IC: Triage - Ko-Pou Shelter
"It's certainly creative," Triage replied. "But how do we know it wouldn't simply reverse their aging, but keep their current forms intact?" If we test it, that's how, the medic dreaded.
IC: Jutori - Earth Ruins
IC: Okuo - Ko-Pou Shelter
Okuo stroked his chin thoughtfully. "It could be worth a try... though I was under the impression it had stopped leaking?" He sighed, and moved back to the door, taking his green knit scarf off the hanger and wrapping it over his shoulders and neck tight. "In any case, I had intended to make my way to the old village and see if I can find anything, so the Aqua Sphere will have to wait for a moment. Triage, would you care to accompany me or stay here?"
IC: Arkius - Ruins of Earth
Arkius sighed, taking out a packet of rations and handing it to Kat. "Alright, here, just try not to eat through it in one go." Anyone paying attention might have noticed the more vibrant green of his eye while he did this, though after he looked away and began walking further in, it had returned to its washed out emerald hue. "Lets not waste any time then. Administrator, what can you tell me about the trials that lie ahead?"
IC: Knichou, Kini-Nui Hillside, Stannis's 'Office'
Knichou watched as everyone reintroduced themselves, though his gaze drifted more towards Stannis as the conversation proceeded. The elder already seemed to know more than Knichou, or anyone who had been living here for nearly the past month, about the significance and past of Kini-Nui. As the others spoke, he wondered what else the granite guardian had learned in his wanderings over the past month, and from whom.
The Toa of iron blushed behind his crimson and gold kanohi as the wizard spoke of Nale’s changes and then smiled at Knichou. The former Ghost and former Toa Rode hadn’t even said a word to each other in Stannis’s presence and yet the Toa was already giving a knowing smile. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, he’s talking about the armor and my mask, of course he is.
At Nale’s beckoning, the exiled Ghost moved away from Stannis to sit by the Toa of magnetism’s side, folding his legs to emulate Stannis’s stance. While he considered conjuring a more comfortable chair with his iron powers or his Kanohi, it felt natural and more respectful to sit on the grass as the Wizard did.
“Certainly. No one and no place on this island hasn’t been touched by change in this past month, though some of us have experienced more than others.”
“Indeed not. This place—this whole island—is one of constant fluctuations, and it is a warp weave in the grand tapestries of Fate. All things come here eventually, and they never leave as how they came,” Stannis said. Knichou nodded slowly back, completely lost but also paradoxically understanding somehow. This place had a way of doing that sometimes.
“Will she be joining us in my office?” the Toa of stone asked, pointing animatedly but furtively in Vulimai’s direction. “I would hate it if she missed out on important matters.”
Vulimai stared down towards the Toa, her serious expression unflinching as Stannis made his little coy remark. But, she knew nothing was going to be done lest she was willing to indulge the old codger. She swore as she joined the sitting circle. If it wasn’t for the fame that the sage had, she would’ve simply thought him as a senile fool.
“Ah there you are! Welcome, akiri Vulimai,” he said. He chose to address her as such not for any banners or badges she adorned herself with, as there were none that indicated such a specific position, but both out of respect and in acknowledgement that the weathered military leader had clearly taken upon herself more than the responsibility she was meant to. The corners to her eyes creased ever so slightly more then than before, her attitude was somewhat less subdued and more authoritative, and she possessed a much more objective, assertive air of authority about her than when she bade farewell to Stannis the day he took off in Aurax’s airship. Back then she was subordinate, but now, on the banks of the Kini-Nui’s lake, she was very much in command, and by the token of the weights on her shoulders she heaved with every step she took she was rightfully worthy of the akiri title.
“You all have questions, and I have answers. The airship is the least of those… though I caaaaan imagine that it is the most amusing one you have,” he said.
“Well, although I’m sure you’re already aware that we know out of simple presumption, I still want to hear it in your own words...Tell us Stannis, what did happen in Metru-Nui? How did Pridak die and why did you allow Aurax to claim control over the city?” Vulimai leaned in close as she asked the question, a hint of accusation in her voice, alongside genuine curiosity. At the mention of Aurax, Knichou’s face showed his pleased demeanor shift to a far more serious tone, looking to Stannis for answers, trying to discern anything from the Toa’s stone cold face.
Nale nodded along to the Matoran’s question. “Yes, I’d like to know the facts about that, too. Waking up one morning to the news was...jarring.” Not to mention it had followed both an airship battle and an attack by underground Skakdi, but the Toa of Magnetism left that part out for now. If Stannis was unaware of what had transpired, they would eventually tell him.
The Wanderer smiled kindly at Vulimai, meeting her barbed tone with utter affability and congeniality. It was a good question, as good as any were, and there was a certain point to the simple matter of why Aurax, of all people. “I’d meant to come back to Metru-Koro and assist in some governance, and would have shared the news once I’d been able to do so, but I got waylaid, and so had those with me. Fate had other paths in mind for me, I am sorry, friends. But you are correct, I did allow Aurax to assume command of the League’s scattered domain. This was my wholly choice to do, and the responsibility of his reign rests on my shoulders alone,” he said, shrugging broadly with his palms.
Knichou's gaze quietly shifted to focus on the ground in the center of the group as Stannis continued. Parts of his adaptive armor appeared to shimmer like a mirage, with imperceptibly slow movement that made the armor look simultaneously alive and inert. Upon closer observation, while Stannis continued to speak, the engineer’s armor appeared to become slightly tighter and more honed, like a tensed muscle bracing itself for an impact.
“As for why, there is a very long answer to this, but I’ll ask you this first: Has he threatened you in any way?”
Vulimai rubbed the bottom of her mask as she feigned thought and ignorance. She knew the answer to the Toa’s question, for she had spoken with Aurax on the subject of the Matoran moving back into Metru-Nui, before the exodus of Metru-Koro. It was an idea that the Toa King seemed to agree too, if not willing to support. But, Vulimai didn’t want to give Stannis validation in this choice of his...Not yet at least, ”No, he hasn’t threatened us… Yet.”
“Nor will he,” Stannis added emphatically. “His reign is intended to be peaceful, or it will be short.” The Wanderer glanced about the ‘office’ visitors, studying their looks and their feelings their eyes betrayed. “This island will chew and spit out all sorts of terrors—the last thing anyone of us needed to have was another unpredictable element at our backs. To that end, I allowed a man I know well enough to take charge and organize a faction that was quickly fragmenting much like the city they claimed as theirs.”
Nale glanced to Knichou, part of that answer catching her attention. “Know well enough? You knew Aurax before you did this?” she asked, although considering who she was speaking to, maybe it was less surprising to hear. The Toa of Stone’s knowledge always outpaced hers.
Nale’s glance broke Knichou of his trancelike state, her optics providing breaking necessary force to pull the ex-Ghost’s optics away from the magnetic allure of the abyss that one can find between all things if they stare long enough. The engineer took a deep gulp of the crisp air, finally raising his head and looking away from the grass. Flames no longer raged in his eyes, but a trained eye would see the smoldering embers that remained.
“You know Aurax well enough?” Knichou asked the stoic, a tinge of defiance in his voice as he openly questioned the elder’s encyclopedic knowledge. The ex-Ghost pointed to the symbol above his heartlight, knowing that Stannis needed no explanation of the branding’s meaning and significance. “You know he caused this?”
”He betrayed his brothers, then he joined the League to betray Mata Nui, and then even with the world in flames, he betrayed Pridak to live on a throne of lies in a dead city. Nothing will sate his lust for power, and we can’t let him cause any more harm to the Matoran.”
As much as it pained Knichou to show Stannis his anger, he continued to look into the Toa Maru's achromatic eyes with frustration.
”He can’t be controlled or predicted. Better to let the League crumble - Aurax won’t make it any easier to defeat a Barraki if we need to do it again.“
“I know what he did,” Stannis said. “I know the extents of his duplicity and malcontentment. Do you know where he went after he was ousted from the Nynrah Ghosts?” A shake of Knichou’s head confirmed he did not. “He came to one of the few places in the Universe he could have a fresh start at and be welcomed as whatever he was, regardless of the baggage he carried. He came, of course, to Maru Nui.”
Stannis then gave the longer side of the story. He told the tale of a refugee washing up on the shores of an island paradise and how he adapted to a much slower way of life, always shyly staying at the fringes but always tinkering with things and devices, and while he seemed calm and traumatized at first glance he was clearly hiding something much more from his new friends.
He described how Aurax’s skills at engineering were at first used minorly but soon were applied to larger projects as the refugee wanted to make things bigger, better, and more monumental. His successes happened one after another, but when he looked for praise and glory there was none to be given—it was not the way of Maru Nui’s people, Stannis clarified. They were near-monastic, simple villagers who believed in something larger than anything they could comprehend, and feats of material engineering—though they offered many beneficial luxuries—were not as highly valued as simple humility and faith. Aurax’s frustration had grown immensely once he realized this, which Stannis had taken note of, and he went on to tell the group of how the former Ghost, in an attempt at securing his own physical ascension to something ever more than what he was and fueled by sensations of jealousy and hypocrisy, absconded from Maru Nui with one of Stannis’ team’s toa stones as soon as the Wanderer was not around to safeguard them.
The betrayal had been expected, Stannis admitted, though nevertheless regrettable. After that point Aurax went to the League to strike a different fortune heist there, only this time he was being watched by a certain once-friend who made certain his campaigns were stifled and recklessness made a liability to the League.
“When he came to me and asked for my help to overthrow Pridak I could not say no. This was what I anticipated him to eventually want to do, and I was the specter of his past he both deeply admired and loathed enough to ally with for the dread attack on Lord Pridak. I joined, and once his apotheosis to kingship was all but secured, I made him swear an oath that cannot be broken, nor can he betray me anymore. He is a fearful man, afraid above all of not having a legacy to be remembered by. He is not good!” he asserted forcibly, not wanting his words to be misconstrued as sympathetic, and then sighed. “It is a deep irony and a testament to his failures that he came to the one place in the Realms that does not care about a person’s legacy.”
Knichou sat still as the wanderer spoke. He admittedly did not know much about Aurax’s doings after his betrayal, and was curious what exactly the traitor had been up to after he and Knichou were sentenced as excommunicado. Both Nynrans went to faraway islands, made a minor name for themselves, became Toa, and joined the war one way or another. Knichou earned his powers, Aurax stole them. Funny how a Toa stone was key in Aurax’s betrayals both times... if a Toa stone was used in Pridak’s assassination, it would truly cement that cycle.
IC: Vulimai (Kini-Nui, Stannis' 'Office')
After a few moments of silently processing the story, the engineer was still unconvinced. He glanced around the group, then spoke. “I doubt there’s an oath Aurax wouldn’t stoop to breaking.”
“I did not say he would not, I said he cannot. This oath is tied by cords of magic,” Stannis said.
Knichou slightly tilted his head to one side, confused at the clarification. “Is this something your Kanohi can do? I’ve never heard of such a power.” The Haonga was a pathway to many abilities, both natural and arcane, and the Toa of iron was no expert on its limits. The prospect of a power to create and enforce a vow that sets limits on someone’s free will was as intriguing as it was frightening.
“No,” Stannis reminded with a shake of his head and a kind elderly smile. “Magic is simply what we call forces we can’t understand yet, and if I tried to explain it to you now it would sound like malarkey. I am a Wizard, brother Knichou, and that is all there is to it... for right now.”
Ever the researcher, Knichou was frustrated at the lack of detail, but he didn’t have any doubts in the wizard’s knowledge of history and magic. If Stannis, the bane of the barraki, promised Aurax was unable to break his peace with the refugees, then it must be so, even if the ex-Ghost didn’t know how. After a few moments, he made a resigned nod and accepted the explanation (or lack thereof).
“So be it... brother Stannis.”
Brother? That wasn’t a word Knichou had used often, and it felt to the Toa as if he was speaking an alien language as it left his lips. All his ‘brothers’ had long since been compelled to reject him, and had since become victims of the war. Even after becoming a Toa, while greeting each other as siblings was… classical, it felt wrong to Knichou. Supposedly it originated as a sign of the unity between Toa, but those days were hard to remember now, after so many Toa teams achieved split apart over the millennia. To Knichou, it felt wrong, like he was comparing himself, a young and inexperienced Toa, as an equal to ancient legends like Stannis or experienced peacekeepers like Nale.
Nale herself stayed silent as the others spoke, only exchanging tense glances at either Toa when they were talking. All of her knowledge of Aurax was entirely secondhand--she didn’t even know what the Su-Toa looked like, even what Kanohi he wore, and yet now she was hearing his life story from Stannis. She placed a comforting hand on Knichou’s shoulder, as if it was some kind of reminder she still supported “his side” when it came to Aurax. Whatever that meant. Their adaptive armor melded and her hand could feel the Toa of iron’s body underneath. As the conversation continued, Knichou’s other arm crept upwards until his hand could rest on top of hers.
If the oath was magical, as Stannis asserted, just how strong was his magic?
“So... what path did fate take you on after Aurax gained the throne? Where have you been the past month?”
Stannis then told his tale; of how the battle against Pridak had been successful but had left him drained and injured and he needed to heal himself before leaving Metru Nui. Knowing the city would begin to succumb to the entropy of the sandy banks it rested upon he forged onward into the depths of the Archives to where he was headed all that time ago when he first made acquaintance with Nale and Knichou. While there, he encountered another of Dume’s toa, Korruhn, who had seen better days himself. Together, they fled from the city through Ko-Metru, where they took the airship behind them from the Cartographer Guild’s garage.
In order to better help both he and Korruhn heal from whatever ailments they still suffered, Stannis said, they went in search of a mystical herb that could treat any injury. Their quest went north, to the barren wastes of Xa, where they found what they were after but became the captives of the Warskak tribe that dwelled there. They were undergoing a dramatic change in leadership, it seemed, and events there were chaotic as a new pecking order was taking position within their fortress. At some point Korruhn was taken away from Stannis’ presence and he had not been seen since, and it was not for a while later that Stannis was able to befriend two members of the tribe who were not direct bannermen under Barius.
He spoke of how he was finally able to free himself with their help and regained his airship just in time to prevent a conflict between the Warskaks and the people of Metru-Koro—surely they had noticed the newly carved river up north—and then went in search of the Matoran. When they were no longer in the shadow of the Ark’s head, he went to his next objective, the Kini-Nui, and happened to find his friends were there.
“And that’s the story of how I came to be here,” he finished.
Vulimai piped up, having listened to all that Stannis had to say upon both Aurax and of his own travels. “To prevent conflict between the Warskaks and us. Were they planning on attacking Metru-Koro soon, and what of Tobduk-Koro, are they in danger?” Though she asked one of the more obvious questions Stannis could have imagined being asked at that moment, there were also other questions that lingered in the Vo-Matoran’s mind. What was the exact details of this oath that Stannis made Aurax commit too, and what did it give the Toa King? How did he escape the fortress in the north, and who were these other two who helped him escape? And perhaps most curious of all, what did Stannis mean when he said realms, and how did he seemingly know so much about it?
“I do not know about this Tobduk-Koro. Are they a splintered faction?” he asked, honestly unaware of the village’s existence. “But, rest, Akiri—I would not be concerned about it falling to the Warskaks because they are presently hampered and not moving quickly. They had some intentions of conquest as their new leader was eager to flex his might, though I believe it is quelled at the moment and safeguards are in place.”
“Tobduk-Koro is what the surviving residents of Po-Koro renamed their settlement, not long after the Skakdi attacked. The last time we met before now, if you’ll recall,” Nale clarified. She recalled the brief disagreement she and Stannis had, over the oral history the latter shared on the Taku’s bridge at the time. “They’ve relocated, like we have.”
“Does Kanohi still live?” Stannis asked abruptly, a brief flash of concern on his face as he lurched forward in alarm. He regretted not staying longer in Po-Koro when he was there, perhaps he would have been able to defend the place against the burgeoning threats of the wild around them, but knowledge only ever went so far without being properly applied. He hoped he’d at least given enough to not overwhelm the brave Matoran, and that they were able to relocate in relative safety without the interference of Shagrak or more passing Skakdi raids.
“Uh… Yes, Councilor Kanohi still lives. He runs Tobduk-Koro alongside his fellow Councilor Nu-8020. We have established contact with as well as trade with Tobduk-Koro through the use of the portals that have opened around Kini-Nui.” Shifting in her spot, though remaining seated, Vulimai pointed towards one of the two portals that circled the lake of Kini-Nui before turning back towards Stannis. “But back onto the topic at hand, you said there are safeguards in place. Would these safeguard be akin to the ones with Aurax?”
“Good, I would like to see Kanohi soon,” Stannis resolved and settled back into a position of repose.
“I’m sure he’d be happy to see you again,” Nale replied, a slight smile forming on her Kakama.
“Now all we need is to find Arkius again, and it’ll be just like old times.” Knichou joked. Someone had to lighten the mood after discussing such serious matters. “Huh… Onu-Metru feels longer ago than it really was…” His eyes darted between Nale and Stannis. “Funny how that works.”
Looking towards the three Toa, Vulimai noted Knichou’s attempt at humor and the nostalgic look that filled his gaze, but now was not the time for casual talk of days of old. This was a meeting for business and serious discussion. Letting out a short cough to catch Stannis’ attention once more, Vulimai reiterated her question. “Yes, it is funny how that works. But Stannis, what safeguards are there amongst the Skakdi?”
“Destiny often works in mysterious ways…” Stannis sighed. “Sorry, where were we, Akiri? Ah, yes. The safeguards. The Warskak safeguards. The safeguards specifically against the Warskaks. Yes, they’re in place.”
A short pregnant silence ensued as Vulimai drilled holes of expectant irritation at the wizard, which he simply smiled at in turn with a slight mischievous smirk punctuating the awkwardness at the end. Knichou, who could never resist partaking in, creating, or otherwise abetting a situation that poked fun at Vulimai’s military inflexibility, had a smile growing on his face, despite wanting to know the details as much as the guard’s Captain. Nale let out a chuckle, before restoring herself to a more serious expression upon her optics switching to the Matoran
“I was not asleep while in the custody of the Warskaks, Vulimai, and I spent what energy I could on spying on their capabilities and tactics. Before I left, I made sure to have companions in their midst. If the Warskaks were to be on a warpath again, I would know… and so would you all.”
Stannis was clearly confident in his network of confidants, to a surprising degree. The old Toa had millennia of practice, and apparently that was paying off in droves. Knichou wondered; was there anything the wanderer didn’t know?
OOC: Last part of a (lengthy) jam between me, @BULiK, @Sparticus147, and @EmperorWhenua. Had a lot fun writing with you guys!
IC: Nale, Knichou, Vulimai, Stannis - Kini-Koro (Stannis' "Office")
“So you’ve catalogued the threats to the west and northeast.... but what about our southern neighbors, or the underground natives? Have you learned anything else about this island or it’s inhabitants that we can factor into our planning?”
“I do not know much about the Mesi who dwell beneath the earth,” Stannis said. He wagered they were the spawn of Spiriah’s power, though sharing that knowledge would leave only more questions than answers from his friends, and was not worth telling at that time. “As for the southern neighbors, do you speak of the Aspects of Makuta or the dangers of the Swamp itself?”
“From what I remember you saying about your previous journey, both are equally important to be wary of.”
“Well...I think this concern towards the Aspects as a whole...may not be as unanimous as you believe.” Vulimai half-muttered as she placed a hand against the side of her mask, its once sea-blue transparent color now a smokey black. The mask was deathly cold to the touch.
“They have odd customs, but Whisper has become part of the village, now,” Nale said. She looked to Knichou for affirmation, who begrudgingly nodded towards her in agreement. As strange as her powers and rites were, Whisper had kept up her end of the bargain, and there hadn’t been reports of worrying side effects. Some matoran really enjoyed the empowerment it offered. Knichou understood the sentiment, though the methods behind it were unusual to the engineer. Killing to create life seemed barbaric to the ex-Ghost when there were technological alternatives that were far less permanent.
“Perhaps the Aspects are not to be too concerned about.”
Stannis’ face darkened at the sight of Vulimai’s corrupted Kanohi and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously in wonder of who had done the deed, a question almost immediately afterward answered by Nale, before Stannis nodded slowly in understanding. “That depends on the Aspect,” he said. “They are beings of Shadow. You remember what I said when I spoke of Shadow’s traits, do you not, Sister Nale?” he said, harkening back to the aforementioned discussion they’d had aboard the Taku.
“Deceitful, untruthful, yeah, we remember,” Knichou interrupted, standing up for Nale’s views by beginning to hurriedly recite Stannis’s warnings. “Very… Auraxian, if you will,” he continued, coining a strange new term.
“Maybe you’d feel better if you cast your spell on Whisper?”
The elder toa shook his head mildly. He was a warmage, not a veritamancer, also making up a strange new term in his head. “Shadow is not evil, but it should never be taken at face value. If some of you, such as Vulimai, were indeed affected by that Aspect, Whisper, I should only hope you were given all the knowledge you needed and that the choice was made freely.”
Nale could feel a tension behind her heartlight as Stannis spoke. “Whisper is not some trickster, Brother Stannis,” she replied. Knichou looked to Nale and nodded in affirmation.
“And perhaps not,” Stannis said quickly. “Tell me about Whisper, then. Tell me about your fortunes since we last spoke.” He was eager to know more about what had befallen his friends and companions, the good, the bad, and the (he glanced at Vulimai’s face) ugly.
Knichou glanced towards Nale. A lot had happened since either had spoken with Stannis. Where to begin? The first attack? The second, much less memorable attack? His Kanohi? San’s death? Datrox’s funeral? Him and Nal-
“Well…” he began, quickly trailing off as his train of thought derailed.
Vulimai was quick to pick up after Knichou, a hardness in her words, being brought upon by Stannis’ condemnation. “Turaga Sans is dead. He died in the bombing, apparently trying to take down one of the airships. He was buried with the other Matoran who died during the attack...And who still had remains to bury,” Vulimai cast her gaze down for a brief moment as the memories of the bodies lurked in her mind before continuing once more, “I then took command of the village and decided to move the populace here to Kini-Nui, after word came to us from Oreius about Tobduk-Koro and the portals. Making our way south to one of the ruins, we came across Toa Leklo, who seemingly was exposed to a device within the ruins called NUVA that had opened a portal to here. Beyond that, Toa Knichou here has been assisting with the rebuilding with the Mask of Creation and trade has been going well between us, Tobduk-Koro, and Po-Kou, the outpost I had assigned to watch over the Ice Ruin’s portal and the small group of Matoran who have fallen under some disease that has transformed them into Rahi.”
“Oh, and also, I called for volunteers amongst the Matoran to have their Kanohi infected by Whisper after striking a deal with her, with myself being the first. Anything I missed?” Vulimai asked, looking towards Nale and Knichou. The Toa of iron raised his index finger up in the air as if he had something to add, then looked towards the sky, and his posture slooped as he realized she had covered pretty much everything relevant to Stannis.
The Toa of Magnetism’s optics had gradually lowered to her boots as Vulimai spoke, now reminded of the weight of the past events that had led to this reunion. “...Knichou and I sleep in the same bed now.” Those same icy blue optics then widened as she realized what she had said. “Room. Quarters. We commandeer the ship together, now.” Nice save, Vella.
Knichou’s head turned, his optics snapping towards Nale and widening in surprise. Oh cool she’s actually that comfortable saying it out lou- yeah you know what maybe now’s not the best time to bring it up to the old man okay cool think knichou think. As the former Toa Rode corrected herself, the ex-Ghost chipped in.
“W-we uh, we had to split up during the battle to disable different League airships, and I was knocked out overnight from pure exhaustion. First time I used the mask, quite the way to learn, while falling from the sky. Vulimai kept me from drowning in the sea, but while I was missing in action, sis-Toa Nale kept everyone together and proved herself as a decisive Captain, cleaning up the aftermath and coming to the village’s aid when the Mesi attacked. She’s been on the Taku since practically the beginning, it was only natural for her to run the ship in my absence, and to assist with it’s command even after I returned.”
Knichou slowly took a breath after that ramble, optics dashing between everyone in the ‘office’, hoping he had properly navigated that minefield.
Nale smiled at the Fe-Toa, appreciating his help in obstructing the truth for a moment and feeling...humbled by how he described her. Knowing, however, that this combined with her slip-up earlier Stannis would certainly catch on (the old man was no fool), she looked away towards the Taku. “That ship is my life now, you might say.”
Knichou looked back at the ship with Nale. “Yeah... that ship is something all right. Hard to think of what it’d be like without her by my side, through thick and thin. I’ve given her some love and some upgrades, but nothing I can build could ever replace her spirit, overcome her strength, or pay her back for saving my ### so many times.”
He turned back towards the others in the ‘office’, realizing he really should stop going on with what had accidentally become a metaphor and start changing the subject.
“Who’d have thought investing in a mobile home would be this forward-thinking?”
Vulimai smiled at the bout of awkwardness between Nale and Knichou. Though she appreciated all the work the two have done, especially Knichou, she enjoyed watching him squirm more...Oh no, am I turning into a drill sergeant now? Feeding off of the pain of others?
“Indeed,” Stannis said. He looked between the two toa and flashed a satisfied smile at them. “Unity truly is a virtue, isn’t it?”
IC: Marrow - Irnakk's Tooth
Down and down he descended, doubts and dread trying ever harder to drown him the deeper he went. He could hear the whispers and screams of those he'd failed, feel the cold clawing hands of his fallen followers. In his mind's eye he could still see their faces, more vividly than he'd ever known them in life, pallid and bloody as they each breathed their last.
They wanted him. And he wanted to be with them.
He was tempted. Tempted to let go, to let them carry him off to eternal peace and rest. Millenia of friends and family, losses and lovers, all waiting to reunite with him... it hurt to walk past them, to leave them behind in the dark, in death just as he had in life. But he had to, and he did.
After all of the death and loss, he couldn't allow it to all be for nothing. He owed it to those who had died, and for all those Mesi who still lived.
So down and down he continued, until he left the wraiths and shadows behind, and reached the haggard cavern where Nektann had perished, and the Tahtorak had risen in his place. "Hello?" He called out into the empty space, to the entity he knew lurked somewhere in this accursed mountain, "I speak to the presence that... resides here. Are you willing to talk with me?"
IC: Vulimai (Kini-Nui, By the Taku)
Standing up, Vulimai dusted herself off as she looked towards the three other seated individuals. "Well, I believe that is all there is to discuss at the moment. You all do as you will. Toa Stannis, welcome to Kini-Koro." She said as she began to walk off towards the nearby hills, where Kini-Koro was built upon.
Nearing the settlement, Vulimai signaled towards one of the two guards at the gate and informed them to let the village know that it was a false alarm and that Toa Stannis has arrived. As the guard did a quick salute, they dutifully ran off to spread the word as the other guard was informed to take her place at the watchtower. With those two Matoran off, Vulimai began to make her way along the outer perimeter of Kini-Koro, tracing where she would've hoped for a wall to eventually to be built in the future.
As she walked, looking between the tree line and the village, Vulimai caught sight of a familiar sight, the robed figure of Iradra. Approaching the Av-Toa, Vulimai called up to them, "Toa Iradra, how have you been settling in?"
IC: Iradra - Kini-Nui Settlement
Iradra's serene expression remained on her marred features as she looked away from the valley and down to the approaching Vulimai. "About as well as could be expected. Are we receiving visitors, then?"
IC, Whira: Kumu Peninsula
The Aspect nodded. "My goal is to find a source of the substance and collect a small sample of it. I will not be taking any unnecessary risks with it."
She looked around. "My companion and I have come from this direction," she said, gesturing off to one side. "I assume you found no energized protodermis in the direction from which you came. Since we have not seen your companions, I suggest we go this way." Whira pointed to a different direction that none of them had explored yet.
IC: Vulimai (Kini-Koro)
Reaching Iradra, Vulimai stood a polite distance away as she addressed the Toa. "Yes, it seems the Toa Stannis has found his way here to Kini-Koro. How have the Matoran who come to you been looking? I hear most things that happen around here but I'm curious if there are any safety concerns that I've been missing."
IC: Nuju | Kini-Nui
"Ostrox, you ask me every day and I have nothing new today. I remember nothing after descending beneath Ko-Metru with the zyglak. We went down, I died, I found myself in the Far Shore. There must have been something specific about my death that led to such an outcome, but I can't remember the details. I think I was busy dying. The Far Shore is a place where the multiverse is in constant fluctuation. I cannot leave this place, as that stone," Nuju pointed at the Makoki Stone placed into the appropriate depression in the center of the wall filling the mouth of a massive kaita skull, "is what has aligned the Far Shore with the Time Between Time. There are untold treasures ripe for the taking in the Far Shore, and somewhere there is a makoki stone. There must be! I've narrowed down the stone's possible location in two timelines. Now, before you all arrived to build Kini-Koro, two have gone in through the portal to seek this stone. Are you planning on joining them?"
It was at that moment Sidra NUVA arrived, slipping into the conversation before Ostroxx got a chance to reply. Nuju blinked, having met so many new beings he almost forgot Sidra NUVA's name. A small smile passed across his face as he remembered.
"Ah, Sidra. It's good to see you again. How long has it been, three weeks? A month? I assume you've been busy. Forgive me, have you two met? Ostrox, this is Sidra. Sidra, this is Ostrox."
IC: Reliable Narrator | Relic Fields
The vortixx found the place quiet, too quiet. How long had it been since she heard birdsong? Her immediate eerie surroundings echoed Metru-Nui, but something about the scale felt off. As a vortixx, Niidak found buildings designed for matoran often far too small. The ceilings left her perpetually unable to stand up, and prior business trips to Metru-Nui often came with back pain as a souvenir. However, in the ruined knowledge towers dotting the Relic Fields she could reach above her head standing tall without so much as brushing the ceiling. The most she could do was bat playfully at the vining plants dangling just in reach.
Time passed, or maybe it didn't and that was the problem, and finally Niidak discovered something recent: a bloody handprint. The silver protodermis blood glittered on an icy wall, still wet. Looking around Niidak could see the silver bloody outline of footprints heading up a staircase deeper into the knowledge tower ruin. The footprint looked to be a toa, or some other being of similar design. It was only then, as she stood at the bottom of the flight of stairs that ascended towards an automatic door stuck halfway open, that she heard the echo of someone breathing heavily and in pain.
OOC: @Daniel the FinlanderFinlander, yeah you got the idea.
IC Stannis | Kini-Koro border
Vulimai left Stannis' office quickly and curtly, exactly as what he'd expect from the experienced guard. She was not about nonsense in Sans' presence, either, and with him out of the picture...
He briefly entertained a thought of a sigh in relief that the old coot had croaked at last. "Warmage" moniker or not, Stannis hated war, and while Sans was a good elder in peacetime he had quickly made it clear he was a warmonger in times of strife. The League's conflict had all but ended when Mata Nui's head collided with the planet, yet Sans would have kept it going long after if he had his way. Sans would have met his terminus eventually, though Stannis would have hoped to have persuaded his course in a more amenable fashion, forcibly and magically if it was needed. As it was, Sans' demise was an ill-gotten good thing; death was never decent, though the Matoran refugees were better for it.
Things had changed, indeed.
"Knichou, I could use your help with this thing again," he said to his friend again, thumbing at the airship behind him as he did. "If there is nothing too pressing for you at the moment, stay with me for a moment longer."
IC: Iradra - Kini-Nui Settlement
"Nothing too out of the ordinary considering the circumstances, I'd say. The occasional and unavoidable accident happens, and I've had to deal with a broken bone or a few, or in the worst cases some grizzly gashes where chunks are missing, but each of those injuries has been mended with time and care. How fares Stannis, by the way? Any news from elsewhere on the island?"
IC: Sidra - Kini-Nui
"Hi," she said absently, glancing at the other being for a few moments. Given his species and scarred visage, it was a safe bet that this Ostrox was a current or former member of the League of Six Kingdoms. Either the Matoran were accepting turncoats, or some kind of formal peace had finally been established between the two factions. It was another reminder that the rest of the island hadn't been stagnant while she'd been off adventuring. I wonder what else I've missed?
That was a matter for another time.
"Last time I was here, Sorilax opened his mind to me, showed me the things you told him," she said, turning back to Nuju, "You spoke to him and Sala of this world being shattered, of us just being echoes, and our true selves being somewhere beyond. I'd love to reject it and call you crazy, but you're not the first person I've met who's said something like that."
IC Kilo-M9 - Ruins of Earth
Scanning for unusual wording on walls. No words detected. Ceiling similarly empty.
Barrier on exit has not formed yet. Puzzles will likely begin in next room.
Preparing for possible skakdi encounters.
As its allies discussed the nutritional situation, the mechanical enforcer was busy scanning the walls, eyes lit up brighter than normal to increase visibility. After a brief glance at everything, the machine turned back to the group.
“This unit assumed Ally Katrin’s dietary decisions were a personal choice,” the construct observed. “Regardless, this unit recommends progressing.” So saying, the machine proceeded forward into the next room.
IC: Knichou, Kini-Koro Hillside
Knichou looked back to Nale with a slight shrug for a moment as he answered Stannis. "Yeah... nothing too pressing, I can help you out..."
He pressed a button on his forearm, transmitting his voice to the Taku's intercom so the crew on board could hear it.
"Navu, can you bring a few levitation Kanoka from the armory out here? The armory key is in the top drawer of my desk in my office."
Releasing the button, he turned back to Stannis.
"Any problems in particular?"
OOC: @Toru Nui
IC: Niidak (Relic Fields)
An injured person wasn't exactly what Niidak was expecting to find in the seemingly abandoned and uninhabited ruins. At first she was immediately skeptical, suspecting it to be a trap. How likely was it to find a fresh bloodstain just as she was exploring the ruins all alone, and to hear pained sounds coming from a room which she couldn't see? Not to mention that the room had to be reached via a stairway. Why would an injured person walk up the stairs and force themselves through a half-open door? Clearly it was just a ploy to make escape more difficult.
Yet there was another voice inside her head besides the cynical one. The optimist reasoned that if there really was a hurt invididual in need of rescue, they would be in great debt if she would save their life. And if they were familiar with the ruins, perhaps they could show her the location of valuable scrap or even artifacts? There was potential profit in the situation, so she couldn't simply leave. Rather, she would take the risk and investigate.
She placed her right hand on the handle of her sheathed dagger, took a deep breath and ascended the stairs. Once she reached the top, she peered inside the doorway, looking for the mysterious wounded individual.
OOC: @Unreliable Narrator
IC: Korruhn, Kumu Peninsula
The being before Korruhn bore the stubbornness of a pack mule, and a poor attitude, to boot. He was flustered, on edge. Perhaps in a hurry? Perhaps frustrated? No matter. Korruhn was enjoying himself. He chuckled a deep, hearty laugh from his diaphragm as the creature retorted angrily.
"I mean, it seems like this is true," Korruhn replied, agreeing with the beasts' statement about Korruhn being more knowledgeable. "If you did possess as much knowledge as me on the subject, you wouldn't be asking me where the Aspects are. I can name the locations of at least two on Zakaz, right now. What have you got?" Korruhn smirked.
"It doesn't matter to you why I'm here," Korruhn said. "I'm not an Aspect, nor do I come here seeking audience with one. Now. Why do you come seeking the Aspects in the first place?"
OOC: @Unreliable Narrator @Toru Nui
IC: Tekmo (Kumu Peninsula) - Into the Black and White
"Naturally." Tekmo took point towards the direction Whira indicated. "Blagh, confound this infernal gale..."
IC: Waveahk (Kumu Peninsula, Korruhn’s Campfire) - I Need a Drink
Waveahk continued to display nothing but calm contempt. "One small correction, if I may: I didn’t ask you where the Aspects are. I asked for information, and you said you know the locations of two of them. A high number, indeed. I admit, you might know more about them than I do, but you’re not being very forthcoming with answers that can prove this."
He then began drinking out of one of his gourds for a while, the tentacles around his face writhing oddly as he did so, before he returned it to his belt. "Hmm, needs more salt... but to answer your questions, I am here to investigate the area known as the Kumu Islets - though not islets anymore, it seems - to assess the probable threat level the Aspects possess to the settlement of Metru-Koro, as well as discover more about their history, culture, politics, biology, abilities. You know, standard recon."
IC: Ostrox (Kini-Koro, Far Shore Rift) - My Shield Is Disgust
Evidently, Nuju’s quantum predicament could not protect him from Mata Nui’s influence, as there was no reference of that feculent wretch Mazor. Ostrox wasn’t sure what this 'Sidra' was talking about, but it sounded bad. The frosting on this cake of doom and misery.
As Sidra interrupted his unimportant little jaunt to save the universe, he stared into the gaping wound of reality. Was this treasure the Matoran spoke off nothing more than worthless gold and jewels? Or something more?
IC: Navu (Kini-Koro, The Taku, Cargo Bay) - Oh Captain, My Captain
Navu winced as the intercom crackled to life, piercing her ears, and then faded once Knichou’s instructions were complete. But she did as instructed, heading to his office to retrieve the key...
IC: The Taku, Kini-Koro Hillside
Navu turned the wheel to unlock the bulkhead's door and subsequently entered the office.
It was a cramped room primarily occupied by a long sheet metal desk. To her left was a door leading to Knichou and Nale's quarters, and to her right was a door leading to a tiny washroom. The desk had two sides - to Navu's left, the desk was cluttered with various tools, tablets, and machinery, with a golden engraved nameplate that said Commander Knichou. The side of the desk to Navu's right, however, was much more spartan, having only a similar nameplate marked Captain Vella. Behind the double desk were two chairs, and inside of it were an array of drawers.
IC: Navu (Kini-Koro, The Taku, Command Quarters) - Oh Commander, My Commander
It was quiet in here. Navu liked that. She searched the top drawer for the armoury key, as per Knichou’s instructions. Oh, wait, that was Commander Knichou, as the golden nameplate reminded her. She rolled her eyes. Where did he even get the gold from, anyway?
IC: The Taku, Kini-Koro Hillside
The top drawer was as much of a mess as Knichou's desktop, filled with various papers, some writing utensils, a strange scrapbook, and an iStone. Inside the pile of objects was a keychain with several metal keys attached, one clearly labelled Armory.
4 hours ago, BULiK said:
IC: Knichou, Kini-Koro Hillside
"Any problems in particular?"
IC Stannis | Kini-Koro-ish
"Yes, well, as you can see my landing gear is incomplete," he said. He drew Knichou's attention to the tripod gears which were decidedly not a tripod at the moment, instead being a mere two prongs that dug into the hillside, like a pair of chopsticks unceremoniously stabbed into a dumpling in desperate confounding effort to simply be done with the delicate task of using them. By sheer random luck the airship had come to rest on a slope that almost exactly offset the otherwise untenable slant of the airship's lurch had it come to rest on level, solid ground. "There was some trial and error previously, but all the dials were confusing and it turned out to be mostly error on the part of the pilot."
Stannis had actually attempted to remedy the damage done in his crash near Fort Nektann a month prior, but truth be told, heavy stone—regardless of how finely manipulated or assuredly constructed—held no candle to lightweight corrugated dermisteel and properly engineered pylons, decidedly the areas of expertise of ironworkers and engineers alike and vocations Stannis had no business attempting to replicate. His granite solution fell off as soon as he took off.
"So I suppose the problems I need help with are that," he gestured at the landing gear again, then touched his head, "... and this."
IC: Navu (Kini-Koro, The Taku, Command Quarters) - Sneak Skill
Navu took the key - but the scrapbook held her interest. She decided to briefly flick through it. What latest weapon did the Supreme High Commander have in mind for his cargo ship, she wondered.
IC: Vulimai (Kini-Koro)
"Gashes? Are we having to deal with Rahi attacks or is it simply the hunters? And as for Toa Stannis, he seems to have faired well on his own. He apparently has set up some form of contact within the Warskak to the north."
IC: Korruhn, Kumu Peninsula
"Astute observation," Korruhn replied. Grime, and Miserix, still sat silent beside Korruhn, fiddling with the strings of their instrument. The gentle plucks could not be heard over the howling wind that blew the fire aggressively toward the gap between temple structures. "You seem keen enough to understand that it does me no good to show my hand to the one who sits across the table."
Korruhn paused a moment, reflecting on Metru-Koro. From the first posts going into the ground, to the same posts burning back to that very ground, League ships above. Peace talks. Capitulation. Sans, Ultan, Leklo, all of those who made Metru-Koro his home, gone. All that was left there among the ruins were coward and fools. No friends of his.
"Metru-Koro?" Korruhn's laughter boomed, although muffled to a low roar with the wind. He was aloof, and his posture showed it. "You don't look like their type; must be a recent recruit. Gotta fill the boots of all those dead men, I guess. Last I heard, they were having a scuffle with the League. Interesting that you've seemingly turned your attention elsewhere."
IC: Waveahk (Kumu Peninsula, Korruhn’s Campfire) - Cursed Are the Peacemakers
"'New recruit'. Why not? Let’s go with that. The 'scuffle' - as you call it - with the League is over. For good, hopefully. Before I began my journey here, the one called Stannis aided a traitor within the Kingdoms assassinate Pridak and seize control, ending the war, and allowing me to get on with this, as per the late Turaga's instructions... I must say, you’ve surprised me. I don’t think I’ve seen a non-League Toa treat the thought of his people dying with such... flippancy."
IC: Korruhn, Kumu Peninsula
"My people? Ha! If they were my people, would it not be peculiar for me to be here, instead of there? Those "people" don't know who they are; they lost that the minute they set foot here. No firm leadership, no progress. Karz, they even capitulated to the very barbarians who decollated their God and married their home with wrack and ruin. I am the only one of my people, as far as I'm concerned." Very curious, Korruhn thought, to hear mention of his friend Stannis once again. Killing Pridak, no less? Shame Korruhn didn't get to do that himself. No matter. The irony that this hapless creature had spent time standing next to one of the very beings he now seeks was not lost on Korruhn.
"How did you come to be entangled with the merry band, anyhow? They're as much your people as they are mine."
IC: Grime | Kumu Peninsula
Grime stopped playing music at Waveahk's request. The squeezebox drooped between his hands as his elbows rested on his knees. He had nothing to add, and let the two warriors duel with their words.
IC: Knichou, Kini-Koro Hillside
Knichou looked at where the landing gear used to be. As it turns out, he hadn't noticed the damage when he was hurtling towards the Ambling Alp at high speed.
"Well, we can solve both of these problems at once. Navu will be here with the Kanoka in a few moments, but there's still enough fuel to do some test flight. We'll take off, then I'll get out of the ship and repair the landing gear while you hover, and then I'll guide you through the landing process."
He looked over his shoulder at Nale.
"Want to come along for the ride? Or would you prefer to wait until after he's proven he can land safely?"
Meanwhile, on the Taku, Navu looked through her 'commander's private documents. The scrapbook was completely unlabeled - after all, who besides Knichou would ever read it?
Inside were various blueprints, excerpts from documents, sketches, and half-abandoned to-do lists. Many of these made little sense to Navu, and some appeared to be snippets of official-looking documents written in some sort of language she couldn't recognize. Many sketches depicted observations through a microscope, drawn alongside lab notes from dozens of experiments on... raw protodermis? Apparently Knichou kept the excited scribbles of various old research breakthroughs instead of family photos.
There were sketches of armor designs for what felt like every situation, although one near the end was very clearly written by someone else, and using different technology. At the bottom of that page was a faded photograph of a Fe-Matoran with a blue kakama, a female Fe-Matoran, and a third figure posing beside some sort of contraption. The last matoran's face and torso had been burned off. Strange... maybe some accident with a lighter?
Navu continued to flip through the booklet. One page had a map of the matoran universe, with a path drawn on through various islands, ending at Artakha.
Fix the airship - ø
airship - ø (Taku)
Fly to Metru-Nui - ø
Meet with Nuparu - o
The De-Matoran turned more pages, and found drawing after drawing, of similar style to before but cruder, as if Knichou somehow had forgotten how to draw with precision. A Toa with a large rifle on her back, bravely facing down a squad of Vahki. Three Toa and two matoran, prepared for the end. A upside down pyramid in the desert. Two of the same Toa from before... saying goodbye and running off towards fires in the distance. Toa Knichou with the first three Toa, some sort of team? Next, the very first Toa sketched, but walking on a crutch. Next page... her again? This time it was the Toa Nale that Navu knew - a similar kakama-wearing figure to before, but with a spear instead of a rifle, blue accent coloring, and the telltale bucklers.
The next several pages were all drawings of the same subject, but in different poses and wearing different styles of armor. Her wearing a thick and sturdy exoframe, rocket launcher for an arm. Her prone, wielding an even larger rifle that rested on a bipod in front of her. Her flying with a jetpack. Several more wacky designs that Navu flipped past, trying to check if there was anything else in this booklet. Question marks dotted each page, along with various scribbled notes. It was clear that while a lot of thought had gone on into each design, but the author wasn't yet sure which was best.
IC: Triage - Ko-Pou Shelter
"I'll come with you," Triage answered Okuo, adjusting his satchel and moving towards the door. "I'd like to get to the bottom of this, and I can't do that by sitting around here waiting for a call on the radio from Knichou or something."
IC: Nale Vella - Kini-Koro Hillside
Nale stayed by Knichou's side as he served as Stannis' mechanic, finally giving her a good look at the ship the Po-Toa had arrived in. It was much different from the Taku in appearance and layout, and its body was mainly a nice greenish shade. Nowhere near as well-armed as her new home, save a lone energy gun, but it clearly served more as a transport to get the Wanderer around the island faster rather than defend a village. Which, considering how he wandered, and his tendency to just appear from place to place...did he really need a ship?
IC: Jutori - Earth Ruins
Upon seeing Kilo walk into the next room, Jutori followed, pulling out his sledgehammer from over his shoulder. Surely all there would be to these ruins were puzzles, but after their trek down here he knew he had to be prepared in case any of the Mesi had gone further than their camps to investigate the place themselves.
IC: Reliable Narrator | Kumu Peninsula
Apex and Morangad found themselves wondering if they’d stepped into another world as their feet touched upon the hexagonal rock formations of the Kumu Peninsula. Long shards of obsidian scattered the landscape, as if javelins thrown in some ancient war between the Great Spirits themselves now askew in the dirt. The whipping wind around them carried whispers, words of lost dreams and grand wishes failed. Apex could feel the melding of her own kind on the air, and Morangad could taste the bitter regret of each aspect’s loss with every breath he took. The sun did not shine here; clouds and fog obscured its light.
At last they heard the crackle of a fire, and Morangad felt the presence of four beings. They found three of them sitting around the fire: a blue monstrosity of a steltian turned sea creature, a hooded man vaguely resembling a toa with an arm dark as death, and a small dirty po-matoran with a rusty little squeezebox in his hands. Rising behind them were the walls of an ancient ruined shrine to an aspect of older times. Apex could not remember the being worshipped inside, but she could feel the religious fervor of many centuries and many supplicants clinging to the surrounding ruins. Just beyond the firelight Morangad and Apex also saw a door of obsidian. From where they stood at the bottom of several steps climbing upwards to the landing where the three travelers rested, Apex and Morangad could make out very little of what might be on the door, but both felt inexplicably drawn towards it.
IC: Knichou, Kini-Koro Hillside
"In that case... all aboard!" Knichou said, inviting the two other Toa inside the ship. He sat down in the co-pilot's seat but didn't press any buttons - he wanted to see what Stannis did to take off, get a better idea of just how much the old man knew about flying. At the same time, he wanted to be ready to take over if something did go wrong, and looked around the cockpit to reacquaint himself with its layout.
IC Stannis | Ambling Alp
The old man knew the foundations of flying well enough, it seemed. He ignited the engines, flipped a few switches, eased the throttle forward, and after only a little bit of scraping the hillside the Alp took a somewhat-graceful flight in a wide, slow loop.
"How do I hover?" he asked.
IC: Knichou, Kini-Koro hillside, The Ambling Alp
Knichou pointed to each of the two throttles on the control panel between them.
"Lower the main engine throttle, and move the levitation throttle in the center. Then the ship's computer will control the machinery to keep the right amount of weightlessness to keep it at altitude. This is an airship, you need to remember you can fly like a balloon instead of a bird - your thrusters aren't needed to stay in the air, only to push yourself along."
IC: Nale Vella - Ambling Alp (Kini-Koro Airspace)
IC Stannis | Ambling Alp
He did so, noticed the airship was indeed simply floating, and beamed with pride. "Well, hey!" he exclaimed.
"Now, how do I shoot the gun?"
IC: Nale Vella - Ambling Alp (Kini-Koro Airspace)
She was bracing herself against the ship's bulwark in case the Wanderer tried any fancier maneuevers. Despite her regrets, Stannis wasn't doing so bad. Upon hearing the Po-Toa ask about the gun, however, she gave Knichou a harsh look that seemed to say her current thoughts, Don't show him how to shoot the gun we're this close to the village please
IC: Knichou, Kini-Koro Hillside, the Ambling Alp
Knichou raised an eyebrow to Stannis. Didn't he just want to get it lan- well I suppose if he's going to be adventuring out there, I want him to know how to keep safe...
He looked around the control panel in front of them and found a switch labelled MASTER ARM. It had a translucent red safety cover that prevented it from being toggled on accidentally. Knichou lifted this up and flicked the switch on. A small bulb nearby lit up red, and a screen on the center of the dashboard hummed to life, showing a live camera feed from the weapon instead of a bland, pulsing radar This display boasted a digital overlay of a crosshair, and the corner of the screen showed various numbers that Stannis didn't need to know or understand, but a military pilot might care about. Some numbers changed, some didn't. Truly magical.
Knichou took hold of his joystick, which controlled the rotation of the ship. This joystick wasn't only used for pitch, yaw, and roll - there was a trigger, and on top, a thumbstick. Taking care to not move the joystick itself and flip the ship upside down, the engineer used his thumb to push the thumbstick, rotating the turret below the ship. The camera feed showed Knichou was correct in his assumptions.
The ex-Ghost let go of the stick and gave a chuckle, turning around to Nale as Stannis fiddled with the controls. "Heh, that's nea-"
He saw a forcefulness in her eyes he rarely had seen before, and the Toa sat deathly still, life draining from his face. Regardless of what Stannis might do, he had the feeling he just made a huge mistake.
IC: [Zataka - aboard the Tactical Panda, End of SKR/Beginning of timeskip]
The ‘Tactical Panda’ hung in the air, lazily sailing eastward, for the moment at least. Ahead, the sky was glowing in pastel orange and lavender hues as the sun got low, but the shadow of the great skull behind them created an eerie twilight. For miles around them, night had already fallen. Which was just as well, it obscured the thin smoke trailing from one of the engines.
Zataka leaned forward, over the railing and looked down to get a visual on the damage. A few sparks, mostly chipped paint. Nothing major the Skakdi wouldn’t be able to fix. Her eyes drifted back up, inevitably drawn again to head of the late great spirit, now sitting far lower than it had previously. The Titan's reaction to the sight ranged from slightly sad and worried to relieved and - all things considered - satisfied. They’d pulled it off - though luck had undoubtedly on their side for this little detour. As good as the execution of her plan had been, Zataka couldn’t deny that.
Yumiwak, the Zakazian Skakdi princess had taken a liking to her Cordak blaster (or Kordak, as it was occasionally spelled back home). For the titan, it had been a convenient sidearm. In a Skakdi’s hands, it appeared very much bigger. No surprise it had drawn the royalty’s eye. The problem was that Zataka had used all of the ammunition she’d had to defend herself against a night raiding party - a tribe known as Mesi, as she’d come to learn - shortly after arriving on this land, which left the Cordak a fantastically engineered paper weight. The refugees that had escaped the crash and were now trying to survive in the wilds had no means of producing more of the explosive rockets and Yumiwak’s base of operations - the Rig - had been laid waste by a Tahtorak under the control of a rival warlord. That left the ruined city of legends as the only currently viable source for more Cordak missiles. Yumiwak wanted them, Zataka knew where to get them. The question was how to get into the ruined city and out without starting a war with either the refugees or what was left of the league.
Yumiwak straight up refused to let Zataka talk to ‘her’ people, not even to gather intel. The Titan had caught on to the fact that the princess regarded her less as an ally and more as a...curious specimen to parade around, to put it as mildly as possible. Trophy prisoner to show her dominance was probably what she was going for - but that’s where her unstoppable force of will ran into the immovable object that was Zataka’s ego. The Titan would not bend the knee, but she had to play nice too. She was a leader as well - a leader of a people that were currently at best stranded in a headless robot in orbit, or at worst trapped there and either dead or dying any number of ways. She had to get back to them. And for that she needed to re-forge the broken Kanohi Olmak in her possession - something she had thus far managed to keep a secret. She needed to find a working forge - another reason to go to Metru-Nui. So if that meant giving up her gun and entering into this uneasy alliance with the Skakdi, so be it. But even so, convincing the Panda’s crew had been no easy task. They had no information on what to expect in the city, it’s condition after the fall as unfamiliar to the Titan as it was to the Skakdi. A tough sell for anyone.
“You should reconsider your stance. If we move fast enough, there will be little risk involved.” she’d tried again.
“There can be nothing good for us in that Head,” Yumiwak replied scornfully. It had all but decimated an entire coastline of Zakaz by it’s mere descent, and since then had spilled out mobs of thousands of riotous and deplorable matoranfolk. “Little risk is worse than no risk at all.”
“We still need the ammunition. The Rig is gone, so you lack the facilities and materials I’d need to make more. And between Metru-Nui and your fellow warlord’s strongholds, the former is by far the lesser of two evils. If I didn’t think the risk was worth it I wouldn’t have brought it up in the first place. A little risk now rather than a bigger risk later from being ill prepared.” Zataka replied, keeping her voice level as much as possible, though she couldn’t hide entirely how tired she was of belaboring the point.
It was true, Yumiwak knew, that the Warskaks were a far more… perhaps, antagonistic party. The Matoran seemed to be content doing what they did, keeping to their enclaves of refugees for the most part despite their sprawling about the land, but the threat of Nektann’s bands of warriors was a constant roving danger to all remaining Riggers. And she did need all the help she could get if she was to hope for any edge against him. Having a Tahtorak of her own was enough to even the odds, but she needed something more. And she’d already seen what that hand cannon was able to do in the first place.
“What are the risks, then?” she asked, a curious edge to her tone now.
Zataka went over the list in her mind. There was the overall state of the city, the flooding, the fact entire skyscrapers might topple at a moment's notice due to instability caused by the impact, to name a few. Not to mention whatever specimens had broken free and made it out of the archives in the aftermath. And that was just the environment. But they were not going anywhere near the archives or skyscrapers, and this ship was particularly suited to deal with the flooding, so the Titan merely said: “The city is most likely in the hands of the surviving ‘league of six kingdoms’, the faction that attacked the capital of our world to gain dominance. Now they dominate a graveyard. Depending how deeply entrenched they are by now, they may have taken control of what’s left of the Vahki - robotic enforcers.”
“Great,” Yumiwak said with an eyeroll, not liking the idea of enemies her psionic abilities would not be able to detect or counter. “Evil robot minions.” The fact that it was a city recently demolished by a civil war, though, was promising—warring factions were typically less attentive to the smaller incursions when focused on their known enemies, and were too likely to lick their wounds when the dust settled rather than stay on high alert. At least, that’s how they were on Zakaz, and there was little reason to think these Matoran were any different based on their own apparent barbarism.
“I want to know more about what we’ll be up against. This has to be a sure thing, because if anything happens to my ship or my people it will all be in vain and I am not letting everyone down when the stakes are this high.”
Eventually, they’d settled on two day’s observation from a safe distance to determine what kind of defenses they were dealing with. Two days they’d all spent taking turns at the telescupe, staring through the eye socket of Mata Nui. Until Korio had called out excitedly that something was happening.
They’d rushed over and Zataka saw that in fact, two things were happening in rapid succession:
Tiny points of light were erupting on the façade of the coliseum - there was a fight going on there! Which meant the city's defenders were probably occupied right now. The other important thing going on had probably done so ever since the head’s impact, but was impossible to miss now. Imperceptibly at first, but at last, with considerable speed: The GSR head, despite seemingly stable so far, had suffered the final consequence of its impact and, though it had taken quite some time, the ground had destabilized enough that it had started to sink. What was left of the city’s Metru were flooding.
Zataka had turned to Yumiwak once more then. “Last chance, princess.”
“Alright,” Yumiwak said reluctantly. A plan of action formed in her head—less a real plan than a set of principles that would come into play—as she finally pierced together the bits of information they’d gathered about the Head and it’s current occupants. The princess hated the Head and everything it represented, but she was hard-pressed to reject the boons it contained, or the quickly diminishing returns of its resources that could be used to benefit her people instead of wasted in murky mutating water.
“But we do this furtively, no outside attention. You lead the way, but the Panda and its crew will play by my rules,” she declared. “We’re all leaving the city on this ship.”
They’d waited until nightfall before making their run. The ship was running dark. No lights were on and all reflective surfaces had been covered as much as possible, so as to not give their presence away via any ill-timed reflection. Making their way in seemingly undetected, they landed on the border of Ga- and Ta-Metru. Ga-Metru had survived the impact the most and was a good place to land the ship, while Ta-Metru was where they might find the ammunition (and forge). The big complication was that an armory of the kind they needed wouldn’t be too far from a Vahki hive, for obvious security reasons.
Thanks to her experience in Dume’s office, Zataka had gained some rudimentary knowledge of the City and its security systems. With whatever had been going on at the coliseum, the Titan dared to assume the Metru that had been little more than molten slag even before the great spirit’s fall was low on the list of priorities and had little in the way of surveillance. So she’d told the Skakdi to grab rope and as many carrying bags as possible before leading them from the ‘Panda’ into the ruined streets. Zataka could tell Yumiwak was very much unhappy with this situation: Here she was, on the closest thing to ‘home turf’ as the titan had right now, depending on her to lead the group - possibly into a trap. For the record, the Titan had no such ideas in mind, but she couldn’t fault Yumiwak for being paranoid either. She knew she’d have the same doubts if their roles were reversed.
For the princess, it was an opportunity unlike any other to see what Zataka was capable of doing. She kept one eye on Zataka and the other on her surroundings, never too shy about her priorities and making sure her crew was safe. She was not comfortable surrendering command to the Titan, though as a leader she knew well as any that she had no business pretending to know what to expect in the supposed “City of Legends,” and so she ‘delegated,’ as it were.
The city itself looked like an odd array of magnificent technological achievements meshed with dilapidated remnants of previous iterations. Everything looked like it served a function, with emphasis made on efficiency over aesthetic, which may have suited the Matoran well enough though the mellowed display of art and culture in the architecture of the city tasted bland to Yumiwak’s senses, like a soup meant first to settle well in a spoon at the cost of being delicious to eat. It was all very dark, too, and covered with the beginning of mildew that crept over some of the lower surfaces in the dank capsule of the Head. Yumiwak felt the beginning pangs of a migraine forming.
Perhaps it was different when it was at its peak, she suffered to think, and maybe it was even beautiful before everything happened to it, but that was not a problem for her to endure. For the present, she simply hovered her hand around her carbine’s pommel and kept her guard up. They’d be out of there as soon as they’d gotten what they came for.
The distinct Vahki hive building was actually useful as a navigation landmark and allowed them to find their destination with relative ease despite the gradually flooding streets, and they soon found themselves standing outside a heavy gate. Warning chevrons were painted and signs were posted. ‘Authorized personnel only’. Using her prior knowledge, the Titan entered an appropriate code and the sound of warped bolts retracting could be heard.
The armory looked like it had been thoroughly tossed, despite the heavy locked gate. Crates once neatly stacked were scattered in massive piles as the water slowly began to flood this room as well. Results of the crash, once again. Zataka had moved from crate to crate, until finally making an ‘ah-ha’ exclamation and opening one, pulling out the bright red projectiles that they’d come to find - as well as another launcher, which the Titan took as a replacement for herself. It wasn’t quite as nice as the one Yumiwak now held, but as long as it was calibrated properly it would do just fine. She slung the launcher over her shoulder and they began to stock up on ammunition.
Then, their luck seemed to run out. Whether they had been spotted, or inadvertently tripped an alarm, none of them could say, but the sudden lights and sirens clearly meant something had gone wrong. They would have company soon.
“Looks like you get to test your new toy out a little sooner than planned.” was Zataka’s only comment. Internally however, she cursed the lost opportunity to go find an intact forge in Ta-Metru. Their resupply run had become a heist. Yumiwak was probably considering shooting her in the back for her trouble just then, but ultimately decided against it, keeping her larger plan in mind. They hurriedly picked up as many ammo crates as they dared to carry, before making their exit, feet now splashing as they moved over ground that could now be felt trembling as the massive skull sunk lower.
Back in the streets, they found themselves confronted by a Vahki patrol. Three Nuurahk units by the looks of it, though the Kanohi dangling around their necks were an odd new addition that Zataka had no time to figure out.
‘In the name of Barakki Aurax, surrender or run!’
Zataka remembered thinking ‘who in Karzhani is Aurax?’ before promptly opening fire in response. One patrol was no match for the Titan and Skakdi, but from then on, the return to the Panda became a race against time as the missing patrol drew the attention of forces previously occupied with the attack on the Coliseum. Their run was increasingly interrupted by brief, running exchanges of fire as they rushed back to the ship through increasingly impassable streets.
Somehow, it had all worked out, and the few scratches on the airship’s hull and minor engine damage were the only signs that something had not gone quite as planned. But they’d done it.
Zataka turned back to look at Yumiwak standing on deck. She doubted the princess trusted her any more or less than before - she didn’t either - but she was certain she’d proven she was capable.
“So, your highness...what’s next?”
Yumiwak bit her lip. “Next… we sail for the Tooth.”