For this year’s exchange I was asked to write a story for Glimmer. His prompts included mystery and comedy, so with that in mind I set about crafting the tale of…
Detective Jaiya and the Baffling Barrier
The main floor of the Archives was as busy as ever, but this time it was for all the wrong reasons. There were as many Vahki as there were exhibits, and though only a handful of nervous Matoran worked alongside them, a massive, bustling crowd swelled at the edge of the perimeter they had established, hundreds of Matoran all pushing and straining for a look at the law enforcers at work. At first glance, nothing was wrong in the area they had sectioned off: every display was perfectly lined up, not the slightest crack in their cases and hardly a speck of dust upon them. Even the massive, shimmering barrier protecting a very special exhibit appeared to be in perfect order. But a closer look at that very barrier would reveal that, for some reason, there was nothing behind it.
“Simply exquisite,” one of the Matoran said. “Truly a wondrous work of modern art. All this security set up to protect what we hold most dear, but in truth what we value most…means nothing.”
Another Matoran squinted at them. “What? No, there’s been a robbery. The exhibit that’s supposed to be there is missing.”
The first Matoran closed his eyes. “…Are you sure?”
“Uh, yeah. Don’t you remember? An ancient sculpture was brought to Turaga Dume a month ago, and when he had it analyzed they found it wasn’t made out of protodermis. Until a more thorough study could be commissioned, it was given to the Archives to be displayed, but they were required to implement some special security—word had gotten out and the Turaga was worried someone might try to steal the artifact. They spent a fortune on this shield, more than they usually spend in an entire year, but looks like it didn’t get the job done.”
The first Matoran nodded slowly as he absorbed this exposition, and then sheepishly backed away into the crowd.
Two Rorzakh maintaining the perimeter looked up suddenly. The disorganized masses were parting ever so slightly, and through the opening came two figures: one an Onu-Matoran wearing a purple Kaukau, and the other yet another Rorzakh. The guards moved aside to allow the pair past, and then quickly stepped back together before anyone else could slip through. Behind them, the two newcomers slowed to a halt in front of the strange barrier, the Matoran reaching his hand towards it. A powerful repulsive force pushed back against him, halting his advance inches from the surface.
The Onu-Matoran turned to see a very flustered-looking Archivist running up to him. The Rorzakh beside him stepped forward, saying, “UNKNOWN ENTITY APPROACHING! ENGAGING DEFENSIVE PROTOCOLS!”
While the Archivist skidded to a halt, the detective calmly raised his hand. “Easy, Roz. Disengage.”
The Vahki turned to him. “…BUT…”
“…UNDERSTOOD,” Roz said, drooping as they stepped back.
“Apologies,” Jaiya said to the Archivist, “my partner can be a bit excitable. Name please?”
“Uh, my name is Dumon,” the Archivist replied. “…Your Vahki talks?”
“ALL VAHKI SPEAK,” Roz said. “THIS UNIT SIMPLY DOES SO AT A SPEED AND PITCH DISCERNABLE TO THE AVERAGE MATORAN.”
“I PROPOSE THAT DUMON IS THE CULPRIT.”
“CULPRITS ARE KNOWN TO RETURN TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.”
“I work here!”
“Roz,” Jaiya said, “disengage. We lack proper evidence to be certain.”
Roz paused for a few seconds, and then turned around and squatted.
“Apologies again,” Jaiya said. “Dumon, what can you tell me about the theft?”
Eying Roz warily, the Archivist said, “Uh, well…as you know, recently a strange sculpture—“
“Yes,” Jaiya said, “that exposition has already been covered, please skip ahead.”
“Oh, of course. We installed this shield to keep the artifact safe: it’s an experimental barrier based on chute technology, making it easy to maintain and virtually impenetrable at its maximum settings. Yesterday’s showing went fine, and when we closed up for the night, we left a Matoran guard right next to it as an added precaution. I came in today to find the shield intact, but the artifact missing. I don’t understand what happened! The Head Archivist is furious about this, he—“
Roz sprang up. “THE GUARD WAS THE CULPRIT! LOCATING NOW!”
“Disengage,” Jaiya said. “Dumon, can you tell us where the guard is? So that we may ask for his side of the story?”
Dumon nodded. “We have him here. There’s also a few suspicious figures the patrol Vahki found loitering nearby, and they’ve been detained for questioning too.”
“Lovely. With any luck you’ve conveniently rounded up just the people I need to talk to in order to get this sorted out. Let’s get started.”
The Archivist led the pair down a corridor, eventually stopping at a rather cramped break room with one table and an empty vending machine. Another Onu-Matoran was already inside, as well as two other Rorzakh, and they all looked up in surprise as the door opened.
“UNITS IDENTIFIED,” Roz said. “EXPRESSING DISPLEASURE AT SEEING ZK-87 AGAIN.”
One of the Rorzakh shook their head, emitting a series of beeps.
“ERRONEOUS! THAT INCIDENT WAS CAUSED BY XH-22—NO BLAME IS TO BE PLACED ON THIS UNIT!”
The Rorzakh waved their staff as they replied.
“SUCH COMMENTS ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE REVISED 3RD EDITION ETIQUETTE HANDBOOK! YOU WILL BE REPRIMANDED!”
Jaiya stepped forward, announcing, “Excuse me. Would you mind giving Roz and me a moment with this guard? I believe we have a significant chance of progressing our understanding of the case.”
After exchanging a look, the two Rorzakh reluctantly walked out of the room, glaring at Roz as they did. Dumon stepped out behind them and shut the door.
“It wasn’t me!” the guard said. “I know this looks bad, detective, but it wasn’t me! I swear!”
Roz started to say something, but Jaiya tapped their arm and motioned. The Vahki took a few steps to the side, and Jaiya sat down at the table, folded his hands, and said, “Name please.”
“Tinnei, tell me what happened.”
Nodding, the guard shifted in his seat and looked down at the table. “Um, thing is, I’ve been making some big mistakes lately. The Head Archivist was threatening to fire me, but I’ve been trying real hard to turn it around, you know? So when he gave me this post guarding this special thing—“
“I only need to know about last night,” Jaiya interrupted.
“Oh, uh, right. So I was here, you know, watching the exhibit, but at some point around, uh…” He took a very long time to think. “Half past four? I guess? I felt something. It was this super painful shock, like sticking your hand in a power socket.”
Jaiya raised an eyebrow. “Have you done that?”
Tinnei’s eyes widened. “Wh—bah, who, me? No! No, never! But, ah, point is, I passed out from the pain, and when I woke up, well, uh, the thing was gone. That’s it.”
“FALSEHOOD SUSPECTED,” Roz said, leaning forward.
“I don’t think so,” Jaiya said. “He doesn’t seem capable of telling a convincing lie.”
“Yeah, I’m not!” Tinnei said with a smile. “Thanks detective, I knew you’d understand!”
“I think that’s all we need from you. You’re free to go.”
Tinnei breathed a deep sigh of relief as he left the room. Dumon poked his head in and asked, “Well?”
Jaiya shook his head. “It wasn’t him. He’s not clever enough to pull this off.”
“Ah. I thought as much.”
“I should ask, what other security does the Archives have?”
“Well we’ve got a few squadrons of Vahki, but they didn’t register anything out of the ordinary last night. There’s also the cameras, but they all went out at the same time…we still don’t have an explanation for that either.”
Jaiya rubbed his chin. “Hm. Interesting.”
Roz walked over, asking, “WHO IS THE CULPRIT?”
“Hard to say. Dumon, who else was detained?”
“We’ve got a Ko-Matoran with a shady background who has been very vocal about his distaste for the Archives. He was stalking around outside early this morning, and tried to run when we asked what he was doing.”
“Well he sounds a bit too obvious, but bring him in anyway.”
Dumon was off. Roz said, “I RECOMMEND WE ARREST THE KO-MATORAN. CASE SOLVED.”
“You’re jumping the gun, Roz,” Jaiya said as he sat back down.
“ERRONEOUS. I HAVE NOT LEFT THE GROUND, AND THERE IS NO FIREARM DETECTED NEARBY.”
Jaiya sighed. “Just calm down, please?”
Roz grumbled to themselves and went back to stand in the corner.
It wasn’t long before the Ko-Matoran was brought into the room. His eyes darted about as he circled the table, finally coming to rest on Jaiya as the detective raised his hand in greeting.
“It wasn’t me!” the Ko-Matoran shouted, recoiling as the words exploded out of him.
“First I need your name.”
Crossing his arms, the Ko-Matoran said, “What for, eh? You think you’re gonna get me talkin’, think I’m gonna confess to something for ya? Well I ain’t guilty!”
“Please tell me your name.”
The Ko-Matoran eyed Jaiya cautiously for a few seconds, and then slowly pulled out a chair and sat down. “…Name’s Abcel. And you are?”
“Here to solve the robbery, eh? It wasn’t me!”
Jaiya nodded and asked, “Why were you brought into custody?”
“Beats me!” Abcel said, throwing his hands up. “I was just walkin’ by, mindin’ my own business, then some Vahki grab me and drag me in here! Just takin’ a nice, leisurely stroll through your lovely Metru! I didn’t do anything wrong!”
Roz turned their head. “YOU ARE NOT NATIVE TO THIS METRU. YOUR PRESENCE IS VERY SUSPICIOUS!”
“It is curious,” Jaiya said. “I’ve also been told you’re not a fan of the Archives. Why go for a stroll in an unfamiliar Metru, one that you’re known to have a grievance with?”
Abcel averted his gaze, scratching his head as he reclined in his chair. “Well, eh, I was just, eh…look of course I’m not a fan of this dusty ol’ place, how many Ko-Matoran are? Is it so wrong I can’t wrap my head around why the Turaga would want to put that precious artifact on display here when our labs could be makin’ some real progress?”
Roz suddenly approached the table. “INCOMING REPORT FROM CENTRAL HIVE. SEARCH OF YOUR LIVING QUARTERS HAS REVEALED SEVERAL PIECES OF CONTRABAND. YOU ARE GUILTY! ARRESTING NOW!”
Abcel leapt to his feet, shouting, “Hey, hey! Easy! Easy!”
Before Jaiya could say anything, Roz vaulted over the table and tackled Abcel to the ground, producing restraints to bind his wrists and then hauling him back to his feet. The Vahki turned to lead the Matoran out, but Jaiya was up now, standing in their way.
“Hold on, Roz.”
“HE IS IN POSSESSION OF CONTRABAND! HE IS A CRIMINAL, AND THUS MUST BE ARRESTED!”
“I’m not disputing that. But tell me: was the sculpture found in this search?”
After a moment, Roz answered, “NEGATIVE.”
Jaiya turned to Abcel. “Then we still have questions to ask.”
Abcel sighed deeply. “…Look, detective. I didn’t steal the thing. Would I really lie about it now that you’re already takin’ me in?”
“Hard to say.”
“Yeesh. Alright, I may’ve heard from…certain sources…that someone was planning to sell the exhibit. So, I was curious, y’know? I came to take a look if it was still here. But it was long gone by the time I arrived. Ya believe that, at least, right?”
Jaiya tapped his foot as he thought. “Did your sources specify when or where this sale was going to take place?”
“Nah, none of that. People in, ah…a certain line of work…learn not to offer more information than is needed, y’know? But if I had to make a guess, I did catch wind that Xia was in the market for rare metal. Wouldn’t surprise me if they were involved.”
“I see. Thank you for your help, Abcel.”
Jaiya stepped aside, allowing Roz to shove Abcel out the door and into the hands of another Rorzakh. Dumon said, “Was it him after all?”
“No, he was arrested on different charges,” Jaiya said.
Dumon groaned. “So we’re still no closer to finding the artifact? Oh dear, the Head Archivist won’t like to hear that…”
“We are closer. He says someone is planning to sell the sculpture, most likely to Xia.”
“Xia?! There’s no way we’ll see it again!”
Jaiya turned to Roz. “Notify the hive: block off all ports until further notice. If we’re lucky, it might still be in the city.”
Roz nodded and turned aside to send the message. Dumon said, “So what now? We just wait for the Vahki to comb the city looking for it?”
“That would take much too long,” Jaiya said. “We need a way to narrow it down. If only we could figure out how the crime was committed, then we’d have a better idea of what to look for. Maybe if we knew more about how this special barrier works?”
“Well, we have two people from the company that made it here right now.”
“Perfect! Send them in!”
Jaiya sat and waited. He could hear shouting long before Dumon opened the door again. Two Le-Matoran were brought in, one of them yelling angrily at the other—the second tried to greet Jaiya, but the first cut him off.
“I hope you’re happy, numbskull!” he was saying. “Who’s gonna want to do business with you now, huh? This is on you!”
“Sykit, please!” said the other. “We’re here to get to the bottom of this. We can settle blame later!”
“I’ve got it settled already.” Sykit turned to Jaiya. “Oi, can you arrest this guy for incompetence?”
Blinking slowly, Jaiya said, “Um, I believe we should start at the top. Your names, please?”
The other Le-Matoran shook Jaiya’s hand and said, “Torpat, sir. I run the shop that invented the barrier technology. This is—“
“I’m the one who actually made it,” Sykit interrupted. “I told this idiot it wasn’t ready! It’s still in the experimental stages, years away from being ready for public release! But no, the Archives were willing to pay you handsomely for it, so you just sold it without any regard for the consequences, didn’t you? Short-sighted oaf.”
Torpat sighed. “Detective, we just want to help you solve this case. What can we do to make that happen?”
“I would like to know more about how the barrier works,” Jaiya said.
“Same as any chute,” Sykit said, crossing his arms. “You just need liquid protodermis and a way to maintain the high magnetic field density and you’re good to go.”
“And in what ways could it be disabled?”
“Flip the off switch.”
Roz took a step forward. “OFF SWITCH FOR BARRIER IS LOCATED IN ARCHIVES CENTRAL SECURITY CONTROL ROOM. VAHKI PATROL REPORTS NO UNAUTHORIZED INTERACTION WITH CONTROL ROOM AROUND THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT.”
Sykit’s eyes went wide as he turned to look at Roz. Murmuring to himself, he said, “Standardized speech? Never seen a Vahki wired for that. It sounds almost natural—must’ve been a heck of a job. And now that I look at it, that custom finish is gorgeously subtle.”
“NO ONE EVER NOTICES!” Roz said. “YOU ARE DESIGNATED AS ONE WITH GOOD TASTE.”
Meanwhile, Torpat took Jaiya by the shoulder. “Please, detective: this much bad publicity could shut down our shop. Isn’t there some proof that our technology isn’t what’s at fault here?”
Jaiya shrugged. “Hard to say. But if the switch wasn’t used, it certainly seems like someone found another way through it.”
Torpat wrung his hands. “Dear me…how did this happen? We only just installed it! Who could have known so quickly, and who could know the machine so well that they could find a way to disable it?”
He stood there a few moments longer, and then he gasped, turned, and pointed at Sykit. The other Le-Matoran was almost too busy admiring Roz to notice.
“Wait, what?” he said. “You can’t be serious!”
“You have all the necessary insider information!” Torpat said. “Motive, too! You were so against me selling the barrier—now that it’s failed, you’ve been proven right, and taken your revenge on me!”
Sykit stalked forward, saying, “Listen here, dimwit! I don’t have to stoop to the level of exploiting unfinished work to make you look bad! I take pride in my work—you think I want something I made failing? That’s why I was so against this sale in the first place!”
“Oh, I’m sure. Do you have an alibi?”
“I was working! You’d know that if you weren’t out celebrating! Just ask anyone at the shop, they’ll tell you I was at my station!”
Jaiya stepped between the two of them. “Calm down, everyone. Roz, can we verify that?”
“VERIFIED,” the Vahki said. “SYKIT IS ON SECURITY FOOTAGE FROM HIS WORKPLACE.”
Torpat grumbled something as he shuffled off to the side of the room. Sykit grinned and said, “Roz? That’s cute. You come up with that?”
“No, that was the chief,” Jaiya said. Leaning in closer, he added, “You’re not the only one who finds your superior troublesome.”
“Hah! Glad to know!”
Jaiya backed up and grabbed his chair, spinning it around before sitting so he could face the door. “Well then. At the moment it seems our culprit managed to get past the chute barrier somehow, without outright destroying it. Can you think of any way that might have been done, Sykit?”
Sykit threw his hands up. “Beats me.”
“What if the culprit had a degree of control over electricity?”
Sykit craned his neck. “What?”
“The guard on-duty claimed he was knocked out by a powerful electric shock. Could an ability such as that interface with the barrier?”
“It would take more than just a shock. I mean maybe if it…” His eyes went blank as he trailed off. “…Shoot. That could actually work, couldn’t it? Why the heck didn’t I think of that?”
Everyone turned towards him. Jaiya asked, “You’ve got something?”
“An Electro Chute Blade!” Sykit said, gesturing for emphasis. “They must’ve had one of those!”
Jaiya turned to Roz. After processing a moment, the Vahki replied, “ELECTRO CHUTE BLADE. WEAPON PRODUCED PRIMARILY IN XIA UTILIZING SIMILAR PRINCIPLES TO CHUTE TECHNOLOGY. BLADE IS MADE OF LIQUID PROTODERMIS SUSPENDED IN A MAGNETIC FIELD AND ELECTRIFIED FOR STABILITY.”
“It’s a canon weapon,” Sykit said, “you can look it up on BS01.”
“Of course!” Torpat said. “They have knobs on the hilt to modify the field density—the blade will pass through solid objects at low density, but the electricity will still shock anyone it passes through!”
“More importantly,” Sykit said, “if you got just the right polarization and field density, you could jam the barrier field just enough to make an opening. Then it’d be easy pickings. Hole would be gone as soon as the blade is taken out.”
“I see,” Jaiya said, nodding along. “Yes, that does seem in-line with what we know. Someone able to obtain one of those would even have connections with Xia, and we know they’re interested in this sculpture. Roz, is there a way to—“
“IT WAS HIM!” Roz declared.
Jaiya furrowed his brow. “Pardon?”
“CRIME WAS COMMITED BY ABCEL! ONE ELECTRO CHUTE BLADE WAS AMONG THE CONTRABAND DISCOVERED IN HIS LIVING QUARTERS!”
“You know who did it?!” Sykit said. “Great! Let’s go arrest the poor sap!”
“HE IS ALREADY IN CUSTODY!”
“Oh. Well, uh…good. Good.”
“Hold on a moment,” Jaiya said. “When we arrested him, he said he wasn’t the one who stole the sculpture. Why not just confess, if he’s headed to jail anyway?”
“Perhaps he simply wanted fewer charges,” Torpat said.
“But it won’t make that much of a difference. And you said the settings on the blade would need to be precise—how could he know what those settings would be?”
“KO-MATORAN HAVE ACCESS TO A WIDE VARIETY OF INFORMATION,” Roz said. “IT IS NOT UNREASONABLE TO ASSUME HE HAS GATHERED SOME KNOWLEDGE OF CHUTE FIELD DENSITY.”
Jaiya stared down at the floor, putting a hand over his mouth as he said, “I don’t know. Something just doesn’t seem right…”
“THE CRIME IS SOLVED. CASE CLOSED. WE MUST RETURN TO HQ TO PROVIDE A FULL REPORT.”
Torpat grinned as he shook Jaiya’s hand again. “Thank you, detective! With this, we just might be able to save our reputation!”
“Maybe next time you won’t hand out experimental tech like it’s a Bula basket on Naming Day!” Sykit said. Turning to Roz, he smirked and said, “Thanks for the help. If the next line of models is half as sophisticated as you I’ll know we’re in good hands.”
“IT IS AN HONOR TO SERVE,” Roz said. “YOU ARE WISHED THE BEST OF LUCK IN YOUR CONTINUING ENDEAVORS.”
The Le-Matoran left then, and Roz filled Dumon in on the case’s resolution. Jaiya remained silent through all of this. As they were on their way out, they bumped into Tinnei again, and upon hearing the situation the guard gave them a sad smile.
“At least you got the guy,” he said. “Too bad I won’t be able to see you bring back the exhibit. I was just told I’ve been fired for letting it get stolen.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Dumon said. “Maybe we can try to convince the Head Archivist to change his mind now that the matter’s solved?”
Tinnei shook his head. “Nah, I don’t think so. He’s been wanting to get rid of me for a while now. I guess this is just the excuse he needed, haha…”
The former guard sighed and continued on his way. Dumon and Roz resumed walking, but after a few steps they noticed Jaiya was not with them. Turning back, Dumon said, “Detective?”
Jaiya’s eyes were focused, but on what, no one could tell. The Onu-Matoran caught up in a few quick steps. “Roz. I want you to cancel the request to have the ports blocked off.”
“EXCLAMATION! REPEAT ORDER FOR CLARITY!”
“Leave the ports be. I think I’ve figured out what’s been bothering me, and I know just how to find out for sure.”
Curup, the Head Archivist, was just reaching for the door handle when a knock came from the other side. He paused a moment in surprise, and then set down what he was carrying and punched a number into the keypad, opening the door to find Jaiya standing there.
“Ah, detective!” Curup greeted, clasping his hands together and smiling brightly. “I’m glad to see you: I wanted to thank you personally for your hard work in solving this case!”
“I am happy to help,” Jaiya said. “Though, thanks feel a bit premature since we’ve yet to discover where Abcel has hidden the sculpture.”
“Nonsense, the hard work is done! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we have our exhibit back.”
Curup headed back towards his desk. Jaiya came further into the room, shutting the door behind him; the detective’s gaze wandered as he said, “Well, thank you for the vote of confidence. I was a bit nervous coming here: Dumon said you were livid when the theft was discovered.”
“Indeed I was,” Curup said, reaching down to flip through some papers. “Wouldn’t anyone be angry in such a position?”
“Most certainly. However, it did strike me as a bit odd that you weren’t on the scene. I would assume you’d want to be as close as possible to stay on top of matters.”
Curup nodded as he slid the papers into a folder. “Yes, I would have preferred to, but regrettably I had some other matters to attend to. The Archives cannot grind to a halt for one theft, regardless of how great the loss.”
Jaiya took a seat. “I imagine this will be quite the blow. I’m told you pushed quite fervently for the chute barrier, and spent a great deal on it despite typically being very frugal. You must have believed in it.”
“That I did,” Curup said, looking up for only a second before reaching for a drawer. “But, I think I’ll find a way to make back what we spent. Having one less guard on the payroll certainly helps in that.”
“Ah, yes, Tinnei. He mentioned he’d been having some trouble lately.”
“Since he began. He’s been a nuisance for so long, his departure is the only silver lining of this whole fiasco.”
Jaiya leaned back. “Curious. If you feel that way about him, then why did you trust him to guard such a valuable exhibit, especially one you knew to be at risk? I would think you would choose a more reliable guard, or perhaps a dedicated Vahki or two.”
Curup slowly slid the drawer shut. “…Well…I thought it might be nice to give him a chance. But if he can’t even handle one Ko-Matoran, then firing him is simply the wisest course of action.”
Jaiya hummed. “Isn’t it remarkable, Curup? That Abcel was able to short out the security cameras, slip past the Vahki, and find the exact right setting that would allow him to get through the barrier? All immediately after it was set up. Most criminals would need more time to become that familiar with their opposition, but it’s as if he knew what measures you were going to put in place as soon as you decided upon them.”
Curup stared at Jaiya as the detective rose to his feet. “Yes, remarkable.”
“But more than that…I cannot believe that he would lie about committing this crime after being arrested.”
“Detective…are you saying you think someone else stole the sculpture?”
Jaiya nodded. “I believe so.”
Curup inclined his head. “I see. Then who, would you guess, is the true culprit?”
Jaiya turned and took a few slow steps. “It would need to be someone who knows the Archives very well, and could disable its security cameras at just the right time. Someone who would have intimate knowledge of the chute barrier, knowing exactly how to disable it. Someone whose profession would make communications with a place like Xia seem like normal business.”
Curup said nothing.
“That’s a large suitcase sitting next to your door, Curup,” Jaiya observed. “Are you going on a business trip?”
He received no response. When he turned around, Curup had an Electro Chute Blade in hand, the tip mere inches from Jaiya’s mask.
“You really do notice the little things, detective,” Curup said. “It’s a shame you couldn’t just leave well enough alone—no one would question that a lowlife like Abcel stole it, and soon enough they’d just forget and the whole thing would blow over. Would that have been so bad?”
“My job is to find the truth,” Jaiya said. “And the truth is that you arranged things in just the right way that you would be able to steal the sculpture and sell it to Xia.”
Curup sighed. “It worked perfectly, too. But now that you’ve shown your hand, I’ll have to dispose of you, find a way to make it look like an accident…goodness, I’m going to need to hurry to catch my boat.”
Jaiya shook his head. “You aren’t going to Xia, Curup.”
“Beg pardon? You are unarmed. My door locks automatically, and requires a password from either side—you have no escape.”
“Answer me this, Curup. Do you know how the Rorzakh’s Staff of Presence operates?”
Curup stopped to think. The realization dawned on him mere moments before Roz broke down the door.
“HEAD ARCHIVIST CURUP!” the Vahki shouted. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!”
Jaiya dove to the side as Roz came barreling through. Curup twisted and swung, managing to make contact with Roz’s arm. The blade passed through the Vahki, but the electricity coursing through it interacted with their circuits, shorting out the limb so that it dangled uselessly at Roz’s side. Curup grinned when he saw this. His grin faded when Roz simply fell forward on top of him, pinning him to the ground with their body.
“You underestimate how stubborn Rorzakh are,” Jaiya said as he picked himself up.
“IT IS TENACITY,” Roz corrected.
“It’s reckless is what it is. Now hold still a moment.”
With some difficulty, Jaiya cuffed Curup, and then Roz got up and hoisted the Archivist with their functional hand. Jaiya then walked over to the suitcase; undoing the latch, he opened the container to find a sculpture roughly a bio tall made of silvery metal that gleamed as if brand-new. It was shaped like some sort of lifeform, that much he could tell, but he could not recognize what kind. The body was blocky with piston-like supports around its joints, and the face reminded him of a Toa without a mask. He paused for a moment to admire it.
“I’m a bit curious why Xia would want rare art,” Jaiya said, turning back to Curup.
“They want the metal, you idiot,” Curup said. “Testing revealed that it’s resistant to energized protodermis—if the Vortixx have it, they can work with that substance and make even deadlier weapons.”
“Ah. And they’re willing to pay well for that?”
“More than I make in a decade here! How could I refuse an offer like that?”
Gesturing to the sculpture, Jaiya said, “You would really destroy this just to sate you greed?”
Curup rolled his eyes. “Oh, spare me. If you’re going to arrest me then just get it over with.”
“AGREED!” Roz said. “THE REACTION FROM UNIT ZX-87 WILL BE VERY ENJOYABLE! WE ARE DEPARTING NOW!”
Roz ushered Curup out. Dumon entered as he left, saying, “I just happened to be passing by and saw Roz taking away the Head Archivist. What’s going on, detective?”
“Curup was the real thief. He abused his power and authority to steal from the Archives, all so that he could make a bit of extra money.”
“Wow! That’s a surprise.”
“To be frank, I don’t find it all that surprising.”
“I guess I’ll go put the sculpture back on display. Though, I wonder…”
“What is this sculpture supposed to be, anyway?”
Jaiya turned and examined it once more. Something seemed vaguely familiar about this gray, strange, robot-like figure…but ultimately, he shrugged. “Hard to say.”