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BS01 Contest 5: Sleeping Awake Fall of a Toa 18,000 years ago...So this was Xia. Behind the motley assortment of stores and dwellings, intimidating factories belched black smoke out of their tall, iron-gray chimneys. Devastator’s mouth settled into a wry smile. Of course the Vortixx would be polluting. They didn’t care the slightest about anything except business. It was a wonder their Toa protectors had not turned on them yet. Of course he had needed to research these potential obstacles -- his mission, after all, was to keep them occupied while Triglax and Orion snagged the weapon they had come here to get. Xia’s Toa team -- unimaginatively dubbed the ‘Toa Xia’ -- consisted of three Toa: Spinner, a Toa of Air; Zaria, one of those hated Toa of Iron; and Varian, a Toa of Psionics who would no doubt enjoy meeting the mentally-shielded Dweller. Speaking of Dweller, where had he gone to? Devastator shifted atop his perch on one of the taller residences in this southern Xian city. The mission was simple, as far as missions for Dark Hunters went. They were to meet their contact, retrieve the weapon, and eliminate any and all obstacles. ‘Obstacles’, much to Devastator’s satisfaction, happened to include Toa. Below Devastator, numerous beings, ranging from Vortixx to Matoran to the occasional Skakdi, crowded the streets, jostling one another as they went. Knowing Dweller, he would be far from the midst of that crowd, likely right along the edge... There. Only a particularly dark shadow could be seen in the alley, and to most eyes it certainly looked like a shadow. But could shadows watch the hustle and bustle with a sinister eye? At that moment a Toa appeared between two Vortixx, pushing through them and beyond, into the remaining mass of bodies. All of a sudden Dweller darted out from the shadows of the alleyway, slipping into the crowd almost effortlessly and disappearing amidst all the bodies just as quickly. The hunt was on. * * * To all appearances the alley several meters ahead of Varian was the same as every other in this city. But if the rumors were right, there was something going on back there in the shadows. It was Varian’s job to find out. She stretched out her senses toward the alley, but felt nothing. Good; it was easier to complete a mission without anyone getting in your way. As casually as she could, Varian directed her steps toward the alley. With a last surreptitious look at the crowd behind her, she slipped into darkness. For a few moments only a mixture of Vortixx, Matoran, and other beings Varian didn’t care to recognize moved past the alley entrance. Just to be sure, she reached out with her powers, gently touching the minds of those in the immediate area. Satisfied that no one suspected her, she turned around to move further into the alley. She took a step; that step was all she got. Suddenly she found herself in the arms of someone stronger than her; a hand covered her mouth, preventing her from crying out, and the unseen being pushed her further into the shadows. “Shh,” he whispered, the words barely audible above the hissing of his breath. “We don’t want trouble, now, do we?” The being gave a sinister chuckle. “The name’s Dweller. I know your kind, ‘Varian’ -- yes, I know your name,” he added as an ice-cold shock went through her body. “You never cloak yourself in darkness unless it is necessary. So what are you doing here, of all places?” She didn’t answer; she was too busy easing her sword out of its sheath using her mental powers. But before it could exit the sheath, Dweller grabbed the hilt and shoved the blade back inside. “Let’s try again,” said Dweller, his voice suddenly carrying an edge. “What are you doing here? His fingers parted enough to let her talk through them. “None of your business,” she snapped, her voice muffled by his hand. “If you know what’s good for you, you will let me go. Now.” The other’s answer was silence; that, and closing his fingers again to silence her. Gritting her teeth, Varian stretched out with her powers. If she could just tap into her captor’s mind, she could implant a feeling -- a feeling of pain. But no matter how hard she tried, she felt nothing. But that’s impossible, thought Varian, even as she double-checked, and then triple-checked, to make sure she had felt right. How can anyone escape being sensed? She had a serious dilemma: How was she to escape this being when she couldn’t affect him with her powers? As Dweller began moving her deeper into the alley, it hit her. She had been looking at it all wrong. Why affect her captor directly when she could affect her captor’s surroundings? There was a window nearby. It was boarded up from the inside, so she would not be able to escape through there. But if she concentrated hard enough... The glass began to vibrate. Then the vibrating settled into a steady wobble. Even as Varian passed, the wobble became more marked. Just a bit more... CRASH! The windowpanes blew out, showering the being behind her with a hundred shards of glass. As Varian had known he would, her captor flinched backwards, away from the fragments, not realizing that in doing so he would be weakening his grip on the Toa... She darted forward and suddenly found herself free. She glanced back; a being not much bigger than her was recovering from the surprise attack. His armor was all but black, blending his figure into the shadows quite effectively. And his eyes were fixed on her. “If I were you,” he hissed angrily, “I wouldn’t go doing that to a Dark Hunter.” Varian didn’t hesitate. She bent her legs as far as they could go and pushed off, leaping high into the air. The buildings in this area of the city were a mere one story; as she reached the apex of her jump, she grabbed the edge of the roof and half-pulled, half-swung herself over the edge and onto the top. Then she bolted for the next roof over. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, she made it to the end of the block. Varian leaped down from the roof of the building and looked back around the corner. Her keen eyes caught movement in a nearby alleyway, small but existent. Was it just some shadow, or her attacker? She would not wait to find out. Only one Dark Hunter had attacked her; but knowing that organization, she felt sure there were others out there, just waiting for their chance at her. She did her best to blend into the crowd. Suddenly she felt something in the back of her mind, something akin to a dark, foul touch. Frowning, shaking her head to expel the feeling, she moved off. Another feeling, however, still dominated her thoughts. Never before had walking down a crowded street felt so much like running a gauntlet. * * * Devastator finally met up with Dweller in a near-empty side street. The other was staring into the crowd, an absent expression on his face, as if he were concentrating hard on something else. “So you lost her,” growled Devastator. Dweller shook his head. “I know where she is,” he replied. “But following her so closely is a bad idea. She might spot us.” He looked up into Devastator’s face. “Besides, I’m sure you want a chance at fighting her,” he said. “Correct,” said Devastator. “After all, you messed up the last time. Or did you not realize?” From Dweller’s silence Devastator could tell that his comrade saw it differently. Now, however, was not the time for such arguments. They had a job to do. Besides, Devastator was so very eager to catch a Toa. * * * It took fifteen minutes of searching, but Varian finally found Zaria -- or rather, bumped into him at a corner. “Ow.” Zaria grimaced and rubbed his forehead. “Next time, look out.” “Sorry,” Varian apologized. “But now is not the time. We have a Dark Hunter -- maybe more -- running around this city, and--”Abruptly Zaria frowned, his gaze shifting from Varian’s face to the street behind the Toa of Psionics. “What’s that?” Varian turned, scanning the scene. Vortixx, Steltians, and Matoran walked the streets; nothing unusual there. Steeling herself, Varian thrust out with all her power, her brilliant green eyes closed in concentration behind her blue Calix. For a moment she nearly lost herself amidst the torrent of consciousnesses. A small thrust, however, and she was beyond that. In turn she sent her mind down each alley, searching for the consciousness that should now be harboring dark, foul thoughts. Nothing there... or there... but here... “I feel someone,” she said, her voice coming out almost as a grunt. It was one thing to sift through a group of minds for some general feeling. It was a different matter to look for one particular mind amidst a large crowd. Her frown deepened as she double-checked the location. “Down the alley directly ahead of us,” she told Zaria. “Then let’s give them a piece of my mind,” he said. He started forward, weapon in hand, but Varian grabbed his arm before he could cross the street. “What is it?” he snapped. Varian pressed her fingers to her forehead in a gesture of concentration. “They’re moving -- into that building.” With her left hand she pointed at a particularly ramshackle dwelling that had definitely seen better days. Zaria frowned. “How many?” he asked. “Three,” she muttered. “No, wait... four. And their mindsets are those of people making a deal...” Her eyes snapped open and she pulled Zaria along with her. “What’s the sudden rush?” he asked, nearly stumbling as he tried to keep up. The reply was only one word, but that word was enough to widen Zaria’s eyes. “Spinner.” * * * From his rooftop perch, Devastator grinned. So he would get to attack two Toa, not just one. Maybe he should let them burst into the building where Triglax and Orion were bargaining for the weapon, just to see the looks on their faces... Dweller was already behind the Toa, much closer than either of them probably thought. In the moment before Devastator willed his body to become a million grains of sand floating on the wind, he wondered which of his powers he should use to dispose of these ‘obstacles’... * * * Triglax had been waiting for a full ten minutes before the Vortixx trader finally came. “You wish to make a Dark Hunter wait?” he asked as the Xian stepped into sight from behind a pile of junk. “Do you know what I could do to you right now?” The Vortixx started. “You need me to tell you how to operate the weapon,” he breathed. “You wouldn’t dare harm me.” Triglax shrugged. “Maybe I’m just bored,” he countered, and grinned as the Vortixx took a quick step back. Beside Triglax the air began to shimmer. The Vortixx’s gaze shifted to the spot -- and he took another step back when Orion came into existence, grasping the wrist of a clearly unconscious Spinner. “He kept this from us, too,” Orion growled, fixing his eyes on the trader. “Perhaps we should cancel the deal?” “No, that won’t be necessary,” the Vortixx stammered, his scared eyes darting from Dark Hunter to Dark Hunter. “P-perhaps I should show you the weapon?” he suggested. “Why do you think we’re here?” Orion snapped. The Vortixx’s head twitched in a sort of nervous nod, and he turned to walk back around the pile of junk. Triglax, however, hesitated a second. “Orion, give me Spinner,” he said, taking the wrist of the unconscious Toa of Air. “You stay invisible. Watch the Vortixx. The moment I’m done with this scum... kill him. He strikes me as the telling sort...” Orion nodded. “Agreed,” he said, and vanished as Triglax turned to follow the Vortixx. * * * The building was even more ramshackle than most in these parts. Its walls were half-hidden behind piles of junk and rubble, and the central hallway was practically split in two by a ceiling cave-in of years past. Triglax doubted even a Toa would want to come in here -- which was a good thing. “The weapon is in here,” said the Vortixx, gesturing to a doorway on the left. Triglax made to enter, but suddenly found his way blocked by the Vortixx. “What--!?” “You took the Toa from my business’s premises,” said the trader. “I’d like a little extra money in return for the extra... ‘loot’.” “That was not part of the deal,” Triglax growled, dropping Spinner’s body and stepping forward. Surprisingly, the Vortixx held his ground. “You made it part of the deal,” he accused, “when you took that Toa. It was my guards who captured him. Your invisible little friend stole him. If I don’t get payment in exchange for that Toa, you don’t get the information you need to operate the weapon.” Triglax stifled a sigh. Of course. All traders and merchants were like that -- afraid of you one moment, but standing up for themselves once money was called into play. “Fine,” he muttered. He reflected, though, that it wouldn’t really matter just how much they paid him -- they could take all the money he had with him, once the deal, and his life, were done. “Now can I see the weapon?” The Vortixx nodded and made to enter the room, but suddenly froze in place. The expression lasted only a moment -- the next he had fallen to the floor, crying out in pain and writhing from a blow he had not received. Triglax frowned at the sight. Had the trader lost his mind? Suddenly he understood. Turning toward the pile of debris in the center of the hall, he transformed into a rhino-like Kikanalo; letting out a deafening roar, he charged the rubble head-on, smashing it to smithereens. With the fragments of rock and protosteel went two Toa -- one a Toa of Iron, the other a Toa of Psionics -- who smashed into the floor in a dazed heap. Triglax morphed back to his normal form and bared his teeth in a triumphant, malevolent smile. “So, Toa,” he began, spitting out the word ‘Toa’ with contempt, “you truly believed you could stop Triglax?” The Toa of Iron, Zaria, had made it to his knees; beside him, the Toa of Psionics -- ‘Varian’, Triglax believed -- was still on the floor. As Triglax gloated, she murmured something that made the Dark Hunter frown. “What was that?” he asked, leaning forward just a little. Abruptly he found himself practically glued to the floor, unable to get up. Zaria was standing over him, a grin on his face. Varian now stood beside him. “I said, ‘Don’t celebrate yet,’” she said with a smile... even as a shadow stealthily but steadily bore down on her. Zaria nodded. “Just because an enemy is down doesn’t mean they’re out,” he added as the shadow raised its hand. Triglax nodded -- and favored the two Toa a devilish smile. “You have me,” he said. * * * At the words Varian frowned at Zaria. Zaria met her gaze and frowned in return-- Suddenly his eyes widened. “Watch out!” he snapped, lunging forward. It was Varian’s quick reflexes that saved her. Even as Zaria cried out, she spun around to see a fist coming down toward her face. She didn’t hesitate; she activated her Mask of Fate and half-ducked, half-slid to the right, both avoiding the blow and putting her in perfect position to attack. But she never got the chance. Another warrior smashed straight through a stone wall beside her, sending debris flying through the room. Again activating her Calix, she managed to evade a particularly large piece and leap clear. Zaria, however, did not have a Calix. He was also very much not in the clear. In desperation Varian looked down the hallway. Triglax was standing now, but he seemed uninterested in joining the melee. Varian wondered at that before realizing that he was watching her. “No tricks, Varian,” he said. “Devastator wouldn’t like you to leave so soon.” He gestured over her shoulder, to where the third Dark Hunter was tangling with Zaria. The Toa of Iron’s weapon was lying on the floor, unused. Varian glanced back to the hallway. Suddenly she heard the sounds of another scuffle. Triglax spun, but before he could move an inch a Vortixx flew out a doorway with a cry, slammed into the wall, and slid to the ground. A second later Spinner jumped out after him. “What--” A spur-of-the-moment cyclone slammed into Triglax then, sending him flying. He hit the ground at an awkward angle and rolled, while Spinner came running down the hallway. Before Triglax could make it all the way up to his feet Spinner had slammed into his torso, sending him back to the floor. Varian moved to help, but before she had even taken a step her senses cried out again. She turned back around in the direction that the unconscious Vortixx lay. For a moment she frowned, wondering just what she had sensed...and then she understood. She grabbed her sword and threw it like a spear down the hall; assisted by her mental powers it flew straight and true, toward the target that even now tried to escape... There was a thud and a strangled cry. The fourth Dark Hunter appeared out of nowhere and fell to the floor roughly, still clutching in his hands a weapon that was now beyond repair -- as was his body. His eyes were still wide in surprise, his mouth still open in a last groan. Even as Varian took in this sight, something suddenly clutched at her heart, something colder than ice. She had killed; she had broken the Toa Code; she had killed... She turned, to see that everyone in the room was looking at her. Spinner was shocked; Zaria, freed from Devastator’s grasp, wore a stunned look. Triglax’s expression, however, bordered on curiosity. “A Toa that kills,” he murmured. “No big loss -- Orion was stuck-up anyway, and I believe you prevented him from escaping with the weapon and leaving us here. But, all the same, he was a Dark Hunter... And the Shadowed One wants you dead.” Varian took a deep breath. “But you will need compensation for this ‘Shadowed One’, correct?” “Perhaps,” replied Triglax, his eyebrow raised in a quizzical expression. “If you promise to leave this island,” Varian said, “I will come with you -- as that compensation.” “That would help,” Triglax muttered. Suddenly he turned to Dweller. “Grab her,” he said. Even as the Toa of Iron was let go, Varian found herself again encircled in arms stronger than hers. Yet this time she had accepted it willingly... There was no turning back now; even with her powers, she was outnumbered. She could do nothing. Even as she was taken back into the alley, through the backstreets and to the secret harbor where the Dark Hunters’ boat waited, she could not help wondering if this choice was the right one. * * * Varian was dumped roughly to the ground. She landed on her hands and knees and gasped, more from her fear than from any pain. Here she was, being presented as if she were no more than a piece of loot -- and she had chosen this path for herself. Dimly, she wondered if she was going insane. “So you are the great Toa Varian,” said a voice. It was deep and powerful, carrying the strength and wisdom of years upon years of experience. Yet there was a sinister edge to it that somehow stirred up Varian’s hatred. “I welcome you to Odina, Toa. I am the Shadowed One, leader of the Dark Hunters... and I would like to recruit you.” His voice grew smoother. “Look at me.” She didn’t move. To the last breath Varian would deny this -- this criminal the pleasure of seeing her cooperate. “I said look at me,” the Shadowed One repeated firmly. Suddenly her head was forced up, so that she looked straight into the other’s eyes. The Shadowed One smiled, an expression that sent a chill through Varian’s spine. “Thank you, Devastator,” he said. To Varian he asked, “What do you say to that?” “Never,” she bit out. The Shadowed One’s smile vanished. Yet he did not seem angry. “I expected as much from such a noble Toa,” he said, somehow keeping the contempt out of his voice. He cocked his head to the side, studying Varian closely. “Of course, I have a backup plan. I always do.” Somehow, someway, Varian managed to find the courage to spit out angrily, “I don’t care if you kill me.” The Shadowed One smiled again. “But I have no intention of killing you.” Another chill went through Varian’s body. Still smiling, the Shadowed One gestured to the side, to where an empty stasis tube sat against the wall. “You see,” he said, “I have to deal with many Toa. Surely they will be more disposed to cooperate if they see the fate of one of their own. Besides”--here his eyes seemed to grow bright--“I have always wanted a Toa of my own. You would serve as a fine trophy...” He paused. “Good-bye, Toa Varian,” he said as Devastator, Dweller, and Triglax dragged her toward the canister. As the Dark Hunters shoved her in, and a cloud of green smoke filled the stasis tube, Varian could only hope she would someday see the light of day once more. * * * 1,000 years later... “I understand your Dark Hunters saved me and repaired me,” said Spinner. In his new, bulkier form he shifted from foot to foot. It would take some getting used to, but already he liked the new feeling of strength that came with the extra armor and weapons. Still, the loss of his power over air was a big blow; and having a heavy, almost toxic cloud of air around you was another downside. “Of course,” said the Shadowed One with a nod. “I understand those mutated Rahkshi were rather... unpleasant to fight. You were found by operatives that were searching the village for valuables.” Spinner nodded, mentally steeling himself for what he was going to say next. There was no telling what the Shadowed One would do to him for his decision. “I want revenge,” he began slowly, “against Toa.” He took a deep breath; even the mere memory of that horrific day he had been abandoned by his team still brought back a feeling of terror -- terror, and anger. “Toa are not perfect, no matter what they say. I want to make them see the error of their ways -- but alone, without anyone getting in my way.” “I understand,” said the Shadowed One slowly. His tone, as always, was unfathomable. “But, still...” Casually his gaze drifted to the side of his throne room. Spinner followed that gaze -- and gasped. A stasis tube sat against the wall. Inside stood a Toa, adorned in blue and gold armor, that Spinner had never expected to see again: Varian. Her eyes, normally a striking green, were closed, as if she were asleep; but she would not be awakening any time soon. She might not awaken ever. “You know her,” said the Shadowed One. “Varian, who gave up her freedom to save her friends, according to the three operatives that came back from the botched mission. She refused to join the Dark Hunters, too... but look at her now.” Spinner felt his throat go dry. “I see,” he forced out, even as his heart skipped a beat. “Allow me to reconsider...” The Shadowed One smiled. “Excellent.* * * * *This was my entry to BS01 Contest 5: Sleeping Awake. It placed runner-up in the contest, though, while I'm overall happy with how this turned out, I wish I could have made it longer, so as to allow more time for characterizations. Since Dume and Kualus don't appear in the story, I've edited out their mentions.Though this is an older story of mine, constructive criticism would still be appreciated.

Edited by Legolover-361

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Here is your official Ambage review as requested by Nuile: Wow, this is a great story! The plot is intriguing, and it's a shame it didn't win. Anyways, I'll start with errors. You were extremely thorough in your editing, and I didn't find any spelling errors, and I'm not sure about many of the grammatical errors I found. Most of them were either areas there could be a comma (which might stem from my tendency to spam commas), or verb-tense disagreements, many of them were like:

All of a sudden, Dweller darted out from the shadows of the alleyway, slipping into the crowd almost effortlessly and disappearing amidst all the bodies just as quickly.


This may or may not be an error, but it was used several times throughout the story. Other issues include: Forgotten quotation mark here:

“Let’s try again,” said Dweller, his voice suddenly carrying an edge. “What are you doing here?"


Tense disagreement here:

...her captor flinched backwards, away from the fragments, not realizing that in doing so he would be weakening his grip on the Toa...

But besides that, I really didn't see much. Great job on that! I know from experience it's very hard to edit out all issues in a story. And, as I said, most of these are minor, if even errors at all.


Now, to what I liked:


It's great how well you characterize all of these characters in just a short story. I've been reading a lot of Mark Twain quotes in class, and one talks about how difficult it is to get the actual personality of a character to shine through how they say something, yet you nailed it perfectly with everyone, even while characters like Zaria had few appearances. I can tell he's kind of a tough guy who doesn't like waiting around for something to happen, and wants to be in the middle of the action when it starts. I really commend you on that ability.


I also really like your word choice. Many of those words can really give me an image of what's going on, such as how you described the movements of characters to portray their feelings. You can really make a character sound businesslike just with a few words in one area, and in a primal rage the next. Great job on that as well!


Lastly, overall it's just a great plot. You gave each of the characters just enough parts and it just worked out in the end. Seems to me like Mark Twain's (I just really like the guy) idea that characters should move you towards a natural resolution really applied here, and I can see it make a logical path through choices. I also liked the ending, showing Spinner's regrets of being a Dark Hunter and The Shadowed One's manipulative ways. It really helped the plot and didn't seem very extraneous.


Can't wait to see more, I love this story! Pleasure reviewing it. :) Let me know if you have any more concerns.

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