[color=#696969;][font="'Palatino Linotype';"]Chapter 14: "Statorak Furax"[/color][/font]Kiasu woke to the smell of cooking fish, as usual, but for the first time since she arrived on Izumal, the Voice's bunk was not only empty, but made, as yet another reminder of what had happened the previous day. She walked into the next room where Artesano was cooking breakfast as Romus returned to his bed for his sleep after his nightwatch shift. With only three people left, nightwatch was more stretched out than usual. She sat down at the computer desk as Artesano rose from his miniature stove."Good morning." He said, brushing off his claw. "You feeling better? You must have been beat. Slept solid as a rock the entire night.""I'm fine." she replied insincerely.Artesano frowned and checked the fish again. "Well, I guess since you're in such a good mood, I can go ahead and tell you that we still don't know where Wise One was taken. I cannot think of anything new to try, so we might as well work on teeing up that raid for the Steltian. If your friend comes, it will be good to have the Roku on hand." He flipped the fish in the frying pan and took in the warm smell."I don't know, Artesano." Kiasu said, turning to the computer. "What if Akla's right, and I'm just pulling you and Romus into a trap set by the City?""You weren't thinking like that yesterday." Artesano replied. "Akla and the Voice are taking a big risk also. The computers are still back here. They could be stuck in that cavern for who-knows-how long.""But they know it'll be shorter than a life sentence in prison." Kiasu said. She paused and looked down at her hands on the desk, then clenched them, "Why am I even the one in charge all of a sudden! Why can't Wise One be here!"Artesano looked up from his cooking and shrugged his shoulders, seeing he was unable to help. "I don't know, but you don't have to take up that burden. But you have the plan, and as far as Romus and I are concerned, it's as good as any. Our leader is Wise One, and until we find him, all of us, you, Romus, and I, will work as equals, simply following the same idea.""You make it sound as If you came from the Brethren instead of Rockfoot, chatterbox." Romus said, with one eye open. "I'm all for it--but I'm all for sleep, too.""Sorry, Romus." Kiasu said, smiling as she watched the huge Skrall roll over on his creaking bunk. She leaned her chin on her fist and gazed at the screen in front of her. "Whatever, Artesano. But I still feel uneasy about it. This plan is what caused us to split. That kills the first of the Three Virtues right from the kickoff. I don't find anything worthwhile in that.""Perhaps it's just the third at work?" Artesano suggested as he began slicing the fish."Destiny?" Kiasu asked skeptically. "From what I've seen, Destiny is unjustly cruel on Izumal.""It does not matter." said Romus, groaning somewhat from the continued conversation. "Whether we have chosen Destiny's path or not, we have a Duty to Wise One to continue it. This friend of yours, if she is not too far gone, could give us the resources to find Wise One and perhaps even escape Izumal." He said, for the first time referencing the eternal hope that all criminals on Izumal held like a heatstone in the winter. Suddenly, Kiasu felt an even greater burden than before. They're not just sticking with this for my sake. They're hoping for escape as well. she thought solemnly. This is about more than Laro and me now."So, having said that," Romus continued, "how about you dutifully complete your destiny of helping Furax--and try to do it quietly. Many thanks."Kiasu nodded kindly, and then began breaking into the city's network.
Kalte walked into the golden chambers that, in his absence, had been so unkindly raided by the council's goons to undermine him. Upon returning to the city, one of the council had railed against him with a furious invective, but like with most things, Kalte rolled with the punch and kept his fury invisible to the council. It wasn't even a setback. Simply a warning shot, but his margin of error was slipping. Everything concerning his project would have to be kept far more secure, considering the anger that had been stirred up by the discovery of one map with secret criminal installations containing his informants on it. Fortunately, they could not realize that he had moles in the camps simply from that map.Laro was another problem. While she was trustworthy to follow orders to the letter and keep secrets, he was not sure if when push came to shove if she would side with the council or with Kalte and his covert orgaization. She's nowhere near as devoted to our cause as the Judge, but then again, she doesn't know what our cause is just yet. Not completely.He scratched his finger across he table, trying to determine what to do, before shaking his head and turning to other concerns. The Ga-Matoran in the group the Judge captured--she's still on the loose, and we have no idea about to where she escaped with her friends. And as long as she's there, our network could be exposed to the other targets, and the mission will have to be scrapped. She must be the first priority.Kalte rose and walked out of the door, where he summoned one of the nanites to contact the Judge. He's going to finish what he started.
Statorak Furax and his 'boys' gathered outside the warehouse. It was a nearly antique old building, since it still had macrochips in its frame, although silver nanites sealed it tight."Stat!" one of his team quietly called. "Are the clients on schedule?"The steltian's tusks swayed in the thug's direction as he replied, "As far as I can tell. If Featherhead is anything like I remember him, he'll seem to be late for the party right up until the point you realize that he's robbed you blind.""Well, that's great, except I plan on robbing these guys, not getting my pockets picked by the birdbrain you used to compete with."Statorak was not bothered by his crew's attitude. If they weren't cantankerous, I'd have to start worrying about whether they were trying to start something.The mob continued talking as Statorak signaled to keep the noise low. He opened up a handheld Izumali computer from before the nanite age, and connected with the hackers. Shortly afterwards, it beeped to confirm that they were ready.Slowly, the silvery walls of the buidling began to ripple like a pool in which a finger had been dipped. As they stirred more, the wall began to peel away like parting waters, and slip off of the macrochip frame to allow Furax's crew to swarm inside."Search for a Mask of Memory," he instructed, "and after that you can liberate what you want at your own risk." Furax himself walked to several crates that were locked in a macrochip safe, and fired a Rhotuka spinner that could cause low-level electronics to be reprogrammed to fit his needs. The computerized locks snapped open and the Steltian threw open the box to find a small collection of old, but still functioning Kanohi masks. But no Roku. He shut the crate and continued to the next box when one of his boys yelped in surprise, and the entire mob turned to look at the startled thief. Before him was a hovering silver being, wearing a Mask of Concealment. She must have been waiting since before we started the raid. Furax thought to himself, clenching his fists.The agent, a Toa, continued hovering with her arms crossed in front of her. "What are you lot doing down here?" She asked rhetorically."Would you believe we're here to fix the plumbing?" said one particularly dim mook."No.""The A/C?" he tried again."No.""Howzabout the elec-""Shut up, stupid!" interrupted a thug who followed up with a potent blow to the ribs of the agent.Within seconds, the mob all scattered as the agent took out several of the deserters, leaving the foolish assailant nursing his broken hand. Furax, however, took advantage of the distraction to pick open another safe in the next room. He opened it as a loud crash from the other room reminded him that his crew wouldn't last long against the agent, and he looked inside. Nothing. Another safe. Nothing. Yet another. Still nothing. He ditched the room, preferring to stay on the move. As he approached another safe, he noticed a warehouse worker's apron not unlike his own, and put it on as he opened the safe to find his quarry. He took out the Mask of Memory and tucked it underneath a piece of macrochip that had been torn off of the wall, and laid on the ground in the most uncomfortable position he could, took his mask off, and pulled some rubble on top of himself. All that was left was to play dead--or unconscious at least.The agent took down the last of his crew and landed on the ground to inspect the damage. The fight had been quick, but the age of the building made it weaker to the kind of power an agent had. She used the nanites in her suit to put the building's nanites back online, and then stepped over to the pile of rubble where Statorak was laying."It seems you got yourself in quite a mess." She commented, before lifting the pieces f rubble off of him. "What did these people want?""I don't know." Furax said as the agent helped him up from the floor. "I'd guess they were looking for something they could sell to one of the criminal camps." he stated quite honestly. "What most of the city tosses down here in basements is treasure to the thugs who can haul in some pilfered credits through the black market.""I've heard. So why were you helping them?" she asked with her hands on her hips. Furax suddenly grew nervous, and stayed silent as he tried to think of an answer. The agent reached over and took his handheld device from his belt. "I just so happened to be getting some interference from a signal when I was upstairs. Came down to see you and your gang waiting outside for access."Statorak was stunned. Note to self: Do background checks on clients to make sure Agents aren't on their tails. He stood there, unsure of what to say. What can I say? This agent was watching everything we did. He turned the predicament over in his head a few more times until something in the toa's voice struck a chord. He looked closer at the mask, but he couldn't place it."Are you going to answer my question?" the Toa asked. When Furax still didn't respond, she turned her head to the side in slight frustration. "How about an easier question. Name?"Furax still measured the look of this agent closely, but with the nanite armor, he could not know the element or even the true shape of the toa. Whoever this is, I've spoken to them before, and not as an agent. Perhaps... "My name is Statorak Furax. And believe it or not, I am a worker in the city's waste system."Suddenly the agent flinched, and Statorak grinned inwardly. She tried to regain her composure, but she still seemed a totally different being when she spoke again. "Statorak Furax?""One and the same." he replied. Now he was standing tall over the Agent, rather than the other way around."Did you meet a toa in the streets about a month ago? A Ga-Toa." she asked."Maybe. Why do you ask?" Furax said coyly."Did you?" She asked more strongly, not willing to give any more until she got something back."Come to think of it, I probably did. What's it to you?""I...I--I was that toa." She stuttered. "You told me when we met that I should 'prepare to be Enlightened'. What did you exactly mean?""You know more about it than I do." Statorak mentioned, feigning disinterest. "If you haven't noticed from what you've been watching me do, I don't care much for this city or what you call 'Enlightenment'. Do you feel 'enlightened' since the city took you in?""No... not really." Laro said. "Initially, I thought so, but since then, I've had dreams. I've had feelings. I've met people from my real past, from before Izumal.""Wait," Furax stopped her, "you're not a native?""No. I think I came from Atohune. I have memories from when I was there, but they stop short."So. That's why she's so rattled. 'Enlightenment' is unraveling for her. "Why were you tracking this group I was corresponding with?" He was fully in control now. No reason not to ask."I met someone from their group. I know her. Her name is Kiasu. But I don't remember anything else about her.""So, outside of your time on Izumal, do you remember much of anything that hasn't come to you in a dream or when being triggered by seeing this 'Kiasu'?" Statorak was starting to understand this situation, and it might just keep him out of prison."No. Not that I can speak of as of yet." Laro said. Now she was practically quivering. The stern 'enlightened' shell that had been built over her by Kalte was proving to be increasingly feeble."If I remember correctly, there was a ship crash out of the sky, and I was in that alley searching for some parts I thought I saw fall in that area." Statorak brushed himself off and picked up the Kanohi Roku from the ground. "I think your friend has figured out what I have. You must have crashed from that ship, and a fall on the silver-paved streets of Izumal could dole out some bump on the head. Your hacker friends--they hired me to acquire a Kanohi Roku, and if you really did lose your memory, this mask should be able to bring it back."Hope glimmered in Laro's eyes, as she gazed at the Kanohi in Statorak's hand, which was also her first clear path to the past. "So, may I have it?"Statorak smirked. "No, I don't think so. I was hired to find this. Me and your friend made an agreement. I and my buddies are supposed to make the delivery once this arrives at my workplace, However, since you seem to be so concerned, maybe you could help me make the delivery right away, and leave me and my boys to roam free."Suddenly the toa rose back up into the air. Her posture was far stronger, and any semblance of the whimpering amnesiac she had been playing before was gone. Shoot, Stat. Strung you along like a fish on line. Furax began to back away, when suddenly the agent grabbed him and tore off into the sky.
"Well, now it's official," Romus said almost carelessly, "the Agents are tracking our every movement, and are so concerned about little old us that one came down from the city to put the hurt on Furax's gang."Kiasu watched the Skrall, who was leaning over her shoulder to read a message from one of the steltian's goons. Their raid had been botched when an agent--presumably the one tracking Kiasu and her friends, according to the description--took out the entire band and swept Statorak himself into the air. Romus walked away and drew out his weapons."What, you're going to try to fight the agent?" Kiasu asked, shocked."If I must die or rot in a prison, I'd rather do it fighting." He said. "I ought to wake up Artesano. I'm not sure how he would feel about it--he's only a Rockfooter, after all--but I think he would prefer to give the agent a sweat. How about you?" He said, brushing off his club.Kiasu was not sure about that one. Firstly, she was just a matoran, and a pilot at that. The melee combat she did know was intended for fighting other matoran. But her main reason was that she still had faith that Laro wouldn't turn against her. After all, Laro was the one that recognized her, and there was no reason for Laro to betray her now rather than after the fight at the Court, enlightened or not. "I... I don't know."Romus ran his hand across the surface of his club. "Well. If an agent's coming, you've got either that, or 'surrender or run'."Kiasu rubbed her forehead. Where are you, Wise One? I'm in over my head. She treaded over to the computer desk and sat down, staring at her reflection in the screen. She heard Romus step outside, and listened to the breeze flow through their ramshackle macrochip building. The cool, crisp air wafted through, pleasantly soothing her turbulent thoughts as it brushed across her. Then, like a cannon blast in the silence of night, the quiet winds were blasted apart by a resounding explosion of sound, shaking the hackers' base. She rushed out of the building to see Romus in a fighting stance as a silver dot rocketed towards the surface. Unflinching, the Skrall rose his club above his head, and as the silver bullet sped onward. His muscles tensed and his club thrust downward to strike the enemy, just before the threat came to a sudden stop just out of reach of Romus' weapon."Laro, what are you doing?" Kiasu asked, arms spread in shock. Laro, who was gripping the wrist of a Steltian with a grime-covered apron, descended to the ground and grabbed the Skrall's club, tearing it from his hands and casting it off towards the ocean. When the skrall grabbed her by the arm and attempted to wrestle the agent to the ground, Laro responded by overpowering him with the help of her armor, and cast him to the side. She then turned her attention to Kiasu, casually walking up to the Matoran, and reaching down towards her, until a massive blur of black armor knocked the agent into the side of the hacker's building, and laid down a series of punches, but the agent responded with a torrent of water that stunned the brute and allowed Laro to tear him off and pin him to the ground. He continued to struggle, and eventually, she grew tired of dueling Romus, and dazed him with a nanite-enhanced blow to the head, and she looked back up at Kiasu.Kiasu began to walk backwards, as the Agent approached. This could not be the same Laro. Laro was calm, timid, and extremely naïve. Now living in the city with the most advanced technology in Aethion may have changed her as far as her knowledge and her skills, but it could not have changed her heart. But what could Kiasu do? The agent had downed the most physically powerful being she had met until this point. She was a Matoran--the weakest of beings, and even with military training, she was less than a protodite versus the power of Izumal. Unable to fight or flee, she simply kept walking back."Furax, the mask?" Laro suddenly asked, looking over her shoulder to the Steltian."Excuse me?" Statorak said, furrowing his brow."The Kanohi Roku. This is the camp you were in contact with, right?" Laro gestured towards Kiasu."Sooooo, you do want me to give them the mask?" The Steltian cautiously began to hold forth the Kanohi, keeping his eyes on Laro."I thought you asked me to bring you here." She stated, spreading her arms."Wait, wait, wait, wait." Kiasu interrupted, grabbing Laro's arm. "If you are still here to help, why did you hurt my friend?""He attacked me. Why shouldn't I have? Didn't you tell your friends about me?" Laro said, pointing her finger at Romus' slumped body, as if to say 'his fault!'"Yeah," Kiasu answered, "but do you blame him? You're an unidentified agent on a supersonic beeline for the people the City wants you to lock up for eternity. What would you do?"Laro shrugged. "Okay, perhaps I was a little heavy handed, but my superior trained me that way, and I really still don't know what's going on. I'm sorry.""Thank you." Kiasu said, smiling up at Laro."Wonderful. Now where's Featherhead?" Furax interjected.Kiasu's happy thoughts were dampened by the mention of Akla. "He's... he's not here. He did tell me to call you 'Furry', though.""Well, that's the right nickname, but what in Aethion happened to the little twerp?" He asked.Kiasu swallowed and looked down. "He's...um... he left. He didn't believe me when I told him Laro was friendly.""Well," Statorak said, "I frankly wouldn't blame him, judging on what I just saw. Anyhow, here's the item. It works just like any other Great Kanohi. As long as a memory is somewhere inside, this'll bring it to the surface."Kiasu took the Roku from Statorak's hand and ran her finger along its rounded, wheel-shaped edge. "Well, the rest is up to you Laro."As Kiasu handed the mask to her, Laro willed the nanites in her armor to peel away, so she could remove the Huna she was already wearing. She placed the Roku on her face and activated it. Suddenly, like a reel of film, she saw her life literally flash before her eyes. She slowed the images down until she could understand what she was seeing, starting from the beginning, when the Olmak Effect brought her into being on Atohune.Kiasu watched as Laro was enraptured by whatever she was seeing. She grabbed Laro and led her inside to sit down. Statorak Furax followed her in, and now Romus was waking up from the beatdown Laro gave him. He groaned and hefted himself to his feet. He took off his helmet and rubbed his head where Laro had delivered the knockout punch, then looked through the doorway to see Kiasu, the Agent, and the Steltian sitting in the base without any visible casualties."Excuse me if I don't remember everything quite right--I did just get my head bashed in--" he said, trudging into the room past the mangled macrochip wall, "but I thought we had concluded that the people in the silver armor were the bad guys."Kiasu smiled and led Romus to a seat. "Yeah, that was a misunderstanding on our part.""So what's the Agent doing now?"Kiasu gestured towards Laro. "She's using the Kanohi Roku to restore her lost memory from the crash when we first arrived on Izumal.""You're sure she's not hostile?" Romus asked, rubbing his head again."Well now, I wouldn't say that," Statorak said, grinning, "but she's on your side.""And you, steltian?" Romus said. "Have you any more interest in this affair?"Furax stepped forward to shake Romus' hand. "I thought you'd never ask. No, I'll be getting on my way, but I'd appreciate it if you kept my name out of this. If the agents get wise to you guys, who knows what they'll do, but they will be more inclined to focus on the rogue in that case. Either way, I wish you well. If you see Featherhead again, knock him around a few times for me. Oh, but I'll need my payment too, just a reminder."The steltian walked past Romus. At first, he was suspicious. Furax might tell the city's officials about them. On the other hand, he'd be out of business too. The skrall chose to let the thief leave, and he stepped over to Kiasu and Laro."What's she seeing. Do you know?" He asked Kiasu."I wouldn't know. She might be starting from the beginning. It'll take a little while." Kiasu replied."Make sure she keeps it quick. If her superiors realize she's sleeping on the job, they may find us." Romus looked over the Ga-Toa thoughtfully. "I think while our guest is napping, I will go wake Craftsman."Kiasu nodded as Romus walked to the bunkroom, always keeping his eyes on Laro."Be careful, Prospect." Romus warned. "This place has a manner of warping minds. I'm your friend. I trust you. But she might not be a friend anymore." He stepped through the doorway, and Kiasu turned her eyes back to Laro.Frankly, I still don't really know who you were before we met anyway. Romus may be right. But we fought through a near-death experience together. That tends to leave a mark on anyone. But are you still the same person I remember from those few minutes of peril? Kiasu sighed, and walked to the computer desk, leaving Laro to become reacquainted with herself. Review Topic