It seemed like an ordinary day in Ga-Koro; the waves were rippling, the sea-birds were crying, and the Tarakava were mauling smaller Rahi for lunch. Everything and everyone was either fulfilling its duty, its destiny, or both, and it was doing so together in harmony, thus amply satisfying Mata Nui’s third island-wide edict of Unity under penalty of mild rebuke.
Well, everyone except for one: Kotu.
Kotu’s best friend and fellow Turaga-wrangler Macku had been missing for a couple of days now. True, she often snuck off to watch Hewkii play Koli or catch an Onu-Koronan sunset, but this time was different; this time, she had actually told someone she was going somewhere. This time, she hadn’t run off under cover of darkness without telling a single soul whether she was ever planning to claim her recent lottery winnings. This time, she had actually remembered to lock her front door. And this time, somewhere hadn’t sent her back.
“You won’t miss me for long,” Macku had slyly told the village’s astrologer and chief know-it-all, Nixie, shortly before disappearing without even taking a boat.
“The stars burn forever, so they miss no one for very little or very long,” Nixie had dryly answered.
“Don’t stars eventually explode?” poked a puzzled Macku in return. “And how can you answer anything dryly? We’re living on a bunch of lily pads floating in a lake, for Mata Nui’s sake.”
But Nixie had been left to contemplate the error of her ways in abashed silence, since Macku had not waited long enough to hear that Mata Nui’s stars were understood to be giant, unchanging, glowing rocks and that furthermore her hut had been thoroughly waterproofed by Marka last rainy season.
It had only been several hours before a mildly conscientious Nixie had undertaken the long and arduous journey of a few dozen feet from her hut to Kotu’s, wan and breathless. A despondent blue Pakari had greeted the star swimmer as she confusedly opened her flimsy seaweed door, noting absentmindedly how ineffective it would have been at stopping anything but air from entering her hut.
“…” Nixie had emoted.
“… Kotu… the one known as ‘Macku’ bids me to tell you that… you should not miss her.”
“… Uh… what?”
“… Yea, star athlete and occasional boat-thief Macku has departed this known world, perhaps seeking more comforting company among the stars…”
“… What on Mata Nui on you talking about?”
But Nixie, now properly incoherent, would say no more, and within an instant she was gone.
Kotu had dashed across town in a fury, beating and tearing at the aloof astrologer’s seemingly paper-thin plant-based house, but to no avail. Alas, Marka’s waterproofing business really was the one that “Wets Your Appetite for Security.”
She had run out of the village, yelling and calling out for her friend along the unreadable coast of the bay; but no answer came. She had done the same each day as soon as the sun had risen, to no avail. Macku was gone.
And now, after sitting in misery by the village’s lonely gate for the third day, she at last resolved that it was time to ask for help. Kotu could be sort of like a male-Matoran sometimes.
With the sun already high in the sky, a careworn Kotu at last surrendered to the sinews of her body that ached with disappointment. It was time to get help.
First on her ill-disposed itinerary was the scurvy sailor, Kai, whose speed with both a boat and a boring, expansive tale were legendary. Kotu sighed and trudged down the floating lily pads and into the village.
“Hello, Kai? It’s me, Kotu,” she began tentatively.
“Aye, Kotu! I’d know that mask faster than a fish in a fresh pond o’ – ”
“Yes, I’m sure you would,” Kotu answered stonily, “but right now I’ve got a matter that is rather urgent. Have you seen Macku?”
“Oh, alas, I haven’t,” replied a wide-eyed Kai. Kotu sighed. “But, if’n you have a minute to listen to an old sea-star,” the unprovoked sailor continued, “this would be a mighty maritime to learn of the many virtues of Speed. You see, Speed is the essence of all life; it allows yer boat to go fast, and it allows yer boat to go slow. With Speed on yer side, you can catch as many fish as’n you want, as quickly or as slowly as ye want. The Need for Speed – ”
Kotu sighed and grumbled as she walked off down the lily pad, crossing Kai off her mental list.
Next was Shasa, the esoteric weaver. If Kotu hadn’t expected a straight answer out of Kai, she was even less hopeful about receiving one from Shasa; but what choice did she have?
“Hello, Shasa,” sighed a wary Kotu.
“Ah, Kotu,” began the Matatu-adorned weaver, turning away from her work to greet the Koro deputy. “The strands have long foretold of your coming.”
“Yes, with the unity and perceptivity of my thread-based thought, I long ago learned of your predicament and of how you would choose to solve it.”
“… You did? Really? Then why didn’t you ever mention anything to me, or at least to the Turaga?”
“Alas, the strands of time oft run slower than the young and impetuous would have them,” sighed Shasa in turn. “Given the time, I could verily weave the full tale…”
Kotu had not let Shasa’s similarly-waterproofed door hit her on the way out.
Okay, that one was a bust, too, thought Kotu. But next is Kailani, so at least I can finally pick up that spare sickle I’ve been needing.
“Hello, Kotu!” greeted the nonchalant craftswoman as her occasional client entered the hut. “What can I do for you today? A nice safe hatchet? A useless fishhook? Perhaps even some overpriced Koli paraphernalia?”
“None of the above, my good Kailani,” replied Kotu, wearily shaking her head. “I could use a thing or two, but first I need to know: Have you seen Macku?”
“Oh,” answered Kailani, her countenance falling. “No, I’m sorry, Kotu. I haven’t seen her since the day before the day before the day before yesterday.”
“Yes, none of us have,” sighed the swimmer.
“Well,” chimed the craftswoman, perking up a bit, “maybe I can still sell you that thing you wanted? Some nice Takea bait? Only a couple weeks old, still fresh…”
“Ah, I would, but… Oh, ‘kava-sticks! I’ve left my widgets in my other torso.”
“Ah, that’s the luck of a sailor,” chastised Kailani as Kotu sullenly made for the door.
“That figures, I was just hanging out with Kai,” she muttered under her breath.
Her next meeting was of little help, either, with Okoth the village merchant simply attempting to sell her a boatload of air bladders for over twenty minutes. Who let someone with a stupid Miru into this village, anyway, she mused.
Next was Amaya, the village’s resident flax-maker. Kotu wasn’t exactly sure what something with as funny a name as flax was ever used for, but as one who was generally quite oblivious to the finer points of the building trades, she smartly decided to keep her mouth shut.
“Hello, Amaya,” said Kotu as she stepped in the small hut’s door.
“Oh, hello, Hahli,” drawled Amaya absentmindedly. Kotu did a mental facepalm.
Unperturbed, she continued: “I’m wondering if, in between all this fine flax-making you’ve been up to, you’ve perhaps seen our village’s beloved Macku?”
“Hmm… now, remind me… who is that again?” Kotu did another facepalm.
“She wears a blue Huna, the same mask worn by the respected Turaga Vakama and by that Le-Matoran in the cereal commercial.”
“Hmm… oh, yes! Macku! Now I remember her!” A glimmer of hope quickly kindled in Kotu’s heart. “It was just yesterday she congratulated me on doing such a good job making a flax purse for our newly-arrived savior, the Toa of Water…”
Again, Kotu made no mistake of letting a door hit her on her way out.
Only a little ways down the floating lily pads was the hut of Hahli, the otherwise inconspicuous flax-making assistant to Amaya. Kotu really hoped that memory problems weren’t contagious.
“Hi, Hahli?” Kotu inquired sharply.
“Oh, yes – hello, Kotu!” bowed Hahli, stepping up from her flax work. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s Macku, good flax-mistress; she’s gone missing.”
“Oh… I’m terribly sorry to hear it,” replied a saddened Hahli. “I wish I could help, but I’ve been stuck inside this hut for the past three days; Amaya’s been putting me on overtime with so many repairs to make after the Tarakava attack. I haven’t seen or heard anything since last week.”
“That’s alright, Hahli,” answered Kotu with a faint smile. “You’re doing your duty, and Mata Nui knows no one can fault you for that.”
With a slight smile in return, Hahli said, “Well, I hope you can manage to find her! As long as she hasn’t gone off to be a Koli mascot again… Who knows, maybe someday someone will write a great story about all this mess,” she giggled knowingly.
“We can only hope,” chuckled Kotu.
Next was Nireta, the town’s one and only navigator. Kotu realized it was a little disturbing that without one Matoran, the only village on the island with even a vague interest in geography would be just as clueless as those directionless Le-Koronans. Eh, whatever, she thought.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Kotu, Ga-Koro’s crowned champion of calisthenics and also swimming!” boomed Nireta with uncharacteristic enthusiasm as Kotu entered.
“You know that Macku won that lottery, right?” Kotu jabbed, unable to resist.
“Nonsense, I’m just in a good mood to see such a charismatic champion with such a substantial salary!”
“… Yeah. Anyway, Nireta, I’m afraid I’ve lost someone and I’m – ”
“Lost someone? Say no more! With one of my many marvelous maps, you’ll find your friend in no time! There is literally nothing my comprehensive, custom-made, customs-approved maps cannot find! I’m the cartographer with a cart of graphs that will – ”
“You know I have no money on me, right?”
“I haven’t seen anyone, get out.”
Well, at least she didn’t try to sell me a map of a ‘secret cave’ again, Kotu thought sardonically. As she trudged wearily down to the quays of the village, her heart picked up a little at the faint but vigorous waft of sea breeze. Marka the caulker/shipwright was next.
When she stepped into the boat-builder’s little hut, to her surprise Kotu found that there was no one there. The boat-Matoran were, of course, often away at sea, but this certainly wasn’t a good time for that as far as Kotu was concerned.
As she stepped outside to catch the breeze again, however, an imposing dark blue Hau was soon bobbing toward her down the docks.
“Hello there, Kotu! What brings you to this lonely side of the village?” the shipwright chuckled, looking her up and down.
“The village isn’t really that wide, Marka,” scowled Kotu, forgetting her manners in her impatience. “Anyway,” she added, hastily looking apologetic, “Marka, I’m looking for Macku; she’s been missing for three days. She didn’t take a boat by any chance, did she?”
“No, indeed,” Marka replied soberly. “There’s been no boat use, authorized or not, for nearly a fortnight. Everyone’s been so busy fixing up the town after that great big Tarakava – ”
“Yes, I know, Marka, we were all there,” finished Kotu, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, is there any way I could maybe take a boat out for a bit and, you know, look for her? It’s been so long and I’m starting to get worried.”
“Well, let’s see, then… I’m running a little short on rope, sailcloth, and rigging… if you just agree to run a few errands for me – ”
But Kotu was already on her way past the grandiose boat-Matoran. Errands? Who did she think she was, a Chronicler or something?
Pelagia, the on-duty boat captain, was hardly more helpful; upon walking up to her, Kotu was greeted with a terse query of, “Ride the boat?” Feeling her empty torso pockets with chagrin, she was frustratingly forced to left-click the right-hand answer of ‘No.’ Pelagia said no more.
It was thus at long length that Kotu finally returned to the embittered door of the Astrologer, shaking with cold anger as she drew near. This was starting to get ridiculous, and here she had been the whole time, holed up and holding all the answers! It was time to give this no-good Nixie a piece of her muscular mind.
But the Astrologer’s door, for all its feinted frailties, was no more agreeable to Kotu’s muscles than it had been what was now several hours before. The door would not budge.
With an angry huff, she marched down the street to her final and most forlorn destination: the towering Turaga’s hut.
It wasn’t easy asking for help. It wasn’t easy swimming seventy-seven consecutive laps around Ga-Koro. And it certainly wasn’t easy keeping Okoth’s bounteous bartering stand stocked. But Kotu was about to do at least one of those things.
She stepped shyly into Turaga Nokama’s hut. It was weird, as a Turaga’s deputy she had often been within the spacious and mysterious hut’s walls before; but those times seemed so far away and forgotten now.
Books and stone tablets of ancient lore spilled out onto the damp lily pad floor, reminding her of the Turaga’s insatiable thirst for both knowledge and verbose fan fiction. In the dim light of the weird little jellyfish tank-lights, she felt so small and vulnerable, easily routed by even the least of the Makuta’s plots. What hope was left after the Turaga?
Nokama looked up slowly from her translation work without saying a word. In her compassion and wisdom, she could tell something was sorely amiss; not even the Kanohi Komau, the Noble Mask of Mind Reading Control, was needed.
“Turaga, I have a problem,” grimaced Kotu, feeling the tears welling up inside her.
“What is it, Kotu?” smiled Nokama kindly. “What terrible tempest stirs your heart?”
“Well, you see, Turaga… it’s Macku. She’s been gone for three days now, and I’ve torn the village up and down looking for her. Everyone is either too cryptic or too longwinded or even too forgetful to help! And I’ve left my widgets in my other torso, so I can’t even buy a hatchet or a boat or a map or an air bladder to try and find her! My best friend is gone, and I can’t even do anything to get her back…” With this, her voice broke and she bent over, instinctively huddling in her Turaga’s arms.
“Oh, Kotu, why didn’t you just ask earlier? I’m expecting her back in a couple of hours. She just went to Po-Koro to get some more Mahi milk.”