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Tales of Matero: The Mask of Change

Kaleidoscope Tekulo

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Sida sighed.  Today was the first day of her new training.  She’d been relocated to Matero, a decision that was out of her hands.  She wasn’t thrilled about being the rookie.  It was never a role that suited her, and quite frankly she wanted to get training day over with.  Having moved to a new city wasn’t helping.  Sida had never lived in an industrial part of the world before.  Everything was changing around her; everything was new.  Familiarity was something thrown to the wind now, and the art of second-guessing and relearning was bound to follow.  Another sigh escaped Sida’s lips.


She had been sitting in a blank room for what felt like hours.  Her left arm was pulled across her chest while she strummed her fingers on the table in front of her with her right hand.  Her eyes were preoccupied with her left.  There wasn’t anything terribly interesting about a blank wall, but then again she wasn’t hoping for anything interesting.  Being alone with her thoughts normally suited her fine, however today Sida wanted time to pass.  That was the only thing that made five minutes feel like a year. 


Finally the door Sida had been facing opened. 


“So, you’re our new transfer.  Sida, right?  The Toa of the green?” The voice was slightly coy.

Sida turned her head away from the wall and met two newcomers.  Both were tall figures clad in armor.  The one that had spoken was no doubt in front; a Toa in orange and white with a cool smile on his face.  Behind him stood a figure in blue and gold.  She was smiling.


“Welcome to HQ.  It’s nice to finally meet our new brother.  My name is Miln.”  This time the Toa in back had spoken. 


“My name’s Tanu.  I apologize for being blunt.”  Tanu’s voice wasn’t any less smooth despite his apologetic speech.


“Hrmph.  Charmed.”  Sida refused to move from her seat.


“Wait…  You’re female?”  Tanu had hardly finished speaking when he was knocked off balance.  Sida had, in one motion, stood and unleashed several vines which wrapped around Tanu’s torso with a firm grasp, knocking the table over in the process.  Miln had tightened her stance in response, ready for battle.


“Got a problem with that?”  Sida’s voice was a low growl.


“Heh.  You’re pretty fast.  We could use more Toa like you.”  Tanu slowly placed a hand on Sida’s vine and they vaporized in what appeared to be liquid fire. 


“You’ll forgive our curiosity, Sida.” Miln had stepped between the two. “We will not demand an explanation should you not wish to provide one.”


“Good.”  Sida retracted her vines and loosened her stance.  She was still standing boldly with her arms crossed.


Miln and Tanu shared a look for a brief moment before one of them spoke.


“Well, Sida, barring any further arguments, we should get you started.  We could use all the help we can get with our latest case.  I’ll meet you two there.”  Tanu casually walked through the door and turned to the left before vanishing from Sida’s vision. 


“Sida, a moment, please?”  Miln waved her hand and the table Sida had knocked over placed itself back up right.  Two chairs moved to opposite ends of table, and Miln gestured for Sida to sit.  Reluctantly, Sida took a seat and Miln sat across from her. “Pardon my asking this, but are you having any problems with being relocated here?”


“So what if I am?”  Sida stared, her eyes unrelenting, into Miln’s Hau.


“Sida, while you’re here, we need you focused.  Underlying emotions can be dangerous if unchecked, especially in our line of work.  I understand we just met, but if you have any problems please feel free to talk to me.”


“Why wouldn’t you just read my mind?  It would save us these unnecessary questions.”  Sida’s glare didn’t waver.  Miln, however, seemed to shrug it off by shaking her head.


“I assure you, I only tap into the consciousness of others in a state of crisis.  Abuse of such a power is unethical.”


“And when I had Tanu, that wasn’t a state of crisis?”


“No.”  Miln’s voice was bold, and her face solemn.  “If you wanted to harm our organization, you chose an inopportune time.  Your demeanor showed signs of clear aggravation, likely at what Tanu had said.  While you did assault him, you merely bound him and left no physical damage.  At best that’s a petty disagreement between Toa.”


“… I see.”


“If you’re interested, I could help you with your emotional state.”


“How so?”


“I can use psionic energy to tap into your emotional state, with your consent, of course.  It won’t alter your thoughts or memories, but it will basically help you feel relaxed.”


“I’m not following.”


“Alright then,” Miln reached behind her and produced two golden discs around half the size of her hand.  She proceeded to twirl one of them in her right hand.  It spun around smoothly, forming the illusion of a sphere.  “Imagine this is a balanced emotional state.  This, however," Miln said, the second disk sputtering around wildly in her left hand, "is an emotionally unbalanced state.  Sometimes we get angry or sad or what-have-you, and our emotions sometimes cause our actions to be biased.  What I can do is alter this emotional state to an equilibrium to help remove bias caused by lingering emotion.”  The disk in Miln’s right hand began slowly spiraling around the one on her left.  Slowly but surely it wobbled less spastically and eventually matched the smooth rotation of its twin.  It was like watching a dance.


“Interesting.  I’m afraid I’ll pass.”  Sida never broke eye contact with Miln.


“…  Very well, it’s your decision.”  Miln stopped the disks and put them away.  “We should meet Tanu.  He should be waiting for us at the morgue.”  Miln stood and pushed her chair in.


“A murder?”  Sida followed her lead.


“…  We’re not sure.”


Sida and Miln walked out of the room.  A few turns, a walk up a staircase and two halls later, they reached the morgue.  Miln hadn’t briefed her on the case so much as point out the facilities as they were passed.  A lab for examining evidence, a sparring room for testing weapons and hand-to-hand combat, a robotics lab for creating and repairing robotic law enforcement, etc.  Sida reflected on the last one.  She’d heard stories about creatures named Vahki from the big city.  As she recalled, that story didn’t end well.  She asked, briefly, but was assured that they were “more state-of-the-art,” and that “measures were being taken to ensure they won’t be corrupted.” 


“There they are; my two favorite co-workers!”  Tanu seemed to perk up as they entered the room.  He was talking with a creature that was tall and lean.  Its legs and arms were long, but its torso seemed more compact.  Sida hadn’t met anyone quite like this before, however it was clear to her that the creature was completely mechanical.


“It’s a bit early to act like old friends.”  Sida sneered.


“It’s also a bit early to act like bitter rivals.”  Tanu chimed.


“Sida,” Miln interjected, “this is one of our robotic officers.  Here at HQ we have twenty two units total.  Each is connected to one central computer system.  Basically, they have access to information on any case in our records.  They can even access information instantly on units currently on patrol; their position, status, and the current state of certain areas of this sector in the city.”


Sida looked at the robot in front of her.  It stared back, as if awaiting orders. 

“Only this sector?”


“They’re prototypes.”  Tanu wrapped his arm around the robot’s shoulders.  “A Toa engineer came up with their design, and so far they’ve proven very effective.  I’ve named this one Che.”


“They are very easy to interact with.  Why don’t you try it out?  Ask about case 8-5-3-5.”  Miln gestured towards Che.


“… Che…”  Sida glared at Tanu briefly.  “Please tell me about case 8-5-3-5.”


“Accessing case 8-5-3-5…  Complete.  What would you like to know?”  The mechanical Che did not express much emotion in its speaking.  Its voice was low.


“Erm…”  Sida wasn’t sure how to continue.


“Che, please provide an overview of the case.”  Tanu demonstrated.  His voice seemed to tighten while he gave the command.


“Overview:  Two days ago a body was discovered in Southern Matero.  The deceased is an Agori of unknown element.  No visible injuries were found on the body; however a strange mask is covering the head completely.  The cause of death is uncertain; however it is thought to be asphyxiation.  There is no record of any witnesses to the death of the deceased.  The body was discovered abandoned in an alley by Patrol Unit 019.”  Everything was stated plainly.


“The victim is here.  We’ve taken to calling him Urnu.”  Miln pulled on a bar sticking out of the wall, and revealed a bed with a body covered in a white sheet.  Tanu pulled the sheet back down to the body’s mid-torso. 


Sida looked at the mask.  She had never seen anything quite like it before.  It was green and ugly, with large fangs sticking upwards from its mouth and a glare set in stone.  Sure enough, the mask surrounded the head completely, and there were no visible signs that it could be removed. 


“Our friends in the lab have tried many techniques to remove this thing.”  Tanu’s voice was low.  “Nothing has worked so far.” 


“The lab sent us the mask in hopes that we might be able to find something they overlooked.”  Miln stepped in front of Tanu and gestured for the two of them to step back. “I’m going to try to see if I can find something within the mask’s interior.”  She closed her eyes and concentrated.  A few moments passed when Miln let out a gasp and stumbled to the floor.


“What’s wrong?”  Sida managed to catch Miln before she hit the floor. 


“Miln?  Miln, are you alright?”  As if responding to Tanu’s words, Miln opened her eyes and shook her head quickly as she woke. 


“I’m sorry, I’m not sure what happened.” 


It was around this time that all three Toa looked up to the bed.  Urnu was sitting up. 


A piercing scream filled the room, and Urnu jumped and ran for the door.  Che was the first to give pursuit, running forward with impressive speed.  Sida pushed Miln towards Tanu, who instinctively supported her and helped her stand.  Sida ran after the two, not far behind.  Che caught up to him and attempted to grab hold when Urnu turned and nimbly slipped passed his reach.  Sida slid under Che, jumped back to her feet and continued her pursuit.  The Agori was ten feet away, and the distance between them shortened.  Sida saw how it moved; ducking and weaving around more oncoming robots, probably reacting to what Che had seen in the morgue.  Sida quickly gave chase, ducking and weaving like the Agori.  It was just like passing through the jungle back home.


The chase continued for some time, until eventually her target made it outside HQ.  Finally Sida had a clear shot.  Five vines surrounded the Agori’s body and wrapped around tight.  It was then that the vines dropped to the ground and Sida let out a scream.  She stumbled forward, but managed to prevent herself from falling.  Frustrated, she tried creating sturdy tree branches to entrap the masked fiend.  The branches only managed to grow around a foot off the ground before their growth was halted.  The last thing Sida recalled was a shrill screech before she lost consciousness.




Sida woke in aggravation.


“Well, look who finally came to.”  Tanu was not helping.  He was sitting a chair to the left of the bed she was in.  He appeared to be fiddling with a glowing slab of stone.  There wasn’t anyone else in the room, though there appeared to be six beds total.


“What happened to the Agori?”  Sida’s voice was groggy as she slowly sat up.


“…  Dead.”


Sida’s mind froze for a moment.  Dubiously, she turned to look at Tanu, who proceeded to stand and walk up to her side.


“Here, you should see for yourself.”  Tanu placed the flat, rectangular slab in front of Sida.  It was displaying a video of her pursuit from earlier.  Eventually at one point, she fell to the floor.  The events following that were perplexing.  The mask on Urnu opened and seemed to regress to the size of a normal kanohi.  The mask fell to the ground and the Agori with it.  Both lay unmoving as half a dozen robots moved in and surrounded the area.  Tanu stopped the video.


“What we appear to be dealing with,” Tanu explained, “is a strange case.  We don’t know exactly what that mask is or where it came from.  Our lab currently has it in custody, trying further experiments to find out what exactly it is and how it works.  Between what happened with you and Miln, the popular theory is that it fed off of elemental energy.  Of course that’s just a guess at this point.”


“…Why did I faint?”


“… We’re guessing that thing set loose some sort of signal.  Our robotic officers’ recordings managed to pick up some strange background noise right as you fell to the ground.  It didn’t do much to our metal friends, but it sure took its toll on the three of us.”


“You mean you and Miln?”


“We’re both fine.  We were still inside the building when it happened, so we were only out for around ten minutes.  In your case, the effects lasted around an hour.”  Tanu and Sida appeared to be staring at the same wall.  “I should be thanking you.  You were fast enough to catch that thing before it reached the rest of the city.” 


Sida got out of the bed and started heading for the door.


“Thank me some other time.  This is far from over.”  Sida sighed.  Life in the city of Matero was already proving far more tedious than she had anticipated.




This short story is a part of a collaboration I'm in with a couple of dweebs.  These series of short stories we are currently releasing are a warm-up for our upcoming epic, Volition.  These short stories are done independently and are to be considered "semi-canon" for our epic.




The name Urnu is a shortened form of Ur-nohi.  BZP member Tolkien has been working on the Matoran language and after I asked, he posed the words "Ur-nohi" or "Urnu" to mean "faceless"


Sida's name is pronounced [see-dah] however Miln and Tanu have been mispronouncing it as [side-ah].  Sida feels correcting them would be a waste of time and finds such matters trivial.


I chose the number 8535 for the case file because it is Toa Lewa Mata's set number.


Sida's character started from a simple MOC I did. 

Edited by Tekulo in the Green
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Executive Vice President of Tomato Throwing

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A very interesting hook you’ve got here.  You’ve given us a nice look at how far technology has advanced, though it’s still tied back to the familiar with the comparisons between these new automatons and the Vahki.  The setting is very contained, which is good for a short story and can help us relate to Sida, and still leaves us wanting to know more about the outside world without making us feel like it’s required to understand what’s going on.  The characters all have unique personalities and we get to see them all use their powers (which is always fun, and is especially helpful since these are all Elements that weren’t focused on in canon material), plus the dynamics of this new team are already starting to show even if this is their first time meeting.  We learn a fair bit about them, but it’s not explicitly stated, and implies that there’s a lot more to learn about them—which is very realistic.


The mask certainly has a unique description.  Since it’s the titular element, I’d suggest giving us a little more: does it look to be made of some strange material, does it appear new or well-worn, maybe a little more focus on why it doesn’t look like it can be removed (Does it weave into the skin?  Is it really tight?  If someone were to grab it, would they even be able to get their fingers under the edge?  Would it feel clamped on?), etc.  It’s very mysterious as is, but I think you could make it seem even more so.


You’ve succeeded in making the reader curious; I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next!

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At this point, our short stories are meant to be one-shots. Some of them will have recurring characters in our epic, some will not. Originally this story was meant to be resolved with throw-away characters never to be seen again. That sort of changed when the Fire Nation attacked I went to write it out.

That being said, I like these three. If there is interest in this particular story (once things get rolling), then I probably will finish this story arc as a mini-epic. Still, it doesn't appear to be too popular so far (which is kind of expected because this part of the Library seems pretty slow these days), and there are other things to focus on right now.

I do see what you're saying about the mask, though. I'll probably edit the story at some point to ammend that (after I figure out what would work best for what it is).

Thanks for reading!

Edited by Tekulo in the Green
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Executive Vice President of Tomato Throwing

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