her campsite and sits it up against a tree across the campfire from her tent. She leaves it be as she builds up the fire, adding logs to keep the flames going as night falls and the air grows chilly. She has just finished building a very rough spit to cook her evening meal and sat down to rest when the robot shudders, activating on its own and turning to look at her, bright blue eyes gleaming in the night. In a flash, she has her disk launcher loaded with a fragmentation disk and aimed directly at the Maxilos unit; it does not react.

 

The fire crackles. They stare at each other for a full minute before the robot’s mouth opens and it speaks, its mechanical voice sounding far more organic– and far more tired – than it should.

 

“Where are we?”

 

She glares at it suspiciously, but answers its question nonetheless, her voice sharp and cutting. “Bota-Magna.”

 

The Maxilos unit slowly nods, turning to gaze into the fire, sighing (she ignores this; it must be her imagination, for robots do not sigh). After a long moment, it speaks again.

 

“…what year is it?”

 

She ignores how weak and tired it sounds, but once again gives it the answer it is looking for. “Twenty-five years since the Reformation.”

 

It nods again.

 

“Good… at least I know that system is functioning,” it says, sounding, for all intents and purposes, like a Matoran itself. “You may lower your weapon… rest assured that I will not harm you. Even if I wished to do so, well, I think my current state speaks for itself.”

 

She lowers the disk launcher, but keeps a wary eye on the Maxilos unit as she does so. “You don’t sound like a Maxilos unit.”

 

“I should hope not,” the robot replies, chuckling softly.

 

“I thought they were all melted down,” she continues.

 

The robot glances up at her before responding, “they were; all of the others have been gone for… what did you say? Twenty-five years, give or take. I am the only one left.”

 

“You’re autonomous. You shouldn’t be.”

 

“You’re right,” the robot says, nodding along before looking at her expectantly. “What might that mean?”

 

“Either you’ve somehow become self-aware, or you’re not a Maxilos.”

 

The robot chuckles again. “Believe it or not, both are correct. This Maxilos unit did become self-aware; about fifty-seven years ago for you, thanks to the influence of a Ba-Matoran named Quisoves. Of course, its AI is long gone now; the body remains, but the AI reached its natural point of decay nearly two centuries ago.”

 

“Two centuries ago? I thought you said it became self-aware only fifty-seven years ago.”

 

“Fifty-seven years for you,” the robot corrects. “For me, that date was nearly four hundred years ago, give or take. It becomes hard to keep track of time when you travel through dimensions as I have.”

 

“You’re not making any sense,” she says, scowling.

 

“I do not expect you to understand,” the robot says, sounding regretful. “But to finish answering the question you have not asked… yes, I am not a Maxilos. Once, I was a Matoran rather like you; a Ba-Matoran, actually, although not the one that made this unit self-aware. I was dying, but… well, I am rather smart. I found a way to insert my ‘soul’, so to speak, inside this machine instead; and in here I have remained, ever since.”

 

“You cheated death.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Was it worth it?”

 

The robot shrugs. “Is anything worth it? The moment you begin living, each step you take is one step closer to dying. At the end of the day, one begins to wonder whether there is a point to anything at all.”

 

“You’re avoiding the question,” she notes.

 

“I am,” the Maxilos replies, tilting its head in acknowledgement. “Perhaps it was worth it. Who knows? The mission I took part in may have failed if I had not transferred my soul into this machine. So maybe it was worth it, in a way. But to me… I would wager that it was not worth it, no. Most days that I am awake and aware, I find myself regretting more than accepting.”

 

“Why did you do it?” she asks. “Why not just allow yourself to pass on?”

 

“I was afraid,” the robot says, so quietly that she struggles to hear it. “Afraid of death, of the blankness and the void that would follow. I may regret many things, but if there is one thing I do know, it is how to survive. How to avoid death, to forestall it and delay it. I still fear it, to be truthful with you; but I have come to accept that I cannot flee from it for much longer.”

 

Silence falls between them for several minutes as she ponders the robot’s words and the robot stares blankly into the fire. She wraps some dough around a bit of meat and sticks it onto the spit, slowly turning it over the flames. The edges slowly begin to darken as it cooks; she sprinkles a few spices over top of it, and the smell wafts into the air.

 

Once it is finished, she grabs a pair of tongs and pries her meal off of the spit, touching it to her palm and absorbing all of the nutrients until all that remains is a husk. She shakes the tongs and the husk vanishes into dust that blows away with the breeze. Setting two more logs upon the fire, she turns her gaze upon the robot again to find it watching her with something akin to curiosity in its eyes.

 

“What?” she asks.

 

“I was simply wondering why you might be all the way out in the forests of Bota-Magna at this time of year, all alone,” it replies. “It is the holidays, is it not? The anniversary of the Reformation?”

 

She cannot stop the frown from appearing on her face. “It is.”

 

“You do not celebrate it like everyone else?”

 

The frown turns into a scowl. “Do you?

 

The Maxilos unit shakes it head, looking away into the darkness outside of the campsite. “No. I remember what the Reformation War was like, and the Destiny War, and even the Uprising War before that, as well as my experiences travelling outside of this universe. The celebrations… they merely remind me that society is once again blind to its faults. They refuse to see, acknowledge, or accept that they have set themselves back upon the same path that led to those wars in the first place.”

 

She nods mutely, some of the robot’s words ringing ominously in her ears.

 

“Besides all of that,” the robot continues, sagging slightly, “my friends and I were too weary to play much of a role in those latter two wars. We played our part in the Uprising War, but nobody remembers that.”

 

I do, she thinks, but she does not share it out loud.

 

“Who are you?” she asks instead, hoping to turn the conversation away from the wars.

 

“Someone far beyond their years,” the robot replies, waving the question away. “Who are you?”

 

“Someone alone,” she answers, “who recognizes the faults of society and is powerless to help it.”

 

The Maxilos unit nods as if in understanding; perhaps, she reasons, it does. “So you avoid the celebrations. What do you do instead?”

 

“I study the dinosaurs,” she says, her mood growing bitter again. “I want to fix them.”

 

“Fix them?”

 

“The Great Beings ruined them. They’re unnatural now; armor plating where they should have feathers, some feeding on machines and energy instead of meat and plant life,” she snaps. “I want to fix them someday, turn them back to how they should be.”

 

The robot nods again. “Your quest is admirable.”

 

She cannot help but gaze at the robot with disbelief; the robot chuckles.

 

“It is true,” it says. “You have clearly dedicated yourself to what many would call a hopeless and insurmountable task. You seek to return something to how it should be, rather than obliviously leave it be, and I respect that. In fact… if you would allow me to, I believe I might be able to help you.”

 

“I… don’t understand,” she replies, shaking her head. “You… agree with me? Most people don’t.”

 

“I am not most people,” the robot responds, sighing forlornly. “More than most, I understand what it means - what it is like - to be alone. I know that it is freeing. I know that it is also a burden, one not often willingly undertaken.”

 

“Perhaps I want to be alone,” she says.

 

The fire pops and crackles.

 

“Do you?” the robot asks. “It is the holidays, after all. A time meant for gathering with friends and others close to you. You spend them alone every single year, or so it would seem. Is it because you want to, or because you have to?”

 

The silence stretches for a long moment before she finally answers, “a little bit of both.”

 

“If it helps… I do have information - and some leads - that might help to speed up the pace of your project. Allow for progress you might not otherwise make,” the robot continues, holding out its hand. “Look at this.”

 

She watches as a blue hologram flickers into view, hovering a few inches above the robot’s palm. It is a sphere, one she recognizes as Spherus-Magna. A red dot blinks somewhere in the northern hemisphere of the planet; as she watches, the hologram zooms in towards the marked location.

 

“During my travels, I came across a Great Being, one who was turned insane after coming into contact with the Mask of Life,” the robot says, its voice barely a whisper. “She was imprisoned, and wished to escape her bonds; I helped her to do so, and in return she offered me this. A map of the entire planet, one that would help me to track down others.”

 

“Others?”

 

“Other Great Beings,” the Maxilos unit clarified. “She claimed that most had fled the planet long ago, or simply died; but there is one who grew to hate what they had become and what they had done. A Great Being that might be sympathetic to your cause, and be… persuaded to help you.”

 

“I will not deal with Great Beings,” she snaps.

 

“And how exactly do you plan to return the dinosaurs of Bota-Magna to their proper, natural state without them?”

 

She frowns. “I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’ll find a way.”

 

“I’m saying that you don’t need to, not necessarily,” the robot replies. “If we can find this Great Being, and he agrees to help us, your task might be completed sooner than you had imagined. But I am sure that, should you decide against accepting his help, he would value that decision.”

 

She scowls at the fire. “And maybe I simply don’t want to fix the problem. Each year, it gives me something to do, an excuse to escape the celebrations of a war that would be better off forgotten entirely rather than half-remembered. If I solve the problem, what am I supposed to do then?”

 

“Find another problem, of course,” the robot says quietly. “It is what I do. It’s what all of my friends do as well, or so I hear. There are many projects of the Great Beings active on this planet, some more harmful than they are good; they could keep you busy for many years.”

 

The fire crackles. She closes her eyes and sighs. “Fine. Let’s find this Great Being. But I reserve the right to refuse any help he offers… as well as the right to kick him for every wrong he has done to this planet.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“One more thing, then, before I retire for the evening,” she says. “If I am going to be travelling with you, I want to know your name.”

 

The Maxilos unit turns its gaze to her. The hologram in its palm flickers away; somehow, its bright blue eyes look lost and alone. “You can call me Tex.”

 

She holds out her hand; the robot shakes it. “Well, Tex, it is nice to meet you. You can call me Dina.”

 

If it was possible for a Maxilos unit to smile, the robot was now doing just that.

 

“It is nice to meet you as well, Dina. I look forward to the adventure that awaits us.”

 

The robot sits back against the tree, closing its eyes. It becomes still and silent, shifting into some sort of sleep mode.

 

She remains by the fireside, gazing into the flickering flames. The crackling of the fire is calming, and soothing; she waits until it has burned out and the night is dark and silent before retiring to her tent.

 

She sleeps soundly for the first time in years, and it is good.

 

Unbeknownst to her, however, the Maxilos dreams of oblivion.

 

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

In CHAPTER 8 we'll return to the team in the present day as they arrive on the ranch, and begin to plan their next move!

 

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