Vican sank to the ground in despair, head in his hands. The Le-Matoran wasn't sure how long he had been here, or how much longer he would be here. The past few weeks, or months - he could no longer tell - had been spent in this cold, dank, damp, cell barely the size of a small room. He was flanked on his left, right, and back by cold concrete walls, and in front of him were the bars made out of pure shadow. The cell was large enough to allow him to move back and forth a few paces, but little else. Beyond the bars of shadow, there was a large rectangular chamber, with stasis tubes containing strange creatures and vats of curious liquids lined up against the walls. Two lightstone fixtures provided a dim illumination, shrouding the entire chamber in an aura of eeriness. A single table stood at the other end of the room, with a collection of fearsome looking scalpels and knives neatly arranged on it. The coat of arms of the Brotherhood of Makuta - the Mask of Shadows - was carved onto the far wall of the chamber. The room had a single entrance - to his right, beyond the bars of his cell, Vican could see a metal doorway, leading into a dark corridor. Since he had been imprisoned here, his captor - the Makuta calling himself Mutran, had often materialized in that doorway, inexplicably and unexpectedly, often to check on the twisted creatures in the stasis tubes, scarcely ever acknowledging Vican's presence. There were no footsteps to herald Mutran's presence, he just kind of appeared and vanished into that one doorway at will, as if the shadows in the corridor beyond had suddenly and randomly chosen to coalesce themselves into a physical being, who just as quickly dissipated back into the darkness.
Someday, thought Vican, when the Makuta lets his guard down, I will slip through these bars somehow, run through that doorway, and find my way home.
Initially, when he had first been taken captive, Vican had tried to keep track, mentally, of the cyclical passage of day and night that was certainly happening outside. Soon, however, he had given up, surrendering himself to the perpetual twilight that defined the atmosphere of this chamber. The world outside - his past, his friends, and the former existence he had once led outside the cell as a free Matoran, were slowly fading from him. His former life and home now seemed like a distant abstraction to him, an idea rather than a reality.
At some point during his incarceration, Mutran had thrown a huge, disgusting six-foot leech into the cell with him. Although Vican had resisted, the creature had latched on to his mask. He had experienced an odd feeling of dizziness, as if the strength was being sucked from him, and had collapsed, drifting into unconsciousness. When he had awoken, both Mutran and the creature were gone.
I wonder what it did to me, thought Vican, and what it is turning me into.
Perhaps as a consequence of contact with the leech, or because of some other phenomenon, Vican had noticed subtle, minute, but definite and disturbing changes to his body. The green hue of his armor had blackened considerably, and although he had no mirror, Vican was certain his mask had mutated in some way as well.
No matter what he does to me, Vican thought, I will not crack.
He heard the sound of something moving to his right. Vican raised his head, and saw that Mutran had once again appeared in the doorway of the chamber. Muttering something under his breath, the Makuta walked over to one of the stasis tubes pressed the button to release the trapped creature inside. Through the cloudy, frosted glass of the tube, Vican could make out a faint shape, but was unsure of what it was.
The device whirred, as the glass portion of the tube slowly retracted itself into its casing, then suddenly ground to a halt. The machine was jammed. Mutran grumbled, then swung his arm, almost casually, and smashed the glass to pieces. The creature inside dropped to the ground, squirming amidst pieces of shattered glass and preservation fluid. Mutran grabbed it by the neck and hauled it to the table on the other side of the room. The creature then let out a terrifying scream, in the almost unmistakable pitch of a Matoran voice. Vican averted his eyes and covered his ears. He didn't want to hear, or see, any of this. Whatever that thing was, whether it was or had once been a Matoran, he didn't want to witness what horrific fate awaited it.
The screams stopped abruptly as Mutran brought the creature to the table. Cursing, Mutran held his hand against it for a moment, then threw it to the ground.
"Stupid thing's dead," he muttered, "I knew it was an unstable hybrid."
Vican couldn't take any of this insanity anymore. From what he had seen, Mutran was prone to random instances of violence and cruelty, and he was worried that if the Makuta was ever in an unhappy mood, he would not hesitate to kill Vican and use his body for experimentation. It was at this moment he lost it.
"Let me out!" he yelled, even though he was fully aware that the Makuta had no obligation to listen to, let alone act on, his wishes.
"This isn't what I agreed to! I agreed to be your servant, your lab assistant, to go places with the Brotherhood, to be free."
Mutran, still facing the other side of the chamber, uttered quietly, "this is freedom."
"No it isn't!" said Vican, "how do I experience freedom, when I'm trapped in this tiny enclosure, fearing for my life!"
The Makuta slowly turned to face him.
This is it, thought Vican, I'm finished. But perhaps death is preferable to perpetual imprisonment.
To his surprise, the Makuta made no threatening actions, only stared at him with those cold, hollow eyes. Then, in a smooth motion, Mutran waved his hand in the direction of Vican's cell.
In an instant, Vican's surroundings melted and shifted, his cell and the chamber around him disappearing. Everything became a blurry whir of green and brown. Slowly, calmly, his vision cleared again. Now, instead of his cell, he was sitting in a corner of his room, back in his home village. Emerging from his house, he saw that the sun shone beautifully in the sky, and the trees were greener than they had ever been. All around him, his neighbors, friends - fellow Matoran, went about their business, happy. There was no cell to restrict his movement, no chamber to confine him. He was free again. Everything seemed to real to be true.
It is to real to be true, Vican realized, I'm not really here. This is a vision, a hallucination.
The village Turaga was gathering everyone in a the central square to give a speech of some sort. Vican merrily hopped over to listen. The Turaga spoke about the Three Virtues, about Unity, Duty, Destiny, and service to Mata Nui - all the principles the Matoran had been taught since birth.
As Vican listened, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around, he saw Makuta Mutran, looming above him.
"Mighty interesting, isn't it?" the Makuta said sarcastically. None of the other villagers seemed to notice the presence of a huge dark being in their midst, making the already surreal scene all the more unbelievable.
"Listen to this old man speak - about his 'virtues', and 'service'," Mutran slowly intoned, pausing, "do you think this really makes you free?"
"Yes," said Vican firmly, "it does. I am free to go where I want to, to do the job I want to"
Mutran laughed, "but what is the point of your movement? What is the point of your job? To serve the 'three virtues' you Matoran cling to? Are you not a tool to that end? And if you are, how can you be truly free?"
The world around him suddenly melted again, even as he screamed to return to the vision of his home. When everything cleared, he found himself sitting on a beach, that stretched out as far as the eye could see, with clusters of palm trees swaying slowly in the wind. Behind him was a tall mountain, densely covered in thick forests.
Great, another vision, he thought.
As he stood, he heard a chattering noise behind him. Turning around, he saw a single red Bohrok fire a jet of flame at one of the trees. As the target was consumed by fire, the Bohrok turned and began hunting for another tree to destroy.
Turning, Vican realized that the greenery on the mountain had vanished, replaced by a sea of Bohrok, systematically destroying all natural features that still existed on the landscape.
"See those Bohrok?" Makuta Mutran appeared behind him once again. The horde of Bohrok rushed towards them, and Vican braced himself for the inevitable impact. None came. The Bohrok simply rushed right through their bodies, as if the two of them were ghosts spying on the living.
"They serve the will of Mata Nui mechanically, sacrificing their lives to a purpose they do not know, a goal they cannot comprehend themselves. They have no minds, no autonomy, no sentience. Are they free?"
Vican had no answer to that.
The world around him warped yet again, and Vican found himself on the back of a Kikanalo beast, running at full speed on a flat wasteland, towards what appeared to be a huge drop into massive canyon in front of them. Vican pulled on the reins as hard as he could to stop the creature, but it did not slow down. Curiously, he noticed the saddle of the creature had a tag which read "Mata Nui".
This time, Mutran manifested himself as a shadowy tentacle that appeared on the ground to his right, extending itself further as it kept pace with the Kikanalo.
"Your universe, and your way of life, is coming to an end, Matoran," Mutran's disembodied voice spoke from the tentacle. "A steep drop, from which you will never be able to recover. A Master Plan even I cannot stop is going to wheel malevolently into place. You have two options - you can continue to live 'freely' by these doomed virtues, which fate assigned to you and you had no control of. Or you can exercise your true freedom - to choose to define your own destiny based on your own principles. Jump off the doomed creature that is Mata Nui - it might hurt, but it will be an fulfillment of your own freedom as a sentient being."
Vican jumped, just as the beast threw itself off the cliff. The split second before he landed on the ground, the scene around him disappeared once again.
He now found himself lying in a prone position on the cold, concrete floor of his cell. Mutran was standing where he had been - at the other end of the room.
"This is what you volunteered for," the Makuta said quietly, "a chance to not be used as a mere tool, to protect a Great Spirit who probably does not even know your existence, a Spirit who you likewise have never seen before. This is a chance for you to be exist, not as an instrument, but as an individual who made a conscious choice about his destiny. This is true freedom."
Vican noticed that the bars confining him to his cell had vanished. He took a tentative step out of the cell into the chamber. Mutran handed him a broom.
"Clean this mess off my floor," he ordered, pointing to the dead creature and the shattered bits of stasis tube glass on the ground.
"Yes, sir" said Vican, walking over.
It was in this manner he spent the subsequent months, in his new home, serving Mutran's every whim and fancy. He never thought about escaping into the doorway to the dark corridor beyond. For, within this chamber, obeying the orders of his Makuta Lord, never seeing the world outside again, he thought of himself as truly free.
Edited by Karzhani the Utahraptor, Dec 13 2012 - 08:25 AM.