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Mask of Light Unveiled

Mask of Light Unveiled (164/293)

  1. IC: 'Vrill' [Ko-Koro, Solstice District] A Toa stumbled into the Glacierpool, Ko-Koro's former bastion of mediocre fights to watch with mediocre drinks... The war was lost... The treaty signed. I was not caught... I crossed the line. I was not caught... Though many tried. I live among you... Well disguised. I had to leave... My life behind. I dug some graves... You'll never find. The stories told... With facts and lies. I have a name... But nevermind. The last time the Cy-Toa had been here was... earlier that evening, actually. Before that? Hard to count. Not in the state he was in, at least. Luckily, few optics turned to the apparent drunkard. Well, few stayed on him, at least. None thought to upset him on the warpath to the abandoned lot. There were still some frozen beds there, which might even be habitable if sealed off by the drunk Toa's element. But slightly better mattresses existed at other frost rat dens like Drifter's for nearly the same cost. Plus, despite his stubbornness, he had more than enough widgets in reserve for a classier joint like Rhanus's, too. Why come to the Glacierpool's grave then? Something the agent had spied on the elemental plane earlier that day. The nameless Toa picked himself up after falling over one of the formerly-load-bearing walls, dusting off the ash that remained from a furniture fire that had been long since been snuffed out. He didn't bother to reabsorb the spilled crystalline flask, because that's when he saw it - the pile of broken glass. With an exhale of relief, he went limp and fell into the mass of former bottles. His mask glowing as he fell, the shards wrapped around him like a kaleidoscopic blanket, soothing the ache of what had been his elemental reserves. He needed rest - maybe it would clear his head. A pleasant lie. The Cy-Toa saw the crossroads, but his choice had already been etched into the Wall of History. Sleeping on it wasn't a vain search for clarity; all he needed was the strength to walk the only path. OOC: Vrill on ice for a little bit here while some other things percolate.
  2. IC: Nichou [Ga-Koro] The scenes continue to shift in a blur to Nichou, as if a byproduct of hallucinogen consumption. It felt like minutes ago that he had entered the Koro and had his surprising reunion with Lekua, and yet also months, yet also it was still happening, that very day. It was difficult to precisely recall just how he had gone from that plaza, to being rescued from a plant monster by one of the strangers he met, to sitting in a hotel room composed in equal parts old friends, new friends, and complete strangers, all gathered in the beginning of some kind of post-combat relaxation ritual. But then again, perhaps the day blending together was the cactus fruit talking. It certainly wasn't Nichou talking, given the fact that his mouth was preoccupied with a large slice of cactus fruit. It certainly wasn't the cactus fruit talking, given that fact that it was preoccupied with Nichou's large slice of mouth. It certainly wasn't Ranok talking, because Ranok was preoccupied with talking. “Now homie-bros, I really gotta-lotta emphasize that purest fruit is prettiest bitterest, if you wouldn’t wait minding I’ll have some tea going in a few posts…” The fruit was indeed bitter, and that made Nichou bitter as he bit the fruit, but he wasn't bitter because the fruit got less better as it got most bitter. The tea sounded like a sound plan, but Knichou knew he already had consumed a reasonable quantity of cactus, so he decided to decline. He knew how much cactus he had eaten because he knew how much he hadn't eaten, with the Matoran's visual subsystem using that deviation of how much he had eaten subtracted from how much he hadn't eaten in front of him to generate corrective commands to drive his decision from a position where it was, and thus arriving at the positions where it wasn't, where it now is: not needing any more cactus. "No thanks, I think I'm full," the Onu-Koronan didn't say. Of course he wouldn't say what he thought he said - he had eaten an entire slice and it had yet to manifest any effects in his perceptions or behavior whatsoever! It was often said that everyone experienced the effects of miracle cactus differently, but Nichou hadn't expected that those effects would be entirely unremarkable - he felt as alive as he'd always never been. "I can wait, Ranok - tea would be sublime," Nichou beamed with an overly mechanical pep in his step. "An epic idea." NICHOU (Thoughts) Did I say that? NICHOU looks up. CUT to WIDE of ceiling, where NICHOU sleeps on his back, staring at viewer with shut optics. TILT down 180 degrees to see NICHOU mirroring this pose in reality, with EXTRAS in room glancing at him. FAMILIAR CONSTELLATIONS shine through the lilypad floor. FADE TO BLACK
  3. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] With the way the Skakdi's armor rustled as his slouch straightened - recoiling defensively towards itself instead of broadening outwards - it could be deduced that this was the first time the Zakazian gladiator had held any worry in Gunner's presence.
  4. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] "Too loud."
  5. OOC: Big thanks to @Visaru for the jam IC: Vrill & Korzaa [Ko-Koro, Sanctum] (Later that day) Inside Captain’s Korzaa’s office, among the many tablets of ice in drawers and shelves, there was an impostor - a singular tablet of a translucent blue crystal. Most of the tablet was scored with a grid of circular markings, the basic common element of Matoric script. The bottom half was blank space. Inside the first circle at the top of the tablet, crystal parted like flowing molasses to form the crossed bars and dot of the Matoric letter . The message did not have to lie dormant for long. Korzaa organized her time with the same rigid bureaucratic consistency as she organized her files, and since the day was fading and the last of her meetings were over, that meant, as it did every day, that she was putting her office in order. She sorted her stacks of tablets from her desk into a series of well fitted slots in the drawers and shelves around her office, double checking that the other tablets were organized. On a usual day, the casual manner with which she checked the crystal tablet would have been indistinguishable from the rest of her sorting. But today was different. As she saw the letter on the first line, she immediately paused and checked that the door of her office was shut, then quickly finished filing the rest of the current stack of documents and set the crystal on her desk. She carved a K into the circle next to the V, and then: REPORT. On the next line of the grid, letters grew inside the circles like microbes in petri dishes. Each letter came with sizable anticipation - such precision took skill and concentration in equal measure, and was never speedy. As such, brevity was paramount to the Cy-Toa. LEADS > T > KALTA > SKORM + ANTIDERMIS The message continued on the next line. STATUS > CYRIX TAILING V + Already bad news, but there was a pause before the line finished out: STATUS > CYRIX TAILING V + ROGUE ASSET CALLCODE M The next lines were written more rapidly, as to not linger on the unfavorable position. COVER > M + V INVESTIGATE ANTIDERM FOR AKIRI P CYRIX UNAWARE TARGET > T CYRIX UNAWARE K INVOLVE CYRIX + NIICI TEAM ? M DEDUCED TARGET > T M UNAWARE K INVOLVE M STATUS UNKNOWN + ROGUE OVERALL > EVIDENCE INSUFFICIENT RECS > RSRCH ANTIDERM CNTRMEASR + WPN POTENTIAL NEXT LEADS > WHY KALTA SPY ON KALTA WHY KALTA W GENTRY + IF T INVOLVE REQ > Another pause before the line finished. REQ > RECRUIT M VIA DISCLOSE K? The mixed message ended the same way the conversation began: After copying over a few relevant notes on another tablet, Korzaa added a response in the lines below Vrill’s terse message, carving clearly and slowly into the surface with her stylus. DO NOT DISCLOSE K. WORKING WITH M PERMITTED ONLY IF K INVOLVEMENT SECRET. ANTIDERMIS INFO + CONNECTIONS TOP PRIORITY FURTHER INVESTIGATION INTO KALTA, GENTRY, AND TARKAHN APPROVED There was a lengthy pause - reading from a distance took as much precision as writing. In the chapel a few walls away, some nearby Ko-Koronans were mildly annoyed at the Cy-Toa’s sigh. Soon, text began to take shape once more. UNDERSTOOD CAUTION > CYRIX AWARE V ON ANTIDERM CASE AWARE P ORDER M + V ON ANTIDERM CASE MAY SUSPECT K IF K BEGIN PUBLIC CASE AWAIT OUTSIDERS TO REQ ANTIDERM CASE There was a chilling wait in the utter silence - the agent had yet to sign off. There was more to say, but as the sentences cautiously formed it became clear that he struggled to find the proper words to etch, as if bringing them into the world would surely manifest their harm. The next set of glyphs began to form, one after the other with frightening clarity. FINAL CRIT INTEL > V + M INTERRGTED STANNIS VERIFIED > MAKUTA BANISHED NEVER SLAIN IMPLICATIONS > CALAMITOUS CONTINGENCIES PARAMOUNT ALL AKIRI MUST KNOW ALL ARMIES MUST PREPARE Another pause stretched out. Korzaa’s hand hovered over the line below, rereading and rereading this last message, lowering her stylus to write something before reconsidering and picking it up again. Then, her hand shaking only slightly, she carved: CONFIRM: MAKUTA IS ALIVE? Embellishment was unnecessary. The exact words had yet to leave the operative’s mind. After a beat, the slate wiped itself clean, and lengthier words occupied the tablet’s space in a cruder, less mathematically precise script laced with grammatical omissions. V + M + P WERE PRESENT USED KANOHI RODE STAN QUOTE > WE DEFEATED HIM PUT IN PLACE WHERE HE COULDN'T REACH US BUT NOT FULL VANQUISHING SUCH WAS IMPOSSIBLE VS NOTHINGNESS WE PUT HIM AWAY IN SAFEKEEPING DIDN’T KNOW WHERE + HOW LONG HE’D STAY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND TIL TOO LATE MARU FOLLOWED PROPHECY NONE UNDERSTOOD IT SAID “MAKUTA IS GONE” NEVER DEAD Inside the chapel, the spy finally faltered, trance broken by beads of sweat and salty optics. Each of the slouched Toa’s intentional breaths were deeper, intake desperately attempting to rejuvenate his burnt lungs. His mind spun. The Cy-Toa's armor thinned as he absorbed some of the outer crystalline layers. Undefended, the cold bit him freshly. At first, the air stung like countless needles, but it coalesced into a saturating pain. The subsequent numbness sharpened his focus. He reached out again with his elemental senses, pinpointing his tablet amidst a sea of lightstones and heatstones throughout the building. By the time the undercover guardsman found it, he could sense a brief response already scratched into the bottom lines of the tablet. It read: UNDERSTOOD. CONSIDER STANNIS INFO ON MAKUTA DECLASSIFIED CONTINUE INVESTIGATION FOLLOW UP KALTA + GENTRY + T LEADS FURTHER MAKUTA INFO HIGH PRIORITY Nearing the end of his resolve, the Cy-Toa was glad the exchange was over, though he hardly felt any better for it. COPY V OUT A few moments later, the entire tablet squirmed as crystal grew into the etchings, erasing any evidence of the document. The now blank crystal tablet was slotted back into its drawer, hidden among the rest of the near identical ice tablets. The exchange would live on in their minds, and it would do so for some time to come.
  6. IC: ??? (As Vrill (As Syzygos)) [Ko-Koro, Sanctum] The Sanctum was never meant to be the fortress it had become. In its storied history, the temple had only been breached twice. First by Makuta, when Nuju was stolen. Those shadows had long since been purged by the time of the second intrusion at the hands of his fanatical followers. While the building’s wounds had healed, there were still scars from its subsequent defiling at the hands of the intruders. Like a body, the skin that replaced the gash was different. Rougher. Stronger. The Sanctum had always been the headquarters of the eponymous Sanctum Guard, but their expansion in the wake of Ko-Koro’s rebirth had left its mark on the architecture. It gave the Cy-Toa mixed feelings as he walked through checkpoints and eyed murder holes, but then again, so did everything in Ko-Koro now. The obsidian-armored toa followed a well-recited path through the public zones of the Sanctum until he reached an inner chapel. Sitting on a mat in front of a charred tapestry, he began a familiar meditation.
  7. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] Eyes narrowed. 'Pummel a Skakdi to get some widgets' - what did he mean by this?
  8. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] The Skakdi didn't move.
  9. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] The juggernaut skakdi blinked.
  10. I've restarted the server to fix this issue. Over the last weekend, I made some changes that should help it be more stable than it has been this past month, so some unexpected behavior may pop up.
  11. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] The Skakdi's eyes narrowed.
  12. IC: Myhruk [Naho Bay, The Fowahi, Fool's Crow's Nest] Sir? The Lesterin nodded in a faux appreciation, too bewildered by everything going on to question it. Social norms flowed through in his conscious self's stead. He looked at the meal for some time, cradling the package so it wouldn't fall as the sways of the ship snaked up towards its artificial peak. The cubed chunks of Ruki was lacking its normal chargrilled stripes. Bizarre, but desperate times called for desperate measures. With reluctance, he was able to eat. IC: Nichou [Ga-Koro, Industrial District] Nichou, who had been quiet throughout most of this process as the excitement wore off and banality felt more intense than ever, remained quiet as he shook his head. In fact, he wasn't sure why he shook his head - Ranok already knew the answer. Maybe the Onu-Matoran just wanted to feel like he was contributing something, anything, even if it was, in fact, nothing. This really was just like the old days.
  13. IC: Frii'Glokk [Ostia, The Dancing Crab] "We're in agreement," the Skakdi replied, satisfied with the outcome. "A ride is all I need."
  14. IC: Vrill and Muir [Ko-Koro, Alley] He listened to Fenn halfheartedly, more concerned with the deterioration of his Husa than with the minutiae of criminal prosecution. That was never the point of working with the Fa-Toa, after all. In fact, he could have stopped listening after Muirtagh's third sentence. He did, at least, let his partner say his piece before shifting to a tangent. "Come across any good dirt on Ambages, by chance? Not that it would make a difference for him, but he has connections that haven't met justice yet." It sounded as if he and "justice" were well acquainted. In fact, he probably had its caliber and muzzle velocity memorized. Muir frowned. It sounded like Vrill and Justice were on the outs with regard to this matter, and he wasn't as comfortable as his partner was cozying up to Revenge. Still, Ambages was dead, and there was no reason to hide the little he knew. "Never anything concrete, just the connections and convenient coincidences. I did try to go digging, back in the day, after I saw firsthand what he did to Pala-Koro." He took a long drag and closed his eyes. When they opened, they had an edge to them that Vrill had only seen once before. "You know what I believe; justice should always be the will of the people, as found in a fair trial. So you know that I don't say this lightly: Ambages deserved far worse than he got, but I'm glad he's dead. Unanswered questions are a small price to pay." "Yeah, Ambages wasn't a fan of leaving trails." The chilling breeze picked up the weight of the conversation as another contemplative beat passed. If it weren't for Ambages's eventual outcome, Vrill's failure would have bothered him more. Though no investigator was a fan of the indecipherable. Hmm… Back to the present. "You ever worked with a Toa Team before?" Clarify. "Not like this or a sentinel squad - the unemployed, vagrant, heroes-for-hire type?" "I thought your background check would have been more thorough." It was only half a joke. "No, I haven't." A pause. "...Have you?" "It just strikes me as odd," the Cy-Toa said, ignoring the question. "That Cyrix admitted he was tailing his own team member before any Antidermis was in the picture. Doubly so that those were his orders. Lack of trust in the team? Least, from the top down." More ash pockmarked the snow beneath them. "Usually trust issues go up the chain of command, not down, and not to the degree of internally spying." Usually. "It's definitely… unusual. Combine that with their selective memory loss, and it's hard not to find the Kalta suspicious." "Curious when - if - they knew about the extent of this." The butt twirled in the air before falling with the snow and promptly getting squashed into it. Vrill sighed, the deep breath vacuuming up a few lingering fumes in the process. "Antidermis research, Gentry ties, marine reports, Aelied not trusting his own troops," the agent summarized, thinking the tag-up to be over. "Shovel enough snow in Ko and you'll hit dirt." “There’s dirt everywhere, Vrill. You and yours just hide it better than in Po or Onu.” Muir eyed Vrill carefully. “I prefer having things out in the open. Sand may not be as pretty as snow, but it’s sure easier to avoid stepping in ####.” Another drag, another glare. “Partnerships need trust. There are things you can’t say, and that’s fine – you told me everything I needed to know about who we’re really digging into when you first came into my office. But you also just told me that you didn’t mean to, and now I’m wondering what else you’re hiding from me.” Optics locked on. The wind had died down, but the silence that replaced it was much colder. “You're not unique in having a set of lines you won't cross. Our lines are different,” ‘Syzygos’ replied, extending the staring contest into the verbal battlespace. “We have work to do. That work is aligned. What you’re asking only brings greater risks.” There was a momentary hesitation as Vrill considered his words. “I have said all I intend to on that matter.” His honesty was ####ing. “We’re meant to be working this together. I’m your partner, not your ####ing asset.” Muir’s voice was almost scolding, coloured by exasperation just as much as anger. “I need to know what you’re hoping to accomplish with this. I assumed, because you came to me, that this isn’t just about gathering intel you can file away – so tell me that it’s not. Tell me that I can trust you, that I’m not some tool you’ll discard once you have what you need, because the man who was sitting with me in that backroom was ####ing mercenary, and I will not work with him. So I need you to tell me that I can work with you.” “My goal is to get results, not just observations," Vrill snapped. "Prevent catastrophe, not witness the aftermath. Keep a Koro from falling any further from grace. From peace.” For someone who had just said he had no more words, the spy suddenly spoke with measured irritation. Now with an axe to grind, he found even more ways to say the same things, while the point he was driving towards struggled to stay in front of his next breath. “You saw the drift begin. Understand how insidious that slip can be. Deviation becoming norm. Guess the same reason I knew I could trust you is why you’re worried about what I could never say, isn’t it? ” As with Cyrix minutes before, it had taken a confrontation to reconnoiter what he feared. But he never sought this one out, and this time, he knew his cover was truly blown. “Well, yeah, you’re not my tool. We’re pieces on the same board, on the same side. But a bishop and a knight make different moves. That’s why what I did back there, you wouldn’t, and what you asked a minute ago, I can’t answer. What you’re asking now… well…” “You can work with me. And I would prefer it that way. But sometimes, trust requires a little faith.” “You think I don’t know that?” Muir sighed, and tossed his cigarette to the snow. What didn’t die on impact, he smothered with the tip of his shoe. “If I didn’t, I’d be using my mask right now. But I’m not, and I won’t. I won’t, because trust has to be more than that. But trust also has to be earned.” That cold steel was in his eyes again. Muir transformed when he was truly angry – not the anger of shock or outrage, but that of betrayal. His voice lost its passion, became a sussurance, even softer than before; his soulful blue eyes froze over. The soft thump of a closing book was practically audible. “I want to believe you. But you’ve given me that speech before, and the last time, you lied. You used me. What’s different now? That it’s your Koro? Because that isn’t enough. I’m still walking in the dark, towards an unknown destination, and I can’t tell if I’m walking alone.” Honesty was hard. Truth demanded a high burden, one that the lawyer had always sought to meet, but excitement was easy. Anger was easy. Pain, he kept beneath the ice, consigned to the depths of those frozen lakes. A studious elementalist, Vrill saw the structure of patterns all around him. Structure and repetition were the defining traits of everything. To analytically define anything, both were required. Minerals, objects, animals, people, events… they were distinct, but similar structures shone through, letting observers lump them into categories. Vrill was an observer of his own patterns playing out in front of him. There was a reason Muirtagh had been just as angry the day Vrill swung open the door of the Fenn Legal Clinic. Before Ko-Koro had been recaptured, before it had fallen, there had almost been a different war. A war amongst the Koro. When there are almost wars is when Vrill’s expertise is sought most. The disguised Cy-Toa found the disgruntled Sentinel Muirtagh, who feared the path Hewkii put his city on. The perfect inside man. To Vrill, that made him an asset. To Muir, Vrill made him a pawn. It wasn’t long after deducing Vrill’s goal that Fenn went dark. Not just to the Ko-Koronan agent - Muir saw that the only ethical way out was to quit the Sentinels entirely. Having been dealt a hand that bad, folding was the smartest possible move. An Akiri for an Akiri. A spy for a spy. A lie for a lie. While on the surface his goals and how they played out could be compared in like terms, they were less alike than the outside observer could assume. But Vrill’s intent, the key distinction that broke the pattern, was something only he could truly be sure of. A pen could hold two Mahi that, from the outside, appeared identical. If the observer asked the Mahi, they would understand how different the creatures were. But Mahi can’t talk, so all Mahi were the same. Vrill knew this. He saw the pattern, and saw there was only one move he could make that could possibly break it, but he wouldn't know if he could do it until he did. “What’s different? What’s different is this time I understand that because I have to walk in the darkness, it won’t make a difference if I tell you that we’re walking to the same tunnel exit. That we’ll only be able to prove it when we reach the sunlight.” “When’s the last time you saw sunlight, Vrill?” ‘Syzygos’s crystalline armor rippled with his elemental influence. Its form shifted subtly, but its color remained the pitch black it had been since he and Fenn had been inside the Onu-Koro highway that morning. The only difference was a slight red glow deeper within as heatstones grew, preparing him for the night’s growing storm. The Cy-Toa’s optics were shut, but Muirtagh had seen his partner’s elemental proficiency before, and knew this was not to better focus his powers. The undercover guardsman was no longer animated with frustration as he had been at the dispute’s apex. There was an eerie peace as it took worryingly long to reference the least-referenced dossier at the back of his memory’s filing cabinet. “Before I had the will to fight the Enemy on his own terms.” Vrill had long understood that ‘Syzygos’ could never convince Muirtagh Fenn to be a player in the same game that he lived in. The masked Toa whose glance met Muir’s before stepping into the snowfall of the streets had finally learned that Vrill never stood a chance either. OOC:
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