Jump to content
Scorpion_Strike

The Folly of the Toa [Finished]

Recommended Posts

Hello Bzpower, and welcome to what I can only describe as the largest collection of runaway imagination that I have ever put together. It all started with an off-hand comment on someone else's picture, which I followed with a satirical picture of my own, then a description that turned into a short story, which spawned a 'sequel' that ended up longer than planned with every chapter... And here we are, Word document upon Word document later. I've been posting this on DeviantArt and the TTV boards for a while now, but have now decided to share it here as well. So, without further ado, I invite you to join me on Spherus Magna, thousands of years after the Reformation, looking through the eyes of a young Toa of Psionics who's about to come face to face with legends of old... legends to whom time has not been kind. Welcome everyone, to...
folly_of_the_toa_logo_by_scorpion_strike
"It is our great folly: we helped create this paradise, but have no reason to exist in it. ...in this world that neither needs nor wants us, we slowly fade away."

- Toa Gali Nuva

 
[Review Topic]
 
In 'The Folly of the Toa," I wanted to explore some of Bionicle's most famous characters, the Toa Nuva, from a different viewpoint than the romances, the 'hero's stories' that they usually show up in. I aimed for a downfall instead: a tragedy. Obviously, the Toa Nuva are mighty heroes, but the question quickly arose: what do the heroes do when there's nothing to fight, or no one to fight for? Or, to paraphrase one government official from "The Dark Night Rises" concerning Commissioner Gordon: 'They are war heroes. This is peacetime.' What do heroes, who have known nothing but combat, do in peacetime? Throughout G1's story line, the Toa Nuva accomplish many great deeds and face many dangers, but they certainly aren't without flaws, or as Gali describes them, "...our own demons." They were also always prone to bickering among themselves, but they always had a common enemy to unite them: the Makuta. In the wake of the Battle for Bara Magna and the subsequent Reformation, the Toa managed to keep themselves busy, but sooner or later that lack of an enemy, a threat to face up against, created an opportunity for those demons to rise... And as our protagonist, Lis, will soon find out, they have the power to topple giants.
 
The Chapter List:
 
[The Prologue] Note: when I wrote this, I had no idea how much this story would snowball. Therefore, it was never originally intended as a prologue, but more as a 'journal entry' by Gali, something to go along with a picture to provide some background and explore an idea that arose from that picture's discussion. It's still accurate, however, so I figured sticking it in as the prologue was the most appropriate thing I could do with it.
 
Chapters:

[ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ] [ 7 ] [ 8 ] [ 9 ] [10]

[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

[21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]

[31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]

[41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50]

[51] [52] [53] [54] [55] [56]

Edited by Scorpion_Strike
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Prologue

 

I'm all but alone now. The last Toa Nuva? Not really, but most days it seems like I am. Everything I worked for, our team, our bond... broken. In spite of how I fought to keep us together, my brothers have gone their separate ways. Without a common foe to fight, they quickly found their disagreements too great to overcome. Now, one by one, we fall to our own demons.

We've already buried Onua and Lewa; victims of their obsessions; work and play, respectively. They found meaning in those things, and we like to think they died happy, doing what they love, but I can't help but think that both should have been able to escape the circumstances that caused their demise. Onua? A cave-in. Like he hasn't survived plenty of those before. Lewa? Flying among falling debris from a volcanic eruption. Looking for the ultimate thrill, apparently. Again, though, I've got this nagging feeling that the only way in which they could have died how they did was... if they let it happen, if they gave in. I can't think of my brothers like that; gone not because they were beaten, but because they let themselves be taken. I used to imagine what their last moments might have been like, trying to prove to myself that no, they couldn't have escaped. But near as I can tell, they could have, and that thought still keeps me up at night.

Tahu cannot but follow soon; his body is failing him, yet he still insists on fighting in that blasted arena. He is living a fantasy, a death wish to go out in a blaze of glory, to be the 'true warrior.' He acts like he doesn't have a reason to live without having something to fight or fight for, a villain to square off against or helpless villagers to save. So day after day, he goes back out in that arena and fights some Glatorian so the Agori can watch. Apparently it's the only job out there for someone whose entire resume consists of vanquishing the forces of evil by means of the sword, but it's barbaric, it's below him, and it's destroying him. I can't watch him do it anymore. I begged him to stop, but no; he's set on his path, seemingly resigned to his fate. He still stops by every once in a while; I heal whatever injuries he has accumulated as best I can while we chat about the 'good old days,' which seems an odd way to describe a period of time in which the Matoran lived under constant threat of elimination by one evil force or another. Then he talks about his glorious victories in the arena, I tell him what I think about that place, and then he tells me I shouldn't have 'let myself go' the way I have. We get angry, choice words are thrown around, and he leaves me to the show I was watching before he showed up. Yeah, we don't get along well these days; we both disapprove of the way the other is destroying themselves.

Pohatu kept contact... for a while. He became a Kolhii Star, but an injury put an end to his career there. I nursed him back to health, encouraged him to try coaching, to at least stay with the game, but while that injury merely damaged his body, it destroyed his spirit. He's still around, but the Pohatu I knew died on that field... and the shell that remains spends his nights with a bottle, or several, looking wistfully at the trophies on his shelf and cursing the fates. I used to go and visit him, but now it's honestly not worth the effort anymore. And Kopaka? He hasn't been seen since the split... wandered into the mountains, they say. No one knows if he's still alive... the Ko-Matoran erected a statue in commemoration of him. I like to think he's still up there somewhere, doing whatever he does on his own, the only Toa Nuva who's found peace on this brave new world, but I can't imagine he could have survived up there alone for all this time. He always preferred solitude, so even if he is still up there, I probably couldn't find him. And, if I'm honest, I'm in no condition to try.

Spherus Magna is now a land of plenty, and that plenty has left its mark on me; let's just say I'm glad my armor is of the 'adaptive' kind. Getting around is difficult now; not that I have much of a reason to go anywhere. Hahli takes care of me, for the most part; like me, she doesn't have much of a purpose in this world, but she's younger, more energetic, more optimistic, and she's got Hewkii to keep her company. Those two run around like they're taking part in an Agori courting ritual. I don't get out much: like I said, it's difficult these days, and some of the more insolent young Agori in the neighborhood have taken to calling me "Kraawa", after a rahi species that could apparently grow to enormous sizes. Okay, I won't deny there's a grain of truth in that, but pardon me for enjoying the spoils of a world that wouldn't exist without the efforts of me and the team I was a part of. That was harsh... but Hahli insists on bringing by the latest and greatest 'advancements in the culinary arts,' as she calls them, and it would be rude for me not to try them. Besides, it's not like I need to keep in shape for anything these days.

Yeah.. that's what I am now: an old, fat, bitter relic of a bygone age, little but a bad reminder to the Matoran of the horrors we all went through and a burden to a few other Toa. Frankly, I'm surprised Hahli puts up with me; even Hewkii has long since given up on trying to get what remains of Pohatu out of the bottle; why would he? We Toa Nuva have long since lost our purpose, and all my brothers who desperately sought a new one have met their end in one way or another because of it. It is our great folly: we helped create this paradise, but have no reason to exist in it.

So, in this world that neither needs nor wants us, we slowly fade away.

- Toa Gali Nuva

Edited by Scorpion_Strike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------


Chapter 1


--------------------


 


I was passing through Ko-Koro-Nuva when I first saw him: a figure approaching from a path into the high mountains in the middle of the night. Though he had the stature of a Toa, he walked with a severe limp, using a large stick as a cane to steady himself. Still, his movements were precise, calculated, practiced. He wore a long cloak, with its hood drawn over his head to conceal his face. The few Ko-Matoran about didn’t seem to pay much attention to him; there were some odd looks, but his cloak totally concealed his identity, and none of the Matoran seemed interested in interfering with his journey. Just another traveler passing through, as far as they were concerned, but I sensed something more, so I quietly followed him.


He made his way to the train station, where he purchased a ticket and boarded the only waiting train. I asked the Matoran behind the ticket counter where he was going.


“New Atero, ma’m.”


So I purchased a ticket for New Atero, and just made it onto the train in time before it set off. Soon, it was rumbling down the track, on schedule to arrive in Onu-Koro-Nuva, the one stop along the way to New Atero, by sunrise.


The car I’d taken a seat in contained but a few passengers, but the hooded Toa had disappeared. Curious as to where he went, I started making my way back through the train. The further back I got, the emptier the cars were. The second-to-last one didn’t have a single passenger in it. The last had but one; the mysterious Toa, sleeping on the very back bench. Using my Volitak to keep from making any noise to wake him up, I made my way through the cart and sat down on the bench opposite him.


“I know you are following me.” He said quietly, much to my surprise.


“You do?” No reply. I was amazed; even the power of the Kanohi Volitak wasn’t enough to conceal one from him. Had he only been pretending to be asleep?


“What do you want?” he inquired.


“I’d like to know who you are.” I answered. “Specifically… are you the Toa of that statue in Ko-Koro-Nuva?”


“What would make you think that?” For a moment, I sensed surprise, but after that his mind was closed off, blank again.


“Kopaka, Toa Nuva of Ice. They say he disappeared into the mountains one day and never returned. You came down from those mountains, so I figured you might be him.”


“No.” Again, it was fleeting, but I could tell that wasn’t the truth.


“Then who are you?”


“None of your concern.” I could sense a degree of frustration in him. “Leave me be, please.”


“Well, newsflash, I can read minds,” I explained. “You are Kopaka. I’m sure of it.”


“You can?” He was surprised. He sighed, then sat up from his slumped position and pulled back his hood, revealing that most unique of masks; the Kanohi Akaku Nuva. It was old, and looked as though it had sustained plenty of damage, but it was still easily recognizable.


“I’m a Toa, too,” I explained, “a Toa of…”


“…of psionics.” He cut me off. He eyed me up and down with that alien, calculating gaze of his. The lenses in his scope made constant, minute adjustments, adding to the effect, as though he was trying to find just the right arrangement to allow him to see right through me. “You look new.”


“I am, sir.” I replied.


“They still need Toa these days?” Skepticism… a hint of irony.


“Rebellious Skakdi,” I explained. “Hardly Toa-worthy in the end, but some panicky Turaga decided they needed a Toa anyways. So I was chosen.”


“Then what are you doing here?”


“I was passing through Ko-Koro-Nuva when I noticed you coming down from the mountains. I was wondering who you were, since, you know, I could only see a cloaked figure. So I followed you.” A vague sense of relief. “But I really do want to know why you just disappeared up there.”


“Why?”


“Because it matters!” now I was getting frustrated. “Those Ko-Matoran back there practically worship you!”


“I know. I saw the statue.”


“Exactly! Shouldn’t you announce to them first that you’re back?”


“I am not back.” He sighed.


“Then why are you here?”


“Again, none of your business. Leave me be, and do not tell anyone I am here.” He pulled up the hood again.


“I can’t just leave you be. You’re hurt, you’re in pain. I can feel it.” I could feel it, and now that he was sitting and not using the cloak to fully conceal himself, I could see just what a condition he was in. His armor had many cuts, scrapes, and dents. His right leg had been badly busted and shoddily repaired, and numerous scars littered his body. The more I looked at him, the more I was horrified. What had happened to him?


“My pain is none of your concern. I will be fine.”


“Are you going to get yourself fixed up?”


“Yes.”


“Well, would you mind if I came along, then?” I asked. “It’s not like I have anything better to do.”


“So things have not changed in that respect.” For a moment, I was confused. Then I remembered what I’d heard about the Toa Nuva before, about how they’d split up. From what I knew, the Toa had begun to argue and bicker over what they should do now that the planet had been reformed. They’d all disagreed on their future as a team, and in the end decided that there was no point in them… being a team any longer, since there was no great evil to threaten the Matoran anymore. It had been a bitter breakup, particularly for the Toa of Water.


“No, things haven’t changed, I guess.” I informed him.


“You have become a Toa in a world that still does not need any,” Kopaka said bitterly. Unlike his voice, his face betrayed no emotion, but I could sense a degree of pity, and decided to play on it.


“Yeah… Now that those Skakdi have been put in line, I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.”


“You are looking for a purpose.” A shared recognition.


“Yes.”


“Good luck finding one.” Was that… a glimmer of empathy? Surely, he of all people knew what it was like to be left without a purpose?


“Until I do… would you mind if I stuck with you? I promise I won’t tell anyone who you are.”


“If you must. But do not expect me to stick around here for long.”


“Thank you. I’m Lis, by the way.”


So he was willing to tolerate me. That was enough. Looking at him, I was concerned. In his condition, and at his age, if he went back into those mountains it wouldn’t be long before he was dead for real. I’m not sure whether I was hoping to talk him out of going back, or whether I just wanted to spend whatever time I could with one of the legendary Toa Nuva before he disappeared for good. Or I just wanted to make sure he got fixed up well. But either way, I was coming with him, and while I had the opportunity, I figured I might learn something about the Toa Nuva along the way.


True to form, he did not talk for the rest of the journey, instead sitting in silent contemplation all the way to Onu-Koro-Nuva. I attempted to read into his mind, to peer beyond the silent exterior, but hard as I tried I couldn’t decipher much of anything. First off, there was this constant sensation of severe physical pain, which he was apparently able to ignore, but it was profoundly disorientating for me. Whenever I tried to get a picture of his thoughts, I was bombarded with this astounding stream of information. Sometimes, I caught a hint of a constellation moving in the sky, then the view would expand to include more stars, then more… and then everything would be jumbled again, as though he had moved to a scale my brain simply couldn’t process. Then there would only be the pain.  Legends always told of the Kopaka’s intelligence, of the way he’d analyze and process things at incredible speeds as though he could see the future; they were right. I couldn’t keep up, and even trying to do so was exhausting. Still, if he was bothered by me reading in on his thoughts, he didn’t tell me.


In Onu-Koro-Nuva several Matoran and Agori left the train, after which more boarded. We still had the back car to ourselves; it clearly wasn’t a busy day. The journey to New Atero would take a full day, and having just spent six hours attempting to read the Toa Nuva of Ice’s mind and not getting anything, I decided to try and engage him in conversation again instead.


“So, what did you do in the mountains?” I asked.


“Meditate.”


“Meditate on what?”


“You would not understand.”


“Are you sure about that?”


“You were trying all night, were you not? Did you figure anything out?”


“Not much, to be honest… So could you explain?”


“I cannot make clear to you with mere speech what you could not understand directly from my mind.”


“Okay, that’s a bit rude.” Not even a benefit of the doubt? How demeaning.


“Is it not true?” He locked eyes on me, again with that uncomfortable, piercing gaze.


“I mean, yeah… but you don’t need to say it bluntly like that. You’re basically calling me stupid.”


“You are incapable of comprehending my thoughts. So compared to me, you are stupid.”


“Again with the insults.”


“It is not an insult. It is the truth.” I was getting angry at him, but I could sense no… resentment, no intent to mock me, not a demeaning thought on his mind. He was judgmental, maybe, but I could only conclude that he hadn’t at all intended to insult me in any way. He simply said what he saw, regardless of the consequences.


“So, you always tell the truth straight up like that?” I asked.


“Always have.”


“Did that happen to contribute in any way to the breakup of your team?” Honestly, I was curious as to what he’d think of that.


“I had nothing to do with the breakup,” he said coldly.


“How can you be so sure about that?” Now I had him. Surely, the most solitary of the Toa Nuva would have had the least to lose from the team breaking up? It was hard to believe that he hadn’t had something to do with it.


“I did not start the arguments. I did not participate in them. I did not make things worse by trying to intervene,” Kopaka explained. “It was inevitable.”


“Then who started the arguments?” I asked. “And how do you know that interfering would have made things worse?”


“I do not have time to tell you that whole story.”


“Then don’t.” I suggested. “Just think it. I’ll pull out of it what I can.”


“Think the story?”


“Recall the memories, and I’ll read them. It’ll be quicker than you telling me everything.”


Kopaka sighed. “Fine.”


I closed my eyes, focused on his presence, and zoned in on his thoughts. Suddenly, I wasn’t on the train anymore; my senses had been replaced by those of Kopaka, or rather, the senses that formed that memory. I should note that I had used that power once or twice before; usually recent memories were quite vivid, while those from further back tended to be much more blurred and unclear. Kopaka’s memories had none of this; everything I got from him, I got in full detail, so much so that it was almost overwhelming. All sensation of where I actually was had gone; I was living Kopaka’s memory in perfect clarity.


Edited by Scorpion_Strike
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------


Chapter 2


--------------------


 


I was standing, leaning against a wall at the side of a meeting room. Out of the windows I could see the city of New Atero; I was high above the ground, probably at the top of one of the city’s skyscrapers. The room was circular; in its center was a large table with six chairs arranged around it, five of which were occupied by the other Toa Nuva: Tahu, Onua, Gali, Lewa, and Pohatu. Tahu and Gali looked frustrated. Onua and Pohatu were paying attention, but looked worried. Lewa looked bored.


“It’s not what we stand for,” Gali said. “It’s using your powers for barbaric entertainment, and the Agori gamble on it. We are Toa, protectors of the Matoran, of this planet. We should be above that.”


“Well, what else do you expect me to do?” Tahu asked. “Sit around with the Turaga and break up minor trade disputes like you?”


“That is our job now,” the Toa of Water argued. “We helped to save this world, now we must act to maintain it, for the good of the Matoran and the Agori.”


“Which the Turaga have covered just fine,” Tahu shot back. “And I’m not going to spend my days sitting next to them and pretending I have a reason to be there.”


“Well, those Turaga aren’t always going to be around,” Gali pointed out. “And when they’re gone, who will take their place? Us.”


“That won’t happen anytime soon,” Tahu said. “And I’m not going to just sit and wait around for it. I need something else to do.”


“Why can’t you find something peaceful, something respectful to do then, like the rest of us?” Gali pleaded.


“We’re Toa. We fight to protect others!” Tahu got up. “And having run out of people to protect, I’ll be ###### if I stop fighting too!” He slammed his fist on the table. His declaration staggered the others; for a few seconds an awkward silence hung over the room. Tahu took a deep breath, then sat back down. “Besides,” he argued, “it’s just a competition, no different than what Pohatu does these days, right, Pohatu?”


“Kolhii is competitive,” Pohatu agreed.


“And what about you, Onua?” Tahu turned to the Toa of Earth. “Don’t the workers of the most productive mineshafts get rewarded every month? That’s competition, too.”


“I won’t deny that,” Onua grumbled, “but there’s a major difference between that and Kolhii and what you do.”


“Which is?” Tahu inquired.


“The issue isn’t with competition,” Pohatu explained, “believe me, I’m completely on your side with that. The issue is that these fights can and do go to the death, and that outrageous bets are being placed on them.”


“And you know what the Toa code says about killing and gambling” Onua finished.


“I’ve dealt with that!” Tahu argued. “I told them that I would not kill anyone, regardless of who they put me up against! And I don’t place bets! I swore on that.”


“But what if they end up killing you?” Gali implored. “Not everyone who steps into that arena follows that code. What if you go down in there and your opponent decides that they’ve had enough of you?”


“Simple.” Tahu said. “I make sure that I don’t go down.”


“Yeah, like that’ll last forever,” Lewa grinned. “Imagine the headlines in the Chronicler’s Digest: planet-saving Toa-hero killed for Agori entertainment.”


“There’d be Matoran riots if that came true,” Onua said.


“Which is why it won’t happen,” Tahu insisted. “Like I said; if the fight is to the death, I don’t agree to enter into it. Simple as that. Meeting adjourned.” With that, he marched out of the room.


Gali’s expression was one of shock and sadness. “He’s going to get himself killed.” She said despondently, “and he’ll ruin us in the process.”


“Actually, he’s making bucket-loads of money off of people quick-betting on him,” Lewa pointed out. “Until the old firespitter hits a spot of hard-luck, that is. What’s so teri-bad about that?”


“The problem,” Gali explained, “is that as Toa we have a certain responsibility to uphold a moral standard, and Tahu… isn’t. Have you seen some of those gladiators?”


“Of course,” Lewa said nonchalantly. “I watch Tahu fight and beat them.”


“They’re thugs, bandits, monsters,” Gali said. “They sometimes throw Rahkshi into that place. Tahu’s in there fighting the Makuta’s spawn for entertainment; as though he wasn’t in mortal danger. Remember how many Matoran the Rahkshi killed?”


“Well, he relishes it,” Lewa said, “and I think he’s ever-fun to watch. So cry moral outrage all you want, sister, but if there’s no Matoran that need to be quick-saved I think Tahu’s fine doing what he is. And unless we have other things to think-talk about, I’m going to high-fly to someplace where this discussion won’t follow.” He got up, and when no one replied, dove out of an open window and soared off.


“I don’t believe this…” Gali said exasperatedly.


“Look, sister,” Pohatu got up. “I agree with you that it’s wrong, but Tahu needs this. He’s been itching to fight something, anything, for ages. If he can’t let that energy out somehow, he’ll blow up at something else eventually. At least the arena is right next door, so if anything does happen we can be there in a flash.”


“And in the meantime he’s making a mockery of what it means to be a Toa!” Gali blurted out. “We have to find something else for him, something that doesn’t make him into a sideshow for the Agori to gamble on!”


“Well, he doesn’t care for Kolhii ‘cause it involves running around with a ‘petty stick’,” Pohatu said, “and there’s not a lot of other sports out there in which there’s even enough Toa around to provide any competition. As for hunting wild rahi… what’s out there giving anyone trouble these days?”


“We occasionally have trouble with tunneling beasts in the mines,” Onua noted, “but I already told him about that. He said he doesn’t want to be a mere vermin exterminator, and he’d go crazy underground regardless.”


“Well we’ve got to find something.” Gali said resolutely. She got up. “I’m going to rest for a while. Turaga Nokama might call on me later today.”


“Yeah, I’ve got Kolhii practice to attend,” Pohatu remembered. He followed Gali out the door, leaving just me and Onua, who was still sitting at the table with a look I could only describe as one of extreme disappointment.


“You know,” he turned to me, “It’s not what we do, so long as we believe we’re doing good; it’s how we go about it.” He got up, too. “We have always faced disaster together and overcome it together. When there was disagreement, we compromised as best we could. That was our strength; we were a team. This… discussion, this discontent… it’s made them forget who we are, what we were, and what we stand for.”


“When there is no good left to be done,” I said, surprising myself, “there is no reason for heroes to exist. The world doesn’t require this team anymore.”


“Perhaps you’re right,” Onua said bitterly, “but if our brothers and sister had any respect for who we were, they’d be willing to put their differences aside for each other.”


That’s when everything went blank. For a moment, I felt like I was in freefall; then something hit me and I snapped back into the real world. I looked around; I was on the train, in the back car. We were still hurtling along the track. Kopaka was standing in front of me.


“D-did you just hit me?” I asked.


“You were stuck.” Kopaka said matter-of-factly. “I finished that memory, so I snapped you out of it.”


“How long has it been?”


“Three minutes.”


“Oh… and that memory… was that the meeting where you guys decided to break apart?”


Kopaka sat back down and sighed. “I wish.”


I waited for him to continue. “aaaand?”


“That was the first one, the first after Tahu started fighting in the arena. It was the catalyst.”


“How so?”


“We used to meet weekly, and every time it would devolve into an argument between Tahu and Gali about what Tahu was doing. None of us wanted to be there, so weekly meetings became monthly ones, then yearly ones. We had that debate over a thousand times within half as many years.”


“Didn’t anyone ever find a solution?” I asked.


“Onua tried, so did Pohatu. They did not find anything that satisfied Tahu’s need for something to fight. My brother… he had to be a hero. If he could not be a hero, then he felt worthless. And Gali never came to understand that. Onua tried to get them to compromise, but was rebuffed until he got fed up with it and threw himself into his work instead. Lewa got tired of the arguments even more quickly, so he would fly off the moment it started.”


“And you?”


“I could see the team’s days were over. I had worked with them because we needed to fight the Makuta. Without a common threat to put our differences aside for, those differences made themselves all too obvious, to the point where the others were bickering over everything. I had seen enough by that point.”


“Did you end it?”


“No. We had our last meeting after a two-year period in which we did not meet as a team at all; there was no point. The first thing that happened was that Gali pointed out Tahu’s new arena scars. It only went downhill from there, but Tahu brought it to a halt. He had had enough too, and called for a vote to officially disband the Toa Nuva, since we were not needed and not accomplishing anything as a team anymore. I voted ‘yes,’ so did Tahu, Lewa, Onua, and Pohatu. Only Gali voted ‘no.’”


“Hold the thought.” I focused in on his mind again; this was a moment I had to see for myself.


“Fine…” Kopaka sighs again.


My senses went blank for a second or two. Then I’m in the meeting room again, this time sitting at the table. Tahu is standing up; he looks older, everyone does, and his armor displays clear signs of battle damage. His hand is raised. Lewa, Pohatu, and Onua have theirs raised as well. My right hand is up in the air too.


“And all those in favor of staying together,” Tahu announces. All hands are lowered, except Gali’s. She raises her hand. It’s shaking.


“Then I think it is clear,” Tahu says, picking up his swords. “Brothers and Sister, it was an honor serving with you, but this world no longer needs us. Therefore, it is best that we go our separate ways. We’ll keep contact as needed, but from this day forth, the Toa Nuva are disbanded.” He turned and started for the door.


“NO!” Gali rose. “Does this mean nothing to you!?” She’s pointing at the symbol carved on the wall: Unity, Duty, Destiny. “Who we were, what we accomplished together,” she pleads, “don’t you think that’s worth fighting for!?” Her voice is hoarse, and there are tears in her eyes. “When we fought Makuta’s Rahi!? When we faced the Bohrok, the Rahkshi, and even the Makuta themselves!?” No one replied. “Remember the Toa Ignika’s sacrifice?!” Her voice broke. “…Matoro…Takanuva…” she was reduced to a whimper.


“Takanuva,” Tahu said, “did what the rest of us should have done a long time ago: he left to find his own way.” The proud warrior’s eyes weren’t dry anymore, and looking around the room, I could see that, in fact, everyone was struggling to come to terms with what had happened. Tahu turned, hesitated for a moment, then walked out. Gali collapsed onto her knees.


“NO! YOU DESTROYED US!” she cried out, but Tahu was already gone. Onua followed, pausing for a moment to turn to Gali.


“No. You destroyed us.” His voice was wavering, but it had an extraordinary edge to it. With that, the Toa of Earth left the room. Lewa followed, not even bothering to say anything on his way out. Pohatu stepped up to Gali.


“I’ll stop by later, okay?” Then he turned to me. “I know what you’re going to do,” he said. “And that I won’t have the chance to say this again.” He paused for a moment to collect himself. “I know you don’t like it, but…” he stepped forward and embraced me. I didn’t return the gesture, but my vision was blurred; I was crying too. Pohatu stepped back. “Farewell, my brother. Take care of yourself out there.”


I nodded. “I will. You do the same.” Pohatu nodded in response, then made his way out the door. After a few seconds, I did the same.


“Brother…” I looked down to see Gali reaching up from the floor. Her face… she was in anguish. A mother who lost her child would not have wept as Gali did there; she looked like the world had ended before her very eyes. “Don’t… please don’t leave too…”


I have to swallow before I can speak. “P-Pohatu will be back. He’ll be here. You always knew I wouldn’t be.”


“No… NO!” she howls. I turn around.


“Farwell, Gali.” With my head down, I walk out the door and down the steps leading to the ground level. All the way down, I can hear Gali screaming.


“NO! DON’T GO PLEASE! THIS IS NOT HOW WE END! DON’T LEAVE!”


Everything goes dark. For a few seconds, I’m staring at nothingness. Then I’m back again, back in the train. We’re in a tunnel; the lights in the train flicker on and off as it hurtles down the track. The only sound is the droning and thumping of the train wheels against the track. Kopaka is sitting across from me, bowed over, elbows resting on his knees. I sense a whirlwind of emotions inside him: fear, sadness, anger… but one overrides all of them: regret. When he realizes the memory is over, he slowly raises his head and looks right at me.


His eyes are filled with tears.


Edited by Scorpion_Strike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------


Chapter 3


--------------------


 


For about fifteen minutes, neither of us said anything. I was still trying to process what had happened; sure, I’d known beforehand that the breakup hadn’t been pretty, but it’d turned out to be beyond anything I could’ve imagined. Kopaka sat in silence, but was different than before; not his usual, antisocial self-isolation. No, he was in pain, and not just physically. I could sense it; he was fighting it, determined not to let too much show on the outside, regardless of whether or not I could see in. I still remember that, even now, even through the tragedy I had witnessed right beforehand; the way he would fight himself to keep up appearances. It wasn’t vanity, at least I don’t think so. In his mind, Kopaka saw himself a certain way, and he tried to project that at all times. To anyone else, he would have appeared a stoic, steadfast Toa, a fixed point unmoved by excess emotion, rational to a fault. That’s who he was to himself, and who he was determined to be to others. But there were feelings in there; very strong ones, and he fought them constantly. It must have been exhausting for him.


But he did regain his composure. “So, now you know what happened,” he said calmly.


“That’s how it ended?”


“That was the end. I have not seen any of them since.”


“And, you just left Gali there like that? That was a full-fledged breakdown happening behind you.”


Toa of Ice’s eyes narrowed. “Gali,” he said with a hint of contempt, “was the one who drove the split. She was the one who kept insisting that Tahu find something else to do, something more in line with the morals of a Toa.”


“Was there something wrong with that?” I asked.


“It re-ignited that argument every time we met,” Kopaka explained. “Everyone would take a side, and soon they were arguing about every little thing and nothing ever got done. We all grew tired of it, even Onua.”


“I remember that… He told Gali that she’d driven the team part.”


No, you destroyed us,” Kopaka said, doing a surprisingly good imitation of Onua’s voice. “He was right. We all agreed on that. Gali could not come to terms with the fact that we were not needed as Toa anymore, so she desperately clung on to what we had been when the rest of us had long let go.”


“But still… She mentioned the history, everything you all went through together. Surely, you all owed your lives to each other, her included. Was it really necessary for him to just… put her down like that?”


“History is for the scholars to study and the Turaga to tell tales of around a campfire,” Kopaka said coldly. He was back to his harsh, calculating self. “We could not live our lives like her, purely for history’s sake. Time changes, we change with it. Unwilling to do so, she got left behind, and nearly took the rest of us down with her. Onua just had the guts to say it out loud.”


“So it seems.” I said curtly. But I couldn’t get that image of Gali out of my head. Collapsed on the floor, mentally shattered… It was harrowing. I felt angry, angry with Kopaka and angry with the other Toa. They’d been frustrated with Gali and with each other, sure, but nothing could excuse how cruelly they’d left her; not even an apology, a hint of ‘sorry, but this is how it is…’ They’d just walked out on her and on each other. It was a disgrace.


Again, we were silent for a while. Kopaka slept; I tried to do the same, to clear my head, but the light streaming in through the windows and my frustration kept me up, so I looked at the passing landscape outside instead. Spherus Magna truly was a paradise; the area we were passing through now had once been a barren sea of sand dunes. Now, looking out I could see rolling green hills, with large herds of grazing rahi. The track was elevated on pillars, allowing me to see the landscape for miles around. We had left the mountains behind for the time being. Rivers crisscrossed the landscape, and sparse trees and bushes were littered throughout it. Sometimes, I spotted a hut in the distance; Matoran and Agori herders. By noon, we were traveling through a forest, whose canopy provided enough shade for me to actually fall asleep. When I awoke a few hours later, Kopaka had returned to his silent contemplation.


“So,” I began, “you’re planning to just walk into the capital of the planet, get yourself fixed up, and then disappear again?”


“Yes.” He seemed perplexed as to why that was even in question.


“And you expect no one to recognize you?”


“I will be invisible until I need to be seen.”


“How?” This was rather curious to me. Rather than answering verbally, the Toa of Ice reached behind him and pulled out a mask. I couldn’t name its design off of the top of my head, but he switched it with his Akaku, then instantly vanished. The bench in front of me was empty, except… the cushion was still depressed, as though someone was still sitting there, and there was a shadow. Kopaka reappeared.


I was trying to figure out exactly where I had seen that mask’s design before. Then I got it: “Turaga Vakama wore a mask like that!”


“Indeed. It is a Kanohi Huna. The mask of concealment. It is a noble version, but it will do. I obtained it from Turaga Nuju before I left. Figured it might come in handy someday.” Kopaka switched the Huna back for his Akaku Nuva and stored it.


“To use if your disguise fails?”


“Exactly.”


“And how do you expect this ‘fixing up’ to work? Whoever does that will see who you are. It’s inevitable.” I was having a difficult time seeing how this plan of his could actually succeed.


“I will find someone I can trust.”


“Like?”


“Gali.”


“What!?” I couldn’t believe this. “After split, after the way you left her, you still expect her to help you!? That’s crazy!”


“Gali is an excellent healer,” he argued, “and she is strong. She will have recovered and found her feet.”


“And you think she’ll jump at the chance to fix your busted leg?”


“No. But her sense of duty is stronger than her anger towards me.”


“So, let me get this straight; her duty is to take care of you?” Again, I increasingly found myself disliking Kopaka’s attitude. How did he think that that was even remotely reasonable?


“No.” He sighed. “She has the ability to heal terrible wounds, so that becomes part of her duty. Or rather, she made it part of her duty when she showed herself willing to exercise that ability. Unity, Duty, Destiny, remember? We may have abandoned unity, but duty remains; our duty to others. Hers is to heal others.”


“What about destiny?”


“We reached destiny when Mata Nui reformed this planet,” Kopaka explained. “From that point on, we were to make our own path on this world, based on our duty.”


“Uh-huh…” there was something incongruent about his thinking that I was trying to pin down. “So, what’s your duty, then? What ability are you using up there in those mountains to fulfill your duty to others?” That was the ‘gotcha’ question; if he could justify Gali having to heal him because it was her ‘duty,’ what duty was he fulfilling by wandering off, never to be heard of again?


“Discovery. At the top of those mountains, I always have an unobstructed view of the stars,” Kopaka explained. “I study them, I chart them, and through that figure out the ways of this universe. When I decipher them, Matoran and Agori will be able to reach up to the stars and find new worlds to settle.”


“And... are you close to figuring that out?”


“There is a ways to go. But I have already made progress beyond current understanding. You saw it, you did not understand. That is why I work alone.”


“Right…” I didn’t agree, but I felt like nothing would be gained by pushing this line of inquiry further. This was the side of Kopaka that I didn’t like; he acted as though he was above everyone else, and perhaps intellectually he was, but he blatantly disregarded how the way in which he behaved or what he said affected others. He never considered how the Ko-Matoran felt about him vanishing the way he had; they believed he was dead, they grieved for him even though he was still alive, and he had no qualms about it. Nor did he see anything wrong with just marching up to Gali and ordering her to ‘heal him’ because it was her ‘duty’ to do so, in spite of the way he had left her when he at the very least could have offered some support. There wasn’t a question in his mind; he believed what he did was right, in spite of the pain it caused others. I hate to use the old cliché, but Kopaka was openly, frustratingly cold.


So I went back to asking about his plans instead. Surely, he’d forgotten about something, something that I could use to show him that he didn’t know everything as well as he thought he did?


“What if Gali isn’t around anymore?” I asked.


“Then I will have to find someone else.”


“How do you expect to find anyone else? Or Gali herself, for that matter?”


“Talk to other Toa. There will be some around. They should understand my situation, and at least one of them has to know of a healer somewhere who would be able to help.”


“And it’s their ‘duty’ to point that person out to you?”


“No. But few would not, as you say: ‘jump at the chance’ to help a fellow Toa.”


“Are you sure about that? It’s not like you’ve done anything for them that they know of.”


Kopaka looked me straight in the eyes. “You are a Toa. You are here, are you not? Did I force you to come with me? Did I tell you it was your duty to accompany me? No. I did not. Did you have any reason of your own to be here, on this train, right now?”


“Not really…”


“And yet you are here.” Again, he was staring right through me. Those lenses had found the right alignment.


“Yeah… Yeah I guess I am.” Well, he had me there. I was really coming to hate the way in which he could just detach himself, to analyze me and others like pawns a game. But he was right; I was here because I thought he needed help, needed someone to talk to, and I’d been more than willing to help him, to be that person. Increasingly, I was coming to the conclusion that he didn’t need anything from me. He had everything all sorted out. Were it not for that busted leg, he’d probably not even have come down from those mountains at all. Frustrated but beaten, I didn’t question his plan any further. Besides, even if I’d found a serious shortcoming, it’s not like he would have changed it for my sake. Honestly, as night began to settle in, signaling that we were on the final part of our journey, I had half the mind to just leave him and head off on my own in New Atero.


So, want to know why I stuck with him? At this point, it might have seem like I was wasting my time, like I was just tagging along with no reason. Well, thing is, I didn’t have anything better to do. I was in the same boat as Kopaka had been; a ‘hero’ in a world that didn’t need one. And, much as his cold demeanor and detached view of others annoyed me, and made him seem more and more like a massive jerk, I wanted to see how the other Toa would react to seeing him again; especially Gali when he told her he’d come back just to get his leg fixed. For better or worse, I was along for the ride.


I had no idea how hard the next few days would be for both of us.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 4

--------------------

 

New Atero: the capital of an entire planet. It looked the part; larger than even Metru Nui, the fabled City of legends, its skyscrapers could be spotted from miles away; far enough that Kopaka, with his telescopic vision, noted that he could see their tops over the horizon almost thirty minutes before we actually arrived in the outskirts of the city. From a distance, it resembled a silver disk with a series of spires rising out of its center, nestled on the coast among lush, green farmland in which Bo-Matoran and jungle Agori worked and cultivated all manner of crops. As we got closer, it became possible to distinguish the individual districts and elevated train tracks entering the city in multiple locations. Kopaka pulled up his hood.

Having never been in New Atero myself, I was amazed at the place; everything looked modern and new, though many buildings had been decorated with traditional elements from Matoran and Agori architecture. In the outskirts of the city, the poorer areas, most buildings were made with clay bricks or wood, but as we got closer to the city center, concrete and then metal and glass dominated the landscape. The skyscrapers dispersed throughout the city center were the modern incarnation of Ko-Metru’s knowledge towers: gazing up at their peaks, I could just distinguish a number of telescopes that peered out in multiple directions. By now, our track was flanked by another on the right and two on the left; we were getting close to the central station.

The central station was a gargantuan building, connected on its west side to the largest knowledge tower, and on the right to the Turaga building, where the elder council met. This was the epicenter of all Matoran and Agori society on Spherus Magna; it was where the Turaga governed from, where great events where held, where cutting-edge research was being done. Elevated walkways filled with Matoran moving back and forth stretched between the structures; though we arrived only half an hour after sunrise, already this was a place of feverish activity. How Kopaka intended to pass through unnoticed was beyond me; even if he turned invisible, sooner or later someone would run into him and the game would be up.

The Toa of Ice seemed utterly unfettered by such concerns. I don’t mean that he didn’t show any outward physical signs of worry; no, even inside I could sense no tension of any kind. He was completely relaxed, assured that his plan would work out fine. Secretly, I kind of hoped his confidence would prove premature, just to see how he’d react to things not going his way. When the train stopped and the door opened, he calmly made his way onto the platform, looked around for a moment, then began to make his way across the busy space to the wall on the other side. I followed. Matoran and Agori disembarking and boarding the train passed us by in every direction. Some greeted us with a “Good morning, Toa,” or a respectful head nod. Kopaka got stared at a lot; not surprising, since his decrepit old cloak cut a stark contrast to the modern station and clean, business-minded Matoran all around. Yet it accomplished its main purpose; hard as they looked, no one seemed to recognize who he was. He was hiding in plain sight by standing out like a sore thumb… Kind of funny now that I think about it.

For a moment, I was wondering exactly where he was going, since he didn’t seem to be heading for any of the platform exits. Turns out he’d spotted something through the crowd that I hadn’t: a small stand off to the side, set up against the wall, where a Fa-Matoran sold maps of the city. Kopaka stopped in front of it; even hunched over and leaning on the stick he was using as a cane, he still loomed over the tiny stand like a threatening giant.

The Fa-Matoran, clearly unnerved by the mysterious figure in front of him, greeted the stranger hesitantly: “H-Hello. Good morning, sir. Can I help you?”

Kopaka didn’t reply in voice; instead he pointed at a rack of maps that were set up on the vendor’s right. The Fa-Matoran grabbed one.

“A map of the city? Of course, of course… It’s three widgets, sir.”

Kopaka reached under his cloak and behind his back, rummaged around for a moment, then extended his arm forwards and dropped three widgets on the counter. He then grabbed the map from the bewildered Matoran’s hand and proceeded towards one of the platform exits.

“H-have a good day, sir…”

The platform exit lead down a set of stairs to a large lobby below, from which we exited onto the central square of New Atero. It was a massive, open circular space, with flagpoles arranged around a statue of the Great Spirit robot in its center. The flags of various Matoran and Agori tribes hung motionless; there wasn’t a breath of wind on this day. A fair number of Matoran and Agori were moving about across the square, and a few vendors had set up stands by the edges. Kopaka made his way to one of the benches that were positioned in a ring around the statue and the flags. After taking a seat, he unfolded the map and proceeded to study it. For a minute or two, I didn’t say anything while he took in every square inch. Then I got bored.

“So, where are we going to look for Toa?” I asked.

“Wherever we are most likely to find them.”

“Okay…so, where do we start?”

“So far, north looks to be the way to go,” Kopaka asserted.

“What’s to the north?”

“The Arena Magna.”

“And…?”

Kopaka turned to his left and pointed at a large billboard set up above the railway line by which we’d arrived. It announced:

THE ULTIMATE PRIZE FIGHT!

TAHU, MASTER OF FIRE VS. STRONIUS, LORD OF THE SKRALL!

BE THERE – FEBRUARY 18th IN THE ARENA MAGNA!

“Oh…” I was a bit miffed about having missed something that obvious. The board was even decorated with promotional images of the fighters and bright red and black decals, with fire rushing in from Tahu’s side and a sort of blocky, dark energy from Stronius’ side. “Today’s the 18th, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what are we waiting for, then?”

“One minute.” So I waited a minute. At the end of it, almost as if on cue, Kopaka grabbed his stick, got up, turned north, and off we went. When we passed a trash can, he tossed the map into it.

“Don’t we need that?” I asked.

“I have it.” He answered. I wasn’t so sure, but I wasn’t going to root around the trash can for it.

The road from the station to the Arena Magna was a long, wide parkway, clearly built to accommodate the kind of mass foot traffic that a high-stakes prize fight would generate. Again, Kopaka got a lot of questioning looks, and again it appeared that his disguise was successful. I was starting to like the humble, respectful way in which Matoran and Agori would greet me; it was an acknowledgement of how much they owed to heroes like us, though I wasn’t sure whether I was really deserving of their reverence.

I was amazed, though, by everything arranged along the parkway: large, leafy trees provided shade to the Matoran and Agori making their way about, and the sides were lined with shops and vending stands of all kinds. Perhaps it was particularly busy that day since a prize fight was happening; I noticed one particular stand was selling little plastic figurines representing the two fighters on that night. I was tempted to go get one of Tahu, but I didn’t want to lose Kopaka in the crowd. Though, to be fair, we both stood head and shoulders above most of them, and it wasn’t like he was moving all that quickly with his limp, and he was the only person I’d seen walking around wearing a ragged cloak do to conceal his identity, so in retrospect I probably could have gone and gotten one anyway.

The Arena Magna soon came into view; a giant colosseum, built in the Agori style since watching gladiatorial combat had originally been mostly an Agori pastime. Only after the arena’s completion had it become more popular among the Matoran as well, probably because one of their heroes now participated in it. There were two open ticket booths; Kopaka approached the one on the right. Like the map vendor in the train station, the Agori behind the counter was somewhat intimidated by the mysterious stranger in a dark, weathered cloak standing in front of him, and again Kopaka got is point across without a single word said. After he got the ticket salesman’s attention, he simply turned, pointed at another billboard advertising the nights’ prize fight.

“Tickets for tonight’s fight?”

Kopaka gave a slow head nod indicating ‘yes.’

“How many, sir?”

Kopaka held up one finger.

“One ticket, that’ll be twenty widgets.” Twenty widgets? That arena could sit thousands. No wonder these prize fights were big business if that’s what people were paying to watch. The scene from the station repeated itself, with Kopaka reaching behind him, gathering the collected widgets from storage, and dumping them unceremoniously on the counter.

“Okay, just one moment…” the Agori proceeded to count the widgets, but math clearly wasn’t his strong suit and Kopaka wasn’t keen on waiting. He snatched the ticket from the Agori’s hand, mumbled something along the lines of “there’s twenty there,” turned around, and started back down the parkway. The Agori was stunned.

“He’s like that,” I told him. “Looks like twenty to me, though. And I’d like a ticket too.”

After paying the exorbitant price, I turned and found Kopaka standing in front of the booth selling the figurines. He was holding one of Tahu and inspecting it closely. After I caught up, he put it down, informed the Agori running the stand that Tahu ‘didn’t look reckless enough,’ and we were on our way again. He turned and headed down a narrow side street, then proceeded to lead me on a crisscrossing path through the maze of side streets and alleyways that connected this part of the city.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Someplace quiet.” How typical.

“You know, for someone who really wants to stay anonymous, you sure do make an effort to stand out.”

“Trying not to get noticed would be more suspicious,” Kopaka asserted.

“Can’t fault you for that one… But why’d you stop by that toy stand?”

“Those figurines were of Tahu,” he explained, “and they were very detailed. Assuming they were accurate, they could’ve given me an idea of how my brother is doing.”

“You actually care?” This was news to me.

“No, but it is useful to get an idea before I meet him face to face.”

“And what did the figures tell you about him?”

“All the figures were missing their right eye, so it is safe to assume that my brother is missing his. Their armor has many cuts and scrapes, which he would normally have fixed as soon as possible, but on the figures they are signs of status, signifying that he has won many battles.”

“Well, he’s Tahu. Of course he’s won lots of battles.”

“There were sixty figures of my brother set up on that table,” he continued, “and only ten of his opponent. That shows who is more popular, and who is deemed more likely to win the fight.”

“Okay, get to the point.”

“My brother has become a celebrity around here, and knowing him, that has likely gone to his head. He may prove difficult to talk to, especially concerning Gali.”

“Right…” frankly, I still wasn’t sure what the point of all that was, but once again, there was no doubt on his mind. So I changed subject again: “When’s this fight supposed to start?”

That one he wouldn’t even dignify with a verbal answer. Instead, he held up his ticket, which clearly said 7:00 PM. Again, I got that same vague sense of disappointment, mixed with just a little annoyance. Had he expected to find a lead sooner, or one that he could follow up on more immediately, or was he just tired of answering my questions? He betrayed nothing, much to my frustration. So, content to just see where he was heading, I followed in silence.

He made his way through the urban maze without hesitation, not even stopping to look at the street signs. I was about to ask him again where we were heading and demand a more concrete answer when he suddenly turned again and arrived at our apparent destination; a park, still not far from the city center, a patch of Nature nestled within a forest of metal, concrete, and glass. A sign read:

                                                                                “Matoro Memorial Park”

“Matoro Memorial Park?” I’d never heard of this place.

“So the sign says.”

“Who’s Matoro?” I asked. Suddenly, I felt a surge of… something within him. That question struck a chord. He stopped walking and turned to me.

“You have never heard of Matoro?”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 5

--------------------

 

I’d heard of Matoro, of course, but largely only in name. They teach about him in schools, but history is usually not a subject one pays great attention to. Something about ‘what it means to be a hero’ and all that. I was just a Matoran then; what use was knowing how to be a hero to me? We had Toa for that, and no, at the time I really didn’t see myself ever becoming a Toa. Clearly, though, Matoro meant something to Kopaka.

“Come,” he said, so I followed again. The park’s arrangement was roughly circular, and Kopaka led me down a path to a hill in its very center, which was crowned by a statue. A large plaque identified the statue:

Toa Mahri Matoro, Savior of Mata Nui

A lengthy paragraph below described Matoro’s actions, but at that moment my mind was more occupied with the statue itself; statues of heroes were common in any populated area on Spherus Magna, but this one was unlike any I’d ever seen; heroes are usually depicted standing tall, self-assured, and they have a degree of… authority about them. Matoro had none of that. First off, he was in this bizarre, tumbling pose, like he tripped on something while backing up. His back was arched, causing him to look towards the sky, as opposed to straight ahead or down upon those standing at his feet. His left arm, its hand equipped with an odd weapon resembling a set of curved hooks, reached upwards as well, giving the impression that he was calling out to something above him. In his right hand, he held a gatling-type cannon that looked far too heavy for him, and even in this odd pose, it was obvious that he had a comparatively frail physique, coupled with a hunchbacked posture usually only displayed by the far bulkier Toa of Earth. I only know that because I worked with one. And while the statue was marble, Matoro’s mask alone was done in gold.

“Bit of an odd statue, don’t you think?” I observed. “Just… the pose is weird.”

“This is the most important moment in the history of the Matoran,” Kopaka said solemnly. “The pose is because he was falling into Karda Nui at the time he made his sacrifice.”

“Sacrifice?”

“He gave his life so Mata Nui could be saved, so all of us could be saved.”

“Oh…” That’s why we covered him in class… Turns out I probably should have been paying attention at the time; this wasn’t the first time that I’d come to realize that long after the class in question was over. “Could you tell me? Or better yet, show me?”

“I was not there at the time. I only heard about what Matoro did from others. If you wish to see, you should seek out one of the other Toa Mahri.”

“Oh… okay, I will.” I turned back to the statue. “What’s with the mask?”

“It is the Kanohi Ignika.” I’d heard of that one; its design was imprinted on pretty much everything of great importance as a symbol of Mata Nui. Apparently, the legendary mask itself was on display at the Museum of Shared History in the city. Another place I’d have to visit at some point. “Another Toa wearing it eventually made the sacrifice to wake up Mata Nui in the same way.”

“Was that before or after the giant robots came?” The ‘giant robot fight’ was one of the few things I had payed attention to, because…well, giant robots, right?

“Several months before it. Mata Nui woke up, stood up, and then the Makuta took over. That was the darkest time for all of us; our worst enemy was in control of literally everything we knew, and he used that power at his whim.”

“It sounds terrible... Were you in there when he and Mata Nui fought?”

“Yes. We evacuated everyone during the fight, then fought the legions of rahkshi that Makuta unleashed on us.”

“Could you show me that?”

“At some point, yes. But not now.”

“Okay…” At first, I wasn’t quite sure why Kopaka wanted me to wait, but looking back on it now, I think that it was because we were in a public place. Memory sharing is… it’s an intimate process, and especially if the memory is a tough one, it can release a flood of emotion; we saw that on the train. Kopaka didn’t want to deal with that in public, but I think he appreciated the efficiency of memory sharing as opposed to telling the story by mouth. So we waited. I read the story on the plaque, which briefly mentioned Matoro’s participation in the fight against “Piraka,” which were apparently some kind of Skakdi, and “Barraki,” who I didn’t even recall from history lessons. After that, it basically reiterated what I’d already been told, so I sat down next to Kopaka, who was once again just waiting silently while deciphering the mysteries of the universe. From memory.

I tried to read into his mind again to try and figure some of it out, but got nowhere. However, it did keep me occupied to where the hours in the park went by surprisingly rapidly. More surprising was the fact that no other Toa showed up in the park all day. I figured Kopaka might have chosen the spot to wait by the fact that he believed it likely that Toa would show up there, so on our way back I asked:

“Were we waiting in that park all day hoping another Toa might show up at some point?”

“No.”

“Why, then?”

“It was the closest one.” I guess that made sense, given that his limp probably made walking difficult, and I knew he was in pain. Still, I thought Kopaka might have taken a more…active approach to finding another Toa.

The lines into the arena were enormous. All the ticket booths were opened, selling and checking tickets before letting anyone in. Even though it was late in the evening by market standards, pretty much all the stands on the parkway were still open, and some selling various kinds of food and drink had set up shop as close to the arena as they were allowed.

“Great… we’re going to be standing here forever…” I mumbled.

“No.”

“What?”

“We cannot possibly stand here for more than an hour, or we would miss the start of the fight. So, we cannot stand here for forever.” Were it not for my ability to passively read at least his surface thoughts, I wouldn’t have known whether that was the analytical Toa’s concept of a joke or he was being serious. He was being serious. I guess that, after waiting close to ten hours on a park bench, he really did not mind standing in line for just an hour longer. Except he did, because instead of making his way to the back of the lines, he walked right up to one particular Agori who, by his uniform, appeared to be one of the security guards.

“Excuse me,” he got the guard’s attention. “My friend here is a Toa who has saved many Matoran lives,” he gestured to me. “…and I cannot stand for too long due to a leg injury I sustained while protecting many Matoran and Agori as well. Would it be okay for us to move forward so that we may take our seat before my leg becomes too much of a bother?”

“Uh…” the guard seemed a bit perplexed at the request. I was stunned too, but I soon regained my bearings and made sure to stand straight and look like I meant business: square shoulders, a neutral expression with a hint of disdain, and my arms folded across my chest. It did the trick. “Sure, sure you can go forward,” the guard finally said, and he led us past the waiting crowd to the front of the line. I could sense a degree of resentment from many of the waiting Agori, though interestingly not from the Matoran. I did my best to maintain appearances, though.

“Have a great time,” the guard said when we reached the ticket booth, at which point he turned around and went back to his post. Kopaka handed his ticket to the Agori behind the counter; the same one who we had bought the tickets from that morning. He stamped them, handed them back, and we were allowed to proceed into the Arena itself.

It was massive; there were enough seats for tens of thousands of Matoran and Agori, a real indication of how much both the sport and the planet’s population had grown; I’ve heard it said that the population of Bara Magna before it was reformed into Spherus Magna could be seated in the new Arena Magna three times over. Now, one would need twenty to the same. Thanks to Kopaka’s stunt, we were one of the first allowed in; that was when I found out we were seated in the very top row, about as far back from the fight as we could get. No one had sat down anywhere near there yet, so when we reached our seats I felt safe asking about what we’d just pulled.

“What were you thinking?”

“I did not want to stand for an hour. It hurts.”

“I know, but still, did you really have to lie to them about us?”

“I did not tell any lies except by omission, and I omitted the parts that I did to conceal our identities.”

“So yes. But what if he’d called us out on it?”

“He was about to, but I can be very persuasive.” As he said that, he lifted the corner of his hood just enough so I could see his face, and… his mask had changed, but this one I thought I recognized.

“Is that… a Komau?”

“The mask of mind control. A noble one, yes, but it was sufficient on a weak-minded Agori.”

“That’s… that’s just wrong.”

“I could have used a Miru to fly us in instead, or the noble Huna to make myself invisible and sneak by, or a Matatu…”

“Okay, okay,” interrupted, “I get it, there’s all sorts of ways in which we could have gotten in. But why… why choose the one that involves messing with someone’s mind?”

“It was the only way in which we were not breaking any laws. You are a Toa of Psionics: your powers can all be described as ‘messing with someone’s mind,’ and you do not seem at all bothered by it.”

“Because I understand the implications!” I blurted out. “I do not use my powers just to overcome some petty nuisance! There are serious questions to be asked here!” Then I realized that my outburst was probably attracting more attention than we were looking for. “Sorry…” I lowered my tone. “It’s just… I know what misusing psionic abilities can do.”

“As do I,” Kopaka said. I shook my head; there probably had been some event in his past that had brought him face to face with psionic powers run rampant, so I couldn’t really argue his point, but I felt like he was missing mine. Besides, there was another question on my mind:

“How in the world are we actually going to see the fight from all the way back here?”

“I can see just fine.” He pulled back his hood slightly again, revealing that he had switched back to his Akaku Nuva. The scopes were trained on the arena field, still making slight adjustments here and there.

“Okay, but how am I supposed to see?”

“Squint.”

Ugh… Like that was going to work out for a fight that could easily last over an hour. Clearly, Kopaka was used to wearing scoped masks. “Do you happen to have another mask that could give me that telescopic vision thing?” I asked him. “Just to borrow for the match?”

Kopaka rummaged around in storage behind his back for bit before pulling out a noble Ruru. “It does not have telescopic vision, but it will make slight improvements to your eyesight,” he explained.

“That’s as close as you’ve got? Just how many masks do you have?”

“Twelve.” Wow… I’d heard some Toa liked to carry multiple masks and switch between them on occasion, but twelve? It’d be hard for anyone to keep half as many of them straight enough to actually be able make meaningful use of each one’s powers; it required tremendous mental discipline. Then again, this was Kopaka… When I put on the Ruru, I noticed everything seemed a bit brighter and I could see detail a little further away. It was odd, and it took me a while to get used to and focus properly, but I eventually worked it to where I had a much better, if still not perfect view of the field than before.

Kopaka, meanwhile, scanned the crowd that steadily made its way into the arena and to their seats. He fixated for a while on what looked to be a press box located on the opposite end.

“You see anything of interest?” I asked him.

“Possibly.”

“What do you mean, possibly?”

“You will see later.” I looked at the press box to try and see who or what he had spotted, but it was so far away that I didn’t have a hope of seeing anything in there, Ruru or no Ruru. So instead, I went back to trying to find Toa in the crowd until the announcer came online and announced the opening fight for the night; there would be anywhere between seven and ten fights; a four-entry best two-out-of-three elimination tournament lead up to the night’s main event, the face-off between Tahu and Stronius.

I guess that all made the ticket price a little more worthwhile.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 6

--------------------

The opening tournament ended up taking close to an hour and a half. The contestants included a male Skakdi of Iron nicknamed “The Porcupine,” who wore a suit of spiked armor to complement his spine and wielded a large morning star, a young female Glatorian of the Ice Tribe who had apparently looked to Gresh for inspiration in the design of her armor and her use of wrist-mounted fangblades, an aging Skrall warrior who mixed limited shadow powers with the traditional sword-and-shield weaponry of his people, and a male Vortixx who apparently fought for the glory of his master, Lady Soraka, with a spear and a pretty impressive set of martial arts moves.

The Skakdi unfortunately wiped the floor with him. The Vortixx’ fighting style was fluid, with lots of sweeping motions of his spear, the tip of which could apparently light on fire. Unfortunately, none of this did him any good against the iron-clad Skakdi. Soraka’s champion confounded the slow Skakdi for a while by dodging swings of the morning star and constantly maneuvering around him, but the fact remained that his opponent featured both a weapon that could cripple in one blow and armor that he simply couldn’t get through, so that’s how it went; eventually, the Skakdi got a hit in, and after that it was pretty much over. They didn’t even have to run a second fight between these two; Soraka’s man would spend the rest of his life crippled and humiliated. If his master even let him live, that is.

The match between the “Lady of the Frost” (no, I’m not kidding) and the Skrall was more interesting. The shadow powers had enhanced the already fearsome fighting moves of the Skrall even more: his combination of speed, defense with his shield, and offensive striking power with that massive blade was formidable, but when it came to speed I swear the Lady of the Frost was a blur on this battlefield. Even Kopaka must have found it hard to track her as she raced around the Skrall, blocked and redirected his every attack, and finally managed to down him with a sweep under the legs while he was off-balance after a strike. The second round, however, the Skrall came prepared. He used his shadow abilities more this time, using a ‘shadow sword’ move that basically extended the reach of his blade’s wide sweeping attacks. It came as a total surprise to the Ice Glatorian and apparently most of the crowd too, judging from their reactions, and it ended up winning him the second round. 1-1.

For their final and deciding match, the Lady of the Frost packed some extra ammo for her thornax launcher, and it was the explosive kind. She started off by focusing on staying out of the Skrall sword’s range and dodging the shadow bolts he hurled at her while firing thornax in return. The Skrall could easily block the thornax with his shield, but their spectacular explosions both thrilled the crowd and disoriented him with their concussive force. However, ice Glatorian still couldn’t make the inroad that she had in the first match, and the Skrall came up with a novel technique: holding his shield above his head and spinning it rapidly while launching bolts of shadow from the edge, creating an ‘umbrella’ of falling bolts around him. It kept any attempts to get in melee range at bay, but his opponent now got a clear shot with the thornax launcher and took it. That was enough to down the Skrall, and the Lady of the Frost went on to face The Porcupine.

I expected the final between them to be a one-sided affair. She’d shown great skill, but ultimately the Glatorian’s fighting style relied on the same principles as that of the Vortixx, and we all knew how well that worked out for him. Crucially, while he’d had a spear that might have been able to hit a weak spot in the Skakdi’s armor if aimed well, she was relying on slashing motions that would likely have little effect in any case. Turned out that I underestimated the thornax again, though; the Porcupine’s armor only added to the concussive effect of the exploding projectiles, so one good hit left him momentarily dazed. When he regained his senses only a second or two later, he was lying on his back with the Lady of the Frost on top of him and one of her blades at his throat. Several in the crowd began to chant “Kill! Kill! Kill!” but instead she chose to just take the victory for the round.

It only became apparent afterwards, when she tried to get up, that she’d impaled one of her legs on two of his armor spikes in the process of forcing him down; she had to remove it very carefully, and was bleeding severely from the two stab wounds afterwards. With it hastily bandaged up, she was ready to face the second round. The injury didn’t do her well, though, especially given how much she relied on speed and mobility. She did manage to stun the Porcupine again, but was too slow in closing in this time, and to add insult and more injury to injury, he specifically swung low into her legs, all but instantly bringing the fight to an end. However, she had gotten a hit in as she fell, causing the Porcupine to temporarily back off, forfeiting the killing blow. So the match would go into its final round.

The wait between the second and third match was cruelly long, as two Agori medics frantically worked on getting the Glatorian back on her mangled feet. I swear, even over the strong emotions, mostly joy and some kind of primal bloodlust, of the crowd, I could sense in credible pain and agony coming down from that field; how she kept from screaming I’ll never know. Yet somehow, she was standing again fifteen minutes later. But anyone in that arena could already see the writing on the wall: this wasn’t going to be a fight; it was going to be a slaughter. After the bell sounded the start of the fight, the porcupine toyed with his morning star, twirling it around in his hands as though it weighed nothing, and at one point even turning to the crowd and raising his hands as though he was asking them what he should do. They chanted “Kill! Kill! Kill!” again, but the Lady of the Frost wasn’t keen on going down easy.

She made her way across the arena, using one of her blades as a cane to help steady herself, the other one at the ready. Her posture was slumped; blood loss by this point had left her barely conscious. Yet, when the Porcupine raised his weapon and swung it down over her, she instantly reacted, dodged, and rolled to the side, slashing into the thinly armored back of his leg in the process. The Porcupine… he saw his prey was still up for it, but that she wouldn’t be for long; dark spots appeared on her bandaged shins and rapidly grew larger. She was bleeding again. So what did the do? He backed off, stood there, and waited. I don’t remember how long it was, but it felt like ages. She stood there, unable to really walk, weakened but still defiant. She even shouted at him. I couldn’t hear her over the chanting crowd, but I swear she was taunting him, throwing the worst imaginable insults at him, and he deserved each and every one.

Slowly, her head began to sink, her arms dropped… she fell on her knees, but still did what she could to hold at least one blade ready as the life drained out of her. Believing her sufficiently incapacitated, the Porcupine now moved in, carrying his morning star like an executioner’s axe. The crowd’s chant had turned into a deafening roar; when he raised the weapon over his head, I turned. The ice Glatorian was all but lying on the ground, her strength having drained out of her almost completely; I couldn’t bear to watch. Turns out, I didn’t have to, because when the full force of that weapon came down on her head, the crunching sound was broadcast through the entire arena, followed by a triumphant announcement of “PORCUPINE WINS!” The crowd cheered. The announcer informed them that, with his great victories, the porcupine would be moving up to the top tier arena rankings. I felt sick.

I asked Kopaka if he could tell me when they’d cleared the field before I dared look down there again. He’d watched the whole event without displaying any emotions of any kind, positive or negative. In fact, when I tried to focus in on him to try and detect any, I couldn’t find a thing. Had he actually been watching? It wasn’t long before the announcement came over the speakers:

“And now… the match that everyone has been waiting for!” Kopaka tapped my shoulder to indicate the field was clear, and it wasn’t… really. It was as clear as it was going to get, apparently, but there still was a very large dark stain where the young Glatorian had fallen, along with bits and scraps of armor strewn around. I guess that was too hard for them to get that out. The announcer continued: “And entering the arena now, the current champion! The one who brings the heat just by walking in! You’ve all seen him, you all know what he’s got, it’s TAHU, THE MASTER OF FIRE!”

A blast of flame erupted from one of the entrances to the arena floor below. It lasted for a second or two, and when it vanished, Tahu entered the arena with fire erupting from his swords, walking determinedly across the open space until he reached the center. There, he raised his swords over his head, crossed them, then brought them down and swung them around him, sending a heat wave in all directions that we could feel even in the back row. The crowd went wild; Tahu now assumed a ready stance, looking in the direction from which his opponent would appear. I looked to Kopaka; again, not a hint of any emotion or feeling was coming from him, even at the sight of his brother.

“And his challenger for tonight,” the announcer continued, “you’ve all seen him before, fighting his way up out of prison with the fastest climb through the arena ranks that anyone as ever seen! Beware the Skrall elite, the Special Forces, the Ultimate War Machine! It’s STRONIUS, LORD OF THE SKRALL!

His appearance was heralded by a blast of thick, acrid smoke from the entrance opposite to the one Tahu had appeared from. It lasted a while, but when it cleared, it revealed a warrior who frighteningly reminded me of The Porcupine, except in black and red with a monstrous spiked club for a weapon. The jagged, spiked armor, the way he held himself, they were almost identical, and just like his Skakdi counterpart, he twirled that massive weapon around him like it was a mere toy, much to the crowd’s amusement. He slammed it into the ground twice, leaving small craters to taunt his opponent. Tahu responded by swinging his blades around, lighting up the edges, and then planting them in the ground, sending streaks of fire through it which erupted next to Stronius and all over the area between them.

“Well, it looks like these two are more than ready for the FIGHT OF THE CENTURY!” The announcer really didn’t have to do anything to get this crowd riled up even more, but yeah… that’s what he was doing. “Well, how’s about we LET THEM HAVE IT!?” At this point, just the noise and emotional volume of the crowd were becoming exhausting for me, but this I had to see. Both fighters assumed ready positions about ten meters apart. The Announcer counted down: “And they’ll proceed to pummel each other in Three, TWO, ONE…” a small pause for effect…

“… AND FIGHT!”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 7

--------------------

At the sound of a deafening horn, the fighters charged towards each other. Stronius’ club was over his head; he brought it down but Tahu side-stepped and dodged the swing, after which he spun around and slashed with both his swords into the elite Skrall’s side. His armor prevented much of it from having an effect, though, and Tahu had to back up fast in order to avoid the backswing of the club. Now they stood only a meter or two apart, both with weapons at the ready, circling each other and looking for a weak spot. Tahu was faster; he moved in and parried the club out of the way with one of his blades while moving in to stab with the other. Stronius leant into the attack, however, causing Tahu’s sword to glance harmlessly off of his large, rocky pauldrons. He quickly followed that by swinging his club upwards, nailing an uppercut right on Tahu’s chest, causing the Toa of Fire to stagger backwards. Confident that his foe was momentarily dazed, the Skrall moved in and swung again, but Tahu fell backwards on purpose, rolled out of the way, and was on his feet again less than a second later.

So they were facing off again, but this time Tahu increased the distance; his swords began to glow red-hot, and he planted them in the ground again, sending fire in Stronius’ direction that erupted all around the Skrall before he could react. That did something; clearly Tahu stood a better chance at actually hurting Stronius with elemental attacks than by trying to pierce or slash into his ridiculous armor, and he could outrun Stronius all day, hurling fire at him as he went. But amazingly, he didn’t do that. He moved in to strike with the swords again, leading to another quick exchange of blows that were equally blocked, parried, and dodged by both sides. That became the pattern: a quick melee bout followed by a short standoff between the two sides. Each time, they tried to attack from different angles, or with a move we hadn’t yet seen, and occasionally they landed hits; Stronius’ armor had numerous cuts and scrapes now, though few if any seemed to have had any effect on the tissue below, and one of Tahu’s pauldrons, his chest plate, and his right thigh armor were seriously busted. But neither side gave anything to the other. Eventually, time ran down to where the first round was pronounced a draw, although that one round had featured more action than the rest of the evening so far combined, and the crowd’s energy levels were through the roof.

While the fighters prepared for the second round and the announcer kept the crowd riled up, I turned to Kopaka:

“What did you think so far?”

“My brother has lost his edge,” the Toa of Ice said dryly. “Stronius would not be standing now if he was on form.”

“I think he fought well,” I observed.

“You have not seen him fight before.” That was true, but really, I thought Tahu had put up a sporting display, and at least this fight was a lot more evenly matched than most of what we’d seen so far.

The second round was almost a repeat of the first until the start of the last of the five minutes’ duration of each round. Tahu moved in again, this time trying a quite spectacular set of moves: he charged Stronius, jumped in the air and corkscrewed over him, trying to land on the other side to slash into his more vulnerable back. Stronius wasn’t going to let that happen, though: he jabbed upwards with his club, managing to hit Tahu’s leg and spoiling the maneuver to where the Toa landed on his back instead of on his feet. Though he managed to dodge the club now coming down on top of him, he was in serious trouble: Stronius kept swinging like a maniac, not allowing the Toa any window to regain his footing. So instead, Tahu stabbed his blade into a vulnerable spot in the elite Skrall’s armor right at the inside of his leg. Following that, he proceeded to set the blade alight, but Stronius took advantage of the delay by swinging his club down and nailing a massive hit on Tahu’s shoulder, completely smashing the remnants of the pauldron and visibly mangling the tissue below. Tahu was forced to roll back and try to get out of his opponent’s striking range while the latter’s leg was out of commission, which he did successfully.

Now the fighters stood and faced each other again, but Stronius’ left leg was weakened, causing him to limp, and Tahu’s left shoulder was messed up to where he couldn’t raise the arm much or strike at anything with it to any effect. Unable to charge effectively, Stronius endured the intermittent fireballs that Tahu threw at him by blocking them with his club until the fire warrior tried once again to move in. He followed closely behind one of the fireballs to try and take advantage of the elite Skrall being in a blocking as opposed to a striking position; with his club interposed between him and Tahu to block incoming fire, Stronius wouldn’t be able to see Tahu coming. But he guessed Tahu’s plan correctly, and after the fireball hit, he simply shoved the club forward. It wasn’t a very powerful or damaging hit by any means but like anyone else, Tahu quickly found that getting a spiky club shoved into your face is a disorientating experience. While he was dazed, Stronius managed to get another, more powerful hit in just as the bell sounded the end of round 2.

Because of the damage he dished out, though, he was awarded the win for the round. Tahu now had to either win the next round convincingly enough to be awarded a point or win by outright knockout to stay in the fight. The announcer worked up the tension with rhetorical questions like “Is this the end of Tahu!?” I was scared that he would lose; we’d already seen a loss could mean death, and this crowd was bloodthirsty to say the least. Kopaka didn’t seem the least bit concerned from what I could read.

“You know,” I told him, “this could mean the end of him, right?”

“It could be.” Yup. No concern whatsoever. I knew he liked to be detached and all that, but this was his own brother; did he really feel nothing or just show nothing? Over the mental noise of the crowd, I honestly couldn’t tell.

I was on the edge of my seat when the fighters stepped forward again for the third round. Tahu’d gotten a hold of a new pauldron and braced his arm, but it was still weak and he looked battered overall. Stronius appeared to have bandaged his leg, and his armor looked worn but the brute inside was otherwise fine. I’m not usually faithful, but I honestly prayed to Mata Nui that Tahu would come out on top. If he didn’t… that was it.

The final round began. Stronius, confident that he could finish the fight faster with fewer injuries to contend with, went on the offensive straight away, charging Tahu and bringing the club down on him again. Tahu in part dodged and in part parried the strike, after which he struck back, but the elite Skrall’s helmet easily deflected the hit. That set the tone for the round early on; Stronius had the initiative, but Tahu’s defenses were up so he didn’t really get anywhere. Tahu also threw in fire attacks here and there when he could. After two minutes, Stronius was beginning to show exhaustion; swinging that heavy club about really took everything he had by this point, and he was forced to back off. Now Tahu went on the offensive, though more cautiously than he had before, and like Stronius he accomplished little with it. More cuts, more scrapes, but nothing that would earn either fighter points or contribute to a knockout.

Then Tahu ramped it up. With two minutes left, he began making more daring strikes, increasingly rendering himself vulnerable in an effort to land more powerful blows with swords that now glowed red-hot. Still recovering, Stronius didn’t really have an answer other than to keep backing off; Tahu slashed right, then left, then brought his swords over in a kind of cross-chop… I wouldn’t say it was graceful; the Lady of the Frost had done basically the same thing in a much smoother, effortless fashion, but the way Tahu chained his attacks together was nonetheless very impressive and emphasized the power the Toa of Fire still possessed. By this point it was evening and therefore dark apart from the gloomy arena lighting, which made the resulting light show all more spectacular. Those bright red glowing swords and the shower of sparks created every time they clashed against Stronius’ armor were spectacular to behold, and Tahu’s assault was relentless. It was do or die, and the crowd loved it.

But Stronius wasn’t going to let that go on forever, and when Tahu began to falter with a minute left, he struck back, swinging the club in front of him with as much if not more energy than he’d done at the start of the match. Now it was Tahu’s turn to back up, and he did so quickly, dodging left and right while he tried to recover some energy. The fighters had almost made it back to the center of the arena where they started. Then Stronius made a mistake: with maybe ten seconds to go on the clock, he went all out and dove forward more while swinging the club down over his head two-handedly. This was the moment that Tahu had been waiting for. He ducked low and to the left, dodging the club again, then rolled right to get underneath Stronius. But Stronius had either been expecting it or he had quicker reactions that I thought, because he brought his foot down on Tahu’s chest, pinning him to the ground, then began to raise his club again. But the Toa of Fire had a plan too: while he was pinned to the ground, he could stab upwards with both of his swords, nailing Stronius on the inside of both his legs; the same vulnerable joint he’d hit on just the left leg the last time. And this time, he’d ignited the swords beforehand.

The whole crowd, myself included, was astounded by what happened next; with maybe four seconds left in the match, and Stronius about to bring the club down on his head, Tahu surged his fire powers through his swords, sending searing jets of flame upwards and into the elite Skrall’s body and armor. I can only describe the result as a furnace: white-hot flames burst out of every crack and split in Stronius’ armor: under the shoulders, by the elbows, from holes in the chest and abdomen, from his neck and, most frighteningly, out the eye holes of his helmet. A nightmarish scream erupted as the Skrall’s body was roasted, burned, then utterly carbonized inside his steel shell. That club never came down. The bell sounded, and Tahu managed to get out from under the foot of the Skrall, who seemed to be standing frozen in position, the club still raised over his head, dark smoke rising from inside his armor.

Tahu stood in front of him, seemingly sizing him up for a bit, challenging him, then stepped back and kicked the chest plate. Stronius fell backwards and when he hit the ground… he fell apart. I’m not kidding… I still shudder to think of it. He’d been dead by the time the bell rang, nothing but a carbonized statue inside of blackened armor, barely standing. The impact against the ground broke what remained, leaving the Lord of the Skrall literally in pieces. Tahu raised his swords in the air and ignited them again; his signature victory pose. To say the crowd went wild was an understatement; I was surprised my hearing survived.

“AND THAT IS THE POWER OF A TOA OF FIRE!” the announcer had found his microphone again. “TAHU WINS!”

Looking over, I saw Kopaka getting up and preparing to leave.

“Come,” he said. “Let us go and see my… brother.”

The cold, spiteful way in which he said ‘brother’ after that match… This was the first time that I’d seen Kopaka display a genuine sign of anger, even hate. This was not going to be a pretty reunion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 8

--------------------

Up until this point, Kopaka had behaved, from my point of view, mostly like a calculator with legs; utterly rational, methodical, and precise in the way he went about things, black-and-white in how he saw the world. I found his mannerisms intriguing, in spite of how frustrating interacting with him was because of it; his logic wasn’t the kind that was always easy to follow, and he wasn’t usually keen on explaining. In tracing down Tahu after the end of this fight, though, there was something new mixed in; a determination, a drive that up until this point had been lacking; Kopaka now behaved like a man on a mission as opposed to a taciturn stranger.

He made his way around the upper rim of the Arena Magna; the crowd was watching Tahu receiving some kind of award for winning the fight, so he didn’t have to fear being spotted. I followed him quickly. He stopped when he reached a point above the tunnel through which Tahu had entered the arena. The announcer was just informing the crowd that, next week, the ‘Master of Fire’ would face up against the newcomer in the top ranks; The Porcupine. I shuddered. Kopaka didn’t wait around; in fact, I was shocked to see him rising slowly into the air. I’d never seen something like that; he just… slowly floated upwards without moving a muscle, and he continued to rise until he reached the top of the outside wall of the stands, where he stepped forwards and out of sight. Where was he going?

To follow, I had to exercise one of my lesser-used abilities: telekinesis. In this case, I tried to use it on myself to fly like Kopaka had, however he pulled that off. It was a difficult process; I couldn’t easily keep focused on myself all that well, and I almost fell backwards into the crowd. Luckily, I managed to get a hold of the top of the outer wall and could clamber up from there. The wall was a few meters thick, and once I reached the other side, I looked down to find that Kopaka was gently floating down towards the ground. I muttered something along the lines of “oh great…” to myself, then attempted to follow using telekinesis again. I held fine at first, pulling myself up just hard enough to float downwards at a manageable pace, but it was hard to keep my balance. Kopaka had just landed on the field below when a gust of wind knocked me off balance completely, breaking my concentration; I now found myself tumbling towards the ground, desperately trying to get that lock again… but to no avail. For a moment, I thought that was it. I’d been killed by falling while chasing after a mad old Toa who just wanted to be left alone.

Except… all of the sudden I slowed down. Something was pushing against me falling, the same sensation as when I used telekinesis on myself, except… more controlled. It didn’t just stop me splattering on the ground; it also reoriented me so I was standing up, and then gently set me down. I turned and looked around, trying to decipher what had just happened. There was no one around me except Kopaka, who’d already turned and was making his way across the field that surrounded the arena.

“Wait!” I called after him. “Was that you!?”

“Yes. Me and a Miru Nuva.”

“Whoa… you just saved me there!” Up until that point, I’d assumed Kopaka didn’t care about me at all, and that he’d just let me follow him around so I could satisfy my curiosity so long as it didn’t bother him. But if it’d been like that, he’d have had no reason to save me there… or I had him figured out all wrong. Did he actually care to some degree, or was I just useful to him for the time being? “Thanks. I mean really, thank you for that.”

“Do not mention it. Or at least do not shout it next time. Noise does not help us.”

“Oh, right…” and just like that, Kopaka dismissed what had happened. His mind had already moved on.

“So, what do we do now?” I asked after I’d caught up.

“Hide.”

“Hide from what?”

“The group that will come out of there soon.” Kopaka pointed at a closed set of tall, wooden doors in the side of the Arena Magna that we’d landed just in front of. A straight path led from them to a locked gate in the fence that closed off the area around the arena. “Here.” Kopaka got behind a large set of ornamentally trimmed bushes and knelt down to stay out of view. I took a spot next to him. He seemed to be staring intently at the bushes in front of us.

“So, what is that?” I gestured in the direction of the doors.

“That is where the tunnel by which Tahu will leave the arena leads,” Kopaka explained. “There is a staging area in between, but sooner or later Tahu will appear there. Then we will follow him to where he lives so I can meet with him privately.”

“We’re going to have to be sneaky?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Good. I’ve got just the mask for it.” I smiled.

“Keep it down. Tahu has yet to appear, and now we really do not want to be seen. It is forbidden to even be here.”

“Right. So… we wait.” And wait we did. The post-fight ceremony lasted for maybe fifteen minutes, judging by the noise, but we had been waiting for nearly an hour by the time the doors opened, time during which I’d grown increasingly worried that we’d be spotted. I’d kept my Volitak on as much as I could while the crowds of Matoran and Agori coming out of the arena on the other side dispersed throughout the city. Since the area we were in wasn’t lit, Kopaka trusted his dark cloak to fade in with the scenery, which it apparently did well enough. No one spotted him, but then I’d like to think that no one was looking for us.

Tahu appeared, surrounded by four smaller figures; either Ta-Matoran or Fire Agori; it was hard to tell, since they wore the official gear of the city guard, carrying round shields and small thornax launchers. Apparently, Tahu needed a guard when traveling around the city for some reason. They escorted him down the path and through the gate. We followed, keeping to the shadows as much as we could. Kopaka used his Miru Nuva to get over the fence. I climbed over it. By now, the streets had largely cleared; everyone’d gone home for the night, and therefore we had to keep our distance while following Tahu and the guards to avoid being spotted. Luckily, Kopaka could track them with his Akaku even when they disappeared around corners. The party made their way into one of the wealthier parts of the city, where many of the more influential Agori and Matoran lived, and stopped in front of one particular house. Kopaka and I watched from behind a hedge across the street as Tahu dismissed the guard, who went their separate ways while he entered his home.

“Looks like our time to act, right?” I asked after the guards were out of sight. Kopaka got up and made his way across the street, me following close behind and keeping an eye out for anyone who might see us. The street was completely quiet, but lights were still on in some of the houses. I figured Kopaka had thought up some kind of sneaky way to get in without being seen, but no, he simply walked up and knocked on the door. It took a bit of time before Tahu opened it.

“Who are you and what do you want?” he asked curtly. If he was surprised to see Toa at his door, he didn’t show it.

“We need to have a word,” Kopaka answered.

“Don’t you lot realize what time it is? Get lost!” Tahu tried to close the door, but Kopaka shoved his cane into the opening, preventing it from closing completely. So Tahu opened it again. “What, you looking for trouble?!” he asked with more than a hint of anger in his voice.

“No. I need to speak to you… brother.” When he said ‘brother,’ Kopaka pulled back his hood enough to reveal his face to Tahu, whose eyes widened with stunned surprise at the sight.

“Kopaka?… You’re alive?” he barely got it out, but then regained his composure. “Come in, come in.” he stepped aside to let us in. Kopaka silently made his way past, and I followed suit. “And who are you, then?” Tahu asked me.

“I’m Lis…” I introduced myself. “I’m a friend.”

“A friend?” Tahu asked incredulously. “Kopaka has a friend? Things really have changed, haven’t they?” Kopaka didn’t reply; he silently made his way into the living room instead.

Tahu’s was a pretty decent size house, and the outside looked presentable enough in the dark, but I would have recommended he find a new decorator. The walls were covered top to bottom with all sorts of trophies from his arena fighting; shields, swords, helmets, other mangled pieces of armor… name any piece of combat equipment and he probably had several nailed to his wall. It looked busy, cluttered, and given the state of some of the trophies, like a garbage dump. The exception was a set of shelves on the wall opposite the door, where an impressive collection of victory cups and plaques was proudly displayed, though they had gathered a fair amount of dust. Other furnishings were few and far between, though; a chair or two and a couch were set up around a low table to form a living room, joined by a new consumer-model telescreen on a side table, and there was another chair loitering about the mess that was probably the kitchen. Most of the furniture looked old and worn, and the place generally gave the impression that taking care of his house was not a top item on Tahu’s priority list.

There was also the faint odor of something burning… that was when I recognized a charred object sitting on the table: Stronius’ helmet. It instantly called back the sight of the elite Skrall’s death… those flames coming out of his…everything… I almost threw up, but tried not to look it. Kopaka’d taken a seat on the couch right behind the table, and for a moment, I swear, he looked more at home there than Tahu did; his old cloak and worn, decrepit appearance looked a lot more appropriate for someone living in a hole like this one than Tahu’s battered but otherwise quite new and shiny equipment.

“So, would you like something to drink?” Tahu offered Kopaka.

“No.”

“To eat, then?” I found the thought of eating anything made in that kitchen of his revolting; nothing there was anywhere near its original color due to food stains, and the pile of dirty dishes stacked in and around the sink was the largest I’d ever seen.

“No.”

“Then what did you want to see me about?”

“As I said, we need to talk.” I could sense some impatience from Kopaka; he had a point to get to, but for some reason he wasn’t coming out and saying it the way he usually did.

“Okay then, let’s talk,” Tahu said as he took a chair opposite of the couch. “Where’ve you been the last eight thousand years?”

“The Ko-Wahi mountains.”

“Well, that’s no surprise. Looks like you’ve taken a few knocks up there, though. Bad leg?” Tahu gestured at the Toa of Ice’s cane.

“An injury, yes. Looks like I am not alone, though.”

Tahu looked puzzled for a moment, then Kopaka nodded to his braced left arm and bound-up shoulder. “Oh, that…” the Toa of Fire said. “Arena fight went a little rough.”

“I know,” Kopaka said. “I was there.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 9

--------------------

“You were there?” Tahu was stunned. Did I detect a hint of… fear?

“We were up there in the stands,” I explained. “Saw the whole thing.”

“…and somehow I seem to remember that you made a very specific promise some time ago,” Kopaka added.

Tahu sighed. “You’re talking about how it ended, I presume.” Kopaka merely nodded ‘yes’. “Well, if I could’ve avoided it, I would’ve done everything I could to do so,” the Toa of Fire said dryly.

“So you killed him,” Kopaka asserted.

“Yes, because it was him or me,” Tahu explained; there was now more than a hint of anger in his voice. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“Oh, but you did,” Kopaka countered. “The Tahu I knew would not have let that fight go to its third round. You could have ended it much sooner and without the need to kill.”

“You have no idea how those fights work, do you?” Tahu stood up, displeased at the accusation. “The point isn’t to win fast, the point is to put on a show! That’s what I get paid for, not to kill! Yes, I let him get some hits in to make it look like a challenge, but I misjudged it, okay!? By the end of this one, my life really was on the line, so I didn’t have a choice.”

“Your life was on line for that entire fight,” Kopaka said calmly, “but you thought that you could take him easily and as such could let him ‘get a few hits in.’ Your overconfidence is showing, brother, and it will only lead to more tragedies like this one.” He pointed at the burned helmet.

“My life is on the line every time I enter that arena!” Tahu argued. “I win, I live. I lose, I die. And you know what? I accept that! So what if I die in there? At least I’ll die fighting, which is more than I can say for some of us!”

“At one point, you yourself would have been horrified to hear that coming from a Toa.” Anger was stirring in Kopaka as well; I could feel it.

“Well, at least I haven’t lost my edge!” Wild gestures accompanied Tahu’s arguments. “Like it or not, I’m still going strong while the rest of you have fallen! Besides, are you really going to argue that the world would be better off with this guy still around?” he gestured to the helmet. “He was a thug; the kind of thing we used to fight to protect the Matoran. I’m still doing that! I’m the only one of us still doing it!”

“Yes, you need that, do you not?” Kopaka grabbed hold of his cane. “You need that thrill, that fight, that satisfaction of conquering something in the name of good, and I was fine with you having it...” He got up as well; now the two Toa faced each other across the table. “But what I cannot accept,” he continued in a much more threatening tone, “is a Toa, especially my brother, killing people for others’ entertainment! That does not protect anyone! You have abandoned everything that being a Toa once stood for!”

“WELL, WE’RE NOT TOA ANYMORE!” Tahu shouted. “This world doesn’t need Toa, and you’re just too stubborn to see that! You’re clinging to an old fantasy, brother!”

“YOU ROASTED HIM ALIVE!” Kopaka shot back, pointing again at the helmet on the table between them. “We fought tyrants who did that! Remember the reign of shadows!?”

“How rich of you to remind me of that! You come here complaining of what I do, you compare me to monsters, and look at yourself! You vanished after we split! You complain that I abandoned what being a Toa once meant, while you’ve abandoned everything!”

“I WAS DOING MY DUTY!” now Kopaka was furious… didn’t need to be a mind reader to tell that. He really did take that duty seriously. I could feel the temperature in the room dropping.

“Your duty is to wander around the mountains while everyone who once cared for you thinks you’re dead!? How convenient for you: it’s what you always wanted: to be left alone!” By now, sparks and small bursts of flame accompanied Tahu’s gestures. I took a few steps back… both Toa seemed to be losing control and I did not want to be caught in the middle of it.

“Then what of your other brothers!?” I was surprised to see Kopaka bring that up. “What will they say when they see what you have become!?”

“Other brothers?” Tahu was taken aback as well, but then anger took over again: “Guess you really have been gone for too long! Newsflash, ‘brother’: Onua and Lewa are dead, and Pohatu’s been gone for ages! Not like they’re gonna see anything or complain about it! And if you’re uncomfortable calling yourself my brother because of what I do, then you can go find Gali and commiserate with her!”

“Then what you said really must be true,” Kopaka said coldly. “Fire as no brothers. Fire consumes all.” Something about that statement… it hit Tahu hard. It wasn’t just a biting remark; when Tahu heard it, that anger in him spiked. Meanwhile, Kopaka seemed to calm down again; he took a certain pleasure in it; making Tahu’s temper flare white-hot.

“DON’T SAY THAT TO ME!” Tahu shouted as a bolt of fire burst from his hands and flew towards Kopaka. I ducked for cover. Kopaka reacted instantly, forming an ice shield in front of himself. With a tremendous hissing sound, the collision of the elements produced a thick vapor cloud that almost instantly filled the room. For a few seconds, no one could see anything. When the vapor began to clear, I could see the two old Toa still standing in the same positions, but with weapons now at the ready, facing each other across the table. I’d had enough.

“Stop it, both of you!” I stepped in between them with my arms outstretched. “We’re not going to accomplish anything by blowing up the house, okay?” Both of them looked surprised for a second, but then they came to the realization that this was neither the time nor the place for a sword-fight. Warily, they put away their weapons.

“Please…” I turned to Kopaka. “We’re here to ask him a question, right? Not to re-ignite pointless arguments.”

“Recent events made the argument relevant,” Kopaka said, “but you are correct in that we are not accomplishing anything by it.”

“Well,” Tahu said, “I do think it’s pointless, I don’t have anything else to say on the matter. If you want to ask this question so badly, do so. If not, get out of my house.”

“Fine.” Kopaka said. “Where is Gali?”

“You expect me to know where she is?” Tahu asked incredulously. “You think I kept up with her after how we ended?”

“Yes, I think you did.”

“That’s crazy. Sorry, but no, I have no idea.” I could sense Tahu was lying, and I was about to tell Kopaka as much when the Toa of Ice himself beat me to it.

“No, you do know,” he asserted. “First off, you know she is alive, because you told me to ‘go commiserate with her.’ Secondly, there is no way in which one could spend as much time in the arena as you have without accumulating several grievous injuries. I can think of only one person who you would trust to fix you up properly.”

“There’s hospitals,” Tahu countered, “and they do a fine job.”

“Well then perhaps I like to think that there is just a little bit of that old Tahu left,” Kopaka continued. “The Tahu who cared for his fellow Toa and who, regardless of the circumstances, would do his best to make sure they were okay.”

Tahu thought for a few seconds, then sighed: “Fine. She’s staying with Hahli. Has been for years.” Without another word, Kopaka turned and headed for the door.

“Hang on!” I interrupted. “Where do we find this… Hahli, then?”

“She’s got a house downtown,” Tahu explained. “Head south a few blocks past the station, then east. It’s right on the coast.” Kopaka was making his way out the door by this point. “Be warned, though:” Tahu called after him. “You won’t like it when you find her.” Kopaka didn’t reply. When I turned to follow him, Tahu tapped me on the shoulder. “Lis?”

“What?”

“Look, I know I kinda lost it there… he is infuriating to deal with sometimes.” Okay, true, and I could sense a degree of regret on his mind, but I still wasn’t inclined to feel sorry for him.

“That’s the first time you see him in eight thousand years,” I pointed out, “and this is how it goes?”

“I know,” Tahu said, “and I don’t expect you to understand what I do and why… but I fought alongside him. A lot. He’s even saved my life a few times, so… I know he won’t ask for it, but if he needs anything, call me. I want to make sure he’ll at least be okay.”

“Fine. I will.” I turned to leave, then realized something. “I guess he was right,” I said to Tahu before stepping out. “There is something of that old Tahu left after all.” For a moment, there was a meek smile on the Toa of Fire’s face. I stepped out into the front yard. Kopaka was making his way down the street already.

“One last thing,” Tahu called after me. I turned and waited for him to continue. “I don’t know how you found him or why you’re still with him, but it’s a good thing that you are. And he cares too. He won’t admit it to you or me, or even to himself, but he cares a great deal about us, about the Toa Nuva, and even he needs help sometimes. When he finds Gali, or Mata Nui forbid, Pohatu, he will need help… be there for him, please.”

“Thanks. I will.”

“Have a good night, Lis.” I nodded and turned to run and catch Kopaka. I caught up quickly.

“What was that in there?” I demanded.

“An argument.”

“You nearly blew up his house! I agree what he did was horrible, but really, he’s your brother. You two couldn’t even pretend to keep it civil!”

Kopaka waited a moment before replying. “My brother’s failings are his own,” he said calmly, “so I could not stop him, but it was necessary to try to preserve the name of the Toa.”

“And you still failed, so you’re angry.”

“No. He will stop fighting in the arena soon.”

“Why?” Did he really think he was that convincing?

“He is getting older like the rest of us; it will not be long before he gets killed in there.” He clearly had no doubt about it either…

“And you’re okay with that?”

Kopaka grunted but didn’t reply. I tried to read into his mind again, to figure out what was going through his head that made it okay just to leave his brother when he thought said brother would die soon. I got anger, a bit of sadness, both of which were to be expected… but also concern. Tahu was right: somewhere down there Kopaka did care, but… he was forcing it down, trying to look like he didn’t mind that which he acknowledged he could do nothing about. But he did mind, and I began to fear that it was going to keep eating away at him.

It would be but one of many such things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 10

--------------------

 

With midnight fast approaching, we made our way along the streets leading south, back in the direction of the Arena Magna.

“So, are we heading to Hahli’s place, then?” I asked.

“Eventually.”

“What do you mean, ‘eventually?’ Why not immediately?”

“I am tired, and it would be rude to show up at her door now.”

“Didn’t seem to bother you with Tahu.”

“… Tahu is different. I had… a bone to pick with him. And I was not tired yet.”

“Fair enough…” I could imagine an argument like that took a lot out of him, given his age… but the fact that he paused before answering meant something. Also, I could sense anxiety in him, which was new. He’d been completely confident and self-assured for this entire trip, but now that he was so close, I felt he was… becoming hesitant. As with everything else, of course, he wouldn’t let it show on the outside, but from what I saw now, it seemed that there was something about meeting Gali that was more daunting for him than anything we’d faced on this trip so far… What was it? I wasn’t going to get it from him here, not when we were both exhausted, but when we did find Gali, I’d be paying very close attention.

“Where are we going now, then?” I noticed we’d turned east.

“A quiet place.”

“Another park? I’ve had enough of park benches for today.”

“No. A place more private. A place to contemplate.”

“Ah, contemplation. Your favorite pastime.” Kopaka didn’t pick up on my dry attempt at humor… Was I really expecting him to? Well, he wasn’t the only one who was tired. Whatever this quiet, contemplative place was, I really hoped there’d be a good spot to lie down and catch some shuteye…

Turns out it was the beach.

Unsurprisingly, it was empty. The road we’d followed had lead us past ever more elaborate houses, and this clearly was the part of the beach where the wealthy could come to relax, if they wished. It was a wide, shallow cove, hemmed in by a seawall behind, rocky shores that grew into cliffs to the north, and more rocks to the south. I could see the silhouettes of Ga-Matoran and Water Agori huts situated beyond the rocks in that direction; many were raised on posts to protect them from the tide, and further still docks jutted far out onto the sea, with ships of various sizes moored to them.

Kopaka made his way to the north side of the beach and found himself a decently sized boulder to sit on. He sat there, looking out over the sea… his was mind sorting through Mata Nui only knows what. Something calming about the ocean, I suppose, though from the way he was adjusting his scopes, I could swear he was looking at something on the water, something well beyond my limited night vision. I could have tried to read into him more, but I was practically falling asleep standing up, so I found a nice spot of soft sand, lay down, and was out in moments.

-*-*-*-

A flash… I’m in a tunnel of some kind… is that a door opening? A dark voice thunders from all around…

“SO YOU FOUND YOUR WAY HERE, BROTHER…”

I tremble… there are others around me who do the same… another flash.

Now I’m outside. The light is blinding… something is coming towards me… something yellow… it lets out a blood-curdling screech... it’s some kind of monster! Suddenly, I see another one next to me, and a third. Their eyes glow red. They have these… these weird forked staffs that they keep trying to stab me with. I try to hold my own… another flash.

Something I recognize! Skrall! Hundreds of them… but they look different than I remember. I look around and see Tahu standing next to me… he looks younger than before, not as damaged, and he’s… shouting orders about something. It’s hard to hear him over the noise of battle commencing, as more Toa and Glatorian meet and fight the Skrall… flash again.

Now I’m on a hill, overlooking the aftermath of some battle that happened below. The yellow creatures… there’s hundreds of them, all dead. Some Glatorian and Agori are littered among them. I look up to see more fighting happening in the distance, and something… something is casting a giant shadow over the landscape. I turn too look, but suddenly my vision fills with red… I hear clashing swords, a sick, gurgling sound, then everything is black again. A voice calls to me from the distance… I can’t distinguish what it’s trying to tell me. Flash again…

-*-*-*-

Suddenly, I was wide awake. My heart was pounding, I was breathing heavily, and I was drenched in sweat. What kind of nightmare was that? I looked around, trying to get my bearings again. I was still on the beach… the sky was starting to lighten over the ocean to the east; sunrise would come soon. I noticed Kopaka was still sitting on that boulder, but slumped over. I made my way over to him. He was asleep, shut down in that position. Looking around, I could see that the beach was still empty apart from us. Then, I spotted something on the ocean horizon; some kind of island. It was too far out for me to make out anything but a silhouette in the dim light.

“You see it?” I was shocked to find Kopaka was now awake.

“S-see what?”

Kopaka pointed out over the water. “The fingers.”

“What fingers?”

“That is where the Makuta fell,” he explained. “Those islands were his fingers.”

“Oh… The battle! The Makuta fell in the ocean! I remember that!” I looked again, trying to distinguish these ‘fingers’ in more detail, but it’d have to wait until after sunrise. There just wasn’t enough light there. I turned back to Kopaka. “Were you there?”

“I was.” Suddenly, what had happened clicked for me.

“Were you thinking about that, about what happened then?” I asked him.

“Yes.”

“Oh… were there yellow monsters with red, glowing eyes?”

“Rahkshi of heat vision.”

“So it was…” knowing didn’t really make me feel better. “I… I think that I might have picked up on some of that…”

“While you were asleep?” He sounded… surprised, perhaps even a little indignant about it, and rightfully so.

“Yes…” I felt embarrassed. I’ll admit I wasn’t the best at controlling my abilities at the time, but now Kopaka had seen it happen twice... and I could tell he disapproved. Accidentally picking up on things like that, reading minds while asleep… it showed that lack of control, that inexperience. I felt like an Agori child who’d just wet their bed. “Sorry…”

“It is fine. You will learn. You wanted to see it anyway, did you not?” Even though he said it was fine, the tone of his voice said it wasn’t. Not keen on elaborating further, he got up, pulled up his hood, and started for the stairs up the seawall that marked the end of the beach and the start of the city. I followed behind, but my mind wasn’t fully in the present; I was still trying to piece together the fragments of that memory, of that dream, especially the end. Whose voice was that, shouting at the end? And what were they trying to get across?

As we headed south along the road parallel to the beach, I started to pay more attention to the city waking up around us; on various piers I could see Ga-Matoran and Water Agori preparing their vessels for a day of fishing at sea, and a few seaside shops and restaurants were just opening up. Kopaka didn’t seem to be paying as close attention to what was around us as he usually did; he was pondering something. He actually stopped once to look around and get a better idea of the layout of the beach and everything on it, and his eyes fell on “Daila’s Dermis Shack,” a picturesque little place with a covered terrace over the beach. Apparently, it was time for breakfast, which I greatly welcomed.

A stocky water Agori who I could only assume was Daila was making preparations for the day inside the kitchen hut. We approached the hut’s front counter and proceeded to inspect a large board that showed the breakfast menu. It wasn’t long before Daila took notice.

“Well, you folks are up early,” she remarked as she approached the counter with a smile. “And Toa, nonetheless. What can I get you two?” Kopaka pointed at the third item on the menu; dermis soup. “Dermis soup, eh? Any side with it?” The Toa of Ice pointed at ‘pokawi strips’ listed under ‘sides’ on the board. “So, dermis soup and pokawi…” Daila noted, “and for you, ma’m?”

“What’s the three-gafna dish?” I inquired.

“Three types of gafna cubes on a seaweed bed,” Daila explained. “You can choose the types if you prefer.”

“Sounds nice, I’ll take it. You pick the types.”

“Will do,” Daila noted. “Any side with that?”

“Pokawi strips sound nice.”

“Three-Gafna and pokawi it is, then.” Daila concluded. “Two tickets or together?” Kopaka held up two fingers, answering that question. By this point, I was starting to find his silent of way of dealing with Matoran and Agori quite amusing to watch; he could get so much across with just a gesture or two, while they were left wondering who this weird figure was. “Separate tickets…” Diala noted down, “okay! Should be out in a few minutes!”

Kopaka made his way onto the terrace, found the one table that was Toa-sized, and took the seat facing east, overlooking the sea. I took the chair facing south, giving me a prime view of the shoreline, but that wasn’t what I was really interested in. No, I could sense that hint of anxiety in Kopaka again, coupled with that sense that he was mulling over something; for some reason he really wasn’t looking forward to this meeting. Looking around, I couldn’t find anyone within earshot of us, and judging by the sounds coming from the kitchen, Daila would keep herself busy, so I decided to try and get the reason out of him.

“So, you finally get to see Gali again,” I began. No reply. Hm… “Excited?”

“You would know if I was.” Okay, fair point.

“So you’re not.” Again, no reply. It seemed that I wouldn’t get anywhere with the indirect approach, though given that this was Kopaka that really shouldn’t have surprised me. “Mind if I ask why? Your entire reason for coming down here was to meet her again, to get her to fix that busted leg, right?”

“Yes.”

“So, you could be better by tonight. Isn’t that exciting?”

“I suppose.” The Toa of Ice didn’t do ‘excited.’ Not on the outside, at the very least, but I quickly got the impression that even inside there wasn’t much in the way of joy left to repress; it might well have been the one emotion that Kopaka had been able to eliminate from his mind completely. That certainly would’ve explained his generally dour demeanor, come to think of it.

“I don’t know… I think I’d feel a little happier knowing I was about to get better.”

“So long as Gali still cares about duty,” Kopaka said with a hint of spite in his voice.

“I think she will.” I really did. From what I’d seen already, I didn’t get the impression that Gali was the type to give up easily on something… then again, I would’ve been pretty furious at the other Toa if I’d been in her position during the split. I couldn’t imagine it would’ve left anything but a bad mark on her, and she could still have been bitter about that. Was she really the type to let that override her concern for others, though? I concluded that she wasn’t. “And believe me, if I know anything, it’s how to read people.” I regretted making that statement the moment it left my lips.

“Of course you do. You do it even when you do not intend to,” Kopaka said critically. “Before you assert confidence in your powers, you should know to use them properly. Particularly yours.”

“Yeah, I should…” I admitted. Suddenly I felt ashamed again. “I-I’m working on it.”

“I am not talking about the lack of control,” Kopaka continued, “I am talking about your frivolous use of it. You have been reading my mind at every spare moment since we met, have you not?”

“Kinda, yeah…”

“You should consider that some things are better left hidden. Your powers were given to you for the protection of Matoran and Agori, not to satisfy your curiosity. There is a reason your kind was made female rather than male.” There was? That was the first I’d heard of it…

“Why is that?”

“Imagine your abilities in the hands of someone as temperamental as Tahu, or someone as careless as Lewa,” Kopaka explained. “Fire, lightning, stone, air… they destroy bodies. You? Your powers can destroy minds; a far more dangerous thing. In its own way, psionics is the most powerful of the elements; the great beings therefore saw fit that the more gentle of the sexes should be given custody over it.” Really? That’s why Ce-Matoran were female? That wasn’t written in our legends anywhere.

“Seems like a bit of a generalization to me.” It did, quite uncomfortably so, in fact. Then again, it was probably true to a large extent, though no one seemed to know why… Really, Matoran and Toa gender was a strange thing. At least with the Agori there were… understandable reasons for why the sexes had their associated characteristics; not so with us.

“It was not one of their smarter decisions,” Kopaka asserted, “but it is done with now. Point is, you have been given abilities whose use can have tremendous consequences for you and everyone around you, and whose use raises many questions. Use them wisely.”

“I will.” I was intent on taking his advice, but what defined ‘using them wisely?’ I’d spent a lot of time thinking about that… in fact, I still don’t think I have all the answers.

Edited by Scorpion_Strike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 11

--------------------

 

It wasn’t long before Daila showed up with our breakfast.

The gafna cubes were interesting; they were small, roasted pieces of gafna meat, colored and spiced according to the gafna type they came from. Turns out fire gafna is typically spicy, no surprise there, ice gafna are quite mild, and air gafna are… well, light. I wasn’t much a fan of the seaweed, but the pokawi was a good choice. Kopaka offered no comments on his food, though the dermis soup looked tasty from my side of the table. Meal finished, he paid Daila in his usual silent, no-nonsense way, I did the same, and we were off, heading south along New Atero’s shoreline.

Traffic was picking up already. Matoran and Agori were moving about, their day just beginning. Kopaka’s pace was slower than usual; another indication that he wasn’t really looking forward to what was coming. Were Tahu’s warnings causing him to doubt? I wasn’t sure, but in light of our breakfast conversation I didn’t want to read into him deeper to find out. Instead, as we continued past one block after the other, I was beginning to wonder just where exactly Kopaka hoped to find Hahli’s place.

“Tahu said ‘a few blocks south of the station,’ right? Any clue where we’re at now?” I asked.

“Level with the station.” Kopaka said dryly.

“So, it should be on the right here pretty soon…” I started looking that way, but how could one recognize the house of a Toa among those of Matoran? Was there some key difference to look for?

Turns out it was easy. In each street we passed, houses had been built together in rows, but Matoran and Agori had decorated them according to their own tastes. One that caught my eye, and certainly Kopaka’s, was a larger house that looked like someone had just joined two neighboring ones together. Next to the door, four small stone tiles with carvings of various Kanohi masks were fixed to the wall.

“Recognize the masks?” I asked Kopaka as we stood in the street, looking at the place.

“Great Arthron, great Faxon, great Garai, noble Huna.” Kopaka named them off one by one.

“Is Gali’s one of those?”

“She had a noble Huna, but it is not her usual mask. Hahli is the only living Toa I know of that wears a Faxon, though.” Kopaka stepped forward, making his way across the small front lawn to the door. He knocked and waited. No response.

“Try the doorbell,” I suggested. He did. Still no response. “No one home?”

“It appears not.”

”So now what?”

“Wait until they return.” Kopaka turned and headed across the street, where a small terrace and fountain were nestled among the houses.

“That’s it?” Sigh… I was not looking forward to another day spent waiting on what amounted to another park bench, but Kopaka took a seat facing the house and, surprise surprise, quickly entered his meditative state again. At least, I thought he did, but when I was about to take a seat, he turned to me:

“I can handle it from here. You can go”

“Handle what?”

“You came along because you wanted to make sure I got here, did you not?”

“Kind of…” What had caused me to follow him onto that train? Concern? Curiosity? A mix of both, I think.

“Well, I am here. All I need to do now is wait, which as you know is no issue for me; I will be here for hours, and I know you would rather be somewhere else during that time. So go.” I was kind of surprised by that… I technically could have left at any time, but here he was specifically telling me to go. “Thank you, goodbye,” he added.

I was amazed at the ‘thank you,’ but much as I was trying not to read into him too deeply in light of the morning’s conversation, I couldn’t help but still detect that anxiety in him, and I really wanted to figure out what that was all about. However, even with no plans to go anywhere else, I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to spend my day on this terrace just waiting for someone who probably wouldn’t show up until the late afternoon at the earliest, especially when the beach was literally yards away. But he still had to show me the final battle, and that wasn’t going to happen here, because… public place.

“Look,” I said to him, “you’re right that I’d rather be elsewhere right now, but I don’t want to just... leave. You still have to show me the final battle, for one.”

“Not here, not now.” Figured.

“Fine, but I’ll be right out there on the beach,” I gestured in the direction of the beach, “and I’ll be back in a few hours. You still owe me that one.”

“Fine. Go.” So I did. With the city settled into its daily routine, the beach was anything but busy. I spent some time strolling further south, looking at the various shops and stands set up along the coastal road along the way. The main harbor of the city loomed in the distance. Eventually, I found myself sitting at the end of an empty pier, enjoying the peace and silence.

I was still thinking about what Kopaka had said about my powers in the morning… he was right that I used them a lot, probably more often than was warranted given that no Matoran were actually in danger, but… was it really doing any harm? I mean, being a Toa of Psionics naturally comes with an innate, always active ability to read surface thoughts and feelings, which was most of what I’d been doing, and I think people more or less expected that. I couldn’t just turn it off, though come to think of it there were plenty of times when I’d wanted to. In a crowd, especially an excited one like the crowd at the arena fights, all the accumulated surface readings just become loud static, a jarring noise that’s exhausting to have to deal with; just being in a crowded city was sometimes annoying. Try wearing a Suletu at some point, and you’ll get a good idea of what it’s like. That silence I was enjoying at the end of the pier? It was mental silence; being far enough away from anyone else that I couldn’t hear them.

The silence was broken when I sensed someone approaching along the pier. I turned to see a Ga-Matoran standing there; she looked a little weathered and aged, but lively.

“Hi,” she smiled.

“Uhm… hello.”

“I’m Macku,” she introduced herself with an outstretched hand. I shook it.

“Lis.”

“Lis?” Macku thought for a moment. “Are you one of those new Toa from the south? The ones that fought the Skakdi?”

“Yes… yes, I am.” I was a bit surprised this Matoran knew of me and my fellow Toa… we hadn’t really done that much, had we? “Though, I wouldn’t say we fought them, per se.”

“Well, that was rumor,” Macku acknowledged, “but whatever you guys did, it worked. Or was that rumor too?” she joked.

“No, the Skakdi stepped down…” I was still rather perplexed by what exactly her interest in me was. “Sorry, is there something you want?”

“No, not really. I just like meeting new Toa, and I hadn’t seen you around before.”

“Well, guess I fit that criterion.”

“Toa always have interesting stories,” Macku continued, “that and you looked like you could use someone to talk to.”

I gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Yeah, I probably do… lots to think about.”

“Figures,” the Ga-Matoran smiled. “First time in the city? Trying to get away from the noise?”

“Yes and yes.” Okay…

“Exhausting to listen to, isn’t it?” She leant onto one of the bollards. “All the thoughts, the… what did they call it?... mental noise, I think.” Wow… where’d this Ga-Matoran gotten the knowledge of that? Was she somehow a mind-reader too?

“Yes… how do you know?”

“Oh, a friend of mine used a Suletu for a while,” Macku explained. “Said it was exhausting.”

“Using a Suletu... was he a Toa as well?”

“Yeah, his name’s Kongu. Like I said, I know quite a few Toa. He’s got some stories too.”

“You happen to know a Toa by the name of Hahli?”

“You kidding?” Macku laughed. “I live with her! Okay, she’s gone most of the time for her job, but we’re really close. I mean, I played on our village’s kolhii team with her when she was still a Matoran!”

“Really?” Fancy that… Then I remembered one of the mask plates next to the door of Hahli’s place had shown a noble Huna; Macku wore a noble Huna.

“Of course! Just out of curiosity, why’d you ask?”

“Oh…” how much to tell… “I have a friend who’s looking for her, or rather for someone who is apparently living with her.” That was suitably vague, I think.

“Is it me?” Macku feigned surprise.

“No… Actually, I should probably let him explain.”

“Well, I’ve got time,” Macku said. “Who’s this friend of yours?”

“Uhm… I don’t think he’s too keen on me giving anything away. He’s a bit paranoid.” I didn’t think of Kopaka as paranoid, but describing him in any more accurate way probably would have alerted this Toa-savvy Matoran to his true identity. “But I know where he is.” I got up and started down the pier again, heading back to the terrace with Macku making conversation close behind.

“Correction. I know where he was.” We’d reached the terrace; it was empty. Kopaka had simply vanished.

“He was right here, sitting across the street?” Macku asked, surprised. “Why didn’t you guys knock?”

“We did, but no one answered,” I said bitterly. What made Kopaka think it was okay just to leave like that? Where’d he gone?

“Ah… Hewkii was probably already out, then,” Macku concluded. “Darn. Think your friend’ll come back?”

“He’ll have to.”

“Well, in that case, why don’t you come over?” Macku invited. “I was about to make lunch anyways. Maybe he’ll show up soon.”

“Yeah, okay, I guess…” my mind was a bit preoccupied. I’d told Kopaka I’d be back, and he’d told me he’d still be here, right? And he’d just left. I was right to feel betrayed, especially considering how much value Kopaka apparently placed on honesty and duty; didn’t making a promise make fulfilling that promise part of one’s duty? Screw it; next opportune moment, I was going to tell Macku.

I followed the excitable Ga-Matoran into the house, where I was somewhat surprised to find that everything, and I mean everything, was Toa-sized. All the chairs, tables, other furniture. Heck, Macku needed a step stool to comfortably prepare something on the Toa-height kitchen counters. Apparently lunch would consist of Ruki subs.

“So, you live here with Toa Hahli and Hewkii?” I asked.

“Yeah. Hewkii’s a Toa too; we go way back.” I could sense there was a bit more to her relationship with Hewkii than just ‘old friends.’ “Toa Jaller lives here too; he works with the police force now. Hewkii coaches the Po-Matoran Kolhii team and plays on the Toa Team with Jaller.”

“And they were all part of the Toa Mahri?”

“Still are,” Macku asserted. “Kongu and Nuparu occasionally drop by, and they all have a great time talking about all they’ve been through together. I like to listen along; we’ve all known each other since we were Matoran back on Mata Nui.”

“Sounds great.” They hadn’t broken up. This fascinated me; unlike the Toa Nuva, the Toa Mahri never broke up. Why? What did they have that the Toa Nuva didn’t?

There was another issue that I felt rather hesitant to mention: what about Gali? Wasn’t she supposed to be here too? As we talked over lunch, I increasingly got the impression that Macku was holding something back, though certainly not for any malicious reason. Still, it almost had to be related to Gali; that or Tahu had been completely wrong about her actually being here. Didn’t think so, though, because I sensed someone else in the building… or so I thought. It was extremely vague; a mere hint of a presence that could well have been that of someone passing by in the street except it was constantly here. I wanted to figure out more, but I couldn’t focus on it while keeping up conversation with Macku.

The Ga-Matoran kept up a lively conversation all the way through, quite a change from my company of over the last two days. She apparently gave boat tours that led past various islands comprised of remnants of the Makuta robot, including the ‘fingers’ that Kopaka’d pointed out to me in the morning. She hoped to one day start diving expeditions into the old universe itself, though the scale of such an undertaking meant that she’d have to organize it with Hahli’s help. Speaking of Hahli, I got to hear lots about how she and Macku had won the last great Kolhii tournament on Mata Nui, beating Jaller and Hewkii in the process.

“The only time I ever beat those guys in that game,” Macku joked.

Whenever she talked about Hewkii, I could sense an emotional spike that I couldn’t quite identify. Some kind of joy, but… more intense, and more focused on the other person. Macku felt that whenever she was with Hewkii, whenever she described him even. It felt great, yet so alien. I’d never sensed anything quite like it from a Matoran or Toa before. I’ll say this, though: the language she used to describe him sounded a lot more like how an Agori or Glatorian couple would describe each other than what any Matoran would ever use…

“Would you like anything else to eat?” Macku asked when we’d finished our lunch.

“No thanks, I’m good.” I wasn’t much a fan of Ruki fish, but Macku had managed to make it taste pretty good.

“Well, unfortunately, I do have another boat tour to give this afternoon, so I can’t stay and chat forever” the Ga-Matoran admitted as she collected the dishes, “but if you’d like to come along, I’d be happy to give you the ride.”

“I’d like that, actually.”

“Great!”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 12

--------------------

 

Macku’s boat wasn’t a particularly large one; besides me and her, there were three Agori, a Glatorian, and a party of four Matoran; with all of us on board the seats were quite filled. Macku, as it turned out, did not actually do much of the sailing; that honor fell to another old friend of hers from the days of Mata Nui: Pelagia. Pelagia was another Ga-Matoran, who before we set off explained that the boat we were on had been constructed using “traditional techniques” and she’d been sailing vessels like this one ever since she’d set up Mata Nui’s first ferry line between Ga-Koro and Po-wahi. Our route for the afternoon would take us first to the Fingers, then south to the spot below which the giant robot’s head was located, after which we’d sail west over the body to arrive at the only parts of the robot that were still above sea-level; its legs.

While we sailed east to the Fingers, Macku provided us all with some background information: created by the Great Beings, the giant robot was once controlled by the Great Spirit, Mata Nui, and the universe inside had been home to Toa, Matoran, Vortixx, Skakdi, and a whole host of other races. Unfortunately, among the inhabitants were the Makuta, who eventually moved to try and take over the place under the leadership of one Makuta Teridax. Teridax, through a series of plots, machinations, and a fiendishly complicated plan too long and intricate for me to detail here eventually managed to seize control of the robot and banished Mata Nui, who ended up on Bara Magna.

During his time on Bara Magna, Mata Nui came to realize it was his destiny to reform Spherus Magna in its entirety, and in order to do so, with help from the Agori and Glatorian, he collected parts of and re-assembled what had been a prototype giant robot left on Bara Magna. Teridax got wind of the activity and arrived just as Mata Nui was trying to pull the fragmented planets back together using the power of the prototype robot, and the event known as the “Battle for Bara Magna” ensued. Eventually, Mata Nui killed Teridax by causing a fragment of Aqua Magna to smash into the back of his head, and the giant robot had collapsed here, after which all its inhabitants had abandoned it.

And now it was a tourist destination. Go figure.

The Fingers were a pretty inhospitable looking set of three curved pillars that rose straight out of the sea, looming over our tiny ship and giving us a pretty good idea of just how tiny and insignificant we were in the grand scheme of things… Seriously, the top of each finger, now thoroughly colonized by plantlife and flying rahi, could have held a small city, and this was just part of one of this giant device’s hands. After sailing a circle around the fingers, we set off southwards while Macku explained how everything below us, other than the giant robot, had in fact once been Aqua Magna, while Bota Magna was now located on almost the polar opposite side of the reformed planet.

The giant robot’s head had to be the most spectacular thing we got to see, though. It was resting close enough to the ocean surface that, looking down into the relatively clear water, we could actually see it. At first, we didn’t even realize it, since to the untrained eye the view below just looked like the regular, rough ocean floor, but once Macku started pointing out how various ridges, crests, and other features combined to make a part of the face, we got an appreciation for just how incredibly big this thing was… we spent close to an hour sailing in a crisscrossing pattern over the head just so we could get to see most of it. Really, it was staggering.

Most of the body was too deep down for us to see, but we could see the next major point in our tour from very far off: the giant robot’s legs, which rose from the ocean to reach hundreds of miles inland. The knees were just about on the shoreline, so only the robot’s shins and feet were actually on land, but just to give an idea of the scale: nothing had been built within fifty miles or so of the legs anywhere, due to the fact that the shadow they cast over the landscape made it hard to grow anything there.

With all of us thoroughly impressed by the sheer awe and magnitude of the giant robot even when it was lying mostly underwater, Pelagia set a course back to New Atero, sailing close enough to the shore that we could see the harbor and the rest of the city’s beaches in great detail. Along the way, Macku explained how the remaining parts of the prototype robot had been scrapped and recycled to build the city, but the other one had been left as-is since most of it was underwater, making salvage all but impossible. She closed off with a short talk on how she was planning to someday be part of an expedition to venture back into the lost universe, to bring back footage and artifacts important to Matoran history.

After the boat was once again securely tied to the dock from which we’d set off, the other guests thanked the two Ga-Matoran and departed, though their conversation indicated the tour really had left an impression. Pelagia assured Macku that she’d make sure everything concerning the boat was taken care of, so she and I set off down the dock as well. By now, it was late evening.

“So, what’d ya think?” Macku asked.

“Very impressive… and to think that all Toa and Matoran lived in that thing at one point.” I was still trying to get my head around that.

“Oh, it was beautiful,” Macku remembered, “until Teridax took over, that is. He turned the place into a nightmare. By the time the final battle ended, we were jumping up and down to leave.”

“And now you’re trying to get back in,” I smiled. “After the place has been dead and wrecked for thousands of years.”

“Yeah, I’m not expecting to find much intact,” Macku acknowledged, “but imagine if we could actually get video footage in there… to see what’s left.”

“And the whole thing’s flooded now, right?”

“Near as we can tell. Apart from anything above water level, like the legs.”

“Wow… You know, I think I’d like to be a part of that someday.” I really did. I’d never seen the inside of that robot; in fact, until today I’d never actually seen the physical thing from the outside. To call it awe-inspiring didn’t do it justice.

“You should talk to Hahli about it,” the Ga-Matoran suggested. “She’s the one who’s really driving the project, being a reporter and all. That and Jaller and Hewkii wouldn’t mind either, though they’re a bit worried about what all might be living down there in the dark these days.”

“Understandable.”

“And look at that, home sweet home,” Macku said. We’d reached her house again.

“Looks like someone’s already in,” I pointed out, noting that there were lights on inside. The door was already open; when we entered, Macku announced herself in no uncertain terms:

“I’M HOME!”

“Be right down!” a female voice called from upstairs.

“Looks like Hahli’s home,” Macku said, after which she shouted back up the stairs: “We’ve got a guest! Make sure you’re presentable!”

“Presenting is kind of my job, you know!” Hahli called back mockingly. “You ever seen me not being presentable!?”

“Hahli’s fun,” Macku smiled. “Every morning!” she called back. “Anyway, make yourself comfortable.” She gestured towards the living room.

“I-I really don’t know whether I can stay long.” Come to think of it, what was I going to do? Go off looking for Kopaka again? Find some other job in the city? Keep wandering and looking for something to do as a Toa?

“Nonsense! We’ve got the space and any Toa is always welcome here,” Macku assured me as she made her way to the kitchen. “Want something to drink?”

“Sure. Some kind of juice, if you’ve got it.”

“Will do.”

The living room had enough chairs and couches for a whole Toa team to make themselves comfortable, and a large telescreen was set up to provide entertainment, though it was currently turned off. What got my attention, though, was a large, framed picture on the wall opposite the telescreen, showing all five Toa Mahri standing with the statue of the sixth, Matoro. So this was what a team of actual heroes looked like… They all stood in front in what I could only assume was full battle gear with the statue towering above and behind them. A small plaque on the frame read:

“The Toa Mahrii: Heroes of the Pit and Saviors of Mata Nui”

Saviors of Mata Nui? Weren’t the Toa Nuva the ones who did that? And what was this ‘pit’ they spoke of?

“Like it?” I turned to find Hahli standing in the doorway, and boy was she not what I’d expected.

“Y-yeah, it’s nice.” Yes, she still wore the Faxon, and she was definitely still affiliated with the element of water by color, but for a moment I thought I was looking at some kind of Toa-Glatorian hybrid. She was still recognizably a Toa in structure, but the shape reminded me a lot more of a female Glatorian than any kind of Toa I’d ever seen; it was honestly a bit freaky. Also, those thin braided extensions coming from the back of her head… was that imitating hair? She held herself with a kind of self-assured confidence, though.

Hahli walked up and looked at the picture. “Ah, what they call the good old days,” she smiled. “When we spent all our time chasing after the Ignika while monsters tried to kill us for it.”

“Uh… good thing you guys caught it.”

“Barely, but yeah, we did. Those days are well behind us now. Anyway, I’m Hahli, but you probably already knew that.” She extended her hand. I shook it.

“Lis.”

“Lis? A Toa of… psionics, I’m guessing?”

“Yes, yes. From the south.”

“Oh, I’ve heard about what went down there,” Hahli took a seat on one of the couches. “How were the Skakdi?”

“Oh, not all that much trouble in the end,” I took the seat across from her. “I mean, all we really had to do was show them that we actually were Toa, after which they pretty much caved.”

“Doesn’t sound like the Skakdi I remember,” Hahli pointed out. “But then again… they were also busy enslaving an island while pretending to be Toa themselves. The stakes were high back then.”

“Yeah, ours were just bandits,” I admitted.

“Drinks are here!” Macku entered the room with two glasses of fruit juice, setting one in front of each of us on the table.

“Thank you.”

“Looks like I’ll be frying up Hahnah for dinner,” Macku continued. “You two okay with that?”

“Sure,” Hahli answered.

“Hahnah sounds nice,” I said. I knew it was some sort of sea creature, but had never tasted one before.

“Hahnah it is, then.” Macku returned to the kitchen.

“When’d you meet her?” Hahli asked.

“This morning. She offered me lunch, we kept talking, and then she showed me her boat tour.”

“That definitely sounds like her,” Hahli took a sip from her juice. “She likes to take care of people, particularly Toa.”

“She taking care of you Toa, then?” I asked.

“Kind of,” the Toa of Water explained. “I mean, we’re all perfectly capable of managing ourselves, but if any of us does the cooking we’d end up living off of combat rations. She lives here anyways ‘cause she’s hitched to Hewkii, and she actually knows how to prepare something, so she does. The rest of us, we’re Toa; we do a lot better in battle than in home life.”

“So it seems… So what do you do now, then? I assume there isn’t some battle you’re preparing for.”

“Goodness no,” Hahli chuckled. “Imagine me going into battle like this.” Looking at her, that was hard to imagine. That physique might have worked for Glatorian, but there was a reason that the vast majority of successful fighting Glatorian were male, and I couldn’t imagine trying to fit a Toa’s anatomy into that shape did any good for their fighting ability. “No, I’m a reporter now. I was chronicler for a while back on Mata Nui, so it seemed like a good job for me, and I really like it.”

“Is that the reason… I mean, I don’t want to be rude…”

“This?” Hahli gestured at her own body.

“Yeah… it’s quite different from your picture.”

“Lotta modifications, yeah…” Hahli admitted. “Demographics.”

“Demographics?”

“Agori and Glatorian. They apparently have different standards of what looks appealing, and apparently for girls, ‘Toa’ does not fall under that. Of course, Matoran don’t have a problem with it, but that’s only half of potential viewers, you know? Basically, I got told that while I did a great job reporting on the actual news, they didn’t much like to look at me, which hurt our ratings.”

“I don’t get that.”

“Neither did I, but apparently it was enough of an issue for them to consider firing me. And what would I do then? So I told them that if looking like one of their Glatorian girls would help ratings, I’d be fine making a few… modifications, and this is what we ended up at.”

“That’s a lot to go through for a job.”

“It still is,” Hahli admitted, “but I’d rather have this than no job. The Toa Nuva made a pretty good warning of themselves in that department.”

“So I hear…”

“Granted, Jaller still doesn’t like that I went along with this. Says it’ll hurt me in a fight. Like we’ll ever need to fight anything again.”

“I mean, he’s kind of right, though…”

“He is,” Hahli laughed. “Imagine me carrying a cordak blaster like this; you know how heavy those things are? But as far as I’m concerned, the weapons can stay mounted on the wall now. Jaller can keep carrying his sword if he wants to, but these days the tool of my trade is the microphone.”

“What does Jaller do, then?”

“Works with the police force and city guard. He can probably explain it better when he gets home…” Hahli was interrupted by the sound of someone knocking on the front door. “Looks like we’ve got company,” she asserted.

“Can you guys get it? I’m kind of in the middle of something here!” Macku called.

“Yeah, we’ve got it!” Hahli got up and headed down the hallway for the door.

“Were you expecting visitors?” I asked.

“Not that I know of,” Hahli called back. I heard the sound of the door being opened. “Yes?”

“I am here to see Toa Gali.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 13

--------------------

 

I recognized the voice immediately: it was Kopaka.

“Toa Gali?” Hahli asked. “Sorry, she’s not here.”

“I was informed that she is here.”

“She’s not.”

“Reliably informed,” Kopaka added.

I entered the hallway only to see Hahli still holding her ground at the door, not stepping aside to let the cloaked figure in front of her in. Rather than interfere, I held myself back and mostly out of view. I was curious: why did Hahli keep saying Gali wasn’t here? And for that matter, what did Kopaka do if he didn’t know I was there?

“Your source is wrong. Sorry, but please go,” Hahli said impatiently.

“I highly doubt that.”

“What’s going on out there?” Macku called from the kitchen. “Shut the door! It’ll get cold in here!”

“Gali is here, I know it,” Kopaka continued.

“Look,” Hahli said, exasperated, “I told you she’s not! Who even told you she is?”

“I was told by Toa Tahu.”

“Oh… you know Tahu?” Hahli was a bit perplexed. “Couldn’t he come himself?”

“I am not here in his name.”

“Well who are you, then, to come here looking for Gali?”

“A friend. Former friend, perhaps.”

“Well, you’re going to have to do better than that before I let you in,” Hahli asserted. The cloaked Toa turned left and right, looking down the street presumably to see if anyone was there to recognize him.

Macku appeared from the kitchen wearing an apron, gloves, and holding what I could only assume was the carapace of a frozen hahnah crab. “Who is it, Hahli?” she asked. Then she noticed the cloaked figure standing in front of the door. “Well, who’s that, then? And why is the door still open?”

Apparently satisfied that he wasn’t getting any undue attention, the figure pulled back the hood of his cloak, revealing himself as Kopaka, Toa Nuva of Ice. Hahli was staggered. Macku all but dropped the crab.

“May I enter now?” Kopaka asked dryly.

“K-Kopaka? You’re alive!?” Hahli couldn’t believe it.

“I think that is obvious, and I would like to come in.” Kopaka said. Dumbfounded, Hahli stepped aside. Kopaka entered, after which she closed the door behind him. He spotted the Ga-Matoran down the hallway and gave an acknowledging nod. “Hello, Macku…” after which he turned back to the Toa on his left. “…and Hahli.” He eyed the Toa of Water head to toe. “You appear to have… changed somewhat,” he said with a hint of disapproval in his voice.

“Uhm… long story,” Hahli explained. “Where’ve you been, though?”

“Not your concern,” Kopaka said. “I came to see Gali.”

“Right…” Hahli clearly wasn’t all that thrilled about it. She sighed: “Well, if you have to… follow me.” She led the way down the hallway; I made sure to keep a wall between me and Kopaka, though in retrospect his default mask power made that rather pointless. Hahli led Kopaka to the stairwell at the end of the hallway, where they descended to the basement below.

“Who would’ve thought…” Macku mumbled. Then she spotted me. “You know anything about this?”

“He’s the friend was talking about earlier,” I replied.

“You’re his friend? Sorry if I find that a little hard to believe…”

“Well, I stuck around him for a while, and he appears to tolerate me.”

“Well, that’s about as close as it ever got with him,” Macku acknowledged. “You better go see what’s going on down there.”

I nodded and started down the stairs, using my Volitak to try not to make any noise as I did so. I found Kopaka and Lis standing in front of a door in the basement hallway.

“She’s in here,” Hahli said glumly.

“Thank you,” Kopaka turned to open the door, but Hahli put her hand on his shoulder to stop him.

“Look, at least let me know why you need to see her so badly,” she asked. “I know it’s none of my business, but I can’t just let you walk in there for nothing.” Kopaka sighed, then pulled his cloak aside enough to reveal his right leg, visibly shocking Hahli with its mangled appearance.

“I need that fixed,” he explained.

“Okay… that’s fine,” Hahli continued, “but just so you know, she’s not doing well. It’s… it’s been downhill ever since all of you broke up, and I tried… we all tried to help her, but she’s lost that drive she had… I’m just not sure if she’ll care anymore.”

“She will.”

“I hope so, but please don’t… please don’t go all Kopaka about her condition, okay? She’s broken enough already.”

Kopaka nodded. Hahli let go and stepped aside, after which he opened the door. Some indistinct noise that I concluded had to be some kind of telescreen broadcast emanated from the room. After Kopaka was out of sight, I approached the doorway. Hahli noticed and was about to say something, but I quickly planted the message in her head “don’t worry, I know him, and I’d like to see how this goes.” Apparently aware that telepathy was among the powers of Toa of Psionics, Hahli didn’t question. Instead, she moved past me waited by the stairs, leaning against the wall. I watched events unfold through the doorway.

The room was large and quite dark, only lit by a dim lamp on a side table and a small, early model telescreen on another table tuned to some Agori drama. Facing the telescreen and with its back to the doorway was an old, dilapidated couch; it, the tables, and the telescreen comprised all the furniture in the room. Trash was strewn about the place; old snack food bags, wrappers, dishes… I recognized two axe-like weapons lying in a pile of assorted rubbish in a corner. This place was worse than Tahu’s…

Gali was on the couch, watching the telescreen, but I could only see the back of her head at this point. Kopaka slowly made his way across the room; much to my surprise, he dropped the cloak about halfway there, then stopped and waited for a few seconds like he was expecting Gali to notice him. But nothing happened. He hesitantly cleared his throat to get her attention, but got no response; the Toa of Water was apparently very oblivious, but what confused me was how slowly and hesitantly he was going about this, what should have been the end of his journey.

Finally, he stepped forward again and awkwardly made his way around the right side of the couch, avoiding looking at Gali directly. When he reached a spot that that should have been roughly within her peripheral vision, he stopped and stood there, just looking ahead at the wall. He was still trying to get Gali to notice him passively… I focused in on his mind, trying to get some idea of what was taking him so long, and to my great surprise, I got one extremely powerful emotion: fear. Terrible, paralyzing fear. It explained his actions, but what did he have to be afraid of? Whatever it was, he really was forcing himself through this. Meanwhile, when I focused on Gali’s mind, it was as though there was almost nothing there; no activity, no thought, no emotion… she was all but shut down; not even dreaming.

After a minute, apparently tired of waiting, Kopaka finally turned to look at Gali for the first time in eight thousand years… and just about did a double take.

“G-Gali!?” Suddenly, it was like there wasn’t a shred of that stoic Toa of Ice left. He was floored, staggered, stunned… His jaw would have hit the floor if that had been physically possible, but at last he got Gali’s attention.

“What…” She slowly turned her head. At the sight of her brother, I could just see the Toa of Water’s eyes widen. “K-Kopaka? I-is that you?” There was something odd about her voice; it was… pressured, breathless. “Am I… Am I seeing things? Is that really you?” Kopaka barely nodded; his mouth was agape and he didn’t even blink. For a couple of seconds, neither Toa really seemed to believe what they were looking at. Then Gali noticed the state Kopaka was in, and almost immediately I felt a jolt of concern from her as her mind seemed to suddenly come alive. “By Mata Nui! What happened to you!?” she exclaimed.

“I might ask you the same thing…” Kopaka barely got it out, but Gali didn’t even notice. Instead, she got up… or attempted to. Somehow it was extremely difficult for her to get off that couch; while Kopaka watched with in utter disbelief, she rocked back and forth a few times, and eventually with a muffled grunt managed to rise to her feet. At that point, my jaw dropped as well; it was the first time I could see more of her than the back of her head, and I don’t want to be rude, but really the only word I could’ve used to describe her was ‘enormous.’ In light of the situation, I barely noticed it, but there was a jolt of regret, shame, and worry coming from Hahli’s direction. No prizes for guessing that this was the ‘condition’ that she’d been referring to.

Now standing in front of him, Gali got a much clearer image of Kopaka’s injuries, and for a moment she just stood there, shaking her head, trying to take it all in. Kopaka regathered his senses and eventually, with great difficulty, broke the silence.

“Gali… I… I need your help.” The words came out labored, forced… his voice sounded hoarse and broke. It was a grueling thing for him to say. I swear there were tears in his eyes; tears of frustration.

“What have you done to yourself…” Gali said, clearly not quite as concerned with Kopaka’s mental struggles. “That leg… how long has it been like that?” She moved in to get a closer look.

“It’s been some time…” Kopaka admitted, but he didn’t get further.

“And you’ve been walking on it? Like this!?” Before Kopaka could answer, she cut him off: “Never mind that. You’re coming with me. Right now.” With a surprising turn of speed, she headed for the door; I ducked back into the hallway. Gali appeared and turned to the stairs, shouting: “HAHLI!” Only then did she realize that her fellow Toa was right there, standing apparently flabbergasted at how things were progressing.

“Whatever we have in the medicine cabinet, get it to the guest room! Fast!” Gali ordered.

“Yes… yes of course. Yes!” Hahli dashed up the stairs, apparently… elated for some reason? Meanwhile, Gali headed back into the room. I quickly stepped forward to watch; she’d positioned herself next to Kopaka, who’d started across the room looking more old and broken than ever, and carefully tried to position her hands to support him.

“I will be fine,” Kopaka protested, trying with failing strength to push Gali aside, but the Toa of Water wouldn’t budge.

“No, you won’t,” she asserted.

“You can barely support yourself right now,” he argued with surprising edge to his voice. “I can manage.”

Gali winced at the statement for a moment; it was obvious what Kopaka was pointing out, and that it was a sore spot for her. But she didn’t give in. “Shut up,” she said. “Like it or not, I’m helping you.”

Surprisingly, Kopaka didn’t argue further. Really, I didn’t get why he’d argued in the first place; wasn’t his whole point in being here to get Gali’s help? I stepped away from the door again and watched them slowly make their way through the hallway, then up the stairs, where Gali made sure to stay behind Kopaka, just in case he’d fall. The day before, or even a few hours before, I would have thought that all but impossible, but from the way Kopaka moved now, it was obvious that he was struggling with that constant physical pain a lot more than before. Seeing Gali again, that shock… I think it tore down some of his mental barriers.

I followed a little ways behind the two old Toa, but broke off when they headed up to the second floor; clearly the guest room was upstairs, but I heard lots of commotion coming from a room next to the kitchen. It turned out to be a storage room, and the commotion consisted Hahli and Macku going through a bunch of shelves and cabinets, pulling out bottles and vials with a rather impressive variety of pills and potions.

“Wow… you guys have half a hospital in here,” I observed.

“Gali insisted on it, back when she cared,” Hahli explained. “Speaking of which, that’s the first time I’ve seen her off that couch in months.”

“Except to get some of my cooking,” Macku joked, though somehow it didn’t seem all that appropriate in the moment.

“Well, I for one am glad that at last she seems excited about something.” Hahli added.

“Not too sure it was excitement,” I voiced my concern. “You’re right that she cares for him, though.” Frankly, that was a relief; whether his reasoning was correct or not, Kopaka’s assertion that Gali would help had been correct. Why had it been so hard for him to ask for it, though?

“Whatever it is,” Hahli replied, “it’s got her moving. Frankly, that’s more than she’s done in years.”

“Really?” Okay, given her condition it wasn’t surprising, but how in the world had Gali gone from the passionate and energetic if emotionally shattered Toa that I’d seen in Kopaka’s memory to a listless, half-conscious mound that had practically been grafted to the couch?

“Yup. Coming through,” Hahli warned. She was carrying a basket filled with all manner of bottles. I stepped aside to let her through, then followed her up the stairs, where we headed down a hallway to an open door: the guest room. Inside, Kopaka was lying on the bed, fast asleep in spite of the fact that the light was on. Gali was sitting beside him, inspecting his leg more closely.

“Right, this is the first batch of what should still be good,” Hahli informed her.

“Please tell me there’s some pain killers in there,” Gali voiced her concern.

“I think so…” Hahli started pulling out some of the bottles and set them on a side table.

“Wow, asleep just like that?” I observed. “How’d you pull that off?”

“My brother’s exhausted,” Gali said. “I don’t think he’s slept in days. And who are you, by the way?”

“Lis,” I introduced myself. “I was with him, actually.”

“You brought him here?” She looked surprised.

“Not really… more like I followed him and he tolerated me,” I admitted. “Until this morning, when he just… left while I wasn’t looking.”

“Well, we’re lucky he made it,” Gali noted. “It’s not just his leg that’s in a poor state.”

“I’ve noticed that,” I said. “He’s got scars all over.”

“It’s not the scars, it’s what’s below,” Gali explained. “From the state he’s in… he had maybe a week left.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 14

--------------------

 

“Can we do anything?” Hahli wondered.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done… but yes, I think we can fix him.” Gali said somberly.

“How?” I asked.

Gali sighed. “Well, we should probably start with the most dangerous thing…”

“The leg?” I mean, it was the most severely damaged part of his body… on the surface.

“The leg is bad, but it won’t kill him,” the Toa of Water asserted. “He’d be better off if we looked at his pump first.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Hahli asked.

“Look at his heartlight,” Gali instructed, “then compare it to yours, or mine.” That we did; our heartlights all had a steady, bright beat, though Gali’s was noticeably quicker than Hahli’s or mine, but Kopaka’s was nowhere near as bright, and it seemed to hiccup… a lot. “His heart pump is damaged somehow,” Gali concluded; “it’s not keeping up a strong or steady flow.” She turned to Hahli. “You said we still had painkillers?”

“Uhm, yes…” Hahli sorted through a few bottles before coming up with one that contained a few green, speckled pills, which she handed to Gali.

“Hmm…” the elder Toa inspected the bottle’s worn-down label. “They’ll take the edge off, but I fear that we’ll need something stronger.”

“I think that’s all we have,” Hahli replied.

“We’re about to do surgery here, Hahli!” Gali replied, suddenly agitated. “I’d rather not have him wake up in the middle of it!”

“Surgery?” I wasn’t too keen on the idea of doing that in a guest room with only outdated medicine to work with.

“Yes! We’ll need a knive, a stitching kit, a toolbox…” Gali hurriedly counted off on her fingers.

“What’s all this about?” a voice came from the doorway. I turned to see Jaller standing there. Unlike the Toa of Water, he definitely was in full combat gear, and had changed very little from that picture. “Hahli, what’s going on?” he demanded. “I come home to find Macku frantically going through the cabinets, and now you’ve occupied a guest room…” then he noticed me. “And who are you?”

“Jaller!” Gali greeted him before I could reply, clearly taking the Toa of Fire by surprise with her presence. “Good thing you’re here: we need your help.”

“You’re up here too!? Help? With what?” Jaller entered the room, only to see Kopaka on the bed. Suffice to say he wasn’t much good at concealing his feelings on the mounting number of surprises. “I-is that… Is that Kopaka?” he asked. Hahli nodded. “What happened to him!?” Jaller looked to each of us for answers.

“Not important,” Gali said. “What is important is that we’re going to fix him.”

“So this is what it takes to get you out of the basement…” Jaller mumbled, still not really believing what he was seeing. “Fine then. You said I could help?”

“You could start by finding a toolbox,” Gali replied. “We’ll be doing surgery.”

“By Mata Nui, I hope this goes well…” Jaller moved out, presumably to retrieve the tools.

“How can I help?” I inquired.

Gali thought for a moment. “We’ll need to keep him out during the procedure… can you use Psionics to keep him asleep?”

“Uhm… I can give him pleasant dreams, maybe…” I wasn’t too sure. “Anything beyond that would be stabbing in the dark at mind control, and I’m not really comfortable with that.”

“Well, keep an eye on what he’s thinking,” Gali said as she created some water in her hand and used it to maneuver one of the pain killer pills down Kopaka’s throat. “That should help with any chance of pain signals waking him up… but if you could try to block out pain it would help a lot.”

“I think he does that rather well himelf,” I joked half-heartedly, “but I can do it.”

So I prepared to try and isolate Kopaka’s mind from... well, his body. It’s tricky, you see, because much of what I can actually ‘see,’ if you can call it that, is the mind reacting to what the body sends it… and I basically was trying to cut some of the signals by putting up a psionic barrier. There was no telling how that would alter Kopaka’s experience, though in theory it should’ve made the whole procedure like a peaceful night’s sleep to him. Meanwhile, Gali instructed Hahli to go find her Akaku Nuva, the knife, and the sowing kit from earlier, while she and I busied ourselves with removing Kopaka’s chestplate. When Hahli returned with the mask, Gali used it to inspect the insides of his body more closely; she wasn’t much thrilled at what she saw, but before she could explain what concerned her, Jaller arrived with a pretty expansive set of tools.

From that point on, the operation was in full gear. Gali used a knife to carefully cut through muscle strands that enveloped the chest, laying bare the core structure beneath; a mesh cage that contained and protected the vital organs. Worryingly, the mesh already looked like it had taken a lot of hits and had been shoddily repaired more than once. Wire cutters from Jaller’s kit made opening it up a quick job, but all of us except Gali were staggered when we saw inside… much of the cavity was filled with the air exchangers, but these were deeply scarred and had clearly sustained multiple cutting and stabbing wounds.

“We’ll have to stitch those up too…” Gali noted. However, the most shocking was the state of the pump, located in the center of the chest right behind where the heartlight was before we pulled it aside with the mesh. It was in bad shape; the housing was cracked, though thankfully nothing appeared to be leaking out, and it had a large dent on one side. It produced an ominous rattling sound, as though something inside was constantly banging against the bent housing.

“How’d it get cracked like that?” Hahli asked.

“The cold…” Jaller observed, “it makes metal brittle. The pump housing got too cold, then something hit it hard… producing the dent and the cracks.”

“Too cold for a Toa of Ice?” I found that hard to believe.

“He can deal with it better than we can,” Gali explained, “but he is far from invulnerable. There’s also a lot of dirt in his system.”

“So… his heart’s smashed and his blood’s dirty…” I concluded.

“I can deal with the blood,” Gali said. “Water cleanses… but the state of the pump is another matter, which is why you’re here.” She pointed at Jaller. “Fire welds.”

“Woah!” Jaller reacted. “Fixing Tahu’s armor, fine, but I’m not heating a running heart pump close to melting point. It’d kill him!”

“I can’t very well take it out for you,” Gali countered, increasingly frustrated, “and if we don’t fix that dent and the cracks, this thing’ll soon stop on its own! Of course, then you can take your sweet time fixing it up, except WE WON’T HAVE A TOA LEFT TO PUT IT IN!” Her heartlight flashed bright… the stress of the situation, coupled with these outbursts, were not doing her already taxed body any favors.

“Okay, okay!” Jaller raised his hands. “I’ll do it, but you’ll have to guarantee it’s safe first.”

“Thank you.” Gali was still on edge. She took a few deep breaths, then set about explaining: “Blood’s mostly liquid protodermis. Hahli can keep it flowing through there no matter what you do, and it’ll take care of the cooling, as long as we don’t have the pump too hot for too long. It won’t be comfortable for Kopaka, but that’s what she’s here for.” She nodded to me.

“I’m on it,” I assured him. “I’m Lis, by the way.”

“Please, Jaller,” Hahli pleaded.

“Fine…” Jaller sighed. “If we’re all so intent on doing this, I suppose we’d better get to it.”

For the next three hours, Hahli and Jaller were a team in sync, surprisingly. Jaller carefully repeated a process of finding a crack, heating the area around it until the metal turned red, and then lightly hammering it closed, while Hahli kept up blood pressure on the inside to keep the pump itself clear. The large dent was handled that way as well; heated until the metal was soft enough to manipulate, after which both Hahli and Gali carefully pressed the blood against it on the inside to push out and restore the area to its original shape. The operation was difficult because they had to shape the flow to pressure that one area of the housing without allowing it to slow down too much; the latter option would’ve stopped the pump completely, which would’ve been catastrophic. On the plus side, once the dent was (mostly) gone, the ominous rattling sound stopped.

By the end, the pump looked far from new, but it was a great improvement, and when we temporarily closed the mesh and re-connected the heartlight, it already displayed a much more consistent beat than the day before, though still a weak one. However, by that point we were all well exhausted.

“You need me to weld the mesh closed as well?” Jaller asked, not sounding excited about the prospect. “We’ve passed midnight here, and I don’t have much left in me.”

“Neither do I…” Hahli admitted.

“The imminent danger has been averted,” Gali concluded. “We’ll have to work on the air exchangers, but not tonight.” She turned to me: “You can stop now, too.”

“Are you sure?” I was still blocking pain signals left and right. “His chest is still open, and his body doesn’t like that.”

“It’ll hurt him,” Gali took out another pain killer pill and gently washed it down Kopaka’s throat, “but you need the break.”

“Okay then…” I broke off contact. I would’ve gone for hours longer if needed, but now that I wasn’t focusing on Kopaka anymore, I realized just how taxing an activity it was; I was exhausted, too. Now that we had all disengaged for the moment, we could at last breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, Kopaka’s chest was still open, and nothing’d been done about the air exchangers, but the most imminent problem had been apparently solved.

“Thanks for helping me press out that dent,” Hahli turned to Gali.

“It would have been nice if you’d jumped in a little more often,” Jaller commented to the older Toa. He had a point: apart from when they were working out the big dent, Gali had mostly sat by and offered occasional advice. “Why didn’t you?”

“Because I’m going to be up all night keeping an eye on him and cleansing his blood,” Gali said.

“And how do you plan to do that?” Jaller said with a surprisingly cynical tone. “Put it through a sieve?”

“In a way,” Gali replied coldly.

“Well, I’ll let you get to sieving then.” Jaller got up.

“I’ll check in with you in the morning, okay?” Hahli told Gali, before yawning and getting up as well.

“Of course… good night.” Gali turned her attention back to Kopaka as Jaller and Hahli left the room.

“I can stay, if you need me…” I offered.

“Not as much as you need sleep right now,” Gali said quietly. “Go, get some rest. I’ll probably need your help again tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, then.” I got up and stepped out as well. Then I realized I should’ve probably asked Hahli about where I was expected to stay, or if I was going to stay the night at all. With all the chaos concerning Kopaka, I hadn’t really considered it, and I wanted to make sure it was okay with them first. Following her and Jaller, I got about halfway down the stairs when I heard them talking in the living room.

“What do you mean, routine?” Hahli asked.

“I mean that this has happened before.” Jaller said, sounding rather agitated. “It’s like this every time Tahu stops by, and I don’t like where it’s going.”

“But this time’s different,” Hahli argued. “For one, that isn’t Tahu lying up there!”

“An insignificant detail,” Jaller countered. “Things’ll play out the same as they always have.”

“Kopaka is dying!” Hahli exclaimed. “Don’t you see how much more important that is than Tahu’s little scratches? Gali knows that! This’ll be the time we’ve been waiting for!”

“The time you’ve been waiting for, and no it won’t!” Jaller argued. “Kopaka’ll wake up at the end of it, and he’ll be just like Tahu: he’ll point out the truth, she can’t take it, he leaves, and all the progress you say she’s making will be gone! Again!”

“Kopaka isn’t like that!” Hahli shot back. “He’s critical, maybe, but I told him not to bring it up and he promised!”

“He did? Really?” Jaller was skeptical.

“Okay, fine, I asked him and he nodded yes!” Hahli admitted. “But that’s a promise, and Kopaka takes those seriously!”

“You think you know him that well!?” Jaller shouted in an almost mocking tone. “Kopaka is worse than Tahu! Tahu at least cares; Kopaka’ll tell the truth and bugger the consequences! After all this, she’ll be back in our basement, more depressed than ever, and mindlessly making her way through mountains of food and programs that we have to pay for!”

“Kopaka won’t destroy her like that! And regardless, we owe her our lives, so have some respect!” Hahli pleaded.

“We’ve been respectful, we’ve been patient, we’ve tried to help, and nothing’s worked!” Jaller was sick and tired of it. “If it takes a dying Toa to get her out of that basement...” he sighed. “Kopaka is only going to be here for so long. She’ll slip away again afterwards regardless of what he does.”

“She’s stronger than that!” Hahli argued, “and besides, your attitude is doing nothing to help her!”

Neither of them noticed, but as they continued arguing in the living room, the front door opened and Hewkii stepped into the hallway. I quickly activated my Volitak to remain hidden in the stairway. Hewkii put aside the Kolhii stick he’d been carrying, stretched, then seemed to realize there was an argument going on… and his cheerful expression instantly turned sour. He made his way to the living room, but stopped at the doorway and just leant against the wall, watching the argument unfold.

“Neither is yours, or Macku’s for that matter,” Jaller pointed out to Hahli. “You’re not doing her any favors by ignoring the truth! She’s destroying herself, she doesn’t care anymore, and you’re letting her!”

“She does care!” Hahli was getting emotional. “Don’t you ever talk with her!? She’s embarrassed! She feels useless! She’s ashamed! And you know what!? It only keeps her trapped down there! She just needs something to properly get going again… this is it!”

“And what if it isn’t!?” Jaller shot back. “I’m not doing this anymore! I’m not letting you throw away your income and your life just to keep her around and pity her!”

“That’s not your decision to make!” Hahli reminded him. “How I spend my earnings is none of your business!”

Hewkii cleared his throat and stepped forward. “Okay, that’s enough! Cut it out, cut it out…”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 15

--------------------

 

I quietly made my way to the living room entrance to see what was happening.

“Really, you guys are having this same argument again!?” Hewkii exclaimed. “What’s the point!? I thought we agreed on her staying here so long as you footed the bill!” he gestured towards Hahli.

“We did, and I have no problem with that.” Hahli said. Both she and Jaller were trying to regain their composure.

“I didn’t either, but this has really gotten out of hand,” Jaller admitted. He turned back to Hahli: “at the rate things are going, she won’t even be able to walk soon. What’ll you do then? Help her to the bathroom, bathe her?”

“If I have to, I will,” Hahli asserted.

Jaller gestured wildly with his arms: “Don’t you see how ridiculous that is!? You’re willing to let her get to that point, and you’ll still help her when she gets there!”

“Okay, okay!” Hewkii interposed himself between the two. “This isn’t going anywhere, you realize that, right? Look at you; you’re both exhausted. Is this really the time to bring this up?”

Having seen and heard enough, I stepped back, only to almost trip over something. I turned to find Macku standing behind me. The look her face was a worried one.

“Oh, sorry…” she apologized quietly. “We-we’ve got another room, if you’d like to use it.”

“That’d be great,” I yawned. I followed Macku back up the stairs. “Do those happen often?”

“The arguments?”

“Yes.”

Macku sighed. “they do… every week or two that they argue about whether or not Gali can stay here. And every time Tahu shows up.” As we passed by the room where Gali and Kopaka were, I looked in. Gali was sitting by the side of the bed, leaning forward, and… doing something around the pump.

“Hang on, I’d like to take a look at this.” I stepped in to get a better look.

Gali had enveloped the entire pump in a bubble of water that she held suspended; she’d cut small holes in the lines leading into and out of the pump, diverting blood through the bubble instead… where she manipulated it to push dirt, small metal fragments, and other contaminants to the outside of the bubble, keeping them from re-entering the bloodstream. It was a slow, meticulous process, and the Toa of Water was intensely focused; she didn’t even notice my presence. That or she didn’t bother acknowledging it. Having seen enough, I rejoined Macku in the hallway.

“So, the surgery was a success, then?” Macku asked.

“Well, the pump is working better,” I informed her, “but Gali’s still keeping an eye on him while cleaning the blood.”

“She’s a miracle worker,” Macku said without a hint of doubt.

“I suppose she is.” I couldn’t help but wonder how Macku had developed such a respect for this one Toa, in spite of her obvious… failings. “What did Jaller mean when he said she’d just slip away again after this?” I asked. “She seems to be doing rather well now...”

“She is,” Macku replied as she opened the door to another room, “and it’s the same way whenever Tahu shows up. When the opportunity comes for her to do something that really matters for her former teammates, she steps up and does it…”

“…but?” I could sense there was more.

“Apart from those times, she… she feels useless. Ever since the Toa Nuva broke up, really… I think it broke something in her. Afterwards, she just didn’t find meaning in anything she could do anymore.”

“Surely, there must be something,” I argued, “I mean, imagine her working in a hospital, doing things like that… and I’m sure there’s lots of other things she’s good at. Even just the wisdom of an elder Toa must be worth something.”

“It is, and she worked at a hospital for a while,” Macku explained, “but most of the cases that show up these days are little scratches and bruises that just about anyone could fix; not something that makes her feel… essential. Anything worse usually comes out of the arena, and she won’t support those fights by fixing the gladiators up again and again. Tahu’s the only exception.” The Ga-Matoran’d taken a seat on the bed.

“So how’d she end up here?” I wondered.

“Hahli’s concern, mostly. She could see her slipping away like that, becoming more and more depressed at feeling… not needed, you know? She could see Gali was losing that drive, that purpose… I mean, anyone could see it happening. She shut herself out, her place was a mess, she wasn’t making any money, she stopped taking care of herself…”

“She let go.” I concluded.

“Exactly,” Macku agreed. “When she couldn’t afford to live on her own anymore, Hahli invited her to move in here and took her to places, tried to get her to try new things, hoping something would capture her interest and get her going again.”

“And she didn’t like any of them?”

“That’s the vicious thing about depression,” Macku sighed. “It destroys vitality. I’m sure she would have liked something, but… it just didn’t get through to her. It’s like she sees everything as doomed to be pointless from the outset, and that colors the experience a lot.”

“Except when a wounded fellow Toa shows up at the door,” I noted.

“That’s the weird part,” Macku acknowledged. “The moment she’s got that opportunity, to help out and old ally… it’s like that fire in her instantly sparks up again.”

“What keeps putting it out?” I wondered.

“Well, in Tahu’s case, they inevitably end up arguing about what he does, and how she disagrees with it. Then he gets angry, bashes her on her weight, and they throw insults at each other. When he leaves, she feels worse than ever about herself.”

“That’s rather rude of him,” Really, I knew Tahu was temperamental and prone to acting without thinking, but I couldn’t imagine him being that vicious towards Gali… even when the team broke up, I remembered him being relatively civil about it.

“To say the least. I swear, if it wasn’t for the fact that he at least gets her to get off that couch for a while, I wouldn’t let him in.” Thinking about Tahu seemed to make Macku’s temper flare up too. Was Tahu really that bad?

“Well, insults aside, he would be right… I mean, Gali has gotten rather big…” I still found it hard to believe Gali’d let herself get to this point when she could see it happening. “She does know, right?”

“Of course,” Macku said, somewhat indignant. “She struggles with it every day; you really think she doesn’t know?”

“No, it’s just… How’d she let it get to this? Couldn’t she see it happening?” That comment set Macku off.

“You really don’t get it, do you?” she got off the bed. “She can see it every time she looks in the mirror, feel it every time she struggles to get up of that couch, or wakes up gasping for breath! Believe me, she knows!”

“Okay, sorry…” I raised my hands slightly to indicate I meant no insult.

“And you know what?” she continued, “Hahli’s right: Gali’s ashamed of herself. You know, she used to go outside occasionally, until those rude Agori kids started calling her names; now she won’t even go near a window. Jaller tried his ‘tough love’ approach, and guess what? It only made things worse. Whenever Tahu comes along, she still helps him, and he goes and confirms her fears by saying she should be ashamed of herself, and that he’d be embarrassed to be seen with her. You know what that does to her!?” Macku pounded a fist in the air to drive the point home. “They’re making her feel terrible! Worthless! They’re only driving her down further!” She shook her head… “She knows she has to do something… but she can’t do it when everyone around her just makes her feel bad about herself. I-I honestly think she’s given up on it.”

Macku seemed to be at wit’s end. I stood by, a bit surprised by how emotional of a subject this was for the Ga-Matoran. For a few seconds, the room was quiet as she collected herself. “Sorry I went off on you like that…” she continued, more quietly. “It’s just… It’s hard to look at her like this, you know? She was a hero to us… she still is. I can’t even count how many times she was the only thing standing between us and death… and saved us. So I don’t care, I don’t care what state she’s in or what she looks like; neither does Hahli. It’s our duty now to take care of her, regardless of what Jaller, or Tahu, or anyone else says.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think you’re right.” I told her. “And if what I saw today is anything to go on, I think you’ll pull her out of it, too.” I honestly did. If, when he woke up, Kopaka broke her the way Tahu did, I’d have some serious words for him about the concept of gratitude.

“Thanks. I hope you’re right.” Macku gave an earnest smile. She sighed, then turned her attention to the room: “Anyways, uhm, there’s a bed, some cabinets if you need to bring anything in here, and the bathroom’s down the hall…

“I think I’ll just need the bed…” I was having trouble just keeping my eyes open.

“In that case, good night, and I’ll make sure to have breakfast ready in the morning.”

“Thanks. ‘night.” Macku proceeded to leave the room. I closed the door, still trying to process everything that had happened in the last few minutes, but I was burnt out for the day. After I turned off the lights, I pretty much collapsed onto the bed and was out in seconds.

-*-*-*-

I’m seeing something… I’m in some kind of complex underground… a brutish, dark being is standing in front of me… is he laughing at me? I look around… there’s figures, figures lying on the floor... it’s dark, but I feel like I can recognize them… hang on, is that… is that Kopaka? And Tahu? They’re not moving! None of them are… are they… dead? I can’t tell from here…

“You were fools to come here," the being says in a deep, ominous, twisted voice… a voice of madness. “This staff belongs TO ME!”

“Not if I have anything to say about it!” I’m surprised to hear my own voice… there’s a dark determination to it…

“There is NOTHING you can do!” the being’s eyes flash red.

“Watch and see!” I call out. Suddenly, there’s a growing sensation all through my body… first it’s a kind of tingling, then more like pressure… I feel like it’s something I’m doing, but what is it? It’s getting painful… a sharp, unrelenting pain… I want to scream, to shout, to stop, but I can’t. The pressure keeps building… It’s becoming almost unbearable… Suddenly, I hear myself screaming, but it isn’t pain… no, it’s… it’s rage.

KRABOOM!!

-*-*-*-

I woke up in cold sweat. It was still dark out, and a quick glance at the clock confirmed I’d only been out for a few hours… well, out... apart from unintentional memory sharing, I guess. That image, though… the Toa Nuva lying either dead or knocked out in front of this bizarre being… Who was it from? Who else was awake this time of night?

Oh right… Gali.

Since I figured I wouldn’t fall back to sleep all that quickly anyways, I decided to go and check on her. The room was still lit; I entered to find her still using a water bubble to ‘filter’ Kopaka’s blood, though the bubble was larger and cleaner than before.

“I guess you weren’t kidding when you said ‘all night’,” I quietly remarked.

“Oh.” Gali hadn’t noticed me coming in. “Yes… this is a bit of a long process.”

“Seems to work, though,” I noted. “That bubble already looks better than a few hours ago.”

“I think I got most of it,” Gali said, gesturing towards a small bucket set on the bedside table. I noticed there was quite a lot of a dark, grimy substance in there.

I leant against the wall opposite the bed from Gali. “How’d that even get into his blood?”

“Deep cuts that were not quickly taken care of,” the Toa of Water concluded. “My brother has never been known for his medical skills, much as he likes to try.”

“Not many doctors to turn to up in those mountains,” I remarked. “He said he studies stars up there… but he’d have to occasionally go out and hunt something to eat. That probably explains the injuries.”

Gali looked at me curiously. “Studying stars? Is that what he told you?”

“Well, something like it… you don’t think it’s true?”

“No, it probably is… to the extent that it’s the reason that he’s convinced himself of.” Gali turned her attention back to Kopaka.

“Convinced himself? What do you mean by that?”

Gali sighed. “My brother has always wanted to be alone, to do things himself. He never trusts anyone else to get a job done, so he isolates himself; alone, he can’t rely on anyone for anything. I guarantee you that’s the reason why he went into those mountains, not to look at stars; he wanted to get away from everyone to live out his ideal of self-reliance.” I was reminded of how difficult it had been for Kopaka to even admit he needed Gali’s help, even when she was standing in front of him.

“But he can’t really do everything himself. I mean, look at the state he’s in.”

“Good luck getting him to admit that,” Gali said somberly. “I tried for ages and never got anywhere. The only time when he actually worked with us was when not doing so would’ve killed him. Even then, he never asked for anything.”

“Fair point.” Again, it was Kopaka trying to be completely independent from others.

“Have you met Tahu?” Gali asked, much to my surprise.

“Yes,” I answered. “He actually pointed us to Hahli to find you.”

“You know what he does?”

“He fights in the Arena Magna. I saw last night’s fight.”

“Dreadful business, but… it’s kind of odd,” Gali mused. “You know, he and Kopaka used to argue all the time, about who was in charge, about what they thought of each other… yet for all their differences, they’re doing the same thing now.”

“How so?” I thought stargazing and arena fighting were vastly different occupations.

“They’re both living out their fantasy,” Gali answered with a hint of foreboding in her voice. “… and it’s killing them both.” She sighed again. “Look, you really shouldn’t be up at this hour.”

“I know, just… bad dreams.” I mean, it was kind of true. “This is interesting, though.”

“Get some rest, really…” Gali said. “I can bore you with stories from the past later.”

“Fair enough,” I yawned. Perhaps it wouldn’t take all that long to get back to sleep after all. “Goodnight then.”

“Goodnight, Lis.”

I made my way back to my room, still wondering what exactly Gali meant by Kopaka’s “fantasy.” His wish to be totally independent, not answering to nor relying upon anyone for anything… I hadn’t really questioned it before. But the old Toa of Water was right in that there had to be a reason why Kopaka went into those mountains specifically; he could study stars far better by working the telescopes in one of New Atero’s knowledge towers… and I was pretty sure that several of those already existed at the time he left. It fit, though rather uncomfortably so for me; much as he wished to do everything alone, surely Kopaka had to acknowledge at some point that he wasn’t the expert in everything that he apparently thought himself to be. He’d already reached that point at least once. It was why he was here in the first place: there were things he simply couldn’t fix. Not alone, that is.

 

Thing is, he had to come to death’s doorstep to admit it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 16

--------------------

 

Thankfully, the rest of the night was free of unwarranted mind reading, and I felt pretty rested when I woke up in what I thought was the morning; an illusion that lasted all of about five seconds when Macku knocked on the door.

“Hey Lis! Are you up yet?”

“Yeah, yeah…” I made my way to the door.

“Great,” Macku continued. “We’re about to have lunch.” I stopped for a moment… lunch? Just what time was it? I opened the door to find the Ga-Matoran still standing there.

“Lunch already?”

“Well, I tried to wake you for breakfast,” Macku explained, “but you were out cold. Then Gali said you’d woken up again in the middle of the night, so I figured it was better to leave you be.”

“Ah…” I followed Macku down the hallway. I noticed the door to the room in which we’d put Kopaka was closed. “Is she still watching over Kopaka?”

“No, Hahli is doing that now. Gali was pretty beat this morning,” Macku informed me. “She told me to wake her up for lunch, though. I figured I’d cook up that crab from yesterday, since dinner was kind of a bust.”

“Sounds nice.”

“Say, how about you go get Gali, and I’ll get the crab started?” Macku suggested.

“Sure.” We’d reached ground level, so Macku headed to the kitchen while I took the stairs to the basement. I headed straight for Gali’s ‘living room,’ but the telescreen was off and the Toa wasn’t there. I noticed a side door to the left, which as it turned out led to a small and quite decrepit looking bathroom. Still, no Gali… Back in the hallway, I tried the next door down; it led to another room roughly the size of the living room, which also featured a small, dirty window near the ceiling. The window shed some dim light onto the only piece of furniture in the room: a large bed that supported the bulbous, obese shape of the sleeping Toa. She looked like she’d collapsed face-first onto the bed. I knocked on the door.

“Uhm… huh?” Gali moaned, half conscious. “W-what is it?”

“It’s lunchtime,” I informed her.

“Oh… already?”

“Yeah… Macku’s going to cook up the Hahnah crab that we were going to have for dinner yesterday,” I continued. “Want to join in?”

“Yeah, just… give me a minute,” she held up a finger.

“Okay.” I stepped back into the hallway and waited, leaning against the wall. After a few seconds, I heard a series of groans and ominous creaking sounds as the heavyweight Toa maneuvered herself from lying face-down on the bed to standing next to it. The struggle took a minute, and at one point she stopped for a bit to catch her breath. Eventually, though, she appeared in the doorway, and we proceeded down the hall to the bottom of the stairs. Now that Kopaka wasn’t occupying my attention, I actually saw just what a challenge even basic mobility was becoming for Gali; she didn’t walk, she waddled, swaying heavily from side to side with each step forward and swinging her arms to help shift the weight about.

“Uhm, are you okay?” I was honestly concerned just by how much of a struggle it apparently was for her just to get out of the bed and… walk.

“Well, I’ve managed so far, haven’t I?” Gali replied, sounding a bit agitated. “Go on,” she gestured up the stairs. I made my way up; she followed, taking one step at a time, hands on both railings to help pull herself up. When she reached the top of the stairs, she had to catch her breath again... even through her mask I was pretty sure her face was flushed. “Right,” she said, “lunch, then?”

Macku’d already thrown the crab into a boiling pot, so we made our way to the living room, where Gali occupied a couch while I took one of the chairs.

“So,” I began, “what’s the plan? We still need to close up Kopaka, right?”

“After the air exchangers are fixed up,” she reminded me, still a bit out of breath. “A lot of sowing work, mostly… and we need Jaller to actually close him up well.”

“When does he get home?”

“Sometime in the evening… of course there’s also the leg.”

“Hey, Lis!” Macku called from the kitchen.

“Yes!?”

“Can you go check on Hahli and Kopaka!? See if they want anything!?”

“Sure!” I got up.

“He’s probably awake, by the way,” Gali added as I made for the hallway. Awake? In his current state? “…and I think she’s already working on the sowing.” I couldn’t imagine that being all that comfortable for Kopaka, though he at least had Hahli to keep him company… As expected, I found Hahli sitting beside the bed, and she had indeed broken out the sowing kit and was working on one of the air exchangers, cleaning out filth and then sowing up the wounds. Kopaka was awake, and watched the whole thing rather intently.

“How’s it going?” I asked. Immediately, I noticed Kopaka was very surprised at my presence, though as I’d come to expect of him, he tried not to show it on the outside.

“Well, this one’s coming along,” Hahli said as she diligently used a small brush and water to clean out a particularly vicious cut, “but these things have taken a lot of hits. I’m going to be busy all afternoon at the least.”

“What did you run into up there that did that?” I asked Kopaka, pointing at the wound.

“Muaka,” the Toa of Ice answered. “…and a few other things, but mostly muaka.”

“Really, you shouldn’t go picking fights with those anymore,” Hahli pointed out.

“One muaka provides enough meat to last months,” Kopaka countered. “They are well worth the risk.”

“Risk of getting gored, or your leg chewed up?” I was rather skeptical. Kopaka merely grunted, then resumed his careful examination of Hahli’s working methods. “Anyway,” I continued, turning back to Hahli, “lunch is about to be served downstairs. Should I bring some up or do you want to come down?”

“If you could,” the Toa of Water began, but Kopaka cut her off.

“We will come down,” he decided.

“Na-ah! No way you’re going anywhere opened up like this,” Hahli said as she put her tools aside. “I can bring something up for you, but you’re staying here.” Kopaka didn’t reply immediately; instead he grabbed the opened mesh, folded it closed, and flash-froze some small orbs of ice around the edge to hold it in place.

“My chestplate,” he demanded.

“No. Not happening.” Hahli argued, but Kopaka didn’t need her cooperation; he’d just find the plate himself. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t take the Akaku-equipped Toa very long. He grabbed the chestplate from under the bed, packed his cut muscle strands together, and fitted it back on.

“You’re going to walk down there like this!?” Hahli couldn’t believe it.

“I will be fine,” Kopaka concluded, reaching for his cane. Hahli sighed while muttering something about a Kane-Ra mentality… Clearly, the Toa of Ice wasn’t going to take no for an answer, but his body thought otherwise; the cut muscle strands normally helped brace the shoulders, so their disconnection meant he couldn’t support a lot of weight with his arms. As he reached with his left arm, the right gave way, and he fell back onto the bed, grimacing from the pain in his chest.

“See?” Hahli quickly moved in and helped to return Kopaka to his position of lying down on the bed.

“Fine…” Kopaka grudgingly agreed.

“Lis, just bring some food up here for us,” Hahli suggested.

“Will do.” I was still concerned about Kopaka’s condition after his attempt to get up, but knowing Hahli would keep a close eye on him, I made my way back downstairs and informed Macku that Hahli and Kopaka would like their food brought up; she told me it would be ready in ten minutes, so I went back to the living room, where Gali’d turned on the telescreen, which was turned to some news channel.

“Only two days after the last time that Tahu, known as ‘Master of Fire’ gave another stunning performance in the Arena, his next challenger is already fast approaching,” an Ice Agori reporter explained, “and excitement is building as the world waits for what will certainly be an epic confrontation between the Toa veteran and the rookie: the Porcupine.” It went on to describe the Porcupine’s recent rise in the rankings. I shuddered, recalling the Iron Skakdi’s brutal fight against the Lady of the Frost; Gali’s expression had turned decidedly sour.

“I saw him, two days ago,” I told her. “The Porcupine, he’s… he’s brutal.”

“They all are,” Gali said dourly. “Those fights should have been banned long ago. They’re barbaric.”

“Of course. I mean, the Agori say it’s an important part of their history,” or so I’d heard, “but why can’t they just leave it as that… history?”

“It’s hard for people to let go of the past,” Gali sighed.

“Right…” I nodded. Her comment resonated more than I think she’d meant it to. “That’s why Tahu’s still in there too, right?” Gali looked at me curiously. “That’s his fantasy,” I continued, “that he’s still in the past, that he still needs to fight.”

“Perhaps…” Gali shrugged. “You could be right; some part of Tahu’s definitely stuck in the past… Kopaka, too,” she sighed. “You know he used to fight Muaka all the time on Mata Nui?”

“He did?”

“They sometimes attacked Ko-Matoran on the icy mountains,” the Toa of water explained. “Kopaka stopped them. He even saved Matoro a couple of times that way.”

“He did?” That shed a whole new light on his relationship with and reference for the dead hero.

“Indeed,” Gali continued. “It seems my brothers really are living in the past.”

“And what about you?” I asked. “What did you do back then?”

Gali seemed a bit surprised to have the question turned on her. She thought for a moment. “Well, I watched over Ga-Koro,” she remembered, “fought some Tarakava, healed the Matoran when they were injured… You should have seen the ocean of Aqua Magna back then; it was beautiful.” She smiled, but it was a sad smile. “Of course, that’s all over now.”

“Isn’t that ocean out there still Aqua Magna?” I asked, gesturing towards the water to the east.

“It is,” Gali acknowledged, “but it’s not really the same… nothing is these days.” I wasn’t going to point it out straight to her face, but it was becoming clear to me that, while Gali wasn’t living the past, she certainly hadn’t moved on either. Rather, she just seemed to mourn what had been lost… I wasn’t sure which I preferred: her approach of lamenting what had been lost and just fading with it, or Tahu and Kopaka’s of trying to preserve it and soldier on at all costs. In the end, it hadn’t turned out very well for any of them.

We sat and silently watched the telescreen broadcast until Macku arrived and set a pot filled with cooked Hahnah meat on the table.

“Lunch is served,” she announced. “Hang on, let me grab you some plates.” She soon returned with plates and cutlery, divvying them up by giving a set to me and Gali and then setting the other three down on the table.

“Okay, let me just take some out for Hahli and Kopaka first,” she said as she produced a serving spoon and scooped a solid serving onto each plate.”

“I can carry them up for them, if you’d like,” I offered.

“It’s fine, I’ve got it covered,” she said as she grabbed the two plates. “I’ll be right back.” She vanished into the hallway. Gali gestured at the pot, and then at me.

“Enjoy,” she invited. I scooped up a few spoons’ worth of Hahnah meat before sitting back down in my chair. Then I noticed the pot was definitely out of Gali’s reach, and the Toa of water was preparing to get up to serve herself. Remembering that image of her trying with difficulty to get off the couch, I got up and set my plate aside.

“Here, I’ve got it.” I reached out for Gali to hand me her plate, but she instead put it aside.

“Don’t worry,” she assured me, placing her hands onto the couch beside her to help push herself up.

“No, here.” I picked up the pot and moved it to Gali’s side of the table, then handed her the spoon.

“Thanks…” She smiled for a moment, but I could sense a hint of… something. Not quite embarrassment, nor guilt, or shame… maybe a little combination of all three, a tacit acknowledgement that the help was appreciated, but not really needed, or perhaps it just shouldn’t have been needed even though it kind of was. I sat back down, then watched as Gali served herself a… uhm… very generous helping of crab, which she finished before I was even halfway done with my plate. Macku returned and took a small portion for herself, after which we continued watching the telescreen broadcast while Gali served herself seconds… and thirds. Macku noticed it too, but didn’t say anything. Out of politeness, I didn’t either, but all of the sudden Gali’s condition was making a lot more sense. Weird thing is, she didn’t bat an eye about it; she seemed keenly aware and ashamed of her size, but didn’t seem in at all motivated to do something about it. In spite of everything, was she still in denial, just like Kopaka about his injuries? Or was Macku right?

Had Gali really given up?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 17

--------------------

 

Lunch finished, Gali headed back downstairs to rest up before trying to tackle Kopaka’s leg, which would require Jaller’s abilities to fix up properly. I went upstairs to see how Hahli and the Toa of Ice were doing and retrieve their plates. I found Hahli still cleaning out cuts on the air exchangers, but it seemed the largest ones had been taken care of. Kopaka, customarily confident in his own abilities and apparently with his mental barriers to pain restored, was actually working at it as well; the sight of him reaching with a small, wet brush into his own chest and rubbing clean scratches and on his air exchangers as he was breathing was a bit bizarre, yet he behaved as though it was entirely normal. Two empty plates were sitting on the side table by the door.

“I came to collect the dishes,” I explained, then nodded to Hahli: “Looks like you’ve got some help.”

“So it appears,” Hahli said with a slight edge to her voice. Apparently she wasn’t much pleased with Kopaka’s self-operating habits.

“Well, on the plus side, you’ll be done quicker,” I noted as I collected the silverware.

“I suppose,” Hahli agreed. “And after we close it up we can start work on his leg.” I noted she was talking about Kopaka in the third person in front of his face, not that he minded. “Then he finally can go back to… whatever he did.”

“Astronomy,” Kopaka said without looking up.

“Right, astronomy…” Hahli rolled her eyes.

“Do you not have some news story to cover?” Kopaka asked. “I have things covered here.”

“Uhm, no you don’t,” Hahli asserted. “You’ve been watching, and now you’re bungling about. That’s all. And for your information, this ‘doll’ took a day off.” Doll? What was that all about?

“A waste of a day off,” Kopaka said. “I would have been fine until the evening.”

“You know what?” Hahli put her sowing tools aside and got up. “Fine, you manage if you’re so eager to,” she said curtly, then turned and made her way out of the room. I looked back at Kopaka, who didn’t seem fazed in the slightest, then followed Hahli. I caught up with her at the bottom of the stairs. “ fool,” Hahli muttered as she made her way to the kitchen, where Macku was cleaning up.

“How’s it going?” the Matoran asked, but Hahli didn’t reply. Instead, she grabbed a cup from the counter and proceeded to root through the coolbox for a drink.

“I got the plates,” I informed Macku, setting them next to the other dishes on the counter. Macku nodded towards Hahli with a questioning look on her face. “Kopaka’s being Kopaka,” I explained.

“He’s being an idiot,” Hahli remarked as she pulled a bottle filled with some kind of wine out of the coolbox.

“Hahli, wine? At this hour, really?”  Macku said, somewhat concerned.

“I’m tired, so to me it’s evening.” Hahli poured some wine into the cup, then placed the bottle back into the coolbox.

“You’re worried about Kopaka,” Macku asserted.

“Everyone’s worried about Kopaka except Kopaka.” Hahli said, frustrated. “Once he’s halfway patched up, he’ll just walk out of here thinking he can take care of the rest of it.”

“You’d like him to thank you first,” Macku smiled, though I could tell this was more a nervous attempt to use humor to diffuse tension rather than to actually cheer anyone up.

“No, I wouldn’t expect that from him,” Hahli took a sip, “but at the very least he could care, you know? I mean, we’re doing him a massive favor here, and he acts like it’s nothing.”

“He thinks it’s your duty,” I interjected. “Or Gali’s, at least. He sees it as duty.”

“Wonderful,” Hahli said sarcastically. “So he thinks we all exist to help him.”

“Not exactly…”

“Right...” Hahli walked out, heading for the living room. Macku sighed and returned to the dishes while I followed the Toa, who’d taken up a reclining armchair.

“Look, I know he can be a bit exhausting, but I can keep an eye on him for a while if you need a break,” I offered.

“Nah, he’s probably right,” Hahli sighed. “I mean, he looks bad, but he’s not critical or anything anymore…” she took another sip.

“That’s Kopaka.” I sat down on one of the benches. “Annoyingly right...”

“Yeah, I don’t mind him being right, even if he is being a fool regardless,” Hahli said, “but really, why does he have to be so… rude about everything, you know? He doesn’t care, he never considers how it makes me feel. Or Gali. Or you, I’m guessing.”

“True,” I couldn’t argue that, “he does do that.”

“You know what he told me?” Hahli asked. I nodded no. “He wakes up while I’m sowing on his insides, doesn’t say anything, not even a peep. Just sits and watches, for like an hour, just staring at me working. I’m finally done with the biggest cut that he had in there, so I ask him how he’s feeling. He says fine.”

“Right…” Seemed like his usual answer.

“Then he asks me, and I’m quoting here, ‘Why do you look like a meato fantasy doll?’” “Meato” was derogative slang sometimes used by Matoran to describe Agori and Glatorian, a turn of language I certainly wouldn’t have expected from Kopaka.

“Okay, that is bad,” I agreed. “He really said that?”

“That’s not all,” Hahli continued. “He goes into this whole spiel about Gali, and how I shouldn’t have let her blow up like she has. Says she’s an embarrassment to Toa, and I’m somehow responsible.”

“He didn’t say how?”

“Nope. Just convinced I was,” Hahli said, taking a larger swig from the cup. “I spent hours working on him, and then he proceeds to insult me like that. It’s like he’s got it in for me for some reason. What did I ever do to him?”

“Hm…” I thought about it for a bit, but that really did seem very unlike Kopaka. “You’re right. That doesn’t make any sense, and even if it did, he’s got no right to talk to you like that.”

“So he’s just a jerk, then.” Hahli concluded.

“Maybe, but… it’s not like him.” I continued. Hahli looked at me curiously. “I mean, he comes off as rude,” I explained, “but from what I’ve seen everything he does is… considered, you know? He thinks things through, he looks at them objectively. Insulting and blaming people… it’s not what he does.”

“Well, you might want to check his brain then,” Hahli said. “If you’re right, something in him’s gotta be messed up.”

“Maybe I should go talk to him.” I got up.

“Good luck.” Hahli turned her attention back to her drink.

I considered what I was going to tell Kopaka as I headed back upstairs. The last twenty-four hours had been rather crazy, and now I had a chance to finally ask some questions. What gave him the right to mouth off to Hahli like that? Also, why’d he abandoned the park when he’d promised me he’d be there when I got back? Never mind the fact that he’d promised to show me the final battle; he owed me some answers, especially since I helped out with the surgery.

I found him still sitting in bed, trying with some difficulty to thread a needle. “No success?” I asked.

Kopaka looked up. “So you made it here.”

“I did. Before you, as it happens,” I informed him. “I was here when they did the surgery on your pump. I helped.” Focused on the needle, he didn’t reply. “So where’d you go?” I asked.

“Go? When?” He’d at last gotten the tread through the tiny hole in the needle.

I took a seat next to the bed. “At the park. You said you’d be there, I got back, and you were nowhere to be seen.”

“I got lunch,” Kopaka said calmly, but I could tell that wasn’t the whole story.

“Just lunch?”

“Yes.” Apparently, that was all he was willing to give. I knew there was more, and I was already convinced that, in fact, his disappearance had been a deliberate attempt by him to be rid of me before meeting Gali. Though I wondered why, I didn’t feel like I was going to get anywhere pursuing that line of inquiry.

“You really should let Hahli do that,” I pointed as Kopaka started to try and sow shut one of the cuts on the air exchangers.

“No need,” he replied.

“You know, she’s not happy with your accusations,” I continued. “About her looks, and what happened with Gali.”

“I told her the truth,” Kopaka said without a hint of regret.

“Yeah, I know you do that, but have you ever considered that sometimes the truth hurts?” I asked. I actually was interested in what he’d have to say to that.

“Not as much as the fallout of a truth gone untold,” he said flatly.

“You know, I think that depends,” I argued. “It’s usually not so clear-cut, especially when other people get involved.”

“To you, perhaps, but you do not know the other Toa as I do.”

“Really?” That rather surprised me. If anything, as a Toa of Psionics, I figured I had the edge in reading others. What kind of reaction did he expect from these people who he apparently knew so well?

Kopaka looked me straight in the eyes. “We fought alongside each other. We saved each other’s lives. We faced the Makuta, the Bohrok, and the Rahkshi. I assure you, I know my brothers and sisters well.”

“Uh-huh…” I wasn’t convinced. He certainly had more experience with the other Toa, true, but from what I’d seen his ability to really understand them in anything other than a purely analytical way was very limited. “So, are you going to tell Gali the same things once she makes it up here, right?”

“What things?”

“What you told Hahli,” I explained. “That how she’s an embarrassment to the Toa, that Hahli looks like a fantasy doll, that stuff. I mean, clearly you don’t approve, so are you going to tell Gali about it like you did with Hahli?”

Kopaka thought for a moment. “No.”

“Why not?” I continued. “Does Gali not deserve to be… informed of your thoughts like Hahli was?”

“She does,” Kopaka looked a bit confused as to what exactly I was calling into question.

“…but you’re not going to tell her. Seems to me that you’re blaming Hahli for everything that’s changed; she certainly thinks so.” I had him; he’d betrayed a bias. Not a surprising one, really, but I wanted to see him explain his way out of it: in his ‘objective’ view, what made Gali and Hahli different? Why did Hahli get the harsh truth, with insults thrown in, while Gali would be spared?

Kopaka didn’t quite seem to get it yet, so I posed the question: “why is Hahli the only one who you are willing to tell the truth to?”

“She is not the only one,” Kopaka said. “I would tell Jaller and Macku the same things.”

“You’re dodging,” I said. “Why them and not Gali? What makes Gali different?”

Kopaka thought deeply, even stopping his sowing as he concentrated; he was genuinely having difficulty coming up with an explanation. Watching his mind, I could see that considering the question was bringing up a number of emotional responses… Just as I expected, Kopaka wasn’t the fully rational machine that he pretended to be. To me it was obvious: having fought alongside Gali as much as he had, he emphasized with her more. Perhaps he even felt a need somewhere to protect her, or at least not to treat her has harshly as he did everyone else, a feeling clearly absent in his dealings with Hahli. In fact, as I looked deeper, it seemed that the emotion associated with Hahli was disappointment, mixed even with anger... anger about what? Meanwhile thoughts of Gali elicited concern, worry. Contrary to what he showed on the surface, and even deluded himself into thinking, Kopaka really did care for his sister… something that to him just didn’t compute.

“Difficult to explain, huh?” I couldn’t help but smile in spite of the fact that I could detect a growing frustration within his mind.

“Like I said,” Kopaka spoke up, “you do not know the Toa as I do. You cannot understand.” Interesting that he was projecting a lack of understanding onto me… unless there really was something in their history that he could use to rationalize his feelings.

“Well, perhaps you could help me with that,” I argued. “I seem to recall you promising that you’d show me the final battle at some point. The other Toa were there, right? Show me what it was like, and maybe I’ll get it.”

Kopaka sighed. “I am busy, but I will show you, soon.” He went back to his stitching. “Patience is the fourth virtue, Lis. Even the Makuta understood that.”

“I’d be patient if I wasn’t afraid you’d just run off again as soon as you could.”

“You have my assurance that I will not.” He considered that case closed.

“Fine.” I agreed, but I’d be keeping a close eye on him. I also noticed his stitches were slow and rather shoddy. “You’ve never done that before, have you?”

“No.”

“Here,” I reached out, trying to get him to hand over the needle and thread.

“I will be fine.”

“You won’t. C’mon, let me try.” He hesitantly released the tools to me, after which I proceeded to stitch up the cut in a far cleaner manner; having worked under a tailor for years before becoming a Toa, I was pretty darn good at it. Just like he apparently had with Hahli, Kopaka kept a close eye on what I was doing, but didn’t say another word. Nevertheless, I could sense that there was a lot more going on inside him than the outside betrayed. It seemed that I really had gotten him to ask himself some questions, a victory in itself as far as I was concerned.

I thought back to what Hahli’d said… did Kopaka really see her like that? For that matter, what did the think of me? I had half the mind to ask him, but given that he’d tried to get rid of me just the day before, I was worried that I wouldn’t much like his answer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 18

--------------------

 

By the end of the afternoon, everything in Kopaka’s chest was looking solid again, if far from pristine. All that was required now was for Jaller to weld the protective mesh shut and then to sow the covering muscle back together.

“So, feeling better?” I asked Kopaka.

“Yes,” he said without much excitement.

“We’ll get started on your leg tonight, I’m sure.”

“At last.” Clearly, Kopaka didn’t much fancy staying here for very long. I think he’d expected to be on his way already.

“Well, good afternoon,” a voice from behind surprised me. I turned to see Hewkii’s black and yellow form filling most of the doorway. “I was told we had guests,” he explained as he entered. “Sorry I didn’t get to meet you yesterday. I’m Hewkii.” He extended a hand towards me.

“Lis,” I introduced myself.

“A pleasure,” Hewkii replied, then turned his attention to the Toa of Ice in the bed. “Well, well. One has to see to believe it.”

“Hello, Hewkii.” Kopaka greeted him flatly.

“So, you’re back after all these years.”

“Only temporarily.”

“And it looks like you took a few knocks up there. That’s looking pretty beat up.” Hewkii pointed at Kopaka’s leg.

“Muaka.”

“No kidding, huh. Some people never change,” Hewkii smiled.

“Some…” Kopaka said with a dour undertone.

“So, you’re staying for long?”

“No.”

“Ah… well, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of stories to tell over dinner.” Hewkii turned to me. “And what about you?”

“I’m kind of keeping an eye on him,” I explained.

“In case he tries to run away?” Hewkii joked, apparently unaware that that was actually a possibility.

“Kind of,” I smiled.

“Well, Macku said dinner will be ready in half an hour or so,” Hewkii informed us, “and she’s insisting that we should all be there to make it a ‘family dinner.’” He rolled his eyes, clearly not as committed to the idea of a family dinner as Macku. Wasn’t that something Agori did, since they actually had… families? “Looks like you’re not in any condition to move, though.” Hewkii pointed at Kopaka’s open chest.

“It appears so,” Kopaka said. I sensed a degree of relief in him; perhaps he realized his open chest was a great way to avoid sitting with a bunch of people conversing at a dinner table. However, I was quite curious to actually hear what kind of stories would surface with Kopaka around, so I decided not to let him pass on the opportunity.

“Get Jaller up here and he’ll be ready,” I assured Hewkii. “Everything in there’s fixed, we just need him to close it properly.”

“Works for me,” Hewkii said as he turned to head back out and downstairs. “See you downstairs in a bit.”

Kopaka seemed somewhat agitated, but he didn’t comment. It wasn’t long before Jaller appeared.

“Hewkii said I had to do some welding.” I noticed he was still in what amounted to full combat gear, minus his sword.

“They are done with my lungs,” Kopaka said, to my surprise, “and apparently it is important that you close this quickly.” He lifted up the mesh flap, revealing the cleaned-up chest cavity below.

“Gali’s not here?” Jaller looked around.

“She’s resting, but she’ll need your help on the leg later,” I explained.

“Fine…” Jaller sighed as he positioned himself beside the bed. “This might sting a little,” he added as he looked into Kopaka’s chest, then lined up the edges of the mesh flap with those of the gap. Without stopping to ask Kopaka whether he was good to start, he proceeded to slowly run his fingers along the cut lines, heating up and pinching the metal threads to weld them together. I could tell the process was painful for Kopaka, but he didn’t so much as blink, rigidly maintaining control over his reflexes in the way that I was becoming so familiar with. I watched, intrigued by how Jaller quickly maneuvered his fingers to grab two tiny metal strands and weld them into one in a matter of seconds. He repeated the process over and over, making his way along the seam at a fair pace; clearly, it was a well-practiced routine.

“You’ve done this before, I’m guessing?” I asked quietly as to not disturb Jaller too much.

“On Tahu, lots of times,” Jaller answered slowly as he concentrated.

“Ah… He gets cut up a lot, I bet.” I’d forgotten about Tahu; Mata Nui only knew what his insides looked like after a couple thousand years of fighting.

“That he does.” Jaller said in a grim tone. “Nothing compared to what he does to his opponents.”

“Murder.” Kopaka said. For a second or two, no one answered.

“Pretty much,” Jaller agreed, though he seemed somewhat more indifferent to it than Kopaka.

“We saw the match against Stronius,” I added. “It was brutal…”

“Hahli told me about it,” Jaller said. “A shame how our brother has fallen.” I got a distinct feeling of bitterness from him, but it wasn’t just directed towards Tahu.

“Worse is that he is not alone,” Kopaka added. “Much has changed since I was last here.”

Jaller nodded in agreement. “Last of the old guard, that’s what we are, apparently.”

“Quite literally, in your case,” I smiled, trying to add a little humor to the distinctly dour conversation.

Jaller looked at me; he wasn’t amused. “The city guard, you mean?” He sighed again. “That was all of us once.”

“Did Kongu and Nuparu leave?” Kopaka asked.

“More or less,” Jaller said. “They’re off doing their own thing and don’t visit this city much, but they’d help if they were called upon. Hewkii would pick up arms, too. As for Hahli…”

“I doubt she would be capable of lifting them,” Kopaka asserted.

“Not in her current form,” Jaller said, sounding rather dismayed. “Our sister has forsaken her ability to protect those who need us in favor of the wishes of a few grumpy Agori.”

“Truly shameful,” Kopaka agreed.

“I think she’s fine,” I interrupted. The two Toa turned to me.

“Go on,” Jaller invited.

“I mean, she’s different, yes,” I continued, “but she really didn’t have a choice if she wanted to keep her job. And being a journalist, she’s got a lot of power to call attention to those who need help. There’s something to be said for that when it comes to helping those in need.” Really, I felt both Jaller and Kopaka were being very short-sighted in their approach to their duty. The old guard they may have been, but the world and the Toa had moved on, something that Kopaka in particular seemed to have a hard time coming to grips with.

“So she keeps telling me,” Jaller said, turning his attention back to welding. “Insists that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that the camera and microphone have the pen beaten in turn. Personally, I’ll take a sword any day; pens, cameras, and microphones would have done nothing to deter the Piraka or the Barraki’s legions.” Kopaka gave a nod in agreement. I shrugged. “What did you tell her, by the way?” Jaller asked Kopaka. “She was very cross with you when I got home.”

“The truth,” Kopaka answered.

Jaller looked up at him. “The truth?”

“He told her she looks like a Glatorian doll,” I explained, “and that she’s responsible for Gali’s… situation.”

Jaller stopped welding again and turned to Kopaka. “Is that true?” he asked with a distinct edge to his voice.

“As I said, the truth,” Kopaka asserted.

“On the doll thing, you may have a point,” the Toa of Fire admitted, “but if you blame her for Gali’s size, we’re going to have a problem. She has nothing to do with that.”

“She seems quite eager to give her whatever she wants,” Kopaka argued.

“And she’s been trying for years to get Gali off of that couch,” Jaller pointed out. “Hahli’s worked day and night to find things for her to do, to try and help her out of the hole you all threw her into. I keep telling her it’s a lost cause, but she won’t give up on it. Say what you will, but Hahli’s the one person who’s doing anything to help your sister. We clear on that?”

“Clear,” Kopaka said coldly, but I could tell he didn’t really believe what Jaller was saying. That idea of Gali being so far gone that even with Hahli’s help she’d failed to get herself together just didn’t make sense to him. That wasn’t the Gali he knew… yet I remembered seeing Gali’s breakdown at the end of that last meeting. Jaller was right; the other Toa, Kopaka included, really had broken her. Jaller continued welding for a bit longer before calling it good.

“Looks like I’m done,” He concluded. “I’m guessing you’ve got it from here?”

“Yes, I do.” Kopaka answered, already starting to re-connect various muscle strands over the newly repaired mesh.

“Good.” Jaller leant back, then watched as Kopaka crudely tied together some of the muscle strands. “That won’t hold long,” he pointed out.

“It does not need to,” Kopaka noted. Before long, he asked me to hand over his chest plate, which he fitted solidly. Granted, the muscles were a mess underneath, and but at the very least he now looked presentable. Kopaka reached for his cane, but was hindered by the fact that the tied-together muscle strands couldn’t stretch to give him full range of motion.

“Here.” Jaller handed him the cane. Now equipped, Kopaka got out of the bed, standing somewhat unsteadily at first. For a moment, I was concerned, but the Toa of Ice quickly regained his bearings and started making his way to the hall. I could tell he wasn’t dealing with as much pain as he had been before; his step was quicker and there was a greater confidence, a calculated certainty to his movement. Granted, he still limped and it was more than obvious his body wasn’t in a good way, but he nevertheless seemed significantly stronger than before. Jaller and I followed him down the stairs and to the living room, where we found Hahli and Hewkii already at the table. Hewkii was talking about the preparations for some big upcoming game, but he fell silent for a moment when Kopaka appeared in the doorway.

“Welcome,” the Toa of Stone greeted, motioning to some of the open spots on the couches and chairs around the table. “Take a seat. Macku said things’ll be ready in a minute or two.” Behind his welcome I could detect concern; Hewkii hadn’t seen Kopaka standing until this point, and I don’t think he’d realized just how battered the old Toa was until now. Hahli nodded and feigned a smile but she didn’t seem to be in a particularly good mood. Cutlery and plates were already laid out on the table. We all took a seat. Jaller took a chair at the head of the table; something told me that was his usual spot. Kopaka took the chair next to him, while I sat down on the couch opposite the one that Hewkii and Hahli’d taken.

“So, as I was saying…” Hewkii continued telling of how he was coaching the Po-Matoran Kolhii team for their next big game, only days away. Apparently, they didn’t lack in spirit, but their technique was often sloppy, which led them to lose points more often than they should have. Nevertheless, Hewkii believed they would do well. Jaller noted the Ta-Matoran guard team had been practicing as well, though they were more proficient in wielding spears and thornax launchers than Kolhii staffs.

“…as they should be,” Jaller finished.

“How’s the Ga-Matoran team doing?” Hewkii turned to Hahli.

“I checked in on them last week, remember?” Hahli reminded him. “They’re hard at work, I’m sure. Kotu wants them to be ready to face you guys in the finals.”

The conversation was interrupted by the appearance of a slightly winded Gali. “Good evening,” she greeted us. We all kind of nodded in return as she made her way across the room. “May I?” she asked, pointing at the open spot next to me.

“Of course.” I smiled, thinking Gali was nothing if not polite. I mean, it was a two-person couch, after all, but it was nice of her to ask…

“Thanks.” Gali turned and carefully lowered her bulk onto the couch, taking up two-thirds of its seating space in the process. No one said anything, but even without psionic abilities it was obvious everyone was kind of uncomfortable. The awkward silence continued for a few more seconds until Hahli cleared her throat.

“Ahem,” she turned to Jaller. “So, did you get the mesh closed up?”

“Yes,” Jaller replied, “But the muscle’s another matter.” He turned to Gali. “You’ll have to stitch that back together.”

“Of course,” Gali agreed. “How are you feeling?” she asked Kopaka.

“Better,” he answered matter-of-factly.

“Good,” Gali nodded somewhat worriedly. “That’s… that’s good.” I could tell she was nervous among the company of her fellow Toa… or was she just dismayed by Kopaka’s indifferent reply? Either way, she was getting more uncomfortable by the second, not helped by the fact that everyone else pretended to be minding their own business; only Hahli’s expression showed any shared concern.

All spirits were lifted, however, by the arrival of Macku and dinner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 19

--------------------

 

 Macku was carrying a large tray filled with some kind of roasted bird rahi. “Dinner’s here,” she announced as she set it down on the table.

“Husi!” Hewkii identified the meal. “You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Macku.”

“Best to bring out something special when we have guests,” Macku smiled, looking at me and Kopaka. No kidding about the ‘special’ part. Not only did the husi look to be impeccably cooked; it was lying on a kind of seaweed salad bed, with various fruits arranged throughout. A carving fork and knife protruded from the top of the roasted bird. Macku’d clearly put time into the presentation.

“It looks great,” I commented. “Thank you.”

“Please, tuck in,” Macku stepped back and walked around us, taking the one spot remaining on the couch next to Hewkii.

Jaller got up and pulled the carving equipment out of the bird’s back. He turned to Kopaka, asking: “how much?” Kopaka held up two slightly pinched fingers, prompting Jaller to carve off a small piece of the husi and deposit it on Kopaka’s plate. The Toa of Ice sat back, while Jaller turned to me.

It wasn’t long before he’d served everyone their desired helping, and we all enjoyed the result of Macku, by her description, “…experimenting all day with different spices to get just the right flavor.” As far as I was concerned, she’d hit the mark, and I don’t think anyone at the table would have argued. The arrival of food as a topic also dispelled the uncomfortable air that had pervaded before Macku’s arrival, though the Ga-Matoran’s curiosity and conversational drive certainly helped. Hewkii told us about the progress that his Kolhii team had made again, after which Jaller and Hahli described exactly what all they’d done to fix up Kopaka’s insides. The Toa of Ice remained noticeably quiet throughout the conversation, his eyes mostly fixed on Gali, who was making her way through one generous helping of Husi after another. I got a growing sense of disbelief and frustration from Kopaka; I think he was having a hard time believing that that really was his sister sitting down the table. His mounting feelings had me worried, too. What would he say if he was left alone with Gali?

“What do you think, Lis?” Hahli asked.

“Huh?” for a moment I’d stopped listening. “Sorry, about what?”

“Going back into the Great Spirit Robot,” Macku explained.

“We’re going to get a hold of some Kaukaus, if possible,” Hahli added. “It’ll be expensive, but it would help a lot for those of us who can’t breathe water.”

“Oh, right, since the thing is flooded,” I caught up. “Well, if we’re going that route, we might look at a few other masks that could be helpful.” I’d seen first-hand from Kopaka how useful an arsenal of Kanohi could be, taxing as it probably was to maintain.

“Not a bad idea,” Hahli said. “Again, though; it’ll be expensive.”

“Who else do you have so far?” I asked.

“Well, we’re all coming,” Jaller said, gesturing to himself as well as Hewkii.

“I’m going to work on documenting the trip,” Hahli said. “There may not be much left in there, but any footage would help teach newer generations about where their ancestors came from.”

“It’s documenting our history,” Hewkii added. “We’ve come far ever since we all left that robot, but sometimes it pays to look back.”

“And, when is this all supposed to happen?” I wondered.

“Sometime early next year,” Hahli answered. “We’ve been thinking about it for years, but only recently have things really begun to pick up steam. That said, there’ll be a lot of equipment involved. Even if we decide to bring more Kanohi, it’d only be the start of it.”

“Of course,” I agreed, “and I’ll help in whatever way I can.”

“Good to see that at least someone is still interested in preserving our past,” Hewkii smiled. “Seriously, I had to explain to one of my Kolhii players the other day what a Bohrok is.” Everyone chuckled, though again there was a kind of uncomfortable undertone, an acknowledgement that, barring me, they were all getting on a bit, and the experiences that had defined them were now well beyond the memory of most people.

The conversation soon moved on to some of the stories Hahli had covered as of late, which in turn led to a discussion of the renovations being made to the city’s largest Kolhii stadium. Macku stepped out to get drinks at one point. After a good hour and a half, there wasn’t anything left of the Husi beyond its bones, largely due to Gali’s ‘efforts.’ Macku brought out a very nice looking pie for dessert. It turned out to taste as good as it looked, and it wasn’t long before the plate was all but empty, and all of us were quite satisfied.

“That was excellent, Macku,” Hewkii complemented. The rest of us agreed.

“Glad you all liked it,” the Ga-Matoran smiled. “So, what’s the plan for the evening?”

“I think we should start on that leg.” Jaller gestured to Kopaka, then looked to Gali. “Can we get it done before midnight this time?

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Gali said somewhat sheepishly.

“Well, if you’re all going to do that…” Hewkii got up and turned to Macku, “… I’d like head out for a bit. Would you like to join me?” he invited the Ga-Matoran.

“Oh, I’ve got to take care of the dishes first,” Macku blushed, “but after that…”

“I’ve got it,” Hahli interjected. “You two go have fun.”

“Really, Hahli, it’s no problem,” Macku argued.

“No, just go,” Hahli urged her. “You’ve been working like mad for us the past two days. Go and enjoy yourself.” I wasn’t going to say it, but I could tell Hahli had her own reasons to want to occupy herself with the dishes; her mood had sunk the moment the topic of Kopaka’s leg was brought up. I think she wanted to keep some distance between herself and him for a while, and this was her ticket out of helping with the surgery.

“Well, if you insist…” Macku turned back to Hewkii. “Shall we?” They left the room and were soon out of the house.

“Not that it is any of my business, but… where are they going?” I asked.

“The beach, probably,” Hahli explained, relieved. “It’s nice and quiet in the evening. Romantic, even.”

“Ah…” I was right; Hewkii and Macku’s relationship was far more than a close friendship, though I couldn’t really decipher the reason why.

As Hahli gathered the dishes and took them to the kitchen, Jaller, Kopaka, and Gali proceeded to make their way upstairs. I followed them, and soon we were ready to start fixing the most obviously broken thing about Kopaka’s body; that mangled right leg. Kopaka’d already acknowledged that a Muaka was responsible for it, and by the looks of it the leg had been used as a chew toy by one of those massive creatures. Its armor had large holes and gashes torn into it, and was bent in a number of ways that would have made it impossible to fit it onto a… non-mangled leg, I guess.

After we removed the plating, the true extent of the damage became clear; the leg had been broken in multiple places and clearly hadn’t been set properly; the core structure had several jarring, unnatural angles to it, exposed between the atrophied muscle strands that stretched over it but failed to cover it in any way. The knee joint was in poor shape, and the ankle was busted to the point of locking Kopaka’s foot in place.

“You tried to fix this yourself, didn’t you?” Gali asked.

“Of course,” Kopaka said as though that was never in question.

“Well, it’s not good,” Gali continued. “The muscle in here’s almost gone… looks like you haven’t had much circulation in here for a while.”

“It kept freezing,” Kopaka answered. Somehow I found the thought of a Toa of Ice having to worry about freezing a bit ironic.

“That’s because there was no circulation,” Gali concluded as she started to inspect some of the muscle strands more closely, disconnecting and peeling them back to lay bare the structure underneath. “Well, good news is the muscle isn’t dead,” she said, “but even if we arrange everything properly, it’ll be weak. You won’t be rid of that cane for a while.”

“At least it will recover,” I said, trying to put a positive spin on things. I was relieved; for a moment, I thought the leg was beyond fixing and that we’d have to amputate it and get a hold of replacement parts.

“Just like Tahu, right?” Jaller asked. “Start by straightening the bone?”

“Right,” Gali agreed. “Work from the inside out.” She had now disconnected almost all the muscle strands, laying them on the table beside her. They looked like dark, shriveled worms; not at all the healthy, reddish tissue that one would normally expect. The leg’s jagged and bent metal inner structure was now laid bare; I sensed disbelief from Jaller.

“Even Tahu’s never this bad,” he half mumbled as he begun to inspect some of the sharp turns and jagged edges on the bone. It clearly had been set badly, and Kopaka’s body had ever so slowly welded it back together, cementing its new position. “I may have to break and re-weld it altogether,” Jaller informed us. “It’ll be quicker than trying to melt and bend it all back into shape.” Kopaka nodded, but Gali looked a bit more worried.

“You’re sure?” she asked. “It would also be the most painful way to go about it, and we’re out of pain killers.”

“You’ve got me,” I offered. “If Kopaka’s fine with it, that is…” I looked to Kopaka, who uncharacteristically hesitated at first, but then relented. “It would help if you were asleep,” I suggested. “Less noise for me to keep track of.”

“So be it, then,” Kopaka said.

“Very well,” Gali sighed, opening up the drawer of the bedside table, and pulling out one of the bottles that Hahli and Macku had gathered the night before. “This’ll help you get to sleep,” she explained to Kopaka, “but don’t hold me accountable for the dreams.” Apparently unconcerned by the warning, Kopaka took the pill and swallowed it, then lay back and closed his eyes.

“That was quick,” Jaller noted. “Usually it takes longer with Tahu.”

“He’s not asleep,” I corrected him. “He’s waiting. Give him a few minutes.” I could still see plenty of activity in Kopaka’s brain, but it slowly started to settle down. While I waited, Gali and Jaller discussed the exact procedure lying in front of them; Gali’d stop the circulation running through the leg altogether so they could operate on it safely, after which Jaller would heat up the bone in its worst bent spot until it was hot enough to break cleanly and reset. He’d probably have to move quite a bit of metal about in the process, but once the worst break was corrected, the rest could probably be bent back into shape. After the muscle strands were re-fitted, the knee joint would have to be oiled.

“As for the ankle…” Gali sighed. “I’m afraid there’s not much we can do there without new parts.” She pointed out the ankle had probably received the worst end of the Muaka’s teeth, and that it had been broken so badly that in the process of welding the pieces back together, Kopaka’s body had completely locked up the joint. Short of a new ankle, not much could be done to fix it.

“I think he’s asleep now,” I informed her. It’d been about ten minutes, during which I’d gradually watched Kopaka’s mind settle into its resting state.

“Let’s get started, then.” Jaller picked up the mangled armor plates and used them to prop up the leg to make sure the sheets wouldn’t catch fire (apparently, that had happened with Tahu, once). He then placed his hands on the worst bent section of the bone, channeling his control of fire to gradually heat it up. Meanwhile, Gali focused her power in on the blood channels higher up the leg, stopping the flow as to dry up what little remained in the vessels further down. I closed my eyes and focused on Kopaka’s mind more clearly, ready to block out the ‘red’ signals. Already, a slow stream was pouring in as the bone was heated up to painful levels.

That incoming stream steadily grew stronger over the next fifteen minutes as Jaller heated up the leg to the point where, as Gali described, it was glowing in an orange-red color. After another minute or two, I suddenly had to block a near avalanche of pain signals; Jaller’d broken the leg in two. Now he’d clean and reshape the breaking points so he could smoothly weld everything back together at the right angle. Had Kopaka been awake, I couldn’t help but think that even he would have been screaming with the pain that was surging through the nerves in the part of the leg that was still attached, but I was keeping him insulated from it, and I was getting better at it.

Then I noticed signals beginning to flare up in a different area… they certainly weren’t pain. Was Kopaka waking up? I considered trying to block them, to try and dim the lights, so to speak, but I quickly realized that this wasn’t Kopaka’s regaining consciousness… no, he was dreaming. For a while, I considered trying to read into the signals, but I didn’t want to lose track of the ones I was actually supposed to be watching for, so I waited.

“Hey, Lis,” Gali got my attention, sounding somewhat concerned.

“Yes?” I answered.

“He’s looking a bit uncomfortable… Are you doing alright?”

“Yeah…” I looked to see if I was missing any pain signals. I could imagine Kopaka was shifting, or grimacing, or something of the kind. However, as far as I could see, he should have been perfectly fine, unless… “It’s not pain,” I informed Gali. “I think he’s dreaming… maybe it’s a nightmare. I’ll try to check it out.”

“You sure?” Gali asked.

“Yeah, hang on…” I couldn’t quite untangle the new dreaming signals from the underlying noise, so I didn’t want to try and block them, but I could try to read into them, to get a picture, a snapshot of what exactly Kopaka was experiencing. Turned out I was in for a lot more than just a snapshot.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 20

--------------------

 

I can’t see, but I can smell something… something awful, something rotten. I’m hurting real bad, too, and I can hear a voice. It’s a deep, tremendous voice, clearly from some powerful being, but I can’t distinguish what it’s saying. It’s distorted, like I’m listening to it underwater, but it still sounds threatening. A momentary flash of light blinds my eyes, then things darken again, but I can see now. Everything’s blurry, but I can make out that I’m lying on the ground. I look over slightly… now I recognize where I am! I don’t know its name, but I’ve seen this place before. It’s some kind of dark cave… I can barely distinguish some nightmarish-looking equipment. Is this some kind of lab? Scrap seems to be littered everywhere… my eyes fall on a red shape lying on the ground not far away from me. I blink again, trying to see more clearly exactly what it is. It’s… It’s Tahu!

He’s knocked out, wounded just like me. I try to get up, but I don’t have the strength. Instead, I turn my head, trying to look around and figure out what’s going on. I spot the green figure of Toa Lewa lying on the ground a bit farther away, along with Pohatu… that other, darker one must be Onua… Where’s Gali?

“Watch and see!” I hear her announce from above. I look up. Gali’s there, standing on a stone pillar, facing off against a monstrous, shadowy creature. A blue aura has formed around her, and I can see streaks of it drawing into her body. She’s starting to glow… what is she doing? She’s in mortal danger! We all are!

At last finding new strength, I get to my knees, but my body still isn’t really cooperating. The dark being raises one of its arms, revealing a long chain which suddenly ignites. It’s twirling the flaming weapon around as though it weighs nothing, threatening to bring it down on us at any moment! Gali, meanwhile, now looks as though she is turning into light; she glows so brightly as to make looking at her difficult. I finally get to my feet, but I have trouble standing up fully. Nevertheless, I raise my swords and attempt to call up a bolt of ice to deter our foe, but my power fails me… I try again, but barely manage a wisp of condensed air.

Gali is somehow floating above the ground, and her bright light is now illuminates our enemy. I can see his face; a bizarre mask that looks to have been welded together from scrap, yet it gives off an aura of great power. Bright red, demonic eyes are focused down on my fellow Toa as the demon suddenly raises his arm, then brings it down in a rapid motion, sending the end of the chain on a collision course with her. She’s mere moments from being struck down… At last, a sudden surge of power allows me to move, I run, sprint towards Gali, switching masks as I do so. Activating the new mask, I rise into the air; my momentum still drives me forward as the chain comes careening down onto my sister, who now seems utterly oblivious to what’s happening. I raise my shield, on course to interpose myself between her and the tyrant’s weapon…

CLANG!

Two links in the chain smash into my shield, deflecting the weapon away and sending me hurtling off to the other side. I almost hit the ground, but recover my senses soon enough to re-activate my mask and hover above it. My shield is dented and covered in black burn marks, but it has saved us; I put it away. Now positioned a ways to the right and behind Gali, I can see the chain has been extinguished. Power surging, I rapidly rise into the air, trying to get a clearer shot. About fifty meters up, I raise my blades, calling the elemental power of Ice, then point them down towards our enemy, who seems to be laughing and screaming at the same time in a power-crazed frenzy. Enough of that; I launch a freezing beam at his mask, rapidly creating a sheet of ice to blind him. Gali’s still gathering energy, floating in the air with her arms outstretched. Suddenly, I realize what she’s going to do…

Without warning, a bright flash emits from her; I’m blinded, but my ears all but shatter as a gargantuan explosion rips through the cave, and for a moment I swear I see a tidal wave shooting off in all directions at once… then everything goes silent. I don’t hear, see, or smell anything anymore…

------

The dream was over.

I pulled back for a moment, back into my own senses. I felt cold.

“You okay?” I hear Jaller ask.

“Yeah… I think so.” I answered, keeping my eyes closed to keep my focus on Kopaka’s mind. “He’s definitely dreaming.”

“You looked like you were gone there,” Gali said worriedly.

“How long?” I asked.

“Only a few minutes,” the Toa of Water answered. I could see some activity starting up again.

“Hang on… I think it’s starting again.”

“The dreams?” Jaller asked.

“Yeah… hold off on Kopaka for a second. I’m checking it out.”

“Be careful,” Gali advised. “You’re looking shaky already.”

“I will, don’t worry.” I turned my attention back on the dreaming part of Kopaka’s brain. Already, it looked to be building to feverish activity.

------

Ouch… my chest feels like someone just punched it really hard. Twice. I shake my head, then open my eyes. It’s a dark place, again. But there’s a dull, orange-ish light emanating from somewhere in the ceiling. This is a cave, no, a lair… and looking up I can see the inhabitant.

It has no shape, not really... a dark mass, a combination of shadow and a scrap heap, rapidly churning in the air while dark tentacles seem to erupt from it in all directions. I quickly look over my gear; somehow I only have one sword, and my shield has holes in it, but both seem to be otherwise okay. Well equipped, apparently, I move forward, ready to face our foe again. More Toa emerge from the darkness, all looking somewhat battered but otherwise okay, and ready to fight. They… they look somewhat like the Toa Nuva, but different. Their masks, their build, they bear similarities, but they seem equipped with neither the armor nor the weapons that I have seen before. Together, all of us have the dark entity surrounded.

“You are weak,” a thunderous, guttural voice seems to shout from all directions. “I could create better from nothing.” A shadowy pillar suddenly plunges down towards the ground from the bizarre aberration, splitting into six individual beams near the ground. Each beam is coalescing into a solid form… the form of a Toa! I don’t know what to make of this: within seconds, our foe has conjured up six Toa, who appear to be mirror images of all of us, except they are darker.

“We have to take them down!” the red Toa, who I’ve now decided is Tahu, orders. We all ready our weapons; the shadow Toa charge at us. I face off against one wielding a shield and sword identical to mine, wearing an Akaku. He swings first, but I easily deflect the blow with my shield. However, before I can counter, he strikes again, and then again, keeping up an avalanche of sword strikes that I can barely hold off. My darker counterpart he may be, but he appears far more reckless and aggressive than I’d dare to be.

Not far off, Tahu is struggling in a similar manner with his dark opponent, who taunts him as he attacks: “Come, give in to the flame,” it suggests in a dark, twisted version of Tahu’s own voice. “Let it consume you and all you hold dear… I know you can feel it burning deep inside.”

Suddenly, everything turns to black except for a faint red light shining down on Tahu and his opponent. For the moment, the attack on me seems to have stopped. Both Tahu and his counterpart seem frozen in position… then Tahu lowers his blade, raises his head, and closes his eyes. His shadow counterpart dives forward and… is absorbed into his chest. Seemingly knocked out, Tahu falls forward, but instead of hitting solid ground, he is swallowed by a dark sea. The red light fades, but now a dim blue light shines down in the distance above Gali facing her altered self. She stops fighting, and like Tahu absorbs her foe, then collapses into liquid ground. The light fades, but no sooner have things gone dark and a green light appears above Lewa, who does the same thing Tahu and Gali did, followed by Pohatu and Onua.

The shadowy Kopaka re-appears, looking at me just as the Kopaka I knew had done on that train, seemingly peering straight into my soul. “They do not deserve you,” he says darkly. “They do not know your honor, and they will only hold you back. Leave them. Show them how cold the ice can really be.” Everything fades to black again.

For a moment, I think the dream is over, but suddenly a bright light appears, shining down on a silver lake. Something breaks the surface… It’s Gali, slowly rising as though she’s being lifted on a platform. She looks like herself now, like Gali Nuva, but rather than regal, she looks dejected, sad, hopeless. I want to reach out, but find I have no body, no form whatsoever; I can only watch. The other Toa come rising out of the lake as well, all with their own expressions. Tahu, in particular, looks angry. Pohatu, tired. They all stop rising when their feet clear the water, and step out onto the dry shoreline, then each walk off in their own direction, away from each other and into the shadows. I move alongside Gali; now it seems like I have a body as well: I’m Kopaka Nuva again, but I am still not in control of my movement. A dark twisted version of Gali’s voice, shadow Gali’s voice, calls from behind her:

“You are nothing to them. They will not respect you, nor heed your warnings. Stop trying, Gali; you cannot save them from themselves. You are a mere drop in the ocean; weak, worthless, without purpose.” As she walks, I can see Gali’s expression change from sadness to disappointment to desperation… “No matter where you go, nothing you do will matter. So fade, Gali, fade away. There is nothing you can do.” Gali’s crying now, and she stops walking. Around her, I see fleeting images of her and the other Toa Nuva; Gali interrupting arguments between them, then arguing herself at their meetings… Onua appears in front of her; he looks frustrated and exhausted.

“No, you destroyed us,” he says bitterly.

“No…” Gali whimpers, but Onua turns and begins to walk away, then fading into the darkness. Tahu appears, then turns and walks away in the same manner, followed by the other Toa Nuva except Kopaka; me. Gali protests, then begs: “Please, please don’t go. This is not how we end!” but she can do nothing to stop them as, one by one, they all leave her behind. I want to do something, say something, to step in and show her she’s not alone, but I can’t. Defeated, destroyed, she sinks down onto the ground and sits there, head in hands, weeping. Then she turns to me: “Don’t leave, please. Not you too.” I so desperately want to help her, but I can’t do anything… I… I turn away!? I try to look back, but I can’t, I force myself to keep walking away even as my eyes well up with tears. Gali calls from behind me: “NO! DON’T GO! NOT YOU TOO! DON’T GO PLEASE! THIS IS NOT HOW WE END!” I keep forcing myself on with every step; her voice fades with distance, but the feelings linger. The temperature seems to be dropping around me as I find myself walking through snow… looking forward, I see the Ko-Wahi mountains. Soon, they are all around me.

I keep going, seeing creatures moving in the distance, but then the mountains and snow begin to fade again, and… what’s that in the distance? Still walking, I notice a figure has appeared beside me. It’s me! I mean, me, Lis! Lis… she’s talking, but I somehow can’t understand a word she is… I am saying. Suddenly, I extend my arm, shoving straight into her, and she fades in to thin air. How rude! I look forward again, the object that was distant now in plain view. It’s the couch, the couch from downstairs, and I’m looking at it from behind. It’s lit only by an elevated glowing rectangle in front of it. Gali’s sitting on it, seemingly collapsed, tired… I keep approaching, moving around the side of the couch; now I see her again… she’s huge. She looks like she does today, absentmindedly watching the screen while munching on what looks like one of Macku’s sandwiches. She turns to me; her eyes are glazed over, but when she recognizes me they suddenly become clear. I expect her to react as she did last night, when I saw her meet Kopaka again for the first time in years, but instead her face takes on the same anguished expression I remember from her breakdown.

“Why, Kopaka, why did you leave?” she says, tearing up as she does so. I don’t say anything; I want to, but I stay silent. “WHY!?” Gali continues. “You knew I needed you! You knew!” Out of the darkness behind her, Shadow Kopaka appears, apparently having taken on a Nuva form as well.

“Hello,” he greets me in that sick, twisted voice. “Remember me?” He grins as Gali looks to me, desperately, unaware of the monster behind her. I want to pull out my sword, charge, punch him, do anything, but I can’t move. “Of course you do,” the dark Toa continues as he leans down towards Gali. “I am you.” He grins, then turns to the trapped Toa of Water. “Tell him, dear.”

“You knew,” Gali says to me, trembling. “You knew you shouldn’t have left. Why did you? WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME!?” she begged. “I NEEDED YOU!” Shadow Kopaka’s eyes flash bright red as he stands up. He walks around Gali and towards me.

“Look at her now,” he says as Gali turns back to the screen and begins to blow up even more. “Did I not tell you she would only slow you down?” the dark Toa continued, “Turns out I was right; it is good that you listened to me.” He looks back down at Gali, who by now looks utterly helpless, so big that she probably can’t even stand up anymore… “Well done, Kopaka” he grins as everything except his face slowly fades away. His eyes are still staring right through me. “Very. Well. Done.”

I… I can’t take it anymore. “NO!”

------

I opened my eyes; I was standing, trembling, with sweat running down my forehead, breathing heavily. Gali and Jaller were both looking at me with stunned looks on their faces.

“Lis! What is it?” Gali asked, clearly concerned. I didn’t get a chance to answer before Kopaka awoke and bolted up into a sitting position.

“AAARRGH!”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 21

--------------------

 

Kopaka’s eyes were wide open, and I could see the flash of panic akin to that of a cornered animal. For a moment, I feared he might kick into a fight-or-flight response.

“It’s okay! It’s okay!” Gali turned to her brother, raising her hands slightly, trying to calm him down. On the other side, however, Jaller looked about to pull out his sword, and he was holding Kopaka’s detached lower right leg. In between them, I stood, still all but frozen in position as I tried to recollect myself; shaking and with what I imagine was a look of terror on my face, I definitely didn’t look good.

Luckily, Kopaka’s habit of checking himself kicked in; he looked around, still obviously unnerved, but after a few seconds his rational brain took over and his face returned to its typical, neutral expression. “I believe… I am not supposed to be awake right now,” he said, his voice still revealing a tremble.

“No, you’re not!” Jaller exclaimed, still on edge. He turned to me. “What was that!?”

“I… I saw his dream,” I stammered.

“Are you okay?” Gali asked, concerned. I looked to Kopaka, whose had mind telepathed agitation the moment I mentioned seeing his dream, then back to Gali.

“Yeah…” I reasserted myself. “Yeah, I think I’ll be okay.”

“You look like you’ve seen ghosts,” Gali noted.

“I… I think I kind of did,” I said, still with the image of the shadow Kopaka in my head.

“Excuse me,” Kopaka got our attention. He pointed at the broken-off leg that Jaller was holding. “Do you need to be in here to work on that?”

“Come to think of it, no.” Jaller answered. “Not until we put you back together.”

“And you,” Kopaka turned to Gali, “is your presence required at this time?”

“I’m stopping you from bleeding out,” Gali pointed at where the leg had been broken off, just below the knee, where an open blood channel was curiously dry. Kopaka leant forward and inspected the spot, then reached forward and covered the open channel with his hand, freezing a clump of ice over it to seal it.

“That should hold it,” he asserted. “Now, I would like to have a word alone with Lis.”

“No problem,” Jaller said curtly as he got up, then made his way around me and out of the room.

“You sure?” Gali asked.

“You know me to kid?” Kopaka said, sounding moody even by his standards.

“Okay,” Gali sighed as, with considerable effort, she got to her feet. “But call me if anything happens with that.” Kopaka nodded, after which Gali departed the room. I stood, waiting for Kopaka to say something, but he waited in silence for a good thirty seconds as the Toa of Water audibly made her way down the stairs.

“Close the door,” he finally instructed. I obliged, then returned to my position standing at the foot of the bed. Again, Kopaka paused for a moment, but already he had adopted that piercing gaze again, much to my discomfort.

“Look…” I began, “I didn’t mean to get so caught up...”

“WHAT IN KARZAHNI’S NAME MADE YOU THINK YOU HAD THE RIGHT TO DO THAT!?” Kopaka thundered at me. His forceful outburst caught me by surprise; dumbfounded, I couldn’t muster an immediate reply. “I told you certain things are to be left hidden,” he continued, “and you blatantly disregard it!”

“Gali told me to!” I blurted out. Kopaka didn’t believe me. “I mean, she said you looked uncomfortable,” I elaborated, “so I blocked out the pain just like I was supposed to, but it was those dreams that were causing you pain. I told her I’d check it out!”

“One’s dreams are meant to be private.” Kopaka contended, sounding calmer but no less agitated. “Especially so when they are influenced by mind-altering substances.”

“I know, okay? I’m sorry!” I apologized. “I didn’t mean to… to get caught up like I did.”

Kopaka’s eyes remained fixed on me. “You did not mean to,” he said sternly. “You mean to say that you were not prepared for what you saw.”

“Well, should I have been?” I asked, exasperated. “Y-You saw what I saw, right? The… the twisted monsters, the evil Toa.”

“The shadow Toa, they are ancient history now,” Kopaka dismissed. “Mere illusions, nothing important.”

“Not important?” I was staggered.

“We dealt with them,” Kopaka explained. “They are long gone, if they even existed in the first place.”

I thought for a moment. “But, they looked real… Yours claimed to still be a part of you.”

“What you saw was a drug-induced nightmare,” Kopaka reminded me. “Do not expect it to be accurate. In fact, consider it false.”

“You’re sure?” I couldn’t just believe that there was no significance to these dreams whatsoever. They had hit far too hard and close for that.

“I am,” Kopaka asserted. “Refrain from looking into my dreams again, or there will be consequences.” I couldn’t imagine what those consequences might have been, but felt inclined to believe him.

“Okay, I won’t do it again,” I agreed. “But if you think there’s no meaning behind what we saw, you’re wrong.”

“Believe what you will,” Kopaka said coldly, “but I will be awake for the rest of this procedure.”

“Fine…” I acquiesced. “I’ll tell Gali and Jaller.” I turned and headed out into the hallway. Kopaka seemed awfully eager to shut down the dreams as anything of value, but that only reinforced the notion that there really was some meaning behind them. No, I didn’t believe that they were mere drugged hallucinations; they reflected deeper feelings, exactly those that Kopaka worked so hard to suppress, and if any in particular stood out, it was guilt. Guilt about Gali, about leaving her when he was her last rope, about helping to push her over the edge. I couldn’t decide whether he was really the one responsible for it, but he had been the last to walk out of that room, the last to turn away. And the guilt proved that Tahu was right; for all his pretenses, the way he deluded himself and others, Kopaka did care, something that his darker side, shadow Toa or not, tried desperately to cover up.

I found Gali sitting on a couch in the living room with a drink and a large bowl filled with some kind of fried snack food, watching a news broadcast on the telescreen.

“Hey,” I greeted as I took the chair next to her.

“How are you doing?” she looked up, still concerned.

“Shaken a bit, to be honest.”

“He was angry, wasn’t he?” she said somberly.

“He believes I invaded his privacy by looking into those dreams,” I explained, “and yeah, he was angry about it.”

“It was necessary,” Gali reassured me. “No matter what he says, you were right to look into it, even if it was a risk.”

“Yeah…” I sighed. Both of us were quiet for a moment, but then I remembered something. “I have a question.”

“Go ahead,” Gali invited.

“Did you ever use a nova blast?” The question clearly surprised Gali.

“Nova blast?” she asked. “Well, yes… once. Why do you ask?”

“The first dream… I think I saw it,” I continued. “You were facing some kind of gigantic evil creature in a cave, a lab of some sort.”

“Makuta Icarax,” Gali said, shuddering as she remembered the name. “Stronger than Teridax, and several times more ferocious.” She paused, trying to recall more. “We were sent to retrieve a staff,” she continued, “the staff of Artakha. Icarax had stolen it, and we tracked him to Karzahni.”

“The confrontation didn’t go well, did it?”

“We were struck down, one by one,” Gali said quietly. “The nova blast… it was my last ditch option.” She sighed; this wasn’t a pleasant memory. “Sorry, but… you said you saw me do it? In Kopaka’s dream?”

“Yeah. He saw it, too,” I recalled. “He even jumped in with his shield, blocking one of the chain strikes while you were charging.”

Gali looked rather perplexed. “Chains? What chains?”

“The flaming chains,” I explained. “Icarax almost hit you while you were charging the nova blast, but Kopaka blocked him. Then he used ice to freeze over Icarax’s eyes, so he couldn’t see. You don’t remember?”

“No.” Gali shook her head. “Flaming chains? Icarax didn’t have any of those… And my brothers were all knocked out; they only knew about the nova blast when I told them afterwards.”

“Then… who did I see?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.” Gali pondered what beings she’d heard of that used flaming chains.

“He had a weird mask, too,” I elaborated, “like it was made from scrap metal, or a few masks welded together.”

Gali’s face turned bleak. “I think I know who you’re talking about.”

“Who?”

“Karzahni,” she answered. “We never faced Karzahni… not in his own realm, that is.”

“So, Kopaka was making things up?” I didn’t take him for the imaginative type.

“Could be. I mean, it was a dream, not an exact memory,” Gali reminded me.

“That’s true…” I wondered what exactly its significance was, then. How much of what I’d seen was wrong? Or was it Kopaka’s idealized version of events? Of course, it hadn’t been the only dream either… “I, uhm, I did see something else,” I continued, unsure of how to approach the second one.

“What was it?” Gali asked curiously.

“Well, it might be a bit personal,” I said, still hesitant, “but… was there ever such a thing as shadow Toa?”

“Shadow Toa?” Gali said, somewhat shocked. “Yes… but they were illusions, created by Makuta Teridax.”

“So Kopaka told me,” I continued, “but I saw them. In his second dream, that is.”

“That’s… that’s odd.” Gali’s voice had weakened in tone; clearly the shadow Toa were an uncomfortable topic for her as well. “That was ages ago, back on Mata Nui. They… they were created by the Makuta… dark versions of ourselves for us to fight.”

“How did you beat them?” I wondered.

“We… we realized that they were just mirrors… mirror versions of ourselves,” Gali said, taking a sip from her drink to steady herself. “When we accepted that, they… we absorbed them… and they were gone.”

“I saw that,” I acknowledged, “but I still saw shadow Kopaka after that… he was taunting Kopaka.”

“They did do that… all of them.”

“He was still doing it after he was absorbed, though,” I continued. “Like he was still there.”

“That’s not possible…” Gali said it but her reaction confirmed that she didn’t fully believe it. “They, they’re gone. Even the Makuta that created them no longer exists.”

I remembered hearing shadow Gali’s voice… had Kopaka’s dream been accurate in that regard? “I’m sorry, and I know this is hard, but… do you remember what your shadow Toa said to you?” I asked.

“Yes…” Gali sighed, lowering her head as she gathered her thoughts. When she looked up at me again, her expression had changed. Rather than shocked, she looked troubled, sad. “She… she said I couldn’t do anything about the other Toa,” she began, “that I couldn’t do anything at all… She told me I was worthless, that I should have given up, t-that nothing I could do… nothing would matter.” She choked and teared up as she recalled her vicious counterpart.

“It’s okay…” I reached in, trying to comfort her. “That’s… that’s all I need to know.” As far as I was concerned, that confirmed it; Kopaka’s dream had been right as far as shadow Gali was concerned, much to my dismay. We sat there for a bit as Gali recollected herself.

“Sorry…” she said, “it’s… it’s difficult. They were horrible.”

“I know.”

“Y-you said the shadow Toa… they were in his dream? All of them?”

“Yes, they were… I saw you fighting them, absorbing them… and I heard what they said.”

“I’m sorry,” Gali said, “sorry for making you go in there… You shouldn’t have had to see that.”

“It’s fine,” I assured her. “I’m sure they’re long gone. Besides, I wanted to check it out, remember?”

“That’s true… that you did.” She gave a meek smile; I did the same. After a moment, realizing the absurdity of our now shared experience, we chuckled. There was a certain relief; we’d seen bad things, but hey, we made it through, and here we were…

“You did warn him about the dreams,” I reminded her. “He was pretty shaken too.”

“True,” she smiled. “You know, I wonder…” she paused to think for a moment. “How exactly did you end up with him anyway? You seem to be the one person that can stand him.”

“Probably true,” I admitted. “I basically walked into him in Ko-Koro-Nuva… he was coming down from the mountains, he looked hurt, and I was curious, you know? I mean, he was wearing a cloak, so I couldn’t see who he was, and he looked hurt.”

“So you followed him,” Gali nodded.

“Yeah… he boarded the train north, and I didn’t really have any place to go, so… I went with him. We talked on that train, and I figured it’d be interesting to stay with him for a while, to learn something about, well… being a Toa.”

“Makes sense,” Gali agreed.

“Yeah…” I reflected. “A lot has happened the last four days. He’s told me a lot of things, too, about history and such.”

“Well, you’ve accomplished something pretty amazing, then,” Gali noted. I looked to her, wondering what she was referring to. She explained: “You’ve managed to get Kopaka to tolerate you for four days on end.” We laughed; she was right. Over the last few days, I’d seen Kopaka being grumpy and distant to just about everyone, but somehow he’d allowed me to stick around.

“Well, he did try to get rid of me once,” I remembered, “and he did make the point multiple times that I didn’t have any obligation to stay with him… but yeah, here I am.”

“Maybe he sees something in you,” Gali said, “but I don’t know what that might be.”

“Maybe…” I sighed, relaxing. “I mean, he’s kind of been teaching me, I guess…”

“Educating the future generation,” Gali remarked. “Not something I imagined him doing, but hey, maybe he just wants company after all those years alone.” We looked at each other, then burst into laughter again. Kopaka? Looking for company? Yeah right…

“What’s going on here?” Jaller appeared in the doorway, followed closely behind by Hahli.

“Gali?” Hahli looked surprised, then stepped forward, noticing the bowl on the table. “Already?” she asked. The connotation was obvious.

“Kopaka asked them to leave for a while,” I explained.

“Did he, now…” Hahli turned to Jaller, then noticed the partially re-assembled leg he was holding onto. “You’ve got his leg!?”

“I’m working on it,” Jaller said. I noticed the leg’s armor had already been largely bent back into something resembling its original shape.

“It looks better already,” I observed.

“Well, we were right,” Jaller said to Gali. “Not much we can do about the ankle, but this section is pretty much done otherwise. It goes a lot quicker when you don’t have to worry about the person it’s attached to.”

“You should remember that for the next time Tahu shows up,” I quipped, getting a chuckle from Gali and a restrained smile from Jaller.

“On a more serious note, you might want to go and re-attach it,” Hahli pointed out.

“That’s the plan,” Gali informed her.

“I’m pretty sure Kopaka is ready whenever,” I said. “He said he’d rather be awake this time, though.”

“Of course he does…” Gali mumbled as she prepared to get up.

“Awake? For this?” Jaller didn’t look all that excited about the prospect.

“Yup… that’s Kopaka.” Gali sighed after she got to her feet.

“Probably trying to prove how strong he is,” Hahli said sarcastically. Gali, Jaller, and I momentarily exchanged looks.

“Let’s go with that,” Gali said as she started around the table, grabbing a handful from the bowl along the way as Hahli and Jaller looked on disapprovingly. “Shall we?” the older Toa gestured towards the hallway.

Jaller turned and quickly made his way to the hallway and the stairs, slightly shaking his head ‘no’ as he mumbled something to himself. Gali and I followed, the former either oblivious to or ignoring the apprehensive look on Hahli’s face as the Toa Nuva waddled past.

Heading back upstairs, I thought back to the Gali I’d seen in Kopaka’s second dream… from Macku’s description and the memories I’d seen from Kopaka, it had certainly been an accurate portrayal, yet I found it scarcely believable that I’d just been talking to, joking, and bonding with that same Toa. Gali seemed all at once lively, enthusiastic, concerned about her brother… not at all the depressed, apathetic shell of her former self that Macku had described and the vision had showed. Was it all a shallow façade, or was her confidence just shattered so easily that she inevitably collapsed back into that downward spiral the moment her services weren’t needed anymore? And if that was the case, what would happen after we fixed Kopaka’s leg? He clearly wanted to leave, and with his leg put back together, he totally could, possibly taking Gali’s one reason to come alive with him. I noticed that, by the time we reached the room, Gali’s mood had fallen considerably as well; it had become tainted, once again, with a nervous edge, and it wasn’t just about the surgery…

Was she thinking the same thing I was?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 22

--------------------

“Good news!” Jaller announced as he entered the room ahead of Gali and me. I was wondering where the sudden rush of euphoria had come from, but he answered my question before I could ask it; “This is ready to be re-attached,” he continued, holding up Kopaka’s severed leg, “and it’s not even nine o’clock yet!” Gali and I entered the room.

“How are you feeling?” Gali asked the Toa of Ice, who’d apparently been waiting patiently for us to return.

“Fine.” I rolled my eyes at Kopaka’s usual answer.

“Unfortunately, it looks like your ankle won’t be working again,” Jaller continued his presentation, “but other than that, this is as good as new.” Comically enthusiastic he may have been, but I couldn’t say the leg looked ‘good as new.’ Functional, yes, but it was also abundantly clear that Jaller really wanted to get this over with in good time.

“You’re sure you want to be awake for this?” Gali asked. “It will be painful.”

“I can’t do much about pain signals when you’re awake,” I added. “Too much noise.”

“I will manage,” Kopaka said calmly. He’d probably been mentally preparing himself already, knowing his penchant for planning ahead.

“Okay then, let’s begin.” Jaller said as he positioned himself at the foot of the bed, motioning for me to step aside. Gali sat down on the chair beside the bed and focused in on the blood channels leading down to the point where Kopaka’s leg was severed.

“I’ve got the blood flow stopped,” she informed us.

“Wonderful.” Jaller reached and put his hand against the chunk of ice covering the end of the blood channel. Adding heat, he melted it in a matter of seconds, but thanks to Gali no blood came rushing out. Jaller looked up to Kopaka. “Ready?” he asked. The Toa of Ice nodded, to which Jaller placed his hands on the exposed bone on both the attached and severed parts of Kopaka’s leg, channeling heat to bring them up to welding temperature.

Kopaka remained stoic at first, blocking out or managing the pain as best he could, but as Jaller got to the point where things began to glow red, signs of stress began to show on the old Toa’s face. He clenched his teeth, closed his eyes, and at one point grimaced for a moment before reasserting his expression again. Gali looked on with concern; I tried to focus in on Kopaka’s mind to help block out some of the pain, but it was such a jumble of activity that I found it hard to get anywhere. Nevertheless, I kept trying, but this time I kept my eyes open to avoid getting caught up in his thoughts again.

“Almost there,” Jaller said after he’d been heating things for about ten minutes. In spite of my help, I could tell Kopaka was in pain that I personally would have considered unbearable, and even he couldn’t conceal that as every muscle in his body contracted; his way of blocking out the opportunity for any reflex to kick in and pull his leg ‘out of the fire. “Okay, this should be hot enough,” Jaller decided. The edges of the broken bone gave off a bright yellow, almost white light. “Gali, can you hold down his leg?” Jaller asked, motioning towards Kopaka’s right thigh. “This’ll hurt, but I can’t afford him moving while I do it.”

“Of course.” Gali got up and placed her hands on top of Kopaka’s thigh, then leant forward, pressing down a considerable weight on the leg and effectively holding it in place with a vice grip.

“Ready?” Jaller asked. Gali and Kopaka both nodded ‘yes,’ though Kopaka did so with significant difficulty. Jaller lined up the lower leg with what bone was still attached to the knee. Satisfied with the alignment, he counted down: “3… 2… 1…” and shoved leg forward when he reached his unspoken ‘0.’ He pushed hard, forcing the two hot ends of the bone together to start the melding process. Kopaka grimaced and let out a forced grunt, keeping himself from howling out in pain as his body jerked in response to the thunderbolt of pain signals shooting up his leg. With Gali holding it down, however, he couldn’t move it, even as Jaller kept pushing to meld the metal further. Once he was satisfied with that, the Toa of Fire began squeezing the joint to complete the weld… after about a minute of shoving, prodding, shaping, and periodically checking the alignment, he seemed satisfied.

“Gali, water. Now!” he ordered. Gali obliged, moving one of her hands to above the still glowing joint and creating a bubble of water to envelop it whole. With a loud hissing sound, the bubble evaporated, but Gali continued to replenish it, rapidly cooling the metal down. Within seconds, it had cooled to where it had stopped glowing. Gali recalled her bubble as Jaller inspected the weld. The metal was still hot and discolored, and the bone’s surface was somewhat uneven. It looked strong, however, and above all, straight. Jaller put Kopaka’s legs together, checking the length. They appeared to be exactly even.

“Well, I think that’s just about perfect,” he declared.

“You feel it?” Gali asked Kopaka, who was no longer having to concentrate all his efforts on not giving in to the pain. I’d drawn back as well, my presence in Kopaka’s mind no longer necessary.

“Yes,” he answered, looking down at the reattached leg.

“Good.” Gali stepped back. “Blood should be flowing into it now,” she assured him.

“It’s still cooling down,” Jaller advised, “but it should be good for the rest of you to touch pretty soon.” We waited a minute while he kept a close eye on the weld, watching for any cracks or imperfections, but nothing bad happened.

“Keep an eye on it; I’ll go get some oil for that knee.” He stood up and headed downstairs while Gali and I watched to make sure there were no leaks anywhere along the bone or in the foot. After a minute or two of nothing happening, Gali declared the re-attachment a success. Kopaka wasn’t one for celebrating, so she and started fiting the loose muscle strands over the core structure, carefully aligning them to match Kopaka’s other, undamaged leg.

“It may be a little while before everything is fully reconnected, but all of these should still work, and they’ll get better over time,” she explained, referring to the dark, dried-up muscle strands. Jaller soon returned with a squeeze bottle with oil in it.

“About that knee,” he pointed at Kopaka’s right knee. “It’s going to need a few drops of this.”

“I will take care of it.” Having recovered from the agonizing experience of getting his leg re-attached, Kopaka sat up and took the oil from Jaller, then proceeded to apply it to his knee by squeezing drops of oil onto the seams of the joint and then allowing it to slowly sink in. Jaller leant down to inspect the weld one last time; it had now cooled down, and was still clean of the imperfections he’d worried about.

“Okay, then…” he yawned. “I’ve got an early guard review for tomorrow, so unless you need me to weld something else shut I’d like to call it a night.”

“This should be all,” Gali said, though she didn’t sound particularly excited about it.

“Great.” Jaller said. “Goodnight then.”

“’night,” Gali said without looking up. Kopaka nodded, I said “goodnight,” and with that, Jaller headed off to one of the other bedrooms. Things were silent for a while after that; I watched as Gali meticulously aligned the muscle strands to provide as much strength as possible, while Kopaka patiently re-lubricated his knee.

“So, how long are you staying?” Gali eventually broke the silence.

“Staying?” Kopaka didn’t look up.

“A couple of days, maybe, just to recover,” the Toa of Water suggested. “I mean, your leg will be good after this, and we fixed your heart and lungs, but… you know, there’s a few other things I could take a look at.” I couldn’t help but notice that she sounded a bit nervous.

“No,” Kopaka said, much to Gali’s disappointment. “I will leave when this is done.”

“So soon?” Gali asked. “Why do you need to go so badly?”

“It is easier to travel unseen at night,” Kopaka explained. “I would rather not reveal my presence to the world. The attention is only a hindrance.”

“Oh… of course.” Gali sighed, then continued working the leg. A minute or so later, she broke the silence again. “You’re sure?” She asked. “I mean, I really should take a look at your spine, too. I noticed there was a nick in one of the links.”

“Dangerous?” Kopaka asked.

“No…” Gali admitted, “but it could start to hurt. You don’t want that, right?”

“I will manage,” Kopaka answered. Again, there was silence for a while. Then Gali tried again.

“What about your chest? Did Jaller connect all the muscles properly?”

“No.”

“Well, at least let me take a look in there, then,” Gali suggested. “I mean, I’d like to wait and watch this for a while anyways,” she looked the leg, now with all muscle strands properly re-attached, “just to make sure they’re getting blood. Can I?”

“Do what you must,” Kopaka said, clearly growing annoyed with Gali delaying his departure. After setting the oil aside, he reached for the sides of his chest plate and unscrewed the bolts that held it in place. It didn’t take long to remove the piece of armor, but Gali was clearly shocked by the mess that was revealed underneath.

“He just tied them up like that!?” She exclaimed.

“It was temporary,” Kopaka defended Jaller.

“Well, good thing you’ve got me to fix it up properly, then.” Gali said. “Lie down.” Kopaka did so, after which Gali proceeded to untie and untangle the muscles. “Really,” she said, “these things would have died if you’d left them like this.” Kopaka didn’t respond, preferring to wait silently while Gali properly reconnected everything to brackets around his heartlight. It really was a tangled mess, and the fact that Kopaka had used them while they were tied up like this had only made the knots tighter. I helped out for a while.

“There,” Gali said, a good half hour later, satisfied but dismayed at the same time. “That’s how it’s supposed to be.” Kopaka moved his arms back and forth, testing the range of motion. It appeared that everything was now functioning properly, so he reached for his chest plate to re-attach it while Gali turned her attention back to his leg. “This is looking good so far,” she informed him, though again there was a sadder tone to her voice than I expected. “I think… I think I can finish it up.”

“At last.” Kopaka mumbled under his breath. Gali didn’t respond.

“Lis, would you hand me that, please?” she asked, pointing at the repaired shin guard that Jaller’d left lying on the table beside me.

“Sure.” I handed it to the Toa of Water, who proceeded to line it up with its attachment points just below the knee and above the ankle.

“You know, if you have time, I’m sure we can find the parts to fix your ankle, too,” she pointed out. “I mean, right now your foot’s kind of fixed in place…”

“I already said I am not staying,” Kopaka replied.

“Right… I guess it’ll be fine.” Gali knew the ankle would, at best, be a minor problem, but I could tell she was scrambling for some valid reason to keep Kopaka around for longer. She really didn’t want him to leave… “Where are you going, anyways?” she asked.

“Back to where I was.”

“The mountains?” she sounded concerned. Kopaka nodded. “After everything that happened up there, after all this, you want to go back?” Gali didn’t get it. “For what? What do you do up there?”

“Astronomy.”

“Charting stars?”

“Yes.”

“But… you could do that here,” Gali argued. “The knowledge towers have telescopes, really good ones, and I’m certain they would let you use them. You could even show the Matoran everything you have found out.”

“No.”

“Why not?” Gali continued. “I mean, you could stay around here instead of going back into those dangerous mountains, you’d have better equipment to work with… I’m sure they’ll let you work alone, if you prefer.”

“They would not.” Kopaka seemed pretty certain about that, and he was finding Gali’s continuing questions very annoying to deal with.

“But what if you get hurt out there again?” Gali asked, increasingly worried. By now, she’d stopped working on the leg and was arguing with Kopaka directly. “I mean, we’ve fixed you up for now, but I guarantee sooner or later something else will fail, and you probably won’t be able to make your way back again. What then, brother? What happens then?”

“Then I do not return,” Kopaka said coldly.

“You would die up there…” Gali stammered, “and you’re okay with that?” No reply. “I’m telling you, we can stop this right now. Stay, stay here with me, with us,” she pleaded, now frantic as her brother’s suicidal plan dawned on her. Kopaka didn’t respond, but I could tell his expression was darkening. “You and I are all that is left,” Gali continued. “Lewa, Onua… they’re gone. Tahu and Pohatu aren’t themselves anymore. It’s just you and me… Kopaka, we’re the last ones, the last of the Toa Nuva! You can’t walk away again, not to where you’re planning to go!” She stopped and waited, hoping Kopaka would say something. He remained silent, but his eyes shot daggers. His patience had run out. Gali tried one last time: “I know you don’t like it, but believe me… believe me when I can say you can’t take care of yourself out there.”

“That may be…” Kopaka replied at last, “…but in that I am not alone.”

“What…” Gali’s eyes were wide open. Kopaka’s anger spiked.

“Look at yourself!” he scolded her. “You argue that I cannot take care of myself when you can barely stand under the weight of your own failing! Were it not for your mask, I would not have recognized you!” Gali shrunk back… “I remember who my sister was, and this travesty, this mockery of a Toa,” Kopaka gestured at Gali’s body, “this isn’t her. The sister I knew is gone, and you’re all that’s left! How dare you call yourself one of the Toa Nuva!?” Gali was beyond shocked… she looked terrified. I’d seen all I needed, and more than I wanted to.

“That’s enough!” I stepped forward and tried to interfere, but Kopaka wouldn’t listen.

“How did you let yourself go like this!?” he continued. “Do you think that, just because we fulfilled our destiny, we can afford to rest on our laurels!? I still have a duty, Gali, and I will not abandon it for your satisfaction!” He stood up beside the bed, now towering over Gali, using the cane to support himself. “You are wrong,” he said cruelly, looking down on the speechless Toa of Water. “There are no two Toa Nuva left. There is but one: me.”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” I positioned myself between Kopaka and Gali, who by this point had been reduced to tears. She didn’t even try argue back… instead, she just retreated… retreated into an inner shell, cocooned away from the vicious attacks of her brother. “She saved your life!” I angrily reminded Kopaka. “She fixed your heart and stayed up all night afterwards to watch over you. She fixed your stupid leg! And what do you do!? You berate her for it!” Kopaka glared down at me, but refrained from saying anything. “You know it’s true, I’ve seen it!” I continued. “If there’s one Toa Nuva left, it’s not you! It’s her, and she deserves far better than you for a brother! You should be thanking her on your knees, not destroying what little of her is left!” I paused for a moment and took a deep breath, trying to keep calm. “If you’ve got any honor, you’ll apologize to her,” I ordered, “and you’ll apologize right now.”

“Impossible,” Kopaka said through clenched teeth, clearly restraining himself. I wanted him, oh so desperately wanted him to apologize, but he blew it.

“Don’t give me that, ! I saw you, parts of you that you so stupidly deny.” I recalled Kopaka’s second dream. “I know that somewhere in there you care, and that you feel guilty for everything you’ve done! It’s eating away at you, and you just don’t let yourself admit it.” I really needed Kopaka to show some humanity for once; I knew it was in there. “Apologize to her, if only to ease your own conscience,” I begged of him.

“I have nothing to apologize for or to.”

“You’re kidding.” I was in disbelief, but as I turned and looked at Gali I was surprised to find that she’d gone, vanished in the heat of the argument. “Where… where’d she go?”

“Irrelevant,” Kopaka said as he sat down on the edge of the bed and finished fixing the shin guard onto his leg.

“You know, I thought, just for a while there, that you actually had a shred of humanity left in you,” I said, exasperated. “But… I don’t know whether that shadow Kopaka really exists or not, but he’s clearly got a hold on you.”

“He doesn’t exist…” Kopaka proceeded to argue, but he was cut off by the appearance of a furious Hahli in the doorway.

“WHAT DID YOU TELL HER!?” she demanded, marching up to Kopaka. “What in Mata Nui’s name did you say to her!?”

“I told her the truth,” Kopaka said coldly.

“You monster!” Hahli slapped Kopaka square in the face so hard that for a moment I thought she’d knocked his mask off. “You promised me! You promised you wouldn’t bring it up!”

Incensed, Kopaka rose to his feet. The temperature in the room instantly dropped something like ten degrees. “She would not listen,” he seethed, “and I swear that if you hit me again I will leave you a frozen doll without a second thought.” I tried to get in between them, to put some distance between them, but with them standing face-to-face between the bed and the wall, I couldn’t get in.

“Hey, that’s enough!” I called out, but neither Toa was paying attention.

“Oh, you wanna go!?” Hahli challenged Kopaka. “’cause I’ll fight! I’ll fight to protect her from you.”

“Do not fool yourself into thinking that you stand a chance!” Kopaka threatened. “You are even worse than Gali! She may have let herself fall, but you jumped voluntarily!”

“TAKE THAT BACK!” Hahli took a step back but stood in a combat ready position, with a blueish energy already forming around her hands. “Or I will blast you out, through that wall and into the street!”

“Try me,” Kopaka narrowed his eyes and braced himself.

“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” a voice thundered from the doorway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 23

--------------------

 

A bright orange flash startled all of us. We quickly turned to find Jaller standing in the doorway, holding a flaming sword out in front of him.

“There will be no fighting in here!” he ordered, looking around the room, taking in the sight of two Toa standing battle-ready while I’d moved back after unsuccessfully trying to interfere. It took a moment, but eventually both Kopaka and Hahli stood down. “Good.” Jaller extinguished his sword and stepped forward. “Move aside,” he ordered Hahli, who obliged. Now Jaller stood face to face with the Toa of Ice. “By tomorrow morning, the Turaga, the guard, and every living being in this city will know you are here,” he threatened, “and I guarantee they will come looking for you. You have until then to get out of my city.”

“I was planning on leaving anyway,” Kopaka said coldly.

“News travels faster than trains,” Jaller asserted. “By the time you reach Onu-Koro-Nuva, crowds will have swarmed the stations to meet you.” That revelation clearly shocked Kopaka. For a few seconds, he stood silently, glaring at Jaller as if he was attempting to stare him down, but the captain of the guard wouldn’t back off.

At last, the Toa of Ice replied: “You will do no such thing.” It wasn’t a threat, nor an argument; Kopaka merely stated what, to him, was fact. Or was he just hoping it was?

“Try me,” was Jaller’s resolute reply.

“So be it.” Kopaka stepped forward, maneuvering himself around Jaller and towards the door. He maintained his stoic appearance, but underneath I could tell he was deeply worried. Jaller wasn’t the type not to follow up on his promises, and this capitulation could only mean that Kopaka saw no option but to take his chances out there. The first step in improving those chances as much as possible lay in leaving without delay. Jaller, Hahli, and I followed behind him as he left the room and made his way downstairs, where we found Macku and Hewkii in the hallway.

“Kopaka?” Macku quickly stepped forward, an anxious look on her face. “Gali just went downstairs, and she didn't look good... What’s going on?” The Toa of Ice marched past her without answering, followed closely by Jaller.

“He said it,” Hahli curtly informed the Matoran as she, too, passed by her.

“Said what…” the realization came over Macku before she finished the question. “Oh no…”

“Don’t worry, he’s leaving,” Jaller announced as Kopaka reached the front door. “And he won’t be back.”

“Whoa, hold on a minute!” Hewkii stepped forward. “What exactly did he say?”

“The full rant, I’m sure,” Hahli replied.

“The full rant? As in, Tahu-style?” Hewkii questioned. He looked to Kopaka, then back to Hahli.

“Worse.” Hahli glared at the Toa of Ice as he opened the door.

“I told her the truth.” Kopaka grumbled, looking back over his shoulder at the Toa of Water.

“You promised me you’d keep your mouth shut!” she snapped back.

“It was for the better,” Kopaka defended himself.

“Insulting her into saving herself!?” Hahli's question was accompanied by wild arm gestures. “He already tried that!” She pointed towards Jaller.

“...and so did Tahu,” the latter added.

“Exactly!” Hahli continued. “Tell me, is she any better off for it!? I don't think so!”

“Then she is beyond saving,” Kopaka said grimly as he turned away again.

“NO she isn't!” Hahli blurted out.

“Okay, Okay!” Hewkii stepped in again, interposing himself between the other Toa. “Can we keep it sown a bit, please?” The air was tense, but he had everyone's attention, even Kopaka's. “Now what exactly is going to happen here?” he asked Jaller.

“We’re going to spread the word,” the Toa of Fire replied. “Kopaka is back. Then we’ll see how long it takes half this planet to find him.” Kopaka was giving him a death stare, but Jaller glared back; “I’m sure their attention will be sufficient punishment for a broken promise.”

“You wish.” Hahli stood with her arms crossed.

“It is,” Jaller confirmed.

“Look, I don’t doubt it, but… can I speak to you two for a second?” Hewkii requested.

“Fine,” Hahli shrugged. Jaller offered no objections.

“Great.” Hewkii turned to Kopaka. “Just... wait a moment, okay?” Kopaka nodded.

“Make it quick,” Jaller moaned as he reluctantly accompanied Hewkii and Hahli to the living room. I looked to Kopaka, who remained standing in the doorway, looking past me down the hall as though he was expecting someone. To my surprise, Macku appeared from downstairs, carrying Kopaka’s cloak. Between the chaos and arguing, I hadn't even seen her leave.

“You’ll need this,” she said curtly as she handed him the garment, which he quickly put on. “Just so you know,” the Ga-Matoran continued, “she won’t help you again.”

“I will not need her help again,” Kopaka assured her.

“Well, even if you did, she won’t be able to provide it anymore,” Macku continued. “You were the last straw; she’s lost for good. I hope you’re proud of yourself.”

“She was long lost already,” Kopaka asserted, “thanks to you and Hahli.”

“I disagree, but I guess that doesn't matter to you.” Macku sighed. “I will say this: at least we tried.” Tearing up, she turned and quickly headed back down the hall and up the stairs.

“You know, they really did,” I informed him. “They've been trying for years to pull her out of her depression.”

“Without much success,” Kopaka concluded.

“It would do you well to judge based on effort every once in a while, not just results. You might just learn something.”

“Nothing that matters to me.” Now he was glaring at me, too. I wanted to remind him that, if I'd judged him based solely on his success in fixing himself, or his social skills, I wouldn't think very highly of him either, but at that would have implied I thought highly of him in the first place, so I held off. We waited another minute or two. Kopaka periodically turned and looked up and down the dark, quiet street outside; I feared he would just decide to walk away now, but something kept him turning back, awaiting the other Toa's return. It wasn't long before they did.

“You know, you could close the door,” Hahli pointed out. “It's getting cold in here.” Her suggestion elicited exactly zero response from Kopaka, which given his fondness for the cold wasn't surprising.

“Okay, there's been a change of plans,” Jaller informed him, though he didn't sound all that excited about it. “You can leave, and we won't tell anyone you were here.”

“Good.” Kopaka didn't show it, but I could tell that inside, he was breathing a huge sigh of relief.

“...on one condition.” Hewkii stepped forward. “You're coming with me.”

“To what end?” Kopaka asked coldly.

“There's someone I need you to meet.”

“Someone I can trust, I take it?”

“Don't worry about that,” Hewkii dismissed his concern. “Even if he told anyone, they wouldn't believe him.” With a heavy sigh, Kopaka agreed to the terms.

“Fine,” he grumbled as he stepped aside.

Hewkii turned to Hahli: “I probably won't be back for a few hours. Tell Macku not to wait up.” With that, he headed out the door. Kopaka followed, closing the door behind him. Jaller sighed.

“You know I don't agree with this,” Hahli pointed out.

“Hahli, it's late, I'm tired, and I have to be up early. No arguments, not now, not after you already agreed.” Jaller rubbed his eyes.

“Uhm, excuse me?” I got their attention. “Who are they going to see?”

“An old fried of Kopaka's,” Hahli said. In spite of her disagreement with the plan, there was a hint of satisfaction in her voice.

“Kopaka has friends?” I wasn't sure that was possible after what had happened this evening.

“One friend,” Jaller informed me. “Ever heard of Pohatu?”

“The Toa Nuva of Stone? Yeah, I've heard of him.” Heard of him? I'd seen him, straight from Kopaka's memory.

“He is the only friend Kopaka's ever had, at least as far as Kopaka's concerned,” Jaller continued. “He lives on the outskirts of the city. That's where they're going.”

“Oh...”

“You're welcome to stay here, if you'd like,” Hahli offered.

“You handle that,” Jaller told her. “I'm going back to bed.”

“'night, Jaller.” Hahli turned and placed her hand on his shoulder for a moment. “Good luck tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled as he proceeded down the hallway, then up the stairs.

“Anyways, like I said, you're welcome to stay,” Hahli turned her attention back to me.

“Thanks, but... I think I might actually like to see Kopaka meeting Pohatu again,” I decided.

“Don't get too attached to him,” Hahli warned. “He'll drop you like he has everyone else first chance he gets.”

“Maybe he will,” I conceded, “but I'd like to see how he does it.”

Hahli smiled and extended her hand, which I shook. “Good luck then, Lis,” she said. “Do stop by again sometime.”

“I will,” I assured her before heading out into the cool night air. Hahli stood in the doorway and waved; I returned the gesture when I reached the street. Looking west, into the city, I could see the silhouettes of Hewkii and Kopaka. I had to run to catch up to them, but it didn't take me long.

“Hi,” I greeted when I reached them.

“Lis.” Hewkii nodded and acknowledged my presence, but Kopaka made no such gesture. No one really seemed in the talking mood, so I kept quiet as we made our way deeper into the city. Five minutes and a few turns later, we reached a set of stairs going down into a tunnel from the side of the street, which Hewkii entered. We followed, and soon found ourselves standing in an underground room of some kind; I'd never seen anything like it. A booth in the wall at the opposite end of the room gave some clue to its identity: apparently, this was part of an underground train station.

“Three tickets to Station West,” Hewkii requested at the booth. Its inhabitant, an Onu-Matoran with a distinctly dour expression, obliged, producing three tickets and writing “Station West” on them.

“Six widgets,” he said in a tired monotone. Hewkii placed a ten-widget piece on the counter.

“Keep the change,” he told the Onu-Matoran. We turned and left the room through a set of double doors on our right. “Underground rail line,” Hewkii informed us as we stepped onto a platform. “High-tech, electrical. Just completed. Makes crossing the city a lot easier.” I looked up and down the platform; on both sides, the track vanished into a barely lit tunnel. Hewkii found a small bench to sit on, while Kopaka remained standing close to the edge of the platform, waiting for the train to arrive. About fifteen minutes passed before a loud, rumbling noise heralded the arrival of the metal carriage. After it stopped and opened its doors, one tired-looking Agori disembarked; upon boarding, we were the only people in any of the three carriages besides the driver.

The train followed a vaguely circular track, stopping at two other stations before it reached Station West. The clock was closing in on eleven by the time we disembarked. Station West much resembled the one we'd embarked from in its layout, but whereas the latter had been relatively clean, this station's platform was quite dirty. Bits of trash littered the ground, and a large, crude painting of a Glatorian decorated one of the walls. Kopaka said nothing as usual, but this place did nothing to lift his spirits. I noticed that, as we crossed the platform to the exit, he seemed to plot a path around the dirtiest spots.

Emerging above ground, I found it hard to believe that we were still in the same city, such was the contrast between this neighborhood and the clean, well-kept, modern one that we'd left. These were the slums, the part of New Atero that most other people didn't get to see and didn't want to think about. Trash was piled up in the streets. The old, brick buildings had clearly been patched up numerous times, but that did nothing to conceal their dilapidated state. If Kopaka'd found the station bothersome, this place had to drive him close to panic. Nevertheless, he continued to quietly follow Hewkii as the Toa of Stone led us off the wide street and through a series of confusingly winding back alleys. Here, out of sight and away from the road, few of the houses, if they even deserved that status, had windows or even curtains, and I caught glimpses of several inhabitants as we passed by. We soon reached a slightly wider road again, where Hewkii stopped us in front of one particular house. A single-floor structure, it was somewhat larger than most of the others, but was in no better a state. A wooden crate filled with empty bottles was sitting beside the door.

“He lives here,” Hewkii told Kopaka.

“Who?” the Toa of Ice demanded.

“You'll see,” Hewkii said dejectedly as he stepped aside. Kopaka sighed, then stepped forward and knocked on the door. Getting no response, he looked back to Hewkii, who'd taken up a position leaning against the wall.

“He probably won't open,” he said. “Just go in.” Kopaka hesitated for a moment, then cracked open the door. The sound of a telescreen broadcast emanated from inside.

“Aren't you going in?” I asked Hewkii, who made no motion to follow as Kopaka entered.

“I'll wait out here,” he answered. “I don't like to go in there much. Not anymore.”

“Okay...” I nodded, somewhat concerned by Hewkii's apparent worry. If he didn't like to come here anymore, what purpose did bringing Kopaka serve? I made my way inside, almost walking straight into Kopaka in the process; the Toa of Ice had stopped barely clear of the doorway.

“Is he in here?” I asked as I maneuvered next to him. Kopaka didn't answer, his eyes were fixed on something across the room. A tiny telescreen, positioned about 30 feet away from us and facing the entrance, provided the only light in the room, courtesy of yet another late-night drama. Facing it was an old, reclining armchair, containing the slumped-over figure of a Toa.

I looked back towards Kopaka; I could tell he'd realized who he was in to meet the moment he'd entered his place. He took a deep breath, then stepped forward, making his way across the empty room. I stayed near the door and watched.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 24

--------------------

 

Kopaka crossed the room slowly with his eyes fixed on the figure in the chair. The whole scene reminded me much of how he’d approached Gali, but this time he didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop or wait to be noticed.

“Brother?” he greeted in a low, subdued tone. He got no response at first, but just as he was about to move around the chair, Pohatu raised his fist.

“ bunch of morons!” he yelled, referring to the scene on the telescreen, in which two of the characters were watching and commenting on a Kolhii game. “Ain’t any of you *hic* ever held a kolhii stick before!?”

Kopaka halted for a moment at Pohatu’s sudden outburst, but quickly reasserted himself. “Brother,” he said more forcefully as he stepped forward again, entering Pohatu’s view.

“Whoa! What... Who are you!?” the Toa of Stone exclaimed. Kopaka’s eyes widened as they fell upon him.

“I am Kopaka, your brother…” The Toa of Ice’s voice faltered. He looked Pohatu up and down.

“Brother!? Ha!...” Pohatu took a drink from the bottle in his other hand. “I have no brothers…” he said, chuckling as though that was somehow amusing. I noticed that, when he wasn’t shouting, his words were slurred. That bottle likely wasn’t his first for the night. Then, all of a sudden, his drunken abandon turned back to anger. “Get out of my house!” he yelled.

Kopaka stood, shocked, neither responding nor retreating; for the first time since I’d met him, he appeared to have no idea on how to proceed. Curious, I made my way across the room, almost tripping over an empty bottle lying in the darkness on the floor. Pohatu turned and locked eyes on me.

“Th…there’s more of you!? Whaddaya want!? I won’t buy anything, I’ll tell ya right now! Scram! Get lost!” Exaggerated, uncoordinated hand gestures accompanied his drunken tirade. He took another drink. Now standing next to Kopaka, I, too, was astonished to see the state Pohatu was in. He looked dirty, haggard, and was wearing little to no armor whatsoever. His eyes were hazy, his movements clumsy. After gulping down several mouthfuls, he was dismayed to find his bottle empty. “Aw… !” he cursed at it as though that might convince it to fill itself again. The bottle offered no response, so he turned his attention back to us. “I told you to s to get lost!” he shouted as he raised the bottle over his head, then hurled it at me. His aim wasn’t much good, and rather than striking me the bottle went careening into the wall, where it shattered. “Ugh…” Pohatu looked off to where he thought he’d sent the bottle. I took a step back and looked to Kopaka to do something, anything. However, he stood as if rooted, utterly perplexed by Pohatu’s behavior. This was nothing like the Toa either of us remembered.

Pohatu half-heartedly threw up his hands, sank back into his chair, and resumed watching the broadcast as though we weren’t there. Recovering at last, Kopaka stepped forward and tried again: “Do you remember me, brother?” he asked earnestly.

“Whoa!” Pohatu reacted as though we’d completely vanished and reappeared again. “Who’s there!?” he looked back and forth between me and Kopaka. “Wait…. d-didn’t I tell you two to beat it!?”

“We’re not here to sell you anything,” I attempted to pacify him.

“Go to Karzahni,” Pohatu scoffed at me, then looked back to Kopaka. For a moment, he seemed to try and focus in on the Toa of Ice, then his expression mellowed somewhat. “You,” he gestured, “d-don’t I know you from somewhere?”

“I believe that you do,” Kopaka said.

“I knew…” Pohatu’s sentence was cut short by a loud belch. “I-I knew a guy who looked just like you,” he smirked. “A T-Toa,” he continued. “A - *hic*- a prick he was, too… would’a made a Makuta look nice!” he laughed, but the laughter quickly descended into a harsh coughing fit. Kopaka retreated somewhat as Pohatu hacked up some kind of mucoid substance, which he re-swallowed afterwards. The Toa of Stone leant back, staring up at the ceiling in drunken satisfaction. “…that left years ago…” He remained silent for a few seconds, then gestured at Kopaka: “Y-you should go find him… he’d love your company.”

“Who?” Kopaka asked. His voice had taken on a distinctly cooler tone.

“Ah…” Pohatu contorted his face as though in deep thought. “Meh… I don’t remember the name.”

“Was it Kopaka?” the Toa of Ice asked.

“Kopaka! Yes, Kopaka!” Pohatu blurted out. “That was him! Hehehe….”

“I know Kopaka.”

“You do, huh?” Pohatu leant forward and locked eyes with Kopaka, though he appeared to have a hard time focusing. He looked him up and down. “Nah!” he eventually concluded. “The guy’s stone dead, I’m sure.” He laughed again, but his jovial mood quickly seemed to drop. “You… you wanna know the worst part?” he slurred.

“Do tell,” Kopaka said coldly.

“I - *hic* - I never told him… never told him how much of an he was!” Pohatu laughed out loud. Kopaka assumed a scornful gaze, clearly not amused by his brother’s delirium. Pohatu took no notice as he turned and rummaged around the ground behind the chair, producing a fresh bottle of what looked like a rather stiff drink. After some uncoordinated picking at the cork, he managed to open it and take a few swigs. Indignant, Kopaka turned and walked back across the room and out the door, kicking a bottle aside along the way. I turned to follow, but Pohatu gestured at me. “You… *hic*… You look nice... I swear, if we were meatos…” Pohatu’s voice trailed off us he looked me up and down, making me feel profoundly uncomfortable. I quickly followed Kopaka as Pohatu took to his bottle again.

“Why am I here?” Kopaka curtly asked Hewkii, who’d been waiting outside.

“I figured you should see what you left behind,” the latter replied. “All of it.”

“That is not Pohatu!” Kopaka pointed inside.

“Maybe not,” Hewkii admitted, “but it is what’s left of him.”

“Your point?”

Toa of Stone sighed. “I stop by here every few days… to take care of him, you know? Half the time, he doesn’t remember who I am, yet he always asks for you. Any idea why?”

“He does not recognize me now,” Kopaka informed him. “How does he ask for me?”

“He does whenever he’s not… not this far gone,” Hewkii said. “I figure he thinks you can help him somehow, when he’s actually thinking. I’ve asked him why he needs to see you, but he won’t tell me. So… maybe you know something I don’t.” Kopaka waited for a moment, then turned and walked back inside past me. He staunchly marched up and positioned himself between Pohatu and the telescreen.

“Hey, I wanna see that!” the Toa of Stone protested, but Kopaka wouldn’t move.

“I am Kopaka,” he said curtly. “Your brother. You asked for me. Why?”

“Kopaka?... who’s Kopaka?” Pohatu gave him a blank stare.

“You know who I am,” Kopaka continued. “You just told those two people, remember?”

“I don’t know any two people…” Pohatu smiled. “No one comes here!” He laughed himself into a coughing fit again. Kopaka waited until he was done.

“You believed they were here to sell you things,” he continued. “You told one of them they looked like Kopaka. Like me.”

“No, no I didn’t!” Pohatu said with a manic grin on his face.

“Yes, you did!” Kopaka’s patience was wearing thin.

“Whatever… I don’t remember…” Pohatu sank back into his chair, but the sound of an explosion from the telescreen immediately jolted him upright again. “Move, move! I want to see this!” He waved his hand, gesturing for Kopaka to step aside. He didn’t, and by the sound of things the explosion had ended. “Aw c’mon…” Pohatu lifted up his bottle again. Suddenly, with surprising speed, Kopaka reached forward and backhanded the bottle so hard that it flew out of the Toa’s hand and shattered against the opposite wall.

“You have had enough of that!” he chided the stunned Pohatu. Kopaka was now practically leaning over his brother.

“Wha… whaddaya do that for?” the latter said hazily. “You… you know you’re gonna have to *hic* get me another one for that, right?” He pointed at Kopaka while the latter loomed over him, growing more agitated by the second.

“Look at me, brother,” he insisted. “Look!” he pointed at his own mask. “You remember, you must remember something, anything!” This wasn’t Kopaka’s usual coolheaded argument; it sounded more like a desperate, if angry plea. “YOU wanted me here, brother!” he continued to the stunned Pohatu. “Tell me what you want me for! What do you need me to do!?”

“I don’t know!” Pohatu insisted, then chuckled again as though the whole situation had him very amused. “Stop… stop asking, okay? Really, I’m *hic* fine…” After a tense few seconds, Kopaka backed off.

“No, brother…” he said, his voice wavering. “You are not fine.”

“No, really… I’m fine…just go…” Pohatu murmured as a drunken stupor started to overtake him.

“No.” Kopaka said as he finally stepped aside. However, instead of walking out like I expected him to, he positioned himself next to the chair, then leant down again. Standing halfway across the room, I couldn’t see what he was doing, but then he stood up... carrying Pohatu in his arms.

“HEY!” the unwelcomed move jolted Pohatu awake, if that was the right word. “Put me down, you!” he insisted as he struggled, but his uncoordinated arm flailing posed little problem for Kopaka, and for some reason his legs weren’t moving at all. Without saying another word, Kopaka made his way over to the side of the room, where an open doorway led to a small bedroom. “You can’t do this!” Pohatu protested. “I want to see my show! And get *hic* get me another drink!”

Kopaka laid the struggling Pohatu down on the bed. “Rest, brother,” he said quietly.

“I ain’t listening to anything you tell me!” the furious Toa proclaimed, sitting up by supporting himself on one arm while shaking a fist with the other. Kopaka stood up, backed off and lowered his head. When he looked up again, he’d switched out his Akaku for yet another mask.

“Sleep, brother,” he said in a surprisingly tender, melancholy voice. I could tell the mask was activated.

“You don’t listen, do ya!?” Pohatu continued. “I told you get me a drink!”

“Sleep.” Kopaka repeated. There was no authority in his voice; in fact, it was wavering, but somehow the command got through to Pohatu, who, without another word, lowered himself down from half-seated to lying on the bed. Seconds later, he was fast asleep. Kopaka stood, looking down at his brother, not saying anything. Standing in the bedroom entrance, I was struck by how different he seemed all of the sudden… he didn’t look angry or frustrated as he had with Hewkii, Jaller, and Hahli, nor disappointed as he had with Gali; with Pohatu, he looked gravely concerned, a feeling I hadn’t thought possible from him until fifteen minutes before. Thinking back to their goodbye at that last meeting, I could only conclude that there was something to his relationship with Pohatu that didn’t exist between him and any of the other Toa. Perhaps Jaller was right; Pohatu was Kopaka’s only friend, the only one who could elicit such concern from the otherwise detached Toa of Ice.

An old, rickety chair stood in the corner of the bedroom. Kopaka sat down on it, and still watching his brother closely. I waited a few minutes, curious as to what exactly he planned to do now. Eventually, I got bored and decided to ask him directly.

“So, are you going to watch over him all night?”

“Yes.”

“But… I thought you couldn’t wait to leave,” I reminded him.

“His mind may be clearer come morning,” Kopaka said quietly. “Perhaps then he will remember something.”

“Ah…”

“If you are looking for something to do,” he suggested, “go see if he has any large bowls or pots.”

“Why?”

“We might need them.”

“Okay…” I figured that, whatever the purpose of the pots was, I’d probably see it sooner or later. I stepped back into the living room and turned right, where a small kitchen was attached. It was cleaner than I’d remembered Tahu’s to be, but only because Pohatu appeared to own very few dishes of any kind. Searching through the few cupboards, I soon found a reasonably sized, if dirty cooking pot, which I took back to Kopaka.

“This is all he has,” I informed him.

“It should do.” Kopaka set the pot down beside him.

“Anything else you’ll need?” I wondered.

“The telescreen,” Kopaka answered. “Turn it off.” The telescreen was still broadcasting the noise of whatever program it was on all through the house. I headed back into the living room and turned on a standing lamp in the corner to not plunge the room into darkness when I turned off the telescreen. After turning off the broadcast, I looked around the room. It was a mess… that bottle I’d tripped over coming in was far from the only one scattered around the floor, not to mention the fact that, in two areas by opposite walls, the carpet was covered in broken glass. Everything, including the reclining chair that besides the table and telescreen made up the only furniture, was covered in stains of one kind or another, and it all reeked of alcohol. In one corner, I noticed a rusty-looking wheelchair. The telescreen was surrounded by a ton of shelves bolted into the wall. They were all empty and covered in dust, except one, on which a faded trophy stood. It was kolhii trophy, a pillar topped by a kolhii stick and ball, and it was gold. I picked it up to polish off some of the dust. Its plaque read:

Toa Pohatu Nuva

Champion

100th Great Kolhii Tournament, Spherus Magna, 500 A.R.

“Nice, isn’t it?” I turned to find Hewkii standing in the front doorway.

“Oh… yes, it is.” I quickly put the trophy back on its shelf.

“Those shelves used to be filled with ‘m.” Hewkii gestured as he walked in.

“What happened to them?” I asked.

“Pohatu sold them for more drinks. The trophies never did mean much to him.”

“Oh…”

“I noticed the noise stopped,” Hewkii continued. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” I assured him. “Kopaka put Pohatu in bed, and he’s watching over him now.”

“He is, eh?” Hewkii looked into the bedroom for a moment, then turned back to me. “So, he does care,” he said with more than a hint of surprise.

“Yes, amazingly, he does” I said quietly, not wanting Kopaka to hear.

“That, or he’s curious too,” Hewkii said as he made his way back to the front door.

“Curious about what?” I followed him.

“Curious about why Pohatu’s asking for him,” Hewkii replied.

“Could be.” We stepped outside. “I think there’s more to it, though,” I admitted.

“I hope you’re right about that.” We stopped in the front yard, where Hewkii picked up the crate with bottles. “But if he’s staying around tonight, I’m heading home.”

“Okay… just, one last thing.”

“Hm?” Hewkii waited.

“What happened with Gali?” I asked. “She just vanished from where I was.”

Hewkii’s expression grew somber. “Macku and I just got home, and we saw her come down,” he said. “She was in a hurry, she was crying… she basically fled back to her basement room; exactly what happens every time Tahu comes by and bullies her.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Not your fault. Tahu, Kopaka, they don’t understand what changed about her,” Hewkii explained. “They think what she needs is tough love, a jolt to break her out of that cycle she’s stuck in. If Gali was still the same Toa she was back then, that might have worked, for all I know…” he sighed.

“She’s changed.” I agreed.

“Look,” Hewkii continued, “Hahli, Macku, Jaller, myself… we’ve all watched it happen time and time again, and every time Gali ends up worse. Jaller thinks that we should kick her out, force her to get back on her feet; Hahli and Macku want to take care of her, ‘cause she saved them back in the day... I hate to say it, but I think Gali’s given up, and Tahu and Kopaka have only made it worse. Jaller’s solution would do the same thing, whereas Hahli and Macku are just helping her down. They don’t mean to, but they are. They’re half the reason she got so big.”

“And you?” I asked.

“Me? I’ve got my own broken Toa to worry about.” Hewkii nodded towards the house.

“What happened to him?” I asked. “I mean, he used to be kolhii champion. How’d he end up like this?”

Hewkii sighed and waited for a moment, recalling past events. “He pushed too hard,” he said, “he pushed his body past breaking point. We’re all getting older, you know, but he just kept pushing his game… I don’t think he could imagine it ever ending, that his body would give out on him eventually. But he had to keep pulling those stunts, those spectacular moves on the field, and one game, his spine just said “no.””

“His legs, the wheelchair… is that why?”

“Yep. Gali helped him, much as she could, but there’s only so much you can fix,” Hewkii was choking up a bit, remembering a difficult time. “He’s still in constant pain, which is why he started drinking. He got angry, he got bitter… cursed out Gali a few times, after which she didn’t dare visit him anymore. From then on, it was just a freefall down to… well, where he is now.” Hewkii looked frustrated, but not with me. His expression contorted as though he was fighting back tears. “He was my hero once… still is, sometimes, when I forget what he’s like now.”

“I’m sure it was hard,” I empathized. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up something so painful.”

“No, it’s... it’s okay.” Hewkii collected himself. “They were all heroes, but I’m afraid there’s not much we can do for them now, besides making sure that they will be remembered for who they were, not what they’ve become.”

“I’m sure you’ll manage that,” I assured him, somewhat shaken myself. His assessment of the situation was somber, but I feared it was accurate. We stood quietly for a few seconds.

“Look, if you want, you’re still welcome to stay with us,” Hewkii offered. “Better than spending the night out here.”

“Thanks, but I’ll stay,” I declined. “I think Kopaka won’t stay around for much longer, and I’ve still got questions for him.”

“Don’t we all?” Hewkii shrugged. “Well, in that case, ‘till we meet again.” He nodded, smiled, then turned to head back to the station.

“Good night!” I called after him, watching until he turned back into the side alley from which we’d entered the street before turning and heading back inside myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 25

--------------------

 

Back inside, I found Kopaka still watching over Pohatu. With little better to do, I decided to clean up the place a bit, since clearly no one had done so for years. I started by picking up every empty bottle I could find and stacking them by the door, for want of a container. In one of the kitchen cabinets, I found a brush and pan and set about cleaning up the remnants of the two bottles that had met their end against the walls. I was about done with the first of them when a retching noise in the bedroom got my attention.

“Everything okay?” I quickly entered to find Kopaka standing next to the bed, supporting a convulsing Pohatu in a half-seated position. He made sure the Toa of Stone’s head was over the pot, which he was holding ready. “What’s happening to him!?” Before Kopaka could answer, Pohatu hurled and vomited up the liquid remnants of his dinner into the pot. “Ew!” I turned away immediately, but it wasn’t long before the disgusting sounds ceased. I turned around to find that Kopaka had laid Pohatu back down and produced a rag, with which he wiped clean the Toa of Stone’s mouth and the spots that had appeared on his own armor.

“He was about to throw up,” was the Toa of Ice’s belated answer.

“I can see that. It smells awful,” I noted as the odor of alcohol-tainted vomit became evident in the room. Kopaka apparently agreed, because he reached down and flash-froze the contents of the pot.

“That should help,” he said calmly. I looked at Pohatu, who’d remained fast asleep through the entire thing.

“Sheesh… he really is out, isn’t he?” Kopaka merely nodded, keeping his eyes fixed on his brother as he sat back down. “So, when you asked me for the pot, did you know that would happen?” I wondered.

“It was a possibility,” he answered.

“Hm…” Somewhere, I wondered what would’ve happened had Kopaka not been here… I sighed before getting back to cleaning up bottle shards. I couldn’t do much about the stain left by the half-full one, and I was working in dim light, but by about half an hour later I’d gotten rid of most of the glass. By that point, it was well past midnight, and I was getting rather tired. Pohatu’d thrown up a second time, which Kopaka’d handled just as he had the first. The house only had three rooms: the living room with kitchen attached, the bedroom, and a small bathroom that was, if anything, even dirtier and more dilapidated than the rest of the structure. Either way, no other beds, much to my dismay, so I elected to instead watch Kopaka and Pohatu until I was tired enough to find Pohatu’s chair an appealing place to spend the night in.

The Toa of stone was still out like a light, while Kopaka spent his time as he’d done back on the train, thinking through something apparently well beyond my ability to compute. Leaning against the empty doorway, I watched for a few minutes. I noticed that Kopaka’s normally stoic expression now betrayed a grave concern; I wondered whether he was actually making as much of an effort to conceal everything as he normally did. Maybe he believed no one was watching… No, he knew I was there. Perhaps he’d come to the conclusion that, given my abilities, maintaining appearances around me was futile… but then again, he’d known about those abilities all along, and hadn’t released his grip on his expressions until now. Plus, much as I was trying to unravel the mystery that was the Toa Nuva of Ice, there was a great deal that still had me puzzled, and I think he intended to keep it that way.

“Lis?” He turned to me, somewhat to my surprise.

“Yeah?”

“How well can you read minds?” I was rather surprised to get that question from him.

“Uhm… it depends.” What exactly could constitute a satisfactory answer? “I mean, it varies based on how much you actually remember. Like, back on the train, I got a lot from you.”

“Memories, yes…” Kopaka nodded. “Would it be possible for you to look into Pohatu’s?”

“I suppose…” I remembered his talk from the morning two days before. “Are you sure that that’d be appropriate?”

“No,” Kopaka answered, “but it may be necessary.” A curious change in attitude...

“Necessary for what?”

“To find out how much of him is left.” There was as strong sense of foreboding to those words… Kopaka didn’t sound very hopeful, and given Pohatu’s behavior, I didn’t blame him.

“I could,” I replied, “but… without knowing who he was, I can’t really tell you much.”

“Okay.” Kopaka nodded again, betraying neither disappointment nor delight, and got back to watching over Pohatu. I stayed for a while longer, trying to attach some meaning to the exchange. Based on the Toa of Stone’s behavior, I understood his concern about how much of Pohatu’d changed… but the concern itself was still new, coming from him. Or was it? I remembered what Tahu’d told me before we left: Kopaka did care, but he couldn’t admit it, to himself or anyone else… except when Pohatu got involved, apparently. Why, though? What was so special about the bond between these two?

Too tired to think it through much further, I finally gave in, retreated to the living room, and settled down into Pohatu’s reclining chair. I immediately regretted not having done so sooner; old and dirty it may have been, but it was nothing if not supremely comfortable, so much so that I was out in seconds.

-*-*-*-

A mountain. I see a mountain, and I’m climbing it, leaving the tree line behind me. What’s up there, exactly? I feel like I know there’s something up there, but I can’t figure out exactly what…

A place of far-seeing.

I can’t tell where that thought came from, but it would be an apt description for this place… looking around, this appears to be the highest point for miles, and I’m nowhere near the top of the mountain yet. Also, what’s that sound? Some kind of… rumbling. Thunder? It can’t be; the sky is clear. Yet it’s growing louder…

“WATCH OUT!”

A rocky explosion catches me, engulfs me, and momentarily knocks me out. I shake my head, blink, try to move… my legs are stuck in the rubble. Looking up, I see someone standing over me.

“Sorry about that. I was practicing.” Who is he? I should recognize him, but somehow I don’t… he’s a Toa, but that spark of recognition isn’t there. “Are you alright?” He’s concerned. I don’t need his concern.

“I would be, if you were not standing on me,” I point out.

“Let me help you out,” he offers.

“Thank you. I don’t need help.” I find and draw my sword, ready to make my own way out, but whoever this is… he’s persistent.

“Let me do it. It’ll be faster,” he insists. Ignoring him, I call upon the power of Ice and instantly freeze the rocks around me to the point where they start to crack.

“I said…” I swing my sword around, easily breaking the now brittle rocks and causing the strange Toa to jump backwards to avoid being hit as well, “…I can do it myself.”

“Yeah, well…” he smiles, “you missed one.” With that, he kicks one of the boulders hard enough to send it flying off through the air. Pointless; it was not among those trapping me. I step out and resume my trek up the mountain, thinking he will return to his ‘practice.’

The mountain’s natural slope has steepened to the point where it is impossible to make progress except by climbing on all fours. “Listen.” What? He’s following me? “I have a feeling we’re both here for the same reason,” the brown figure keeping up with me explains. “Why not team up? It might make things easier.”

“I work alone.”

“By choice, or ‘cause no one can stand you?” He sounds… cheerful. How inappropriate. I can sense great evil in this place; how is he joking at a time like this?

“All right, come along,” I relent. “After all, I might need a mountain moved… or the island lifted.” He laughs as though I’m joking… those are very real possibilities.

“Fantastic. I’m Pohatu, by the way,” he introduces himself as we clamber up a particularly rough part of the mountainside.

“Kopaka.”

-*-*-*-

Everything is… bright. Blindingly so. The wind is howling around me as I feel a slight chill… my eyes are adjusting at last; I can see now. I’m in a blizzard, but I can handle those… My companion, on the other hand, is finding this weather decidedly unpleasant.

“Whoa!” a dampened thud, barely audible over the wind, alerts me to the fact that he’s slipped up… again. I keep moving… he’ll catch up just like he did the last time, and the time before that. I look up and ahead.  We’re still climbing but if I focus just right… yes. A dark shape up ahead. A cave.

“Say, how do you keep your footing up here?” he asks from behind me. “I mean, I’ve got bigger feet than you, and I’m slipping all over the place.” He laughs in spite of himself.

“We are close,” I inform him. “Look ahead.” So he does, and before long we reach the cave… I haven’t seen this one before, yet I feel like I should have.

“Not bad,” Pohatu follows me in and kicks some snow off of his feet. “A place for contemplation, right?”

“Not this one.” I find that, just beyond the entrance, the cave is filled with rubble.

“Well, wouldn’t hurt to check, would it?” The rocks begin to roll down and out of the cave as though acting on their own accord… except they’re not. Pohatu’s doing it. “Hey, for all we know it could be down there,” he shrugs.

“Possible,” I agree and activate my mask, searching out our target under the rubble. Hang on… is that it!? “That way.” I point out the direction in which I saw the mask, and Pohatu focuses his efforts there. Now, he has unearthed it: the Kanohi Hau Nuva. It’s lying in a crevice, but reaching down, he easily retrieves the mask.

“Well, look at this,” he smiles, just as a rumbling sound catches our ears. We’ve both heard it numerous times; we know what it means. “MOVE!” Pohatu suddenly yells as the ground cracks, then opens up below him. He pushes me back, throwing the mask aside as boulders from the collapsing ceiling start to come down. I try to reach, to grab him, but in less than a second, he is gone.

“Pohatu!” I activate my mask again, searching for him beneath the remnants of the collapsed tunnel wall, pulling out chunks of rock as I go, but I can’t see him anywhere… what I do see is a near-vertical shaft, leading straight down well beyond how far I can see. I hear the rumbling noise again… by reflex, I look up. There’s cracks forming in the ceiling above me! I dodge to the side, barely in time to avoid being crushed myself as more of the tunnel collapses. I run, run back to the entrance… when the noise stops and the dust clears, the cave no longer exists. I’m standing in what used to be its entrance, now part of the icy mountain slope. There is no hope of getting back in there…

“Pohatu!” I call, but it I know it is in vain. If I could not find him earlier, he is… is surely gone now. My feet hit something, something metal. I look down to see the Hau Nuva lying there… It was to be his, but he threw it aside and saved me… I put it away. I must go, go and tell of what happened here.

The mask will be kept as Pohatu’s memory…

-*-*-*-

For the third night in a row, I woke up drenched… again, I’d inadvertently picked up on someone else’s thoughts, their memories… no question who it was this time: Kopaka. That moment, that had to be when he first met Pohatu; why else would they have to introduce themselves to each other? As for the second memory… it was later, after they became Toa Nuva, but when? Also, how did Pohatu survive that?

I got up out of the chair and looked around. It was still dark out, but the sky to the east was beginning to show hints of blue; sunrise was not far away. Remembering where I was, I stepped into the bedroom again, finding Kopaka still sitting there, not having moved an inch, watching over the sleeping Pohatu.

“Morning,” I yawned.

“Morning.”

“Have you been watching him all night?” I wondered.

“Yes.”

“Don’t you get tired?” I figured he certainly looked it.

“Not quickly.” I felt like the truth was more along the lines of ‘I pretend not to,’ but didn’t point that out. I noticed the pot was full, and frozen.

“He threw up again?”

“Five times,” Kopaka answered.

“Sheesh… want me to get rid of that?” Kopaka nodded ‘yes,’ so I picked up the pot by the handles, only realizing then that I had no way to un-freeze its contents. Instead, I took it to the kitchen and set it upside-down in the sink, hoping the contents would, with time, melt their way out and down the drain.

“You won’t need it again, right?” I asked upon returning.

“No.”

“Okay…” I shrugged and waited for a minute. “So, about what you asked last night…”

“Forget it.” Kopaka said coldly.

“You’re sure?” I asked. “I mean, I saw a few things… again.” When I said that, he turned and gave me that piercing gaze...

“You did it again?”

“Uhm… yes,” I admitted. “Look, I didn’t mean to, I swear. It just… happens.”

“And what did your night visions tell you this time?” his voice had not lost any of its icy quality.

“It… it was from you. I think it was on Mata Nui, when you met Pohatu,” I remembered.

“Irrelevant,” Kopaka concluded.

“Well, there was another one,” I added. Kopaka nodded as if to say “go on.” “It was you and Pohatu again, up on a mountain,” I continued, “and you were looking for a mask.”

Kopaka’s eyes widened ever so slightly. “Which mask?” he asked.

“Tahu’s mask. The Hau Nuva.” Kopaka remained silent. “The cave… it collapsed on you two,” I continued, “did you think…”

“…he was dead?” Kopaka finished. “Yes, I did. But he was alive. I just could not find him at the time.” He sounded agitated, but wasn’t directing it at me.

“Oh... You tried, though.” Part of sharing a memory is sharing the feelings that accompanied it, and I distinctly recalled a sense of panic from when he was looking for Pohatu… never mind the sense of loss after the second collapse. I knew I hadn’t been there, but that empathy made it all the more painful.

“Of course I tried,” Kopaka said. “He found another way out. Again, irrelevant.” I wasn’t so sure about that; much as he was trying to hide it, it was obvious this particular memory triggered something in him, too. Was he dismayed at his failure to find Pohatu? Or was he just angry that I’d gotten to see one of his more… emotional memories?

“Okay…” I sighed; it was too early to push him further. “I did see some of Pohatu, though. Like, how he used to be. So, if you want I can try to look and figure out… what’s left, as you put it.”

“I doubt he would complain,” Kopaka said coldly as he turned back to watching Pohatu. It wasn’t an outright ‘no,’ but I didn’t feel like I had permission either, so I held off.

“Breakfast?” I asked, changing the subject to something more mundane.

“Later,” Kopaka replied. His gaze was fixed intently, once again, on Pohatu… looking to the Toa of Stone, I noticed he was waking up.

“Ugh…” he groaned. “My head…”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 26

--------------------

 

 “Blasted headaches…” Pohatu sighed as he put his hands on his head. He held them there for a moment, rubbed his eyes, then dropped them at his side again, only to see me standing at the foot of the bed. “Whoa!” He jolted awake. “What the…” He squinted; focusing was apparently still difficult for him.

“Good morning,” I smiled and greeted him, trying to come off as non-threatening as possible.

“Who’s there? Are you phantoms? Am I seeing things again!?” His eyes were wild and wide open. His voice trembled; I wondered what he was used to waking up to if phantoms were his first guess.

“No, I’m really here,” I said as I stepped forward, hopefully into better view. “I’m Lis.”

“Oh…” the panic faded from his expression, but he seemed no less uneasy. He eyed me up and down. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“We’re friends,” I explained. “Hewkii brought us here to see you.”

“Hewkii?”

“The Toa Mahri of Stone. Your friend. He comes here to help you sometimes.” When Hewkii’d told me that half the time, Pohatu didn’t even remember who he was, I’d had a hard time believing it. To see it was something else. Pohatu looked up at the ceiling, gripping his forehead.

“Hewkii… Oh!” he looked back and pointed at me. “The yellow one… burly guy… right?”

“Yes…” I nodded slowly. Something about Pohatu’s behavior didn’t seem sincere, and it was bothering me.

“Yeah, yeah…. I know him…” He started to push himself up into a sitting position, but then noticed Kopaka, who’d been quietly sitting to the left of him through the entire exchange. The moment he saw the Toa of Ice, Pohatu’s eyes widened again.

“Remember me?” Kopaka asked calmly.

“You! Every morning it’s you!” Pohatu exclaimed, suddenly aggressive. “Both of you, go away! Leave me alone!”

“I am not one of your… phantoms,” Kopaka asserted.

“Like I’d believe you!”

“You should.”

“No! it, no!” Pohatu shouted, waving his arms and looking away with his eyes closed. “You’re not real! I don’t know you! Leave me alone!”

Kopaka stood up. “I am real. I am Toa Kopaka Nuva. You know full well who I am.” He looked down sternly upon the shaken Toa of Stone, an expression which I figured the latter should’ve been well familiar with. Pohatu looked up, still frightened.

“You’re not… not here to haunt me?” Okay, so maybe recognition was still a ways away.

“I am your brother,” Kopaka replied, “and no, I am not here to haunt you.”

“Brother?… Yeah right…” Pohatu groaned as he lay back down, facing away from Kopaka, and pulled the covers back up. Kopaka looked to me and gave a slight nod with an obvious, implied meaning. Not that I needed a cue: curious as to what exactly was going through Pohatu’s head, especially concerning these ‘phantoms,’ I was already focusing in on him, though this time I’d keep my own eyes and ears open. He was… very different from Kopaka, to say the least. Everything in Toa of Ice’s mind was ordered, structured… in Pohatu’s, signals were darting all over the place, and many of them were pain signals, and not just from his headaches… In fact, from the amount there I could only conclude Pohatu was in a lot of pain.

“No, you do remember,” Kopaka insisted, turning back to Pohatu. “You must.” I don’t think he believed his brother was trying, but from what I could tell he definitely was… but something disturbing was becoming clear to me.

“You’re all fake! Go away,” the Toa of Stone grumbled from under the sheets.

“Lis already told you we are real,” Kopaka argued. “Besides, you should remember us from last night.”

Suddenly, Pohatu turned and faced Kopaka. “I don’t, okay!?” he exclaimed, gesturing wildly with his hand. “I don’t know what happened last night, and I don’t know you, whoever you are! Get out of my house!”

Kopaka didn’t so much as blink. “Keep trying, you will remember.” Though he spoke calmly, something about his demeanor was becoming more… insistent. He needed Pohatu to remember, but the Toa of Stone’s outburst confirmed what I’d already suspected from watching his thoughts dart about; even with pain signals firing all over the place, large parts of his mind remained utterly blank when I should have seen something, a flash or even a single signal, something to indicate it was… working.

“, I’m tired…” Pohatu covered his face with his hands and gripped tight. “Argh! Stupid headache!” He held them there for a moment, then sighed. “Just… leave, leave me in peace for once...” His voice trailed off as he lay down again and pulled the covers half over his face. Kopaka stood still for a couple of seconds, then looked at me. I gave him a worried look back, after which he made his way along the bed to me. I retreated out of the Toa of Stone’s mind, fully back into the real world.

“Are you seeing anything?” Kopaka asked in a hushed tone.

“He’s trying, he really is,” I replied, “but there’s a lot… missing in there.”

“How much?”

“I don’t know… I’ll need time to decipher what’s there, but it’s possible that he’s seen you as one of these ‘phantoms.’” I answered solemnly. “Could be that your memory really is haunting him.” As far as I was concerned, it was one of the more likely explanations, and having seen the last, tearful goodbye between these two Toa, I was finding it rather hard to watch the reunion in their current state; Pohatu half-delirious and tortured by a decaying body and mind, with Kopaka clueless as to what exactly to do about it.

Kopaka nodded, then made his way back to the side of the bed. “Enough, brother.” He grabbed hold of the cover and pulled it off in one fell swoop, tossing the aged cloth down beside the bed.

“No, don’t!” Pohatu protested, but Kopaka leant down, grabbed his shoulders, and turned him over, locking eyes with the Toa of Stone.

“I am real, brother! I am not one of your delusions! Snap out of it!” Kopaka’s sudden volume had me surprised, but nowhere to the degree that Pohatu was. Stunned, the Toa of Stone remained quiet for a few seconds as Kopaka held his position. Trembling, he slowly reached up and touched Kopaka’s arm, feeling the cold metal of his armor.

“You… you’re real…” he realized. “You’re really here…” Satisfied, Kopaka let him go and stood up straight again. “I’m… I’m sorry about that…” Pohatu continued. “I see things sometimes, things that...”

“Things that aren’t real?” I stepped forward, concerned.

“Yeah, that,” Pohatu nodded. “W-what are you doing here?”

“Hewkii brought us,” I repeated myself.

“Hewkii?....” It took a moment before Pohatu remembered. “Oh, right… him.” He looked back and forth between us. “And… who did you say you were?”

Had Kopaka been inclined to show anything but the most extreme emotions, I think he would have sighed or rolled his eyes in frustration. Instead, he just introduced himself again: “Toa Kopaka Nuva, your brother.”

“My brother…” Pohatu seemed to struggle to remember. “I know… I should know you.”

“You should.” Kopaka repeated himself.

“I know, I just need to remember…” Pohatu looked down and scratched his head. “Blasted headache…” He looked up again, somewhat hazily. “How do I know you?”

“We were on a Toa Team. We fought together,” Kopaka said.

“Fought what?”

“The Rahi, the Makuta, the Bohrok…” Kopaka proceeded down what could only be a laundry list worth of villains.

“Bohrok!” Pohatu recognized. “The things!... With the staffs!”

“Those were Rahkshi,” Kopaka corrected him. “Makuta’s spawn. Do you remember?”

“No, they were Bohrok,” Pohatu argued, but his voice was wavering a bit.

“The Bohrok had no staffs. They had shields.”

“Oh…” Pohatu looked down, disheartened. “I could’ve sworn they were… the other ones.”

“What do you remember?” Kopaka asked.

“Ugh…” Pohatu shook his head, looking increasingly frustrated with himself. “I don’t know… It’s all jumbled together,” he gave up.

“Lis?” Kopaka turned to me.

“Yeah, what?” I wondered.

“Show him what you saw.”

“What?...” it took me a moment to catch on.

“Mount Ihu.”

“Oh, yes,” I remembered.

“Mount Ihu?” Pohatu wondered.

“I’ll show you,” I stepped forward. “Just… close your eyes.” Pohatu seemed somewhat unnerved by the idea, but obliged, after which I focused in on his mind again, but this time, rather than reading signals, I’d be writing them; implanting the memory, or the bits and pieces that I got from Kopaka, into Pohatu’s mind. At first, it was a dicey process, since I hadn’t done it to this extent before, but best as I could, I tried to channel everything I could recall to Pohatu. When I was finished, I drew back and looked up.

“It’s done. You can open your eyes now,” I informed him. Pohatu did so, looking slightly bewildered at first, then looked back at Kopaka, who was now crouching by the bed. His mouth fell open as, for the first time since we’d come here, I could see that hint of recognition in his eyes.

“Y-You’re back…” he barely managed to say. Kopaka nodded as Pohatu recovered from his initial shock. “You’re here… You’re really here…I know you.” he half-whispered, still scarcely believing what he was seeing.

“I am back, but not for long,” Kopaka said, trying to bring him back into the present. Suddenly, with surprising speed, Pohatu reached out and embraced his brother.

“I – I remember… that mountain, the mask…” he continued. “You… you came back for me?”

“Hewkii said you asked for me,” Kopaka replied, “and I would appreciate it if you let go.”

“Oh, of course.” Pohatu drew back, after which Kopaka immediately stood up. “It… it’s just good to see you again.”

“You asked for me,” Kopaka repeated.

“I did…” Pohatu looked puzzled for a moment, but then his face fell grim as a chilling realization befell him. “Oh, I did…”

“Why?” Kopaka asked.

“Uhm…” Pohatu thought for a moment. “You know, I’m hungry. You must be, too. Please, let’s have some breakfast first,” he offered.

Kopaka didn’t reply immediately, instead looking rather bemused as Pohatu dodged the question, but eventually relented. “If you insist…”

“Of course,” Pohatu smiled, trying in vain to disguise a certain nervousness. Whatever he wanted to ask Kopaka, it was serious. He looked around as if searching for something. “Sorry, but… uhm… my legs don’t really work,” he admitted.

“Should I get the wheelchair?” I offered.

“That’d be nice,” Pohatu smiled half-heartedly. I went and got the wheelchair from the corner of the living room where I’d seen it before. It creaked and squeaked quite a bit, but appeared to be otherwise okay. Kopaka stepped aside as I positioned the wheelchair next to the bed, after which Pohatu proceeded to push, pull, and eventually lift himself into it. From his facial expressions alone, I could tell there was a lot of pain involved; Pohatu grimaced and groaned a few times, though he largely tried to hide it from us. “Right, this way,” he beckoned as he led the way out the bedroom and towards the kitchen, where he noticed the pot sitting upside down in the sink. “What’s that doing there?”

“It’s…uhm, you might not want to move it right now,” I suggested.

“Okay…” Pohatu appeared close to doing so for a moment, then caught a whiff of the odor of melting vomit and apparently decided the pot did not require relocation at this time. Instead, he made his way over to the old fridge. “There should be something in here,” he said, but upon opening the fridge he found it to be disappointingly sparsely stocked. There was what looked to be some remnants of a ruki dish, some fruit in various states of decay, and a nearly empty bottle of some kind of fruit juice. I noted that there was a rather generous supply of liquors on offer, though. “Well, it’s not much, but I’m sure we can get something together…” Pohatu sighed. He opened another cabinet and pulled out a stale looking but otherwise fine loaf of bread. After scrounging up some plates, he divided the ruki and bread evenly; that was our breakfast.

“I don’t have much of a table,” Pohatu confessed as he lead us into the living room, “but make yourselves comfortable.” Taking to his suggestion, I chose the chair. Kopaka preferred to stand. As expected, both the bread and ruki were hardly fresh, but far from inedible. Pohatu offered the remnants of the fruit juice to wash it down, which I gladly accepted. The Toa of Stone preferred to use a stronger beverage for the purpose, much to the disdain of Kopaka.

“So, that trophy…” I attempted to start up a conversation.

“My first,” Pohatu said. “Lotta memories behind that one…” Though proud, there was a distinct undertone of uncertainty, maybe even bitterness in the way he said that.

“Did you always play kolhii?”

“No…” Pohatu’s expression went blank for a moment. “No, I don’t believe so.”

“You did not,” Kopaka reminded him. “Hewkii encouraged you to do it.”

“Right, yes.” Pohatu nodded.

“He told me you were pretty good at it,” I smiled.

“Yeah…” Pohatu nodded again, though there was little authority to any of his replies. I couldn’t help but wonder whether his memories of his Kolhii days were just as jumbled as those from before the Reformation. He took a modest sip from his bottle, washing down the last remnants of the bread on his plate. Kopaka and I had already finished.

“Getting back to your question,” Kopaka said. “What did you want to see me about?”

Pohatu sighed, looked around, then cleared his throat. “It’s… it’s kind of personal…” he said quietly, eyeing me.

“I can leave, if that’s okay,” I got up.

“No, stay,” Kopaka ordered me back down, much to my surprise.

“Okay then…” Pohatu took a bigger drink this time, apparently trying to build courage. “You… look at me,” he began. “I… I’m hurt, brother. I can’t remember how, or why… I just know I hurt. All the time. Sure, I’ve got that thing,” he gestured at the lone trophy on the shelves, “but I’m not even sure where I got that from…”

“Kolhii,” Kopaka asserted.

“Yeah, that…” Pohatu said. “Whatever that is… and look at this place.” He gestured around. “It’s no place to live, you know?” Kopaka nodded slightly as Pohatu took another drink. “Look… what you showed me, what… Hewkii tells me, that thing on the shelf… I was someone, once, and I don’t know that person.” He turned to me. “That… that brown Toa in that thing you showed me… Is that who I was?”

I nodded.

“Yes.” Kopaka answered solemnly.

Pohatu sighed heavily… “I don’t know… I don’t remember… All I’ve got is pain, Kopaka. That’s all that’s left, and it’s getting worse… it’s awful. Every day I wake up, my back hurts, my chest hurts… never mind the headaches and the phantoms…” Choking up, he took a drink again. “I – I think I’m dying.” Kopaka’s eyes widened at the statement, as sure a sign of shock as he’d ever give.

“Dying?” he asked.

“Yes… I’m sure of it,” Pohatu continued. “And it, it hurts so bad. I can’t keep doing this… I’m done. Not anymore.” He stared off in the distance for a moment, then turned back to the Toa of Ice, tears welling up in his eyes. “Look, before I ask, just know that I wouldn’t ask anyone else this... no one I know.”

“Understood.”

“I… I’m gone, Kopaka. I don’t know who I am, who I was… I’m miserable, and it’s only getting worse…” Pohatu sighed, cleared his throat again, then looked Kopaka straight in the eyes: “As a friend, an ally, whatever I was to you… will you help me end it?”

“End it?” Kopaka looked perplexed.

“To end the pain, the nightmares…” Pohatu continued. “This… this shell of a life. I… I want you to kill me.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 27

--------------------

 

“Kill you?” now Kopaka looked stunned.

“End my misery… something…” Pohatu elaborated hazily.

“Toa do not kill,” Kopaka said, clearly making an effort to maintain his calm demeanor. “The code is very clear about that.”

“Toa…” Pohatu sighed. “Toa!... we were Toa once, weren’t we? Were we?...”

Kopaka nodded. “We still are, brother.”

“So what!?” Pohatu exclaimed. “Who cares now?”

“I do, for one,” the Toa of Ice replied.

“But I’m asking you…”

“No,” Kopaka interrupted. “I will not help you desecrate the title like that; there must be something else that can be done. Gali could help you with the pain, and you would not suffer so many headaches or hallucinations if you did not drink so much.”

“Gali?” Pohatu gave him another blank stare, clueless as to who ‘Gali’ was.

“The Toa of Water, our sister,” Kopaka said. Ironic that now he was perfectly willing to call Gali a Toa again…

“Uh… the small one? From the telescreen? With the green?” Pohatu wondered.

“No, that is Hahli.” Now Kopaka was beginning to show signs of frustration.

“Err… the fat one?” Pohatu looked at him incredulously.

“She is an excellent healer,” Kopaka noted.

“She tried,” I pointed out. “She really did, believe me.”

“She did, I think…” Pohatu tenuously confirmed. “Do I look like it worked?”

“Let her try again,” Kopaka suggested.

“No… no!” Pohatu shook his head. “I’m just… I’m tired, Kopaka, I’m tired, I hurt, and I’m gone… I can’t go on like this… I’m begging you, help me end it.”

“I am sorry, brother,” Kopaka said more coldly than seemed appropriate for the words, “but I cannot kill you, and I cannot help you kill yourself.”

Pohatu sighed again. “You’re sure?”

“There has to be a better option,” Kopaka argued. “One that does not involve your death.”

“Everything ends with death…” Pohatu countered. “Nothing can be done about that…”

“You could throw that bottle aside before it drains what is left of you,” Kopaka suggested again.

“It numbs the pain.” Pohatu looked into the bottle.

“You could still have a life,” Kopaka continued. “You could have centuries left.”

“Centuries of what!?” Pohatu suddenly shouted to the ceiling. “Centuries of my body breaking down even further!?” He took another drink. “No thanks!”

“We are Toa, brother!” Kopaka switched tactics. “We have a duty to be there for the Matoran!”

“To do what?” Pohatu said sarcastically. “Tell them bedtime stories?”

“To protect them, to guide them, do what is best for them,” Kopaka replied.

“Protect them? Guide them? Me?” Pohatu grinned. “Look at me! Half my body doesn’t work, the other half is going to pieces! You can’t fix this, brother!”

“I cannot, but you cannot simply abandon it,” Kopaka said, “and I will not help you do so.”

“It’s not my choice anymore!” Pohatu countered. “I’m dying anyways! I’m sure of it!” He sighed again. “All I want… All I want is not to drag it out any longer.” An uncomfortable silence followed as Pohatu drank again while Kopaka stood completely still… he was trying to formulate something, compute some argument, but Pohatu didn’t care anymore. “I guess…” the Toa of Stone continued, “I guess you’re no use to me, then.”

“That would appear to be the case,” Kopaka said bitterly.

“Go, then! Go do whatever you do… I’ll probably forget you were here.” Pohatu’s expression mixed sadness with anger… there were tears in his eyes, and he deliberately avoided looking at his brother.

Kopaka paused for a moment before responding. “I will. Farewell, brother. Take care.” He turned and proceeded towards the front door.

I got up. “Wait!” I called. Kopaka stopped and looked back at me. “Can’t you… isn’t there something?” I couldn’t find the words I was looking for. Kopaka merely shook his head, then glumly continued on his way.

“ principles…” Pohatu cursed. “Can’t even help a friend…”

“You know, he saved you,” I turned and told him. “You would have drowned in your own vomit five times over last night if it wasn’t for him.”

“That cold ? Yeah right,” Pohatu grinned… the alcohol was taking hold. “He’d help no one… wouldn’t even try…”

“He sat by that bed all night, watching over you,” I said indignantly. “Don’t you dare say he didn’t try to help you!” Had someone told me the night before that, come morning, I’d be defending Kopaka's actions, I would have laughed at them. Now, I was doing exactly that.

“You know…” Pohatu slurred, “you’re pretty… You could help…”

“That’s it!” I’d had enough. I started around him, heading for the exit.

“What are you doing with that prick anyways!?...” Pohatu called after me. I stopped for a moment, intending to make one thing very clear.

“Well, he may be a prick, but at least he cares about something,” I told him, after which I headed out too.

“Whatever…” Pohatu took to the bottle again. It was becoming clear to me why Hewkii’d given up on him; the moment that bottle took hold, Pohatu cared about nothing anymore… In retrospect, what did he have left to care about? Was this just his response to lacking a purpose… or was it the pain of two lives lived and lost that had driven him to drink? Gali’s response to the Toa’s loss of purpose had been depression… was Pohatu’s anger, or apathy? Whatever had driven them there, my opinion of Kopaka had changed again. Yes, he was a pain, a prick, and he wouldn’t hesitate to mention and explain in detail all the things he disliked even to the point of the hypocritical, but at least he had a set of principles that he tried to stick to. In a way, he really was the only remaining Toa Nuva.

I caught up with him as he made his way along the street, cloaked to conceal his identity from the fair number of Matoran and Agori milling about. Sunrise had passed, and things were warming up. For a while I followed the Toa of Ice in silence, unsure of what to say to him. As usual, Kopaka made no move to break the silence, but eventually I did: “So, where are we going?” I asked.

“The station.”

“The station’s that way,” I pointed out. Kopaka wasn’t following the route that we’d traveled from Station West to get here.

“The central station.”

“Ah… you’re leaving, huh?” I’d been expecting it, to be honest; if he’d had his way, Kopaka would’ve been in Onu-Koro-Nuva by now.

“I have done what Hewkii asked of me. There is nothing left to stay for,” Kopaka said, still sounding agitated as he spotted a billboard further up the road. It advertised the upcoming ‘Titanic Face-off’ between Tahu, the Master of Fire and the Porcupine, the latter now complete with his own fancy design of metal spikes flying out against Tahu’s fire in the background.

“I hope he survives. That Porcupine guy was rough…” I remembered, thinking of the brutal end the Lady of the Frost had met at the hands of the Iron Skakdi… Kopaka didn’t respond. “I’m sorry about Pohatu,” I finally said. “I didn’t know… really know what he meant to you. And to find him like that… and Gali, and Tahu…”

Kopaka stopped, sighed, and turned towards me, looking me square in the eyes with that gaze that I swear could see through them. “What is done is done, those who lost their way are lost forever,” he said coldly. “Their failures are none of my concern; we said our goodbyes long ago. I have my own mission to return to, and I do not need your reminders of what once was.” He turned back and continued on his way. Once again, he denied that the other Toa were any of his concern, but his attitude and everything I’d seen over the last few days told me differently.

“You were friends with Pohatu, though,” I followed. “Doesn’t that at least merit an attempt to help him?”

“He would have me break the Toa code,” Kopaka countered, “and will not accept help of the kind I would be willing to provide even if I did not have a greater duty to attend to. I have no purpose in staying with him, and plenty reason to leave.”

“So, you’re going to vanish again?”

“My presence is no longer required, therefore I will leave. That is and always was the plan,” Kopaka said as though it should have been obvious from the start.

“But your presence is required,” I argued. “Pohatu needs you. Gali needs you.”

“That does not matter,” Kopaka insisted.

“No, it matters,” I pointed out, “they matter. They matter to you; you just don’t want to admit it, ‘cause that’s… that's just not like you, is it?”

“If that is true, why are you arguing?” Kopaka questioned.

“Because you could be helping them if you did,” I explained, “and especially for Pohatu, you may be the one person capable of doing so. With your help, they might just get out of the situations they’re in.”

“So?”

“I don’t get it!” I exclaimed. “How can you get it over your conscience to just walk away from everyone like that!? If a Toa’s duty is to others, there’s an awful lot you could help to fix right here, right now!”

“My duty is to the Matoran first and foremost, not to the other Toa,” Kopaka argued. “Also, keep it down.”

“Duty, yes, duty…” Interesting that he kept going back to that… was that truly his belief, or just the virtue that, to him, was convenient to explain his actions to himself and others? “Duty is everything to you, isn’t it?”

“As I have already told you, it is the one virtue left,” Kopaka reminded me. “Destiny was fulfilled, and unity crumbled in its absence, but duty is unchanging.”

“Ever think that unity can come from duty as well?” I asked. “Like, all the Toa have the same duty to protect and serve the Matoran. That’s a unifying purpose, isn’t it? Doesn’t that come with a responsibility to watch over each other?”

“Duty is nonspecific and open-ended,” Kopaka argued. “Every Toa goes about duty differently, and aims to benefit the Matoran in a different way. We argue about its interpretation, even fight over it, and therefore duty alone does not produce unity. Destiny does because it is specific, and it is now fulfilled. Hence, unity was lost.”

“Uh-huh…” He had a point, and looking back at the Toa I’d met over the last few days, it kind of held up. Plus, he’d probably had a lot of time to think this stuff over while he was wandering up in those mountains. Still, his cold rationale left a lot to be desired. “And unity isn’t worth fighting for in its own right?” I asked him. “It is still a virtue, after all.”

“In the absence of destiny, unity is fought for merely for sentimental reasons,” Kopaka added. “Such reasons produce no practical benefit for the Matoran.”

“Why do there have to be practical benefits?” I wondered. “It’s about being a good person, a good friend, code or not.”

“Entirely subjective,” Kopaka countered. “I would be a far better person for bringing greater benefits the Matoran, rather than preferring two bygone Toa.”

“That depends…” I mused. “I mean, who really needs your help right now? The Matoran living their happy lives, or the two Toa in despair who you once called your allies?” Kopaka stopped and thought for a moment before turning to me.

“Why are you still here?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Because I’m curious, I guess…” I was somewhat flustered by how suddenly he’d broken off the discussion. “Besides, where else would I go?”

Kopaka sighed. “I have been willing to entertain you thus far,” he continued, “but let me make this clear: what you think of my actions or motivations is none of my concern, and I will not tolerate your persistent questioning on the matter. If you are following me purely to criticize my behavior, I suggest you leave now.”

“I might,” I replied, “but you still have a promise to keep: you were going to show me that final battle, remember?”

“That I promised, and that promise I will keep,” the Toa of Ice said, “but I expect you to leave afterwards. Can we agree on that?”

“Deal.” I agreed. I mean, he probably would’ve tried to shake me some other way if I hadn’t, and this way I at least still had some time to formulate what questions I had left… and possibly to convince him not to leave. With him planning on going back to those mountains soon, something was beginning to dawn on me; most likely, once he went back up there, he wouldn’t come back again, and unless he’d sneak in another unlikely visit in at some point I could be the last person to see him alive. I mean, even now that his body was by and large working again, nothing could disguise the fact that he simply couldn’t last long up there anymore, and I wasn’t sure whether or not he realized that, or if he cared. Also, I was still having a hard time believing that his astronomical research was so important in its benefits to the Matoran that Kopaka was willing to go and die for it… especially since he could do a better job at it working in a knowledge tower right here, in New Atero, as Gali had pointed out. Before I left, I wanted to ask him to explain that; the whole thing just felt like an elaborate excuse for him to leave everything else behind otherwise, and worse, it was an excuse that would kill him.

We reached the station after a good hour and a half of navigating the city streets; now I understood why Hewkii had favored taking the underground train. It was mid-morning on a sunny day as we crossed the busy central square. The scene from our arrival repeated itself; Kopaka passed silently through the shorter crowd gathering many stares but no recognition, exactly as he planned, while I got a lot of respectful head nods, waves, and an occasional “good morning, Toa.” One young Agori even asked if I could sign my autograph on a piece of paper for him… I got the distinct feeling that my reputation as a ‘new Toa’ preceded me, though I hardly felt deserving of it. I signed his paper, of course, smiled, then quickly caught up with Kopaka as he proceeded up the stairs into the station’s foyer, where numerous ticket booths were set up. Kopaka approached the closest that was open.

“Fair morning, Toa,” the cashier inside greeted both of us. “Where to today?”

“Ko-Koro-Nuva,” Kopaka said in a surprisingly raspy voice. “One way, one ticket.”

“Okay, that’ll be fifty widgets in total,” the cashier noted as he pulled a ticket up from what I assumed was a rack or drawer setup of some kind below his desk. Kopaka pulled out the required widgets and laid them on the counter. The cashier proceeded to count them, then handed over the ticket.

“I’ll have the same,” I told him, producing fifty widgets of my own. By the time I got my ticket and made it up to the actual platform, Kopaka had already found a relatively isolated bench on its far side and was awaiting the train’s arrival. I joined him, and noted from the ticket that the train was supposed to depart within half an hour. There were a few Matoran and Agori waiting, but the platform was far from full. The train arrived within ten minutes, packed with travelers from Onu-Koro-Nuva, who departed in a steady stream onto the platform and down the stairs to the foyer. Once the train had emptied, we joined the waiting travelers and boarded. Kopaka turned left towards the back of the train, and proceeded through one car after another until he entered the last one, where he took one seat and I the one across from him, just as it had been on the train that we’d arrived on three days earlier.

“So, the final battle,” I hinted as we waited for the train to depart.

“Wait until we are moving,” Kopaka decided. Fair enough, I guess… until the train departed, there was always a chance that someone would make their way to the back car and join us. So we waited in silence, Kopaka still with his hood up, just in case someone turned up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before someone did.

“I told you, it’s her!” a voice called, accompanying the sound of footfalls and the door of the car opening. I recognized it immediately.

“Hey, Lis! Where’ve you been!?”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 28

--------------------

 

I looked over to the door to see the distinctive, green form of a Toa of Air. “Lerome?” I was rather surprised to see him here.

“Aw, what up, sis?” he approached, walking with that characteristic swagger, that beat to his step, and was followed in by the two other members of our team: Kirall and Jahlpu, Toa of Water and Earth, respectively.

“Oh, not much,” I shrugged. “Been traveling. What are you all doing here?”

“Same as you,” Lerome replied as he planted himself on the seat next to Kopaka. “We’ve been living up this town, right?” he turned to his companions.

“You have no idea,” Kirall added. “I mean, the size of this place, all the stuff you do…” Jahlpu nodded in agreement with our sister.

“Never seen anything like it,” he commented. I nodded too, a bit stumped by their sudden entrance. This was a really inconvenient time for them to show up.

“The light shows at that party in the Vo-Matoran place,” Lerome said, “seriously, you should’ve been there.”

“Oh, it was like, totally epic,” Kirall added, taking the seat next to me. “There were these laser things that made all these patterns in the air, and a bunch of Glatorian were there, and we danced that night away!” I continued feigning a smile… I knew full well how much Kirall appreciated the company and attention of those Glatorian.

“It was really cool,” Jahlpu added, having taken a seat as well. Unlike the smooth-talking Lerome and ditzy Kirall, our Toa of Earth was one of relatively few words.

“Nothing compared to Le-Koro-Nuva, though,” Lerome said proudly. “Man, we were up for days in those tree huts!”

“I’m sure it was great,” I nodded, nervously casting a glance at Kopaka, who didn’t much appreciate the interruption.

“Don’t forget the parkway,” Kirall added. “Like, the day after that party, those Glatorian took me there; that place is shopping heaven! Look at what I got!” She raised up a leg, proudly displaying what appeared to be an attachment to her foot to raise her heels.

“Ehm… nice.” I remembered Toa Hahli had sported similar modifications.

“They say it’s this big thing among the Vortixx,” Kirall continued, lowering her tone as though whispering me a secret. “They say it makes me look… powerful.” A sly smile and much emphasis accompanied the word “powerful.”

“Do they?” I asked, confounded as to what exactly the point was.

“Oh yeah, watch!” Kirall stood up and struck a pose, then another which was accompanied by a smile and wink. Lerome looked and nodded approvingly, while Jahlpu rolled his eyes. If “powerful” was the point, I think Kirall missed the mark, but a Glatorian or Agori would certainly have described her as “alluring.” She had a certain poise, though I couldn’t help but feel that those… attachments had to be messing with her balance. “Best part,” she mentioned, “is that I got a massive discount, ‘cause guess what, I’m a Toa!”

“Yea, we can pretty much walk in anywhere and get served for free,” Lerome laughed. “It’s awesome being a hero!” I was about to reply when, suddenly, the train started to move and my misgivings about Kirall’s balance were proven correct. Standing effectively on her tip-toes, she could do nothing to brace herself and ungracefully tumbled head-over-heels as the train rapidly accelerated beneath her. Lerome burst out laughing at the undignified spectacle. Jahlpu rolled his eyes but couldn’t help a smile.

“That was hilarious!” the Toa of Air gasped. “Straight-up wipeout!”

“You try it, buster,” Kirall scorned as she picked herself up and took back her seat.

“You might need more practice,” Jahlpu helpfully pointed out.

“Yeah…” Kirall admitted. “I’m working on it. But,” she turned to me, “you know Toa Hahli has these, right?”

“Yeah, I know,” I replied. Kirall idolized Hahli; she’d been religiously following her news broadcasts practically since the day she’d been activated.

“This is, like, just the start,” the Toa of Water continued. “I’m gonna look like her someday.”

“That’s… uhm… that’s a lot of work to be done,” I hesitantly pointed out. “I mean, Hahli didn’t get that done overnight, did she?”

“Oh, of course not.” Kirall waved the thought away. “Point is, look where she’s at today. I’m going to get there, too.”

“Sure…” I remembered talking with Hahli on the subject of what all she’d had to do to herself to get there; Kirall had no idea what she was in for.

“No, really, I am,” Kirall insisted, apparently thinking that I didn’t believe her.

“Oh, I’m sure you will,” I assured her, “but… you’re going to sacrifice a lot for that.”

“Meh,” she scoffed. “I’ll manage.” I wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t going to stop her… Whenever Kirall wanted something, nothing and no one could get in her way. Lerome at last recovered from his laughing fit.

“Sheesh, sis, you’ve been missing out,” he added. “We’ll have to get you back there at some point, shake it loose, you know?”

“Get wasted,” Jahlpu added.

“Yeah, sure…” I suddenly noticed Kopaka’d vanished from his seat a midst the commotion.

“No, trust me, you need it,” Lerome went on. “Unwind a bit, sis; the Skakdi gave up, remember?”

“Uh-hm…” I spotted Kopaka sitting at the other end of the train, the very back of the car.

“Remember?” Lerome repeated.

“Oh… yeah, sure.” I turned back to him.

“We’re gonna see Onu-Koro-Nuva first, though” Kirall added, not sounding as excited about that prospect as she sounded about just about everything else. “Jahlpu here wants to see… what did you want to see again?” She turned to the Toa of Earth.

“The great mine,” Jahlpu reminded her. “It’s the biggest mine on the planet; that’s like the holy grail for Onu-matoran. No way I’m not going to see it.”

“Yeah, we’re checking out a hole in the ground,” Kirall shrugged.

“Riveting stuff, I’m sure,” I smiled towards Jahlpu, well aware of how much he’d had to put up with from the other two Toa. He nodded back.

“So, what’ve you been doing in the big city, then?” Lerome asked me.

“Uhm… wandered about a bit,” I answered, not wanting to get specific about everything that had transpired in front of me over the past few days. “I, uhm… I saw that fight between Tahu and Stronius.”

“Oh, you did!?” Lerome exclaimed. “We were there, too! Awesome, am I right?”

“It was… impressive,” I nodded.

“Man, that finishing move,” Lerome leant back, remembering whatever the fight looked like from his angle. “Sometimes I wish I could do that with fire, you know?”

“You’d just send them flying,” Kirall pointed out.

“Exactly!” the Toa of Air exclaimed. “It sucks sometimes…”

“Tahu can’t fly, though,” I noted.

“That’s true…” Lerome admitted. “I wouldn’t give that up, no way… did you go and see that big Kolhii match, too?”

“Unfortunately, no,” I shook my head. “Didn’t really have the time.”

“Sucks,” Lerome continued. “It was epic. Hewkii pulled the overhead launch like five times!”

“That seems a bit… excessive,” I replied, vaguely remembering something about the “overhead launch” being Hewkii’s signature move.

“Oh no, they set him up perfectly,” Lerome explained. “Passed that ball to him right down the fourth line, then he’d rotate around the 45th, and suddenly, no defenders left beyond the goalie, and no way that guy alone was gonna stop a well-aimed shot from the master. They pulled that trick five times; those guys didn’t have an answer to it!” Excited hand-gestures accompanied his explanation, but I could only nod and pretend to know what he was talking about… I just didn’t follow Kolhii all that closely, whereas Lerome positively qualified as a fanatic.

“His favorite team did well,” Kirall translated. “Like, really well.”

“I figured.”

“And Hewkii’s his favorite player,” she continued, as though I hadn’t heard Lerome sing his praises a hundred times before. “He’s a Toa of Stone…”

“I know…” I rolled my eyes.

“He’s the greatest player there is,” Lerome repeated what he’d said many, many times before.

“Yeah, yeah,” I acknowledged. “You’ve told me.”

“It bears repeating,” Lerome concluded. For a moment, the car fell silent as no one really had much of an answer to that.

“Well, I’m going to check out the catering,” Kirall decided.

“Good idea,” Lerome chimed in. Both Toa got up and momentarily looked to me and Jahlpu.

“No thanks,” I turned them down. Jahlpu likewise shook his head. To tell the truth, I was feeling a bit peckish, but I wanted to go check on Kopaka first.

“Okay, suit yourselves. We’ll be right back.” Lerome and Kirall departed.

“Fun times, hm?” I said to Jahlpu after the door closed behind them.

“Sure,” the Toa of Earth admitted. “So, who’s your friend?” he pointed down the car to the end, where Kopaka was sitting hunched over with his hood up, concealing his identity from my brother.

“Oh, he’s…” I struggled to come up with an explanation. “He’s another Toa. Bit older. I’ve been... keeping an eye on him.”

“Ah,” Jahlpu nodded. “Hero from the past?”

“Yeah… I should probably go check on him,” I admitted.

“Go ahead,” Jahlpu said, gesturing in Kopaka’s direction.

“I'll be right back.” I got up and made my way over the back end of the car, where Kopaka was sitting with his hood still up, concealing his identity from my companions. I took the seat across from him.

“Sorry about them,” I began. “I really didn’t expect them to show up here.”

“I figured,” he replied in as icy a tone as I’d ever gotten from him.

“They’re my teammates,” I continued, not sure exactly what else to say about them. “They’re… uhm… riding a bit high on the whole being a Toa thing.”

“They are not Toa,” Kopaka asserted. “Not even close.”

“Well physically, they are…” I argued half-heartedly, but Kopaka’s death stare cut me off.

“After everything that you have seen, do you really think that being a Toa is all about that?” he said sternly, almost disappointedly.

“No, not really…” I confessed.

“Being a Toa is not about the powers, or the toys, or the generous gratitude of others,” he continued. “We serve the Matoran, not the other way around. Those who forget that do not deserve the title.”

“I don't think anyone ever told them,” I sighed. Kopaka merely grunted, signaling disapproval but not dignifying the statement with a response. “So, the final battle... it may have to wait a bit,” I continued. “I can't really ask them to leave, so...”

“No concern,” Kopaka said, though his tone of voice indicated he wasn't pleased. “Go see to your friends, the battle can wait.”

“Thanks.” I got up and went back to my previous seat. “He's okay,” I assured Jahlpu, who looked slightly concerned.

“If you say so.” He shrugged. I appreciated his concern; within our team, Jahlpu was arguably the most sensible Toa... the most Toa-like, perhaps, going by Kopaka's definition. “How did he turn invisible?” the Toa of Earth suddenly asked.

“Did he?” I was shocked.

“When Kirall fell,” Jahlpu explained, “he just... vanished, and then reappeared over there after a while.”

“Oh...” Suddenly I got it. “Kanohi Huna,” I replied. “He can turn invisible for a short time.”

“Useful,” Jahlpu nodded. “So, where are you headed, then?”

“Ko-Koro-Nuva, probably,” I replied.

“You want to come check out the mine with us first?” he offered. “I mean, you'd probably find it more interesting than those two.” He gestured back to the door through which Lerome and Kirall had vanished.

“Maybe...” I said, looking back towards Kopaka.

“They've got a statue of another old Toa there,” Jahlpu continued. “Toa Onua Nuva, a Toa of Earth. A true hero, he was, the hero of the Onu-Matoran.”

“Do they, now?” I got an idea. “Hold on a moment,” I said as I got up again, and walked back to Kopaka.

“Want to make a stop in Onu-Koro-Nuva?” I asked the Toa of Ice.

“No” was his curt reply. He didn't even look up at me.

“They've got a statue of Onua there,” I continued. “Thought you might like to see it.”

“Why would I want to see it?” Kopaka wondered.

“Onua died, right?” I said. “Before you go back... wouldn't you like to know how, and what he did?”

“I know what he was doing when I left,” Kopaka countered. “Why should I spend time getting to know how he died?”

“I don't know... get closure?” I offered. “I mean, he was your brother, too.”

Kopaka paused for a moment, then looked up at me. “After seeing two of my brothers and my sister already, do you really believe that I want to see more?” He was suppressing it as usual, but I could detect pain behind that question... what he'd seen, especially Pohatu, had hit him harder than he was willing to admit.

“Perhaps not,” I concluded, feeling a bit bad about pressing the issue in the first place. “It's just that... they're going to see it, and the mine, and I think it would be interesting to know what happened with Onua... and you still have to show me that final battle.”

“I will,” he assured me, “and you will get to see whatever you are planning on seeing in there with them.”

“Okay then...” I shrugged and turned back, figuring that he'd already come up with a plan that accounted for the changed circumstances. “I'll come,” I told Jahlpu as I took my seat by him again.

“Great!” Jahlpu smiled; I guess he was glad that at last he'd have some more company than just Lerome and Kirall. “You're going to like it, I'm sure.”

“Probably more than Kirall will with those heels.” I couldn't help but smile at the image of Kirall trying to navigate uneven, rocky ground with her new 'upgrades.'

“Yeah, probably,” Jahlpu acknowledged. “Anyways, that statue... have you heard about Onua?”

“In name, but I'd like to know more,” I answered.

“The guy's a freaking legend,” Jahlpu continued, getting excited. “He practically dug that whole mine...” Before even really getting started, he was interrupted by the return of Jerome and Kirall, both carrying tasty looking sandwiches.

“So, it turns out, the catering's pretty good,” Jerome announced as he took his seat again.

“Seriously, you should check it out,” Kirall added.

“Later, maybe,” I told her, noticing that Jahlpu looked a disappointed; he probably wouldn't get much of a word in edgewise while these two were around, never mind tell the story of Onua.

“What were you talking about?” Kirall wondered.

“Jahlpu was telling me about Toa Onua,” I replied, hoping that he'd get the chance to continue.

“Onua... isn't that the one they've got the statue of?” Kirall asked.

“Yes,” Jahlpu replied.

“Oh, the one that worked with Lewa!” Lerome suddenly exclaimed.

“The one from Le-Koro-Nuva?” Kirall wondered.

“Yeah, remember?” Lerome continued. “The one Kongu told us about.”

“Oh, right...” Kirall recalled.

“Sorry,” I interrupted, “Kongu? As in, Toa Mahri Kongu?”

“Yeah, that one!” Lerome said excitedly. “He told us all about the Toa Nuva!”

“Really?” Now I was curious… how much of what I’d seen and learned about the Toa Nuva had Kongu told them?

“Yeah,” Lerome answered. “He does these tour things. Like, with the statue they’ve got a museum of what the Toa Nuva did… mostly Lewa. It’s a really cool place.”

“Bit boring,” Kirall complained.

“Well, the museum, maybe,” Lerome admitted, “but Toa Lewa was a .”

“What did Kongu tell you?” I wondered.

“Well,” Lerome recalled, “it started on this island place… Mata Nui.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 29

--------------------

“You’ve heard of Mata Nui, right?” Lerome asked.

“Yeah, of course,” I nodded… he had no idea that I’d seen bits and fragments of the legendary island itself.

“Well, there were these evil rahi attacking the Matoran there,” the Toa of Air continued, “along with these… the bug things…” he looked to Kirall, who shrugged.

“I don’t know,” she said nonchalantly.

“Bohrok,” Jahlpu reminded Lerome.

“Right, Bohrok,” the latter continued. “The rahi and the Bohrok were trying to destroy the island and everyone on it, but Toa Lewa fought them off!”

“With the other Toa Nuva, I’m sure,” I noted.

“Of course,” Lerome admitted, “but he did a lot of it. They even faced the Makuta there once, and they weren’t even the Toa Nuva yet!”

“That was a pretty sweet upgrade,” Kirall acknowledged.

“Yeah, so, after fighting the Makuta, they became Toa Nuva,” Lerome continued, “but get this: Makuta wasn’t gone! He came back, and they destroyed him again, with Takanuva!”

“That’s impressive…” I noted, vaguely remembering parts of the story from what bits and pieces I’d seen in memory.

“Not only that,” the Toa of Air pointed out, “but did you know Takanuva wasn’t even a Toa before that fight?”

“Really?” Kirall asked, confused. “I thought that happened with the serpent things.”

“Well, technically, yeah,” Lerome shrugged, “but up until then, Takanuva was just a Matoran, and he went on this whole journey across Mata Nui to figure out how to become Takanuva. Guess who guided him? Toa Lewa!”

“Oh, right…” Kirall recalled.

“Really?” I questioned. “Just Lewa? The whole way through?”

“Yup,” Lerome said proudly. “Of course, the fact that he could fly helped out a lot.”

“Fair enough…” I agreed. “So, what happened after that?”

“Well, he met this weird monster thing called Tren Krom,” Lerome said, looking up as though trying to remember something. “And… uhm, what was that other place?”

“Karzahni,” Jahlpu helped.

“Oh, right!” Lerome exclaimed. “They fought another Makuta there! That’s what it was!”

“I thought it was the same one as before,” Kirall interrupted.

“Hmm… could be…” Lerome didn’t seem sure. I sighed; I knew exactly which Makuta the Toa Nuva’d faced in that hellish place, and no, he wasn’t the same one as on Mata Nui.

“Different,” Jahlpu concluded.

“They looked similar, though,” Kirall argued, “in those drawings they made of the fights.”

“Those were made years later,” Jahlpu countered, “and the two Makuta did wear the same mask.”

“Oh, right…” Kirall nodded, but the expression on her face was far from certain.

“Anyways, not important,” Lerome dismissed the argument. “So, after all that went down, Lewa went to Karda Nui, and fought more Makuta there…”

“Okay, okay…” I interrupted him. “I get the history parts.”

“Lots of Makuta, lots of fighting, lots of stuff no one remembers,” Kirall summed it up bluntly.

“Yeah, well… What about after the Reformation? What did Lewa do, then?” I wondered.

“Oh, that’s the best part!” Lerome continued excitedly. “Get this: Lewa wouldn’t stop. He wanted adventure, right?”

“Right…” I nodded.

“Well, after the planet was fixed, guess what he did?”

“Uhm… look for adventure?”

“Exactly! He goes off and explores the great wilderness of Bota Magna!”

“The one with the dinosaurs,” Kirall clarified.

“Yeah, I know,” I said towards her, somewhat snidely to indicate my growing displeasure at her constant interruptions.

“Anyways,” Lerome continued, “He goes out there, right? On these big exploration trips, gone for a few weeks at a time, and then he comes back with all these amazing stories of the things he’s found. And he does that for years, ‘cause there was so much stuff out there to find, and a lot of it dangerous.”

“He fought dinosaurs?” Now that was an image.

“You bet he did,” Kirall interrupted. “I mean, those things are nasty. Like, really big, with claws and teeth and…” She stopped when I glared at her.

“Thanks,” I said, “but I know what they look like. Let him tell his story, okay?”

“Fine…” Kirall shrugged, turning away.

“You were saying?” I turned back to Lerome.

“Fought dinosaurs, mapped jungles and caves, did amazing daredevil stunts, survived out there for weeks at a time…” the Toa of Air said proudly. “He paved the way for Matoran to move into that place. That’s why Le-Koro-Nuva exists today: Lewa found a good place to put it.”

“What happened to him, then?” I wondered. “I mean, it sounds like he had things going pretty well.”

“Well, you know Mount Valmai?” Lerome asked. “The big volcano on Bota Magna?”

“The one that erupted a few centuries ago?”

“Yeah, that one. Basically, the Ta-Matoran figured out it was going to erupt, and Lewa really wanted to see it. Thing is, he got a bit too close…. Even the great Toa of Air can’t survive being whacked out of the air by falling red-hot chunks of lava.”

“Really? Couldn’t he have, I don’t know, kept a little more of a distance?” I was rather skeptical of someone of Lewa’s caliber just… recklessly flying into something like that.

“No, it was like a thrill-seeking thing,” Lerome continued, unfazed. “Like, he wanted to see how close he could get, you know? And you should have read some of the accounts from the Ta-Matoran; they even had a video. An old and video, but you could see him, flying back and forth at super speed, dodging all these chunks of magma coming down!” Now standing, Lerome accompanied his description with swooping gestures and movements. “He was, like, this tiny speck racing along amidst that eruption, with the sky coming down around him, and I swear it was like he was just dancing through it or something…” he fell back into his chair. “Man… what that must have been like for him… I can’t even imagine, you know?”

“Yeah…” I nodded, not sure of what to make of the story. “Must have been… exhilarating.”

“Totally,” Lerome agreed. “I mean, he died, but that would’ve been so worth it. The thrill of his life, right up until that last moment… that’s how I’d want to go.”

“I’m sure you do,” I agreed, though Lewa’s final actions still seemed downright foolhardy. Then again, that was exactly the attitude that Lerome admired.

“Spectacularly.” Lerome finished.

“It was pretty impressive,” Kirall admitted. Jahlpu didn’t chime in, but his darkening expression indicated he didn’t quite agree.

“Yeah… sounds pretty cool, I guess…” I sighed, momentarily glancing down the car to where Kopaka was sitting. He’d been paying attention; I was sure of it. I mean, we were talking about one of his former teammates. However, I was too far away to get a quickly distinct reading of his reaction...

“I’ll probably end up heading that way anyways,” Lerome continued. “After we get done traveling. I mean, Bota Magna is a pretty nice place, and they have a kolhii team.”

“That’s all you’ll ever need,” I shrugged.

“Exactly.” Lerome leant back, making himself comfortable. We were quiet for a bit after that; Kirall finished her sandwich, which thankfully kept her quiet, Lerome’d finished his story, and Jahlpu’d never been one to speak up and start a conversation, even among friends. As for me… I thought about Lewa. His behavior didn’t make much sense to me; from how Lerome explained events, it appeared that the Toa Nuva of Air totally had it made, and even someone with his reckless streak wouldn’t have taken on something as risky as flying through a volcanic eruption… right? It seemed positively suicidal, yet somehow Lewa had found himself there. The only conclusion I could come to was that something was missing, something Lerome either didn’t know or didn’t tell. I suspected it was the former, given that his account of Lewa’s history was rather suspect as well.

“So, how long has it been?” Lerome eventually asked.

“About an hour,” Jahlpu said flatly. “Twenty-two hours to go.”

“Man, this train’s taking ages,” Lerome complained. “I wanna do something, you know?”

“Some entertainment’d be nice…” Kirall agreed.

“Go find some,” I suggested. “At the very least they should have magazines or something in the other cars.”

“Or a working telescreen,” Kirall noted, pointing at the telescreen mounted on the wall towards the front of our car. It was out, but those in some of the cars further forwards had been on, I recalled.

“Yeah, I’m going to check that out,” the restless Toa of Air decided. He got up and left again, followed by Kirall. Watching them leave, I noticed Kirall had already adopted a very different way of walking… one that all but screamed ‘female Glatorian’ in ways that did not befit a Toa…

“Quite the story.” I eventually turned to Jahlpu, hoping to figure out what had displeased him about it.

“Yeah,” the Toa of Earth shrugged. “The great hero, right?”

“Seemed to be,” I noted. “Though I’m guessing Lerome left out a few things.”

“He did,” Jahlpu acknowledged. “But, you know, he’s his hero and all…”

“His dream Toa,” I sighed. “Suppose it beats Kirall’s aspirations, right?”

“Someday it’ll get him hurt,” Jahlpu said grimly. “Or killed, if he’s unlucky.”

“So what really happened with Lewa?” I wondered. “I mean, I don’t think he would’ve just… done what he did around that volcano for the thrill of it, right? Even he wouldn’t do that.”

“Not in his heyday, no,” Jahlpu agreed. “Something else was probably pushing him, come to think of it…” He stroked his chin in that way he did whenever he was trying to recall something. “They didn’t tell us that, though.”

“Really?” I was a bit surprised by that; it seemed rather important.

 “It probably doesn’t fit the story of the glorious Toa Lewa,” Jahlpu concluded.

“Probably true…”

“Guess it doesn’t really concern us, then,” the Toa of Earth decided. I merely shrugged, after which we sat silently again; Jahlpu in his signature hunched-over, brooding way while I leant back and tried to relax a bit for the long trip ahead. The question of Lewa still kept my mind occupied as I wondered what exactly had been left out of the story presented to my teammates; it just didn’t sit right with me that someone with a life like Lewa’s would risk it the way he apparently had... the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Toa of Air’s last flight amounted to little more than a suicide, a chilling contrast to the lively, energetic, and endlessly positive hero that I imagined from Lerome’s description. However, it did fit alarmingly well to what I’d seen of the other Toa Nuva, each of whom was destroying themselves in their twilight years, one way or another. Was that their ultimate fate, and had Lewa just reached the end first? For that matter, if it was even true, what did it mean for Kopaka? Looking over, I noticed the Toa of Ice was still sitting hunched over, arms crossed and elbows on his knees, apparently catching up on rest lost from the night spent watching over Pohatu. There was a calm yet intense air about him, as close as I’d seen him to being at peace, though what little mental signature I could read at the distance wasn’t telegraphing ‘peace’ at all… No, there was an unusual melancholy tint to the Toa of Ices’ thoughts. He was more worried than he let on, though the latter part didn’t surprise me.

After a while, Jahlpu got up. “I’m gonna see what Lerome and Kirall’ve found,” he informed me. “Knowing them, they’re probably starting a party in some car up ahead.”

“Have fun, I guess…” I nodded, fully aware that this presented the perfect opportunity for time alone with Kopaka, and with it, maybe I’d finally get to see the final battle after all. Jahlpu nodded, turned, and made his way forward, leaving our car for the one in front, which from what glimpse I caught while the door was open was also mostly empty. As soon as the door had closed again, I got up and made my way over to where Kopaka was sitting. “They’re gone, for now,” I informed him.

Kopaka sighed, then waited a moment before replying. “I know,” he said grimly, “but who is to say they will not return at any moment?”

“I figure we could hear them coming,” I explained.

“Last time, would you have heard anyone coming?” Kopaka asked, referring back to the same train trip that had started our whole journey.

“Probably not, I guess…” Given how immersive the memory sharing process was, and the fact that things would probably get pretty intense in this final battle, I could understand his insistence on absolute privacy. “But when do you want to do it, then?” I wondered.

“They will be exhausted and asleep by nightfall,” Kopaka predicted. “Then I can show you in peace.”

“Okay, that works.” I nodded. The idea of waiting ‘till nightfall, given the length of the trip, didn’t even occur to me. “So, were you listening to his story?” I asked, referring to Lerome’s telling of Lewa’s story.

“Yes,” Kopaka admitted.

“I think he’s missing a couple of things,” I continued. “How about you?”

“We are remembered however people want to remember us,” Kopaka said, sounding almost prophetic, “even if that means propagating lies by omission.”

“So, what do you think really happened?” I asked.

“I neither know nor need to.”

“He was your brother, though,” I argued. “I mean, wouldn’t you at least like to know? There has to be some interest there.”

“Lewa was a Toa, sure,” Kopaka acknowledged, “but he was also overconfident, arrogant, and at times downright foolish, never mind noisy. I do not have all the answers as far as what happened to him, but I do not find what happened surprising in the least. That is all I need to know.”

“Of course…” I sighed. “And how do you think you will be remembered, then?”

“I neither know nor need to, so long as my duty is fulfilled.” And we were back to duty again. “Besides, if you wish to see how I am remembered, just ask around in Ko-Koro-Nuva. They already believe me dead, do they not?”

“That’s true,” I admitted, “but you could correct any inaccuracies in your history. I figure that’d matter to you of all people.”

“Would it serve anyone to do so? Would the full truth be a better memory for them than whatever they have come up with?” Kopaka questioned.

“Maybe not, but since when does the quality of the truth concern you?” I wondered. “You had no trouble telling Gali the ugly truth of her… situation. That’s hypocritical.”

“It concerns me because they are Matoran,” Kopaka countered, now sounding somewhat agitated. “Toa serve the Matoran first and foremost, and if lies must be propagated for the Matoran’s benefit, then I will do so, but I will not suffer Toa who fool themselves in the same way.”

“That may be,” I argued, “but if you’re so dead set on doing things to benefit the Matoran, why don’t you at least tell the Ko-Matoran that you’re still alive? They worship you! Imagine how they’d feel to know that you’re still alive, still watching over them, ‘the last Toa Nuva,’ or whatever you want to call it?”

“And what would they do?” Kopaka asked. “Throw a party to celebrate my return? If anything, I would distract them from their tasks, and no practical benefits would be gained.”

“You might think you know all about the practical stuff,” I concluded, “but you have no understanding of people. None whatsoever.”

“I work alone,” Kopaka said coldly, “which makes such knowledge superfluous.”

“You’re wrong on that part,” I countered. “You had to work with your team once.”

“Once, but no longer. Are you done?”

“Maybe… until nightfall, that is.” I said.

“Go join them in whatever they are doing,” Kopaka suggested, nodding towards the door leading forward into the train at the other end of the car. “I would prefer to be alone for now.”

“Okay, just… don’t run off this time.” Kopaka didn’t reply, so I got up and left, making my way forward through a number of cars as the train continued to hurtle along the track to Onu-Koro-Nuva. Looking back for a moment, I saw Kopaka had returned to his meditation. Once again, he’d put some semi-logical argument together to explain all the hypocrisies of his behavior, and once again his cold rationale had left me rather wanting. Perhaps, as a Toa of Psionics, I am rather predisposed to value the feelings and relationships of others more than most, since I can read their impact far more directly, courtesy of my abilities… but Kopaka’s blunt and utter dismissal of people’s feelings as anything of significance really bothered me, and still does. Anything that didn’t fit in a rational sequence to him just wasn’t significant, and perhaps that disregard for feeling worked for him, but everyone around him, everyone he worked with did have feelings that mattered… Perhaps that was part of the reason why he isolated himself so; to get away from the one thing he couldn’t explain, and therefore be able to dismiss it as trivial. That idea occupied my mind for a while afterwards.

As I made my way through the second-to-last car, I started to hear music… upbeat and energetic Le-Matoran music, and that could only mean one thing: Lerome and Kirall really had started a party.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 30

--------------------

 

The party in question turned out to be three cars ahead, and by the time I reached it, the music had grown from a distant droning to a loud cacophony that could unmistakably be recognized as the work of the a Le-Matoran band that I’d heard a number of times before: Kikanalo Stampede. I entered the car in which the festivities were taking place: it was the same car in which food and drinks were available, and it looked like everyone was taking great advantage of that fact. The car was packed to capacity with Matoran and Agori of all tribes, merrily sharing stories and drinks in an atmosphere that reminded me more of a nightclub than the dry, dull public transport cafeteria/lounge that this was supposed to be. Some were dancing to the beat where there was space to do so, and perched above it all on a bar stool by the center of the bar was Lerome, downing a drink and enjoying the undivided attention of a sizable gathering of Matoran.

“…and I looked that Skakdi leader straight in the eyes,” the Toa of Air proclaimed loud enough to be heard over the music, “and I told him that if he showed that ugly face in my town again, he’d spent the rest of his life watching over us from orbit!” His crowd responded with cheers and laughter, and drinks were shared all around. I looked right to find Jahlpu standing, leaning against the wall and calmly observing the happenings with a drink of his own, but before I could say anything to him, Lerome noticed me in the doorway. “Guess who’s decided to join us!” He announced, stepping down from his barstool and gesturing in my direction. “Toa Lis, ladies and gentlemen!” He beckoned for me to come over.

“Uhm, hello…” I greeted nervously as I took a few steps forward, still trying to take in the absurdity of the scene, which Lerome was quick to explain to me as he stepped forward.

“So, turns out this car has a speaker system,” he pointed towards the bar, “and I got our good friend there to turn off the boring tunes for some Kikanalo Stampede! And voila, we have ourselves a party!”

“So it seems…” I said as I looked over towards the bartender, a Vo-Matoran who seemed decidedly uncomfortable with the whole situation, a common feeling for those who found themselves caught in Lerome’s path.

“C’mon, sis! Let’s make this trip a fun one!” the Toa of Air invited, throwing his arm over my shoulders and moving me along towards the bar. A number of Matoran raised glasses to me as we passed by.

“I’m not so sure…” I began to object, but Lerome wouldn’t hear of it.

“Nonsense!” he interrupted. “It’s been way to long since you’ve kicked back with us!”

“You sure this is allowed?” I questioned. Lerome turned to the bartender and snapped his fingers, prompting the Vo-Matoran to quickly pull up another glass from below his counter and fill it with a fairly stiff-looking drink.

“Who’s gonna stop us?” the Toa of Air asked in return. “I mean, look around. Everyone loves a good party, especially when the alternative is to sit and stay quiet for twenty-whatever hours.”

“Can’t argue that…” I looked around, and to be fair, the other passengers seemed pretty okay with the fact that Lerome had turned the lounge into a club. “Where’s Kirall?” I wondered. Lerome gestured over to a corner on the other side of the car, where I spotted our Toa of Water, sitting with and rather enjoying the company of a Fire Tribe Glatorian, of all things… “Ah, she’s… uhm…” I couldn’t quite find the right words.

“She’s playin’, sis, she’s playin’,” Lerome said mockingly. “C’mon, you know her.”

“Yeah, true,” I admitted as the bartender offered me the drink, which I hesitantly accepted. Lerome’s crowd had regathered around us.

“So, Lis here,” he introduced me to them, “she’s our master mind reader and psionic manipulator. She knows what you’re gonna say before you even think of saying it.” Some of the Matoran looked at me wide-eyed, while others appeared more skeptical, especially the Agori. “She can make you see things that aren’t there,” Lerome continued dramatically, “she can make you remember things that never happened, or forget things that did…”

“That’s not…” I raised a hand, but that didn’t do much to interrupt the Toa of Air.

“…she can make you feel real good inside,” he continued, then darkened his voice, “…or she can show you stuff from your worst nightmares… BOO!” His captivated audience jumped at the scare tactic.

“Okay, that’s not what I do,” I objected. In fact, I was feeling profoundly uncomfortable with his description of my abilities…

“You can, though,” Lerome said.

“Technically yes,” I admitted, “but I don’t, okay?”

“Tell them what you did to the Skakdi lord,” Lerome invited, with a slightly cruel smile on his face… he was enjoying this.

“Oh, please not,” I shook my head.

“It was brilliant, though!” Lerome excited the group, who now all looked to me expectantly.

“Brilliant is a bit of a strong word…” I tried to calm them, but to no avail.

“Aw, come on!” my brother pleaded. “You don’t want me to ask Kirall to tell it, do you?”

“Fine,” I sighed. “I may or may not have made the Skakdi warlord see a giant Irnakk behind us. To be fair, though, Jahlpu was the one who gave me the idea.” There was little response from the crowd.

“They don’t know what an Irnakk is,” Lerome helpfully pointed out.

“You describe it, then,” I told him.

“Of course…” Lerome rolled his eyes, then turned back to his expectant followers. “So, the Irnakk is the ultimate nightmare of any Skakdi, a giant creature with red glowing eyes and razor-sharp fangs and claws…” He accompanied his description by elaborately miming out some of the creature’s features, though said description was also rather exaggerated; the creatures’ spines were definitely not fifteen feet tall as far as I could recall, nor had the Skakdi instantly caved at its appearance, though it certainly had been a powerful bargaining tool. That was Lerome’s way of storytelling, though; he told tall tales, great heroes’ journeys, and as far as he was concerned, we now counted among the ranks of those heroes. I had my doubts, but his audience was none the wiser for it... He got caught up in the story too, so much that pretty soon he was as enthralled as the audience, and completely forgot I was there.

Seeing my opportunity to slip away, I left my seat and walked back to the end of the car through which I’d entered; I really wasn’t in much of a mood for a party of any kind, and while Kopaka wouldn’t jump up and down at my company, he probably wouldn’t mind it if I stayed quiet. As I walked past the merry partiers, the festivities almost seemed to blend together in a haze of noise and color that I simply didn’t feel comfortable being a part of anymore. Still, I turned and watched for a while from the doorway. After he’d finished describing the Irnakk, Lerome switched to showing off some of his slick dance moves to the amazed Matoran, probably helped by a little application here and there of his control over the air. Kirall wasn’t paying much attention to anything anymore besides her Glatorian companion; in their own corner, secluded somewhat from the festivities, they were doing… decidedly un-Toa-like things, let me just put it that way. Turning away again, I noticed Jahlpu had vacated his spot to the right of the door. The imposing figure of the Toa of Earth would have stood out in the crowd, and I hadn’t spotted it anywhere in the car... maybe he’d had seen enough, too.

I made my way back, passing through a few cars as the music got progressively quieter behind me. At last, I reached the final car, the quiet one where I’d left Kopaka… and where Jahlpu had apparently found him. When I opened the door, I was astonished to see my teammate standing across from Kopaka, who was still sitting, hood up, in the same spot where I’d left him not fifteen minutes before. They were carrying on some kind of conversation. Curious as to what they were discussing, I moved forward, using my Volitak to mute any sounds and get close without interrupting them. From about halfway down the car, I could clearly hear what they were saying.

“…and she just followed you?” Jahlpu asked as though he was interrogating Kopaka.

“Voluntarily,” the latter said calmly.

“Why?” my brother asked.

“I do not know what she seeks,” Kopaka answered.

“Well, what do you offer?” Jahlpu leant closer, his impressive stature looming over the sitting Toa of Ice.

“I offer nothing, other than answering her occasional questions,” he explained.

“Hmm… can you see why I find this a bit concerning?” Jahlpu crossed his arms.

“Concerning? No.”

“Really?”

“No.”

“Well, let me give it to you straight, then,” Jahlpu sighed. “She’s free to associate with whoever she wants, but if she’s keeping the company of mysterious people doing Mata Nui only knows what, I get alarm bells going off. She means well, I’m sure, but I don’t want anyone leading her to the wrong crowd, if you know what I mean.”

“I have no crowd,” Kopaka said flatly.

“Sure you don’t,” Jahlpu said sarcastically. “Just know this: if anything happens to her, I’ll come looking for you, got that?”

“Yes,” Kopaka acknowledged without looking up.

“Good.” Jahlpu turned; I ducked back behind a chair, turning my mask’s power to full to render myself transparent. That was enough to conceal me from Jahlpu, who walked past and exited the car, presumably heading back to the party.

“You really should not eavesdrop on people,” Kopaka said after the door closed behind the Toa of Earth.

“Well, I’ve kind of got the mask for it,” I said disappointedly as I deactivated the mask and got up. “Turns out they’re throwing a party a few cars up ahead.”

“I know.”

“Of course you do,” I sighed, taking the seat across from him.

“You should tell your teammate not to make hollow threats,” he suggested.

“Oh, it wasn’t hollow,” I corrected him. “Jahlpu’s a bit… overbearing sometimes, but he’s also protective, and he means well.”

“I did not doubt its sincerity,” Kopaka countered, “but he may have a difficult time finding me even if something does happen to you.”

“Well, at least he’d know who to look for,” I said.

“He never asked my name, nor recognized me,” Kopaka said, momentarily looking my way. I noticed he’d switched masks to a noble Mahiki, of all things, but he returned to his staple Akaku Nuva after I saw it.

“Ah… okay.” I understood now, though it once again brought up the grim reality that Kopaka’s time here was coming to an end, and I’d likely never see him again afterwards… “So, you’ll be heading straight out, then?” I asked him, though I already more or less knew the answer.

“That is the plan,” Kopaka reiterated himself.

“That thing,” I suddenly remembered, “that thing that Gali told you, about being able to do astronomy in the knowledge towers instead…”

“No.” Uncharacteristically, Kopaka cut me off.

“Why not, though?” I continued. “I mean, she had some valid points…”

“What valid points?”

“You’d have better equipment, you’d be safer, and if somehow you hurt yourself she could be right there to help you,” I explained. “And you’d be able to stay with and help her… or Pohatu, even.”

“So?”

“It makes no sense that you’re doing this.” I said… “To me at least… It just doesn’t.”

“I work better alone,” Kopaka said. “That is why I prefer the mountains.”

“They’d let you work alone up there, though, if you asked for it,” I countered. “I mean, you could live up there if you wanted to, well above and far away from everyone.”

“Not far enough,” Kopaka complained. I could tell I’d hit a nerve; he was getting frustrated with me again. What did he mean by ‘not far enough,’ though? Half a mile above the rest of the city, he’d surely be insulated from the noise, and what else could possibly bother him?

“What does that mean? How isolated to you need to be to work?”

Kopaka waited for a moment before replying. “Remember what I told you about questioning my actions?” he asked.

“Yeah, you told me not to,” I replied, somewhat put off by him breaking off the subject.

“Continue down this path and you will not see the final battle,” Kopaka said with a threatening undertone to his voice. “I need not explain my reasons to you. Also, I already asked you to leave me alone for now once; I would prefer you do so now.”

“Fine…” I relented, getting up again and moving off. If we had any time left together after he showed me the final battle, though, I’d have to ask him that question again. Something about his behavior on the subject of why he preferred the dangerous mountains over the safer knowledge towers didn’t fit right… it wasn’t logical like everything else he did was in one twisted way or another. He centered everything around duty, yet refused this opportunity to better work towards fulfilling his… something had to be missing, something that he wasn’t inclined to share, as evidenced by the fact that he immediately returned to sleeping. Not inclined to return to the party going on up the train, I took a seat in one of the cars in between and watched the telescreen in there for a while, trying to think of what it Kopaka’s reasoning could be. Then I recalled what Gali had told me about him, the night when she was up filtering his blood. She believed his primary reason for living up there wasn’t astronomy; it was solitude. That made sense, actually… as much as he could isolate himself atop a knowledge tower, Kopaka would always be able to see the massive city below him, whose residents would never be more than a door and some stairs away… Was that what bothered him? The mere presence of other people? But why? In light of his threat concerning the final battle, I wasn’t inclined to ask, but the idea stuck with me as I sat and watched Hahli’s morning news broadcast. The idea of trying to read into Kopaka’s thoughts again did cross my mind, but I decided against it. Not now, not when we were getting so close to when he’d actually show me what I’d been waiting for ever since that night on the beach of New Atero.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 31

--------------------

 

As the sun rose higher and noon approached, I realized I was getting hungry, never mind bored, and decided to brave the ‘party car’ again and get a hold of a sandwich of my own. Making my way forward through the train, I noticed the beat of the music had changed. It was faster, rowdier, and before I even opened the door, I feared that the situation in the car would mirror the change in soundtrack. I was right; where previously the atmosphere has been energetic, it was now downright chaotic; the space around the bar resembled a mosh pit, crowned by a considerably drunker Lerome, leading the Matoran in a frenzied dance, if that was the right word, to the music blasting from behind the counter. I watched for a minute or so, wondering how exactly I was going to make my way through the densely packed crowd, but with the end of the song they dispersed somewhat, allowing me to move in. A couple of the Matoran greeted me enthusiastically; apparently several of Lerome’s tall tales had featured me after I left. For his part, the Toa of Air wasn’t paying much attention, not noticing me until I’d practically reached the bar. Of course, that was accompanied by an enthusiastic greeting.

“Lis, welcome back!” he exclaimed. “Where’d you go!?”

“Stayed in the back for a while,” I said dismissively before turning my attention to the Vo-Matoran behind the bar, who looked even more out of his depth than he had when I last saw him a few hours before.

“C-can I help you, ma’m?” he asked, periodically casting nervous glances in Lerome’s direction.

“I’d like something to eat,” I informed him. “They told me the sandwiches were pretty good.”

“Of course, of course,” the Vo-Matoran turned and disappeared behind the counter, only to reappear moments later with a pre-packaged sandwich.

“Two widgets, I believe?” I asked, remembering the price from my last trip, a few days before.

“Yes, ma’m,” the Vo-Matoran said. I handed him the two widgets and received my lunch in return.

“Hey, play another one,” Lerome told the bartender. “Let’s keep this party going!” The bartender rolled his eyes and fiddled with something under the bar, after which the next song started playing. It was another rowdy dance track, much to Lerome’s delight. “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” he merrily exclaimed, after which he swung around on his stool and stepped down onto the floor, intending to once again demonstrate his ‘mad skills’ even while significantly intoxicated. Unsurprisingly, his coordination had suffered, though he still put on a pretty good show, not that I was all that interested. Looking around, I noticed Kirall and her companion had vanished altogether, while Jahlpu had taken a seat in the corner, observing the fray but staying well away from it. I made my way across the impromptu dancefloor to join him at his table. The music volume made it all but impossible to make one’s voice heard, so he merely nodded in greeting as I took the other seat facing into the car, from which I watched the rave unfolding to the dark, angry tune of Kikanalo Stampede’s “Down in the Pit.” We both watched for a while, me making my way through the sandwich while Jahlpu watched with apparent amusement the spectacle unfolding in front of us.

With lunch finished, I decided to vacate the place again before I lost my hearing completely; instead, I went and checked what was on the telescreen a car or two back. Turned out it was some kind of Agori fashion show, followed by the afternoon weather, then a segment on great places to eat in New Atero; surprisingly, Daila’s Dermis Shack wasn’t featured. None of the programs really interested me much, but with little better to do I kept watching, my mind drifting over the events of the last few days. However, I drew the line at “Highlights of the Arena Magna.” By that point, it had been several hours and dusk was fast approaching. The noise from the party car had quietened considerably, but I decided to move back to the last car and bide my time there until Kopaka saw fit to show me the final battle at last. The Toa of Ice hadn’t moved, but he was thinking of something, and I decided not to disturb him for the time being. Unfortunately, not fifteen minutes after I entered the car, my teammates followed suit.

“That… was so worth it…” Lerome stumbled in first, followed closely behind by Jahlpu, who was doing his best to steady the Toa of Air. “Really, awesome… I wanna go back.”

“You need to rest,” Jahlpu asserted.

“Okay…” Lerome hazily replied, then collapsed onto several seats that lacked armrests.

“Look at him! Wasted!” Kirall exclaimed in an amazing feat of irony, considering that she was barely standing herself. Jahlpu merely rolled his eyes, then pointed at another set of empty seats, which Kirall stumbled towards and eventually came to rest upon. “Hey, Lis!” she exclaimed upon noticing me sitting three chairs away, “You ought ‘a try it sometime…”

“No thanks,” I said, rather dismayed at their appearance. Loud snoring from Lerome indicated the Toa of Air was already out cold.

“No, really,” Kirall continued, “he did, like, this fire thing… and there was light ‘n stuff…”

“No thanks,” I reiterated myself, not wanting to hear more of Kirall’s afternoon activities.

“Fine, be that way,” the Toa of Water shrugged, then lay down as well. “Man, I’m tired…” it wasn’t long before she was out too, at which point Jahlpu walked over and took the seat across from me.

“End of the party, huh?” I asked.

“Yup.” Jahlpu nodded. “For now.”

“No kidding…” I rolled my eyes. “And still it always ends like this.”

“You’d think they’d learn,” the Toa of Earth sighed.

“What are you still doing with them?” I asked. “I mean, you weren’t much enjoying the party, except for watching Lerome wipe out fifteen times.”

“Yeah, they’re entertaining,” Jahlpu acknowledged. “Besides, what else would I do? Someone’s got to look out for them; they certainly aren’t.”

“We should talk some sense into them at some point… Toa should be more dignified than that.” I gestured over at the two snoring figures draped over the chairs.

“Good luck with that.” Jahlpu shook his head. “They’re having fun, and it’s not like there’s something else for them to do either. Besides, you’re one to talk; you’d usually be right there with them.”

“True…” He was right; I may not have been as exuberant as Lerome or Kirall, perhaps, but I’d had my share of blackouts in the past, just like they were having now. Thing is, my conscience started to act up about it, whereas they had no such concerns, apparently.

“Something happen, sis?” Jahlpu asked, shaking me from my moment of self reflection.

“Uh? Like what?”

“You seem… different than before,” he continued. “More worried.”

“Nah, I’m fine… I’ve just seen a few things since the last time we were together,” I replied.

“Bad things?”

“You could say… nothing to worry about, really. Just… made me think, that’s all.” An understatement, sure, but I really didn’t want to explain everything to Jahlpu right now.

“I hope that’s all.”

“It is.” I nodded. We sat there for a bit. Jahlpu pulled out a paper and started to read it. He was right, as usual… a few months, no, weeks ago, I would’ve been right up there with our brother and sister. And where Lerome and Kirall were concerned, much as their behavior wasn’t very Toa-like, it wasn’t like they had much reason to do otherwise. Like the Toa Nuva and Mahri, we had no enemy to fight nor Matoran that needed protecting, yet enjoyed the status of those who had risked their lives to do so. So yeah, why not throw a party at every opportunity? My brother and sister were carefree, alive in the most visceral sense, living it up without any need for concern about the world around them or what the next day would bring, and I used to be the same way… now, though, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore, couldn’t share in their frivolity, not after what I’d seen of the interactions between Pohatu and Kopaka, and Gali, and all the other Toa whose work had in part made this all possible. They languished and faded while we, the next generation, had the time of our lives… If anything, I felt guilty about it. Jahlpu saw it as entertainment, and given his easy-going nature, I guess that wasn’t surprising. Looking right, I noticed Kopaka hadn’t moved an inch during the whole discussion, but I felt like he’d been paying attention, picking up on stuff like he always seemed to do. With Jahlpu present, though, I didn’t want to get up and ask him about it, never mind the final battle. My brother was suspicious enough as it was, and I feared Kopaka wouldn’t much appreciate his attention, which left me with but one option; to wait until, for one reason or another, my brother took himself out of the picture.

So I waited for a good hour while Jahlpu gradually made his way through the entire paper. After putting it back where he’d found it, he got up and walked over to where Lerome and Kirall were sleeping soundly, through in some of the most awkward positions I’d ever seen. Jahlpu fixed that, moving them until both were laying relatively flat across the couple of seats they occupied, ensuring that they wouldn’t wake up completely sore in addition to the splitting headaches they’d already resigned themselves to. Watching, I hoped that Jahlpu would leave afterwards, maybe to clean up the mess in the dining car, or use the bathroom, or find his own place to sleep… anything. But no, he returned to his spot across from me.

“They’re in for a rough morning,” he predicted.

“No kidding…” I sighed.

“So, what is it you saw?” Jahlpu wondered.

“What I saw?”

“You said you saw some things,” he continued, “things that made you think.”

“Oh, that…” Now I realized where he was coming from. What could I tell him, though? “Oh, just… that fight between Tahu and Stronius,” I replied. “Amazing power for a Toa, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it was,” Jahlpu agreed. “That’s all?”

“No, it’s just…” I tried to come up with something else, but couldn’t. “I met some other Toa, that’s all.”

“Which Toa?” Jahlpu wondered.

“Older Toa. The Toa Mahri. Hahli, Jaller, Hewkii… saw Matoro’s statue, too.”

“You talked to them?” Jahlpu’s eyes grew wide.

“For a bit, yeah. They were busy with their stuff, obviously,” I replied.

“Wow…” Jahlpu nodded, then looked back to Lerome and Kirall for a moment. “You’d better not tell them,” he advised, “otherwise they’ll demand you introduce them.”

“That’s why I wasn’t too keen on talking about it,” I shrugged. “Besides, yeah, they’re great, but it’s not like they’ve got a lot of time on their hands, you know? I mean, Hahli does her reporting, Hewkii has Kolhii things to do…”

“Of course,” Jahlpu nodded. “But hey, you might get to add Nuparu to that list soon. Of Toa you met, I mean.”

“Hopefully. And you guys met Kongu, right?”

“Yeah, yeah… he told us a lot about Toa Lewa,” my brother recalled. “Officially, he trains Matoran and Agori in Kewa riding, but he was always very close to Lewa, and he answered some questions about him.”

“The volcano thing still bothers me,” I admitted. “I mean, from what Lerome said, Lewa doesn’t seem like the type who would’ve just done that, you know? I mean, it’s beyond reckless… it’s suicidal.”

“I got that vibe too, when Kongu told us about it,” Jahlpu agreed. “I think there’s more to it, but I wasn’t going to stay in Le-Koro-Nuva to find out… Those flimsy treetop huts had me pretty nervous.”

“No kidding, right?” I smiled; accustomed to the underground life, Jahlpu’s fear of heights was understandable.

“Yup… really, though,” Jahlpu continued, “do we know what really happened to the Toa Nuva? Tahu’s still very visibly around, and Lewa and Onua have statues, but all we really know are legends. I mean, what happened to Gali, you know? Or Pohatu? Or Kopaka?” I continued to smile, but now nervously; I knew exactly what had happened to them, but the pictures weren’t pretty.

“Kopaka has a statue, too,” I pointed out. “In Ko-Koro-Nuva.”

“So he died to, huh?”

“They think so,” I nodded, trying really hard not to hint in any way at the fact that the Toa Nuva of Ice was sitting not twenty feet away from us.

“But Gali and Pohatu don’t, so far as I know,” Jahlpu said. “They just… fell of the face of the planet, it seems. I mean, if they were dead, people would’ve put up memorials, and if they’re still around, maybe they could shed some light on what drove Lewa, you know?”

“I guess they might…” I realized. “What’s got you so interested, anyways? You were never much for the archives, right?”

“No, not really,” Jahlpu admitted, “but I’m sure there’s something to be learned from them… besides, knowing what older Toa ended up doing might help me figure something out for myself… right now, we’re all just kind of wandering, it seems, and I don’t intend to keep following those two from party to party forever.” He gestured over at Kirall and Lerome.

“Yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing,” I agreed. “Trying to figure something out…” It was good to know I wasn’t the only one uncertain about my future, though Jahlpu’s concern about his own was something new. Something he’d picked up on his travels, I guess.

“Did the Toa Mahri give you any ideas on that at all?” he wondered.

“They’re doing okay for themselves,” I remembered, “but they had good jobs as Matoran; Hewkii was a Kolhii star long before he was a Toa, and Hahli was chronicler at one point. I don’t really have something like that to fall back on… I mean, imagine a Toa assistant weaver.” We chuckled in spite of ourselves.

“You could do that,” Jahlpu said, “but it’d kind of feel like a waste, I imagine.”

“Yes, it would…” I nodded.

“You know, that’s why I’m going to Onu-Koro-Nuva,” Jahlpu continued. “The mine’s great and all, but I’d like to know what other Toa of Earth have done. Something that, maybe, I could do.”

“Something to help the Matoran,” I finished.

“Exactly.” Jahlpu finished. “Like the Toa code thing that the Turaga talked about.” Oh boy, had I heard a lot about that over the last few days.

“Yeah, me too…” We sat quietly for a couple of seconds, ruminating on what we could do.

“We’ll find something eventually,” Jahlpu concluded. “There’s plenty of jobs for a Toa around, I’m sure.”

“I guess so,” I agreed. Jahlpu got up.

“Time to go clean up some of their mess,” he decided, gesturing towards our brother and sister again. “Best not to leave the dining car in the state they did.”

“Best of luck with that,” I said, well aware that he probably had a pretty big task ahead of him. “I’ll watch over them, make sure they don’t do something stupid… again.”

“Thanks,” Jahlpu began to move for the door. “They’ll probably throw up at some point, but other than that they should be out for a while.”

“I’ve got a bucket handy,” I smiled, gesturing towards a small trash can that was positioned beside the bench.

“See you in a bit, then,” Jahlpu waved, then vanished through the doorway.

“See ya.” As the door closed, I picked up the trash can, along with its counterpart from the other side of the car, and set one by the seats that Lerome was lying down on and the other by Kirall. Both were still out cold. Satisfied, I moved back through the car and sat down across from Kopaka.

“Well, he’s gone for now,” I informed him, “and the other two aren’t waking up any time soon.”

“He is looking for a purpose too, is he?” the Toa of Ice asked.

“Yeah, I guess we all are,” I nodded, somewhat surprised at his question. Usually, Kopaka took no interest in anyone else’s affairs. “Why? Do you have any ideas?”

“No,” he answered flatly, “but it is good that he is looking.”

“You know, he used to talk about the legends of Onua a lot,” I remembered, “and he’s definitely more interested in mining than the archives…”

“He has chosen a good role model,” Kopaka concluded.

“In Onua?” I asked.

“Yes. Especially compared to Lewa or Hahli.” Apparently, Kopaka had paid attention to the earlier conversation, and Lerome and Kirall’s role models. I was already well familiar with his disdain for Hahli, but Lewa?

“What was so bad about Lewa?” I wondered.

“As you suspected, Kongu did not tell them everything,” Kopaka continued. “Lewa was enthusiastic, yes, but far from without shortcomings.”

“Like his recklessness?”

“Among others. He was also under Makuta Teridax’s control for some time, he was infected by krana, and nearly became a shadow Toa in Karda Nui. He had a habit of charging into situations he could not make his way out of, something that a Toa cannot afford to do.”

“Shadow Toa?” I was immediately reminded of what I saw on the night of the surgery… Kopaka recognized it, too.

“Not like that. Those were illusions, phantoms,” he explained. “A Shadow Toa as in, a Toa drained of light and turned evil by a shadow leech.”

“That sounds awful,” I shuddered. “But this habit… do you think it was what drove him to try his luck with Mt. Valmai?”

“No.” Kopaka concluded. Though his expression was as stoic as ever, I noticed there was a hint of worry in his thoughts. “On Mata Nui, perhaps he would have, but not after Karda Nui.”

“What was it, then?” I asked, hoping to get at whatever troubling realization he’d come to.

“I do not know,” he said calmly, then waited for a moment, “and I have no intention of spreading rumors.”

“Maybe you should find out,” I suggested.

“There is no need for that,” Kopaka continued. “The Matoran have in Lewa what they need: a symbol. Whether it presents a complete picture of my brother or not is irrelevant.”

“That’s a bit strange, coming from the guy who’s never told anything but the harsh and full truth to anyone,” I pointed out. Immediately, Kopaka looked up at me, or rather through me, with that same piercing gaze that had made me so uncomfortable several times before.

“You know that is not the case,” he said solemnly. “The truth matters where it has the potential to help the Matoran; here, it likely would not.”

“I suppose…” I relented. Kopaka sighed, then looked down again. We sat in silence for a minute or so before he spoke up again.

“I believe I have one last promise to fulfill,” he said.

“The final battle, yes,” I nodded.

“What you call “the Final Battle” was the Battle for Bara Magna,” Kopaka explained. “That I will show you.”

“Wait, there was another one?” I asked, but Kopaka wasn’t inclined to answer.

“Focus on me,” he said. “Focus.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 32

--------------------

 

I’m in the tunnel again… I remember this place, though I can’t say exactly where it is. In the dim light all around me, I see others… other Toa. There’s Lewa, and Onua, and Gali… Takanuva towers over most of us, and there’s some more who I don’t recognize, including a full team armed with variations of shields and spears. All of us are looking forward, to a door or hatch of some kind that appears to mark the end of the tunnel. Kneeling in front of it, Tahu and another Toa of Fire are tampering with what looks to be a locking mechanism, heating it up in hopes of either making it cooperate and open or melting it altogether… we want out, we oh so desperately want out. A deep rumbling sound suddenly echoes through the space. We’re all on edge, looking around, wondering where it has come from as the whole tunnel begins to shake like an earthquake. However, it’s… muffled somehow. This isn’t a violent shaking, more a damped rocking back and forth that lasts for a couple of seconds, leaving the tunnel intact. I notice now that, in the reflection of the fire, this is not a natural tunnel; it is lined with metal plates, and we’re standing on a rusty, corrugated floor. The space is cavernous; the diameter of this tunnel has to be at least fifty feet, and the whole thing feels almost… industrial. Our attention is drawn upwards again as a thunderous voice echoes from everywhere:

“SO YOU FOUND YOUR WAY HERE, BROTHER…” it says in a slow, deliberate manner, but the sheer scale of whatever must be producing a voice like this makes everything it says take on a deeply threatening tone.

“We’ve arrived somewhere…” a Toa near me mumbles.

“Where?” another asks. I have no answer, nor does anyone else.

“We’ll find out soon!” Tahu assures us.

“AND YOU HAVE COME AT LAST, TO TRY AND FINISH ME, NO DOUBT,” another voice, slightly higher in pitch but no less threatening, calls out. It’s coming from outside, I’m pretty sure, and it sounds slightly muffled by distance.

“THIS IS WHERE YOU END, BROTHER,” the first voice declares as we start to feel some… movement. It’s slight, but it feels like the floor is tilting, yet none of us are falling. Another deep, loud crashing sound is followed by what I can only describe as an earthquake aftershock. All of us Toa stand, weapons at the ready, gaze still fixed on the door. At last, Tahu appears to be making progress; he’s reduced what was once a formidable locking mechanism to a red-hot, molten mass of metal, which a Toa of Iron is gradually guiding way from its original position on the door.

“Stand back!” Tahu announces as he stands up and takes a few steps back himself. He points at another Toa, one armored in purple and grey… a Toa of Gravity. “Open the door!” he orders. The Toa of Gravity obliges, kneeling down and focusing his power on the door, forcing it outwards… it creaks, it buckles, but then suddenly, with a tremendous crash, it blasts away, revealing a bright light beyond, so bright that everyone has to close their eyes or look away until they adjust… after a few seconds, Tahu shouts another order: “Out! Get out now!” As one, we start charging forward through the opening. A few feet below, a soft yellow-white sand awaits us. After landing, I look back for a moment; the tunnel we escaped leads into a titanic, metal structure, a monolithic skyscraper that reaches up into the dust cloud created by the hatch landing in the fine sand not far away. More Toa come leaping out, landing all around me as we proceed to dash away, up into the dunes. A great shadow is cast over the landscape as, miles above us, something moves in a swinging motion. Moments later, a gargantuan crashing sound, followed by another. I reach the top of the dune shortly after Tahu and look back again; the dust has begun to settle, and now I can see more clearly. The gods themselves are fighting above us. Two enormous robots, Toa-like in stature yet tall enough to reach the stars themselves, are engaged in a terrible fistfight, grappling and launching beams of light at each other, each act accompanied by a deafening racket of clanging metal, enormous creaking joints, and a constant yet almost deafening drone with each laser beam. The hatch we escaped from was located near the sole of the foot of one of them, and now it proceeds to rise up into the air again as the titan takes another step forward.

“YOU ARE WEAK, MATA NUI! YOU ARE OCCUPYING A PROTOTYPE, A LESSER VERSION OF EVERYTHING I COMMAND!” it declares. There is a distinct rage to the way in which this… thing, this being taunts its adversary.

“THAT MAY BE, BUT I AM NOT ALONE!” said adversary responds.

“BROTHER… NEITHER AM I!” the robot we escaped from says. Now there’s satisfaction, confidence… whoever this is knows they are going to win this most colossal of undertakings. My fellow Toa and I can do naught but stand and tremble at what is going on.

“Halt! Who goes there!?” A voice suddenly declares from behind me. I turn, as do my companions, to find a green Glatorian standing on the next dune over, maybe a hundred feet away from us.

“They came out of the Makuta!” another Glatorian appears beside the first; a female from the water tribe. “They must be his minions!”

“No, we are not!” Tahu protests, but more Glatorian appear over the dune and it is already too late. To my great surprise, the green Glatorian points one of his blades at us, then unleashes a cyclone. I dive down, barely dodging out of the way, but am then blasted by a jet of water from his companion. Some of the other Glatorian proceed to hurl various elemental blasts at us as well; Tahu activates his Kanohi Hau to shield some of them, while others dodge out of the way. The Toa respond in kind; now it’s a full-blown fire-fight, all elements being thrown back and forth over my head. From behind my shield, I hurl freezing bolts at any Glatorian that pokes over their dune; Tahu sweeps the place wholesale with a wave of fire, while Lewa is conjuring up cyclones and sending them in the general direction of the Glatorian, who now appear thoroughly outgunned.

“STOP!” A voice suddenly calls out, barely audible over the mayhem. In fact, it’s two voices… I look over from behind my shield to find that Gali and Pohatu are standing almost halfway between the dunes, back-to-back, each facing one of the warring sides. They appear to have… shape-shifted somehow; their armor and weapons have changed. Pohatu now sports a set of helicopter rotors on his arms, while Gali’s mask and arms have sprouted small, aerodynamic fins, and a bulky set of rocket boosters has appeared on her legs.

“What are you doing!?” I call out, but they begin to rise into the air, Pohatu with his rotors and Gali with the rockets, both looking up at the flood of elemental attacks being launched back and forth overhead. Coming into view of the Glatorian, they immediately come under fire; Gali, who’s facing that way, conjures up a wall of water to shield them, while Pohatu creates a solid wall of stone on his side.

“STOP IT!” they call again, and now that the two sides can’t see each other anymore, they are actually listened to. The Toa and Glatorian fall silent; I can’t see what’s going on beyond the stone wall, but by the sound of things, Gali has dropped the wall of water.

“We are not Makuta’s minions!” she calls out.

“What are you, then!?” a skeptical voice sounds from the Glatorian side.

“We are Toa!” Gali continues. “We serve Mata Nui; the body we just escaped from was stolen by Makuta!” There is no reply for a moment; I use my Akaku to see through the stone wall and find that the Glatorian are turning towards each other, apparently discussing what they just heard. “And who are you?” Gali asks in return.

“We know Mata Nui,” an older looking Glatorian stands up. “We fight for him.”

“Hey, it seems we’re on the same side, then,” Pohatu points out. “Could we, I don’t know, stop throwing things at each other?” In spite of the gravity of the situation, there’s a lighthearted sarcasm in his words.

“Prove it!” the female Water Glatorian shouts, holding a trident at the ready.

“You ask for proof at a time like this!?” Tahu shouts over the wall. “What do you know of Mata Nui!?”

“He made us Toa,” the old Glatorian replies, somewhat more calmly. “And yes, I believe we can stop throwing things at each other.”

“Wonderful!” Pohatu exclaims, relinquishing his control over the stone wall, which rapidly crumbles to dust. The firing doesn’t resume, but the air is still tense.

“We are Toa too.” The old Glatorian steps forward. “Some of us are, at least. I am Ackar, and I know Mata Nui.”

“You do, huh?” Pohatu says as he and Gali descend back to the ground.

“He’s a friend of ours,” the Water Glatorian adds, “and he’s in some real trouble right now. We’re here to help him.”

“Help him against that?” Tahu gestures at the giant robot, occupied by Makuta, standing over and behind us.

“We’re trying to keep everyone here safe,” Ackar explains, “but if you know of a way to make things more difficult for the Makuta, I’m all ears.”

“There’s many more trapped inside,” Tahu begins, but the thundering voice of the Makuta overhead cuts him off.

“YOUR SO CALLED FRIENDS ARE GATHERED BELOW, BROTHER…” he taunts. “THEY CHOSE THE WRONG SIDE; I’LL MAKE THEM PAY.” We all look up, angry and terrified, as the titan lifts up his arms and multiple hatches on the sides of his body open up; they’re mere dots at this distance, but there appears to be… some kind of swarm emerging. I zoom in with my scope to get a better view;

“Rahkshi!” I recognize them immediately; hunched over, metal creatures armed with spines and staffs. There must be hundreds of them, armored in a bright yellow with red, glowing eyes.

“Heat Vision Rahkshi!” Another Toa shouts, an identification that is confirmed within moments as some of the leading Rahkshi proceed to fire bright-red rays from their eyes on their way down. They can’t do much at this range, but they’re closing fast.

“WATCH, BROTHER, WATCH AS MY SONS END THE MISERY OF THOSE YOU FAILED TO PROTECT!” the Makuta declares, after which he lets out an ominous, deep-throated laugh.

“FAILURE IS NOTHING NEXT TO YOUR BETRAYAL,” Mata Nui counters, “AND SOON, YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR CRIMES AGAINST MY UNIVERSE!”

“YOU WILL NOT STOP ME, BROTHER…” Makuta continues. “YOU NEVER COULD.”

“We need to stop those things!” Ackar shouts, pointing up at the incoming horde.

“Already on it!” Tahu declares; I now notice he appears to have deployed a set of wings, and he soares up into the sky. Sporting a similar adaption, I do the same; in fact, all the other Toa Nuva are now, by whatever mechanism their armor is equipped with, taking flight to meet the Rahkshi head-on. Already, our allies below us are firing at any that come within range, picking off a few here and there, and we’re doing the same; I shoot freezing bolts at one Rahshi after another, my aim guided by a laser sight that seems to have just… appeared on my mask. Tahu indiscriminately hurls massive blasts of heat and flame upwards, sure to hit something considering the density of enemies in the air above, while Lewa is already whipping up a cyclone, ready to suck in and catch any Rahkshi foolish enough to get close. Gali’s adding water to it to make it a full-blown hurricane. Onua and Pohatu are controlling chunks of earth and stone, respectively, guiding them upwards to strike the Rahkshi at incredible velocities, like elemental missiles. Lagging slightly behind, Takanuva makes up for his slow flying by hurling searing beams of light upwards from his lance, taking down multiple Rahkshi with every shot. Yet the swarm above us is overwhelming, and soon we are surrounded, having to fend off enemies from all sides in three dimensions while more of them continue to stream down around us on their way to our allies on the ground. It’s proper chaos, this; heat rays being fired in all directions, Lewa and Gali’s cyclone now roaring around us as a shield of sorts while the rest of us fire at any target of opportunity; and yet they keep coming, their source, it seems, inexhaustible. All the while, intermittent sounds of thunder and huge, sweeping shadows remind us of the titanic clash happening behind us.

“I can’t keep the wind-storm going forever!” Lewa warns us.

“We can’t hold anything off without it!” Tahu calls back as he thrusts his sword upwards, goring a Rahkshi that was coming down on him, ready to strike him with its staff.

“If we can’t fight them up here, we’ve got to get down!” Onua suggests.

“On the ground, they at least can’t come at us from below!” Gali adds.

“We’re the first line up here!” Tahu argues. “WE WILL NOT DRAW BACK!”

“Most of them are going right past us!” Pohatu points out, “We need to meet them on the ground, where our allies are!” Tahu remains quiet, focusing instead on taking out a number of Rahkshi trying to fly in from below. Every second feels like an eternity, but eventually he replies:

“Fine, we’ll regroup below!” He declares, hurling one final blast of fire upwards before turning and diving for the battlefield below. Onua, Pohatu, and Takanuva do the same, followed by Gali and Lewa, who allow the storm to dissipate. I don’t want to go down, not yet… I can’t hope to hold off all the Rahkshi, but I’ve been sniping them left and right, sending them down, encased in chunks of ice… I line up another shot, take it, and another one goes down; I’m in a trance, it seems, laser-focused on what’s coming at me from above… another one down!

“CLANG!” The loud noise right beside me breaks my concentration. Its armor shattered into pieces, a Rahkshi is sent hurtling across my field of view; I look to my right to find Onua hovering right beside me.

“Kopaka! That one almost got you!” he informs me. “Come with us, down, now!” I wait for a few seconds, unsure of what I should do; I still don’t want to go down… Suddenly, a heat ray almost catches both of us, but I just manage to deflect it with my shield. Onua’s right; I can’t stay here alone...

“Fine,” I relent, turning tail and bolting for the ground, followed closely by the Toa of Earth. Ahead of me, the other Toa Nuva busy themselves by taking out whatever Rahkshi they can on the way down. Leading the way, Tahu turns forward.

“The high ground!” He points a sword to a rocky desert outcrop up ahead. The battle below us has spread around it already; Toa and Glatorian fighting hand-to-hand against the monsters, with elemental blasts thrown into the mix. The first to land, Tahu immediately knocks down a Rahkshi that was using the position to rain heat rays into the melee below. Within seconds, the rest of us arrive; slightly isolated from the battle, we can catch our breath and take stock of the situation. The Rahkshi outnumber us at least two to one, it seems, but Takanuva, who elected to land in the middle of the fray, is starting to turn the tide already; Light truly is a devastating weapon against minions of Shadow, capable of cooking them in their shells in moments.

“Heads up!” Pohatu calls out, hurling a boulder up at another opportunistic Rahkshi trying to come down on us.

“Hang on…” Gali looks upwards, specifically, to the openings on the Makuta from which the Rahkshi were spilling forth.

“What is it!?” Tahu demands.

“I think they’re slowing down!” Gali points out.

“By Mata Nui, she’s right…” Onua agrees. We all look up, and even at this distance, it does seem like the flood of Rahkshi has started to slow to a crawl.

“Good,” Tahu concludes. “We’ll only have to deal with what’s here.”

“YOUR MINIONS WILL NOT BUY YOU VICTORY, MAKUTA!” Mata Nui declares over our heads as he launches yet another series of lasers at his foe. “THE TOA AND GLATORIAN WILL TRIUMPH!”

“YOU THINK I’VE RUN OUT!?” the Makuta replies almost mockingly. “NO, BROTHER… I GOT BORED OF THEM, AND I’VE GOT PLENTY OF WILLING ALLIES ON THIS PLANET ALREADY!” He reaches back with one hand, casting a shadow over our entire battlefield, but it’s aimed right over our heads, at the dark, jagged looking spikes on the horizon beyond. Suddenly, a stupendous blast of shadow energy launches from his palm, hurtling towards the mountains… but instead of striking them full-force, it rapidly dissipates along its way, turning into a dark, ominous fog that descends over the entire range.

“What was that for!?” Tahu demands, but none of us have an answer, and the Makuta appears to be turning his attention back to Mata Nui.

“LET’S SEE, BROTHER, HOW THEY DEAL WITH THAT!” he declares.

I turn my attention back to the mountains, trying to use my scope to pick out any details of what exactly happened out there. A few tense seconds pass… I think I see movement. In fact, there’s a lot of it.

“The mountains!” I alert the other Toa, who had turned their attention back to sniping Rahkshi out of the air and the melee below. They turn and look, just as a dark blotch seems to start spilling forth from between the jagged spikes.

“What’s that!?” Tahu exclaims.

“Something bad, I’m guessing,” Pohatu chimes in.

“Oh yes,” I concur; zooming in on the blotch’s leading edge, I can see what it’s made off… Skrall. Hundreds of them. “Something very bad…”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 33

--------------------

 

“Well, what is it!?” Tahu demands.

“I do not know,” I reply, much to my own surprise. Those are Skrall! How do I not know? “Definitely not friendly, though, and wielding the element of Shadow, by the look of them.” I notice a number of shadow bolts being hurled ahead of the black horde as they reach the dunes.

“Great…” Lewa sighs. “More Shadow-Men!? After Karda Nui?”

“Our allies should know more about them,” Gali suggests. “It’s their planet, after all.”

“Good thinking,” Tahu replies. He turns and walks back to the edge of the escarpment. “Cover me,” he says as he deploys his wings again. “I’m going to check with Ackar about what’s going on.” Gali, Pohatu, and Onua nod immediately and take up positions along the edge as well, watching and covering Tahu as he flies down to the melee below.

“Over here!” I shout; a number of Rahkshi are making their way up to our position behind us. I duck as one of them launches up a heat vision ray. Lewa immediately turns to face our aggressors.

“Enough of you!” he declares. “Can’t you see we have more important stuff to deal with over there!?” He points out with one of his blades at the Skrall, who are rapidly approaching, but are still well behind the Rahkshi, then rapidly raises it sky-high, commanding the air around the Rahkshi to surge upwards, whipping up tons of dust in the process. “Have fun, Kopaka!” he declares as everyone but me is momentarily blinded by the cloud; my Akaku allows me to see the stunned and confused Rahkshi clearly. I move in among them, felling them with my blades as they, panicked, stab with their staffs in random directions, hitting nothing but the ground and each other. For a few seconds, it’s as though I’m a phantom to them, and by the time the dust begins to settle, none are left standing. “Not bad,” Lewa nods, smiling as I make my way back up to our position.

“DISENGAGE!” I suddenly hear a voice shout over the fight below.

“What the…” Lewa and I quickly move to the edge where Gali, Pohatu, and Onua are already standing, trying to figure out what’s going on below. The voice was Ackar’s, and all over the field the Glatorian start to draw back, leaving the Toa to fight the remaining Rahkshi, who seem to make little effort to harry their retreating foes. Flying back out from the carnage is Tahu, and boy do we have some questions for him.

“What are they doing!?” Gali demands as Tahu reaches our position.

“Their… their villagers, their Matoran…” Tahu explains, “they’re hiding over there.” He points over our heads in the direction of the Skrall horde, who are still rapidly covering ground, and… are pursuing something. Small figures running about the dunes. Are these the Matoran that Tahu’s speaking of? They look more like Agori to me. “I told him we’d handle the remaining Rahkshi,” Tahu continued, “while they go protect their people.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Pohatu agrees. “We should be able to handle what’s left, right?” Looking down and around us, it’s obvious that dead Rahkshi are everywhere, but their staggering numbers mean that many are still bearing down on us and the other Toa down below; most of the Glatorian are already heading in the direction of the Skrall and the hapless Agori.

“I don’t have much fire left,” Tahu admits, “and no doubt we’re all feeling the strain, but I have my swords, and I swear these Rahkshi will come to know them well!”

“Better not waste time,” Onua notes, having already deployed the rocket boosters that grant him flight. He leaps off of our high ground. The rest of us follow suit, and before long, we all land in the middle of the battleground, knocking down several Rahkshi in the process.

“REGROUP! FORM CIRCLES!” Tahu orders at the top of his lungs. With Rahkshi swarming all around us, it’s our best option; standing in a circle, each of us facing outwards and fighting off what comes at us from the front by whatever means necessary, knowing that our back is covered by all the others. All over the battlefield, other Toa are already doing the same, grouping up around whatever feature provides even a modicum of cover, or at least serves as a landmark to rally around. I want to conserve what elemental energy I have left, and resort to fighting swords-and-shield against the incoming Rahkshi. I decapitate one while maneuvering my shield to block the staff of another, then wheel around, bringing my upper sword down to slice said staff in two. A lunge plants the sword straight through the creature’s chest and up into its back, goring the slug-like abomination controlling the armor from inside. I barely withdraw my sword in time to block a third Rahkshi, coming at me from the right; for a moment, our weapons are locked, both of us pushing to try and bring ours down on the other, but I have my shield, which I thrust forwards under the Rahkshi’s staff to knock its legs out from under it, causing it to fall down flat on its face; I plant my lower sword into its head to ensure it will not rise again, then raise my shield, providing cover while I look to see how those behind me are doing.

Tahu is positioned to my left; he lacks a physical shield, obviously, but is making generous use of his mask to conjure up spectral ones to block staff strikes from the Rahkshi in front of him, then exploits the momentary confusion on their part to hack them down in spades. He doesn’t aim for the head or back, specifically; the surgical strike isn’t his style. Instead, he goes for whatever’s exposed, whether that means hacking off an arm, a leg, or a head with wide, reckless, occasionally flaming slashes that would seem to leave him dangerously exposed. In doing so, he’s taunting the Rahkshi to come close, but his guard is never as down as it seems, and inevitably they are maimed or killed outright. Tahu’s reveling in this, dominating his foes through a mix of tactics and brutal strength, fighting not just for his own survival, but also that of everyone else here, for the lives of everyone still trapped inside the titanic Makuta. I do not know whether or not the Makuta feels the deaths of his wicked creations, but if he does, Tahu must be causing him a splitting headache.

Fighting to his left is Gali, wielding her twin axes in, perhaps, a far more controlled manner. Her mask provides her no benefit here, and she can’t take the time to switch, but agility and acrobatics make her a difficult target nonetheless; she dodges a staff left, then right, weaving herself between two Rahkshi only to bring an axe down on both their necks, cleanly decapitating both. A third Rahkshi attempts to strike her with a low sweep of its staff, but a jump, a flip, and another axe swing bring its plans to a halt, and puts my sister back in her position in the circle, just in time to whack a fourth staff out of the way. She keeps her axes going in a continuous, swinging motion, a constantly changing pattern that exploits the momentum of the heavy weapons to deliver a series of devastating strikes that break staffs, limbs, and anything else in their way while leaving the Rahkshi no opening to exploit. She jumps, flips, turns and twists through the blurred, silver streaks, a near-liquid form in a ferocious, yet tightly controlled and almost elegant dance of destruction that the Rahkshi simply don’t have an answer to.

Next in line, and directly opposite me, Onua revs up his weapons, a set of chainsaw-like devices that easily outweigh Gali’s axes and make for very potent armor breakers; he merely has to make contact with a Rahkshi for the rapidly spinning threads to proceed shredding off plates and whatever lies beneath, and while he can’t deflect or dodge blows the way Gali can, he doesn’t need to. The Toa of Earth’s thick armor easily absorbs the impact of the Rahkshi staffs, and in a melee this close they don’t dare to use their heat vision. Heedless of whatever they do, Onua simply raises up the howling contraptions and brings them down on the heads of whichever Rahkshi are closest, easily ripping off the armor plates and making mince-meat of the slugs inside, a display vicious enough to make any others think twice about approaching him. Yet, pressured by ever more of their kind pushing up behind, the Rahkshi move forward, trying vainly with their staffs to find a weak spot in the armor. Their attempts are curtailed as Onua activates his mask and swings his weapons upwards with all his might, sending two more Rahkshi flying backwards in pieces from the sheer force of the impacts.

“A-ha! Saw ya coming!” Lewa declares, parrying a staff coming at him with one sword while thrusting forward with the other, planting it cleanly into the neck of the staff’s owner, who falls to the ground with a disgusting, gurgling sound as wisps of shadow energy erupt from the resulting gash. “Not today,” Lewa mockingly declares, attracting the attention of a number of other Rahkshi, all of which begin to converge on him. The Toa of Air responds by leaping into the air, tumbling over as he parries their first strike. “And one…” he exploits the tumble by bringing his other sword down to block another, “…and two, and three…” he whirls his swords back and forth, parrying more staff thrusts in the process. He lands behind the Rahkshi that attempted to hit him, swinging a sword to his side to block the strike of a fourth, “…and four.” He stands up, spins around, and gives a sly smile. “My turn.” Suddenly, it’s as though his swords become a silver blur; he charges forward, spinning wildly, slashing in every direction and delivering numerous cuts to the monsters. Having reached his position in the circle again, he stops. “And… fall,” he says; the Rahkshi he just mowed through fall down behind him in pieces. Lewa doesn’t even look, knowing he finished them already, but it’s not long before more come up to take their place, and the Toa of Air has to turn to face them again. “More!?” he asks, feigning surprise. “Oh, it must be my lucky day!”

Lastly, fighting beside me and with decidedly fewer words, is Pohatu. He doesn’t have swords, axes, or anything like that; no, a small set of curved, blunt pieces of metal affixed to his wrists are all he needs. They’re hinged, like claws or pincers, and just as he dodges a staff coming down to his left, the Toa of Stone reaches out and uses them to grab onto the arm of the Rahkshi it belongs to. He pulls back, dragging the creature down, exploiting the movement to plant his knee under its chin, producing a distinct ‘crack!’ as the yellow, armored form goes limp. Pohatu drops it, then turns his attention to two more coming from his right; they sweep low with their staffs, perhaps intending to floor the Toa, but he doesn’t let them, leaping up and delivering a roundhouse kick to both of their faces. More crunching sounds, and more fallen Rahkshi, and upon landing Pohatu picks up one of their staffs, swinging it upwards to block a strike from a fourth trying to advance on him from behind. Knocked off balance by the upward impact from the Toa’s stolen weapon, the creature staggers back, and hasn’t even regained its balance by the time Pohatu leaps forward and delivers it a kick to the chest, knocking it prone. He plants his staff into its waist, pinning it to the ground; part of the Rahkshi’s carapace opens up, revealing the hideous head of the slug inside, which splits into three sections, each squirming and hissing at the Toa in a vain attempt to retaliate in spite of being pinned down. In response, Pohatu produces a fist-sized rock and shoves it down onto the exposed slug, squishing it and ending the disgusting sounds it was producing.

“You okay!?” He turns and calls to me, dropping the staff.

“Do you need to ask?” I turn back and plant a sword into the chest of a Rahkshi that’s been trying to get past my shield for a while now. It hisses, gargles, makes all sorts of revolting noises, but I quickly end it by sending a bolt of freezing cold down my blade, turning the slug inside in to an icicle; another Rahkshi down.

“I guess not,” Pohatu smiles as he raises his right arm to catch the staff of another Rahkshi coming at him. He twists around, dragging the creature past himself and tripping it in the process, causing it to land right at my feet. “Have at it,” he invites, before turning his attention to the prone Rahkshi’s companions. I ensure that this particular one won’t bother us again by planting my lower sword into the top of its head, right where the armor splits, then return to making sure none of the Rahkshi in front of me get past.

“You deal with yours,” I remind Pohatu, “and I will deal with mine.”

“Whatever you say,” Pohatu replies, but in the heat of battle the conversation goes no further. All my concentration is now on holding off the Rahkshi, whose lines do indeed seem to slowly, surely, be thinning, and they’re becoming all the bolder and more reckless for it. Surely, there can’t be much left in these Toa? True, I should be getting tired, but… I’m not. I fight on, only feeling stronger, more alert, taking the Rahkshi one by one. It’s like I’m entering a trance, acting automatically, recognizing how to parry or block their swings and thrusts and instantly calculating how to respond; my brain is running at a million miles per hour; my vision blurs around the edges, but my target is always crystal-clear. I should be out of breath; my muscles should feel like they’re on fire, but I’m not and they don’t, and none of it matters. I will survive! I will beat them! Another one goes down, victim to my blade. The next one comes with an overhead swing. Dodge left, slash downwards onto head. Done. Another one tries to sweep low. Jump forward, bash the shield into its face. It’s dazed. Go for the neck. Done. Two more stab at me. Turn and block with shield. Blocked successfully. Step forward and slash right-to-left with both swords. Their staffs are cut in two. Step forward again and slash back. They’re finished. Another one on my left! Block. Step forward again, spin around. Plant lower sword into its chest. Finished. Next!

The cacophony of the battle around me is fading now. The shouting, the clanging of metal against metal, the screaming and hissing of the Rahkshi, it’s all blending into a droning noise... I spin around again and again, fighting off Rahkshi on all sides. Block left, slash right, turn, stab backwards, jump, parry, dodge, thrust forwards. Freeze! Retract blade, block left again, parry right, spin around and slash both! The droning has become a pulsing, throbbing sound, a heartbeat racing out of control. My vision… my vision is blurring more and more, an increasingly tight window through which I have to focus on my enemies. Argh! A sudden stab of pain in my head; I close my eyes. Did one of them get me!? No, there’s no wound, it’s just a headache. ARGH! Another one! I shake my head. I must go on. Parry right again, twist into lunge… Argh! Again! My vision’s blurred now to the point where I’m effectively blind, yet I know I’m still fighting. Block again; I can feel the impact in my shield arm. The heartbeat’s getting louder, each beat sounding like an enormous, terrifying drum, and each accompanied by an awful burst of pain in my head. I’m spinning again, I think, I don’t know; I can’t see. It’s sickening. I feel pressure in my arm and hand; something is pushing against it. A stab, a thrust? Argh! Headaches! it! I can’t fight like this! Yet… I am, I think. I don’t know any more! My vision’s going black; what’s going on? I’m still spinning, spinning out of control; I must be. I’m feeling sick, the heartbeats merge into a constant, deafening noise. Someone’s driving nails into my head! It’s… what’s going on? I can’t take this!

----*

AAAARRRGHHH!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 34

--------------------

 

“Ugh…” I slowly opened my eyes. I… I was lying on the floor, my ears were still ringing, and I had a splitting headache. “What happened?”

“You suffered a seizure,” Kopaka said. I looked up to find him still sitting where he had been before the final battle started, wearing a very different mask than usual; a noble Komau.

“Everything just, just shut down…” I remembered as I got up, still disoriented.

“You are recovering,” Kopaka pointed out. “Some kind of neural overload. You were out for four hours.”

“Overload seems right,” I sat down on my chair, still holding my head in my hands. Now I had some idea what Pohatu felt like on a bad morning. Or Lerome and Kirall, for that matter. “That battle got pretty intense, huh?”

“Battles usually do,” Kopaka said, straying as close to deadpan humor as I’d ever seen him come. He switched back to the Akaku Nuva.

“So, four hours?” I looked over to find two of my teammates still passed out in their seats. “Jahlpu didn’t come back, did he?”

“No.”

“Still cleaning, I guess…” I looked out the window; the terrain outside was rocky and mountainous, indicating we were real close to Onu-Koro-Nuva. Sunrise wasn’t far away. “So, we’re pretty close, then, I guess…”

“About an hour,” Kopaka replied.

“So, what about the rest of that battle?” I wondered.

“You saw most of the important parts,” Kopaka concluded. “How we got here, the fight between the Makuta and Mata Nui, the arrival of the Skrall…”

“But how did it end?” I insisted. “I mean, I know how, but what did it look like?”

“Skakdi joined in on Makuta’s side,” Kopaka remembered, “but they were few in number and too late to help the remaining Rahkshi. The Glatorian eventually beat off the Skrall. Makuta’s head got hit by a falling planet as the reformation started. That is how it ended, and I will not risk your brain in trying to show you.”

“Fair enough…” I sighed. I’d have asked for more if it wasn’t for the fact that I already got more than I bargained for. We sat quietly for a while.

“Ah, man…” I heard Lerome cringe; looking over, I saw that he’d switched to sitting up and was rubbing his temples with his thumbs, clearly nursing the aftermath of the party from the day before. After a minute or so, he looked over in my direction. “Hey Lis and… mysterious guy.” He waved.

“Getting better?” I called back.

“Working on it…” Lerome replied, then got up, standing somewhat unsteadily at first. He made his way down the car towards us and slumped into a seat next to me. “It was great, you know… really great. You totally should’ve been there.”

“I was there, remember?” I pointed out.

“You were?” He looked at me curiously, but then seemed to recall something. “Oh, right, you were…”

“I didn’t stay long,” I added.

“Aw, too bad…” Lerome trailed off. “Had to keep this… specter here company, right?” he snickered. Kopaka’d already pulled up his hood, though I figured there wasn’t much chance of him being recognized by Lerome either way.

“Yup.” I nodded.

“Wonderfully boring times, I’m sure,” the Toa of Air sighed. He waited for a minute, then got back up. “I’ll… I’ll be back.” He wandered back to the front of the car, where he vanished through the doorway. Moments later, Kirall woke up too, but she didn’t so much as glance in our direction; she got up, stretched a bit, moaned about a headache, and then headed in the same direction Lerome did. Kopaka made no comment through the whole thing, and I wasn’t inclined to ask him. It wasn’t long before Jahlpu returned, though.

“Well, they’re up,” he informed me as he came walking down the length of the car towards us.

“Yeah, I noticed,” I replied. “They’re a little out of it, it seems.”

“That’s normal,” Jahlpu assured me. He was looking pretty out of it himself. “Anyways, we’re all getting some breakfast in the concessions car, if you’re interested. We’ll probably stay there until the train stops… which looks to be pretty soon.” He glanced out the window.

“I might join later,” I replied.

“Alright, see you there, then,” Jahlpu nodded. For a moment, he looked to Kopaka, still with a degree of suspicion, but then turned and headed out. Again, we sat quietly for a while… I watched as the sun began to rise over the mountains outside, going over the last few days in my mind again… there was one burning question left, and now was the time to ask it.

“So… this is it, then?” I began.

“Hm?” Kopaka looked up.

“I mean, I’ll be getting off here soon, and you’ll stay on for Ko-Koro-Nuva… right?” Kopaka nodded ‘yes.’ “Just, one last thing,” I continued. “I want to know why.”

“Why what?”

“Why you’re going back up there.”

“I have told you already. Multiple times.” Kopaka’s expression fell sour; he knew where this was going.

“You’ve told me parts, but they don’t add up,” I continued. “Something’s missing.”

“I have my duty to the Matoran, which is why I am going up there,” Kopaka spelled it out again. “You know that.”

“Yeah, you explained that…” I pondered for a moment about how exactly to phrase things, “but shouldn’t you pursue your duty in, I don’t know… the most effective way possible?”

“What do you mean by that?” he asked, but his souring expression revealed that he already had a clue as to where I was going.

“What Gali suggested, about working in the knowledge towers,” I reminded him. “Wouldn’t that be better? I mean, you’d have modern equipment, for one…”

“I do not need that,” Kopaka said. “I have my own.”

“Maybe you do,” I continued, “but what if you get killed up there? You got mauled pretty bad last time; if you died up there, no one would ever find what you’d discovered. How does that help the Matoran?”

“That will not happen,” Kopaka asserted.

“That’s wrong and you know it,” I pressed on. “You’re not invincible; even you recognize that. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.” Kopaka glared at me, but gave no reply. Still, I could tell there was an awful lot running through his head. “So why are you really going up there?”

“You do not understand.” His eyes were fixed right on me, that penetrating gaze, but this time that look didn’t stop me; he had nothing left to hold over my head, and we both knew it. He’d shown me as much of the final battle as I was likely going to see, and we’d be heading our separate ways in less than an hour regardless; he could neither threaten to leave me nor refuse to show me more, so I’d be a lot more insistent this time than I’d been the day earlier.

“Oh, I think I do,” I argued. “Gali did, too. Know what she told me? She said you’re not going up there to do astronomy, to chart stars for your duty.” Kopaka’s eyes widened… indignation , I could tell “Yeah, maybe you’ve convinced yourself of that,” I continued, “but you’re not going up there for the Matoran’s benefit. If you were really doing astronomy for them, you’d be in New Atero right now, or at the very least in Ko-Koro-Nuva, and you know it. No, you’re going up there because you want to be alone, to be away from everyone.”

“Lis…” he scowled.

“No, it makes perfect sense.” This time, I shut him down. “I saw it in that dream; what shadow Kopaka told you. You’re better than them, they’ll only slow you down… you really believe that, don’t you? That’s why you keep yourself so detached: you’re above them, you don’t need them.” Okay, maybe that was pushing it a little far, but at this point I was provoking him on purpose, and boy did it work.

“Shadow Kopaka does not exist anymore,” he insisted. “He was defeated, destroyed, and what you saw was the product of a drugged mind. I told you to disregard it; it will not lead to any truth.”

“You’d like to believe that,” I countered, “and yeah, physically, he doesn’t exist anymore. But he’s still a part of you, and you’re still trying to prove yourself to him, to yourself. You wanted to believe him when he said you needed no one; that’s why you’re going up into the mountains. Out there, no one can help you, you’re forced to be independent, and you want it that way. You want to prove you’re better than them, that you can handle yourself, especially now that they’ve fallen.”

“I am already the last Toa Nuva left,” Kopaka scowled. “If what you are insinuating is true, and it is not, then would that not be proof enough?”

“You don’t need to prove it to them; you need to prove it to yourself,” I continued, “and surviving isolated and alone is the only way you can do that. Screw the Matoran, screw your duty; you need to be alone because you have that image of yourself, an ego you need to satisfy, and you just can’t rationalize that. It doesn’t compute to you; that’s why you could never give me a straight answer. You can analyze and understand everyone except yourself!”

“Lis…” His eyes were shooting daggers at this point, but I was only getting started. All the questions I didn’t get to ask, everything that I’d struggled with about him… it all came pouring out.

“And you know, I wouldn’t care.” I stood up and started pacing back and forth. “I wouldn’t care about it if you didn’t try to be the moral high ground all the time. All this talk about duty, about honor, about what it means to be a Toa, and here you are throwing it out the window for your own selfish reasons! Not only that, but two of your fellow Toa are languishing back in New Atero, and you could be working back there and helping them at the same time! You’re the only person who could save Gali at this point, the only one who might have a chance at getting Pohatu out of his death spiral, but no, you’re going to abandon them too! And I guarantee you’re going to get yourself killed up there in those mountains. You’re going to die, you’re going to let those you fought with die, and you’re going to abandon your duty all because of your stupid self-delusion!”

“YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND MY DUTY NOR THE WAY I CHOOSE TO FULFILL IT!” Kopaka suddenly exclaimed as he, too, rose to his feet, now standing face to face with me. He was furious. “You spent days following me and probing my mind, and you still do not have the slightest idea why I do what I do! You violated my privacy, you bothered me at every turn with pointless questions, and now you think you understand! You are wrong, Lis, and I was willing to tolerate you so far, but this is enough! I have fulfilled my one promise to you, so leave! Go rejoin the worthless pretenders that you call your friends, and leave me to fulfill my duty as I see fit!”

I just stood there for a moment… shocked at the harsh reply. Then anger boiled through again, anger at his blatant self-denial, at him calling me stupid and wrong when I tried to point out the harsh truth about him. “Fine!” I blurted out. “You know, I thought you could see reason, or at least give me some explanation, but to see you abandon it like this…” I was at a loss for words. He just glared back, his face locked in anger, not even blinking.

“You actually thought you could stop me,” he said, no longer shouting but with a voice that sounded almost sadistic and cruel, like he found a certain pleasure in this twisted ‘victory.’ “You thought you had found what I could not explain, to stop me from going about my duty simply because you were not satisfied. You are wrong, Lis; you have only found what you cannot understand, and I have no reason to explain it to you. You have lost that privilege. Now leave.”

That just took the self-denial to a whole new level; I was done. “ you… never mind. You’ve already yourself.” I shook my head, then turned around and started to walk away, trying to hide the fact that I was welling up in tears. You know, over the last few days I’d alternatingly resented him and looked up to him, but having seen the proud and noble warrior on the outside, I found it genuinely gut-wrenching to find how low he could sink if pushed beyond his comfort zone. He said nothing as I went, forward through the cart, past the two buckets still sitting on the floor where I’d left them, and eventually reached the door. I turned around one last time; he hadn’t moved a muscle, still standing there, staring me down even as I walked away. At that point, I really saw shadow Kopaka in him… the expressions were one and the same. I turned away again and walked out.

I was one part angry, furious even, disappointed, and sad all the same. I wanted to scream, to run, to turn back and smack sense into him… a whirlwind of emotions were running through me. For better or worse, for five days I’d followed him, tried to decipher him, hoping to learn from him… and I had figured him out, or at least I thought I did. Yet, his utter inability to turn that critical lens through which he analyzed everyone else on himself was bitterly disappointing, and the fact that he could really make a difference if he did was downright infuriating. I stopped in the third car from the back, realizing that I couldn’t afford to show up in front of my teammates like this; they’d ask a lot more questions than I was willing to answer, and I needed time to calm down, to think… the car was empty; most of the passengers had moved forward, to the cars from which they could disembark once the train reached the station, now only minutes away. I sat down, cried, cursed under my breath, but I got myself under control. After waiting a few minutes and wiping the tears off of my mask, I decided it was time to get a move on.

I found my teammates in the dining car, not looking all that great themselves. Jahlpu still looked tired, and given that he’d just spent most of the night cleaning out the mess in this car, which looked pretty clean given the state it was in when I last left it, I couldn’t blame him. As for Lerome and Kirall… well, they were coming down from one heck of a party, and it showed. All three had empty plates in front of them, and the Toa of Air and Water were both drinking some kind of fruit juice. Judging from the empty glass, Jahlpu’d already finished his.

“Hey, Lis…” Lerome greeted un-enthusiastically.

“Hi,” I nodded back, before turning to the bar, which was now staffed by a Fire Tribe Agori, who didn’t look all that happy himself. “I’ll… I’ll have whatever they had, if I can,” I said, putting a couple of widgets down on the counter without really bothering to count them. “Will that cover it?”

“It will,” the Agori informed me as he reached under the counter, pulled out some kind of prepackaged and heated meal, and then proceeded to pour me a large glass of juice as well.

“Keep the change,” I told him as I picked up the plate and drink. He nodded, and I turned and made my way over to the table my teammates had taken up. I took the fourth, empty chair, and proceeded to quietly eat my breakfast without really paying attention to what it was. I honestly didn’t care… I was numb, as were my teammates, though for different reasons. The journey’d been exhausting for all of us, and for a while, none of us really felt like saying anything. By the time I finished my meal and the drink, the train was starting to slow down; Onu-Koro-Nuva was right ahead.

“We’ve arrived,” Jahlpu pointed out.

“You think?” Kirall said sarcastically.

“Oh c’mon,” Jahlpu continued, “we’ll find a place to rest for a while, and then we can play tourist for a bit.”

“Yeah, we’ll see all the amazing rocks and mounds of dirt,” Lerome jested. Jahlpu cast a frown in his direction.

“We won’t be staying that long,” he told the Toa of Air. “Nothing compared to how long we hung around in Le-Koro-Nuva, anyways.”

“That place was fun, though,” Lerome mumbled. Jahlpu rolled his eyes, then turned his attention to me.

“You feeling okay?”

“Uh, me?” I wondered for a moment. “Yeah, yeah. I’m fine… just tired like you, that’s all.”

“Is your friend coming?” Jahlpu asked.

“No, no he isn’t.” I said. “He’s going on to Ko-Koro-Nuva, then west from there. He travels a lot.” Lying through my teeth, of course, but I really didn’t want to discuss Kopaka right then and there.

“Who was he, exactly?” Kirall asked. Oh, great, now she was interested. I had to shut this down before I revealed more than I was willing to answer questions about.

“No one important,” I replied. “Just… had a few thoughts on what a Toa should, you know, do.”

“Ah… no wonder you ended up with him, then,” Lerome grinned.

“Yeah, but I’ve heard enough,” I concluded. “We’re back together for now.”

“Great,” Lerome continued. “We’ll be sure to get you into enough parties to catch up.”

“C’mon, not now,” Jahlpu intervened. “I’m sure you’ve got some places you’d like to see, right?” he asked me.

“Uh… Le-Koro-Nuva, I guess,” I thought out loud.

“Aw sweet!” Lerome perked up at the idea.

“I mean, I’d like to see that stuff you guys saw about Lewa,” I continued, realizing the Pandora’s Box I’d just opened, but it was too late to shut it.

“Sis, what we did here,” Lerome gestured around the car, “it was nothing compared to what the Le-Matoran can pull off. You’re gonna be amazed.”

“Yeah, sure…” I smiled nervously. The prospect of a Le-Matoran party wasn’t all that an exciting one for me. Not anymore.

“We’ll get you to throw down properly,” Kirall added. “Like you used to. You’re like, no fun now.”

“Yeah, thanks.” I shot her a dirty look.

“Let’s worry about that later, okay?” Jahlpu concluded. We could feel the train slowing down again. He looked out the window. “Looks like we’re here,” he informed us, apparently having spotted the station outside. Less than a minute later, the train came to a complete stop, and what few passengers were in the car with us started to get up and make their way to the car in front, from which they could actually get to the platform. We did the same, and were soon stepping out of the train and into the bright sunlight of day. Squinting and blinking for a minute as our eyes adjusted, we looked around; this was a sizable station, but the platform we’d stepped onto was the only one meant to load and unload passengers; from it, a long elevated walkway led across a leveled-off area with numerous tracks running across it.

“That’s where they load all the processed ore from the mines onto trains to be shipped out,” Jahlpu informed us as we crossed over the loading area. Two trains were parked there, while a third was being loaded with ore, car by car, by two large cranes. Coming down at the other end of the walkway, we passed a waiting area for passengers and a set of ticket booths, beyond which the station officially ended and we found ourselves standing on Onu-Koro-Nuva’s main street. To the left and right, simple wooden and stone buildings made up the above-ground portion of the town. Down the road, a couple hundred feet away from us, a cavernous opening in the side of the mountain that cast its shadow over much of the town lead into the underground portion. Everything looked quite dusty and dirty; this was an industrial town first and foremost. “Looks like there’s a place to stay.” Jahlpu pointed to the largest building on our left, a long, two-story structure that advertised “Hotel” on a sign by the entrance.

Inside, we found a Po-Matoran manning the counter. Jahlpu stepped forward, introduced himself, and before we knew it he’d gotten us two rooms on the upper floor. Tired and numb, we made our way upstairs and eventually found the rooms. Lerome and Kirall would share one; Jahlpu and I had the other. We walked in, closed the door behind us, noted there were two beds, and each collapsed onto one of them. Within seconds, I was out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 35

--------------------

 

I shambled back into consciousness around noon, more due to the sunlight spilling into the room than any feeling of refreshment. I lay there for a while, wishing we’d thought to close the curtains before diving for the sheets at dawn, but eventually I relented and got up. Jahlpu was still out cold, and there were no sounds coming from the other room, so I headed downstairs. A telescreen in the hotel’s lobby showed preparations for the big game that Hewkii’d been preparing for a night or two before. I grabbed some assorted hotel catering for lunch and watched for a while. At one point, I found myself looking out the window to the station; the train was gone. It would probably be arriving in Ko-Koro-Nuva pretty soon, and shortly thereafter, Kopaka would once again leave the world behind. I sighed thinking about it… yes, I was still mad at him, but it hadn’t hit me until then that I probably would never see him again, and neither would anyone else.

“Morning.” Jahlpu greeted as he came down the stairs; apparently, he hadn’t been quite as out as I thought. I nodded and put my empty plate aside.

“Still morning?” I asked, glancing towards a clock that quite clearly told us that time had passed.

“Morning, afternoon… I don’t know,” the Toa of Earth shrugged. “Point is, the sun’s up and we got some rest. Feeling better?”

“A bit,” I admitted. “What did you want to go see here, exactly?”

“Well,” he began, pointing at a bulletin board by the hotel entrance, “I think that’d be interesting.” I looked at the board to find a poster advertising ‘Great Mine Tours’ and the hours at which they started; the next would be in two hours.

“Go down there, see where the stuff that everything’s made from comes from?” I wondered. “Yeah, that’d be something…”

“There’s also a lot of info on Toa Onua and the other Toa Nuva by the statue,” Jahlpu continued. “I figured we could check that out first. Whenever Lerome and Kirall get up, that is.” He sat down in one of the armchairs facing the telescreen.

“Sounds fine,” I agreed. So we watched and waited until, fifteen minutes or so later, our brother and sister came down the stairs as well, looking quite refreshed themselves.

“Whazzup?” Lerome greeted as he made his way down the lobby towards us. He had his poise back, as did Kirall, who followed close behind.

“Afternoon,” I replied.

“So it seems,” the Toa of Air continued, stopping to look at the game on the telescreen. “Hewkii’s on in a bit, isn’t he?”

“Hour or two time difference, so… yeah,” Jahlpu realized.

“Sweet!” Lerome declared. “I might have to stay and watch that.”

“You kinda promised him you’d come with,” Kirall reminded him while nodding towards Jahlpu.

“Really? You’re the one who’s going to hold me to that?” Lerome turned towards her.

“I mean, you practically dragged me over to that Po-Matoran carving display,” she retorted with sly smile. “I’m just returning the favor.”

“Oh, c’mon!” Lerome exclaimed. “That was fun! They offered to carve a small statue of you, remember?”

“If I’d wanted to stand still for five hours,” Kirall pointed out. “And yours broke after like a day.”

“I dropped it, okay?” Lerome shot back. “That statue was perfectly fine. And you could’ve been sitting down if you wanted.”

“Yeah… no,” Kirall concluded.

“Okay, okay,” Jahlpu got up. “Let’s get going before you two leave civility behind, shall we?”

“Fine…” Lerome rolled his eyes, We all followed Jahlpu out. Now, with the sun no longer behind the mountain to the west, the whole town looked a lot less gloomy, of no less dusty than before. Even the assorted dull greys and browns that apparently made up the town’s entire color palette came alive to some degree under the sun. There weren’t many Matoran about; with no train arriving or departing, few had much reason to be hanging around the above-ground portion of the town. No, the activity in Onu-Koro-Nuva happened primarily underground, inside the mountain, and looking down the main street we noted that it led straight there through a seriously big tunnel entrance.

Jahlpu led the way, past the shops and a few other hotels and into the tunnel. Easily a hundred feet wide, with marked lanes for both pedestrians and vehicles, it led us down a gradual slope, past a few carved-out enclaves and Onu-Matoran homes, and soon opened up into what I can only describe as a stupendously large cavern. Easily more than a mile across, the somewhat dusty air made it impossible to distinguish much of the ceiling or anything on the other side, while the underground city of Onu-Koro Nuva lay in six concentric rings below us, each lower than the one outside it. All of it was illuminated by hundreds of lightstones and connected by the main street, which led down through a series of wide steps to the very center where, elevated on a pillar rising from a deep pit, a gargantuan, bronze statue of Toa Nuva Onua was lit by spotlights from all around. Dispersed throughout the space, several enormous, granite columns rose from the cavern floor to the ceiling, decorated with deep carvings and black banners many times the size of the largest billboards I’d seen back in New Atero, proudly displaying an ancient symbol of the Onu-Matoran. Stairs spiraling around the columns, small windows, and bridges connecting them indicated that they, too, were inhabited, not unlike the way in which the giant trees of Le-Koro-Nuva had been colonized by the Le-Matoran. This city’s sound was one all its own, though; a mix of normal city noise with an industrial complex working around the clock, conversations in crowds over the clanging of metal against metal in the background, an occasional shout from one end of the street to the other followed by the loud whirring of a large drill, and the sound of minecarts running on elevated tracks from the center, taking ore out of the mine and up to the surface. The scale of it all was simply staggering, and I noticed that even Lerome and Kirall seemed very impressed.

“Far out…” the Toa of Air managed to say.

“This started as a mine, from what I heard,” Jahlpu explained. “After they decided to go deeper, this became the new city.”

“And what a city… sheesh,” I remarked. “Pretty amazing, huh?”

“Spectacular,” Jahlpu smiled with more than a hint of pride to his expression. Looking to our right, we noticed a sign advertising ‘Great Mine Tours.’ “We’ll check that out in a bit,” our Toa of Earth informed us. “Let’s go down and see that statue first.” No one argued, so we set off down the stairs towards the center of the cavern.

Underground Onu-Koro-Nuva was nothing if not a hive of activity; Matoran and Agori, mostly Onu-Matoran and ex-Rock tribe members, respectively, were everywhere, many carrying some kind of equipment or tool. Though it was a mine no longer, life in this cavern was still dominated by the mining occupation, it appeared, not least because of the minecarts constantly running on elevated tracks overhead. Barring the fact that it was underground, though, the experience was not unlike what New Atero’d been like for me; we were greeted or at least acknowledged by everyone with a nod, a smile, a wave, a “good day to you, Toa,” or something similar; all of it displayed a degree of reverence that I didn’t feel we deserved, but I smiled all the same to keep up the appearance. Lerome, Kirall, and Jahlpu were far more comfortable in the spotlight, the latter particularly since these were his people. At one point, he even stopped to chat for a minute with some young Rock Agori, who watched and listened to his ‘wise words’ with that intense, fascinated attention that only children could muster. Along the way, we passed numerous metal and machine shops, a two markets, an arena in which two old Skrall were instructing a number of younger Glatorian in fighting techniques, and even a full-blown Kolhii field. Everything one would expect to find in a city was here, or at least it had an underground analogue; I’d never seen a place like this.

After a good thirty minutes, we at last arrived at the inner edge of the lowest of the six rings to find that we could go no further. The column on which the 300 ft-tall statue of Onua rested rose from a deep pit; above us, bronze Onua stood, one arm at his side and holding his signature chainsaw-like tools, and the other raised up high over our heads, holding what had to be the largest lightstone I’d ever seen. Looking down, we could see the bright spots of lightstones all along the sides of the pit, some fixed while others were moving, mounted on some kind of mobile equipment or being carried by mine workers.

“Wonder how long it’d take something to fall down there,” Lerome remarked.

“Don’t try it,” Jahlpu warned. “They didn’t put a fence around it for nothing.” True; the pit was surrounded on all sides by a fence that was a little more than waist-high for a Matoran, but didn’t pose much of a barrier for us. Still, there was no way to directly enter the mine here; that was done through one of a number of tunnels that surfaced on the ring above us. This ring, by contrast, was essentially a gigantic clearing, with numerous park benches set up facing the statue, and information screens that presented various facts about Toa Onua and the other Toa Nuva. Souvenir stands of all sorts were set up towards the outside of this ring, and thin, stone columns with mossy ferns planted on top did a half-decent impression of being underground trees. In essence, this was an underground version of a park, the spot in which Matoran and Agori from all over the city came to slow down and relax under the watchful eyes of the Toa whose actions had, according to one of the info screens, made this entire place possible.

“I’m gonna check out those stands,” Kirall informed us as she gestured towards one of the souvenir stands close to the stairs by which we’d arrived. She was off before anyone could object; from where we were it seemed the stand sold some kind of jewelry, which was a pretty good reason for it to catch our Toa of Water’s attention.

"Is flying legal here?" Lerome inquired.

“Don’t see why not, so long as you’re careful,” Jahlpu shrugged.

“Sweet… be right back,” the Toa of Air replied as he pressed his fingers against two particular spots on either side of his waist. We knew what this meant; he was deploying his “wings,” a set of screens that attached below his arms and along the sides of his body that allowed him to glide on air currents. Without warning, he conjured a strong updraft to lift himself into the air, whipping up quite a bit of dust in the process and attracting a fair amount of attention from the Matoran and Agori nearby.

“I guess he wants to check out the pillars, maybe?” I wondered.

“Probably…” Jahlpu sighed. “They’ll keep themselves entertained,” he said disapprovingly, then turned his attention back to the info screen in front of him. It more or less gave a shortlist of what all Toa Onua did shortly before the Reformation and what he’d done since, including founding Onu-Koro-Nuva and finding many of the most productive ore veins still being mined today. A shortlist it may have been, but I noted it was still an impressive array of accomplishments, and Jahlpu seemed no less impressed.

“You weren’t kidding when you said he made this place,” I noted. “I mean, he worked the mine, he took over for a while after the Turaga died, he founded the ruling council…”

“This place wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” Jahlpu agreed. The info screens were set up around the entirety of the square surrounding the statue. Moving counter-clockwise around the pit, we found that the second screen detailed Onua’s arrival on Mata Nui, and the events leading up to his first confrontation with Makuta Teridax. Next came one on his fight with the Bohrok, then one on the Rahkshi and the coming of Takanuva, one on their journey to Voya Nui… we walked from one screen to the other, reading through each one. We’d made it to the Reign of Shadows by time that Lerome returned, tapping us on the shoulder.

“Hey, guess what?” he asked.

“What?” I asked.

“That tour thing you were talking about, it’s gonna start in like twenty minutes,” the Toa of Air informed us.

“It is?” Jahlpu looked up, shocked.

“Yeah, it is,” Lerome asserted, pointing at a large clock on the side of one of the pillars. “I mean, I’m perfectly happy flying around for a while, but if you miss that tour now you’re gonna make us wait longer while you go on the next one, so… shall we get moving?”

“Of course,” Jahlpu sighed; Lerome’s assessment of what would happen if we missed the tour was accurate, but his attitude about it was bothersome as always, especially to Jahlpu. “Let’s get moving,” he turned to me. “We can check out the rest of this afterwards, I guess.”

“Sure,” I shrugged. I could read more about the Reign of Shadows and Onua’s post-reformation efforts later. We started back around the square to the stairs from which we’d entered.

“Where’s Kirall?” Jahlpu wondered.

“She found a smith, and last I knew she was asking him if he knew how to do surgery,” Lerome recalled.

“By Mata Nui…” Jahlpu sighed. I just shook my head; there was only one reason why Kirall would seek out a smith, and ‘surgery’ summed it up pretty well. Sure enough, about ten minutes later and two rings up, we found our sister standing with an Onu-Matoran smith in the front of his shop, hunched over a table and drawing something on a piece of paper. The dubious expression on the Matoran’s face indicated he wasn’t entirely comfortable with what she was doing.

“Yo Kirall!” Lerome called out.

“Busy!” she called back without looking up.

“That tour thing’s about to start,” the Toa of Air informed her as he stepped into the shop. “Seriously, you won’t wanna miss it…” he continued with a distinct sarcastic streak to his voice.

“I’ll be fine,” she insisted. Jahlpu and I’d stopped at the entrance; looking at the paper on the desk, I noticed she’d rather crudely drawn up two figures, each roughly the stature of a Toa if the proportions were to be believed, and with a number of areas circled on the first one. Arrows from each circle leading to the second figure presumably indicated the ‘modifications’ that she was aiming for; narrower shoulders, wider hips, thinner arms… basically a shortlist of what it would take to give her a more Glatorian-like, ‘feminine’ physique, and just from looking at the figures it was clear that the procedures involved would be very invasive. Looking over to Jahlpu, I noticed his expression had darkened significantly; he wasn’t keen on any of this. Lerome, on the other hand…

“So that’s the next step, huh?” he asked, gesturing towards the drawing on the table. “Looks like it’s gonna take a while…” He turned to the smith: “Look, I’m sure you’re really excited about this job, but she’s gonna have to come with us for a while.”

“What… hey!” Kirall protested as Lerome threw an arm over her shoulders and started moving her out of the shop.

“We’ll bring her back so you can do your operation,” Lerome assured the poor Onu-Matoran, who was clearly at a loss for words concerning spectacle unfolding in front of him.

“Hey, you go see the ###### mine!” Kirall wrested herself free. “I have other things to get to.”

“We all do,” Lerome said condescendingly as he reached over and gripped her arm tight, “but you got me dragged down here, so I’m gonna make sure you see it through.” He shot her a cruel smile as he dragged her past us, but she relented.

“Fine, ######, but we ain’t leaving right after,” she countered. “I can only get this stuff done here, so Le-Koro-Nuva’s gonna have to wait.”

“Whatever,” Lerome dismissed the idea and kept going, now followed by a fuming Kirall. By this point, Jahlpu’s expression had gone from disapproval to outright anger, but he kept his mouth shut.

“C’mon, let’s go see the mine,” I said, hoping to get his mind off of our teammates’ behavior. “No use getting angry at them.” Granted, given that he’d been stuck with them for the last few months, he probably had every reason to.

“I know…” he sighed as we started and followed behind. “I’m trying.”

Edited by Scorpion_Strike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 36

--------------------

 

By the time we made it up to the starting point of the tours on the uppermost ring of the city, the tour was only a minute away from starting. We hurriedly bought some tickets, then climbed on board the ‘train,’ which was in reality a bunch of minecarts that had been fitted with seats, just as it was about to leave. The tour guide was an Onu-Matoran who introduced himself as Dosne, who’d apparently served as a mining captain since the days of Mata Nui and was now happy to spend his retirement showing curious visitors around the underground empire he once helped to oversee. The minecarts followed an old track, no longer in use for bringing resources to the surface, which led us through a long, spiraling tunnel to another cavern situated a good half-mile below the city. Looking down from our position on the elevated track, we could see lightstones moving about, and the intermittent sound of pickaxes striking stone and heavier machinery doing its work indicated that this cavern still had some riches left to give. Dosne explained that discovering such caverns had been one of Toa Onua’s specialties; he’d discovered this one more than four millennia ago and to this day, it still hadn’t been fully cleaned out. Another tunnel led us to a connected cavern that featured an underground lake, a popular break stop for miners who spent most of their lives deeper down and rarely even came up to Onu-Koro-Nuva. Here, the line our carts ran on stopped, and we continued our tour on foot.

A large tunnel containing several rail tracks led us down into the vertical shaft that was the great mine. Looking up, in the very far distance, I could see the stone beams and trusses that supported the enormous weight of the statue in the city, which Dosne pointed out was right above us. Down below, meanwhile, a spiraling path cut into the side of the shaft provided access to hundreds of tunnels that radiated out and away from the shaft to the riches in the surrounding rock. A map of various levels of the mine showed us how each level was like a spider web, with lots of connecting tunnels between the main ones, the central shaft in the center, and the main tunnels snaking from one rich ore deposit to another. Natural caverns, Dosne explained, were particularly sought after, since they could serve as staging points, warehouses, and resource hubs, and also often featured minerals ripe for the taking right at the surface. There were five or six particularly large caverns, and countless smaller ones connected to the tunnel network in one way or another. Amazingly, even though I couldn’t have found my way through this place even with a map on hand, it was said that no Onu-Matoran ever got lost here.

To Jahlpu, of course, this was as close as he could come to heaven. He set about the tour with an excitement I’d never seen from him before; he asked all sorts of questions of the tour guide, pointed out things to me and the others along the way, and when we got back to the cavern featuring the lake, explained how various old mining machines that were parked there on display were used. That said, while he was certainly keeping spirits up, both Lerome and Kirall grew increasingly tired and frustrated as the tour went on. They frequently and verbally complained, made sarcastic comments, and generally annoyed me and Jahlpu in particular. In fact, by the time our hour-and-a-half tour of some important locations down the central mineshaft was done and we made it back to the lake, even Jahlpu was getting seriously off at them. Thankfully, there was the opportunity to grab a bite to eat to help shut them up. The lake cavern featured a number of restaurants, intended both for the miners, who could certainly use a good meal after a long day at work, and for tourists like us who were merely stopping by. The tour stopped there for about half an hour, allowing all of us to go grab some quintessential underground cuisine. Unsurprisingly, the flavor of the food was best described as ‘earthy,’ but it was quite satisfying, and it wasn’t long before we set off on the final leg of our tour: the Crystal Palace.

The Crystal Palace wasn’t a palace as such; it wasn’t even a building. It was a medium-sized cavern filled with striking, milky-white crystals growing from every surface. A small path was suspended inside to allow us to walk through without risking damage to the structures. The crystals emitted a faint glow, which Dosne explained meant that they were some kind of lightstone. However, their light was dim and therefore, rather than mining them out and trying to find another use for them, the Onu-Matoran had decided to keep the cave as-is; a spectacular sight to behold. It had everyone speechless for a while, but after a couple of minutes of picture-taking and marveling at the fact that some of these crystals were over twenty feet long, we backtracked to the cave with the lake and boarded the minecart train to return to the surface. After thanking Dosne for the tour, we found ourselves back on the upper ring of Onu-Koro-Nuva.

“That was amazing,” Jahlpu concluded.

“Lots of dirt, dust, and digging,” Kirall shrugged. “I don’t see how anyone can stand it.”

“It’s important,” Jahlpu continued, “and you’re not an Onu-Matoran.”

“Uhm, it’s a quarter past four,” Lerome interrupted, “and that means I can still catch the post-game coverage. So unless you’ve got some other plans, I’m going back to the surface.”

“Actually…” Jahlpu began, but Lerome didn’t wait to listen to his reply; he was already on his way up the tunnel to the surface.

“Well, if he’s going to do that, I’ve got some arrangements to make,” Kirall decided, after which she turned and headed the opposite way, back into the city and no doubt to the smith she’d been dealing with before the tour began.

“Just hold on a minute,” Jahlpu asked, but Kirall ignored him, and I wasn’t going to try and stop her.

“Let her go,” I said. “All she’ll do is grumble about being stuck with us down here anyways.”

“True,” Jahlpu sighed as we watched Kirall start on her way down the steps to the ring below. “I guess we’ll have to see what she shows up with come tonight. Or tomorrow…”

“I’m betting on next week,” I said sarcastically.

“Anyways,” Jahlpu changed the subject, “what did you think?”

“It was interesting,” I replied. “Seeing the way the mine actually operates, and how they go about finding things to bring up to the surface… You really want to work down there, don’t you?”

“You kidding?” Jahlpu chuckled. “Of course I do! I mean, where else am I going to, you know, use my skills? I can literally move the earth at my command; how could I not work down there?”

“Fair point,” I smiled. He was right; his elemental abilities were giving him a pretty clear option as to what he could do as a Toa, a destiny of sorts that I was still trying to find. We stood silently for a bit, watching the city ahead and below into which our sister had already disappeared. “So, you got any other place you want to check out?” I asked.

“I was going to look around the city for a bit,” he replied. “See what living here is like, you know? Who knows, I might just try to get a place now.”

“Look at you, settling down,” I quipped. “What happened to the great journey of the new Toa heroes?”

“We’ve got a few places left to visit,” Jahlpu acknowledged, “but we’ve done most of the major cities… and there’s no trouble back home anymore. Besides, that was Lerome’s idea, remember?”

“Yeah, and you’re pretty done with it by now, I suspect.”

“Yup.”

“Well, I’m going to check out the remaining info on Toa Onua,” I decided.

“I’ll probably make my way down there eventually,” Jahlpu speculated, “but… well, given the time, maybe I can’t. We’ll see.”

“Go find your place,” I replied. “I’ll make sure to inform you of the rest tonight.”

“Sounds good,” the Toa of Earth concluded. “I’ll see you tonight, then!”

“See ya!”

With that, Jahlpu set off along the ring, presumably looking for some place to rent, while I set off down the path towards the center of the city. In any surface city, this would be the start of rush hour, with Matoran and Agori returning from work to their homes, but this far underground no one seemed to keep much of a day/night schedule; Onu-Koro-Nuva worked around the clock. Once I reached the square, I made my way from one info screen to another until I reached the one Jahlpu and I had left off at. Having finished with the details of the Reign of Shadows, it the next screen picked up at a spot shortly before the Battle of Bara Magna… it took me minute before I realized that I’d seen what was described here before, but from Kopaka’s point of view… the story on the screen pretty much confirmed what the Toa of Ice had told me about how the battle ended: the Glatorian finished the Skrall, and the Skakdi showed up too late to help the floundering Rahkshi. A large stone tablet, standing upright along the inner edge of the ring, depicted in carving the moment of Makuta Teridax’s death; a piece of Aqua Magna smashing into the back of the Great Spirit Robot’s head, demolishing the control center and as such the mind within. Though over ten feet tall and lacking in color, the carving was done in incredible detail, giving a real sense of the cataclysmic magnitude of the destruction. Also quite large and prominently positioned below the title in a thick lower border on the tablet was the signature of the carver: apparently, this carving was “another Hafu original.”

I spent a couple minutes looking over the carving, correlating the features within it and on the Great Spirit Robot with what I had seen in Kopaka’s memory of the battle. After that, I continued my counter-clockwise trek around the inner ring, to the next information screen, which began the story of what Toa Onua did after the Reformation. Apparently, all of the Toa Nuva had first busied themselves as co-Turaga of sorts; helping the actual Turaga maintain the peace between the peoples from the Matoran Universe and those from Bara Magna. Onua’s job had been particularly tough in that regard; integrating the Rock Tribe Agori and the Skrall into the new world was a challenging task, in light of the war they had waged with Bara Magna’s other inhabitants before Teridax’s arrival on the planet. Still, he managed, in part by locating rich ore veins in the mountains for the Onu-Matoran to get to work on. The largest of these became home to such a large operation that it soon became the location of Onu-Koro-Nuva. Having established the city, Onua spent most of his time here, working front-line in the mines and using his elemental abilities to greatly reduce the time needed to dig new tunnels and locate the mountain’s wealth of minerals. In that regard, the breakup of the Toa Nuva didn’t affect him much on a practical level; he already spent most of his time away from them, and now they had removed his obligation to periodically head back to New Atero. Unfortunately, the screens didn’t give any information on how he felt about the breakup, though they did note that he kept contact with Pohatu and Lewa, especially the latter, long after their team was no more. He had even been present, over 1000 years later, at the Toa of Air’s funeral service, the last time that he left Onu-Koro-Nuva, where he had apparently remarked that Lewa had been one of the last “true Toa,” a statement delivered with a particularly bitter tone as the Toa of Earth glanced in the direction of Tahu, the only other Toa Nuva who was there.

By that point, I’d made it to the last screen, the inevitable conclusion of the Toa Nuva of Earth’s story which I had already known was coming: his death. According to this screen, Onua kept working right until the last days, even though his advanced age and the associated deterioration of his body (plus the fact that mining work had been pretty hard on it to begin with) had made it increasingly difficult for him to work the long shifts. In spite of that, he saw it as his duty to provide for the Matoran and Agori as much as he could for as long as he was able, and a little pain wasn’t going to stop him. What did stop him, however, was a side tunnel he elected to dig into a region already notorious for its geological instability; the soft, porous rock that made up a whole layer below the mountain meant tunnel collapses were common, and unfortunately, towards the end of one of his shifts and having dug a particularly long tunnel, Onua found himself victim of one of them. No one could tell exactly where the collapse started, but by the time the rocks settled the entire section of tunnel that the Toa had worked on was no more. A massive search effort was mounted, but it still took nearly two months before the tunnel was cleared his body was recovered, after which a grand funeral procession was held. Turaga, Toa, and Matoran from all over the planet had turned up to pay their respects, though the other remaining Toa Nuva had been notably absent. The tablet concluded the story of the Toa Nuva of Earth with a couple of words from Nuparu, the Toa Mahri of Earth and apparently one of Onua’s greatest admirers:

 

“Few are granted the honor to be Toa, and fewer still know what the title means, but only one Toa understood the true power of the code; he lived it from the day he arrived among us to the day he passed below. Along the way, he saved many of us multiple times over, stood against the worst our world had to offer, and gave us the greatest city we have ever known. Never have so many owed so much to one person.”

 

I looked up again at the giant bronze statue, looming over the center of the city as though the old Toa still stood guard over the Matoran and Agori at work here. I’d never seen a more spectacular memorial, and after reading over everything that Onua had done, I was pretty sure that there wasn’t anyone else deserving of one. No wonder Jahlpu and the Onu-Matoran practically worshipped him, and that even Kopaka had spoken of him in a positive light; Onua was the best example of a Toa who’d managed to find a way to use his abilities to serve the Matoran within the confines of the Toa Code. He’d found a purpose, something which many Toa, myself included, were still looking for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 37

--------------------

 

At last, having seen enough and feeling quite tired, I decided to head back to the hotel, expecting that my companions would sooner or later show up there. It was getting well past six by the time I’d made my way back up the city rings, through the main entrance tunnel, and up to the surface. It was there that I noticed something that had, somehow, escaped my eye the first time around; located to the right of the tunnel entrance, carved in the side of the mountain, was a large workshop. A sign overhead advertised it as belonging to Nuparu, a name that instantly caught my interest; so this was where the Toa Mahri of Earth had, quite literally, set up shop. Peering in through the large front entrance, whose double doors were still open, I noticed there were pieces of mining equipment in various states of disrepair scattered around the place, from small, single person drills to a giant motorized contraption whose purpose was utterly unclear to me. The whole place was lit rather dimly by yellow lightstones attached to the walls, and numerous workbenches were positioned around the room, indicating that there were normally more people at work here; their shift had likely ended. A loud, metallic clanging sound emanating from deeper within the shop indicated at least one person was still at work, though. Maybe it was the Toa himself?

I hesitated for a moment; I really didn’t have much of a reason to be here, but at the same time it’d be nice to meet with Nuparu and get his… take on events, I guess, particularly his stance on Jaller and Hahli’s frequent arguments over Gali staying with them. Besides, even if an answer wouldn’t be forthcoming there, at least I could say “hi” on behalf of the other Toa Mahri. So I made my way across the shop, and soon arrived at another set of doors at the end that led into a part of the shop that was sectioned off by a line of shelves, cabinets, and one of a the stone pillars that had been left standing when this place was carved out, presumably to hold the roof up. Inside, with his back towards the entrance and repeatedly bringing a large hammer down on a red-hot piece of metal, was the Toa Mahri of Earth. He turned, bringing up the piece of metal with a pair of tongs, and dunked it into an oil tank. This set fire to some of the oil, which in turn lit up the room a lot more while the Toa of Earth looked away to protect his sensitive eyes… which fell right on me.

“Oh, hello,” I greeted. The surprised look on Nuparu’s face was quickly replaced by a welcoming smile.

“A fellow Toa,” he observed. “At this hour, no less. Hello to you too.” He turned back to the oil tank. “Just a moment,” he said. With that, he used the tongs to pull the metal object out of the oil tank. Now I saw that it was a blade, and to my great surprise it was in a shape that I recognized almost immediately: a thin cutting edge, straight right up until it curved around the tip, supported by a set of struts to a thicker ‘backbone’ that measured about half the length of the blade, tang not included. It looked exactly like one of Kopaka’s weapons.

“A sword…” I remarked, momentarily at a loss for words.

“Special order,” Nuparu explained while he waited for the oil to burn off of the blade.

“For whom?” I wondered.

“Err… a friend,” the Toa of Earth replied. “A collector.”

“Interesting hobby.”

“So it is…” Nuparu nodded, though not confidently. “Anyways,” he changed the subject as he took off his gloves and extended a hand towards me, “I’m Nuparu, though I’m sure you saw the sign out front.”

“Lis,” I shook it, but my attention was still on the blade. Who but Kopaka would request a sword like that? But Kopaka was gone, and yet here it was… then an idea popped into my head.

“Is there something I can help you with?” Nuparu asked.

“Perhaps…” I stalled as I got my thoughts together. “I have a question. I’m looking for someone, a fellow Toa, and I figured you might have some idea of his whereabouts.”

“Well, I don’t really keep contact with a lot of Toa besides the other Mahri,” Nuparu scratched his head, “but sure, why not? Who are you looking for?”

“The guy who that belongs to,” I gestured to the sword. “Toa Nuva Kopaka.”

“Y-you’re trying to track down Kopaka?” the Toa of Earth feigned surprise to hide a moment of panic, though rather unconvincingly.

“Yeah, I heard he was in town,” I pressed on.

“That would be some coincidence…” he admitted.

“Wouldn’t it?” I felt a certain smugness, like I’d cracked him in interrogation or something. Of course, I had a notable advantage in that department.

“Well, whether he’s back or not,” he continued, “I’m afraid that I hadn’t heard of it until now.”

“You’re sure?” I wondered.

“Quite sure,” he nodded. I was about to continue the line of questioning when his eyes suddenly widened as he noticed something behind me.

“That is enough,” an all too familiar voice suddenly said behind me. “She will not let up. Besides, she already knows.” I turned around to find Kopaka standing not ten feet behind me, and in spite of the fact that the possibility of him still being around had dawned on me the moment I saw Nuparu lift one of his swords out of that oil tank, I was still rather surprised at his sudden arrival.

“Kopaka!” I exclaimed louder than he could’ve been comfortable with, “you didn’t leave!?” He just stood there, not even bothering to point out the obvious. “What are you still doing here?” I demanded.

“Getting my sword fixed,” Kopaka said dryly.

“Oh, right... you need to make sure you’re well equipped for your suicidal ego-trip,” I chided. Kopaka gave me a death glare, but offered no verbal response. Nuparu, meanwhile, stood there with the most bewildered expression I’d ever seen.

“You… you two know each other?” he asked.

“I followed him around for a while,” I explained. “Got to see his trip back to New Atero, even helped to fix him up.”

“You went to New Atero?” Nuparu looked to Kopaka, who gave a slight nod. Judging by the Toa of Earth’s expression, it did little to dispel his confusion. “How does nobody know about this?” he questioned.

“Oh, he had a plan,” I replied before Kopaka got a word in. “Fooled everyone, even used me at one point. The only people who know about his trip are the other Toa. Oh, and Macku.”

“And they all kept quiet?” Nuparu looked to Kopaka.

“They understood,” the Toa of Ice answered, “unlike this one.” He glared at me.

“Hey, I never told anyone,” I countered. “I wasn’t even one of the ones who threatened to.”

“Not that,” Kopaka corrected me. “They understood my duty.”

“Your duty doesn’t exist,” I shot back, and after our last conversation I was certain of it. “It is only the delusion that you use to justify your need to get away from everyone.”

“My duty lies beyond your understanding…” he began to argue, but he was interrupted by Nuparu.

“Okay, okay!” the Toa of Earth stepped in. “Clearly there is some history between you two, and I’d love to hear all about it, but please quit the arguing. Seriously, if I wanted to hear more of that, I’d go visit my brothers and sister. Fair?” He looked back and forth between me and Kopaka. The Toa of Ice nodded slowly, then stepped back.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Good,” Nuparu concluded, after which he got back to working the blade. Kopaka vanished deeper into the shop, though I was certain that he hadn’t gone far. I watched as Nuparu made sure the blade was absolutely straight. Apparently satisfied, he took it across the room and stuck it into a deep hole in the wall from which an ominous orange-red glow emanated. “Tempering oven,” the he explained. “If he were to use that sword right now, it would break in two the moment he hit anything with it.”

“That would be a shame,” I said sarcastically.

“What’s the deal between you two anyways?” Nuparu asked as he took a seat on a stool next to the work bench that occupied the center of the room.

“Oh, uhm… he’s frustrating to be around, that’s all.” Yeah, I know ‘frustrating’ didn’t really cover it, but it was the best description that came to mind at the time.

“That’s nothing new,” Nuparu shrugged. “But, you traveled with him for how long?”

“I followed him for… five days,” I recalled. “Thought he was gone this morning, but apparently he got off the train, too.”

“Five days?” the Toa of Earth looked impressed. “He tolerated you for that long?”

“Mostly,” I shrugged. “I mean, he told me quite a bit about what it means to be a Toa, about duty and such… he tends to raise more questions than he answers. Still, we met a lot of other Toa along the way, so that was interesting enough.”

“Did you meet Jaller? And Hahli?” Nuparu asked.

“We did, actually,” I nodded. “Hewkii too, and Gali… Come to think of it, I probably should’ve stayed with them instead; didn’t really have much reason to follow Kopaka after that.”

“Hm… You’re one of the new ones, right?” Nuparu changed the subject. “From the south?”

“Yup, the great heroes who stood up to the Skakdi.” I gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Not much of a fight in the end, really.”

“So I heard.” Nuparu looked down at the table for a moment, then back at me. “Still, for all you know you might have prevented something pretty serious.”

“Yeah, we might have… I guess.” I found that a little hard to believe, but sure, why not? “Just… what do we do now, you know? I mean, I can’t really go back to being assistant weaver.” I smiled, again, half-heartedly, my humor undercut by anxiety over what exactly the future held for me.

“Yeah, we’ve all been there,” the Toa of Earth sympathized. “We all had to find our place in this world.”

“True,” I agreed. “Actually, one of my brothers is looking into getting a job here.”

“He is?”

“Yup. Jahlpu, Toa of Earth,” I explained. “I’m sure he’ll stop by here before long.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Nuparu smiled. “I’ll be sure to show him a thing or two… but what about you? Have you thought of anything yet?”

“Not really…” I admitted. “You know, Kopaka told me a lot about the history of the Toa Nuva… I guess I figured I’d find some clue in that.” I leant back against a set of cabinets that made up part of the wall dividing this section of the workshop from the rest. “He turned out a role model, though.”

“That’s why you fell out,” Nuparu hypothesized.

“Exactly,” I agreed. “I mean, it’s how he rationalizes everything. You know, I didn’t realize it until the end, but… it’s like he talks a big game about duty and the Toa Code, but it just doesn’t mesh with what he does. Not to anyone except him.”

“How so?”

“Well, he nearly started a fight when he met Tahu,” I began, “he insulted both Gali and Hahli after they worked their asses off to help him recover from his injuries ‘cause he was in a pretty sorry state when he came down from that mountain, and he never apologized for it. He treats everyone as though they’re flawed and inferior compared to him while he’s deluded himself into thinking that everything he does is for the benefit of the Matoran.”

“It isn’t?”

“No, it isn’t!” I continued. “Especially not what he’s doing now; he says he’s going into those mountains to do astronomy, to chart stars and planets and whatnot, so one day the Matoran might be able to go there.”

“Sounds noble.”

“Yeah, except I’m pretty sure he doesn’t do astronomy up there,” I argued. “If he was really interested in doing that, he’d be in the knowledge towers of New Atero or Ko-Koro-Nuva right now. No, I saw a lot more of his personality than he’d like to admit, and from what I saw I know he’s going into those mountains because he can, and he believes, or wants to believe, that only he can. The duty thing just… rationalizes his megalomania. Worse, it’s gonna get him killed. I mean, good swords or not, you know he won’t last long in those mountains now, and his death will help no one.”

“So, he’s a pain to be around and he wants to be alone,” Nuparu concluded. “Sounds pretty much like the Kopaka we all knew.”

“Maybe so, but you didn’t see how he berated Gali,” I countered, “or the state he left her in. Or what he called Hahli, or Tahu, or me. He was vicious, and there was not even a hint of regret afterwards.”

“True, I haven’t,” Nuparu shook his head, “and I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but that’s Kopaka. He’s unapologetically, brutally honest, regardless of how he justifies it. That’s just who he is.”

“Then where does he get the right to talk high and mighty about duty when he blatantly disregards his responsibilities to himself, and to those who were once his allies?” I asked. “That’s what I don’t get. Yes, duty is everything to a Toa, but how can he still think he’s got anything to say on it?” I was now standing across the work bench, hands on hips, looking across to the Toa of Earth and wondering what his explanation for that could be. Nuparu sighed and paused for a bit before replying.

“How many of the Toa Nuva have you met?” he asked, to my surprise.

“Ehm, four…” I replied. “The four that remain.”

“And could you call any of them flawless?” Nuparu continued.

“No,” I answered immediately. “If anything… they’re all in a pretty sorry state.”

“That’s right,” Nuparu crossed his arms and leant forward onto the table. “Like us, they all have their flaws; Kopaka’s is arrogance. And you know, unlike us they didn’t have a life to return to when this world was put back together; they never knew anything but war. War heroes don’t do well in peacetime.” He sighed again, and I could clearly tell that this resonated a lot more with him than he was willing to let on. “Look, it’s sad,” he continued, “but that’s the way they’ve ended up, but we can’t change or help them now. You can berate Kopaka all you want, but you’re not going to change him. Just… take him as an example of what not to do, what not to become.”

“Oh, I plan to,” I agreed. “Still, that doesn’t really change my predicament. Then again, I might just go back to New Atero and stay with Macku and the other Toa for a while…”

“I’m sure they’d love the company.”

“Yeah, they invited me already,” I remembered. “, maybe I should inform my teammates of it. Two of them pretty much worship Hahli and Hewkii anyways. Then again, I probably shouldn’t let them loose on those two… and Jahlpu’s probably staying here. He’s more the Onua type.”

“Really? What does that mean?” Nuparu wondered.

“More… duty-focused, I guess,” I mused. “I actually spent a lot of time down by that statue today, read about what Onua did. Between everything he did before the Reformation, and founding the mine and city afterwards, he’d be a much better person to follow, you know? I mean, if duty is the sole guiding virtue now, no one seems to have nailed it on the head more than him.”

“Yeah, I suppose he did…” Nuparu nodded, though not as… enthusiastically as I’d expected him to.

“Something wrong?” I wondered. “I mean, it’s late, and if I’m taking too much of your time…”

“No, that’s not… that’s not it,” he assured me. “It’s just… duty isn’t everything.”

“It isn’t?” I questioned. “I mean, that’s like the one thing Kopaka told me that makes sense.”

“What exactly did he tell you?”

“Well, since Destiny was fulfilled years ago, duty is the one virtue left,” I recited. “Unity quickly falls away without destiny. He even had examples; people differ on how they should pursue their duty, which destroys unity, while only a common Destiny brings people together. That’s why, according to him, at least, the Toa fell apart after the Reformation. What do you think?” A moment or two passed before Nuparu offered a response.

“It’s right in the most pragmatic sense…” he began, “and I suppose that’s what matters to him. Still, duty isn’t everything, not in the way he would define it. We have a duty to the Matoran, yes, but don’t let that consume you… trust me, that doesn’t end well.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked. It seemed Nuparu was showing his hand more than I imagined he intended to… or was he? Again, he didn’t reply immediately. In fact, it took a good thirty seconds of pondering on his part before he settled on an answer; long enough for me to seriously wonder whether he really was okay.

“You know… I think there’s something I should show you,” he decided. “Just… wait here for a minute.” He got up and proceeded out the entrance into the larger workshop, after which he turned left, the same direction Kopaka had taken. However, as I waited, I didn’t hear any conversation start up between the two; apparently, Nuparu was going to retrieve something else. But what was it? Something related to him or another Toa, a reminder of what happened when duty became all-consuming, what he had warned against? If so, what could that be? At this point, I could only say one thing for certain: based on how difficult it had been for him to decide, it had to be something personal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

--------------------

Chapter 38

--------------------

 

It took a good ten minutes for Nuparu to return, and when he did, he was carrying two things: an old, rolled-up letter, and two opaque, red crystals that fit in the palm of his hand. He handed me the letter first.

“Read that,” he instructed, “and tell me what you think.”

“Okay…” I unrolled the letter, unsure of what exactly made this piece of paper so significant. That changed the moment I noticed the signature on the bottom: Lewa. Nuparu stepped back as I began to read the letter.

 

Onua, dearest brother,

 

     By the time you get this, I’ll be dead. But before I go, I owe you an explanation, and a warning.

Please, understand that I don’t mean to hurt anyone by doing this, least of all you. However, I don’t want to fade, to become the bitter has-been that our brother Pohatu has become. You pointed out that I should retire, call it quits before my body says “enough,” but I can’t do that either; part of me knows it’s only a long road downhill from here. I don’t want to see the bottom; I have spent my life at the summit, and I can’t be happy anywhere else. Therefore, I can’t quit: one way or another, I would drive myself to my own destruction. This way, at least, I’ll do it on my own terms, and leave the Le-Matoran with one more good story to tell.

Mt. Valmai’s eruption is only hours away, and in it I will have the thrill of my life, and the last. I’m sure the Matoran will see it as an inevitable accident, a great stunt of dare-and-do gone wrong. It’ll be tragic, but they’ll remember me as I want to be remembered, as the hero they deserve. It is the one thing I have left to offer them: a legend. That’s all we will eventually be to the Matoran, right? Legends. Symbols of our peoples’ character and achievements. It’s a role I've played, gladly, for millennia, and I know you feel the same. But I want to caution you against making the mistake I made: don’t let it consume you.

    Our chosen professions may be different, but we have both worked our hardest to provide for the Matoran, to serve them as our code commands. However, you are patient, while I can’t sit still for five minutes. You have wisdom and experience to offer the Onu-Matoran, while I could offer the Le-Matoran nothing but spectacle. Old age will inevitably leave me bitter and ostracized, while you would be as good a leader of the Matoran as any Turaga. Yet, when last we met, you were still toiling away in the mines, even as the work is taking its toll on your body. I’m telling you now to do what you told me, what I could never do: retire, for the good of your people. You could offer them so much more than just the tale of a Toa who worked himself to death.

 

    Yes, I know it sounds hypocritical, just as it did weeks ago… but fate played us cruel cards, and our brothers and sisters have already fallen victim to their circumstances, doomed to live out their lives as mockeries of Toa, sad as it is to see. I’m no better than them, but you, you saved all of us, several times. If anyone can show the world what it meant to be the Toa Nuva, it is you. I am taking the one good option left to me, but you still have a choice. I pray you choose right.

 

Farewell, and thank you for all you did for me, and for all of us,

 

Your brother, Lewa.

 

It was a difficult letter to read; between the erratic handwriting and spots of tears on it, it was clear that the author had found it equally difficult to write. Heart-wrenching, even. It confirmed what I had already suspected about Lewa; his death was not the near-miss, the tragic accident that everyone believed it to be. Lewa had flown into that eruption with full intent to die in it. The tragic part was that he was right; he was remembered as a hero for it, whereas if he had stayed around he could well have ended up like Pohatu.

“That’s… a lot to take in,” I remarked, looking up to find Nuparu leaning against the wall by the tempering oven.

“That it is,” the Toa of Earth agreed. “He wrote that five weeks after the last time he and Onua met. They argued about that exact thing, fell out, and hadn’t spoken since. Normally, they talked at least twice per week.”

“They were close?”

“Very. The only Toa Nuva that still were,” Nuparu took his seat by the work bench.

“So, what do those have to do with it?” I asked, pointing at the red crystals, now lying on the table.

“Lewa’s warning,” Nuparu replied, “about Onua destroying himself just as he had done… Onua heeded it for a while, but this,” he picked up a crystal, “this is what destroyed him.”

“What is it?” I wondered.

“I’m not sure,” the Toa of Earth said as he held it up, inspecting it against the light, “and believe me, I tried for a long time to figure it out. It’s not a normal gem, that’s for sure.”

“What does it do?”

“Observe,” Nuparu said as he placed the crystal in the palm of his hand, then squeezed tight. He held the grip for about ten seconds, rocking his fingers, and when he opened his palm the crystal had been reduced to a bunch of smaller pieces and a fair amount of fine, red dust. “It’s fragile,” he explained, “and useless, except… it has an effect on the mind. A very powerful effect.”

“A drug,” I noted.

“Exactly,” he sighed. “The powder… you sniff it, inhale it, and in moments it makes you feel invincible. No pain, no anxiety, nothing.”

“Onua figured that out?” I asked.

“By accident, I believe,” Nuparu continued. “These things are found deep down in the mine, and to this day most people believe them to be useless. Plus, they’re rare, and I’ve made sure to collect them, to keep them out of unwitting hands. They’re fiendishly addictive, and therefore very dangerous.”

“Really?” I picked up the other crystal and held it up against the light. It seemed hard to believe that such a small, comparatively worthless gem would be so dangerous. “So, what did Onua do, then?”

“After he got that letter, and after Lewa’s funeral, he decided to retire,” Nuparu explained, “but he just couldn’t keep away from the mine. So, instead of calling it quits, he said he’d ‘ramp down’ his work, working shorter hours and all that, until eventually he would be ready to leave completely. At the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable, given how much important that work was to him.”

“His way of serving the Matoran,” I interpreted.

“That’s right,” Nuparu agreed. “I thought it was a good decision. I mean, he was already showing signs of wear; it was clear that his body was starting to go, so I figured he’d wind down and eventually take up a Turaga role. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened. Instead, he found this.” He held up his palm with the powder in it. “He was hurting by that point; his body was telling him it was time to stop, and that was part of what motivated him to actually slow down; he really didn’t want to, didn’t want to abandon his duty as he saw it.”

“A workaholic…”

“A workaholic who saw his work as his divine duty…” Nuparu sighed, paused, swallowed, then continued: “Somewhere along the line, he discovered these crystals… they made him feel young again, feel strong again, or at least that’s how he described it to me later. At the time, none of us knew, but somehow, a month of two after the funeral, there was this newfound energy about him, and he went back to working full-time and then some. He was going it at it harder than ever before, and the Matoran were cheering him on because, you know, he was their hero, and his retirement would’ve meant the end of an era to them. They thought that, against all odds, he’d gotten better. At first, I was worried, but he seemed so much happier that I didn’t ask questions, and neither did anyone else. Like I said, we didn’t know at the time what was really fueling his return.”

“He hid it?” I asked.

“Very well,” Nuparu confirmed. “I mean, he was the one who found most of these crystals down there anyways, so it wouldn’t have been much trouble for him to pick them up and keep them to himself.”

“He couldn’t hide it forever, though,” I noted. “You found out in the end.”

“I did,” he recalled. “I’d go to visit him, only to find he was working an extra shift again, and when he was home he was looking worse every time. It didn’t add up. One time he came home with his arm twisted and mangled; he’d gotten it stuck in a partial tunnel collapse, yet he acted as though it was nothing. He ate little, and started to lose weight and muscle tone; he was pushing his body beyond the limit, forcing it to destroy itself to fuel his work. I convinced him to take a week off, to get the arm fixed and healed, so he did and went back to work after three days. By that point, I was convinced something was up, so I followed him down there. That’s when I saw for the first time that he was using these crystals, or rather, he found some while he was working on yet another tunnel, deeper down than the last. Turns out he went back to work so early because his supply had run out. That was about a month after he first started using them.”

“He went downhill that quickly?” I was rather surprised.

“At that point, his ‘supply’ consisted of maybe two crystals per day,” Nuparu explained. “I confronted him about it, and thankfully he was willing to listen to reason, but he wasn’t willing to stop working altogether. As he saw it, with these crystals he could keep going for longer, keep serving his duty to the Matoran. So, I let off, hoping that he would sooner or later realize how insane of a plan that was.”

“I take it he didn’t come to that realization…”

“I should’ve taken a firmer stance, but I didn’t realize just how much that sense of duty that had guided him as a hero before was blinding him…” Nuparu’s voice was beginning to waver. “And these… these things,” he looked at the red dust in his hand, “he believed that they were somehow giving him greater strength. They weren’t; they simply made him blind to his own limits. At first I thought he was just pushing himself to stay relevant, but then I had to believe that he was absolutely desperate, given how fast he went. I mean, it was becoming obvious to everyone; he looked gaunt, didn’t care about injuries, hardly slept or ate or drank anything… I tried again and again to tell him that he should slow down. When I visited him in the mine again a couple of weeks after I found out, he collapsed while working. I used that incident, and his… well, condition, to argue that he had to stop. Not slow down, not a break… he had to stop. That was it.”

“Did he?” By this point, I found myself hoping that he did, even though… well, history had already played out, hadn’t it?

“He tried,” Nuparu leant to the side and dropped the powder and fragments of the crystal in a trash can. “And for a while… he almost managed it. But it was . He’d already damaged his body beyond repair, and as soon as the crystal wore off, it was like his nerves were screaming at him. Headaches, cold sweats, back pain… he could barely drag himself out of bed. And it just wouldn’t end.” Nuparu shuddered, and his voice had taken on a distinctly morose tone. “It lasted all of two weeks. Two weeks during which he didn’t dare step outside, ‘cause he didn’t want the Matoran to see what was happening to him. Through it all, that was what he said hurt most; the fact that he was sitting there, not working…”

“He couldn’t stay away…” I looked down at Lewa’s letter again… the Toa of Air had felt the exact same way.

 “And that’s what ended it,” Nuparu said, with a sudden anger in his voice. “He gave up, or gave in, whatever you want to call it. Got a hold of another crystal somehow, went back into the mine, and didn’t come out for the next two weeks. When I asked him about it, he said he was making up for lost time. So I took matters into my own hands. While he was gone, I turned his house upside down to figure out where he was keeping these things… I didn’t find any. Instead, I found that.” He pointed at the letter.

“Lewa’s warning…”

“I showed it to him, reminded him of it…” Nuparu paused for a moment to collect himself. “And then he told me that Lewa was wrong, that he’d be fine. Lewa’d just lacked the resolve to keep going, had flinched when faced with the future, like Gali. Coming from him, that was the worst insult for a Toa; he blamed Gali for driving the team apart, and hadn’t spoken to or of her since except to express his anger. Then he told me to go back to ‘fixing little drills’ and to leave him alone. So I did; I was furious, furious at his delusion, furious that he’d dismissed his dead friend’s warning and insulted him to boot… I was done for a while after that.”

“I know that feeling.” Pretty much how I felt about Kopaka at this point.

“It felt right at the time, but I shouldn’t have left,” Nuparu continued. “I should’ve dragged him out of that tunnel and over to Gali’s place, just to see if she could do anything about the state his body was in. Maybe that would’ve made quitting tolerable for him, not to have to deal with as much pain… As it was, when I left, he was doomed. He stayed in the mine for longer and longer, looking for more crystals to fuel his spiraling habit… at the end, he was up to one per hour, and that was over a month after the last time I saw him. I went down there one last time… and it was awful…” he was choking up.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” I stopped him. “You can stop, really, I… I mean, I know this is difficult, and…”

“No,” he said defiantly. “No, someone needs to know… just give me a moment.”

“Don’t talk, then,” I suggested. “Just… think. I’ll see for myself.” For a moment, he looked a bit confused, but then he realized what I was doing. I focused in on him, as he was reliving that memory… I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but if he was intent on me knowing, I was going to see it for myself.

-*-*-

I’m walking down a tunnel, one that’s barely lit. From up ahead, I hear a scraping sound, an occasional falling rock… the sound of someone digging, punctuated by two small, high-revving engines; the signature sound of Onua’s tools. To the left and right of me, water comes dripping down from cracks all over the walls and ceiling of this tunnel; it hasn’t been reinforced or anything… this can’t possibly be safe. Looking back, I see the vehicle I’ve left behind; a small quad-buggy, pointing the other way with its engine still running; if worst comes to worst, I have to get out of the tunnel quickly, but it has now narrowed to where the buggy can go no further, hence I am continuing on foot.

Only fifty or so feet beyond where I left the buggy, the tunnel curves to the right… and now that it’s straightening out again, I get my first glimpse of the Toa Nuva of Earth. It’s from about a hundred feet away and from behind, but even from here it’s obvious that he’s in a terrible state… I’m not looking at a Toa; I’m looking at the living, skeletal remains of one. As I approach, the details become clearer; what little muscle is draped over his base frame is torn, frayed, and discolored… His armor, dented, meant to accommodate bulging muscles, is hanging by the bolts that attach it to his frame, and as he pushes the fast-revving drilling tools against the wall, grinding away into the rock, his whole body shakes as though he’s struggling to hold the heavy things in place. I wait for a few seconds until, exhausted, he allows the tools to wind down and lowers them to the ground.

“Onua?...” I manage to get out. He doesn’t seem to hear. “Onua!” I call out more forcefully and approach. For a moment, it seems my call has once again fallen on deaf ears, but then he slowly begins to turn… as I come within ten feet, his eyes fall on me. They’re red around the edges and unnaturally wide open; their owner hasn’t slept for days. He once stood quite tall, but his bony, bent frame is that of a tortured man.

“Nuparu.” his voice is incredibly hoarse, to the point where I can barely understand what he’s saying. This is the state those crystals have left him in.

“Look at you…” my voice is wavering; I’m still getting over what I’m looking at. “Look at yourself.” No reply. “The once mighty Toa Onua… look where your duty has brought you. It is killing you.” For a few seconds, we just look each other dead in the eyes. I want some kind of reply, some acknowledgement beyond my name, some sign that those crystals haven’t taken his brain as well.

“Duty brought me this far,” he says at last. “There is no turning back now.”

“No turning back?”

“I can’t go back up there… not like this.” Even through torn vocal cords, I recognize a tone of sadness… of resignation.

“So you know,” I reply. “You know where you’re at. That means you can turn back.”

“I can’t,” he says. “It’s done, and you need to go. Now.”

“I’m not leaving,” I reply resolutely.

“No, Nuparu, you are leaving,” he says again, now more threateningly. “There’s nothing for you here. Go!”

“ it!” I exclaim. “You’ve given up… just like Lewa, right!?” I expect him to hurl back some explicative at the mentioning of the Toa Nuva of Air’s name… but I don’t get that. Instead, he gets that look again… as though the gravity of his condition just hit him. “Just like Lewa…” I repeat.

“He was right…” Onua suddenly says. “ fool was right all along. There’s no place left for me; not now.”

“There is, if you can let go of your pride, of your duty, for just a second,” I argue. “We can save you.”

“No…” Onua begins, but then a sudden pain seems to grip him. “Argh!” he lurches, drops one of his tools, and grabs onto the sides of his abdomen.

“You’re hurt,” I continue. “Come with me, we can get help. We can get you through this.”

“No!” he exclaims, still grimacing with pain, as he reaches into a small bag attached to his waist. “Come on…” he mutters as he rummages around it, eventually pulling out one small, red crystal fragment.

“Onua, don’t…” I begin, but before I can even get to him he’s crushed it in his hand. He brings then had up to his face, takes a deep breath… For a moment, everything seems to stand still, then he lets out a sigh of relief.

“That’s destroying you, and you know it,” I say. He doesn’t reply; instead, he reaches into the pocket again, then turns it inside out. It is empty. He sighs, and for a moment seems close to collapse.

“That… was my last,” he says as he reaches to pick up his tools again. I step forward again, reach out, and grip him by the shoulders. He looks up at me, his eyes redder than ever.

“You’ve got to stop this madness!” I plead.

“It’s too late,” he says, with a hint of bliss to his voice. “Go, Nuparu… Go. It’s over.”

“No, it isn’t!” I continue. “Those Matoran up there still need you! I need you, it!”

“No… you… DON’T!” he suddenly exclaims, swinging one of his tools in my direction, forcing me to leap backwards and get out of the way. I look, stunned, as he stands there, somehow still holding those things at the read. “This world doesn’t need me, it doesn’t need you, it doesn’t need any of us!” he continues as his face takes on an anguished expression. “I’m done, Nuparu… I’m done. Leave before I take you down with me!” Suddenly, it dawns on me what he is about to do.

“No, you can’t!” I call out, but before I can intervene, he suddenly turns around, revving up both of his tools as he does so, and plunges them forward into the stone wall. Over the screaming engines, I hear the unmistakable sound of cracking stone coming from above me. Looking up, I see the cracks in the ceiling are spreading! I jump back, just in time as a chunk of rock, dislodged from the ceiling, falls down on the spot where I was standing.

“Come on!” I shout to Onua. “We’ve got to get out of here!” He doesn’t respond, holding the tools and his position with what for his current condition has to be supernatural strength. More chunks of rock are beginning to fall… instinctively, I back up further. “Come on, it!” I plead again. “Don’t let it end like this!” More falling rocks… we’ve only got seconds at best. Suddenly, Onua stops the engines. His tools come sliding out of the wall as cracks continue to spread from the holes they leave behind, and he begins to turn, leaning now with his back against the wall. He slides down, collapsing, tools dropping by his side. “Come to me! NOW!” I shout, but he doesn’t listen.

“Go…” he says, barely loud enough for me to hear over the stone cracking and rumbling. “Run, or the mountain will swallow you too…” He leans back, and closes his eyes. I’m torn; I can’t stay here, I don’t have the time to even climb over the mounting rubble and get him out of here… I have to run.

“ IT!” I exclaim as I turn around. I start to sprint down the tunnel; all around me, pebbles and dust are already dislodging themselves from the ceiling. When I reach the bend, I look back one last time; he’s still there, sitting, leaning against the wall, looking upwards and awaiting the inevitable. It’s only a glimpse, a split second… then a large section of the ceiling comes down. Rocks, boulders, slabs of stone plunge into the tunnel between us, and the collapse is spreading. I have to turn and run again, racing against the closing earth. I round the bend, make it back to the buggy, jump on and gun the engine. A wave of dust heralded by a tremendously loud rumbling and crashing follows closely behind as I race through the tunnel to the central mine shaft; it seems like forever, but when I reach it, I turn hard right and up the spiraling pathway that leads, eventually, to the city up above. I’ve made it to the entrance of the next tunnel up… I’m safe.

I stop the buggy and look down and across the central shaft. A plume of dust has shot out of the entrance to what was a tunnel only minutes ago… the collapse is total; even before the dust settles, I can see boulders in the entrance. This is it… my hero, my mentor, my friend… is dead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites