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Frozen Calling
FCText
Story
Setting Fractures Alternate Universe - Elysium
Date set 1,003 AGC
Timeline
Previous Over Your Shoulder
Concurrent Falling in the Black
Next Vendetta

"The only reason it doesn't add up is because I don't have all the numbers yet."
Glonor, Frozen Calling


Frozen Calling was the fifth story serial in BobTheDoctor27's Fractures Universe Storyline.

It succeeded Over Your Shoulder and featured Glonor as the main protagonist, who had gone unmentioned in all previous stories.

Story

Book One: The Arrival

Chapter 1 - Salvation Appears Unto The Scene

"Hope for the best, plan for the worst."

These were words to live by. Words than had colored Glonor's life as he continued his directionless voyage across the Matoran Universe. When a problem arose, he would calculate the most efficient solution possible then take measures to resolve it. He favored caution and tactical thinking. He was a creature of strategy. With adequate time and preparation, he could find a means to overcome any obstacle.

Perhaps it was a lifetime spent scheming that made the rush of calamity that much worse.

The Av-Matoran was torn from his blank space of his dreams and thrust back into the waking world as soon as the impact was felt. Still dreary from his sleep, he tried to straighten up, only to feel another sharp jolt hurl him against the window, striking his Kanohi Iden against the glass with tremendous force. Dazed, the Matoran spent a split second wondering who'd put a window that close to him and trying to come to terms with the fact that he'd been asleep.

There is no reasoning with a earthquake. Some things cannot be anticipated or counteracted. Sometimes Glonor found himself in strange environments with only his wits and his courage to defend himself with. No exit strategy, no combat procedure, just the dull and inevitable impact of the world shifting beneath his feet.

He was moving. He felt the vibration of an engine on the metal beneath his feet. Almost instantly he shuddered, as if trying to shake all remnants of his slumber from his numb body, and grasped desperately for some sense of clarity. Mellow images flashed through his mind as he tried to remember where he was.

Transporter, was the simple answer. Another second flashed by as the vehicle hurtled onwards while the Av-Matoran came to terms with the situation. Outside the window was Ko-Metru. Looking out of the window should have been a pleasant experience. One might expect to see a crystal image, frozen in place but instead everything was just a blur. The transporter was plummeting out of the sky and spinning of control. At the velocity that they were going, Glonor calculated that the vehicle was either going to tip over or crash into a road barrier. That was alright for him, he could probably survive a transporter shuttle tipping over, but a lot of the other Matoran on the bus looked old and delicate. They would probably survive but that wasn’t what concerned him. Glonor had already anticipated that the crash wouldn’t be the worst of their problems. They had been driving through a snow storm, through the most isolated part of Ko-Metru, for the best of three hours. That meant – when the bus did stop – there would be about twenty Matoran with cuts, burns, bruises, and broken bones in the middle of a blizzard. They were mio from the nearest chute station.

Not good.

The Av-Matoran yelled a warning before gripping the seat in front of him with both hands. He was the only passenger at the rear of the bus. He had a feeling that was worse. Some code of protocol flashed through his mind from his days as a military cop in Vaaca-Nui. He ignored it and focused on his grip. He was holding firmly onto the seat as the bus skidded and scraped on.

He began to wonder how he had actually gotten here. Shortly after meeting the High Council when he arrived in the Fractures Universe, Glonor had decided to set up a home in Ko-Metru. He’d never visited Metru-Nui before and was reluctant to use the Chutes. Instead he had been hitching rides from different bus drivers, getting off and inspecting different areas. After he’d been taken in the completely wrong direction and ended up in Onu-Metru, Glonor had decided to just get off and take a different approach. He was almost going to do something sensible when a white, luxury coach had pulled in to pick up the twenty old Matoran who were around him now. He had hitched another ride in hopes of at least seeing something interesting on his journey. Now it looked like he was going to have to freeze to death in the wreckage of a crushed bus – not how he wanted to spend his day but Glonor was open minded and had an empty schedule. A bad combination.

Glonor sensed a sudden vibration and the bus jerked. He looked up to see the bus driver had taken his foot off of the gas pedal – a wise move. With no foot on the gas the bus would have to slow down. It didn’t look like they were going to topple over anymore.

There was a loud bang and the entire bus shook. Matoran yelled as they were thrown. Glonor managed to stay seated and braced himself for impact. One of the tyres must have shredded. The driver braked hard, resulting in the bus skating onwards. Direction went out of the window and into the frozen world outside as the vehicle rammed into a bank of snow suddenly.

Again Glonor evaluated the situation. On the plus side, the bus had stopped and nobody seemed to be hurt. That was good. On the other hand, the rear of the bus was now sticking across the open road, covering two lanes. Considering he was in the back, that was not good. Worse still, the lights had gone off and the bus seemed to be dead. That was definitely not good.

Glonor grunted and stood up, grateful he had been wearing his seat belt. He began pushing forwards, making his way to the front of the bus, making sure he inspected the other Matoran for injuries. There were some tears and screams but nobody seemed to be in need of immediate medical attention. When he reached the front, he looked through the driver’s left hand window to see no oncoming traffic.

The other Matoran seemed too shaken to move. None of them got out of their seats yet. The driver appeared stunned. Quickly, Glonor checked that he was alright before deciding he was swallowing back the adrenalin.

“Nice save,” muttered Glonor as he patted the driver on the shoulder.

“Thanks.”

He was an Agori wearing red and green armor. He was no longer young but not yet old.
“Do you think we can reverse out of the snow?” asked Glonor.

“I doubt it,” answered the Agori.

Glonor nodded slowly. “Have you got any flares in here?”

The Agori blinked, still trying to make sense of what was happening. “Any what?” Glonor decided to go easy on him. It wasn’t his fault. Sitting behind a wheel for three hours straight was hard. This could happen to anybody.

“Flares. You know, the flashy-things. The bus is covering both lanes.”

The Agori didn’t respond for a moment then shuddered and blinked. He frowned before reaching for a locker above his helmet. Inside were three flares, which he handed to Glonor.

“Do you have a first aid kit?”

The Agori nodded and got to his feet. He reached into a locker near the steps and produced the first aid kit.

Glonor nodded towards the other passengers. “Make sure they’re all OK. Try and get them to shift to the front of the bus just in case.”

The Agori nodded again, dazed. He looked at Glonor then pressed a button. The doors sucked open. Cold air raged into the coach as snow pelted the ground. Glonor had to squint.

“Close the doors. If the power’s gone then we lose the heating. Like I said, get everyone to the front and make them huddle together. We could be stuck here for days and the last thing I want as a souvenir is a flu.” Glonor smiled at his own joke for a moment then spoke in a more serious tone.
“Stay warm.”

Glonor immediately regretted jumping into the snow. As he was no longer on Bara Magna, he had returned to his normal height, which meant he was now waist deep in snow that would barely have covered his knees a few days ago. He grimaced, fought off the cold and began wading through the snow. He had never been so cold in his life. Vaaca-Nui had been further south than most of the other Matoran Islands had ever been, which meant the land was volcanic and warm. Being an Av-Matoran, this was sheer torture to him.

Regardless of his froze joints, Glonor managed to propel himself away from the coach, into the snow. At fifty paces, he placed one of the flares in the snow then pressed the button on the side. Instantly, it began flashing in the snow. Glonor hastily took another fifty paces then set up another flare.

He was now truly cold, many a time he had received an odd look for his strange behavior. Ko-Matoran had natural resistance to cold. Glonor was adaptable but he could not hope to match a Ko-Matoran’s natural abilities. He didn’t know why the Order had even bothered to hide his kind in the Time Slip. They stuck out like sore thumbs.

Desperate to return to the slightly less cold bus, Glonor set up the final flare then turned around and ran back the way he had come. When he reached the somewhat-annoyingly-colored white bus he hammered on the door with all his might. The driver finally hit the button and Glonor was able to throw himself back inside. Snow had accumulated inside his armor while he had been out. The Matoran shuddered and shook himself dry.

As he had predicted, the windows of the bus were already beginning to freeze. The temperature was dropping rapidly without the heating. Glonor turned to search for the Agori bus driver.
“We need to turn the engine back on. The heaters are going off.”

“Can’t,” shrugged the Agori as he wrapped a bandage around a frail Le-Matoran’s arm. “The fuel supply could get sparked. The wires could have cut.”

Glonor frowned. “I didn’t smell any fuel.”

“We shouldn’t take the chance,” winced the Agori. “If we turn the engine on we could go up in a ball of fire. The last thing I need right now is a complaint form with that on it.”

“But we could be stuck here for days,” protested Glonor. He was aware that his teeth were beginning to chatter but he clenched his jaw to stop them.

The Agori sighed. “You take over with first aid. I’ll see if we can contact someone.”
Glonor felt the box of bandages being shoved into his hands as the Agori slipped past him and began searching for some sort of communicator. The Av-Matoran shrugged and began to check up on the other twenty Matoran. There were no Agori on board and, ironically, none of them were Ko-Matoran either. He noticed one or two Ta-Matoran who were shivering and cursing themselves for planning their holiday here. There was a De-Matoran towards the middle and, of the twenty, there were about nine Ga-Matoran. That struck Glonor as strange.

There were two major injuries, both belonging to Ga-Matoran. He approached the first. She looked old and tired. She wore a Kanohi Zatth. She must have been moving while the bus crashed because her collar bone was broken. That was strange as she was sat alone.

“Can I take a look at that?” he asked politely as he leaned in to examine the broken bone.


The Zatth-wearing Ga-Matoran paused before answering. “Are you a medic?”

“I had training in the Vaaca-Nui military, yes.”

“Doing what?”

“Solving murders and stuff. Not much use now seeing as nobody's dead but I had some medical training.”

The Ga-Matoran looked towards the window. Clusters of white ice had formed over the smooth glass surface. “I feel cold.”

“That’s probably down to the adrenalin, plus it’s snowing outside,” answered Glonor curtly.

The Av-Matoran pressed his fingers against the Ga-Matoran’s collar. Her flesh was cold but her armor was colder still. Her bones were brittle and delicate. He could tell there was a crack running across it. Her collar bone was definitely broken, there was no question about that.

“Have I broken something?” asked the Ga-Matoran. She was only just coming to speed with what was happening in Glonor’s head.

“It looks like it,” muttered Glonor. “But that’s good. The collar bone is essentially a circuit breaker. It breaks to protect your shoulder and neck. Plus it heals quickly.”

“If it’s broken then I need to go to a hospital,” stated the Ga-Matoran stubbornly. She didn't seem to be grasping the fact that her demand was a little out of the question given the current circumstances.

“You will when we get help,” agreed Glonor before moving on. The Ga-Matoran with a broken arm seemed to know what she was doing. Already she had a burly Onu-Matoran applying pressure and helping her. Glonor decided to turn back. He walked back to the front of the coach to see what the driver was up to. As he poked his Mask into the cabin the Agori sighed and rubbed a hand across his Helmet. He was in conversation with someone on a long-range communicator, the kind of thing that made Tren Krom himself seem young and dashing.

“We have a problem,” grunted the Agori as he hung up on whoever he was talking to. “I called the emergency services. Highway Patrol is busy and there’s another storm brewing up. This entire highway was closed hours ago.

“Where are we?” asked Glonor.

“Ko-Metru,” shrugged the Agori.

“More specifically?”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, stranded between the Knowledge Tower district and some abandoned Chutes thirty kio East.”

“Where’s the nearest town?” asked Glonor, refusing to believe they were actual kio away from shelter.

“A small town called Elysium within driving distance. But it looks pretty small. Can’t be more than a dot on the map.”

“Can we get a new bus from anywhere?”

“I highly doubt it. It would take four days to send one from where we left with the snow storm.”

“What about this Elysium? They must have a police department that can help us, right?”

“They put me on hold and promised to get back to me soon.”

Glonor nodded slowly, taking the information in. When he had processed it he turned to the Agori. “What’s your name?”

Knox,” grunted the Agori.
Glonor nodded again before a buzzing sound filled his audio receptors. His frown deepened before he realized it was Knox’s communicator. The Agori picked it back up and turned away to speak. Glonor watched him as his face brightened then fell.

After several minutes of waiting for the news, Glonor watched as Knox sighed and hung up. “The Police are sending someone, but they’ve got problems of their own. Could take an hour at least.”

“One hour in this temperature’s enough to kill someone. We need to get the engine running again.”

“But fuel could still be leaking.”

Glonor sighed then looked out of the frozen window. Visibility was low. All he could see were the three flares shining in the distance. The third one exceeded his line of vision. He’d just gotten dry again.

“Have you got a Light Stone in here?”

“I’ve got this,” shrugged Knox as he produced a strange metal object. Glonor raised a brow and took the light-emitting device. It was operated by a battery and had a switch. Simple enough. Glonor dubbed it as a mechanical Light Stone. This Universe was weird. Why build this complicated contraption when there would be a perfectly good Light Stone lying around?

“I’ll go back outside and check under the coach. If it’s all clear I’ll knock twice on the floor. If I see any fires I’ll knock again.”

Knox nodded then pressed the door-button. Glonor immediately felt the last slither of warmth being sucked from behind him, replaced by the icy gale of the outside world. As if diving into a river, he took a deep breath before jumping into the snow.

The Av-Matoran paused for a moment to decide what to do. There was no traffic on the road so he had nothing to worry about immediately. Unwilling to stand still in a snow storm, the Av-Matoran trudged his way around to the other side of the bus. When he got there he knocked on Knox’s right hand driver window and waved. When he saw movement behind the frozen glass he squatted down on all-fours and crawled forwards.

He gritted his teeth again then crawled onwards. Half of his body was now under the transporter while the other was swiftly being buried in the mounting layer of snow. All those years outside of the Universe Core had diminished his Elemental Abilities considerably. Long gone were the days when he could project beams of light to illuminate the dark. Calling upon what remained of his innate abilities, Glonor altered the color scheme of his right arm, willing it to shine with the full intensity of the brightness spectrum.

He saw no leaks, no cracks, or fires. Nothing immediately concerning. The read of the under-chassis had taken the most brutal beating, leaving the scar tissue of shredded wires. It was best to avoid those. Instead he knocked on the metal above his Kanohi twice. There was a long pause before the engine churned into life. The noise hurt his audio-receptors but Glonor tuned it out, focusing on the fuel supply. There were still no leaks, which meant it was safe.

After inspecting the torn tyre and dented luggage compartment, Glonor deemed the coach somewhat drivable. If they weren’t buried in a pile of snow they could probably make it to this Elysium-town in a couple of hours. The Matoran of Light managed to scramble out into the snow again. It took him a moment to regain his bearings. His armor was soaked. Large, heavy snowflakes were pelting him then turning to slush. Already he could see two inches of fresh snow in the holes his footprints had left. He followed them back while clutching his arms tightly, hoping to numb himself of the cold. He was relieved to see that the door was open for him.

Glonor coughed and shivered, once again shaking himself dry. He began to dust himself off and wipe slush from his armor when the engine suddenly stopped and the heating died. Both Glonor and Knox frowned then looked at each other.

“What did you see down there?” asked Knox as he began flicking switches in hopes of making the heating work without power.

“Lots of shaken up stuff. Some damage.”

“Disconnected wires?”

“Near the back, yes.”

Knox nodded slowly and crossed his arms. “That’ll mean the fuel’s cut itself off. It’s a damage protection system. We’re lucky it’s stopped itself.”

“What did the Police department say they were doing again?” winced Glonor. His brain was a frozen mush.

“They’re sending someone in a car.”

“That’s not going to carry twenty plus people.” shivered Glonor as he eyed the other twenty Matoran. None of them were listening.

“That’s what I said to them.” muttered Knox. “But they’ve got their own problems. They said they were doing their best.”

“Have you seen storms like this before?”

Knox nodded, his arms still crossed as he leaned back in his chair. “This is the edge of the storm.”

Glonor took another look at the flares. He could now only see the closest of the three, which he had left at 50 paces. “So is it coming this way?”

“No question about it.” grunted Knox.

“How quickly?”

“Don’t ask.”

Now there was nothing that they could do but wait.'

Chapter 2 - The Deputy

Glonor decided to steal another glance at the frosty bus. The Av-Matoran opened his eyes and scanned the vehicle. The inside of the battered old coach was as hostile as the frozen landscape outside. The twenty elderly Matoran passengers sat huddled around each other. Glonor and Knox sat together at the rear. Although he tried hard not to show it, Glonor didn’t have to open his eyes to see the Agori shivering beside him.

All conversation had long since died out for two reasons. The first reason was common sense: they needed to reserve energy. The second reason was because they seemed to have been shivering on their backsides for so long that there was little left to discuss. If help was coming it didn’t look like they should be packing their bags any time soon.

Glonor turned to face Knox. The Agori sat with his arms wrapped tightly around his legs. Similarly to Glonor, his feet were up on the chair. Some of the Matoran had tried to tear open their seats and use the stuffing for insulation. Knox hadn’t cared. Repairs for the bus would probably come out of his pay check. The bus company wouldn’t care about icy conditions; he would have been in full knowledge of the consequences of working in rural Ko-Metru when he signed up. If he would be paying for the extensive repairs the vehicle needed then he might as well pay for some more chairs too. That was assuming he didn’t freeze to death before then.

The silence was maddening. All Glonor had heard for the past five hours was the wind screaming as it thundered through the frozen landscape. He opened his mouth to start another conversation with Knox. He was surprised at how mature and formal the Agori still was. He hadn’t said a word since telling the other Matoran passengers that the Elysium Police Department would be sending someone to help several hours ago.

“So does this happen often?” asked Glonor.

Knox rolled his empty eyes to face Glonor. They were dark and heavy. “Often enough. First time it’s happened to me though.”

“So what happens next? Do they send someone to tow the bus away?”

Knox shrugged, a gesture that was becoming too frequent for him. “We’re instructed to use our radios and communicators to make contact with nearby towns. That way someone can contact the bus service and they can dispatch a replacement bus.”

“Not too bad,” muttered Glonor.

Knox glared at him. “Not for me. The replacement bus will have its own driver, making me a passenger. I get paid for every journey I complete, which means I not only won’t get paid but I’ll probably have to buy a ticket to get out of here.”

Glonor’s expression fell. “Not too good.”

“They should do something about that damn bridge,” grumbled Knox.

Glonor frowned. “Bridge?”

“Yeah, we were going over a bridge about a kio ago. That thing’s a damn health hazard even without all this snow.”

Glonor grunted. He agreed with Knox somewhere in the back of his mind but he didn’t really care. He didn’t dwell on the past, that wasn’t his way of thinking. He liked to think he was more optimistic than that. And nothing got him more optimistic than seeing a pair of headlights cutting through the frozen downpour.

The Agori and Av-Matoran exchanged glances before Knox took a deep breath and stumbled to his feet. Glonor watched him shuffle towards the front of the bus. His armor reflected the blue and red flashes that were shining through the frozen windscreen. The police department had finally sent someone.

Glonor watched as the sirens stopped flashing. The lights on the vehicle stayed on, indicating the cop was keeping it running so he wouldn’t have to wait for the heater to warm up when he got back in. It also meant that Glonor wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. His vehicle didn’t look like it could carry an additional twenty two passengers. He was going to have to sit it out.

The Av-Matoran finally got a look at the cop when the coach doors opened and he stepped in. The cop was a Ko-Matoran – not something that Glonor was surprised about considering they were in Ko-Metru. The first thing Glonor noticed was his poor stance. The second he stumbled onto the bus he nearly lost his balance and had to grab for the handrail. He shivered and brushed the snow off of his white and grey armor before Knox began speaking to him. Glonor was too far away to hear their conversation but he noticed that the cop had a weak, grainy voice. Although he spoke with reasonable pace and intonation, his voice was too quiet for Glonor to give a full evaluation.

After finishing his conversation with Knox, the Ko-Matoran nodded at the Agori then stepped forwards to address the passengers. Glonor still couldn’t hear him. Most of the other Matoran were sat further towards the front of the bus than he was. However, being elderly, he doubted they would be able to hear much more than he could. Never the less Glonor managed to pick up some information. The Ko-Matoran claimed to be the Deputy Chief of the Elysium Police Department and that his name was Crystallus. The Deputy Chief began to move down the aisle and shake hands with the Matoran, reintroducing himself to each row and smiling at each individual passenger in turn. That was not a technique that Glonor was familiar with but he assumed it was supposed to make him look young and enthusiastic.

But that wasn’t what Glonor was thinking. Something about Crystallus was scratching at the back of Glonor’s mind. The Ko-Matoran’s blue eyes were sharp and perceptive. While his Kanohi Kakama was twisted into a natural smile the cop was instead running information through his mind. He had begun to ask the passengers personal questions. Who were they? Where had they come from? Did they have accommodation? Did they have friends they needed to contact? All of the questions would be easy for Knox and the others but Glonor couldn’t answer them. He had hitched a ride on a tour coach at the last minute. None of the other twenty passengers would think twice about it but Crystallus’ style seemed a little personal for Glonor. The cop was running every single answer through his head, making calculations and thinking out outcomes. Something told the Av-Matoran that the deputy chief wasn’t just thinking about highway patrol, he had something deadly serious on his mind.

Then he turned and started walking towards the back of the bus. Glonor took that as odd. If he hadn’t raised his voice so that it could be heard at the back then the cop hadn’t wanted to address him. Why he was striding to the back of the bus to exchange a few words with a stranger didn’t make Glonor think this was just going to be a friendly conversation.

Crystallus smiled as he approached Glonor’s seat. “Sir, my name is Crystallus, Deputy Chief of the Elysium Police Department. Would you mind telling me who you are?”

The rest of the conversation seemed almost mechanical. Glonor gave his name. Crystallus asked him if he was part of the tour group. Glonor said he wasn’t. Crystallus asked him what he was doing on the bus then. Glonor told him he was travelling East in hopes of getting to the center of Ko-Metru.

“And you’re hitching a ride on a Tour Bus?” Crystallus was pressing him for information. Glonor felt like he was being squeezed for details.

“I paid if that’s what you mean.” Crystallus turned to Knox who nodded.

The cop narrowed his eyes and leaned in closer, making no attempt to conceal his interview. “Are you travelling on a vacation?”

“Not exactly,” grunted Glonor in response.

“So where do you live?”

That was a question Glonor could not answer. “Where I live doesn’t matter,” refuted the Av-Matoran. “None of us expected this damn bus to crash, nobody here could predict us being stuck in the middle of a snow storm for five hours. It was a road accident. Therefore there’s no connection between us and whatever you’re milking us for.”

Crystallus’ eyes widened and he looked shocked. “Who say’s I’m milking you?”

“I am.”

Crystallus glared at Glonor for a long minute. The Av-Matoran could feel him scanning his armor. “How did this bus crash?”

“I dunno,” grunted Glonor. “We skidded I guess. I was asleep at the time.”

Crystallus pursed his lips then nodded slowly, checking the plausibility of the statement. “There’s a bridge somewhere over here that you probably won’t see in the snow. But I’m pretty sure we put up a warning sign.”

“Actually, it wasn’t just the bridge,” muttered Knox. “There was this biker riding in the snow. He was swerving all over the place. I twitched and we crashed.”

Crystallus nodded slowly again. “A twitch usually does it. I can’t say it hasn’t happened here before. Plus there’s a biker group that’s settled in Elysium, annoying as Karzahni with all their littering and troublemaking.”

Glonor interrupted Crystallus. The Ko-Matoran wasn’t saying anything worth speaking so he had a right to shut him up. “Whatever,” he muttered. “We need to get everyone off this bus or you’re going to have some very realistic ice sculptures.”

Crystallus fell silent for a spell. Glonor could see what the Ko-Matoran was thinking. There’s no connection between us and whatever you’re milking us for.

The cop finally nodded again then began looking around. He finally turned to address the rest of the coach. “Listen up folks!” he boomed. “We’re going to get you into our city where we can look after you properly and decide what’s going to happen. The two Ga-Matoran with broken bones will come with me now for medical attention. I’m afraid there’s not a lot I can do for the rest of you right now, but I can assure you all that replacement transport has been sent from Elysium.”

Glonor watched as Crystallus helped the first Ga-Matoran to her feet then did the same for the second. The cop signaled for Knox to support the second while he half carried the first. As the Agori pressed the button Glonor once again felt the remains of the bus’ warmth being sucked out into the arctic world outside. He watched as Crystallus and Knox disappeared into the snow, carrying the two Ga-Matoran to the Deputy Chief’s vehicle. The last thing the frozen Av-Matoran thought about before he drifted off was of what lay in the world on the other side of the cracking window. It was already covered with several centimeters of snow that blocked his view but he could still faintly see the closest of the three flares. He took strength from the sight. Something about seeing the single flare fighting against the hostility of the storm made him feel safe and protected. He was alone at the back of the bus, isolated between two walls of uncomfortable seats and another two walls of frozen glass. He closed his eyes with a smile on his Mask and didn’t open them again until much later. He began to dream of an evil he hadn’t thought of in centuries.




79,500 years ago. Vacca Nui Coast.

The roar of the thunder tore across the pearl-black sky. The ocean exploded into a rain of white spray from the violence that it smashed onto the rocks. The sea churned and rumbled as it showered the rocky coast of Vacca Nui with bitter salt water. It was difficult to understand how the ocean could appear so calm and tranquil at one moment then destructive and violent the next.

No Matoran had lived on this part of the island in years. The unpredictably choppy waves made life too difficult to sustain. Plus the weather was constantly gloomy and dark, which discouraged travelers. The two Matoran who trod through the open wild-grass were among the first ever to journey that far East of Vacca Nui.

Even from a distance something would seem out of place about the pair. Despite the entire width of the rocky coast the two of them walked in a tight single file, the Ba-Matoran at the front and the Ko-Matoran at the back. That would be the first strange sight. The second would be the fact that the Ko-Matoran was carrying a handheld Electro Cannon. However, as slick and efficient the weapon was, the most striking feature would be the fact that it was trained directly on the Ba-Matoran’s back.

The two Matoran continued walking until they reached the end of the coastline and found themselves staring towards the ocean. Without a word’s conference, the Ba-Matoran stopped, raised his hands, and looked the Ko-Matoran in the eyes. The Matoran of Ice smiled. Of course, unknown to him, he was not in fact a Ko-Matoran. The white armored Matoran’s true identity remained a mystery to both of them. The only truthful piece of information that he knew was the fact that his name was Glonor and this Ba-Matoran had been caught leaching land off of the island’s local Turaga then selling it to the Dark Hunters. The Shadowed One now legally owned enough land to establish a base on Vacca-Nui because of this traitor. Glonor reminded himself of that as he cocked the weapon and aimed it at the Ba-Matoran’s heart-stone.

The Matoran of Gravity continued to stare at him. His eyes were dark and resigned. “I have told you everything that you need to know about my business. How I contacted the Dark Hunters, who I spoke to, and why,” he muttered.

“Shut up you filthy Kavinka,” grunted Glonor, his Kanohi Iden twisted into a snarl as he spoke. “I’ve been doing this job since before Karzahni figured out how to play with chains. Do you think your lies are going to break you out of gun point?”

“How can you tell?” frowned the Ba-Matoran.

“Your eyes,” replied Glonor. “They crease around the edges, you swallow before you speak, and you have to have a reason to have sold to the Dark Hunters.”

“They offered the highest bid,” shrugged the Ba-Matoran, ignoring the Electro Cannon.

“What? So you had an auction?”

“It’s an open world, an open world in need of someone to fix it,” grunted the Matoran of Stone in response. “Look around you. Just last week Metru Nui entered a civil war. The industrial heart of this universe is at conflict with itself. Without Metru Nui everything’s going to go to fall to a stand-still. No more raw materials can be shipped to Xia, no more Kanohi or weapon shipments around the Universe. For Mata Nui’s sake, even the Dark Hunters are beginning to struggle with no trade fleets to attack. Why should such a powerful organization fall over the squabbling of Matoran?”

Glonor snarled, letting the crease in his brow thicken. He didn’t need details on what some Po-Matoran thought of the Metru Nui Civil War. If he wanted that he would go back to the city and open his audio receptors to the screaming Matoran. “And you tried to ruin the world for your fellow villagers?”

The Ba-Matoran raised his Mask so that it stuck up. “I’m not trying to ruin their world,” he refuted. “I just want to leave behind something I’ll be remembered for. I want to leave it bitter and hateful. I want to leave it colder.”

The Matoran with the Electro Cannon ignored the last comment. “And the construction of this base?” pressed Glonor.

“Already underway,” answered the Ba-Matoran. “The Turaga have agreed to the terms on the condition that the Dark Hunters offer us Matoran protection... the old fools.”

“Then that’s all I really need to hear,” snarled Glonor. He took one more look at the Ba-Matoran then looked at the cliff edge two feet behind him. “You know I can legally kill you for treason with my rank,” he muttered before cracking a smile. “But it’s much more fun this way.” With those words Glonor pulled the trigger. A ball of Electrical Energy burst from the barrel of the weapon in an explosion of sparks. It struck the criminal in the shoulder and incinerating most of the armor. The Matoran of Gravity roared in pain as Glonor raised his leg and landed a kick square in his chest. The Ba-Matoran went tumbling over the edge towards the blending of the waves.

Glonor spent a long minute watching the ocean below him. It seemed to become calmer, as if it had been starving for evil and had been satisfied with its meal. Without uttering a word, the Av-Matoran turned around and began his walk back. Even then he knew something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

He should have shot the traitor in the head while he had the chance.




Present Day – Near Elysium


When the replacement vehicle finally heaved into view Glonor was pleasantly surprised. He had initially expected some sort of modern-day wheeled vehicle. However, he was almost shocked to see that it was a good old fashioned Vahki transporter with robotic legs. He cracked smile as he scanned the vehicle – finally something reliable.

As the outdated transporter skidded to a halt beside the battered coach, Glonor couldn’t help but notice how strangely new it looked for a vehicle that had long since been rendered obsolete. It then occurred to him that the entrance to the transporter was in line with the emergency exit. He smiled again. Crystallus must have called ahead and warned the driver about the depth of the snow. He was a forward-thinking guy. Glonor supposed all Ko-Matoran were.

Usually it would take some persuasion to get eighteen elderly Matoran to cross through an emergency exit, through a snow storm, and into a Vahki Transporter. However, none of them had the energy to argue as they pushed each other out of the way, competing to be the first into the warmth of the vehicle. Glonor and Knox were the last to cross.

The first thing that occurred to Glonor as strange was when he boarded the vehicle to find that the transporter had a cover. From what he recalled, Vahki transporters were open and had hive-like storage spaces for the robotic law enforcers. This one was covered up and fitted with seats. The second thing that surprised Glonor was the seats themselves. They were complex mechanisms of straps and restrainers. The grey caging that was used to separate the cockpit from the seating indicated that it was some sort of prisoner transport.

While the new driver got the other passengers seated, Glonor and Knox went back outside to pull the suitcases out of the broken coach into the Vahki Transport. Eager to stay in the warmth, they dumped most of the bags in the aisle before they were finally able to sit down. Glonor tried to imagine what was in all of the bags. He always travelled light and didn’t own anything he couldn’t carry. He couldn’t imagine how others found value in the things he would discard at one glance. He imagined low level Kanoka Disks, replacement armor, and other random artifacts that Matoran could grow attached to. Judging by the weight, rock collecting seemed popular among the passengers.

As the Vahki Transporter began to scuttle through the snow, a glimpse of yellow caught Glonor’s keen eyes. He glanced away from the heater to see through his small glass window. He could just make out what the sign said:

Correctional Facility ahead. Do not stop for hitchhikers. The Av-Matoran let out a low groan. The sign seemed fresh and new against the snow. However, he could clearly see several bullet holes in the sign. He didn’t particularly care about the bullet holes. The fact that it discouraged picking up hitchhikers meant moving out of the town would be made difficult tomorrow.

It took just under an hour for the Vahki Transporter to break the border and enter the town. Glonor managed to spot another sign that read: Welcome to Elysium! Population: 8,270. The number made Glonor frown. He glanced at Knox to see the Agori was equally confused. The GPS had shown the town as a dot on the map. It had been tiny.

“Perhaps it was out of date,” grunted Knox, as if he were reading Glonor’s mind. The Matoran nodded. It felt better to just blame the technology.

The Av-Matoran’s faith in machines suddenly plummeted as the converted Vahki Transporter battled on, spraying snow across the street as it slowly fought onwards. Glonor caught glimpses of other vehicles buried under walls of snow. They were durable, bulky vehicles that looked like they could survive just about any terrain. Pity they all had wheels.

The Matoran also began to notice differences in housing. While he was unfamiliar with normal Ko-Metru houses, these structures were well built and well insulated. The dwellings were made from wood, stone, and metal. Nearly all of them were hooked up to electricity somehow but none of the lights were on. Instead the Matoran of Light began to sense light stones inside the houses. Perhaps there had been a power cut recently? He didn’t see any electricity pylons so he guessed the flow was underground – something that wasn’t easy to fix in the middle of a snow storm.

Glonor's mood did not brighten until the transporter jolted to the left and entered a relatively new-looking compound. Again, the Matoran of Light had to press his mask against the window to read another street sign. This one read: Elysium Police Department. Unwilling to build his hopes up, Glonor scanned the building. He had been correct, it was new. The concrete was fresher than in other sections of the town and was not cracked by the snow. Cables and aerials jutted out oddly from the flat snow covered roof. They looked modern and advanced.

The Vahki Transporter couldn’t have stopped early enough. It skidded to a halt as Glonor smiled. In less than a minute he would be inside the warm, heated lobby of the building. He couldn’t help but crack a smile as a Ko-Matoran hurried out of the building to start carrying the bags. The driver pressed a button and the doors grinded open mechanically.

By the time all twenty extra passengers had filed out of the Vahki Transporter and into the cold, another Ko-Matoran waddled out of the building. Glonor immediately recognized the Ko-Matoran’s authority as he gestured for them to enter the lobby. For once Glonor didn’t complain.

After the party of passengers had spilled into the warmth of the police station, the Ko-Matoran returned to their attention. He still had an aura of dominance but now he appeared softer in the light. He was stooped and tired – what Glonor imagined Crystallus to look like in a couple of century’s time.

“Welcome to Elysium, folks,” beamed the tired Ko-Matoran. “My name is Chief Glacii, and my job is to ensure that all of you have a place to go to tonight.”

Glonor scanned the room. He saw a small crowd of other Matoran who were watching their group. He turned his attention back to Glacii.

“Unfortunately, our hotels are all either full or snowed in because of the weather. But luckily, when we called around asking if anybody could take in any weary, lost travelers we got a pretty good response! We were lucky to be able to find you all rooms living with the good people of Elysium until a replacement bus can be sent for you.” The Police Chief smiled and gestured towards the group of Matoran on the other side of the room. “We have just about a dozen volunteers willing to accommodate your tour group, so by all means get to know each other. It looks like you’ll be spending some time together.”

After Glacii stepped back, the other Matoran began to slowly walk forwards to talk to the volunteers. Glonor turned to look for Knox but the Agori had disappeared in the flock of Matoran. The Iden wearer was alone when Glacii turned around and noticed him. His smile disappeared as he hobbled over slowly then put a hand on Glonor’s shoulder.

“I think you’d better come with me,” he muttered darkly, the ridges in his Pakari Nuva became sharp and threatening for a moment before he turned his back on Glonor, signaling for him to follow. The Av-Matoran frowned and tried to think of what he had done wrong.

It didn’t take him long for figure out. The only reason the others had accommodation was because Crystallus had managed to send the hotel reservations that he got from Knox back to the department. From those documents the police had been able to make arrangements for the tour group passengers and driver. If a dozen volunteers had turned up to accommodate those twenty one passengers and Glonor wasn’t on the official paper work, then that could only mean that there was nothing planned for Glonor. He had nowhere to go from the police station.

Chapter 3 - The Mist Thickens

Glacii’s office was no different to a thousand other offices that Glonor had been handed the misfortune of being in. Plain wallpaper, grey tiled floor, a wooden desk, and a window. The walls seemed to be hidden behind seven crooked yet individual filing cabinets. A painting was hung on the left wall – a landscape that was hardly worth examining. There was a shelf full of reference books on a bookcase next to the painting. They had probably never been opened. Offices tell a lot about the people who occupy them. It was clear that Glacii had tried to make sure that his told nothing at all. He hadn’t quite succeeded.
Above one of the irregular containers sat a picture frame. Glonor took a quick glance at it while he waited for Glacii to turn the heating on. The photograph in the frame showed Chief Glacii as a straighter, stronger, younger Ko-Matoran with a Ga-Matoran in his arms – a family photo, maybe a couple of centuries old. The Ga-Matoran looked somewhat attractive from behind her Mask of Possibilities. Her face was alive with young, cunning beauty as her century-old eyes stared back at Glonor.

Glacii, on the other hand, was frozen in an open-mouthed laugh. He looked far stronger than he did now. His hands were large and his arms had been thick. Those muscles wouldn’t look out of place on a Po-Matoran. Yet, when Glonor took a glance at the Police Chief now he found it hard to believe he was the same Matoran as the one in the photograph. Now Chief Glacii was slow and old. Looking at the Ko-Matoran was like staring at a faded athlete. The wrinkles on his Pakari Nuva were heavy under his eyes and his brow was stricken with concern as he heaved his tired body onto a worn leather chair. Glonor grabbed the visitor chair and sat down, staring at the Police Chief square in the eyes. Glacii stared back.
“So what am I in for?” Glonor finally asked.
“We wanted to offer you the same hospitality as the other passengers,” replied the Ko-Matoran.
“So you’re taking care of me yourself?”
Glacii smiled a ghost of a smile before the emotion slipped from his face. “I’m afraid not. Deputy Crystallus volunteered to take you under his wing. But he’s busy right now. You’ll have to wait until his shift ends.”
“What’s he doing?”
“What cops do.”
Glonor nodded. Glacii wasn’t the best Matoran he had ever held a conversation with but Glonor didn’t want to sit in silence.
“Got any questions?” grunted Glacii. He was reluctant to speak but didn’t want to sit in silence either.
“How did this place get so big?” asked Glonor. “The GPS-thing showed it was a dot on the map.”
“We grew,” answered the Ko-Matoran. “The GPS data’s probably out of date.”
“Because of the prison?”
Glacii suddenly frowned then stared at Glonor. “How did you figure that out?”
Glonor shrugged. “Newly renovated Vahki transporter, new sign on the highway, if there wasn’t any snow then I’d probably be seeing a lot of brand new houses too.”
Glacii nodded slowly without taking his eyes off of Glonor. “Yes… we got a brand new prison. The Turaga High Council needed somewhere to dump their Matoran prisoners where they couldn’t escape.”
“Which is why you didn’t just stick us in a hotel. Visiting day soon?”
“There are three visiting days per week, and with snow messing up the transport schedules people are making longer reservations. Matoran running hotels, restaurants, and bus services are drowning in stranded customers. Lots of new jobs, lots of widgets. It’s keeping the Mayor pretty happy.”
Glonor nodded then decided to take another look around the room. The window was triple-glazed, something Glonor had not taken into account before. The glass was clean and shiny. The Av-Matoran could see nothing outside though, it must be getting late. However, he could see the back of Glacii’s head reflected perfectly in the glass. For a moment, the two Matoran sat in silence, listening to the savage roar of the wind on the other side. It was like listening to a thousand Kavinika howling in the darkness.
Glonor eventually let his head tilt to his right. He did another scan of the room before he realized how serious the office was. Apart from the framed photograph there was nothing personal in the room at all. Even the landscape painting seemed strangely artificial. Everything was strictly business.
“How’s life at home?” asked Glonor as his eyes rested on the photograph.
Glacii had been fiddling with a pen while the two Matoran sat in silence. He looked up at Glonor then his face fell and he became as deathly serious as the office they were sat in. “What do you mean?”
“I dunno… the wife? The car? What color you’re having the patio painted in.”
Glacii opened his mouth to ask how Glonor had known about his wife but then he remembered the photo frame and he relaxed. “She died,” he muttered. “In the war. Elysium’s in complete isolation here. That’s why they built the prison here. We take the prisoners and keep our heads down low. We didn’t want anything to do with the war but my wife still got swept up in all the propaganda. She left Elysium a couple of months ago to defend the realm.” The Ko-Matoran paused and stared at the pen in his hands for a long moment, his eyes were cloudy with misery. “It only took one damn Rahkshi of Confusion to send her stumbling in front of a firing Cordak Blaster.”
Glonor’s face fell. He cursed at himself under his breath and regretted saying anything. “I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be,” smiled Glacii sadly. He sighed and put the pen aside. “When I die I can only pray that people will talk about me like this. I suppose it’s all we can hope to be in the end – stories.”
Before Glonor could offer a supportive nod there was a knock on the door. The two Matoran turned to see another Ko-Matoran slip into sight. Without a word he barged into the office and handed Glacii a large folder. The words TOP SECRET were stamped across the cover of the booklet in thick, red ink. It was the type of report that Glonor would have received at his own desk a couple of centuries ago.
Knowing that Glacii wasn’t exactly going to spill the contents of the folder onto the desk, Glonor decided to take a look at the new Ko-Matoran. The Av-Matoran noted his sly body language and immediately disliked him. He also noted that he wore a noble Kanohi Mahiki. Stranger still – for a Ko-Matoran at least – was the fact that he wore traces of light green armor. He added the Ko-Matoran’s appearance to the back of his mind. The back of Glonor’s mind was usually cluttered with random information about people he didn’t like. The kind of information he knew would come in use later.
Glacii nodded to the Mahiki-wearer as he opened the folder. The Ko-Matoran held it up at an awkward angle so Glonor couldn’t see but, once again, Glonor found himself unable to resist sticking his nose into other people’s problems and took a glance at the triple glazed windows. As he had noted earlier, he could see the back of Glacii’s head clearly. He shifted his chair a little to the left and was able to see the other side of the folder reflected perfectly on the backdrop that was the spotless window. He could clearly see the body of a Fe-Matoran sprawled across the ground. His orange and grey armor was lined with snowdrops as his corpse lay motionless on the ground. It was obvious that he was dead. Even through the reflection of the window Glonor could make out the bullet-hole in his head. The gun must have been pressed directly between his eyes for that effect. The metal cylinder had burnt a hole directly through the Matoran’s Kanohi. No blood.
Glonor frowned and cast his mind back to the tour bus. A faded image of Knox flashed through his mind. He remembered watching the Agori sigh as he closed his communicator. He tried to remember the Driver’s words. “The Police are sending someone, but they’ve got problems of their own.”
Glacii sighed and closed the file. The Mahiki-wearer left the room without a word, taking the no-longer TOP SECRET file with him. The two Matoran sat without speaking. Not a hostile silence – at least not as hostile as the weather outside – but even so, it felt uneasy. Glonor shifted in his seat and folded his arms across his chest. He sighed and let his gaze wonder to the ceiling. This was going to be a long and boring wait.

Two hours after the passengers from the Coach had arrived in the Elysium Police Department, Deputy Chief Crystallus was alone in his office, using his newly installed communicator to make a late call to his wife. Although the clouds had shrouded the sky for hours it was obviously well past sunset – and well past sunset is not the best time to deliver an apology for a broken dinner arrangement. But Crystallus had been busy, and he anticipated being busier still. So he made the call.
The Ko-Matoran was surprised to find that he had woken her. He had only just realized how late it was when he started to explain that he had been tied up, and that he probably would be for the rest of the week. She was tired and crabby so she made him repeat it at least twice.
Before he had even finished his apology his wife interrupted him and made it clear that she thought his whole message was just a load of Kinloka-droppings. Crystallus got annoyed in turn and told her that his job had to come first if he was ever going to become the next Chief of Police – not the best point to make against a sleepy, annoyed Ga-Matoran near to midnight. They had a short row before Crystallus finally hung up, tore the mouth-piece from his Kanohi Kakama, and threw it across his desk.
After calming down, the Ko-Matoran lifted his head from his hands and looked at his desk. It was buried in crisp, torn papers and glossy, smudged crime scene photographs. The only part that wasn’t stacked high with documents was the part that he had cleared to make room for him to smack his head against the cold wood of the desk. It was getting worn with dents.
After exhaling a long breath he decided to get up. He might as well be on his way. He didn’t get paid for overtime since the expansion of the town. The department didn’t have the budget for its own second-in-command. Plus he would have to make it up to his wife somehow. He doubted her mood would lighten when he brought home another mouth to feed.

By the time Crystallus arrived at Glacii’s office Glonor was well aware that it was quite late. The mechanical clock on the wall to his left was an obvious giveaway. The fact that other Matoran were packing up and going home was another hint. After all, it didn’t take a genius to work out the time.
He had been sat waiting for around three hours, staring at the florescent lighting grid and listening to the mechanical hum of electricity. It was hard to block out the sound of the wind but Glonor was trying not to think about it. He hadn’t uttered another word to Glacii once in those three hours. The Police Chief was almost as relieved as Glonor was when Crystallus ducked his Kanohi Kakama into the office. He signaled for Glacii to come and – to Glonor’s surprise – the Ko-Matoran got up and left the room. He could hear them talking after the door had been closed. They were probably discussing the crime scene with each other. That was quite likely. That or they were talking about some other Fe-Matoran. Based on what he could hear through the closed door, Glonor decided that the he had pretty much learnt more about the victim by looking at the photograph through a glass window than the entire department had. They had recognized that the Matoran had been shot in the head, that there was no blood, and that he had been lying in that position for around three hours but they had not drawn up any conclusions. They hadn’t thought about what that showed. They were taking wild stabs against ghosts in the dark… with blindfolds.
When the two Ko-Matoran cops returned to the room they looked exhausted. Glonor could see the words quitting time written all over their body language. Today had probably been a long day for them both and tomorrow would be just as long, but until then they were free. It was a feeling Glonor recognized from the years he had held a job.
Crystallus nodded towards Glonor as he leaned on the door. “You ready to go?” Glonor nodded as he rose to his feet and kicked the visitor chair back into place. Glacii watched him do it through empty eyes. The Av-Matoran didn’t bother to shake hands with the Police Chief. He knew even then that they would be seeing each other again. It could actually turn out that the police would turn to Glonor to help them with their investigation. Glacii certainly recognized his experience and his analysis skills. The Av-Matoran was willing to bet that the first thing the Ko-Matoran would do was type Glonor into a military database… That or take down the picture of him and his wife. Regardless of which order, one thing was for sure: nobody was ever going to see that picture again.

Crystallus led Glonor out into the freezing night through the parking lot. Their vehicle of choice was a standard police department car. However, after Glonor expressed his dislike for the new vehicles and their wheels Crystallus shrugged and decided to compromise. The two Matoran eventually ended up in a small two-seater car that was fitted with snow-track chains. To Glonor’s annoyance, there was also a digital clock that was running at least six hours early.
“It’s getting too cold to snow.” remarked Crystallus in an attempt to start a conversation. What he had said seemed to be true. The sky had gotten a lot clearer and the wind was starting to pick up. With the below-zero temperature, Glonor was starting to feel the icy grip of nature.
“I thought there was supposed to be a storm coming.” muttered Glonor. He recalled Knox mentioning something about a storm only a few hours ago. Being trapped in the coach seemed like it had taken place weeks ago.
“There are two.” answered Crystallus. “This other storm’s come out of nowhere. Apparently it just appeared in the last few hours. That’s what happens when two snow storms meet, they push cold air ahead of them.”
“How long before they reach Elysium?”
“How well do you want to sleep tonight?” When Glonor didn’t respond Crystallus decided to answer his question. “Shouldn’t take long I suppose.”
“And then it will warm up?”
“Enough for it to snow probably.”
“Good.” muttered Glonor. “I’ll take snow over cold any day.”
Crystallus took his eyes off of the road before them and glanced at Glonor. “You think this is cold?”
“Well it ain’t warm.” grumbled the Av-Matoran. He was beginning to wonder what Crystallus was thinking of him. A Ko-Matoran who shivered was unheard of. It was like a Le-Matoran being funny. Perhaps he should reveal his identity to the Ko-Matoran. He seemed smart enough to keep his mouth shut and if he couldn’t trust the deputy police chief of an isolated Ko-Metru town that nobody had heard of then who could he trust?
However, before Glonor could form an explanation Crystallus beat him to the kill. “You’re an Av-Matoran aren’t you?”
Glonor nodded. “So you’ve heard of Av-Matoran?”
”Yeah,” replied Crystallus, his eyes now firmly fixed on the road. “Toa Saran and Toa Ehrye died rescuing you guys. Of course, back then I didn’t even know you lot existed.”
“Sometimes I wonder if it was better that way.” sighed Glonor as he watched the impossible sky. It was hard to believe that it was completely artificial. He had long since discovered what the Matoran Universe really was, but ever since he had discovered it had been like somebody had just taken his life away from him and told him that he had lived a lie. Everything had changed at that moment. The sunlight became cold, the air became stale, even rocks seemed artificial.
“So how long am I going to be stuck here?”
Crystallus shrugged. "Depends how long it takes for the bus company to send a replacement coach for you and the other passengers.”
“So what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Start collecting ice cubes?”
“Well, Elysium’s plenty interesting.” muttered Crystallus.
“The dead Fe-Matoran?”
“Exactly.” smiled Crystallus before realizing what Glonor had said. His eyes widened and he nearly skidded. Glonor grabbed the dash board in front of him and braced for impact. Fortunately, because Glonor had insisted on not travelling in a car with wheels, the car they were driving was fitted with chain tracks. As the car scraped to a halt Glonor realized he may well have saved both of their lives.
Crystallus on the other hand wasn’t so happy. He pulled the car to a stop at the side of the road and turned to look at Glonor. “What dead guy?”
“Too late to take it back.” smiled Glonor.
Crystallus glared at him then sighed. “Did Chief Glacii tell you?”
“No.”
“Did he let you see the photographs in that file?”
“He tried not to but your cleaning staff did an excellent job on his window. Make sure you pass on my regards.”
Crystallus frowned, trying to figure out what Glonor was talking about. When he realized he looked out of the window, avoiding eye contact. “So you suckered me with that stuff about ice cubes?”
“I like to know things.” answered Glonor with a shrug.
“So do I.” muttered Crystallus, finally taking his eyes off of the glass. “Exactly how long were you in the army?”
“I was pretty much built in the army.” snorted the Av-Matoran.
“And you were a Military Policeman?”
Glonor nodded.
“With medical training?”
“You’ve been talking to the other passengers about me.” remarked Glonor.
“Of course I have.” sighed Crystallus. “What else do you think I’ve been doing?”
“And you want me in your house for any particular reason?” grunted Glonor. It seemed more likely that he would have been sent off with Glacii. The Police Chief had done nothing all evening, lived alone, and probably had an empty bed now that his wife was dead. It seemed unlikely that he would be bundled off with Crystallus instead.
“Well, you don’t seem to have anywhere else to go.”
“Are you trying to keep an eye on me?”
“You can put it that way if you want.”
“Mind giving me a reason?”
“Why? Because you like to know things?”
“I suppose.”
Crystallus sighed again before putting his hands back on the steering wheel of the vehicle. “Let’s just say that we need to keep track of whose coming in and out of Elysium at the moment.”
Crystallus didn’t say another word for several kio. When the car had been grinding onwards for long enough Crystallus started speaking again. “So what exactly did you do in the Military Police?”
Glonor shrugged, as if bored. “Whatever I was told to do.”
“Serious crimes?” asked Crystallus. He clearly knew what he was talking about.
“Sometimes.”
“And exactly how much medical training did you get?”
“Are you worried about your driving?”
“I guess I like to know things too.” answered Crystallus as he cracked a smile. Glonor followed suit and grinned before returning to his serious self.
“I didn’t get much medical training really. I was just trying to make the old-folks feel more secure.”
“They spoke kindly of you.”
“Don’t trust them. They don’t know me.” grunted Glonor.
Crystallus didn’t reply. He kept his eyes on the road. Glonor could see him concentrating.
“So was that Fe-Matoran killed where he was photographed?”
Crystallus paused for a moment before answering. He wasn’t built for multitasking. “We’re not sure.”
“I suppose it’s difficult to tell.” muttered Glonor. “He was shot in the head – that much is clear. But to get a bullet-hole perfectly in the center of the guy’s forehead without breaking his mask? The guy who shot him would have had to be right in front of him. Otherwise it would be messy. You’d have found him with a poll of blood about a yard across.”
Crystallus swallowed as the vehicle battled onwards in the silence. After about a solid minute without talking the Ko-Matoran decided to speak up. “Where do you live?”
That was a difficult question but it had a simple enough answer. Glonor didn’t live anywhere, he never had. He had been recruited into the Vacca-Nui Military and spent every day since on the wonder. The few months living in Tethys was probably his longest period of residential stability, and he had enjoyed neither Tethys nor stability. “I’m a nomad” he finally answered.
“Nomads have Rahi.” refuted Crystallus, his eyes sharp as he focused on the road. “They move around to find different grazing areas.”
“Well I met a Mahi once.”
“You’re homeless.”
“If you want to put it that way.”
“You don’t have any bags.”
“You got a problem with my light travel technique?”
“It’s strange behavior. Cops don’t like strange behavior.”
“How is it strange to move around instead of staying in the same place.”
Crystallus was silenced for a moment before a fresh argument materialized in his head. “Everyone has possessions.”
“I have no use for them. I don’t waste widgets on cheap, tacky trash.” replied Glonor. Crystallus didn’t respond. “Besides, it doesn’t matter. If Knox hadn’t twitched then I’d have been in a nice, comfortable Knowledge Tower tonight.”
Crystallus nodded slowly, keeping his mind focused on the ice that covered the road. Unfortunately, Glonor wasn’t finished with him.
“How come you got sent out to the coach?”
Crystallus frowned then shrugged. “I suppose everyone else was busy. I wasn’t doing much at the time.”
“Busy doing what?”
“I don’t know. Some of the underground power lines have broken. A lot of cops went out to help dig them up.”
“I hope not.” snorted Glonor. “Because that would be a strange choice of priorities. Your department left twenty seniors freezing on a highway for so many hours to guard a power line?”
Crystallus sighed. “Does it matter? You’re safe now.”
“How big is your department?”
“Big enough.”
“And they were all busy?”
“Correct.”
Glonor folded his arms and glanced out of the window again as the frozen ground slowly rolled past them. “I could have caught a cold.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Too early to tell.”
Crystallus grunted in response. It was the type of sign Glonor knew meant the conversation had been exhausted. In a couple of days a replacement bus would arrive and Glonor would return on his journey, leaving Crystallus, Glacii, and the frozen town of Elysium behind him. He had nothing further to discuss with Crystallus.
However, destiny had other plans. Glonor’s troubled thoughts were disturbed by a strange buzzing sound. Suspecting it to be another of the strange Agori influenced inventions that this universe was so full of, the Av-Matoran turned to look for the device. He was surprised to see that the communicator was mounted onto the right hand side of Crystallus’ Kanohi Kakama. It was barely visible where it was clipped onto one of the ridges in the Mask’s detail. Glonor suspected that must be the mouthpiece and that there would be some sort of earpiece tucked away in Crystallus’ right-hand audio receptor – a sneaky little invention that Glonor had completely missed.
The Ko-Matoran began to speak into the mouthpiece as he drove. Glonor couldn’t understand what was happening. He heard his name being said – or rather Crystallus mentioning him being in the vehicle. The Av-Matoran was well aware that he was listening to half of a conversation but even then he should be able to figure out what the cop on the other end of the communicator line was on about from what Crystallus said. He decided to just let the Deputy Chief explain.
Following about a minute of the broken conversation, Crystallus sighed and reached to press a button on the earpiece. When he had pressed it he pulled on the steering wheel and steered the car onto a side track. It was obvious that they were changing direction. When a cop doesn’t even pause before charging around corners usually means that something is happening.
“Where are we going?” asked Glonor as Elysium came back into view. They had been heading in the opposite direction before.
“Eastern suburbs” muttered Crystallus in response.
“Why?”
“Neighborhood Watch spotted some suspicious activity.”
“In the snow?”
“They’re bikers” replied Crystallus. No further explanation was given. Glonor nodded slowly then sat back in his seat, wondering what kind of trespassing bikers would get the Police Department to press their Deputy Chief into responding to with such urgency.
“How many intruding bikers are there?”
“Two, a Le-Matoran and a Ta-Matoran” replied the Ko-Matoran almost mechanically.
“I wouldn’t expect to find either of their kind over here.” muttered Glonor. When he was not granted a response he decided to dig deeper. “Are they in a vehicle?”
“No, on foot.”
“In that case stick to ploughed streets. The suburbs are rural but nobody walks about in snow this deep for fun, not if one of them is a Ta-Matoran.”
Crystallus slowed for a second and thought about Glonor’s logic. The Av-Matoran could see the cogs turning inside his head as the Ko-Matoran picked a ploughed trail and followed it. Glonor held back a smile as the two Matoran drove on into the corridor of excess snow. He felt sharp and alert. It had been only days since he had last taken arms and fought for his life. He had been running for his life, gambling with fate, and hoping he got away with it. But this was what he truly missed: The Hunt. The two of them were tracing intruders in a frozen village that wasn’t on any maps. The thrill of the chase was pulsing through his mind. He hadn’t felt this alive in years.
They found the intruders about four minutes later. As the Department-issued car grinded to a halt Glonor was able to see the scene more clearly. The Le-Matoran and Ta-Matoran were standing side by side, all emotion void from their masks. If they were cold, they didn’t show it.
Thinking of their behavior as strange already, Glonor took a better look at them both and quickly wished he hadn’t. The two Matoran wore normal, typical armor for their elements. The Le-Matoran wore a Kanohi Hau, the Ta-Matoran wore a Kanohi Akaku – which was fitted with telescopic lenses, like most of them. There was nothing unusual about their armor itself. It was the fact that there was a Kraata strapped to each of their backs. Glonor was no expert in the creations of the Makuta but he knew that their Kanohi and armor would be infected, perhaps even corroded – if evil was acidic.
Another problem with Kraata was the fact that they were able to affect others from a distance depending on their stage. Again, it didn’t take an expert to know that these Kraata would be no different. One touch from either of the trespassers and there would be one more soulless empty shell walking about.
However, that wasn’t what shocked Glonor. The fact that there was also a third Matoran at the scene unnerved him, particularly because that other Matoran was Police Chief Glacii. The Ko-Matoran’s Kanohi was stricken with fear as he pleaded silently for them to help him.
Behind the three Matoran was Glacii’s vehicle of choice, a large automobile that was either dark blue or black. Two beams of light streamed from the headlights and the driver door was open. The engine was obviously still running which meant Glacii had arrived to confront the two Matoran head on. It was unfortunate that he was about to die. One more step forwards from the two infected bikers and his soul would be ripped from his body. Only the empty, twisted shell would be left and worse still: There was nothing that Glonor could do about it.

Chapter 4 - Obligation

The vehicle remained stationary as Glonor and Crystallus watched the scene before them in nothing less than sheer horror. The headlights cut through the darkness like two knives, and the effect they had was just as brutal.
The standoff wasn’t going too well for Glacii. He looked terrified. The two infected Matoran didn’t. They let no emotion slip. Why should they? After all, they were long since dead. The only reason they were walking was because the Kraata were controlling their corpses. They were no more than Rahkshi.
The two dead bikers were in Glacii’s space. If they stepped forwards then Glacii would have to jump over a snow bank. Elysium’s Chief of Police looked petrified. He was shaking from something other than the cold and Glonor could see why. The Ko-Matoran was wearing a leather sheaf, which was strapped around his waist. It appeared to be the type of accessory that would be used to hold a dagger or – judging by the shape – holster a revolver. The Av-Matoran could see that the sheaf was empty but there was no weapon in Glacii’s hand. Instead the cold shine of the gunmetal firearm was lying in the snow. He concluded that it had therefore either been tossed aside as a sign of surrender or had been forced from his hands. Either way, the situation was not good.
Glonor glanced at Crystallus, questions forming in his mind. “Who exactly are your Kraata-loving friends?”
“Members of a biker gang,” responded Crystallus as he finally decided to take his hands off of the steering wheel. “Undesirables.” Both the Le-Matoran and Ta-Matoran were staring at them blankly, as if waiting for them to make a move. That gave Glonor time for an interview with Elysium’s Deputy police Chief.
“So undesirable that your Chief of Police joins the chase?”
Crystallus shrugged. “You’re seeing what I’m seeing.”
The Av-Matoran grunted and wrapped his hand around the door handle. “You got any plans for these guys?”
“If you’re talking about fighting them you can forget it,” responded the Ko-Matoran. “They have Kraata. They’re dangerous.”
“So am I,” replied Glonor. His hands tightened around the handle as he prepared to open the door and plunge into the cold.
“Wait!” insisted Crystallus as he grabbed Glonor’s shoulder. “Not yet. Look what happened to Chief Glacii. He stepped out of his vehicle and then cornered him.”
“Not recently,” remarked Glonor. “Look at his car. The exhaust is leaking into the snow. Judging by the puddle I’d say he’s been standing like that for at least twenty minutes.”
Crystallus frowned. “How does that change anything?”
“It doesn’t. I just think standing in the cold in a standoff for twenty minutes is quite serious.” Crystallus narrowed his eyes and continued to look out of the window. He didn’t move.
Glonor decided to ask again. “Who are they?”
“Bikers,” repeated Crystallus.
Then where are their bikes?“
“They’ve been stealing cars,” replied Crystallus.
“So you know they are bikers despite the absence of their bikes?”
“Not personally,” replied Crystallus with a heavy sigh. “They’re part of a gang: the Kraata Purge. The Kraata on their backs kind of give them away.”
“And they live in Elysium?”
“About a mio or two from here, maybe a hundred of them. They camp around an abandoned concrete war bunker.”
Glonor nodded slowly, racking his brain for more details that he had picked up and filed away. “What about the dead Fe-Matoran? Was he involved with this?”
“He was one of the guys the Mayor sent to evict the bikers from their camp site at the bunker. He disappeared for about a week until he was found earlier today.”
Glonor grunted to show his understanding. He filed the new information away. This bunker seemed quite important. Perhaps he should take a visit to it tomorrow. After all, if they all managed to get out of this alive then he was going to be very bored.
The two Matoran watched and waited. About 10 bio away Glacii was still standing in the same position, shaking with fear. Meanwhile, neither of the infected Matoran had moved. Instead they stood still, staring at Glonor and Crystallus through the windscreen.
Glonor turned to his left and nudged Crystallus. “You’d better do something quick.”
Crystallus did nothing.
“Interesting strategy,” commented Glonor. “You’re going to wait until they freeze to death. Ingenious!”
Crystallus did not reply.
“Come on” chuckled Glonor. “We can take them. It’ll be three against two.”
“You’re a civilian” muttered Crystallus. “This is none of your business.”
The Av-Matoran paused. No responses came to his mind to counter Crystallus’ point but he wasn’t going to let the Ko-Matoran cop talk him out of helping. Not when Glacii’s life was at risk.
“Besides,” continued the Kakama-wearer “you’re unarmed.”
“Against these guys?” snorted Glonor. “I don’t been to be armed.”
Crystallus didn’t seem to get Glonor’s joke as he continued to stare at the Av-Matoran. Now there were four pairs of eyes staring at him. “Those Kraata are no joke. One touch from either of the bikers and you die, Glonor. You’ll die just like they did.”
“I guess that makes us even,” muttered Glonor as he began cracking his knuckles.
“But you’re missing the point,” implored Crystallus. “They don’t feel pain. They’re both dead.”
“They don’t need to feel pain,” answered the Av-Matoran. “They just need to feel consciousness and unconsciousness.”
Crystallus fell silent. Both Matoran gazed out of the glass window at the three Matoran outside. Glacii made some kind of a remark that caused the Le-Matoran to peal his eyes off of them and take a step forwards. Startled, Glacii grunted and stepped backwards. He tripped over the snow bank behind him and landing on his back. The Police Chief was now about a bio further away from his revolver.
“It’s now or never,” stated Glonor darkly. Crystallus finally nodded and opened his door. As he did so, he produced a firearm of his own. Glonor was immediately hit by cold air as the Ko-Matoran leaned back inside the car from the still, frozen world outside.
“Remember, don’t touch them. Kraata are illegal here for a reason.”
Glonor grunted before he too opened his door and slipped out into the frozen night.
As soon as they had taken their first steps, Glonor knew the temperature was well below freezing. The Department vehicle had been warm. Stepping out of the warmth and into the cold was the worst way to adapt. It was like stepping into an air conditioner.
As Crystallus and Glonor approached the two infected Matoran stepped back, away from Glacii. The Police Chief grunted and struggled to his feet. Without hesitation, Crystallus drifted over to help his fellow policeman, holstering his firearm while he did so. Glonor watched as the two Matoran turned to let their eyes follow the Ko-Matoran. As they did so he slipped behind them unnoticed. They had already forgotten about him.
Nobody moved.
Standing on the cleared snow on the street was like standing on a frozen beach of ice crystals. Each individual shaved snow flake glittered in the moonlight, not that Glonor was looking at the snow. He was looking at the four other Matoran, busy evaluating the situation. Like he had guessed, the two bikers were wearing infected Kanohi and he could now confirm that the Ta-Matoran’s Akaku was fitted with telescopic lenses. However, now he was able to see that both Matoran were fitted with level 5 Kraata of Ice Resistance. He immediately recognized the yellow and dark green scales of the slimy creatures. He knew that Kraata could automatically seek out Kanohi or even dead Matoran by that stage, but they looked like they had been attached to the Matoran for weeks. Worse still, they were welded onto the backs of their hosts, which meant somebody had grabbed a blow torch and soldered a screaming slug onto somebody’s back. That was bordering on Rahi abuse… if Kraata could be considered Rahi.
It was then that Glacii burst into life. He growled and stepped forwards angrily. “Get the hell out of my town!” he roared as his arms flew through the air. His right hand balled into a fist as he landed a solid punch to the Le-Matoran’s jaw.
The biker stumbled backwards, his head jerking away from Glonor. After spending a moment regaining his balance, the Le-Matoran distributed his weight to his right foot – which was the furthest away from his target – and turned to face Glacii, as if he was about to fling a Kanoka disk. Before the Ko-Matoran could blink, the Le-Matoran flailed his arm forwards, a fist bound at the other end on a direct collision course with the Matoran’s Pakari Nuva.
Luckily, Glonor noted the stance and prepared to take action. As the Le-Matoran’s fist flew over his shoulder his weight shifted to his forward-most foot. Thinking quickly, the Av-Matoran pulled his leg back and took a swipe at the Le-Matoran’s ankle, causing his foot to rocket out of place and disrupt his balance. The Hau-wearing biker didn’t make a sound as his leg gave way and he crumpled to the ground. His fist sailed through the air, missing Glacii by the diameter of a Kanoka disk.
But that wasn’t good news for Glonor. As soon as the Le-Matoran hit the ground the Ta-Matoran jolted and turned to face him. He showed no trace of surprise but he was confused. He had not known that Glonor had been behind them. In desperation, the Ta-Matoran lashed out and aimed a punch straight at Glonor’s Iden. The Av-Matoran had seen better punches from Ga-Matoran. Without hesitation, he stepped back, letting the fist buzz past his Kanohi.
Judging by how easily the Ta-Matoran lost his balance, Glonor was betting that the Kraata had not matured into a stage 5 on the Matoran’s back. If it had then it would have better control over its puppet. Instead, the Ta-Matoran’s punch sent him flying off balance, allowing Glonor to land another good kick at a Matoran’s feet. The Ta-Matoran hit the icy ground like a tightly bound bundle of Harakeke. He landed on his back, giving the Av-Matoran a satisfying scream as the Kraata was crushed from the dead weight.
Glonor hadn’t celebrated a victory halfway through a fight in centuries and was in no mood to start doing it now. He had long since learnt how to tell whether or not an enemy was conscious or not. Almost instinctively, he spun around to face the Le-Matoran as he struggled back to his feet. The Av-Matoran almost smiled as the Hau-wearer slipped and ended up throwing his arms out to break the fall, something the Kraata controlling the Ta-Matoran had not thought of. The Le-Matoran was bent on all fours, trying to regain his stance. Glonor didn’t let him. The Iden wearer grunted and landed a solid kick in the Le-Matoran’s head, causing his Kanohi Hau to smash like some expensive vase. The Matoran grunted and sagged to the ground, lying face down in the splinters of his smashed Kanohi.
Glonor cracked a smile then turned to look at Glacii and Crystallus.
“Mata Nui!” cursed Crystallus. Both Ko-Matoran stood in utter disbelief. Two pairs of eyes were blinking between Glonor and the two Kraata possessed corpses he had just pummeled.
Without a word, Glacii tore his eyes off of the scene and walked over to his vehicle. He emerged a few minutes later looking just as shocked. “I just called for two ambulances” he announced while looking straight at Glonor. “Do you want to explain why I had to call for two ambulances?”
Glonor shrugged casually. “Because I slipped.”
“You slipped?”
“On the ice.”
“What? You slipped and accidentally clobbered them both?”
“No,” smiled Glonor. “I slipped while I was kicking the Le-Matoran. It softened the blow. If I hadn’t slipped you’d probably have called an ambulance and a scout team to find his head.”
Glacii looked away.
“Go wait in the damn car,” ordered Crystallus, his eyes still wide. Glonor shrugged again then started walking back to the vehicle. When he clambered into the passenger seat he was glad to feel the warmth of the interior. He redirected the heating-vents so they faced him and turned the temperature dial up to the maximum. There, he waited.
About ten minutes later, two ambulances arrived – just as Glacii had said. Glonor was still unsure what an actual ambulance was. From what he was seeing, it was a very small Vahki Transporter. He let out a sigh of relief at the sight of another vehicle from the universe that he recognized. All of the cars and torches and guns in this universe were gnawing away at his sanity. Whoever invented the wheel was going to get one hell of a long argument from Glonor if he ever met them.
The freezing Av-Matoran shuddered uncomfortably before taking a glance at the bikers. They were both dead already so he was unsure why Glacii had bothered to call ambulances. Perhaps they would perform some sort of an autopsy on the Kraata or try and track down where the Matoran had come from. It also gave them fresh information about what was going on at this concrete bunker. Glonor didn’t know why Glacii and Crystallus weren’t more grateful of him. He had just made their lives a whole lot easier. The Av-Matoran could see them both talking while the ambulances left. It didn’t take a highly trained ex-Military Cop to figure out what they were talking about. Glonor decided to read their body language. Judging by the fact they deliberately weren’t looking in his direction their list of conversation topics became considerably thinner. They were talking about him.

“Could he be the guy we’re looking for?” asked Glacii, desperation in his voice as the furrow in his brow deepened with the weight of more unanswered questions.
“I doubt it,” muttered Crystallus. “If he was then he just floored two of his possible allies. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like great teamwork.”
“What if that was a decoy? Perhaps one of them was about to tell us something and he had to shut them up?”
“Look, Chief,” sighed Crystallus “He was just trying to protect you. I’m certain. Besides, he can’t be our guy. It’s a miracle he’s even here. Like he said, he’d probably be on the other side of Ko-Metru now if the bus hadn’t crashed.”
Glacii grunted in response and made a face, as if he didn’t quite agree with his Deputy. “How sure are we that he didn’t cause that crash? It would create a good distraction, keeping us busy sorting out the other passengers.”
“He couldn’t have,” answered Crystallus. “He was sat at the back, asleep. The only way he could have caused the bus to crash would be by getting up and physically attacking the driver, and none of the other passengers saw him get up. That’s twenty witnesses who trust him.”
“OK,” frowned Glacii. “Could the driver be the guy? Could he have crashed on purpose?”
Crystallus let out a low whistle. “Hell of a risk, Chief.”
“Not necessary. What’s to stop him from driving straight into a deliberate skid?”
Crystallus shook his head. “He said a biker caused him to flinch.”
“Did anyone else see a biker?”
Crystallus shifted uncomfortably and steered the conversation away from Glacii’s point. “But he could have gotten himself injured. He could have killed the other passengers. What use would he be in hospital or jail when he’s supposed to be performing an assassination?”
“Perhaps not,” muttered Glacii as he rubbed his forehead. “These modern-day vehicles have all sorts of gadgets. I still don’t know what half of the buttons in my car do. You have anti-skid brakes, collapsible steering columns, traction control, crumple zones. All he had to do was slide along the road for a couple of bio then ram the bus right into a snow mound.”
Crystallus sighed again, his breath freezing as it left his mouth. “I’ll talk to Glonor tonight. He may have been asleep but the other passengers are saying he took charge afterwards. He knows what happened.”
“He’s a psychopath!” Glacii snorted. “You saw what he just did! That’s just not natural!”
“Do you really think that?” pressed Crystallus. “He’s a pretty smart guy. He saved you from a busted Kanohi and me from having to shoot two already-dead Matoran. He did us both a big favor.”
Glacii stared as his deputy in sheer disbelief. “You actually think he had a sane thought in his head just now?”
“No I don’t,” replied Crystallus. “I think it’s a long time since he’s done a single rational thing. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a different way of getting things done.”
Glacii continued to stare at Crystallus before he finally turned away and let out a long breath. “Fine, if you trust him then I guess you can talk to him about the case.”
“Can’t we use him some more?” implored Crystallus. “He’s an ex-military cop. He’s definitely got enough experience to help us. Besides, half the department’s working on the case. An extra head can’t do too much harm.”
The Police Chief’s frown deepened. He was clearly anxious about allowing Glonor’s involvement in the case. “How much would we have to tell him?”
“Probably most of it,” shrugged Crystallus. “But like I said, he’s a smart guy. He’ll probably figure it out for himself."
Glacii nodded slowly. “So is this what you would do if you were chief?”
Crystallus smiled sadly for a moment then finally met the Chief’s gaze. “Yes, sir, it is.”
Glacii nodded again then looked away, a lump in his throat. “Alright then,” he muttered sadly “that’s good enough for me. You can let him get involved but just remember, he’s ex-military for a reason.” With those parting words Glacii turned away and started walking back to his car. Crystallus was left standing on his own.

Crystallus didn’t live far away from the Police Department. It didn’t take him long to explain why either. Glonor listened intently the Ko-Matoran defended his department’s policy of having all officers live within ten minutes drive of the building and wished he’d never asked.
The Ko-Matoran’s house was nothing special in Glonor’s opinion. It was very remote but at least it was within the ten minute drive and looked like it had enough open space. The building itself was round and well insulated, which indicated that Crystallus had a wife. Glonor couldn’t recognize any significant details about the trim for the snow so he decided to forget about an evaluation.
Walking into the house felt like a blur. The city was still too cold to allow snow but Glonor’s’ vision still felt obscured. The door seemed dark, distant, and opened the second Crystallus and Glonor were within reach of it. A worried looking Ga-Matoran stepped into the light and beckoned them in. Crystallus’ wife, presumably.
There was an awkward moment at the door where nobody moved. Crystallus was eager to get inside, his wife was anxious to keep the warmth in the house, Glonor just didn’t want to blunder inside uninvited. Even in the middle of a freezing Ko-Metru village he put his manners before his safety.
After a long instant of hesitation Crystallus placed a hand on Glonor’s shoulder and herded him in. His hand was warm but he was reluctant to touch the Av-Matoran.
The introductions were brief. The name of Crystallus’ wife was Lagira, a Huna-wearing Ga-Matoran. She seemed nice enough as she explained that she had set up a spare bed in the other room. She sounded almost apologetic as she explained.
“Ma’am, the floor would have been fine,” chuckled Glonor with a smile. “I’m very sorry to have to put you to this trouble.”
“It’s no trouble at all,” smiled Lagira. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you need to.”
“That’s very kind of you,” beamed Glonor. After centuries of experience, he knew it was usually best to act grateful around females – not that he wasn’t grateful but it couldn’t hurt to exaggerate it a just little.
“Where are your bags?” asked Lagira as she raised a questioning eyebrow.
“He didn’t bring any,” answered Crystallus as he opened a door. “He’s drifting.” With those words the Ko-Matoran walked forwards into a different room, leaving Glonor alone with Lagira.
“He wants to talk to you,” sighed the Ga-Matoran. “I can tell because he isn’t talking to me.” For a moment, her eyes became watery as she stared into space. Her Kanohi Huna seemed to crease into a gloomy expression all too easily. Glonor nodded and decided to follow the cop.

The room was more comfortable than the Av-Matoran had initially expected. There were two large windows on the walls that were covered in snow and mostly concealed behind two thick but short curtains. There were three comfy chairs and a desk. Much to Glonor’s relief, he was met by the welcoming glow of a light stone as it illuminated the room. Crystallus was sat in one of the chairs, with the closed curtains to his right – as if he could see through them and face Crystallus.
When Glonor sat down the Ko-Matoran sprang into life and began to speak. “We have a bit of a situation here.”
“I know.”
“How much do you know?”
“I know that you’ve got a bunch of Kraata-powered dead bikers living in a war bunker in the snow and that your department are terrified of them.”
Crystallus winced. “Let’s leave the bikers for now. What do you know about our police department?”
“I know that you were working at full capacity all day today. So full that your Chief and Deputy Chief – who were both off duty – got called in to answer civilian calls, which indicates that the rest of your department weren’t guarding broken power lines.”
The Ko-Matoran nodded. “We’ve got every officer in Elysium on red alert. Do you know why?”
“Because you’re worried about somebody coming inside?” Crystallus’ words echoed through Glonor’s mind. “We need to keep track of whose coming in and out of Elysium at the moment.
Crystallus nodded silently.
“What about the bikers?” frowned Glonor. “It doesn’t exactly seem like you know a lot about them. You said yourself they steal cars and don’t pay taxes. People like that keep a low profile. How do keep a record of them?”
“With tremendous difficulty” sighed Crystallus.
“Then tell me what you know so far,” muttered Glonor, every trace of the kind and witty side of his personality was gone. If he still felt like cracking a joke he did not show it. The eyes behind his Kanohi Iden were as cold and unforgiving as the weather on the other side of the curtains as he stared at Crystallus.
“About the bikers?” snorted the Ko-Matoran. Not a muscle moved in Glonor’s face. The Ko-Matoran sighed again and shrugged casually. “I’ll start from the top. Chief Glacii told me you guessed the prison was new. But what you didn’t know is that it took two years to build, cost millions of widgets, and about one hundred freezing Po-Matoran construction workers. Living and working in Ko-Metru for two years is hard on Matoran of Stone, so the Turaga high council decided to extend the budget to put together a couple of cheap tenement huts in some public land in the outskirts of the city, right next to an old concrete army facility. It was like a small village. Then the prison was finished and the Po-Matoran left.”
“What happened next?” muttered Glonor, his mind slaving away trying to make connections.
“The bikers moved in. The ‘Kraata Purge’.”
The Av-Matoran raised an eyebrow at the mention of Kraata. “Did you know they were dealing with Kraata before today?” he asked.
Crystallus nodded. “We didn’t know any of them were being animated by Kraata but we definitely knew there was something going down at the bunker involving those things.”
“How come?” pressed Glonor.
“About a month ago we caught one of them in an alleyway. Some Ga-Matoran stumbled across him selling a Kraata to a Ko-Matoran. We managed to arrest the biker but the Ko-Matoran got away.”
“And this Ga-Matoran saw the whole thing?” muttered Glonor solemnly. Crystallus nodded. “And he’s in your prison now?”
The Ko-Matoran nodded again. “He’s awaiting a trial.”
“For a whole month?” remarked Glonor. He wasn’t greatly familiar with the court process but a month felt like a long time to leave a Matoran in a prison without questioning whether or not he deserved to be in there.
“He’s waiting,” answered Crystallus “either for the witness to forget stuff or for her to die.”
“Who’s the witness?” asked Glonor.
“A Ga-Matoran named Nokama. She’s some retired Ga-Metru Teacher, perfect credibility for the trial.”
“And is she likely to forget stuff or die?”
“Of course she is,” sighed Crystallus. “We’ve stationed four of our best female cops in her house around the clock. Plus there’s a police cruiser sat on her street waiting.”
“And she’s OK with this?”
“She won’t leave, says it’s something about principle or some other moral trash.”
Glonor’s frown deepened as he pondered Nokama’s situation. He was not particularly familiar with the name. He’d only been in the universe for a couple of days, let alone the town. “How would this affect the bikers?”
“Kraata are illegal,” grunted Crystallus. “If she tells the truth – when they finally get round to organizing a trial – and says she saw a Kraata then the entire biker gang gets booted out of Metru-Nui. We can finally nail the whole lot of them. They’re scared, they’re desperate. Silencing her is the only thing that will let them stay.”
“Which is why you’re worried about who’s coming and going,” muttered Glonor as the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together in his mind. “You think they’re sending someone to kill her?”
Crystallus nodded. He didn’t utter a word.
“Well why can’t the bikers do it themselves?”
“You saw what we’re like. One sighting of trespassing bikers and my department is all over them,” answered Crystallus. “The whole town’s suspicious of them, so it won’t be a biker. It’ll be somebody who we won’t recognize on their behalf – it has to be – and whoever it is on his way.”
The Ko-Matoran stopped talking, plunging the house into silence. The air outside was still. No wind. The cold was so intense that Glonor could still feel it creeping up his arms from behind the walls.
The Av-Matoran grunted as he shifted and leaned forward in his seat. “OK, our guy can’t be a biker and he can’t have come on the tour bus, so that leaves 8161 possible assassins.”
Crystallus frowned. “What makes you think that?”
Glonor smiled and leaned back in his chair again. “Well, assuming your sign is accurate, there are 8,270 people living in Elysium. Assuming that the dead Fe-Matoran won’t be killing anybody too soon, that you’re innocent, that Glacii is too, that it won’t be any of the 100 bikers, that Nokama won’t be hired to kill herself, and that the five cops stationed at her house are reliable then that rules them all out and narrows our list of suspects down, of course that’s just assuming your guy’s already living in the city and that your road sign is accurate.” Glonor paused. “How about the people visiting the prison?”
“We track them,” answered Crystallus firmly. “They settle down in motels for the night, they visit the prisoners the next morning, then they leave. Any change in that pattern and we’d be all over them.”
Glonor nodded again without saying a word. His eyes were fixed on the curtains as he sat back in his chair again and put a hand to his forehead. He could feel the metaphorical cogs churning away inside his head.
“How about this army base?” asked Crystallus, a glimmer of desperation in his eyes. “Can you tell us anything about it?”
Glonor’s eyebrows rose again. “What would I know?”
“You were in the Vacca-Nui army at one point and it’s an army facility.”
“Well it depends,” shrugged Glonor. “When was it built?”
“During the Toa/Dark Hunter War.”
“By which side?”
“Not a clue but logic tells me it would be the Toa.”
The Av-Matoran nodded, his Kanohi appeared dark and ridged in the poor lighting. “But you don’t know for sure?”
Crystallus shook his head.
“Then it could be anything. The damn thing could have been started and never finished. “
“I doubt it,” muttered Crystallus. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be much use to the bikers. Why would they seek shelter inside a half-built concrete war bunker?”
“I’ve heard of stranger things,” grunted Glonor as he heaved a shrug. “You don’t even know if they are using the bunker at all. Like you said, there was already the camp site for the Po-Matoran who built your prison, what other reason do they need?”
“Well we need to know,” sighed the Kakama-wearer. “Chances are – if Nokama has a month left in her – we’ll have to march up there and make a hundred arrests. I’m not a great tactician but I would prefer to know what my department will be going up against.”
The Av-Matoran paused, processing the words. He sighed, raised his hand – as if to make a point – then lowered it again. “I can’t help you. I’ve never served here.”
“You could drive down there and take a look for yourself,” suggested the Ko-Matoran.
“What would be the point?” grunted Glonor. “It’s a damn concrete building that you don’t even know they can get into.”
Crystallus shook his head slowly. “You’re missing the obvious here. What’s the point of any concrete bunker?”
“Shelter,” grunted Glonor.
“And where do they usually lead to?”
“Underground.”
“Exactly,” muttered Crystallus darkly. “We’re looking at their camp when it could only be the tip of the ice berg. If they can get inside then they can store all kinds of things down there. They could have supplies and weapons hidden away. They could have fortified the entire bunker. This whole thing could turn into a siege, and I don’t think anybody wants that.”
Glonor nodded, his hands once again keeping his neck propped up. He yawned then shook his head vigorously, trying to shake the tiredness out of him as he shuddered from the cold. He didn’t feel bored by the idea of the bloodbath that Crystallus was talking about, it just seemed unlikely. Similarly to him, the bikers were drifters. They moved from town to town, city to city, trying to find shelter. Just like him they were probably regretting coming to Ko-Metru to find that shelter but that was beside the point. If Glonor didn’t feel like fortifying a hotel room then there was no reason why the bikers would want to fortify the bunker. It was illogical.
“What do you think of Glacii?” asked Glonor, trying to direct their discussion away from the bikers and their bunker.
Crystallus looked up, as if surprised. “He’s my superior. I can’t just talk about him behind his back.” The Ko-Matoran paused, studying Glonor. The Kakama-wearer was trying to read him, something that many had tried to do in the Av-Matoran’s life. “Why do you ask anyway?”
Glonor pulled a face then shrugged again. “I don’t know. I’m just wondering how useful he is. He seems a little… overwhelmed?”
“Glacii’s alright,” grimaced Crystallus “but he’s pretty worn-out these days. His wife died so he’s all alone now. I guess he just feels beaten down.”
“I saw a picture of them both in his office.”
“Happier days,” muttered the Ko-Matoran. “They were a happy couple once upon a time.”
“So is he up for the job?”
This time Crystallus shrugged. “Enough to ask for help when he needs it.”
“And who’s he asking?” snorted Glonor in response.
“You.”
“What can I possibly do?” snorted Glonor. “Just so you know, I’m not some miracle worker. I can’t fix all of your Chief’s problems.”
“I’m not asking you to do that,” muttered Crystallus as he heaved a sigh. The Ko-Matoran placed his hands up to his face and rubbed the wrinkles under his eyes. “There’s more that you need to know.”
“No kidding.”
“This is serious,” sighed the cop. “It’s about Nokama.”
“She’ll be fine,” smiled Glonor as he tried to persuade the resigned Ko-Matoran before him. “You said so yourself that you’ve got five of your best cops with her around the clock. She’s buttoned away safely enough.”
“But we competed for the prison,” continued Crystallus.
Glonor paused, trying to see where Crystallus was heading. “Glacii told me in his office. Something about jobs and widgets.”
“Yes, except those could have been some other Ko-Metru town’s jobs and widgets. There was only one reason why we got chosen above other towns and that’s because we agreed to everything on the documents.”
“And?” grunted Glonor, his hand cupped over his mouth as he focused on Crystallus.
“We had to agree to their crisis plan.”
“And what does that mean?”
“If there is ever an escape from the Elysium prison, when the siren rings, then we have prearranged roles.”
“Which means what?”
“The whole of Elysium’s police department gets called in to form a perimeter around the town until the Turaga High Council can send us backup.”
“Every cop?”
“Every cop,” repeated Crystallus with a single affirmative nod. “Every last one of us. On or off duty. Awake or asleep.”
Glonor’s eyebrows rocketed upwards. “Are you serious?”
“It’s what we had to agree to if we wanted the prison, which we evidently did.”
“That’s not good,” muttered Glonor cautiously. His tired eyes began to widen.
“Not good at all,” chuckled Crystallus whilst shaking his head. “Because the second that prison siren starts ringing we drop everything and head north, which means if that siren goes off any time in the next month then we have to pull out all of our cops and leave Nokama completely unprotected.”
Silence hung over the room for a long time. Glonor remained sitting with his hand cupped over his chin while Crystallus looked at the curtains. The Av-Matoran’s eyes were fixed on a stain on the table. Once again the imaginary noises whirled away inside his head, like they always had.
“Which is why you need me? If the siren goes off and you have to pull your department out then I have to guard Nokama, don’t I?”
“It’s your choice,” replied Crystallus. “But essentially yes, you’re our only hope if that siren rings.”
Glonor nodded slowly. He looked around the room, taking in the wooden table, the bare walls, the horrible curtains, and the Ko-Matoran before him. How could he resist? “Alright,” he smiled. “I’ll do it. I’ll look after your witness but I don’t plan on waiting a full month just to look after some teacher… I have a life.”
Crystallus smiled sadly. “I’m afraid you may have to. The sooner I can get you over to her house the better. I’ll take you to meet her tomorrow.”
“You’re getting rid of me awfully quickly,” smiled Glonor. “You don’t trust me yet, do you?”
“I met you hours ago and now you’re in my house with me and my wife. Of course I trust you.”
Glonor nodded as he stretched. “Can’t argue with that,” he muttered as he yawned. “Now if you don’t mind, I have a mattress to hit with my face.”
Crystallus cracked a smile then got up. The two Matoran exchanged their brief farewells before getting up and leaving the room.
Glonor began wandering the house, searching for the mattress Lagira had mentioned. After ducking into the kitchen, a study, and a cupboard, Glonor finally found the make-shift bed in the front room. The Av-Matoran yawned as he lifted his feet onto the mattress and pulled the covers back. The springs creaked and twanged under his weight. He rolled one way, then rolled the other. About a minute later he was fast asleep.

Chapter 5 - Dangerous Minds

In a normal town it would have taken a little under ten minutes to get to Nokama’s house. However, Elysium was no normal town, and with the snow blocking everything in sight it took about three times as long.
Glonor was already regretting picking the Ko-Metru bus company before Crystallus’ cruiser grinded to a halt. If he had chosen Ta-Metru or Ga-Metru then he wouldn’t be sitting shivering in the worn leather seat that he was in now. He would be warm and calm, sitting beside a canal, relaxing and surrounded by Ga-Matoran. His ideal day.
“Do you really want me to get out here?” he muttered as he shuddered.
Crystallus frowned. “It’s your choice.”
Glonor groaned whilst he wished he had never volunteered for this. “I know, it’s just ridiculously cold outside.” Crystallus checked both sides of the road then glanced at Glonor.
“Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this?” asked the Ko-Matoran without a trace of humor in his voice.
Glonor paused then nodded. He didn’t want to speak. That way he would see his breath freeze and it would remind him how cold it was.
“I’m just saying that it’ll be unlikely we’ll need you yet. The siren could go off at any time in the next month so their hired-gun has time at his fingertips.”
The Iden wearer shrugged. “I might as well introduce myself to the person I’m supposed to protect. If the worst comes to the worst and the siren goes off today, then I might as well know my way around. Plus he’ll be expecting us to take our time. He’ll be able to catch us off guard otherwise.”
Crystallus mulled Glonor’s words over then shrugged. “Does the name Papura mean anything to you?”
Glonor frowned as he stared at the rows of houses. “Nope,” he answered through chattering teeth.
“Papura was a Ba-Matoran who used to live here in Elysium. He worked as a cop, one of the newer ones who joined when we had the jail built. This morning we found him dead in his car with a bullet-hole square in the middle of his mask.”
Glonor fell silent. The only noise was the wailing of the wind as the snow sliced through the frosty air. “That’s interesting” he muttered. He did not know the Matoran personally but he still felt what he had just said sounded offensive. Matoran died all the time. He must have realized that at some point in his life.
“We still don’t have a clue why he was killed, but the bullet between the eyes is the exact same way that the Fe-Matoran died.”
“Did he have any link to the bikers?”
“He hated them. He had the largest reputation for unlawful arrests of bikers than anybody else in the department. Plus he went down to their camp a couple of times.”
Glonor nodded. “That’s bad.”
“How so?”
“It’s bad because he was shot,” answered Glonor with a sigh as he shivered. “The guy the bikers are hiring to kill Nokama? The one you’ve been on red alert looking out for? You missed him. He’s already here.”
There was another awkward pause before Crystallus nodded slowly. “I know,” he sighed in a tone that made Glonor wonder if the Ko-Matoran had completely resigned himself. “But are you sure you want visit Nokama today? We could really use your help with this Papura-case.”
“You’ll do fine,” muttered Glonor as reassuringly as he could. “You know what you’re doing. It snowed last night so there’ll be plenty of footprints and on the ground.”
“Sure,” grunted Crystallus with a shrug.
Glonor nodded then reached for the door handle. As his fingers wrapped around the cold metal he thought of something else to say. “Actually,” he implored with a fresh spring in his voice at the thought of an extra few seconds in the warmth. “Can you make sure that the cops at Nokama’s house know I’m coming? I don’t want them panicking when I walk up to the front door.”
“Crystallus nodded then frowned. “But… you don’t know where she lives.”
“I’ll find it,” grunted Glonor as he pulled on the door handle then slipped out of the cruiser.

The world outside of the frozen town known as Elysium was very different. While the town was isolated by mio of snow, the rest of the Matoran Universe was not. In fact, it was quite the contrary. Entire forests had been burnt to ashes by the armies of the Brotherhood of Makuta, mountains had been leveled, tunnels had been destroyed, lakes and rivers had been dug up and drained to make the entire Universe into one great big battlefield. Zakaz was in crisis while the residents of Xia and Stelt clung on to life by threads. Everything south of the Northern Continent had been a constant bloodbath for over a thousand years.
Yet, despite millennia worth of navigation, exploring, and map reading, one island remained unknown to the rest of the Universe. It was tiny in comparison to the other continents yet it had remained unaffected by the war. It sat, almost floating on the silver sea, hidden away between Odina and Nynrah to the far East of the Universe. It had never been named simply because its owner had never taken the time to think about it. For a long period of time it had simply been named Island X by a number of the residents. The only reason the land mass had survived so long was because the island housed a small population of Matoran. The Toa had assumed that it was their territory so had seen no reason to invade it during the war. However, they couldn’t have been any more misguided.
The island was in fact under the ownership of the Brotherhood of Makuta, which meant that they had seen no reason to invade it either. As a result, the island had remained untouched by outside forces since the start of the war, and now the war had been won the island’s ruler was becoming impatient.
His name was Garnax and he was a Ba-Matoran servant of the Brotherhood of Makuta. At that moment he was standing on the balcony of his mansion – which had been paid for and built by the Brotherhood. He was not in a good mood – he very rarely was. The Ba-Matoran had been thinking about his position for years now. The Brotherhood had given him this island, his mansion, his servants, whatever he had wanted from the organization had been at his disposal on the condition that he did his job, and right now his job had just gotten a whole lot harder.
Naturally, Garnax’s main priority was to help Garnax. His own life was above anybody else’s in his eyes. Two weeks ago he had received orders from the Brotherhood. They had not been signed and had been handed to him personally by a Vortixx named Cobarox. After the Vortixx had left for Metru-Nui, Garnax had read his instructions, then read them again, then he had destroyed the tablet by throwing it off of his balcony, leaving his cleaning staff to deal with it.
While he had been reading his instructions, Garnax had been analyzing his assignment from the unnamed Makuta and had come to a satisfying conclusion. Not only was it in his power – and his alone – to get this Makuta what he was asking for, but he was also in a position where he could take advantage of the Brotherhood member. He could turn this deal into something a little more adventurous. In fact, the plan he had in mind was bordering on completely one-sided in his favor.
He was Garnax and the unnamed Makuta obviously wasn’t.
But now Garnax wasn’t feeling so confident. He had pulled some strings and given a few orders but he had made no progress in the two weeks that he had spent trying to accomplish his assignment. Something had gone wrong. Now he thought about it, the Ba-Matoran was beginning to realize how dependant he was on the situation in Metru-Nui. Clearly, there had been too many people with understanding of his plans running around. That was why he had ordered that the Ba-Matoran cop and the Ga-Matoran witness were to be silenced. He had issued that order nearly a week ago and was yet to receive confirmation from his field agent in Elysium. He wondered what in Karzahni’s name his agent was doing.
Garnax’s communicator suddenly buzzed on his Kanohi. There was a sharp sizzle as the radio static echoed through his audio receptors then the voice appeared.
“Papura’s dead.”
“Is that the cop?” asked Garnax, making no attempt to hide the dissatisfied tone in his voice.
“Yes,” came the reply from the agent. Garnax had not bothered to learn the Matoran’s name but he knew enough about his agent. He knew he had his complete loyalty. Holding hostages always seemed to work in Garnax’s favor.
“Good,” muttered the Ba-Matoran. “I’ve arranged for one of the prisoners in your prison to find a very good hiding place for the next roll call. When the prison guards see him missing they’re assume he’s escaped and the siren will go off. I want you to kill the Ga-Matoran in that time. Is that understood?”
“I understand,” muttered the agent darkly. “But you’d damn well better leave my wife alone. If you so much as lay a finger on her then I will hunt you down and kill you myself.”
Garnax smiled darkly. “I don’t think you’re in any position to make threats like that.” He paused as he stared out at the ocean. He did not have many fond memories of water, just as he did not have many fond memories of his days on Vacca-Nui or of being shot in the shoulder by an Electro cannon. The Ba-Matoran rubbed the ancient wound at the memory. Even after 79,500 years the burn mark had never faded. The pain had dulled but it still stung whenever he touched it or when his armor rubbed against it. Garnax had been put through a living hell and forced to live through it. If he ever found the damn military cop who had given him the injury then pushed him off of a cliff then he could guarantee that the Matoran would suffer even more than Garnax himself had.
“We’ll be in touch.” With those parting words Garnax clicked off his communicator then balanced it on the balcony railing. He stared once more back at the ocean then turned his back on it and walked into his mansion.




By the time Glonor reached the police cruiser on Nokama’s street he had finally realized that it was snowing harder than before. The big white flakes rained down upon him, whipping him in the mask and stinging his eyes as they melted. It was freezing, but he was struggling on. He gritted his teeth to the point where he didn’t care whether or not they cracked. His mouth was too numb to feel anything.
The visibility was terrible. Glonor could barely see a five bio in front of him in any direction. He was almost certain that he had managed to get lost by walking from Crystallus’ cruiser to the other end of the street. He could not describe the sense of joy he felt as a pair of headlights cut into his vision. They sliced through the snow like a pair of large, yellow, parallel knives. The vehicle growled gently as the engine hummed, indicating that the driver was not a Ko-Matoran. Even outside Glonor was sure that he could hear the roar of the heating.
As he drew closer Glonor could see through the windscreen to make out the figure of the driver. He couldn’t see much but it was obvious that the cop had seen him. He looked neither alert nor enthusiastic. Probably one of the new ones.
The driver’s window retracted and the driver stuck his head out. Glonor was mildly surprised to see that the inhabitant was in fact an Onu-Matoran. His eyes were dull and unfocussed. Glonor guessed his would be if his job was sitting in a car outside some Ga-Matoran’s house in a snow storm.
“Are you Glonor?” he asked with a rough, deep voice.
Glonor nodded in response. His mouth was too cold to allow him to speak clearly.
The Onu-Matoran nodded then pointed in a vaguely Western direction. “Nokama’s house is the one on the left, three down from here.”
Glonor nodded again then raised his hand, as if to say thanks. The Onu-Matoran nodded then buzzed his window back up.
Glonor pushed himself onwards with his arms wrapped around him. He could handle warm temperatures. Sure, they were easiest. All sort of life existed in warm, damp places – rainforests and jungles were testaments of that. But nothing grew in places like this. Not in the cold. It was just uninhabitable. Back on Vacca-Nui, it was a well-known fact that you were a thousand times more likely to freeze to death in Ko-Vacca than you were likely to burst into flames in Ta-Vacca. Ice was not meant to support life. The cold was deadly.
Before Glonor knew it he found himself at Nokama’s front door. The door opened for him and a female cop stepped out. She stood in the cold and examined him closely.
“Are you Glonor?” she asked, echoing the Onu-Matoran’s question.
Glonor double-checked his memory, because he didn't want to be wrong, although he didn't think he was. When he was certain he nodded. The heat from inside the house was washing over him. He could feel himself defrosting.
“I have to search you”
He frowned. “For what? Weapons?”
“Weapons,” repeated the female cop with a quick nod.
“Against a retired Ga-Matoran teacher? I wouldn’t need any.”
“True,” shrugged the female cop. “But you’d need weapons if you were to fight me or any of the other officers inside this house.”
Glonor grunted. “Can we do it inside then?”
“No,” answered the cop certainly. “I know it isn’t exactly safe but rules are rules. I’m not allowed to let you inside until I’ve checked you.”
The Av-Matoran nodded slowly then turned around. The female drew closer, out into the outside world, and began a swift search. She conducted a brief but still chillingly thorough search of his body, poking her fingers in every gap and joint between the plates of his armor. She even made him open his pack then stuck her hand inside. She thumbed around the emptiness then pulled her hand back out. Glonor could feel her fingers in the hollow container that made up the upper section of his back. She looked mildly surprised. There had been nothing in Glonor’s pack. There hadn’t been anything in that thing for a long, long time. It was empty because he liked to travel light.
The female patted his armor over once more, sticking her fingers into any loose holes or ridges she could find once again, to make doubly sure he wasn’t concealing anything. When she realized that he was carrying absolutely nothing to his name she shrugged then gestured into the doorway, indicating that he could go in.
Glonor stepped in through the door then immediately began scanning the interior. The weather outside was getting worse so it was getting a lot darker. To compensate, the cops had put dozens of light-stones up on shelves and tables. They glowed almost effortlessly in the gloom, making the house feel warm and cozy behind layers upon layers of insulation.
The Iden-wearer was generally quite impressed. The front room was immaculately tidy. Most dwelling he had been in were simply single rooms. It looked like the houses in this area were a completely different story. The house had a small hallway which divided into three separate rooms: the front room, a bedroom, and some sort of study at the end of the corridor.
Glonor nodded slowly before turning around again to face the female cop who had welcomed him. He had not gotten a good look at her before so now was probably the best time. Crystallus’ words echoed through his mind once again. We’ve stationed four of our best female cops in her house around the clock. So where were the other three?
He decided to ask the question later. The female cop was a Vo-Matoran, sporting a Noble Kanohi Mask of Rebounding. He'd mistaken her for a Ga-Matoran in the snow. He'd never seen that particular Mask in reality; he'd only seen images of it and, though it was unfamiliar to him, its shape curved into a warm smile as he analyzed her. It looked cute, no doubt about that, and there was some kind of magnetism about her. She seemed reliable enough. She was sharp-looking, competent, and sleek. There was some sort of quiet confidence in the way she held herself. She had qualities he would remember, he was sure of that. But he didn't remember them. Therefore he had never seen her before. She was staring him straight in the eye, direct eye contact, like she was checking off similarities and differences against a mental image. It was a process he recognized. He had been looked at like that once or twice before. Crystallus had made it clear that all four of the cops in the hose were efficient, which meant none of them had joined the department with the construction of the prison. They probably would have come to the city at the start of the war with Crystallus and Nokama.
“Nokama’s in the library,” muttered the Vo-Matoran. She pointed towards the room that Glonor had guessed to be the study. The Av-Matoran smiled at her, noticing the weight of her eyes. She looked completely exhausted.
“Which one’s the library?” he asked, pretending not to know. He liked the Vo-Matoran. She seemed very professional and she definitely knew what she was doing. That or he just had a peculiar taste in possible friends.
“Follow me.” She spoke with a tone that appeared cheery enough but Glonor was regretting asking her to show him now. It meant she was abandoning her post at the door.
Nevertheless, Glonor followed the Vo-Matoran down the corridor and into the study. She pushed the door open then held it for Glonor, revealing a large, rectangular room that was filled to the breaking point with bookcases. There was a large window frame that ran from the ceiling of one wall right down to the ground – presumably some sort of doorway into a frozen garden. In contrast with the front room, the library was a complete mess, despite the floor being clear. The bookcases seemed strange and irregular. They clearly weren’t meant to fit across the wall the way they had been compressed into doing do, and the books were old and torn with pages falling out of them.
A second female cop stood by the window. She glanced briefly at Glonor then turned back to face the window. Her arms were folded and her gaze was distracted. Similarly to the Vo-Matoran, she looked exhausted. Perhaps their shift was nearly over. They must have done the midnight to midday shift. Glonor couldn’t tell what time of day it was. The sky outside was completely obscured with falling snow and dark clouds above that. It was hard to imagine a calm blue sky.
There was a rustle to Glonor’s left. He stole a glance in the direction to see a Ga-Matoran sitting in a chair with a book on her lap. Behind the papers, the Av-Matoran could see a particularly bored looking expression plastered across the Matoran’s Kanohi Rau. Her eyes seemed to spark with life when she saw Glonor: Nokama presumably.
The Av-Matoran smiled then walked over to the corner of the room where an assortment of chairs were arranged. Compared to the rest of the house they looked somewhat out of place. He guessed that they had been bought for the four female cops in the house to sit on while they guarded Nokama. There were two chairs in total, one for each officer on a shift. The first was a small, comfy miniature armchair made from dark red fabric. There were no patterns stitched into it, just the simple, crimson color.
The other chair was made from metal and plastic. Not a particularly inviting piece of furniture but it was strong and sturdy. Glonor could see the nails had been drilled deep into the seat to hold it together tighter. The chair had no backrest.
Glonor grabbed the metal chair, the only logical choice. The metal chair was sturdy, so he was sure it wouldn’t break or that he wouldn’t damage it. Additionally, the fact that he had just come in from outside meant that the warmth from the inside of the house was causing the snow on his armor to melt. He was soaked. He didn’t want to make the fabric chair wet. Fabrics took longer to dry. Sitting on the metal chair also meant that it would force him to stay focused whereas the fabric chair would make him relax.
“So you’re Glonor the military cop?” asked Nokama with a slight smile.
“The one and only,” replied the Av-Matoran without letting his frown crease into a smile. He was here for business.
Nokama smiled sadly for a moment then glanced out of the window. “So you were in the army?”
“A long time ago,” muttered Glonor in response.
There was another spell of silence as the wind roared. Glonor continued to look at Nokama while she avoided his eye. The Ga-Matoran cop at the window glanced at him quickly then turned around again. Glonor could feel her eyes.
“Do you think I’m making the right decision?” asked Nokama after a full minute of quiet.
“About what?” frowned Glonor “The trial?”
Nokama nodded. “About risking my life.”
“Well I guess it depends what you saw.”
Now it was Nokama’s turn to frown as she turned from the window to face Glonor. “In what way?”
“Well, you say that you saw a biker trying to sell a Ko-Matoran a Kraata. If that’s what you saw then you’re doing the right thing. If it isn’t then you’re putting your life in danger for nothing.”
Nokama swallowed the nodded defiantly. “I know what I saw.”
“Do you think it’s enough to nail the guy?”
“I think it’s enough to ensure that he is convicted.”
“Then describe it to me,” murmured Glonor as he leaned closer. “How much did you see?”
“I saw them talking, I saw the biker pull out the Kraata, I saw the Ko-Matoran examine it, I saw them argue then the Ko-Matoran paid the biker.”
“From what distance?”
“About ten bio.”
“Through a window?”
“From inside a shop, yes.”
“Was the glass clean?”
“Yes.”
“Steamed up?”
“No.”
“Weather?”
“It wasn’t snowing.”
“Time?”
“Evening.”
“Where were they doing the trade?”
“In an alleyway next to the shop.”
“Was it brightly lit?”
“Yes.”
“How’s your eyesight?”
“Good enough,” answered Nokama with a smile.
“Why were you shopping in the evening?”
“We’d just heard that this snow storm was going to happen. I was stocking up on supplies.”
Glonor nodded slowly as he tried to keep thinking like someone at the trial. He knew he would make a terrible lawyer – he actually cared about the truth – but even he could see how strong Nokama’s case was. “And what did they actually trade?”
“I saw a small glass container, like a stasis tube, with a purple Kraata inside.”
“A Shadow Kraata?” Glonor cocked a questioning eyebrow.
“Yes.”
“Did you see what stage it was at?”
Nokama’s eyes widened as she breathed out then shook her head slowly. “You can only see so much through the window of a shop. I’d have to guess it was an early stage otherwise it would be no use to a Matoran.”
“No doubts whatsoever?” asked Glonor as he leaned closer still. “Are you absolutely certain that you’re not resorting to any guesswork or assumptions whatsoever?”
“No gaps,” answered Nokama “apart from the stage of the Kraata. Even if I’d been standing right in front of it I still couldn’t tell. It’s not the sort of thing you teach in schools.”
“I think you’ll be a great witness.”
“But is it worth risking my life for?”
“With a case like that?” Glonor cracked a smile. “Definitely. I’m guessing the Police Department has custody of the Kraata as evidence, right?” Nokama nodded in response. “Then they’ll probably ask you to describe it then, when you get it exactly right, they’ll be able to prove that the biker is involved with Kraata and the police can get a warrant to search their camp and, hopefully, boot these bikers out of your town.”
Nokama smiled slightly then leaned back in her chair. She relaxed, content that her suffering was worth it.
“How many others were in the shop?”
“Four, including the Matoran at the counter.”
“Did they see it too?”
“No, they were too busy ransacking the shelves for provisions.”
Glonor paused then leaned back in his chair. It didn’t have a backrest so he didn’t lean too far away from Nokama, but he felt as relaxed as anybody who had just walked into a house from a snow storm could be.
After about a minute of open silence, Glonor raised his head and evaluated the perimeter. The Ga-Matoran cop was still in the room facing the window, the Vo-Matoran who he liked was in the hallway, the Onu-Matoran was in his cruiser outside, and there were presumably two other female cops asleep or on a break in the bedroom. Plus the entire neighborhood would have learnt of the importance of Nokama’s trial. They would probably have been alerted after hearing that Nokama’s life was in danger. And just to top it off, there was a paranoid police department that would disappear the second a siren sounded from the prison. Glonor was beginning to wonder if he was some sort of a magnet for situations like this.
“What do you know about the Kraata?” Glonor was mildly surprised as Nokama broke the silence with a question.
Confused, he straightened then turned to look her in the eye. “I know that your bikers seem to have quite a lot of them at their little war bunker and that some of them think it’s fashionable to have the things welded to their backs.”
Nokama raised an eyebrow. “That’s new” she muttered.
“So not all of them are like that?”
“No,” snorted the Ga-Matoran. “but they’re growing Kraata. It’s common knowledge here, drives the police mad though.”
“I guess it would,” commented Glonor. “What do you think of Chief Glacii? How’s he handling this Kraata thing?”
“I think that he’s getting lazy,” answered Nokama simply yet harshly. “Sure his wife died but it’s changed him. He’s starting to get sloppy. If Crystallus wasn’t at his side then who knows what would happen to Elysium.”
Glonor felt a little shocked. He had liked Glacii. Hearing Nokama bash the grieving Ko-Matoran didn’t feel right. It was obvious that he was in hot water at the moment. The prison had only recently opened and his department had just doubled. Crystallus seemed to be coping with the sudden expansion but Glacii didn’t seem to have. Glonor cast his mind back to the night before, to the moment when the headlights of Crystallus’ cruiser had revealed the scene in the alleyway. He remembered the look of fear in the police chief’s eyes. For Mata Nui’s sake, Glacii had nearly been killed yesterday. If the tour bus hadn’t crashed outside the city then Elysium very well could have lost its chief of police that night. Maybe Nokama would have had something nicer to say about the chief of police if Glonor hadn’t been around to save him.
“What about the bunker?” Glonor muttered, trying to change the subject. “Do you know much about it?”
Nokama shook her head. “I was living in Ga-Metru when it was built. I only moved here after the war, a lot of people did, people like Crystallus.”
“What about stories or rumors?” asked Glonor, a note of desperation in his voice. “I don’t know when but Crystallus is probably going to make me go down there and have a sniff around.”
“Oh, the stories,” sighed Nokama. “To tell you the truth nobody really knows what goes on down there. From what I recall, it was built to house weapons or surplus war supplies. Crystallus is probably right to send you for reconnaissance.”
“But what about the Kraata? You witnessed a biker selling one to a Ko-Matoran and I got into a fight with two bikers who were possessed by Kraata. There’s a connection.”
Nokama’s eyes widened. “You got into a fight with two bikers? Who were being controlled by Kraata?”
“I won if that’s what you’re wondering,” replied Glonor with a shrug.
“Remind me not to get on your bad side,” muttered Nokama as she blinked and shook her head. “But still, to answer your question people around here are certain that the bikers are involved with growing Kraata. It’s part of the reason why they want me to testify. If we win the case then the bikers get evicted from the town.”
“It makes sense I guess” grunted the Av-Matoran. “An underground bunker would be ideal for growing Kraata. But they aren’t grown. We all know where Kraata come from.”
“Makuta,” answered Nokama with a sigh.
“Do you think there’s a Makuta inside that thing?”
“How else are Kraata made?”
Glonor shrugged. “There is no other way, and the Kraata from the two bikers who I got into a fight with were both in stage 5. That’s quite old for a Kraata but it’s still quite recent.”
“Which means there’s definitely a Makuta down there,” muttered Nokama darkly. “Kraata aren’t like weapons. If they were building anything else then the police could track the raw materials. But one Makuta can create an army of those things.”
“So the cops have let a gang of bikers, your hit man, and a Makuta into the city while they’re on red alert,” grunted Glonor. When he saw Nokama’s frown he realized he must have said something he shouldn’t have. Frowning, he replayed the conversation in his mind and realized that he had mentioned the assassin who had killed Papura. Nokama obviously hadn’t been told that her killer was in the city… Oops
Luckily for Glonor, the doorbell suddenly chimed shortly before the door opened. The Vo-Matoran mustn’t have been at her post. The Ga-Matoran at the window suddenly tensed and turned to face the doorway. Whether he feared the worst or was just practicing for when the killer arrived was beyond Glonor. What he did know was that he was standing at the doorway to the library before he had even realized he had stood up.
He stood there for a few seconds before the door reopened and two Matoran entered the hallway. The first one was the Vo-Matoran officer who had been in the hallway. The second was Chief Glacii. A soft flurry of cold air and snow followed them in. Glacii stamped his feet on the mat then cringed as the warmth hit him. Being a Ko-Matoran the outside weather was normal to him. Coming into the warmth was probably painful.
The Ko-Matoran turned to see Glonor. When his eyes rested on the Av-Matoran he smiled faintly then made his way over to him, leaving a melted trail of slush behind him. Glonor decided to meet him in the middle of the hallway so that the wooden floorboards didn’t get wet.
“How are things?” asked the Av-Matoran, hungry for more information on the situation.
“We’ve been looking into the Papura case,” replied Glacii with a cough. “He was in his cruiser, with the window rolled down and a bullet hole between his eyes.”
Glonor nodded slowly, filing the new information away in the filing cabinet that was his brain. “How’s Crystallus?”
“He’s fine I guess,” grunted Glacii. “He’s been leading the investigation for the past hour, but that’s not what I’m here for. I need to bring you over to the headquarters right away.”
“What?” frowned Glonor. “Why?”
Glacii smiled then nodded towards the front door. “We’ve caught the guy who killed Papura.”
Glonor’s smile suddenly disappeared as he grew serious. This was a ground-breaking turn in the case. Crystallus seemed to have cracked the mystery right open in the hour that Glonor had spent sitting in Nokama’s house. Naturally he was skeptical.
The investigation could only have started when Crystallus arrived at the headquarters an hour ago. One hour was too quick to reach a solution to a case like this. Solutions that were too good to be true usually weren’t.
“So who killed Papura?” asked Glonor cautiously.
Glacii smiled widely and leaned closer, as if it was some sort of secret.

“Knox the bus driver,” he answered.

The Ko-Matoran smiled, leaned back again then frowned when he realized how confused Glonor seemed.

Chapter 6 - Misconceptions

Glacii didn’t explain anything to Glonor during the drive back to the police headquarters, leaving the two Matoran sitting in a hostile silence. In the meantime, Glonor tried to recall what Knox would have done. He cast his mind back to the bus, when he had sat next to the Agori as they froze. The reason that the police had been unable to send someone to the tour bus was because they were investigating the Fe-Matoran’s death. Knox had not stepped out of the bus once in that time, so he clearly could not have killed the Fe-Matoran if he had been found dead while they were in the tour bus. If Knox was the hired gun then he couldn’t have killed both the Fe-Matoran and the Ba-Matoran. Even so, could Knox have tracked Papura down and shot him overnight in the snow? No, he couldn’t have. It was such a small amount of time. The police certainly seemed to think he had but Glonor didn’t. The Agori he had spoken to on the bus had not struck him as a killer. It didn’t make sense.
The police station looked very different in the daytime. It wasn’t much lighter as the snow was still falling heavily and the clouds above that were grey, but Glonor could see a lot more than he had seen through the grimy window of the renovated Vahki transporter. He noticed how large the building was. It was two stories high and was built from an immaculate white stone. The cables and wires still jutted out of the roof, exactly the same as they had done the night before.
Just like the snowy roof, the inside of the building didn’t seem to be any different from how it had looked the night before. Now it was almost empty. The department was absent of the noise and chatter of tired Matoran, Matoran who had probably only crawled out of bed a little over three hours ago into another day in the freezing city of Elysium. There were about ten cops in the room, most were Ko-Matoran but Glonor managed to spot a few other kinds. There were several Onu-Matoran and Ga-Matoran amongst the others. He might have spotted a couple of other types but he didn’t feel like evaluating them. He hadn’t expected to see any Ta-Matoran and he had not.
Some of the cops looked exhausted, some of them looked wide-eyed and awake. Some of them looked focused, some of them were fooling around. Some were tidy, some were a complete mess. It was easy enough to pick the older, more experienced officers from the newer, careless ones who had come to the city when the prison was expanded. It was also easy enough to see the tension between the two groups. The focused, more reliable group seemed to sit at desks nearer to the doorway to the offices while the distracted, lazy group seemed to slouch nearer the entrance, like a massive classroom with the good students at the front and the underachievers at the back. The Av-Matoran was clearly beginning to see Glacii’s problem. He was running a department of two halves: a good half and a bad half. It was a wonder Crystallus had gotten anything done all morning with some of the cops in the room.
Clearly the weather seemed to be eating into the numbers. Glonor imagined that the snow would cause car crashes and traffic violations all over the city, plus some of the lazier cops would have stayed at home if they were snowed in.
Glacii continued towards the better half while Glonor followed. When he reached the end of the room he opened a door and stepped into the office section. Several small desks lay behind the glass door. There were about five in total but only two were occupied by a pair of Ko-Matoran. The two Matoran of Ice looked up at Glacii then glanced at Glonor blankly. One of them was the Ko-Matoran who had worn white and green armor and had handed Glacii the TOP SECRET file about the Fe-Matoran the night before. The other was someone who Glonor had not met before. Both Matoran had identification plaques attached to their desks. The Ko-Matoran who Glonor had met before was apparently called Birus. The other Ko-Matoran was called Algor. The plaques on their desks were a testament of that. Neither of them were armed. They had no communicators either. To Glonor’s well trained eye, they both looked suspicious.
Why were they in here away from everybody else?
The Av-Matoran decided to dig deeper. He glanced from Birus to Algor as he walked past them. Both of them stared back but Glonor didn’t care. Algor wore a Kanohi Kiril. Birus wore a Kanohi Mahiki. Algor was sat up straight with a stack of paperwork on his desk. Birus had been slouching back in his chair doing nothing before he had noticed Glacii coming and decided to look busy, it was obvious. Both of them looked fit and healthy. Neither looked remotely happy.
Glonor waited until they were out of the room before he turned to Glacii and asked a question. “What was with those two?”
Glacii frowned then glanced behind him at the two Ko-Matoran in the inner office. “Who? Them? I guess they’re being punished.”
“For what? Throwing snowballs?”
Glacii shrugged then sighed. “Birus didn’t respond to an important call last week and Algor got flagged for police brutality against a biker.”
“Are they new?”
“Birus is new but Algor’s been here a little longer. He joined about a decade or two ago, during the war. A bit of an odd time for a transfer out of the war zone but we accepted him nonetheless.”
“So what’s their punishment?”
“They spend two weeks being runners. They carry stuff from place to place within the department, like Birus carried that folder to me when you were in my office last night.” Glonor grunted as he filed their names away. He didn’t trust either of them. Birus seemed like some lowlife slacker while Algor didn’t make sense. He was being punished for violence but the Matoran sitting in the room behind him – the Matoran who was sat up straight and working hard – didn’t look anything like a violent person. So why was he in this position?
“What’s the deal with Algor?” asked Glonor. He didn’t feel like keeping the question tucked away at the back of his mind. He’d forget it that way.
Glacii’s brow became more creased as he shrugged. “What? Why he attacked the biker?”
“Why you hired him if you thought his timing was suspicious” corrected Glonor.
Glacii shrugged again. “Well, the department was a lot smaller back then and he stuffed up the interview. I guess I felt sorry for him and offered him a job. He’s doing well enough now. Bit of a loner though.”
“How so?”
“I’m not sure. He just seems kind of distant and he doesn’t talk much” explained Glacii. Glonor nodded as the Ko-Matoran opened the door to the inner squad room, where Crystallus was waiting.



Glonor got the story second hand. Around forty minutes ago a cop on patrol had been driving along when he noticed a pedestrian struggling through deep snow in a particularly rural area, about a mio out of the Elysium town limit. Crystallus described the patrolling cop as one of ours, which indicated he was one of the older members of the department.
The Av-Matoran continued to listen to learn that the cop had stopped to offer the pedestrian a ride back into town when he had noticed the stranger was carrying a handgun. The cop had managed to make the stranger hand over the gun where he learnt that it had been recently fired and that there was a bullet missing.
The cop then arrested the pedestrian and drove him back to the police department to be put in a cell. However, when he had entered the building one of the cops in the lobby had remembered him from the night before and revealed that he was the bus driver from the tour bus that crashed. The stranger had then been forced to reveal that his name was Knox. Shortly afterwards he had been detained. Crystallus had been informed of the Agori’s arrest and had leapt out of his seat.
After Knox had been tested for gunshot residue the results had come back positive, which meant that he had definitely fired the gun that he had been found with at some point in the last few hours, which fitted in with the time when Papura had been shot. The Agori had then been dragged down to the cells and thrown into one of the empty holding pens while the cops decided his fate. He hadn’t asked for a lawyer and he hadn’t said a word since he had revealed that his name was Knox when he arrived at the building.

Glacii had left to look at Knox in his cell. Glonor had seen that urge dozens of times back on Vacca-Nui. The cops would go down to the cells just to look at the prisoners as if they were animals in the Archives. Afterwards they would return and say something about how there was something not quite right about the prisoner. Glonor doubted Glacii was going to be much of an exception.
Crystallus had moved from the squad room and was now in his office with Glonor standing at his window, unsure whether or not to watch the snow or the police officer before him.
It was obvious what the Ko-Matoran was thinking. Glonor could imagine him tying up the loose ends in his head, another urge that he had seen before – a particularly dangerous urge. It meant that he was tying the case around Knox and that he was seeing what he wanted to see. The Av-Matoran finally sighed then walked around the desk, grabbed the visitor’s chair, then sat facing Crystallus.
“How many bullets were in this Papura guy?”
“Just the one” replied the Ko-Matoran. “Between his eyes.”
“And does it fit the barrel on Knox’s gun?”
Crystallus nodded. “It’s a common bullet and it’s a common gun.”
“How many bullets are missing from the gun?”
“One.”
“Is the distance plausible?” asked Glonor.
“The cop found him about 3 kio away from where Papura was killed.”
“3 kio?” repeated Glonor as he raised an eyebrow. “That’s a bit far for him to go on foot through heavy snow.”
Crystallus shrugged casually. “He could have ditched his vehicle.”
Glonor’s forehead creased at the mention of transport. “Vehicle? What vehicle?”
Crystallus cracked a smile as he grabbed a file from a pile of folders then handed it to Glonor. “Take a look for yourself.”
Cautiously, Glonor took the folder then opened it. His eyes rested upon a stack of photographs, photographs of the crime scene that Crystallus had gone to that morning. Glonor thumbed through them, taking in everything in each picture then handed them back to Crystallus.
“Well?” muttered the Ko-Matoran. “What did you notice?”
“There are no footprints and there’s a second pair of tyre tracks” replied Glonor with a grunt. “Which means your killer arrived on a car, flagged Papura over, then shot him in the Mask, which tells us he’s a pretty damn good shot.” Crystallus did not comment as Glonor came to the same conclusion in seconds that had taken him the best part of half an hour. “How does this fit Knox?” asked Glonor as he tilted his head. “What would he have done after crashing the bus?”
“OK,” muttered Crystallus as he scratched his forehead. “Knox crashes the bus on purpose, uses anti-skid brakes or traction control or something to make it look like he skidded. He sits with you and the other passengers until I arrive, then he gets brought into Elysium and some Ko-Matoran offers him a room until a replacement bus comes.”
“Did the guy who volunteered to take him in notice the gun or anything?” asked Glonor.
“If he did then he hasn’t mentioned it. We spoke to him immediately after Knox was arrested and he said that he left the house early in the morning and that he hadn’t come back since.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to bother the Ko-Matoran” suggested Glonor with a shrug.
“Possibly,” replied Crystallus idly.
“So how would he have killed Papura?”
Crystallus picked up the folder and leafed through the pictures until he produced the fourth photograph. It showed the body of a Ba-Matoran driver and the interior of the car. The black and purple armored cop was slumped backwards with his Kanohi Pakari facing upwards. There was a large pink stain against the glass, which was undoubtedly the Matoran’s blood.
“Knox is in a car, Papura’s in a police cruiser. They’re both heading down the same road but in different directions. They’re driving slowly because of the ice. Knox might flag down Papura and pretend he needs help. Being a cop Papura’s forced to pull over and check. He winds down his window, probably trying to guess what the problem is before Knox says it. But, instead, Knox shoots him in the head then drives on.”
“Is Knox left handed?”
“I don’t think so.” Crystallus turned to scan his desk for a file. When he found it he grabbed it, like a Lava Hawk swiping up a Stone Rat. He skimmed through the details then pointed at something on the paper. “Yep, right handed.”
“Did you find a shell cartridge?”
“No. It probably bounced off into his vehicle.”
Glonor sighed. “It wasn’t him.”
Crystallus’ brow became lined with ridges as he frowned. “How come?”
“If he’s right handed then he would have been shooting across his body and out of the window. He’d have to have one hell of a good aim to shoot Papura directly between the eyes about three or four bio away while holding the gun across his body. Is he that good a shot?”
Crystallus didn’t answer.
“What about this mystery vehicle? Has anybody reported any cars parked in the middle of nowhere?”
The Ko-Matoran rubbed the back of his head. “It would have been pre-arranged. A biker probably got it for him then he could have returned it before he was arrested.”
“A biker? I thought you said their camp was a mio or two away from the city.”
“Another reason why you should go up there and check it out” muttered the Kakama wearer. “They have at least half a dozen stolen cars up there. If you search them you might find our missing bullet case.”
“How would he even know where Papura was?” asked Glonor as he took back the folder and looked at the pictures again. He was growing bored.
“The guy who gave him the car probably told him. I can look into Papura’s patrol schedule if you want. Perhaps he’s been taking the same routes recently. Could have formed a pattern.”
Glonor sighed as he tossed the file back onto the desk without looking at any of the photographs. “I still don’t get how he would have crashed the bus. He said something about how the fuel cell could have been damaged then when he turned the engine back on the power cut. You can’t fake that. It was a genuine crash. If he had planned it then he probably would have crashed the bus in a way that allowed him to keep the heating on.”
Crystallus leaned closer. “He said that he swerved because a biker was heading right for him and he twitched. That could have been arranged. Did you see the biker?”
“I don’t know, I was asleep” grunted Glonor. An awkward silence hung in the room as the two Matoran looked at each other, cogs whirling away inside their heads. Glonor finally spoke up after he realized Crystallus was out of ideas. “I think you’ve got the wrong guy. I spoke to Knox on the bus and, with my professional opinion, he did not strike me as a killer.”
Crystallus sighed then held his head in his hands. “He had a gun and he fired it. That’s been proven. Did you know he had the gun?”
“No I didn’t but it doesn’t mean he shot someone.”
Crystallus grunted then leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. As if on cue, the Ko-Matoran’s communicator suddenly started to buzz on the side of his Kanohi Kakama. He reached up then pressed a button, listened for exactly eight seconds, then shut it off. He cracked a slight smile then turned to face Glonor. “That was chief Glacii. Apparently Knox has finally started talking.”
Glonor nodded slowly then rose to his feet. “Well then I guess things are about to start changing.”



Glonor had been right. The situation had definitely started to change by the time the two Matoran had arrived at the holding cell. Knox was being interrogated by Glacii. The Agori had started speaking moments ago and was now talking about his gun.
Knox said he had always carried the weapon for self defense against particularly aggressive passengers. After the bus had crashed he had gotten angry, at himself mostly for twitching and landing all twenty-one passengers in Elysium. He hadn’t liked the Ko-Matoran who had taken him in so he had left the house early in the morning to get away from him.
He then stated that he had gone off for a walk in the snow, a long angry walk. He had tried to wear off his fury. However he had soon come across a road sign warning about how slippery the road was. Seeing the sign in such an inconvenient place had made him lose his temper, particularly after the absence of such a marker had caused him to crash yesterday. He had pulled out his handgun and fired a bullet at it. After Glacii had shifted in his seat Knox had apologized but justified his action by claiming that every single road sign in the city seemed to be pitted with similar bullet holes.
Knox had then admitted that he had tried to find his way back to where he had crashed the tour bus. He could vaguely recall the route back to the abandoned coach and had tried to make his way over to it only for the cop to show up and arrest him. Crystallus had noted that Knox had actually been arrested fairly close to the bus and that his journey through the snow was plausible. He also mentioned if Knox had done the walk on foot then his footprints would still fresh in the snow. It was unlikely that anybody else would have walked along the same path in the past two hours so they would still be there. Glacii sent a patrol car to check after requesting that it was fitted with a metal detector so that they could find the bullet Knox had fired at the road sign.



Approximately half an hour later, the patrol cop called Glacii through a communicator channel and reported his findings. He revealed that he had found Knox’s footprints and that he had found the shell case too, which had burnt its way through the snow. The cop also confirmed that the road sign in question had a new bullet hole in it. The hole was brighter and clearly fresher than the other bullet holes.
Knox had not shot anybody.
The Agori was completely free five minutes later. All charges had been dropped and his alibi was strong enough to exclude him from the investigation. However, Glacii had insisted that his hand gun should stay with the police until the replacement bus arrived. Knox agreed without argument and told them they could keep it for all the trouble it had caused him.
Glonor watched the Agori leave the building through the window of the main squad room. It was obvious that Knox was still angry. He’d just been arrested for taking a walk. His fury was evident from the way he kicked the snow as he strode onwards. When he finally got out of Elysium, Glonor doubted the Agori was going to stay in Ko-Metru.
The Iden wearer turned around to face Crystallus. The department was now completely empty. After letting Knox go Glacii and Crystallus had agreed that the mystery killer was still on the loose and that the department should be on red alert. Every available officer, including Birus and Algor, had been bundled into cruisers and had been sent off to prowl the streets for suspicious behavior. Glacii had disappeared into his office on the other side of the building, leaving Glonor and Crystallus as the only Matoran in the squad room. The Ko-Matoran looked depressed as he flicked through the crime scene photographs.
“If it makes you feel any better those were some pretty good pictures you took” commented Glonor.
Crystallus grunted then placed the pictures back in their folder. “I just made a fool of this whole department” he sighed. “Who was I kidding? It obviously wasn’t Knox. I was trying to convince Glacii about that last night. I’ve just wasted time.”
“No you haven’t” implored Glonor in the friendliest tone his voice box would allow him to make. “You did a great job! So you blamed the wrong person. I think you were right about how it went down. The fact there were no footprints at the crime scene proves your theory. The shooter rolled his window down to call Papura over. They both stopped. The question is why he stopped.”
Crystallus frowned as confusion spread across his Kanohi Kakama. “He stopped because he got flagged down. He probably thought it was some citizen in distress.”
“Did he have his foot on the gears?”
Crystallus paused then voiced his response. “No. If I recall correctly he stuck it on Park.”
“So he expected he was going to be there for a long time?”
“What? You think he knew the shooter?”
“Why else would he expect a long conversation?” shrugged Glonor. “Plus, the fact he was a Ba-Matoran’s another thing you missed out. He was like me. He didn’t have any resistance to cold temperatures. He only would have buzzed his window down slightly to keep the heat in. The fact he buzzed it down all the way suggests he was expecting a fully blown discussion.”
“It’s worse than that” winced Crystallus. “He was probably friends with the shooter.. which means he’s been here for ages.



Recently, Garnax had taken up the hobby of walking around his island every day. As most of it was covered by lust green rainforest and smooth sandy beaches, he usually returned to his mansion in a much calmer mood. Today he decided to end his walk by walking past his latest prisoner. The unfortunate Le-Matoran was chained by his wrists and ankles between two parallel metal poles. He was hoisted into the air supported only his own strength as he gripped his hands around the chains to keep himself from having his arms torn out.
This particular Le-Matoran had been a thief. He had once worked in the kitchen of Garnax’s mansion. Normally, Garnax would never harm members of his own staff, at least none of the current ones. One or two had annoyed him in the past and had been buried alive in the rich soils of his island, but nobody needed to know about them. However, this Le-Matoran deserved something worse than being buried alive. Garnax’s guards had caught him trying to hide treasures – which he had stolen from Garnax’s mansion – inside a hollow tree trunk in hopes of selling them on and buying his freedom. Garnax wasn’t a slave driver, or at least he didn’t like to think that he was. To an extent, Garnax was willing to turn a blind eye on the odd mistake made by his staff but he was not tolerant towards disloyalty.
Hence the Le-Matoran, chained to the post by his limbs.
The rainforest could be a beautiful place by day but at night it was a different story. Miniscule insects such as Protodites or other parasites would emerge from the damp conditions with their venomous stingers. Garnax ensured that his mansion was locked up tight and that all the members of his staff were indoors every night. All of the necessary precautions had been taken to protect his home from the insects but the jungle remained untouched. Anybody left on the outside of the mansion was a meal on legs to the creatures of the night, a meal that they were glad to feast upon. By midnight the Le-Matoran thief was going to have more venom in his bloodstream than blood.
Unless Garnax decided against it.
He wasn’t going to but until nightfall Garnax could do what he wanted to the Matoran. After all, a sharp sickle was in his hands and the Le-Matoran’s fingers were in his reach. Perhaps he would have a little more fun out of his victim before he died a slow painful death.
Garnax was about to say something witty and cruel to the Matoran when his communicator buzzed. The Ba-Matoran frowned and pressed the button on the ear piece while he lay his sickle down on the ground. He assumed that it would be his agent in Elysium but he was surprised to hear the voice of his master on the communicator line.
“What is the situation?” growled the Makuta. Garnax’s eyes widened. Despite the fact that his master was trapped on Bara Magna with the other Makuta, the Ba-Matoran felt afraid. He always did when he spoke to his master. That was why he had joined the Brotherhood. It was the only thing in existence that he feared.
“The Ba-Matoran cop was killed three or four hours ago.”
“And the Ga-Matoran witness?”
“Not yet” answered Garnax. He felt a lump develop in his throat as his stomach began to hurt.
“So when will she be dead?”
“Soon” promised Garnax with as much meaning as he could manage.
“How soon?” replied the unnamed Makuta impatiently.
“Very soon”
“And what of your plans?” demanded the Makuta. “When are you launching the attack on Metru-Nui?”
“I’m leaving as soon as the Airship arrives” answered Garnax. “It’ll still be a couple of hours though.”
“How much longer must I wait for you?” growled the shadowy tyrant.
“Don’t worry, Master” grunted Garnax as he desperately tried to hide his fear. “Two more days, that’s all it will take. Once the witnesses are eliminated I can begin the next phase. I’ll call my agent in the city and tell him that killing the Ga-Matoran is our top priority.”
The line went dead as the Makuta broke off the communication line. Garnax sighed then switched the device off on his Kanohi. He shuddered then tossed the sickle towards the Le-Matoran. It landed about a bio away from him. The Matoran of Air whined as he tried to reach out for it to no avail. His legs were restrained. His arms were restrained. The sickle could easily force apart the chains, it was the key to his escape, but he was too far away. His escape was so close but he could not reach it. He wouldn’t reach it. Garnax doubted that he'd manage to touch the sickle let alone use it to escape.
The journey ahead of Garnax was not going to be a pleasant one. The Ba-Matoran looked at the next forty-eight hours in his mind. He liked to think visually. He was going to be in Metru Nui as it fell. He was going to be there, in the heart of the flames of the final battle for the Matoran Universe.
He was going to need a team. Six strong, reliable Matoran were going to have to accompany him on his mission. Good Matoran, but not so good that he couldn’t afford to leave them behind if the situation came to that.
Which he hoped it would.

Chapter 7 - Without Fail

Glonor sat alone, gazing out of one of the triple-glazed squad room windows into the heart of the howling snow storm. On the other side of the glass the sky was dark and ominous, like it had been every single day for the past month, which was one hell of a storm, even for Ko-Metru.
The Matoran of Light wondered how the residents of the village could continue to live in Elysium with such little sunlight. The city had come to a standstill with Matoran being snowed into their homes and the ice getting thicker every passing minute. The police headquarters was the only place that seemed to have electricity for kio around. Nokama’s house didn’t. Crystallus’ house didn’t. Glonor could only guess how Matoran were keeping warm. He tried to imagine the 8,270 nearby souls as they huddled together in the cold. A couple of kio away Nokama would be watching the four female officers switch shifts and take up positions in her house. To the east the bikers would be doing whatever the hell they wanted to do.
And somewhere in the frozen city, the hired-gun would be preparing for his next kill.
Glonor was abruptly forced to peel his eyes away from the window as the orange glow of the lighting grid flooded the room. The department was still on red alert, which meant either Glacii or Crystallus had just turned on the lights, a 50/50 chance of guessing who it had been. Glonor took a guess then turned around to see Crystallus standing at the glass door to the offices. He had guessed correctly.
“Why are you sitting in the dark?” frowned the deputy chief. “I thought you Av-Matoran liked things bright.”
Glonor shrugged – a slight movement of his shoulders – then turned back to the window, his arms still folded. “It’s bright enough” he replied. Now that the lights were on he could only see his reflection in the window, just like he had seen the TOP SECRET file in Glacii’s office nearly a day before. Seeing as he could no longer observe Elysium through the glass, the Av-Matoran decided to turn his attention to Crystallus.
“We just got a call from one of the bikers” grunted the cop. He strolled over the desk next to Glonor’s then sat down heavily in the chair. “He was wondering what happened to his two buddies, the ones you put in hospital last night.”
Glonor said nothing.
“I told him we’d look into it” muttered Crystallus after the pause.
“Did he mention the Kraata?”
“While talking to the police on an unsecured communicator line? He wasn’t that stupid.”
“Did he make any threats?” asked Glonor.
“He hung up after I said we couldn’t pull anybody off of the red alert patrol.”
The Av-Matoran nodded faintly as he examined himself in the glass. He didn’t look too shabby, not for a Matoran who had spent five hours in a frozen tour bus a day ago. He compared his reflection to Crystallus’. The two Matoran were about the same height but Glonor had a much broader frame.
The fact that Crystallus looked tired was an understatement. His eyes seemed heavier than usual and he had hobbled along slower than he should have when he crossed the room to the desk. Plus he had literally collapsed into the chair. Only then did Glonor catch his first glimpse of Crystallus’ responsibility, the weight that would soon be resting on his shoulders.
Lately, Glacii seemed harassed – losing a loved one could do that to a person. As Nokama had told him, the police chief was getting sloppy. One day, in the not too distant future, he was probably going to have to retire. And when that day came, Crystallus was expected to idly jump into the ring and take up Glacii’s position. He was supposed to be the shining future for the Elysium police department, the fresh new blood. Yet Glacii hadn’t even taken up fishing and Crystallus was already tired.
“What about the bunker? Do you still want me to check it out?”
Crystallus tilted his head so he faced Glonor then shrugged. “I guess I can rope Birus and Algor into going with you tomorrow morning. It would give them something to do and I’ve had them both in my face all morning. A bit of fresh air will probably do them some good.”
Glonor shook his head. “Actually, I was going to go there alone. Besides, from what I’ve seen, Birus is a slacker and Algor’s a creep. They’ll stick out as local cops for kio around.”
Glonor watched as Crystallus’ face fell. Clearly the two Ko-Matoran had been disturbing him while Glonor had been with Nokama. Why would they do that? Had they been trying to keep up to date with the department’s progress on tracking down the killer? Again Glacii’s description of Algor drifted into Glonor’s mind. He just seemed like the suspicious type. Why would he want to stay close to a case that presumably didn’t involve him?
Crystallus shifted in his seat so that he faced Glonor fully. “So you’re just going to show up there tomorrow?”
“I’ll say I’m from the army” suggested the Av-Matoran. “It’s a military facility so I’ll turn up and say I’m doing an inspection of our property.”
Crystallus shook his head. “Won’t work. They’ll want proof.”
“No they won’t” retorted Glonor. “They’re in no position. If they’re staying there illegally on the army’s property and I turn up they’ll get scared. They won’t think about checking my credentials. They’ll just see some big, mean guy from the army doing an inspection.”
Crystallus did not respond. The two Matoran sat in suspended silence. Glonor returned to his original trail of thought. The mysterious hired-gun was still at large, which was definitely not good news. Clearly the murderer had no motive behind his killings, which suggested he was more of an assassin, which in turn told Glonor that he was one hell of a smart guy. So far, he had baffled the local police by carrying off two homicides without leaving anything linking him to the crime scenes. They knew that he had used a common handgun that was fitted with an equally common bullet and tracing either would be like searching for a Rahi-free area in the Archives.
However, the fact that the killer had driven past Papura and managed to press his weapon against the Ba-Matoran’s forehead indicated that he was left handed, an unusual trait that Glonor hopes would help him to catch the killer before he turned up at Nokama’s doorstep.
Crystallus finally brought Glonor back to the present with a new question. “So when will you go down to the bunker?”
Glonor shrugged casually. “I could go now and get out of your way.”
“Now?” repeated Crystallus with a frown, as if the word was alien to him.
The Av-Matoran raised a finger from his folded arms and pointed towards the grey sky. “It’s still early enough. If I was doing an official inspection I’d probably have set off from some army base in Ko-Metru in the morning and would be arriving here at midday, which, believe it or not, was about two hours ago, plus the roads would be all blocked so it would take longer. The timing would work perfectly.”
Crystallus nodded gently. A long moment passed until the Ko-Matoran extended his palm towards Glonor. The Av-Matoran expected him to be doing some sort of a fist-clank. He twisted to face the deputy chief to see a small device in his hands – a police communicator.
Glonor grunted and turned away. “I'm not looking for a job, Crystallus.”
“I know. I figured that out already” sighed the Ko-Matoran. “But I need you on my side. Help for help's sake. No mercenary aspect to it. And your background's perfect. It obligates you.”
“No, it doesn't.”
“You were a soldier and a military police man. It's perfect! You're supposed to help people. That's what cops do.”
“We spent most of our time busting heads. Not a whole lot of helping actually went on.”
The Av-Matoran didn't answer. Reluctantly, he nodded then accepted the tiny gadget and thumbed it over in his fingers. “Whose idea was this?”
“Mine” responded the Ko-Matoran.
“So you can keep track of me?”
“So you can talk to us if anything happens” corrected the Kakama wearer.
Glonor grunted in response and connected the earpiece of the small metal device to his audio receptor. He then tried to clamp the mouthpiece to his mask. After several unsuccessful attempts Crystallus finally decided to attach it for him.
“Are you sure you want to head over to the bunker now?” asked Crystallus.
“Depends how I’m going to get there.”
“I can’t drive you” muttered the Ko-Matoran. “I have work to do. The department has a couple of unmarked cruisers though, maybe one with the snow-chains you insist on using.” The Kakama-wearing Matoran paused for a moment before asking his next question. “What time will you get back?”
“Late” grunted Glonor without taking his eyes off of their reflections. “It’s probably best if I don’t stay with you and Lagira anymore. It would be a lot more convenient if I just stayed at Nokama’s house. That way I’d always be there if the siren went off. Plus this communicator will let me keep up to date.”
Crystallus nodded, his arms now crossed as he listened. The cop leaned forwards and looked Glonor in the eye. “There’s one last thing I want to know” he muttered. The Av-Matoran did not take his eyes off the window. “Why did you leave the army?”
Glonor shrugged then faced Crystallus fully. That was a personal question, one that Crystallus had left for quite some time. He had obviously been wondering about it for a while now. Glonor imagined the question gnawing away at his conscience. The Ko-Matoran was skeptical to trust him without knowing the answer to that particular question, which made Glonor’s response extremely important. Something he took into account as he cast his mind back.
“There was a war, back on Vacca-Nui” he said with a grave sigh. “Mata Nui knows how it started but it lasted for twenty seven years.”
Crystallus nodded vigilantly then leaned in closer.
“Ironically, I made it through to the twenty-sixth year on the front line.”
“I thought you were a military policeman.”
“I was” grunted the Av-Matoran. “But I volunteered to fight. Major Glonor. Stupid little fool. I served over a century in the army and the only time I ever got wounded wasn’t even with a bullet.”
“What happened?” asked Crystallus, his brow creasing into a deep frown as he studied Glonor.
The Av-Matoran shrugged again then cast his mind back. “I was standing outside a secure compound with my regiment, out in the open. Some Po-Matoran battalion turns up with Nektann Blasters. One goes off and causes an explosion about 100 bio from the compound.”
Crystallus nodded slowly. Glonor could picture him trying to rebuild the scene in his mind, which would be hard for him. He knew nothing of warfare or explosions. But there was still a glimmer of understanding in his eyes.
“I was out in the open. One of the other guys in my squad was standing about 30 bio away from where the Nektann warhead hit the ground. He was torn apart.”
“So you quit after seeing that?”
Glonor smiled then shook his head. “I’d already seen a bunch of things that were worse than that” he grunted as he uncrossed his arms, sat up, and pulled off a piece of his chest armor that was directly above his right thigh. The millennia-old battle scar revealed itself.
“Is that a bullet wound?”
"Nope" chuckled the Av-Matoran darkly. "The guy’s jaw bone was the only piece left of him. By chance it hit me right in the chest. I went down. The Po-Matoran left me for dead, killed off the rest of my squad, then blew up the compound. "
Crystallus was silent.
“I lay there in the rubble and filth for eight days before somebody found me covered in my own dried blood. I was caked in so much mud and grime by then that they probably thought I was a Po-Matoran myself. I was transported to a hospital, where I spent four months. When I finally recovered and returned to duty the war was over.”
“So that was why you retired?” asked Crystallus. “You were wounded in action?”
Glonor shook his head again. “The military had changed a lot after the war, it had been torn apart then forced back together again after nearly three decades of hate. I just didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.”
Crystallus nodded slowly, trying to take in all that Glonor had said. His eyes were still wide with shock.
“I got a medal for it” remarked Glonor irrelevantly.
Crystallus said nothing.
“They placed it on my desk the day I quit. No ceremony. No fancy cushion. Just a cold piece of metal. I got a lot of medals while I was in the army. That was the worst of them all. It was like being rewarded for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“What kind of medal was it?” asked the Ko-Matoran.
“A Purple Heart-Stone.”
“Do you still have it?”
Glonor smiled sadly then shook his head weakly. “I went to the burial for the other members of my battalion. I was the last surviving member. I threw the damn medal in with their caskets and they buried it for me.”
The department was as silent as a grave. Glonor took his eyes off the window and decided to stand up. He tried to think of what to expect when he arrived at the war bunker. He doubted the area would be a greatly confusing place to get around, the army didn’t tend to go for complex structures, which made things considerably simpler. The terrain would be flat and it would be kio away from anywhere, typical army location. However, as simple as Glonor told himself that it would be, he knew that there would still be a problem. And that problem would be the one hundred rebellious bikers, who just so happened to be resisting the entire Elysium police department.
Crystallus opened his mouth, paused, then swallowed back the words he hadn’t even said. “I was going to say that I would bring your bags over to Nokama’s but you don’t have any, do you?”
Glonor nodded then smiled as reassuringly as he could in an attempt to lighten the mood that he had set. “Still hate my light travelling technique?”
“Not so much” shrugged Crystallus with the slightest of smiles. “I’ll call ahead to the cops at Nokama’s and tell them that you’ll be staying.”
Glonor grunted in agreement. “And make a call to the prison as well” he added. “Tell them that I’ll come around at some point tomorrow.”
Crystallus nodded then frowned. “Sure, but why the prison?”
The Av-Matoran cracked a smile. “You told me that Nokama witnessed a biker selling a Kraata to a Ko-Matoran. Well I want to meet the biker.”


Glacii sat alone in his office. His chair was swiveled around so he was facing the window. The lighting grid and heating were switched off, which meant the office was about as cold and dark as the arctic world on the other side of the triple glazed glass. The filing cabinets looked strange and crooked in the shadows of the office. Perhaps that was why the police chief did not want to look at them.
Although the dull grey clouds covered the sky some sunlight was managing to penetrate through the snow storm. It bounced off of the ice and reflected into the office, through the over-insulated windows, casting a cold blue light into Glacii’s face.
There was nothing left for him to do today. The department was still on red alert so it was unlikely that Glacii himself would be called out again like he had been the night before. He shuddered from the thought of how close he had fallen towards the icy clutches of death’s frozen claw. He wasn’t a particularly faithful person in that he liked to be certain. He did not like to entrust responsibility in other people – something that was ironic given that his job relied on him letting about sixty other Matoran do the dirty work for him. Perhaps that was why he hadn’t retired yet.
The Ko-Matoran continued to watch the window, staring at the city he had sworn to protect so many years ago. He was one of the few remaining original residents of the town. Back in its earlier days, Elysium had been a tiny place, far smaller than it had been before the expansion. There had only been a couple of dozen citizens back in those days, about forty Ko-Matoran toiling away in the cold as they tried to build a city out of snow. At one point Glacii had even been in line to become the city’s Mayor, but that was a whole lifetime ago. Now he was a completely different person. The years had not been kind to him, he was noticing that every time he looked in a mirror.
The Ko-Matoran finally broke his focus from the falling snow flakes and the bitter roar of the wind. He looked down at the picture frame that was resting on his lap, the photograph of him and his wife, the photograph that Glonor had noticed and thought would be good conversation material. To be honest, the Ko-Matoran felt a little insulted by the Av-Matoran’s actions but, in hindsight, he couldn’t see why for his life – which was all he had at the moment. He could not blame the ex-military policeman for not knowing that his wife was dead. The picture should not even have been on display in the first place, it was too personal. Any visitor in the room could get the wrong impression from it and get mislead. It had been trouble waiting to happen.
The police chief took one final look at the picture. He stared at it for a long time. It had only been three or four years since he had received the horrible news, enough time to study the photograph until he could recall every minute detail. He had committed every line, every dot, every detail on the image. Sometimes he wondered if his weary old memory would fade, that he would slowly begin to forget things about his wife. Her eyes. Her smile. Her voice. He prayed to Mata Nui every night in hopes that he would not forget her.
But she was destroying him from the inside too. He was making so many mistakes because of her. One minute he would be looking at a street light, or a snow flake, or a table and the next second something would have gone wrong. What happened last night in the alleyway was a testament of that. He knew that he was beginning to lose his touch.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be long until Crystallus replaced him.
Glacii took a deep breath in then picked up the silver key on his desk. He pushed his chair backwards and leaned forwards. He wedged the piece of metal into the lock on one of the draws of his desk, rotated it clockwise, then pulled it open. Glacii was a tidy Matoran by nature – something else that was ironic as his own department was an unorganized shamble.
The Ko-Matoran placed the picture frame back in the drawer then paused. He looked at picture again, specifically at his wife’s face. Her eyes were supposed to be wild, young, and adventurous like they had been when the photograph had been taken. However, she looked scared and vulnerable. Perhaps it was just his imagination playing tricks on him but Glacii felt strangely uneasy. In the end he decided to change his mind. He took the frame back out of the draw, opened it, took the photograph out, then put the empty frame back in the drawer. He closed it then locked it up tight.
The police chief sighed heavily then picked up his letter opener, something that he had been given as a present from Crystallus a couple of Naming Days ago. It had done nothing but gather dust until now. Glacii placed the tip of the knife at the top of the photograph and dragged it downwards. In the photograph a younger version of himself had his arms wrapped around his wife. He was on the right half. His wife was on the left. By cutting down the middle he was cutting through his own arms.
When he had split the photograph in two he put the letter opener aside then reached for the piece of armor that covered part of his left arm. He gripped the fingers of his right hand around it and wedged it off to reveal a small hollow, something that he had used as a second-pack over the years. Although it was small, Glacii had managed to use the space to store particularly small items in. This time was no exception. He placed the half of the photograph that had his wife on it against the inside of the armor then pressed it back into place.
A moment passed as he sat at his desk, the other half of the photograph that showed the now armless version of himself lay in his left hand. There was a vacant expression on his face. He glanced at the image then transferred it to his right hand. He scanned it blankly then growled. His snarl grew gradually louder until he clenched his fist and crunched up the photograph of himself. Fuelled by cold fury, the Ko-Matoran rocketed to his feet, kicked his chair backwards and hurled the scrunched up image at his trash can on the other side of the room. It skimmed across the top of one of the many crooked filing cabinets then disappeared into the darkness. Glacii hoped that he never saw the damn thing again.
It didn’t feel like him in that photograph.
After spending a minute standing whilst breathing in and out rapidly, the police chief finally managed to calm himself down. He swallowed on the lump in his throat then turned towards the door. The Matoran grunted and strode forwards past his desk. He grabbed the handle and yanked the door open. He walked through into the small corridor that led to the base. He pressed his fists against the doors then paced forwards slowly. He had his hands at his hips and he seemed to have calmed down when he arrived in the main squad room. Glonor must have left to check out the bunker or something. Glacii only wished that the Av-Matoran would share what he was thinking with the rest of the department. He had a big brain inside an even bigger head. There was a lot that went through his mind despite his reckless streak.
The Pakari Nuva wearer glanced plainly at the desks and computers as he strolled through the second glass door. Almost instinctively he reached for the light switch to turn the lights off. Crystallus had probably left it on when he gave Glonor the communicator – something that he had only briefly mentioned to Glacii and not asked about. Glacii wouldn’t change much about his future successor but the fact that he kept leaving the lighting grid on was becoming annoying. It was light enough outside, there was nobody in the squad room, and electricity was expensive these days. Three of the few factors that Crystallus was going to have to take into account every time he walked into the room before he could become the next police chief.
Glacii heaved himself onto one of the squad room chairs, one which had a computer screen plugged into the desk in front of it. The Ko-Matoran swiped his hand across the touch screen to drag the machine out of its hibernation. The key pad appeared on the lower half of the screen whilst a police search engine was visible on the top half.
That was no good.
Glacii muttered something to himself darkly then flexed his fingers. He leaned forwards and began typing. His hands flitted across the key pad as he trawled through the search engine until he was able to access the military files that he wanted. When he had hacked his way into Metru-Nui army’s database he let slip a ghost of a smile then typed in his first word into the military data base.
G-L-O-N-O-R


Despite the heavy snowfall, Glonor managed to drive over to Nokama’s house quickly enough in the spare unmarked police cruiser.. He had decided that it was probably best to check up on the Ga-Matoran. He didn’t plan on stopping there for long but he had to ensure that he could stay there for the night. If she said no then he would either be sleeping outside in the almost arctic snow storm or he would be calling Crystallus up on his new communicator in the early hours of the morning. He wasn’t sure which option sounded worse.
Some unfortunate Matoran had spent the morning clearing the main roads of the town with a snow plough – a strange name for a machine that did not actually plough snow. Glonor had never heard the word before until he had arrived in Ko-Metru yesterday but it seemed strange. Ploughing was an agricultural technique that involved the careful process of cultivation of soil and the sowing of seeds. As far as he knew, snow ploughs did not do that. They were more like snow-bulldozers. Glonor began to like the machines even less as the chains of his borrowed police cruiser began to scrape against the tarmac of the road. It was damaging his car.
After taking a detour onto a road that had not been cleared to save the snow-chains, Glonor managed to get himself to Nokama’s street. He parked the vehicle at the end of the boulevard then killed the motor. The world around him was far from silent as he opened the door, breathed in, slammed the cruiser shut, then broke into a run across the knee-deep snow layer. Breath exploded from his aching lungs. He could see the vapor even as it was whipped away by the roar of the wind.
Glonor charged past the parked police cruiser with the Onu-Matoran sentinel inside. Instead he ran straight for the door. It was too cold to mess around in the cold and explain to some Matoran of Earth why he was there without Crystallus calling ahead. The air was sour from the savage snowfall that pelted against Glonor’s mask.
The freezing Av-Matoran ran up the steps then stopped at the porch. He knocked on the door then stood shivering. He imagined the female cops tensing. He could just about picture one of them stepping forwards from her perch.
The door opened. Glonor stepped inside without giving whichever cop greeted him the chance to conduct a frisk search. It was far too cold and they all knew that Glonor would be clear.
Orders from above, presumably.
The cops had changed shifts from the midnight-midday pair to the midday-midnight pair. A Ga-Matoran who he had not met before had answered the door. Her hand was still resting on her handgun. She looked alert but not tense. Professionally cautious.
Without uttering a greeting, Glonor shuddered then wiped the snow off his armor. He glanced at the female cop. She gestured towards the library. Glonor smiled a silent thank you then turned away and strode over to the doorway. Nokama was still in the same chair but she was reading a different book. It looked like an autobiography, the type of thing that had probably been written by some long forgotten female Toa from Metru-Nui who Glonor would never have even heard of. He didn’t even bother asking himself who in Mata Nui’s name Naho was.
The fourth female cop was also in the room. She scanned the Av-Matoran from behind her Kanohi Kualsi then shrugged to herself and returned her attention to the snowy perimeter on the other side of the window. A wise choice. They were hopefully going to be seeing a lot of each other if Nokama was to stay alive.
“Back again so soon?” asked Nokama with a smile as she put the book aside.
“Apparently” grunted Glonor as he entered the room. He stayed standing. The cop at the window took no notice. “Sorry I had to leave earlier” he continued “Glacii’s fault.”
“Glacii’s got a lot of faults” muttered the Ga-Matoran darkly.
Glonor shrugged and decided to ignore Nokama’s last statement.
“I understand you’ll be staying here from now on, to protect me?”
The Matoran of Light nodded. “Only if it isn’t a problem.”
“Weren’t you comfortable with Lagira and Crystallus?” asked the Rau wearer as she raised a questioning eyebrow.
Glonor pulled a face. “I didn’t want to bother them for too long.”
Nokama blinked in surprise. “One night was too long?”
“I figured they had enough on their plate at the moment. I didn’t want to intrude.”
Nokama stared at Glonor, trying to read his face. If there was anything written in his eyes the words might as well have been scribed in scribbled. Glonor’s eyes were impassive.
“Well, whatever your reason might be, I’m glad to have you here. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to.”
The former teacher smiled then glanced at the female cop. The Kualsi wearing Ga-Matoran was still facing the window. Her eyes were hinging half-open and she wasn’t looking around much. Just staring around, bored out of her skull. Glonor couldn’t blame the female cop. She was stationed in a snowed-in town where the last big excitement probably happened at somebody’s Naming Day party last year.
“Do you remember the book that I showed you earlier?” asked Nokama with a smile.
Something suddenly clicked in the back of Glonor’s mind. He paused before blurting out the word no then decided against it. He had worked as a military policeman for over a century. He had received more special training classes than there were pieces of paper in the books inside Nokama’s library. He was trained to spot details, tiny details, the types of details that anybody else would ignore. And he had just spotted one.
Nokama had not shown him a book earlier. If he hadn’t taken any of those thousands of training courses then he would have dismissed her statement as a simple mistake. But the Ga-Matoran in front of him was not the type to make mistakes. He may have retired to Elysium during the war but she was far from being old enough to forget things that had happened hours ago.
“Yeah, I remember” he grunted. About a moment ago Nokama had glanced at the Kualsi-wearing cop and she was doing it again now. The cop hadn’t been in the room that morning so she didn’t know what they were talking about. She continued to stay out of the conversation by staring through the window.
“Would you be interested in reading some more of it? It’s a personal favorite of mine.”
Glonor paused then glanced at the book case. “Sure” he muttered, still trying to piece together what Nokama was talking about. “Where is it?” The cop at the window glanced at the both again through vacant, exhausted eyes then turned away again.
“I’ll get it” declared Nokama as she sprung to her feet. “I’ve barely gotten up all day. I could do with a stretch.”
Glonor watched as the Ga-Matoran made a show of how numb her legs felt. He was quite impressed. She was almost convincing. He frowned at her as she strode over to one of the bookcases and pulled out a particular book that was both bulky and square. It was a large, hardback volume with fresh leather binding. It looked brand new.
“Light reading?” muttered the Av-Matoran quietly as the sheer weight of the book dawned upon him as it was thrust into his hands. Nokama nearly smiled.
“Let’s go through to the front room. It’s warmer and brighter in there.”
Glonor didn’t have much of a choice when he felt Nokama’s hand grip his wrist. She couldn’t drag him – she wasn’t strong enough for that – but she was a lot stronger than she looked. The Av-Matoran stumbled after her as he carried the book. He wanted to tuck it under his arm and carry it with one hand to impress the female cops but something told him that he should keep it flat.
Perhaps it was his own idea of what being professionally cautious meant.
The two Matoran left the room and entered the hallway. The Kualsi-wearer remained by the window. That wasn’t very professional of her. It left the other cop to guard the door and to watch over Nokama. As the Ga-Matoran’s hand wrapped around the door handle the other female cop suddenly panicked, torn between her two stations. When the policewoman didn’t relax Glonor gestured towards her then towards the former teacher with his free hand, indicating that he would stay with Nokama. He didn’t know if any of the cops in the house trusted him yet. Perhaps that would be worth looking into.
No sooner had he entered the room Nokama shut the door behind him. She gestured towards the ring of furniture, signaling for Glonor to sit down. He shrugged, strolled towards the leather couch and resisted the urge to put his feet up on the low hanging table in front of it.
“I know the real reason why you came around, of course” muttered Nokama as she sat down next to him and placed the book between them. “You wanted to search the house. Perhaps it’s a force of habit. Yet, as far as I recall, you came to Elysium after your tour bus crashed. You weren’t even planning to stop off here and here you are, volunteering to defend me.”
Glonor said nothing. He was still wondering what was so special about this particular book that made Nokama want to move to a room where there were no cops.
“I just want you to know that I’m very grateful of your kindness in this very difficult time.”
Glonor shuffled his position so he faced Nokama. He looked her directly in the eyes. “You know, you don’t have to do this. There would be no shame in backing out. These bikers will probably get kicked out of Elysium for something else sooner or later, regardless of whether or not you testify.”
Nokama shook her head. “You said so yourself. My assassin is already in the city. I’m a witness so the bikers want me dead. If I pull out then the trial is cancelled so the police have to withdraw their officers from my house. But the bikers won’t want me walking around knowing that they are dealing with Kraata. They’re not going to tell this hired-gun to cancel his mission, not if he’s already come all the way here.”
Glonor grunted. Nokama had a point but he didn’t want to argue. It was a moral issue, a matter of principal. She wanted to stay in her house and testify no matter what.
“Are you armed?” she asked.
“No”
“Why not?”
“I’m a retired military policeman” muttered Glonor. “Do retired engineers carry wrenches and spanners around for the rest of their lives?”
Nokama smiled again then pointed towards the book. “I got it a couple of days ago. Chief Glacii brought it over when he came around for a check.”
Glonor picked up the book, remaining careful to keep it flat. He studied the plain, unimaginative cover. It was some sort of fiction piece that was entitled To Kill a Gukko-bird. The name was completely unknown to Glonor but he doubted that there were many real fiction books that were four inches thick.
“Take a look at the inside” murmured Nokama as she leaned forwards over his shoulder to see.
Cautiously, Glonor turned the first page and immediately raised an eyebrow. He had expected to see the fresh, clean first pages of any unread novel. Instead, when he pulled on the cover it came off, like a lid, a lid that covered two cavities inside the book. Two small, angular objects were encased in cheap black cloth and were pressed into the holes. Glonor smiled as his fingers snaked around the material and pulled out what he had been expecting all a long.
A handgun, or rather two handguns which had been concealed behind the cover of an otherwise ordinary book.
The weapons looked old. They were medium sized models of a military issued revolver. They both had an identical, effective design and looked well used. Glonor had known soldiers who had carried duplicate handguns for years. He had trained with such weapons back in his days. Touching the cold metal brought back memories.
However, the handguns suddenly began to make Glonor think. All military issued revolvers had the serial number of their user scribed into the barrel on an aluminum plate. The serial numbers had been scraped off on both handguns. Not a greatly elegant way to erase the numbers but it worked all the same, and Glonor wasn’t happy about it. It meant that somebody in the military had sold these weapons to a civilian.
“And you say Glacii gave the book to you?” asked Glonor as he raised a questioning eyebrow and toyed with the first weapon.
Nokama nodded.
The Av-Matoran noted her response then turned away and started checking the revolver. That changed things. Being chief of police, Glacii could easily slip any confiscated weapon into a box and hand it over to Nokama. That meant that the police had arrested some Matoran who had either been selling the weapons or who had bought them.
Glonor cracked a smile. “And you hate this guy?”
Nokama blinked in confusion. “You don’t?”
“Of course not” smiled Glonor as he check the barrel for ammunition and found that there was none. “Why do you think he gave you a pair of guns?” Nokama paused and shrugged. Glonor’s smiled widened as he put the gun down and turned to face her. “Because he wanted to protect you. You said he gave you this book a couple of days ago, which was well before I was even in Metru-Nui, let alone Ko-Metru or Elysium. Back then the police had no fall back option if the siren was to go off. None of them could break away from their pre-arranged positions or they would lose their badges. So Glacii did some thinking and decided that you could defend yourself.”
Nokama did not respond. She just glared at the handguns.
“He trusts you with these” added Glonor irrelevantly.
“Will they still work?” she asked with a tinge of annoyance in her voice. She obviously didn’t want to talk about Glacii. If Glonor left her to think about the risk that the police chief had put himself at to give her the weapons perhaps she would change her mind.
All the same, Glonor nodded in response to her question. “Revolvers are reliable, which is why the military uses them. They have to be seriously wrecked or rusted solid to malfunction.”
Nokama nodded then swallowed. “I think that you should keep one. The policewomen have already searched you once and if the police chief and deputy chief trust you to be in the house then they won’t have to search you again. You could walk right on in here with it in you pack and they wouldn’t check.”
Glonor grunted then placed the revolver that was in his hand in his pack. He tucked it closed then placed the cover back on the book. “Where’s the ammunition?”
“Under a loose floorboard in the bedroom.”
“That’s not a great place” murmured Glonor. “Not if you’re keeping the guns in the library.”
“Well, I thought I would have time to get to them, if it came to it.”
“A lot of dead people probably thought that.”
Once again, the Ga-Matoran chose not to respond.
“Look away from me then look back and point your finger directly at me” ordered the Av-Matoran.
Nokama’s eyelids flashed as she blinked in confusion. “What?”
“Just do it. Like I’ve been talking in class.”
“I wasn’t that kind of a teacher” complained the Ga-Matoran.
“Then pretend you were.”
Nokama sighed then raised her hand and extended her index finger. She pointed towards Glonor’s mask, directly between his eyes.
“Good” he said with an encouraging tone. “Now do it again and aim at my chest.”
Nokama muttered something the lowered her arm and raised it again slowly, her finger pointing straight at his heart-stone.
“OK. That’s how you shoot. Imagine the gun barrel is your finger. Don’t try to aim, don’t even think about it. Just pull the trigger and shoot. And remember to point towards his chest. It’s the easiest target and it’ll knock him down. Even if you don’t kill him you’ll buy yourself time.”
The former teacher’s eyes widened as Glonor handed her the second gun. She took it then left it in her hand, as if unsure what to do with it.
“Try firing.”
The Ga-Matoran stared at Glonor then at the gun. Reluctantly she pointed the weapon towards the floor and pulled the trigger. It worked perfectly. The hammer rose, the cylinder rotated, the hammer fell – simple enough for the former teacher to understand. “Wouldn’t there be a certain amount of recoil?” she asked as she placed the revolver on the leather couch.
“Unless the laws of physics changed overnight.”
“Will it be painful?”
Glonor shook his head. “If you ever have to fire it I doubt you’ll notice it. Even so, I need you to practice shooting with it. It’ll be tiring at first I want you to keep on shooting. Put six rounds in the guy. Don’t stop until the gun’s empty.”
“That’s awful” protested the Ga-Matoran as she looked away from the weapons.
“It won’t be when it comes to it” sighed Glonor. “It’ll be either you or him.” He reached across the couch and picked up her gun. “Where are you going to keep this?”
“In the book I suppose” answered Nokama with a shrug.
“Wrong answer. You keep it with you at all times. You aren’t going to get up unless you have it in your pack. At night you don’t go to sleep unless it’s under your pillow.” Glonor handed the weapon back to Nokama. Reluctantly, she took it and dropped it into her pack, a resigned expression on her Kanohi Rau.
“What about the other one? Are you going to keep it?”
Glonor nodded. “I’ll hand it back to Glacii before I leave. Do still want to keep this a secret?”
“Yes, I do” murmured Nokama as she picked up the book and rose to her feet. “The officers in this house need not know.” She walked towards the door of the room then stopped. She hesitated then turned back to face Glonor. “It’s a shame” she muttered. “I was looking forward to reading that book.”
The Iden wearer smiled as Nokama opened the door, slipped through, then closed it behind her, leaving him alone in the front room.
He smiled to himself. Nokama was nice enough. They disagreed on a couple of issues but he had a feeling that they were going to get along fine. Perhaps he could make her change her opinion of Glacii. The police chief had just proven himself to be more forward thinking than Glonor had expected. Hiding the guns in the book had been a nice touch. Glonor had seen better concealments in his days but he had not known the Ko-Matoran to be that resourceful. He wanted to congratulate the police chief.
Glonor was suddenly reminded of the police communicator device attached to his mask. He lingered on the thought of using it then looked outside. It was about three or four hours past midday and the grey sky looked just as bleak and depressing as it had when he had left the police station. Glonor finally decided to make the call. After all, it promised him a could more minutes in the warmth of Nokama’s house before he set off for the biker camp.
He pressed his finger against the earpiece and found a button. He pushed against it and radio static surged through his audio receptor. After a moment of noise the sound subsided as his communication was received.
Yes? “ muttered the voice on the other end. It was Glacii’s voice. Glonor doubted that Crystallus would give him a communicator that allowed him to speak to anybody in the department. It was probably tuned to only call either himself or Glacii. Plus was only supposed to be used in an emergency, which explained the panic in the Ko-Matoran’s voice. Of course, that was assuming Glacii even knew who he was talking to – which Glonor didn’t think he did. Getting a call on a communicator was never good news when there was a red alert on.
“Hey there” replied Glonor in the friendliest tone he could manage. “It’s Glonor. I was just calling to check this thing worked.”
There was another moment’s pause before Glacii responded. “Sorry, can you move the mouth piece a little closer to your mouth and say that again?
The Av-Matoran paused then began fiddling with his mouthpiece. He repeated what he had said before and was surprised to hear the sudden change in tone in Glacii’s voice. Before he had been formal and cold because he hadn’t known who he was talking to. Now he seemed almost relieved.
“Good to hear from you” came the reply. “Anything you wanted to say?
“Nokama showed me the book with the guns in it. Nice touch. Congratulations.”
Thank you“ grunted Glacii from the other end of the communicator. “Speaking of congratulations, I just read your file on the military database.
Glonor’s smile suddenly disappeared. “My file?”
Yes, it was quite lengthy but I read it all and I have to say, I misjudged you.
“How’s that?” asked the Av-Matoran. He was confused. He had never read his own file so he didn’t know what was in it. There were things that he had done in the past that he was not proud of, things that he wasn’t sure he felt comfortable with other people knowing. After spending a couple of seconds thinking about it, he decided that he might as well let Glacii know. After all, who was he going to tell?
Well, last night for example. I thought that you were some arrogant, reckless, soldier after you pummeled those two bikers. But then I saw all the medals you earned. I had no idea.
“Those medals mean nothing to me” muttered Glonor blankly. “I’m not proud of some of the things I did back then.”
I’m sorry to hear that“ replied Glacii. “But I’m glad you called anyway. I’ve been meaning to apologize.
“For what?”
The way I’ve been acting. What I said in the alleyway. You did the department a great favor yesterday and I flamed you for it.
“Doesn’t matter” grunted Glonor. “I’m not trying to put the world to rights, I just don’t like people who put it to wrongs.”
There was a pause on the line before Glacii continued. “Is that a saying?
“Not as far as I know” muttered Glonor.
Well it should be.
“And what about the bunker?” asked the Av-Matoran. “Did that show up on the database?”
There was a heavy sigh. “No it didn’t. According to the army it doesn’t exist, which is Muaka-dung because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Glonor frowned and tried to picture the concrete bunker. Crystallus had managed to tell him so much about it. “Perhaps it won’t show up there” he muttered as he rubbed his forehead. “What kind of database are you using?”
The official one. I hacked in.
Glonor’s eyes widened in surprise and he sat up straight. “You hacked in?”
Correct.
“How do people do that?”
That doesn’t matter“ answered Glacii. “Hacking is something that isn’t important right now. Maybe it isn’t in this database because it was built in secret as a fallback shelter or a weapons testing lab in the war against the Dark Hunters. Perhaps they didn’t want to risk information about it falling into their enemy’s hands.
“Perhaps,” agreed Glonor. “But if it was ever that important then somebody would have stopped the Po-Matoran who built the prison from setting up their camp there in the first place.”
True.
Silence hung over the communicator channel. It was obvious that the discussion was drawing to a close. They were talking about why the bunker didn’t exist on the data base, and talking about something that doesn’t exist was hard to make a conversation out of.
Glonor decided to change the mood. “Are you going to be working on that all night?” he asked.
You know how it is“ came the reply. The Matoran of Light cracked a smile. He had spent many years in Glacii’s position.
Glonor opened his mouth again, ready to make a comment about how he understood Glacii’s pain when he was interrupted by a strange noise. The line went silent as the noise continued then became live again as the Ko-Matoran on the other end swore.
Damn!“ roared the police chief. “I’ve got to go. Get the cops out of the house and into the patrol car outside. You’re on your own now.
Glonor frowned, stunned by the howling that prevailed over the shrieking wind. “What? How come?”
There was no answer. Glonor could hear movement on the other side of the communicator channel as the police chief sprang to his feet. Then the line went dead. Glonor’s eyes widened and he swallowed as the female cops began to move around in the other room.
The prison siren had begun to wail.

Book the Second: The Frozen Calling

Chapter 8 - Night Of The Long Knives

The siren was ringing from approximately five mio north of Nokama’s dwelling, but its sound came through the forbidding night as blunt and sharp as a blade. It was somewhere between loud and distant, somewhere between urgent and somber, somewhere between everyday and alien. It shrieked and howled, it rose and fell, it screamed and whispered over the wind. It rolled over the flat land and down the snowy streets, shattering the crystal air as it blundered through the frigid wilderness.

The cops in the house reacted instantly. They were well rehearsed, probably physically, certainly mentally. They’d prepared themselves for the tough choice. There was the sound of footsteps on the wooden floor, the night watch scrambling.

Glonor pushed the living-room door open to watch the first two Ga-Matoran run out into the snow. They headed straight for the parked cruiser as it flared into life. Broken slabs of snow were sliding off its roof and windscreen as the Onu-Matoran sentinel kicked the vehicle into gear and backed it up, fast. A moment later the other two, the ones who’d been asleep on their break in the bedroom, ducked their heads into the hallway. They were the ones that were on when he’d first visited the house. The first one ran straight for the door and followed the others. The second hung around for a moment, conflict all over her mask. She was the one who’d welcomed Glonor, the first cop he’d met, the Ce-Matoran. He’d liked her. Though he still couldn’t place a name to her Kanohi, he felt it twisted into a strangely affectionate smile. It made him feel warm inside.

The Matoran of Lightning hesitated, looking from Nokama to Glonor, then at the open door.
“Sorry,” she sighed helplessly.
Then she was gone. She spilled out of the house frantically, the last to leave. The cruiser’s rear door was open, waiting for her. Glonor could hear the furious radio chatter over the sound of the siren. He watched from the doorway as the Vo-Matoran threw herself into the cruiser and slammed the door shut. Immediately the vehicle shot forwards, its wheels churning away down the street and out of the Av-Matoran’s hindered range of visibility.

The Matoran of Light stood there a moment, watching them go and wondering what this meant. The siren had gone off around a day after he’d arrived in the city. What were the chances of that happening if I hadn’t turned up yesterday? he thought as he stepped back into the house and closed the door carefully, making sure it was bolted tight. Have I really made that much of an impact?

Obviously” he muttered aloud to nobody in particular.




Tactically, the best move would have been to lock Nokama away in a cupboard but the stubborn Ga-Matoran refused to go in. She just stood firmly in the hallway, her handgun out in the open. She craned her neck looking around, one point of the compass then the next, as if she understood that the four walls that were supposed to protect her were really just four different ways to get in. There were doors and window all over the place. Any one of them could be forced open or busted in an instant.

The second best would have been to simply stash her away in her bedroom. At first Glonor thought she was going to comply as she walked off only for her to come back a minute later. He heard the creak of the floorboards as the Rau-wearer returned with a crisp box of a twenty-five gunmetal bullets. She simply refused to argue with him after that, claiming she would feel she’d have nowhere to run if she was penned into her bedroom.

“You won’t be running,” grunted the Matoran of Light as he began loading bullets into his own handgun. “You’ll be shooting.”

“Twelve bullet-holes in the aggressor would be better than six” retorted the Ga-Matoran decisively.

After that she fell silent for a spell. “Shouldn’t you be patrolling outside or something?”

“No,” stated Glonor definitely.

“Why not?”

“It would take me far too long to get from front to back, if I had to. And it’s too cold to shoot accurately outside. My hand would be shaking all over the place. I’d probably shoot myself in the foot before I shot any trespassers.”

“So we just wait here?”

The former military cop nodded. “That’s right. We wait here.”




They waited in the front room. Glonor figured it was the best choice. It overlooked the front yard and, given that snow covered the ground, frontal approach to the house was most likely. And, even in the unlikely event that an attack wasn’t attempted, the room was still their most logical option. The roof covering the outside porch sheltered the window from a potential sniper. Any gunman would have to be standing out in the open to even get a clear shot. He’d be spotted at twenty paces by Glonor’s keen eyes, before he even managed to take aim.

There were of course other potential dangers facing the two Matoran. Bombs, missiles, and starvation being top of the Av-Matoran’s list. But if that kind of attack was coming their way it didn’t really matter which room they were in.




The mechanical clock on the wall ticked well into the night, marking the end of their first hour alone. The street outside was deserted. Glonor made a careful sweep of the interior perimeter. The front door was locked. The window in the library was latched shut. The windows in the front room and bedroom were bolted. Safe enough.

The weather was changing. A light wind was gathering energy, causing the night sky to clear. The stars were visible in the heavens. Plus the temperature was dropping. Every window he checked seemed to have a layer of air encompassing it, pulsing with cold. The breeze didn’t help either. It found invisible cracks and made droughts, sucking heat out of the dwelling. Still, no matter how gentle it was, the wind made strange sounds as it blew. Rustling, cracking, crunching noises. The brittle chafing of frozen foliage, hollow clicks and clonks from icy trees, and the sinister animation of rotten branches that cast shadows across the rear perimeter. The noises were quiet but Glonor could have done without them. He was depending on hearing the soft crunch and sliding of feet on snow, and the chances of picking it up were rapidly diminishing. Worse still, Nokama kept talking in the silence. That seemed to make matters worse but he didn’t want to shut her up. She was nervous – understandably – and talking seemed to help her.

The Iden-wearer decided it was time to check up on the Ga-Matoran again when she fell silent. He could hear her muttering through the thin walls and being in a different room to her felt weird. He wasn’t afraid of being alone in the crooked house, he just wanted to make sure his host was still alive.

“How many times have you done this before?” asked the Ga-Matoran as he entered the room.

“Once or twice,” grunted the Av-Matoran vaguely as he eyed the window.

“And clearly you survived.”

Glonor nodded. “So far.”

“What’s your secret?”

“I don’t like getting beaten” muttered the former military cop. He wondered over to the couch and sat down heavily. “It’s better for everyone if it doesn’t happen.”

“That’s a heavy burden to carry,” murmured the Ga-Matoran.

“Are there people who like getting beaten?”

“Well, not as such,” shrugged the retired teacher. “You wouldn’t have to enjoy it, but you could be at peace with whatever comes your way. You know, win some, lose some.

Glonor shook his head then glanced back at the window, uneasily. “Doesn’t work like that. Not in my line of work. You win some, then you lose one and it’s game over.”

The dwelling stayed silent for less than a minute before Nokama began to speak again.
“You’re still in the army, aren’t you. In your head.”

“Not really.”

“Don’t you miss it?”

“Not really.”

“You’re lonely.”

“Isn’t everyone?”

The Ga-Matoran didn’t answer. The mechanical clock ticked on. Nobody approached the house.




Hide and seek. Perhaps the world’s oldest game, revolving around primal thrills and fears hidden deep in the back of every Matoran’s mind. Predator and prey. The irresistible shiver of delight, crouching in the dark, hearing the footsteps pass by. The rush of pleasure in doubling back and yanking open the closet door to discover the victim. The instant translation of primeval terrors into modern-day laughter.
This was different.

There would be no laughter. There would be short seconds of furious gunfire, followed by the stench of smoke and blood then a sudden deafening silence. Then the shaking and the need to throw up.

No laughter.

And this wasn’t hide and seek. Nobody was hiding, and nobody was really seeking. Whoever was out there knew exactly where Nokama was. An exact address would have been provided. She was just sitting, right there, waiting for him. No art. Just plain brutality, which disappointed Glonor a little. He was good at hide and seek – the real world version, not the game. He was good at hiding, but far better at seeking. His former profession had led him in that direction. Fugitives, mainly. He’d learnt that empathy was the key. Understand their motives, their circumstances, their goals, their aims, their fears, their needs. Think like them. See what they see. Be them. He’d gotten to the point where he could spend an hour with a case file, a second hour thinking, a third with maps and communicators, then predict pretty much the exact building the guy would be found in.

The Av-Matoran ducked towards the window for the umpteenth time that hour, checking the view at the front.
Nobody there. Just a white world that seemed to be frozen solid.

The Iden-wearer glanced back at Nokama. “I need you to watch the window for me,” he grunted.

“OK,” replied the Matoran of Water uncertainly. She reached for her handgun as she rose to her feet, wondering if he’d spotted somebody.

“I’ll be in the hallway. If anybody comes in through the bedroom or the library I’ll catch them in the corridor.”

Nokama nodded slowly.

“Stay back in the shadows. If you see anything at all you call to me, loud and clear, with information. I’ll need numbers, location, direction, and description.”

“OK,” repeated the Ga-Matoran, a little taken aback by the sudden demand.

“And do it standing up.”

“What? Why?”

“So I’ll hear you hit the floor if you fall asleep.”

The Rau-wearer paused before nodding and stepping back, further into the room. A decent angle. Her handgun was still in her grip. Satisfied, Glonor stepped out into the hallway and moved the chair that the two cops had used. He twisted it around so it faced the library door, which he’d left open, allowing him to see through the window and out into the rear garden. He rested his handgun on his lap. Even in the corridor he could hear the mechanical ticking of the clock in the front room. The way he saw it, every full minute was a small victory. A prison riot couldn’t last forever. Its initial phase would be relatively short. The whole situation would be a mess of hostages and territory in place of tactics, a standoff would ensure. Strategic adjustments would be made. The prison guards would regroup, the cops would be released from duty, Glonor knew that.
Therefore the guy knew that too.

Still, the Matoran of Light didn’t understand why he didn’t come. His target was a retired Ga-Matoran in a house. What the hell was he waiting for?




About an hour later, Nokama insisted on getting a glass of water. Glonor wouldn’t let her. Perhaps that was what the assassin was waiting for. The victim needed water. Water came from the tap. The tap was over the sink. The sink was under the window in a small addition to her bedroom. A preoccupied Kanohi Rau on the other side of the glass might be a tempting target. So he retrieved the water himself, after a vigilant inspection of the vicinity.

An unnecessary inspection, as it turned out. Glonor stepped out the front door and trudged his way through the snow around to the back of the house. The cold hit him like a fist. It was raging, way below zero, too far below to guess at a number.

He was visibly shaking when he stepped back inside. There was no need for an inspection. Nobody was waiting out there for a target of opportunity. After a minute you’d be shaking too hard to see, let alone shoot. After an hour you’d be in a coma. After two you’d be dead, even if you were a Ko-Matoran.

Still, his hardship had managed to nullify one of his many doubts. There wouldn’t be a long, stealthy approach on foot through the snow. The danger would come from the front. The guy would have to drive up, jump out, and move fast.
And Glonor would sure as hell be ready for him.

Again, he drifted in and out of the house’s five rooms: the hallway, the front room, the library, the bedroom, and the small washroom. It was his eighth sweep of the interior perimeter. He saw nothing to get concerned about. Nothing to see from any window except frozen emptiness. Nothing to hear except the rush of icy water in the heating pipes and a faint creaking as the wilderness outside grew colder, compacting under the weight of the ice. The Av-Matoran thought about the town’s original settlers, the pioneers and explorers of days long since forgotten.
Why in Mata Nui’s name had they stayed?

The Iden-wearer was on his way to the library again, to check that the screen window was still tightly bolted when Nokama called out.
“Someone’s coming.”

She spoke loud and clear, though she added no information. None of the vital statistics Glonor had asked for. Nevertheless, he stepped into the front room and eased himself past the Ga-Matoran to the window. Sure enough, the female Matoran had been right. There was a dark, shadowy figure approaching on foot, in the middle of the road, coming from the left.

He was small, about Nokama’s height would be Glonor’s best guess, and most of his Kanohi was covered by some sort of eye-covering-device – presumably to block the snow from obscuring his vision. The outline of the Matoran’s arms hung loosely around his sides, occasionally slinging up in desperate attempts to remain in balance on the icy. Nothing in his hands.

The stranger moved on, slowly, tentatively, unsure of his footing. He stopped directly opposite the end of Nokama’s front yard. Just standing there.

“Know him?” grunted Glonor, his right hand drumming against the barrel of his loaded handgun, his trigger finger instinctively itching.

Nokama paused and squinted.

The guy turned around – a stiff ungainly half-circle – and faced the other way. A Dermis Turtle trotted up to him. The guy turned around again, and the pair walked on, master and Rahi.

“A neighbor,” sighed the Rau-wearer in relief. “A she actually. Officer Birus’ wife. It was hard to be sure with her peculiar choice of headwear.”

“She’s married to Birus?”

Used to be” corrected Nokama softly. “Officer Birus moved out a couple of months ago. There was some kind of unpleasantness.”

“What kind?”

“I don’t know.”

“I saw Birus this morning,” muttered Glonor. “I didn’t like him. Glacii didn’t seem to either.”

The Ga-Matoran muttered something under her breath at the mention of the Police Chief’s name. Obviously, she still held a grudge against him, though Glonor couldn’t – for the life of him – see why. In spite of the fact the Ko-Matoran had taken away what little freedom she had actually used by placing her under house arrest, but surely she must understand that it was for her own good. Glacii was a weary, tired old police chief, nearing the tremulous end of his long career. He was no longer in his prime and his recent decisions were growing questionable, but that was hardly his fault. Glonor found himself pitying the weary Ko-Matoran.

“Have you noticed anything strange about Algor?” he asked, trying to wring more information out of Nokama.

“Officer Algor?” she frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

Nokama paused then made a gesture that was something between a sigh and the shake of her head. “Well, I’ve met him, certainly. I’ve become acquainted with most of Elysium’s police department recently.”

“And?”

The Ga-Matoran shrugged away the crease on her forehead. “I know he moved here from Hua-Nui, same place as Crystallus, which strikes me as odd now I think about it.”

The Av-Matoran murmured to himself quietly in response. This was in fact the first time he’d heard that particular piece of information. Glacii had claimed he’d hired the Ko-Matoran because he messed up in his job interview and he felt sorry for him. But if he’d originated from the same place as Crystallus then Glonor suddenly got a different impression. Did that mean there was some kind of connection between the two of them? He wasn’t sure but he doubted it. This Hua-Nui was presumably another island-metropolis similar to Metru-Nui. Personally, he’d never heard of such a location but it was a coincidence.

And Glonor never ignored coincidences.

“Me too,” grunted the Av-Matoran darkly. He stayed at the window and watched Birus’ wife and Dermis Turtle disappear round the street corner and out of sight.




They didn’t speak again for another thirty minutes. The mechanical clock on the wall ticked on past midnight and into the early hours.

“Are you tired?” asked Glonor, talking for the sake of talking.

Nokama looked up at him, a hint of surprise in her eyes. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

“You could go off to bed, if you like. I can take care of things here.”

The Ga-Matoran hesitated. “What if you fall asleep?”

The Iden-wearer smiled darkly. “I won’t fall asleep” he stated, certainly.

“And I won’t go to bed. This is my responsibility,” retorted the retired teacher, crossing her arms. “I shouldn’t even be involving you in this, anyway.”

“A problem shared is a problem halved.”

“You could be killed!”

Glonor snorted. “Unlikely.”

The Matoran of Water took an overly-dramatic pause then looked at the ground, betrayed by her reflection in the window. She was bottling away a question.

“What is it?” grunted the Av-Matoran, calmly.

The Rau-wearer shrugged, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground. “Are you married?” she finally asked.

“No.”

“Were you ever?”

“No.”

The Matoran of Water nodded then glanced at the clock. “Do you have any friends? Anyone who’d care if you died here tonight?”

The Av-Matoran’s confident smile slipped into a plain expression, which seemed strangely grave in the candlelight. The flickering shadows did not compliment him.
“Not anymore,” he answered simply. “I used to, before I came here. One day I might track some of them down... if there’s anything left of them.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

“Do you always deflect sympathy in that way?”

“Usually.”

The Matoran of Light continued to stare out into the arctic wasteland outside, wandering how long Nokama had wanted to ask him that question. There was a lot about him that she didn’t know, a lot of good stuff – stuff that could benefit her if their lives boiled down to such dependency. Perhaps it was time he asked her a question of his own.
“I don’t suppose you know much about local mining, have you?” he grunted.

The Ga-Matoran looked blank. “No, I’m afraid not.” She hesitated for a moment, unsure. “Why?”

“Crystallus thinks the concrete war bunker at the bikers’ camp could run underground. I was hoping you taught Geography or something.”

The Rau-wearer shrugged simply. “I’m afraid I’ve never been down there. It’s considered something of an eyesore.”

“Did you live here at the start of the war?”

“Why?”

“Because if you did you might’ve heard some local news. Maybe rumor or gossip. You might’ve heard something about the place. Maybe not exact enough for your scholarly mind to pass on as useful information, but you much have heard something.”

“Nothing worth repeating.”

“Try me.”

“All I know is that it was built and never used. Apparently because its purpose was far too revolting. There was some scandal about it.”
“And what was its purpose?”

“I don’t know, answered Nokama glumly. “No one spoke of it to me.”




The house was silent for less than fifteen minutes. Then, over the screech of the gale outside, Glonor heard the patter of chains on snow and the grind of a big, hulking engine revving fast and urgent

Tense, he glanced at Nokama then ducked towards the front room’s window. Bright headlights. A police cruiser. Unmarked. Black and blue, hard to tell in the darkness. It crunched to a halt at the end of the driveway and a white armored figure climbed out.
It was Algor.
Relaxing, the Av-Matoran tucked his handgun into his pack and gestured for Nokama to do the same. She followed suit. They both knew what would happen if the cop learnt they had guns.
And neither of them trusted him.

Why wasn’t he on patrol?

The Iden-wearer stepped out into the hallway and opened the front door, just as the Kiril-wearing Ko-Matoran made it up onto the porch.
He looked startled.

“I didn’t know you were here,” he grunted, the first words the strange Matoran of Ice had said to Glonor’s face. His voice was deep, a rumble. Like some successful Ko-Metru banker. He was brisk and confident, like a cop should be. But there was something unnerving about him.

“It made more sense” grunted Glonor, assuming the cop knew he’d been bundled off to stay at the Deputy Chief’s place. “There’s a comfortable sofa here and Crystallus’ wife doesn’t need my protection.”

“Was this his idea or yours?”

“Mine.”

The Ko-Matoran blinked, and narrowed his eyes. “Is Nokama OK?”

“She’s fine.”

“Let me see her.”

Glonor stepped back and let the rude Ko-Matoran barge past him into the hallway then closed the door. The Rau-wearer appeared at the front room door.

“Ma’am, are OK?” demanded Algor, slightly more desperate than he needed to sound.

She nodded. “I’m fine. And I’m very grateful you came. I appreciate it very much. But shouldn’t you be guarding the prison?”

The Kiril-wearer nodded sullenly. “I was. But I didn’t think it was right that you should be left alone. So I broke rank.”

“Rules are rules” grunted Glonor, returning to the conversation. He hadn’t noticed it before but he towered over the Ko-Matoran.

“Even so,” he retorted. “It’s my duty.”

“I’m fine,” smiled Nokama falsely. She was just as confused as Glonor was. As far as they all knew, Algor had never even spoken to her. Why he felt such a moral duty-defying obligation to protect her all of a sudden seemed a little suspicious. “Glonor has proven to be more than capable of protecting me.”

The cop glanced back at Glonor, unsure what to do next, wretched conflict in his eyes – just like the female cop in the hallway.
“What’s happening at the prison?” asked the Av-Matoran.
The police officer shrugged casually. “Two sides having at each other. A regular prison riot.”
“First one in Elysium?”
“Correct.”
“Great timing.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Bottom line, what happens if you don’t go back?”
Algor broke eye contact. “The department is disgraced and I get fired. After that, I’m not too sure.”
“So go back.”
“I don’t want to.” A simple statement, but the way the Matoran said it and the way he stood there after articulating it made Glonor think he had more on his mind that just his department’s duty to Nokama’s protection. He wanted to stay indoors, comfortable, in the warmth, where he was safe.
Algor was scared.
“Have you ever worked in a prison before?” asked Glonor coldly.
“No.”
“It’s simple enough” muttered the Matoran of Light. “The cops hang around outside, maybe form a barrier with their cruisers. If any prisoner breaks out you’re usually inclined to shoot them dead. Easy as that. They know the rules. And they won’t try, anyway. Not at a moment’s notice in weather like this. They’ll stay inside, fighting. They’ll burn out eventually. They always do. They’ll get cold and bored, but that’s all.”
“Have you worked in prisons?”
“I’ve worked in everything” grunted the Iden-wearer. “Including personal protection. And, with all due respect, I can do at least as good a job as you. So you should let me. That way everyone wins.”
The Ko-Matoran shook his head, decisively. His mind was made up. “No” he stated inflexibly. It’s my duty. I gave an oath to protect the people of this town. I gave my damn word, and I’d sooner shoot down this hired gun before I back down on my word. Besides, you don’t have any weapons. How’d you fight this guy if he did turn up?” Glonor and Nokama glanced at each other, neither of them willing to reveal their hidden handguns. There was no way out of this situation without revealing their concealed weapons, and that would set Algor off asking how they’d acquired them, which would put Glacii in a very sticky situation.
“Fine, you can stay” muttered Nokama, darkly, making no attempt to hide her opposition.
Algor nodded, pulled out his own handgun, then marched off into the front room.




Glonor prowled through the house one more time. By that point he was completely accustomed to the sounds: the creak of the wooden floorboards, the obscure hissing of the steam pipes, the rickety catch on the window in the library that trembled because of the relentless wind.
The smell seemed to be changing now, and not in a good way. The house smelt dingy and unpleasant. Just old. Rotten wood, dust, smoke, even the stench of long-since eaten food. Ancient, deep aromas, a testament to the house’s history and its previous owners.
Growing bored with the history lesson he was giving himself, the Av-Matoran returned to the front room to see Algor standing at the window and Nokama sat down on the sofa behind him. Her handgun was still in her pack but she was beginning to fidget with a piece of cloth, trying to keep herself awake no doubt.

“You still OK?” he asked plainly, ignoring Algor. He didn’t want the Ko-Matoran to be there so didn’t acknowledge his presence.
The Ga-Matoran nodded formally. “I have reached the conclusion that I am privileged.”
“How so?”
“I’m experiencing the chance to live out my principles” she answered. “I believe that ordinary citizens must confront wickedness. Well that’s what I’m finally doing, isn’t it? Living up to face my fears, staring Death square in the face. Not everybody gets the opportunity to walk the walk. But now I can.”
For the first time in far too long, Glonor clacked a smile and nodded. “You’re doing great” he muttered.
The Av-Matoran was about to say something else to stimulate the sleep-deprived Ga-Matoran only to be interrupted by Algor. The Ko-Matoran grunted and grew stiffened. Glonor’s eyes widened. Instantly, he snapped into action and stepped up to the window.
He saw what the cop had seen: the wild bounce of headlight beams on the street.
A car. Coming fast.



It was Crystallus, leading what looked like most of the Elysium police department. Six cruisers, seven, eight. Then a ninth. They braked and skidded to a crunching halt all over the road. Twelve cops spilled out, then thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. They drew their weapons and formed up an approach driven partly by desperate haste and partly by extreme caution. Because they had no idea what they were going to find.
Either tranquility or a double homicide.
Bravely, Glonor stepped out to the hallway and lined himself up with the edge of the door. He flung it open and stayed well out of sight. He didn’t want to be fired on by mistake. Fifteen nervous cops made for an unpredictable situation.
“Crystallus?” he called out. “This is Glonor. We’re all clear.”
No answer.
He tried again. “Crystallus?”
Icy air flooded in, the deputy police chief’s voice coming with it. “Glonor?”
“All clear in here. Holster your damn weapons before one of them goes off in my face.”
They burst into the hallway. All fifteen of them. Crystallus first, followed by Glacii and the four female cops who’d been placed in the house, then another nine Matoran Glonor didn’t know.
Birus wasn’t there.
The cops brought in gusts and billows of soul-freezing air with them. All of them were battered and beaten by the cold, their flesh red and chapped, even the Ko-Matoran. The warm inside atmosphere hit them all immediately and they began to thaw.
The four female cops formed up around Nokama, a protective cordon, and bustled her off into the bedroom. Glacii ordered three of the cops to take up night watch patrols around the neighborhood then sent the remaining nine back to the police station.
Crystallus was the one who found Algor first. He was surprised, straight away. Shock surged through his eyes and he flinched. The two Ko-Matoran grew tense as their eyes met. After an awkward moment of eye contact, the Kiril-wearer sighed
“What the hell were you doing here?” he demanded so quietly that it seemed even more threatening.
“What I thought was the right thing” retorted Algor glumly, his eyes hazy and fixed on the carpet. He knew what came next.
“Doesn’t matter about that.” Glonor watched as Glacii marched forwards, shaking his head. “You were given direct orders, we all were. If the siren goes off you get your scrawny little backside over to the prison. That’s what everyone else did so why the hell couldn’t you manage it?”
“Well someone had to protect Nokama!”
“Evidently we had that covered!” snapped the police chief, gesturing wildly at Glonor, his voice riddled with something dangerously close to aggression.
“I didn’t know” retorted the Ko-Matoran. The Kiril-wearer stepped forward to confront Glacii. The chief’s eyes widened but he stood his ground.
After a moment of awkward intensity, Glacii finally spoke. “Give me your badge” he snarled.
Algor continued to glare at him.
“I said give me your damn badge!” roared the police chief with fiery wrath. The Ko-Matoran stared him in the eye a moment longer, as if trying to make a point, then reached into his pack. Defeated, he brought his hand up a moment later and opened it to reveal his service badge. Glacii snatched it off him.
“And your firearm?”
“I want to keep it.”
“You do that and you’ll be sharing a mess hall with the biker in jail.”
The Matoran of Ice glanced coolly at Glacii, then at Crystallus, then at Glonor. He wanted support but he wasn’t going to beg for it. Glonor thought it best to stay out of this one. After all, Glacii was right. Algor had pulled rank, he’d admitted to that. If the Iden-wearer hadn’t been in the house then who was to say the cop would’ve have chosen to follow his orders? He had no legal obligation to protect Nokama, which made his activity around the house suspicious.
Glacii was right to overreact. Algor could be the hired gun, anyone could. He probably would’ve known Papura, but even if he hadn’t then it didn’t matter. The cops would probably be able to prove that the Matoran had known him one way or another. Even the timing seemed to fit the theory. Algor had waited several hours before going to Nokama’s house. If he’d really had her protection in mind then he would’ve arrived earlier.
Of course, that was assuming he didn’t know the killer wouldn’t show up.
Because he was the killer.
Plus with two witnesses seeing him abandoning his pre-assumed role to arrive on the doorstep. He’d been surprised to see Glonor but he’d picked himself up. He could’ve been planning to shoot the Ga-Matoran right after walking through the door.
But that was just speculation.
It was probably what Glacii and Crystallus were thinking. Alarm bells and klaxons would be blaring in their heads, misleading them into some sort of hysterical deduction of the situation. Even with Glonor’s expert skills of interference, he remained professionally stumped. If Algor really was the killer then there would be evidence. The police would need to launch an inquiry to find the vehicle he’d used to flag down Papura then the gun he’d used to kill him. Fingerprints would be involved, and he’d have to be tested for gunshot residue with the murders still being fairly recent. Warrants would need to be signed to allow them to search his dwelling. Then there would be a court case, and that wouldn’t end well, not if a police officer had committed two homicides right under Glacii and Crystallus’ noses. They’d both be axed. The media would catch wind. Glacii probably wouldn’t be trusted to direct traffic in the Silver Sea, let alone keep his position.
But then again, there was always the possibility that the other Matoran had realized that too. Or maybe they were both too narrow-minded to perceive such a possibility and were simply angry at the cop for pulling rank and abandoning the department. Glonor doubted it, but he didn’t want to rule the possibility out.
Algor stood still a moment longer, glaring at Glacii. The two Ko-Matoran were now openly hostile.
“You’ll damn-well regret this” scowled the Kiril-wearer as he pulled out his revolver and threw it at Crystallus. The deputy chief caught it single handedly then tucked it away into his pack.
“Get out” growled the police chief with venom in his voice.
Algor snorted, turned to leave, then spat at Glacii’s feet. The police chief grunted in disgust as the ex-cop turned slowly then headed out the door. Glonor guessed that would be the last he saw of the shifty Ko-Matoran.
How wrong he was.



The Iden-wearing Av-Matoran watched as normality began to restore in the hallway. In the space of five minutes all was as it had been five hours earlier.
Nobody spoke to him until stability had returned. When it did he found himself stuck with both Glacii and Crystallus in his face.
“So what happened here?” asked Crystallus worriedly.
“Nothing at all” shrugged the Matoran of Light, choosing not to mention Algor’s arrival – there was no longer any need to defend him. “What happened at the prison?”
“A riot” answered Glacii bleakly. “Not that we saw much of anything. They shut it down real quick.”
“Because it was a diversion.”
The two Ko-Matoran exchanged glances then nodded. “Damn straight” grunted the deputy chief.
“But their guy never came here?” asked Glacii darkly.
“He didn’t” confirmed Glonor. “Which leads to the big question: why the hell not?”
“Maybe he saw you.”
“But I didn’t see him” retorted the ex-military cop, leaning against the wall casually. “Which raises another big question: if he’s good enough to see me, without me seeing him, then why didn’t he just go for the kill?
“Not a clue” muttered Crystallus.
“I saw a Ga-Matoran walking her Dermis Turtle.”
“Who?” demanded the police chief, his voice filled with urgency.
“According to Nokama, Birus’ ex-wife.”
Once again, the two Ko-Matoran exchanged glances before the deputy chief shrugged. “She’s a neighbor. She walks it every night.”
“You should’ve told me” muttered Glonor. “I might have shot her.”
“Sorry, I forgot” winced the Kakama-wearer as he rubbed his hands together, trying to stimulate circulation. It was no surprise that he was having trouble acclimatizing. His body temperature had vaulted sixty degrees in less than five minutes.
There was an awkward moment of silence where the three Matoran just stared at each other. It was finally broken by Crystallus, who let out a deep, heavy sigh. “Bad thing to say, I guess, but I kinda wish the guy had come tonight. I’m not sure we can take another month of this.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to” uttered Glonor with a ghost of a smile. “My guess is they’re fresh out of diversions.”
“But they can start another riot any time they want to” frowned Glacii, his forehead creasing further under the weight of his brow.
“They can’t. That’s the point. Prison riots need a build-up. About a third of the population would riot every day of the week, given the choice. Another third never would. It’s the middle third that counts. Once the feeling passes for the middle guys it has to build up again. Their passion is gone. I’d say it’ll be another couple of months before they get agitated again. So you guys are in the clear now, you’re safe.”
“You sure?” grunted Glacii, his eyes deathly serious.
“You might never hear that siren ring again” shrugged the Av-Matoran.
Glacii and Crystallus blinked in surprise at Glonor’s statement, unsure whether or not he was joking. When they finally realized he wasn’t they began to relax.
The Av-Matoran tried to share in their moment of relief by staring out the window. Once again, no one approached the house. The world outside was dead. Deep frozen. Nothing was moving, except the wind. It was blowing steadily out to the west, scouring powder into small stunted drifts of exposing ridges of ice that glittered blue in the light of the stars. A spectral, elemental scene.
It was time for him to go back out into it.
“Crystallus, remember when I asked you to book me a tour of the prison?”
The deputy chief frowned then shrugged. “Sure, I remember it, but in fairness I have spent all night freezing my wits out around a prison. I haven’t had a chance to arrange anything for you.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter” smiled Glonor as he nodded a farewell to the two cops. “I’ll forgive you if you give me a lift.”
“What? Now?”
“No time like the present.”
“But it’s two in the morning!” protested the deputy chief. “I’m pretty sure that isn’t a visiting hour.”
“Really?” frowned Glonor sarcastically. He paused before cracking a sly smile. “I suppose it’ll really annoy the guards up at the prison, right?”
“It sure will.”
“Do you want the honors or shall I?”

Chapter 9 - The Upper Hand

The prison was silent save for the three pairs of echoing footsteps as Glonor, Crystallus and the Prison Sergeant marched down the corridor. The Av-Matoran imagined the walls to be hard and grey both in color and in texture. The dim lights above their heads were florescent and fitted into thick, metal grilles in the ceiling, which cast an almost green yet dim light into the cells. Prisoners rolled over or sat up to cover their eyes as the Sergeant’s torch caught their tired masks.

“Quiet night at the inn,” Glonor muttered as they passed the umpteenth empty cell. The Skakdi Sergeant grunted then chuckled loudly, trying to irritate as many of the prisoners as he could with his laughter at such an early hour of the morning.

In comparison to a Matoran, the jailor was a giant sporting rough, hard armor complete with both the color and smoothness of a rock. He was a hulking brute. Probably an Order of Mata Nui servant or a Dark Hunter who'd been injured during the War and had ended up serving as a night watchman. It wasn't a particularly admirable job and the dark-armored Skakdi was clearly bitter about it as he hobbled on long, limping slightly. Glonor could have fitted himself, Crystallus, and maybe a couple of rocks into the Skakdi’s armor.

And they still wouldn’t be able to reach the word Reidak printed on his nametag.

The guy was the exact ideal guard.

“Just to confirm, Sergeant,” muttered Crystallus. “This is an off-the-record visit. Doesn’t need to go in the log.”

The ebony and gold-armored Skakdi nodded in agreement as they reached the end of the corridor and produced a loop of keys. He fumbled for the correct one, unlocked the heavy door, then swung it open. The party of three stepped through into a small office-like area, presumably the guard post. There were screens showing hundreds of sleeping prisoners. The walls on either side were grey and gloomy, just like the rest of the prison.

The Sergeant strode over to the other end of the room and opened another door, this one leading through to a small lobby with four more locked doors covering four locked cells. He flicked a switch and more fluorescent tubes stuttered and flooded the corridor with dazzlingly artificial white-light. Glonor scanned the doors to the cells, noting the heavy iron bars and enormous outlines. The bars were thickly covered in shiny silver paint, each about ten feet wide and equipped with a hidden camera, presumably. That was assuming there was any logic at all behind this state-of-the-art prison that seemed to be causing so much trouble.

Three of the cells were empty. The fourth was occupied, its door bolted shut. Behind it was a very tired and bitter biker.

Crystallus glanced at Glonor uncertainly. “You sure about this? We’ve tried questioning him dozens of times. He’s too dumb to tell us anything.”

“I’d guessed as much,” muttered Glonor, taking his time. “The fact he was slow enough to get caught by you guys while his client gave you the slip was a bit of a giveaway. I thought he might name some names, maybe lead us to somebody more important.”

“A bigger fish?”

Glonor nodded. “Someone doing enough illegal business down at the bunker worth sending a hired-gun after a witness.”

Crystallus cocked a questioning eyebrow. “You think someone’s ordering the bikers around outside of Elysium?”

“Outside of Metru-Nui , more likely,” responded the Av-Matoran.

“Any idea who he might be?”

The former military policeman rolled his eyes. “Not the foggiest. We don’t even know for sure if there is a guy. He’s just a guess right now. A theory.” The Av-Matoran turned to face the jailor as he jerked at the grave weight of the door. “Are you sure he hasn’t said anything? Not a single name?”

“Not a damn word in a full month,” he grunted in a voice that was so rough that Glonor wondered if he ate rocks for breakfast. “We’ve got hundreds of prisoners here, this guy’s the only one who sits around with his mouth shut tight. If there is a big-guy, like you say there is, he’s really put the frighteners on... if he exists.”

Oh, he exists,” chuckled the Iden-wearer as the guard finally managed to haul the door open. If he exists to be found then I’ll track him down he thought to himself.

The Matoran of Light could see the biker struggling awake, the light from the jailer’s torch shining in his eyes and the metallic scraping of the heavy iron door burning his audio receptors.

“Visitor for you,” called the Reidak.

“I’ll stay out here,” muttered Crystallus darkly. “He knows me. I’ll watch on the screens.”

“Suit yourself” replied the Av-Matoran as he stepped into the cell.

Immediately, Glonor noticed the metal grid of bars that separated the chamber, cutting it in two. On his side of the gate there were two tall wooden stools in the other corner of the dingy cell. The Skakdi carried the nearest one over to the middle of the wall and sat down on it heavily.

The Iden-wearer ignored the other stool and stood with his hands behind his back, gazing silently at the convict on the other side of the bars. The biker known as Glidus pushed his tatty blanket aside and swung his feet to the floor. He was a Su-Matoran – which was evident from the color of his armor – and had a badly twisted right arm, an injury he’d probably acquired during some bar fight or public brawl. He wore an orange Kanohi Calix, which had a deep scar running down it, just below his left eye and snaking off towards his audio receptor.

He was a big guy, about Glonor’s size. It looked like the Matoran had attempted to rebuild himself at some point ago and forgotten about it. Or perhaps he’d escaped from Karzahni after an upgrade had been started. Either way, regardless of whether or not he had inflicted the twisted appearance upon himself or if Karzahni had, it only looked half-finished.

The Matoran of Plasma was heavily muscled, had a thick neck, big arms and small, hollow yellow eyes. The Av-Matoran stood absolutely still, watching the biker, saying nothing.

“Hell are you?” grunted Glidus. His voice matched his bulk. It was deep, and the words were half swallowed by a heavy chest. Glonor made no reply. It was a technique he’d perfected half a lifetime ago. Just stand absolutely still, don’t blink, don’t say anything. Wait for them to run through the possibilities. Not a buddy. Not a lawyer. Who, then? Make them start worrying.

“Hell are you?” growled the Su-Matoran once again.

Glonor walked away. He stepped over to where the Sergeant was sitting and whispered to him. The guy’s eyebrow’s came up.

You sure?” he asked. Glonor nodded and the jailer got up and handed him the loop of keys. He went out through the door and closed it behind him. The Av-Matoran hung the keys on a small hook sticking out of the wall then walked back to where he’d been standing before. The Calix-wearer was still staring at him, like a mirror image.

“What the hell do you want?” he demanded.

“I want you to look at me,” snarled the ex-military cop, the little light of the darkened cell casting crooked shadows over the ridges of his Kanohi.

“What?”

“What do you see, Glidus?”

“Nothin’.”

“You blind?”

“No, I ain’t blind.”

“Then you’re a liar.” grunted Glonor. “You don’t see nothin’.”

“Fine,” shrugged the Su-Matoran. “I see some guy.”

“You see some guy who’s bigger than you, who had all kinds of special training while you were still fighting arena matches back on Stelt, like a slave.”

“So?” grunted the convict.

“So nothing,” answered Glonor smoothly. “Just bare that in mind for later, is all.”

“What’s later?”

“You’ll see.”

“What do you want?”

“I want proof,” challenged the Av-Matoran. “Proof of exactly how dumb a piece of Muaka dung you really are.”

Glidus paused. His eyes narrowed, pushed into slits by the deep burrows on his brow. “Easy for you to talk like that” he growled. “Standing six feet away from these bars.”

Glonor took a couple of exaggerated paces forward.

“Now I’m two feet from the bars” he taunted. “And you’re still a dumb piece of Muaka dung.”

Glidus sneered menacingly and took a step forward too. He was a foot inside his cell, holding a bar in each clenched hand. A level gaze in his eyes.

Glonor stepped forwards again.

“Now I’m only one foot from the bars, same as you... and you’re still a dumb piece of Muaka dung.”

Glidus’ damaged right hand came off the bar and closed into a fist. It rammed straight out, like a piston, heading for Glonor’s throat. The Av-Matoran caught the wrist and tugged, hauling the prisoner tight up against the grid. He twisted the limb and stepped to the side, bending Glidus’ arm against the elbow joint.

“See how dumb you are?” he growled. “I take another step to the left and I break your arm.”

The Matoran of Plasma was gasping against the pressure. Glonor smiled at his torment then dropped the wrist. The biker snapped his arm back through the bars and rolled his shoulders, testing the damage.“

“What do you want?” he demanded again.

“Want me to open the cell?”

“What?”

“Keys are right over there, on the hook. You want the gate open, even things up a little?”

The Su-Matoran’s eyes narrowed a little more. He nodded slowly. “Yeah... sure... open the gate.”

Glonor stepped away and lifted the hoop of keys off the iron hook. He shuffled through them idly and found the one that fitted the lock with relative ease. He’d handled plenty of cell keys in his time, probably to the extent where he could’ve picked the right one blindfolded. The Matoran stepped back and unlocked the gate, swinging it open. Glidus stood still. The Av-Matoran walked away and dropped the keys back on the hook. He stood facing the door, his back to the cell.

“Sit down,” he ordered. “I left a stool for you.” He sensed the Matoran emerge from his cell, heard the slow heavy padding of his feet on the concrete floor. Then they stopped.

“What do you want?” repeated the dim Matoran of Plasma.

Glonor kept his back turned, straining to anticipate the biker’s approach. It wasn’t happening.

“It’s complicated” he muttered furtively. “You’re gonna have to juggle a number of factors.”

“What factors?” asked the Calix-wearer bluntly.

“First factor is I’m unofficial, OK?”

“Meaning?”

“You tell me, wise guy .”

“I don’t know,” snarled the aggressive Su-Matoran.

Glonor turned around. “It means I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an army cop. I’m not a civilian cop. In fact: I’m nothing at all.

“So?”

“So there’s no comeback on me. No disciplinary procedures, no pension to lose, no pay to cut, no nothing.”

So?”

“So if I leave you walking in crutches and drinking through a straw the rest of your life, there’s nothing anyone can do to me. And there are no witnesses in here.”

“What do you want?” commanded the convict for the fifth time.

Glonor ignored him. “Second factor is whatever the big guy says he’ll do to you, I can do worse.”

“What big guy?”

The Iden-wearer smiled. Glidus’ hands bunched into fists. Heavy biceps, broad shoulders.

“Now it gets difficult” grinned Glonor. “You’d better concentrate real hard on this part. Third factor is, if you give me the guy’s name, he goes somewhere else, forever. You tell me who he is, he can’t get to you. Not ever. You get it?”

“What name? What guy?”

“The guy who sent your little biker gang to Elysium. The guy who knows what’s inside the bunker.”

Glidus shook his head. “No such guy. The bunker’s locked up tight.”

“We’re past that stage now, OK? I know there’s such a guy. So don’t make me smack you around before we even get to the important part.”

Glidus tensed up, breathing hard. Then he quieted down. His body slacked and his eyes narrowed again.

“So concentrate,” repeated the Av-Matoran. “You think that ratting on this guy puts you in trouble, but you’re wrong. What you need to understand is this: you rat him out and it actually makes you safe, the whole rest of your life, because people are looking at him for a bunch of things a whole lot worse than trading Kraata.”

“What’s he done?” asked Glidus uneasily.

The Matoran of Light let a smile slip. He hoped the video cameras could record sound. The guy exists. Crystallus would be dancing around outside.

“The Turaga High Council thinks he’s responsible for the deaths of four Toa,” lied Glonor. “You give me his name, they’ll put him behind bars. Nobody’s ever going to ask him about anything else.”

Glidus fell silent, thinking about his position. It wasn’t the speediest process Glonor had ever seen.

“Two more factors,” he continued. “You tell me his name right now, I’ll put in a good word for you, maybe get you out in time for Naming Day. They’ll listen to me. I can get you easy time.”

Glidus said nothing.

“Last factor,” murmured Glonor, this time more gently. “You need to understand, sooner or later, you’ll tell me anyway. It’s just a question of timing. Your choice. You can tell me right now, or you can tell me in half an hour, right after I’ve broken your arms, legs, and started working on your spine.”

“He’s a bad guy,” muttered the Su-Matoran anxiously.

Glonor nodded. “I’m sure he’s real bad. But you need to prioritize. Whatever he says he’s going to do, that’s only theoretical, way off in the future. And like I told you, it isn’t going to happen anyway. But what I’m going to do, it’s going to happen right here, right now.”

“You aren’t gonna do anything,” snorted Glidus confidently.

Accepting the challenge, Glonor snatched up the other wooden stool – the one he hadn’t offered the biker. He flipped it upside-down and wrapped his hands around two of the legs. Taking a firm grip, he bunched his shoulders and pulled steadily. Then he breathed hard and snapped his elbows back, causing the legs to tear away at the rungs in a shower of wooden splinters. The broken pieces clattered to the floor. The former military policeman’s smile grew broader as he scooped up the broken chair and snapped the last two legs off, single handedly, dropping the wreckage but retaining the fourth leg. It was about a yard long, half the length of a Kolhii Staff but just as thick.

“Now you try,” he ordered.

Glidus snarled and scooped up his own stool in fury. He tried hard and grasped the legs in the same way Glonor had. His muscles bunched and swelled, but he got nowhere with it. He just stood there, holding the stool horizontally with a disturbing facial expression.

“Too bad,” shrugged Glonor as the Matoran of Plasma threw the stool aside and began panting for air. “It tried to make it fair.”

“He’s in the Brotherhood,” protested the biker.

“They usually are.”

“He’s got some powerful friends. He’s real tough.”

“Doesn’t matter” grunted Glonor. “If I report this back to the Turaga they send the Metru-Nui land army over to him and they shoot him down. End of problem.

Glidus said nothing.

“He won’t know it came from you, not ever” reassured the Av-Matoran, his compassion running thin. “They’ll make it look like he left some evidence behind.”

Glidus remained silent. Growing impatient, the Av-Matoran began to swing the leg of the stool, like a mace.

“Right or left?”

“What?” spluttered the Calix-wearer.

“Which arm do you want me to break first?”

Glidus glared at him, hatred burning in his eyes before he finally caved in.

Garnax,” he grunted. “His name’s Garnax. Some big-shot Brotherhood supporter, a Ba-Matoran. He’s our leader.”

Glonor nodded solemnly then glanced at the chair leg in his hands through empty eyes. He looked at the Su-Matoran in front of him then smiled sadly before snapping the piece of wood over his knee and tossing it aside.
Not that traitor again he thought to himself as he turned to exit, snatching the keys off their hook as he did so.

Should’ve gutted him when you had the chance...




“OK, Garnax,” chuckled Crystallus. “We’re on hot on your trail now.”

The two Matoran were back in Crystallus’ cruiser, cold from the failing heating system but the high spirited scene could not be suppressed. Handshakes had been shook, high fives had been smacked, knuckle clanks had been clanked. The Ko-Matoran was still smiling, basking in relief and triumph.

“Loved that business with the stool,” he added. “I watched the whole thing through the security camera.”

Glonor shrugged. “I cheated,” he admitted. “I chose the right stool. I figured that Skakdi would’ve sat on it every visiting session, maybe wriggled around when he got bored. A guy that size, the joints were sure to be cracked. The thing practically fell apart in my hands.”

“But it looked real good.”

“That was the plan. First rule in the book is to look real good.”

The Matoran of Ice nodded before glancing at the dashboard. His face fell when he caught sight of the digital clock beside the glove compartment. It was late. Dawn would be approaching in a couple of hours.
And his wife probably would have waited up for him.

But the Kakama-wearing cop shrugged thoughts of the future aside and tried to return to his optimistic mood. “Didn’t you mention something about knowing him?”

The Av-Matoran grunted. He could have nodded but the cop was driving and being in another crash wasn’t how he wanted to spend his night.

“Has he been in trouble? Anything we can hold against him as blackmail?”

“He was a traitor,” responded Glonor. “Once upon a time he was a good little Ba-Matoran, working on the Vacca-Nui Council. But his good ambitions turned sour and he became a figure of simple virtue. He started selling land, trading it off to the Dark Hunters. Thanks to him my island was terrorized by those criminals. Crime went through the roof, Matoran were abducted for experiments and my job got a whole lot harder. The military always got called in to deal with them. There were brawls in every district, soldiers taking on Dark Hunters twice their size, some of them winning, most of them being left crippled and broken. That damn Ba-Matoran caused me a hell of a lot of paperwork.”

“Well if he’s involved in Kraata trading then he’ll know it’s illegal,” muttered Crystallus. “If word of this gets out to the Turaga High Council then he’ll be public enemy number one. You’ll finally have him locked away.”

The Av-Matoran didn’t respond. He remained silent for the rest of the journey, letting Crystallus articulate his high hopes and images of a shining, crimeless future.

Even then Glonor knew something terrible was about to happen.




There was a brief flash of alarm when Glonor knocked on Nokama’s front door. The smooth wooden surface was yanked back inside and a handgun thrust into his mask. The Iden-wearer raised an eyebrow at the female cop on duty. She was the first one he’d met, the Vo-Matoran.
The one he liked.

“Honey, I’m home” he grunted quietly as he stepped inside.

The Matoran of Lightning relaxed then lowered her weapon. “And what time do you call this?” she whispered, more a playful joke than a question. Her tone was off.

“Bedtime,” yawned the Matoran of Light as he scanned the hallway. The second day-time cop was peeking around the library door, the telescopic lenses on her Kanohi Huna whirling in and out of focus on him. When she finally recognized him she gave him a warning look then ducked back to her post, irritated by his ill-timed entry.

“Where’s Nokama?”

“Where most people are at four in the morning,” answered the female Matoran, “in her bed.”

Glonor glanced at the bedroom, trying to imagine the three Ga-Matoran sleeping inside. It was a small chamber from what he’d seen. Most of the floor had been taken up by two mattresses and the single divan.

“Any chance she left me anywhere to sleep?”

The Matoran of Lightning shook her head, paused and bent over to pick up a towel at her feet – presumably something she’d been huddling into to keep warm. She offered it to him.

“Keep it,” whispered the Av-Matoran, hoping it came out sounding sensitive and caring. That was the effect he was going for.
The cop nodded and folded the blanket over her arm then dropped it neatly on the floor.

“There’s always the couch. I doubt anyone will mind if you use that for the night.”

Glonor turned his head to the left to see that the front room door was open.

“I never got your name” he muttered calmly.

The cop raised an eyebrow and glanced Glonor over. She hesitated a moment longer then extended her right hand. He took it and shook gently, not wanting to crush anything under his grip.

Ninian.”

“Well, goodnight Ninian” smiled the Iden-wearer as he stepped into the front room and closed the door softly behind him. He didn’t want to taunt the Matoran of Lightning with his snooze, though it was only going to be a short one. A couple of hours at the most. Still, his slumber would be well-earned.

The household had gotten right back into its settled routine and silence engulfed the dwelling once again, penetrated only by the now-docile rush of the wind. The Av-Matoran tried not to think about the window behind him as he drifted off. In principle, it should be the most vulnerable point in the house, but he wasn’t too worried. Sheer rage ought to overcome any tactical disadvantage. He hated being woken in the night. If an intruder came in through the window then he’d go straight back out like a spear ... in pieces...

Chapter 10 - Silence before the Storm

Glonor had planned on sleeping until eight but he was woken at half-past six by Ninian. She came into the front room and some primal instinct must have made her pause and kick the sofa frame then step back smoothly. She must have figured that was the safest thing to do. Perhaps she figured that if she leaned over and shook the Av-Matoran gently on the shoulder she could get her arm broken.
And she might have been right.

“What?” grunted Glonor groggily.

“First light’s less than an hour away” she murmured.

“And?”

“Apparently you need to get going.”

“Where?”

“The biker camp” explained the Vo-Matoran. “Crystallus said you offered.”




Nokama was already wide awake when Glonor found her alone in the library, her Kanohi Rau nestled into a new book.
“I have to go out” grunted Glonor.
The Ga-Matoran nodded. “Deputy Crystallus told me. Will you be OK?”
“I sure hope so.”
“I don’t see how. There are a hundred hardened bikers out there and all you have is a pistol.”
“I’m going for information.”
“Even so.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got Mata Nui on my side for once” chuckled the Iden-wearer. “If I get killed or don’t come back then the police get a reason to conduct a search, and the bikers don’t want that. They’ll treat me like a Turaga.”
The Ga-Matoran frowned. “That’s hard to imagine.”
“Will you be OK here?”
“Hopefully.”
“If the cops leave again, take your gun and lock yourself in a cupboard. Don’t open the door to anyone except me.”
“Should we have a password?”
“You could ask me what my favorite book is.”
The Matoran of Water hesitated then frowned. “OK. But, incidentally, what is your favorite book?”
“I’ve never read one” shrugged Glonor casually. “That’ll be the correct answer.”
Nokama hesitated then nodded slowly and put her book aside, placing a small bookmark in her page then balancing it on the arm of her chair. “Will the police be leaving again?”
“Probably not.”
“There could be another riot.”
“Unlikely” grunted the Av-Matoran slightly more insensitive than he’d intended to sound. “Prison riots are rare. Like revolutions in history. Metru-Nui’s only ever had one in centuries. The conditions have to be exactly right.”
“What about an escape?”
“Even less likely. Escapes are hard. The guards make sure of that.”
The retired teacher blinked in surprise. “So, are you saying my problems are over?”
“Possibly.”
“So will you come back here?”
“I think the roads are still closed.”
“When they open again, where will you go next?”
“I don’t know” shrugged the Av-Matoran carelessly.
Nokama nodded then glanced out the window. “Head for Ga-Metru” she muttered. “It’s peaceful and warm this time of year, not like this arctic prison.”
“I might” responded Glonor calmly before flashing a mock salute and ducking back into the hallway.

The Av-Matoran walked right into Ninian in the corridor, who briefed him with new information. Glacii had called ahead and organized one of the cops from the station to bring a spare unmarked cruiser to the house. How the guy who’d driven it had gotten back to the station was beyond Glonor but it meant the cruiser would be warmed up and running.

The Vo-Matoran led him outside into the frozen wilderness to inspect the vehicle, leaving the second duty cop to guard the house. The cruiser was reliable and appeared to have been recently serviced. It had a full tank and had been fitted with chains in place of the useless tyres that Glonor detested.

After deeming the vehicle safe, Glonor asked Ninian for directions. The Matoran of Lightning suggested he headed north for a mio then turn east short of the highway. The two Matoran found a paper travel-map on the dashboard and studied the detailed plan of Elysium’s road systems.

“If I go north then I’ll end up on the same street Papura was killed on” grunted Glonor uncertainly.

Ninian pricked her audio receptors and let her brow crease into a frown. “I thought that was classified.”

“I figured it out.”

The female paused before batting the problem aside and returning to her directions. “Well, it isn’t actually the same road. It’s the one that runs parallel to it. But still, perhaps you shouldn’t stop if anyone tries to flag you down.”

“I won’t” muttered the Av-Matoran as he folded the map up and Ninian opened the passenger door again. “You can count on that.”




Garnax growled at his communicator as he pushed his breakfast aside and gave the Ga-Matoran waitress a disgusted look. Without a word she picked up the tray – that was still stacked high with food – and carried it off, back into the kitchens to be put to waste.
The communicator line hummed and crackled for a moment before he got an answer from his guy in Metru-Nui.
“Is the damn witness dead yet?” he demanded.
There was a pause on the line before the guy responded. “You knew there was always going to be a delay between killing the cop and the witness.
“And how long has that delay been?”
Too long.” The guy knew what to say.
“Correct” muttered Garnax darkly. “I arranged a riot at the prison last night.”
I know.
“Evidently you didn’t make use of it.”
There was a guy in the house.
The Ba-Matoran paused before responding, trying to calculate what that meant. “The problem being?”
I had no instructions.
That’s your answer?” he bristled in frustration. “You needed instructions?”
I figured there were complexities I wasn’t grasping.
Garnax leaned forward and held his head in his hands. He sighed deeply in frustration. “How can I hurt you?”
Again, the guy knew exactly what to say. “In ways I don’t want to be hurt.
“Correct,” repeated the Ba-Matoran. “But I need you to be more specific. I need you to focus on what’s at stake.”
You’ll kill the person nearest and dearest to me.
“Yes, I will, eventually” snarled the Matoran of Stone. “But first, there’ll be a delay, which seems to be a concept you’re very familiar with. I’ll cripple her and cut her then let her live for a year or so. Then I’ll kill her. Do you understand me?”
Yes, I do.
“So, for your own sake, get the damn job done. I don’t care about complexities. Wipe out the entire damn town, for all I care! How many people live in Elysium anyway?”
Around 8,270 Matoran.
“Right” grunted Garnax. “That’s your upper limit for collateral damage. Get it done.”
The Ba-Matoran hung up and turned his attention back to abusing his staff.



Glonor cursed and muttered darkly to himself as he shivered in the cold. He wrapped his frozen fingers around the chains of his borrowed police cruiser and tugged. They didn’t budge. They weren’t designed to. They were meant to do the exact opposite and stay attached to provide the grip that the stupid wheels couldn’t.
The Av-Matoran gritted his metallic teeth and roared as he tried to snap the cursed chains. They rattled against the underbelly of the vehicle but didn’t come off.
In the end the Iden-wearer just gave up and sat back on the road. He half expected to land in a pile of snow only to scrape his backside against the rough surface of the road. That was of course the reason why he was trying to remove chains from the wheels. He’d been making good progress driving east towards the final leg of his journey when the road took a surprising turn to the left and he found himself on solid black tarmac. The road ahead was completely clear.
There hadn’t been a speck of ice on the coarse concrete surface before Glonor had arrived. But someone had obviously been busy, for a trench had been created with the cleared snow, making up the side walls that surrounded the Av-Matoran and his police cruiser. It created a natural barrier against the almost vertical snowfall, as if his arrival was being expected.
The former military cop didn’t utter another word until he arrived at the camp. His left eye twitched angrily as the noise of the chains scraped against the concrete drilled into his sanity. He didn’t need to steer. The narrow road cut directly through the wilderness like a blade. The chains splintered and rattled as the cruiser grinded onwards, keeping him going in a roughly straight direction.
The world outside was entirely white. There was a pale brightness in the sky but no sunlight. The air was too full of ice. It was like dust. Like mist.
Glonor tried to put the scenery out of his mind. He didn’t want to become distracted. Sliding into a ditch could be fatal. He was too far away from Elysium to be rescued by the police this time.
He drove four careful kio, then five, then six, then seven before he noticed the change in the road surface. Before it had been bumpy and irregular – distorted by centuries of freeze-thaw action – but now the tarmac was becoming smoother and leveled. Staring off into the murky distance, Glonor began to realize that he was driving on a magnificent, surreal piece of road, absolutely flat, and absolutely straight as far as the limited visibility in the snow would allow him to see.
And it was ploughed.
The two sets of chains clanked and rattled, chattering away over the almighty roar of the wild wind. Gazing out into the misty horizon, Glonor began to make out small dark smudges far away into the unknown. Wooden huts, lined in neat rows.
The cruiser pattered and thumped. The chains didn’t work all too well on the concrete but the Av-Matoran kept going.
Another couple of kio into the snowstorm he began to see signs of life ahead. There were cars and transporters of all shapes and sizes. Beyond them were dozens of dark, bulky figures, working away with shovels or hurling handfuls of some de-icing chemical into the snow. The Matoran wasn’t all too sure of himself but, for a second, the mechanical rhythm of their labor reminded him of Bohrok. They were cleansing their whole camp. They wanted the whole place immaculate, as good as the road.
The huts weren’t exactly a triumph of craftsmanship. They looked like they were just pieces of raw timber nailed together and given a couple of layers. The exterior was bleached and faded, thought they didn’t look too old. Behind the first row of dwellings, Glonor’s keen eyes spotted the dull grey outline of the concrete war bunker. It was tall and peaked, constructed entirely from the hard, jagged slabs of stone, the same color as the road he was driving on. It dominated the bleak landscape, dwarfing the lesser huts and contrasting the blank snowy-sprawl.
And, of course, there were the actual bikes. Counting quickly, the Av-Matoran spotted around thirty of them, stacked up for winter. They were big ones, the kind that any normal Matoran would usually struggle to use, which was surprising.
The Iden-wearer slowed and came to a gentle stop about 50 bio from the bunker. Matoran had stopped toiling and turned to stare at his cruiser. Freezing hands were resting on shovel handles.
Glonor took his foot off the brake and looked down at the dashboard. The car’s temperature sensors were saying it was twelve degrees below zero. If he switched the engine off he doubted it would turn back on again. So he left it on and gripped the cruiser’s steering wheel, squeezing hard until it started to give and his muscles stood out; big and obvious.
When you have arms thicker than most other people’s legs, sometimes you need to exploit what nature’s given you he thought, thinking back to how many times he’d said that in the military.
Taking a final breath of warm air, Glonor opened the door and slipped out. About twenty bio ahead, the crowd seemed to have gotten larger. There were Matoran of just about every element, though there were no females, which didn’t exactly strike the Iden-wearer as odd considering this was a biker gang. There were around a hundred Matoran in total, as advertised. They were all shapeless and crooked, hidden behind thick, second-hand armor and hunched over in the cold – even the Ko-Matoran. Their breath condensed around their masks, forming an unbroken cloud that hung stationary before rising and being whipped away by the wind.
The cold was stunning and it was getting worse. After a mere five seconds Glonor was already shivering from the exposure. His entire mask felt numb after ten, making him suddenly aware of the fact he was wearing a cold, metallic Kanohi.
He tried to picture what the bikers were seeing: a shivering Ko-Matoran with a thick build and an obvious police cruiser behind him. Not even remotely convincing.
There was a moment of hush before an Onu-Matoran finally strode forwards, sidestepping, leading with his left shoulder, then his right. Pitch-black armor. A Kanohi Elda. His body language was like every interrupted worker in the world: irritated, but curious. He swiped his thick forearm across his brow, paused, thought, then moved forwards again. He stepped out of the ranks and stopped a yard short of the crowd.
“Who the hell are you?” growled Glonor menacingly. He had to appear threatening in front of the bikers or they’d become suspicious.
“Get lost” retorted the Onu-Matoran icily.
The Av-Matoran took one step forward, then a second and a third. “You’re not very polite.”
The Elda-wearer snorted. “Show me where it says I have to be.”
The Matoran of Light smiled. “Well, for starters, you’re walking around on my property.”
There were a couple of confused expressions in the gaggle of bikers and a low mumble started. The Onu-Matoran ignored them and sneered at Glonor. “How so?”
“I’m from the army. I’m here to check on our real estate. A two-year maintenance inspection.”
“That’s a joke!”
“Whatever” muttered the Av-Matoran. “I need to take a look around.”
“I told you to get lost.”
“I know, but what are the odds I’m gonna take you seriously?”
The Onu-Matoran’s eyes narrowed as the chattering continued. “You can’t fight a hundred of us, buddy.”
“I won’t need to” shrugged Glonor triumphantly. “Looks like two thirds of you guys are complete pansies, which leaves around thirty of you. And half of you look too lazy and tired to even move. The others, maybe half of them are cowards. They’ll just run away, leaving eight to ten guys, max. And one of me is worth eight or ten out you rejects, easily.
No answer.
“Plus, I’m from the army. You mess with me, the next guy you see will be driving a Nektann Rocket Launcher on wheels.”
Silence hung in the dense air for a beat. The Onu-Matoran stared at Glonor, at his armor, his vehicle, then came to some sort of decision.
“What d’ya need to see?”
“The stone building.”
“That ain’t ours.”
“None of this is yours.”
“We ain’t using it.”
“You shouldn’t be using it, either.”
“Squatters’ right” shrugged the Elda-wearer. “It’s an abandoned facility. We know the damn law.”
Glonor didn’t dignify that with a response. He just stepped left and skirted the crowd. They all stood still to let him pass. Nobody moved to block him or moved aside to let him through their ranks.
As he walked, the Iden-wearer noticed the corner hut. It was a simple, plain structure, the type of dwelling he’d expect to find in the Southern Continent on some tropical island paradise, but not in the heart of arctic Ko-Metru. All around it the snow had been cleared away. Directly behind it was the bunker. There was no snow there either. Just clear, swept concrete.
“If you’re not using it, why bother clearing the snow?” he grunted at the crowd in general.
The same Onu-Matoran stepped out of the crowd again. “For the satisfaction of a job being well done.” The obvious spokesperson, perhaps the only Matoran in the gang with enough brains to think of an answer.
Glonor ignored his response, seeing straight through the lie. Instead of continuing the argument he decided to analyze the stone building. It certainly was a strange thing, something that probably could have been copied straight off a building on Destral. There were no windows, no colors, and no clear reason for its construction. The bunker stood crookedly in the icy gale. It was the right volume and shape to be roughly the same size as the Elysium police department headquarters. But, instead of glass and satellites, the walls were filled in with layers of flat, unbroken concrete. There was a small, well disguised metal plate that covered an immense entrance but the door itself made no attempt to hide itself. It was a sickly olive green slab, bolted down. Massive and completely obvious. The hinges were huge, indicating it opened outwards as opposed the inwards. Like a blast door. It meant an explosion would hold it shut, not blow it open.
The door had a noticeably large keyhole; smaller than the key to a vault, bigger than a house key. The metal around it was rimmed with frost and entering the final stages of rusting.
Stepping towards it, Glonor wiped snow away from the keyhole to see no scratches or striations on the soil-colored surface. The lock was not in regular use. No key had been inserted or withdrawn, day in and day out.
The Av-Matoran turned around, forcing a smug look onto his Kanohi. “You know what this place is?”
“Don’t you?” grunted the Elda-wearing Onu-Matoran.
“Of course I do, but I need to know how our security’s holding up.”
The Matoran of Earth shrugged plainly. “We’ve heard things.”
“From who?”
“The construction guys who were here before us.”
“What things?”
“About chemical bombs.”
“They said there were bombs in here?”
“No” snorted the Onu-Matoran. “They said this was a clinic, set up to treat victims in the cities. If you got hit by something the Dark Hunters made back in the war, chances were you’d lose most of your face. Turaga Tuyet set this thing up for survivors. Theory was, they could come here and get a new face.”
“A Kanohi foundry?”
“No” came the answer, definitely. “Like prosthetics. Kanohi have holes in them, it’s the only part of the body that exposes organic tissue. So to treat it, they had to make replacements.” The Onu-Matoran chuckled and rapped a frozen fist on the metal door. “That’s what’s in here. Thousands and thousands of synthetic faces, ready to be plastered on behind your mask.”
Taken aback, Glonor snorted and shook his head, dismissing the theory as farce. That was another lie. He could see it in the Elda-wearer’s eyes when he’d been speaking. He knew what was inside, where else would the Kraata Nokama had seen come from?
There was something inside that bunker, and it certainly couldn’t be piles of plastic faces.
The Av-Matoran grunted then walked on around the strange structure. It was the same on all four sides, save for the dirty green door. Heavy stone, fake windows, snowy roof. A bizarre contrast to most buildings Glonor knew.
He walked away then stopped at the nearest hut. The crowd seemed to be following him in a long, untidy straggle. Steam hung above the freezing bikers.
The Matoran of Light shrugged to himself at the peculiar flock of Matoran and pushed the hut’s door. It creaked and swung all the way open.
The Onu-Matoran caught Glonor’s eye and began striding forwards. He’d been about six feet away before, keeping his distance.
“That ain’t yours” he growled. “The construction workers built that, not the army.”
“But it’s bolted down on army concrete. That’s good enough for me.”
“You don’t ‘ave a warrant.”
Glonor didn’t answer. He was all done talking. It was too cold. His face was numb and his metallic teeth were hurting. He just stepped inside and ignored the Onu-Matoran’s protests.
The hut was dark but surprisingly warm. There was a small fireplace and a pipe leading out to the roof. Glonor could smell the oil. There were twelve beds in the structure, six in each row. Each bed was covered by a messy, plain grey blanket. There were a couple of boxes and containers under each bed.
But the dormitory-style hut wasn’t empty. There was a settled Matoran of Lightning nestled on the edge of the furthest bed to the right. She looked a little sullen and grimy, but behind that she looked pretty. Tall and slender with strong vivid features. There didn’t seem to be anything interesting about her blue and white armor, but the eyeholes on her Kanohi Kadin seemed pitted and dark, as if she’d seen too many sinister things through them.
For a moment, Glonor thought he recognized her, like he’d met her before. But he hadn’t. She was a type, that was all. Like Ninian. A female Matoran who had adapted to the harsh temperatures of Ko-Metru after years of freezing her backside off.
Wherever these bikers were from, they seemed to have picked up local recruits.
The Av-Matoran backed out of the hut and closed the door behind him. He turned to the Onu-Matoran questioningly.
“Want to show me what’s in the other huts?”
“Whatever” grunted the guy. No reluctance. The Elda-wearer just started moving his aching limbs beneath his thick, well-insulated armor and trudged on down the path. He pushed open door after door. The rest of the huts were exactly the same. Rows of beds, crude fireplaces, grey blankets, shipping boxes. No benches, no work tables, no stasis tubes with Kraata inside. No other Matoran either. The Vo-Matoran in the first hut was the only one not outside and working. Maybe these bikers had some decency after all.
The Matoran of Light hunched down in his thin armor and came out between the huts. His cruiser was still there, idling faithfully. Beyond it the ploughed road narrowed into the distance, high, wide, and attractive. As flat as glass. After three centuries of constant snowfall it hadn’t heaved or cracked at all. The Iden-wearer began to wonder exactly how big Metru-Nui’s defense budget had been 3,002 years ago.
Big enough to construct a state-of-the-art-bunker then completely forget about it he thought to himself.
Glonor turned back to the Elda-wearing biker and nodded solemnly. “Have a nice day” he grunted before saluting and heading back to his cruiser. Instantly he knew the truth.
They hadn’t believed he was in the army for a second.

Chapter 11 - End of an Era

The drive back was the same as the drive out, except for a strange slow-motion near-collision when Glonor left the narrow country lane and turned left, travelling south back to Elysium. He’d driven the clear part of the road quickly and the rest of the two mio journey slowly and carefully. He’d been about to turn back onto the highway when a massive, bulky Vahki Transporter skidded around the corner without slowing at all, heading straight towards the camp.
It was a low vehicle, or at least lower than the one that had rescued Glonor from the freezing tour bus two days ago but had been modified too. As he looked up he could hear the viscous splash of a heavy liquid. It was probably carrying some kind of oil for the bikers’ vehicles.
Regardless of its contents, the transporter turned sharply at the same time as Glonor, coming right into his lane.
The Av-Matoran braked hard, hoping the chains would bite into the ice but the wheels didn’t lock – a useless security feature he could have done without. Instead, the cruiser rolled on with all kinds of thumping and banging coming from the brake pistons. The fuel-carrying Vahki Transporter kept on coming.
Glonor cursed and yanked on the wheel. The two front chain-fitted wheels swerved and skated, their grip lost. The car’s rear right-hand corner missed being mashed by the transporter’s legs by an inch yet the vehicle rolled on, fast and dangerously.
The stunned Iden-wearer watched it go through the back windscreen, not bothering with his mirrors. He’d ended up stationary, at a right angle to the narrow road, taking up both lanes.



The cop in the cruiser outside Nokama’s house was Birus, which surprised Glonor. The strangely-colored Ko-Matoran examined him carefully before backing up his vehicle to allow him to pass. The Av-Matoran parked parallel to Birus’ cruiser then got out and struggled through the snow, hustling through the blistering cold. When he finally reached the front door he was welcomed by the second female cop, the one with the Kanohi Huna. Her telescopic lenses whirred in and out of focus. She hesitated before letting him in.
“All quiet?” he asked through chattering teeth.
“So far” she grunted in response.
“How’s Nokama?”
“She’s fine.”
“Let me see her” commanded the Av-Matoran, echoing the exact words Algor had uttered hours ago, and just as pointless. If anything bad had happened, the cops wouldn’t be sitting around doing nothing.
The Ga-Matoran shrugged idly. “She’s in the library, like always.
Glonor nodded and strode towards the room at the back of the house. He found her there, in her usual chair, an old, dusty book on her lap. The title was too small for the Av-Matoran to read from a distance. Ninian was standing by the window. She flashed a quick smile at him then turned her attention back to the rear perimeter.
“Well?” muttered Nokama as she looked up from her book, “did they treat you like a Turaga?”
“They gave me the guided tour” he grunted in response.
“Did you learn anything?”
Plenty.



Garnax snarled menacingly as he trudged along the beach of his island, taking long, angry steps. He was beginning to grow irritated. His patience was wearing thin. It would only be a matter of hours before he was to set off for Metru-Nui and one of the witnesses was still alive. It was messy, and Garnax didn’t like it. He didn’t get paid for messy. He’d get paid for the complete destruction of Metru-Nui and nothing less.
And he sure as hell wasn’t going to let some retired school teacher stand in the way of his paycheck.
Once again, he activated his communicator and began furiously dialing for his guy Elysium. The fool answered, which annoyed Garnax considerably because the guy’s communicator was switched on, which meant he wasn’t – at that very moment – in the act of killing the damn witness.
The hired-gun answered.
“If I don’t hear the words she’s dead then I’m hiring a hitman to take care of you,” snarled the Ba-Matoran.
You can damn well try it” retorted the guy angrily. “You remember I told you about the guy in her house last night?
Garnax didn’t dignify him with an answer.
Well he’s becoming something of a problem.
“A problem that can’t be solved by bullets?”
He was down at the prison interrogating Glidus at four in the morning and he’s just left the biker camp.
“Who the hell’s Glidus?” snorted the Matoran of Stone as he plucked a shell off the sea shore and hurled it into the ocean violently.
The biker who got arrested.
“Does he know my name?”
Yes.
“Then kill him too.”
The Matoran on the other end of the line didn’t respond to that.
“The next time I call you, I want there to be at least three fewer Matoran in this world” grunted Garnax. “And if it takes you that long to figure out which ones then you may as well shoot yourself in the mask right now.”
He hung up.



Glonor didn’t stay for long. The Iden-wearer got back into his cruiser then headed off for the police station. He ditched the vehicle in the parking area outside then fought his way inside into the main lobby, braving the cold. He found Crystallus in the squad room, talking to a tired-looking Ko-Matoran. The noble Matatu-wearer stopped talking at the sight of Glonor then nodded to the deputy chief and ducked away.
“They’re moving” he announced.
The Kakama-wearer blinked in surprise. “They told you that?”
“No” he confessed with a shrug. “Have you ever sold a house?”
Crystallus’ brow creased into a frown. “Once.”
“You cleaned it all up, right? Made it look like it did before you lived there?”
“I painted the roof.”
“Well they’ve got all the snow ploughed. Everything’s immaculate. Their stuff’s in boxes and their vehicles are defrosting. Whoever owns the place is selling it out from under their feet.”
“So when are they going?” asked Crystallus cautiously.
“Soon.”
“Did they give you any trouble?”
“Not really.”
“Did they believe you were from the army?”
“Not for a minute. But they’ve been told to keep their noses clean. The place needs to be a controversy-free zone. Whoever owns it doesn’t want the title damaged. So they couldn’t give me a hard time.”
“Nobody owns it. It’s all public land. That’s why the Turaga High Council built the huts on it in the first place.”
Glonor shook his head. “It’s making a profit for someone. Therefore someone thinks he owns it. The bikers are his slaves, that’s all. Workers. And now they’ve got their marching orders. They’re moving onto his next project.”
Garnax the Brotherhood servant?
“Whoever.”
Crystallus nodded then glanced across the busy squad room, at the window. “Did you find any Kraata?”
“No, but I want to see the one you guys confiscated from Glidus.”
The deputy chief’s eyes widened in shock but he masked it well, recovering from his surprise over being asked to hand over an infectious piece of evidence. “Why?”
“Because that’s how my mind works. One step at a time.”
The Ko-Matoran paused then shrugged and led the way back to the corridor, around a corner, to an evidence room. There was an Onu-Matoran wearing a Kanohi Komau, who was sitting behind a small counter, outside the room. He took one look at Crystallus then ducked down and produced a loop of keys. The Kakama-wearer nodded to him and took them. He opened the door.
“Wait here” muttered the deputy chief.
He entered and came out a couple of seconds later with a clear plastic evidence bag. It was big, stapled with some sort of custody form. Inside it was exactly what Nokama had described: the purple colored Kraata in a stasis tube. It was a level three Kraata, suspended in the midst of its maturity.
“Did you test if that’s real?”
“Of course” answered the Ko-Matoran. “It’s a Kraata. No question. It’s illegal so it doesn’t sell, Turaga Matoro banned that. But on places like Stelt and Xia? Two hundred thousand.”
Glonor blinked in surprise. “And the Ko-Matoran who bought it off Glidus? Have you got his money in there too?”
“Yes.”
“Can I see it?”
“Don’t you believe me?”
“I just like looking at stuff.”
Crystallus sighed then ducked back in and came back out with another clear evidence bag. Same size. Same kind of form stapled to it. Inside it were twenty bricks of solid gold, packed together into the tight bag.
“How long would it take you to earn that much?”
“After taxes?” Crystallus let out a deflated breath of air. “I don’t really want to think about that.”
Glonor nodded then fell silent for a beat.
“So did you find their lab?”
“No.”
“Did you see the stone building?”
“From the outside. It’s all locked up and, apparently, they don’t have a key.”
“Any chance they told you what it was?”
“No, but they told me what it isn’t.”
Crystallus’ frown deepened. “How so?”
“They’ve cleared it, the entire bunker, all the snow.” Glonor cracked a sly smile. “We started off on a false assumption here. You told me about an army facility, a stone building at the end of a two mio road. I just went there. It’s not a road. It’s a runway. It’s an air force facility, not army.”
“And what kind of Matoran-air-force-building would store Kraata?”
“One that wasn’t built by Matoran I assume.”
“Then who built it?”
“Someone who isn’t a friend of Metru-Nui” shrugged the Av-Matoran decisively.
Silence.
The Onu-Matoran took the hint and took the two bags of evidence back into the room and Crystallus dropped the keys back on the counter as Glonor began walking back, forcing the deputy chief to chase after him for answers.
“How’re you coping?” asked the drifter.
“I think I need to get some sleep, I’m not thinking properly” grumbled the Ko-Matoran as he rubbed the back of his neck, trying to stimulate concentration.
“You can sleep when you’re dead. This is urgent” retorted Glonor. “The runway is ploughed. Two whole mio. Nobody does that for fun. Therefore someone is due to show up. Plus I passed a fuel transporter going up there when I left. Maybe that someone’s planning on some heavy lifting.”
Silence again.
“Have you contacted the Turaga High Council or whoever’s supposed to be dealing with this?”
“Yes,” nodded Crystallus “but they ignored me. They’re not interested. They have sensors and thermal imaging all over the place. They scanned the bunker and couldn’t detect any heat signatures. So, as far as they’re concerned, it’s just a real estate deal, until proven otherwise.”
Now it was Glonor’s turn to frown. “But we know there are Kraata underground.”
“The Turaga Council says not” shrugged the deputy chief. “Their imaging can see into basements and they say there’s nothing down there.”
“They’re wrong.”
“They didn’t see a lab.”
“The bikers have Kraata, we have solid evidence to support that, so they must be growing them in a lab somehow.”
Crystallus shook his head. “I’m afraid we don’t know if there’s even anything under the ground at all. Not for sure.”
We do” protested the Av-Matoran slightly more aggressively than he’d intended to sound. “Nobody clears a two-mile runway for nothing. That’s long enough for any kind of airship. Any kind of bomber, any kind of transport. And nobody lands bombers or transports next to buildings the size of a house. You were right, Crystallus. It’s the tip of an ice-burg. A stair-head. Which means there’s definitely something under it. Probably very big and very deep.”
“But what exactly?”
Glonor paused then shrugged. “You’ll know when I know.”
As if on cue, chief Glacii chose that moment to stop them in the hallway. Glonor hadn’t noticed him until he stepped in front of them and put an arm out to block them.
“I just got a call from highway patrol” he grunted.
Crystallus and Glonor exchanged glances, both anticipating what came next.
The bikers are leaving. Thirty-six stolen cars and motorcycles just hit the highway.”



Glacii told the story on the way to one of the conference rooms. The highway patrol had been out checking there were no remaining weather problems. One of them had parked on the snowy shoulder when he’d spotted the bikers. He’d been watching traffic coming and going in his vehicle when a long fast convoy headed down the snowy ribbon that led to the construction camp. It had been quite a sight, between thirty and forty cars driving nose to tail, each with three bikers and entire stacks of crates in each. They’d slowed, turned, swooped around the corner, merged onto the highway, then accelerated north. It had taken twenty whole seconds for the cars to pass any one point.
A couple of other officers managed to confirm the news and highway patrol cruisers were calling in reports. The convoy was now ten mio north-east of Elysium, and still moving fast. But not fast enough to be ticketed. They were holding steady, driving straight and true, still keeping their noses clean.
They used the smallest conference room, which consisted of four tables and chairs boxed together in a square-shape. Crystallus sat beside Glacii on one side and Glonor sat on the other, opposite the Pakari Nuva-wearer.
“You happy to just let them go?” asked Glonor doubtfully.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” replied Glacii.
“They were selling Kraata.”
The police chief shrugged. “This is a small town at heart. We operate under small town rules. If I see the back of a crisis, that’s generally as good as solving it.”
End of problem” added Crystallus.
“Not really” winced the Av-Matoran. “They cleaned up and got out because the place is being sold and needs a good title. Nokama’s the last little smudge on it. She’s in more danger now than she ever was before. She’s the only obstacle between someone getting a load of money.”
“Garnax?”
“Whoever.”
“Well, we’re doing everything we can” sighed Glacii. “We have five police officers around her house day and night, and they’re staying there.”
“Unless the siren goes off again.”
“You said it won’t.”
The Matoran of Light grunted dismissively. “An educated guess is still just a guess. This is the time to start worrying. Not to stop.”
Glacii grunted aloud. “You see me relaxing, I hereby give you permission to hit me. We may have our problems, and we may not be the Vacca-Nui army, but we’ve struggling along so far. You should remember that.”
The Matoran of Light nodded. “I know. I apologize. It’s not your fault. It’s the mayor’s. Who the hell would sign a plan like that?”
“Anyone would” snapped the police chief. “Those are jobs that Elysium needs. Now the war’s over, do you think people want to stay here, in the cold?”
The conference room fell silent before Crystallus finally managed to speak up.
“So where is the hired-gun sleeping if all the hotels are full?”
“In his car, probably” grunted Glacii.
“Then where’s he eating.”
“Same answer” muttered Glonor. “He’ll want to stay quiet, and that means staying on the outskirts of Elysium.”
“So should we install road blocks? There’re only three ways in.”
“No” grunted the other Ko-Matoran. “If he’s already killed then there’s every chance he’ll manage to slip past us, and that’s assuming he isn’t already here.” The police chief took a break from speaking for a moment to think of his orders. “We stay mobile. Keep the patrols regular.” The Pakari Nuva-wearer nodded to himself slowly then at Glonor. “I’m sorry for snapping at you” he muttered. “I didn’t mean it. Without you we’d be lost here.”
The Av-Matoran nodded then glanced at Crystallus. Neither of them had anything to do and they both knew it.
Glonor gestured towards the window through folded arms. “We should go to the camp. To take a look around. Now it’s empty. While we’ve still got daylight.”
“Sounds good” agreed the police chief. He looked at the clock on the wall. “I might as well come with you guys when I get through the paperwork on the siren last night.”
“We’ll meet you in the lobby at the end of lunch” suggested Crystallus, his arms crossed.
Glacii nodded then fell quiet, as if he was running through a mental agenda and checking all the items on it had been covered – which they must have because his next move was to stand up and walk out of the room without another word, heading for his office presumably. Work to do.
“We should get lunch before we go up there” muttered Crystallus. “You could come back to the house and be company for Lagira. She’d probably like that.”
“Because she’s lonely?”
Crystallus nodded reluctantly. “Yes.”
Glonor smiled widely. “Then you and I shouldn’t be the only Matoran specimens she sees all day. Why not pick her up and take her into town with us?”
The Ko-Matoran nodded again. He paused, as if holding something back then opened his mouth to speak but he didn’t get far into his sentence before his communicator began to buzz. He sighed lightly and pressed the button to accept the call, listened for exactly eight seconds, then shut it off.
“That was the desk sergeant?” he announced. “Calling to tell me a replacement bus has just arrived in Elysium. All the passengers are supposed to be in the lobby when it arrives.”
Glonor didn’t respond.
“I take it you’re still planning on staying here and helping us?”
The Iden-wearer cracked a broad, devilish grin. “Like hell I am.”




The walk down the street to the restaurant was short, but it was straight into the bitter wind. The blowing ice hurt for the first few steps, like tiny needles. Luckily, Glonor’s mask was already numb and he didn’t feel them anymore.
The line for a table was out the door, so Glonor took his place behind a shivering Ga-Matoran, presumably the wife of a Matoran who’d committed a war crime and was locked up in the jail.
The line moved slowly but steadily until the Av-Matoran got a level view of the steamed window. He could see vague shapes bustling about inside. Two waitresses. Probably got steady wages, though tips weren’t likely. Friends and partners of prisoners didn’t have a lot of money to waste like that. If they did then they wouldn’t be friends and partners of prisoners. They’d have been bailed out long ago.
The Ga-Matoran in front of him managed to squeeze in through the door while Glonor waited his turn on the sidewalk. He pressed up under the shelter to protect himself from the wind. He didn’t have to wait long before he was up at the counter, mouthing the word three to a waitress. The over-worked Vo-Matoran nodded then swiped a wet rag across a table and beckoned him over.
As he sat down, Glonor noticed Crystallus’ police cruiser grind to a halt in the street. He saw the deputy chief step onto the sidewalk. His wife wasn’t with him. The Ko-Matoran cut to the front of the queue then stepped in through the door. No one complained. Crystallus’ badge was in his hand.
Glonor staying in his seat as the cop sat down to an awkward silence, which wasn’t broken until the Av-Matoran caught the him looking at the misty window.
“I know” he muttered. “It’s all steamed up. But a bus is a pretty big thing. I’ll be able to see it.”
“And you don’t want to leave on it?”
Glonor shook his head. “Where’s Lagira?”
“She didn’t want to come” responded the cop. “She doesn’t like crowds.”
Glonor looked around at the rest of the restaurant. They were two Matoran at a table for four, and the line was still stretching out the door. Other people came in, glanced over, maybe took half a step, then looked away. The world was divided into two halves: people who liked cops and people who didn’t. The military had been exactly the same. Glonor had eaten next to empty chairs many, many times.
A grim sigh broke his focus and he realized that Crystallus had his head in his arms. “What would you do, if you were me?” he asked.
“About what?”
“The department.”
“It’s not yours.”
“I’m next in line.”
“I’d start some serious training” stated the Iden-wearer firmly. “People like Birus shouldn’t be cops. Then I’d renegotiate this deal with the prison. Their crisis plan is completely unsustainable.”
“It worked OK last night” shrugged the deputy chief. “Apart from the thing with Nokama. As far as anyone other than us is concerned, that makes the plan a success. Besides, when this month is over and she’s out of our protection we won’t have anything to argue about. Nobody will listen.”
“You’re in Metru-Nui now” chuckled Glonor. “Complaining seems to be everybody’s right.” When the Ko-Matoran failed to laugh at his joke so there was no more conversation.
Neither of them ordered any food, only warm drinks – which defeated the entire purpose of going to the restaurant. Crystallus kept quiet and Glonor had nothing more to say. Without Lagira the whole thing was a bust.
The drinks were good though. Glonor wasn’t sure what the mud-colored liquid was but it was warm, fresh and strong, forcing him to concentrate. It was like throwing coal into a furnace. Being cold was like starving.
When they grew uncomfortable of the covetous stares from the queue leading out the door they decided to pay, or rather Crystallus did. He left a generous fifteen-percent tip – unless Elysium was one of the towns that allowed cops to eat for free, in which case it was a solid one hundred-percent tip. Either way, it earned the pair a weary smile from the waitress.
After stretching, the two Matoran headed off to the parked cruiser outside, just in time to see a big blue bus pull up in the police station parking area.
The coach was roughly the same size and style as the vehicle that had crashed two days earlier. Same number of seats, same blacked out windows at the rear, same kind of door. The only obvious difference seemed to be the fact it was colored blue instead of white.
It had entered the lot from the north, so the door was facing away from the police station. Glonor stood with Crystallus in the open street with the wind on his back and watched the thin line of shuddering Matoran emerge from the building and walk around. There were all kinds of grateful farewells going on. The locals, shaking hands, getting hugged, giving out addresses and contact details. He saw the Ga-Matoran with the busted collar, the Zatth-wearer. Her right arm was in a sling and someone else was carrying her bags. Most of the others had their bandages off. Their cuts were all healing up.
The new driver was crouched down and slotting suitcases into the hold under the floor. The passengers stepped around him, gripping the handrail carefully and walking up the steps slowly and cautiously. Glonor could see their heads bobbing through the windows, masks of different colors but all the same smudged, blurred shape moving down the aisle, pausing to choose their spaces, then settling.
The last passenger aboard was Knox himself. On the journey he’d been the driver, now he was just another passenger. The Av-Matoran watched his scarlet helmet wondering down the aisle then ducking into the window seat three rows away from the last of the other passengers. Glonor’s seat. Near the rear wheels, where the ride was roughest.
No point travelling if you’re not feeling it he thought, a sad smile slipping onto his Kanohi Iden.
Then the new driver latched up the luggage compartment and bounded up the steps. A moment later the door sucked shut behind him and the engine started. Glonor could hear its faint, diffused rattle over the raging wind. The four rubbery tyres roared and the coach moved away, out of the lot, onto the road. The icy gale battered at it as it headed east, towards the road that would take it back onto the northern highway. Glonor watched it go until it was lost to sight.
Crystallus clapped a hand on his friend’s back supportively.
“A viable mode of transport just left town without me one it” remarked the Av-Matoran. “I’ve broken the habit of a lifetime.”



Garnax dialed the guy once again. A direct call, which could present itself as a risk when he calmed down and reflected on his actions later. But he wasn’t going to cool off any time soon. In his experience, sometimes it was best that caution was abandoned. Timing was everything and the clock was ticking on.
The guy answered.
“Do you have any news for me?” demanded the ill-tempered Ba-Matoran.
Not yet. I’m sorry.
Garnax paused. “It almost seems like it would be easier just to do the job than find new ways of delaying it.”
It’s not like that.
“It would seem you are working very hard to save the wrong life.”
I’m not.
“Focus on the life you really want to save.”
I will. I am.
“You have a deadline,” taunted the Ba-Matoran sardonically. “Please don’t let me down again.”
He hung up once again.

Chapter 12 - All Things Bright And Beautiful

They went in Glacii’s cruiser because it was a better fit for the three of them than Crystallus’, which had a security screen separating the front seats and the rear. Glonor rode in the back, sprawled sideways, comfortably watching the roads he had driven that morning.
Conditions were still bad. The wind remained strong. The snow was frozen so hard it looked like part of the ground, and it was being scoured into long sharp ridges. Blinding white in contrast to the melancholy grey sky.
They turned off the highway, onto the wandering rural track towards the camp. The first seven kio were as bad as before, consisting of icy humps and dips. Glacii was an excellent driver, but even he was struggling to prevent them from constantly deviating from their straight direction.
Then, as before, they rounded the corner and the world seemed to change. The clear grey concrete, massively wide, infinitely long seemed to make the entire world dark for a breathtaking moment. Then the visible wind howling above the surface returned and hammered against the cruiser.
Glacii slowed and bumped on the new level. Eventually, he stopped and kept his foot on the brake, like an airship waiting to launch.

“You see what you want to see, don’t you? I’ve been here a dozen times in my life and thought this was just a road. Kind of fancy, maybe, but hey, isn’t that the military for you?”

“It used to be narrower” added Crystallus. “That’s what made it hard to see, I guess these guys just ploughed right through all the ice around it. For the first time in 3,000 years.”

“It’s a piece of work, that’s for sure.”

“That’s for damn sure” added Glonor, leaning forward so his mask was between the two front seats. “By volume, it’s got to be a yard thick. That makes it pretty much the largest synthetic structure in Ko-Metru, maybe even in the whole of Metru-Nui.”
They all looked a minute longer before Glacii took his foot off the brake and the snow chains chattered. The car rolled on for another kio. The tan shapes of the huts loomed into view, with the concrete roof of the stone building standing tall behind them, under its cap of snow.
Glacii parked about where Glonor had. The scene ahead was different. No bikes. No trucks. No Matoran. Just the empty ploughed spaces and the wooden huts all pitiful and abandoned among them.
They got out of the cruiser, into the ever-decreasing temperature. It was still dropping. Way below zero, and the wind made it worse. The cold struck upwards through the soles of Glonor’s armored feet. His face was numb behind his Kanohi in seconds. Crystallus and Glacii seemed to be putting on a show of taking it in their stride, but he knew they had to be hurting. Their faces were mottled red and white. Plus they were blinking and coughing.
They all headed straight for the stone building. It looked no different from how it had earlier that morning. Partly forbidding, partly just plain weird.
Crystallus tried the door. It didn’t budge. He rubbed the new frost from the keyhole with his thumb, the same way Glonor had.

“There’re no scratches here. The lock wasn’t in regular use.”

“Didn’t need to be” shuddered the Av-Matoran, fighting the grip of the icy chill with every word. “They unlocked it a year ago, when they moved in, then relocked it this morning.”

“So where’s the key?”

“That’s a good question.”

“They took it with them?” suggested the police chief.

Glonor shook his head. “I don’t think they did.”

“Why not?”

“Because this place is getting sold. Wouldn’t they have been told to leave the key for the new owner?”

“So where is it?”

“Under the mat probably.”

“There is no mat.”

“Under a flowerpot then.”

“What flowerpot?”

“Figure of speech” shrugged the Matoran of Light. “People leave keys in prearranged locations.
The three Matoran turned around curiously, looking at everything there was to see. There wasn’t much. Just snow, concrete, the huts and the bunker itself.

“What’s it going to look like?” asked Crystallus. “Just a key?”

“Big” grunted Glonor. “It’s a blast door, so the lock will be complex. Lots of moving parts. Hard to turn. So the key will be hard and strong, probably made out of some fancy Protodermis. Probably cost the Metru-Nui Air Force a couple of hundred widgets all on its own.”

“Maybe they buried it in the snow” proposed Glacii. “I have a metal detector in the car.”

He shook his head. “You might, but I’m guessing whoever’s coming here doesn’t. So it won’t be in the snow. That’s no kind of customer relations. You can’t ask a guy to dig around in a snow bank for an hour.”

“So where the hell is it?”
There were stone ledges all over the building. Eye-level and below was too obvious. Glonor walked a circuit and ran his hands along everything up to about a bio off the ground. Nothing there. And anything higher would be inaccessible, unless Garnax was bringing a ladder.
He stopped walking and looked around all over again.

“It has to be somewhere definite. Like under the third thing from the left or the fourth thing from the right.”

Crystallus and Glacii glanced at each other. “What kind of thing?”

“Hut. Bed. Could be anything.”

“So we’d better start searching” grunted Glacii.

“What’s your lucky number?”

“Three.”

“So start searching the third hut, under the third mattress.”

“That’s assuming it’s even in the hut.”

The Iden-wearer shrugged. “It’s not in the snow and it can’t be in the building itself. What else is there?”
Glacii glanced over his shoulder, then at Crystallus, then sighed and began walking towards the nearest hut. The third from the back row, one of the ones Glonor hadn't checked that morning. The door was unlocked. The Pakari Nuva-wearer pushed it open and stepped inside. Glonor and Crystallus followed him. There was a tin of black paint towards the far corner but, everything else that was portable seemed to have gone. There was nothing to see except the twelve cots, now stripped to their striped blue mattresses and dull iron frames. The place looked sad and abandoned.
But it was warm.
The gas heater had its burner turned in the off position, but it was still giving out plenty of residual heat. It was glorious. Immediately, Glonor shuffled towards it and held his outstretched palms out. Simple physics meant that it had to be cooling all the time, and maybe in three hours’ time it would be merely lukewarm, and three hours after that it would be stone cold, but right then it was completely magnificent. Still too hot to touch, in fact. The combination of cast iron and recent hydrocarbon combustion was a wonderful thing.

“You guys go search somewhere else” he grunted coldly. “I’m staying right here.”

Crystallus shrugged. “With a bit of luck, they’ll all be the same.”

They were. All three of them hustled to the farthest hut to check it out, and they found the same situation. Empty room, stripped beds, warm stove. They started the serious search right there. The warmth made them patient and painstaking. They checked every mattress, every bed frame, every nook and cranny. They checked the washroom area. They looked for loose floorboards, listened for hollows in the walls, and opened every light fixture.
They found nothing.




They searched the kitchen area next. Glonor figured it was a strong possibility. A kitchen was an ambiguous location. A singularity. There was only one of them. Even more definite that the first hut or last. But the key wasn’t in it. The jars of cold, clammy canned food were still there, but none of them were full enough to hide the key. It wasn’t shoved to the back of the shelves, it wasn’t taped to the underside of the table, it wasn’t nestled in a pile of bowls.
After the kitchen they worked back towards the stone building, hut by hut. They got better and faster at searching each step of the way, from sheer practice and repetition, because each hut was identical to all the others. Eventually, they reached the point where they could have done it blindfolded, or asleep. But even so, they got the same result everywhere. Which was no result at all.
They arrived back where they had begun, in the hut nearest the stone building, reluctant to start searching again because they felt sure they would be disappointed. Plus, drawing a blank in the last fifteen places carried with it some kind of finality. Glonor walked through the space, stopped at the stove, moving on to the last bed on the right.

“There was someone sitting here this morning” he announced.

Glacii appeared beside him, stepping up to see what he was seeing with idle interest. “Who’s this?”

“Just a Vo-Matoran. The only one I saw inside. The others were all out working in the snow.”

The Police Chief looked around then shrugged. “Maybe she was sick.”

“She looked OK to me.”

“Was she locked up?”

“No, the door was open.”

“Maybe she was guarding the key.”

“Perhaps” grunted the Matoran of Light. “But where did she leave it?”

“What did she look like?”

Glonor frowned and cast his mind back to that morning, trying to force the memory back to the front of his mind. “Blue and white armor. Tall. Slim, possibly undernourished. Seemed local. She had a Kanohi Kadin. A little grim and dirty.”

The cop stared blankly at Glonor for a moment. He could see the information working away into his short-term memory before he finally nodded. “I’ll issue a search for any missing locals fitting that description when we get back. Doesn’t sound like she was here by choice.”

Glonor nodded and glanced out the window. The day was drawing to a close. What little sunlight was seeping through the fog to the arctic wilderness was beginning to dwindle, as if the bunker were casting some long, sinister shadow over their heads.

They set about searching the final hut. Their last chance. Every mattress, every bed frame, the washroom, the floorboards, the walls, the light fixtures. They did it slowly and thoroughly, getting even more slower and even more thorough as they approached the end of the room. They were running out of options.
They found nothing.


“I think there’s a locksmith in Elysium” suggested Crystallus as they crowded around the heater.

Glonor shook his head. “A bank robber would be better. Or a safe cracker. Maybe they’ve got one up at the prison.”

“I can’t believe they never used this place. It must have cost a fortune.”

“The defense budget was pretty big back in the war.”

“Then I can’t believe they didn’t find an alternative use for it.”

“I heard something about the construction compromises made it useless for anything else” grunted Glacii. “Even so, the data base stated the military filled it with junk they needed to store then forgot all about it.”

Glonor frowned. “So all the stuff’s still there?”

The aged police chief nodded. “I’m assuming so.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t know. The data base wasn’t too clear. But it can’t be very exciting. It’s something that was already surplus 3,000 years ago.”
Silence returned as the three Matoran glanced at each other then returned to warming themselves, knowing they were no closer to entering the bunker than they had been that morning.




They braved the cold again and took a last look at the stone building and its stubborn door. Then they walked back to the cruiser, climbed in, then drove away. One kio down the runway, then another seven on the old snow-covered dirt track.
The Toa/Dark Hunter War had been a bad time. In retrospect, it was probably less dangerous than most Matoran imagined in that it had only lasted a year, but it had divided then entire Matoran Universe into two factions, made alliances, created enemies. The Matoran and Dark Hunters had united at the end of the conflict but both armies had been weakened from their war efforts. In comparison to the bloodshed that ravaged the universe for the following 3,000 years, the one-year-war was perhaps not the most significant footnote in Matoran history. At the time, in his universe, Glonor had been settled into the Universe Core, back with his fellow Av-Matoran, being forced into residential stability by the Great Cataclysm. He had known nothing of the war, but now he was beginning to wish he’d stuck around.

“How accurate are your weather reports?” he asked, out of the blue.

Crystallus turned around from the passenger seat to face him. “Usually pretty good.”

“Is it going to snow tomorrow?”

“That sounds about right. Why?”

“If it’s going to snow again tomorrow then that means someone’s going to show up tonight” sighed the Av-Matoran. “The bikers didn’t plough the runway for nothing.”




Glacii let Glonor out at Nokama’s house. It was his new default destination, day and night. He crunched up the driveway and one of the night-shift cops let him in. The Kualsi-wearer, the one he didn’t like. He didn’t speak to her, didn’t even look in her direction. Just sidestepped past her and strode towards the back of the house. He’s just spent the past six hours tearing apart tenement huts for nothing. He was in no mood for any spiteful glares.
Nokama was in the library, in her usual chair, under the pool of light created by a Light Stone, reading. An old-fashioned traditionalist, very much like himself. The other female cop was at the window, her back to the room.
Situation normal. All was quiet.
As soon as she saw him Nokama put her book down and got up out of her chair, strode past him. He followed her to the front room. She closed the door. Didn’t even tell the female cops.

“Are the bikers really gone?”

The Av-Matoran nodded. “For now.”

“Are they coming back?”

“I doubt it.”

“So am I safe now?”

“Not really.”

“Why did Chief Glacii let them go?”

Small town rules” quoted the Iden-wearer with a shrug.

Nokama flopped down onto the sofa, deflated. “So, if I continue to go ahead and testify now only one of them will be imprisoned?”

“Pretty much.”

Her nostrils flared and her eyes widened, like one of her students had just blown up her classroom in a chemical experiment gone wrong. “That absolutely was not the deal. The idea was to arrest them all. Now they’ll just become some other town’s problem.”

“And then the next and the next” he shrugged.

“It isn’t right!”

“It’s how things work.”

“I mean it isn’t right to put me at so much risk for so little a reward.”

“You want to withdraw?”

Nokama swallowed, breaking eye contact to glance out the window. There wouldn’t be anything there, just Birus in his cruiser, parked outside on sentry duty. “Yes” she muttered. “Yes, I think I do.”

Glonor nodded then rubbed his forehead, wiping the last of the slush from the ridges of his Kanohi. “I think it’s too late to make a practical difference.”

“Why?”

“You can talk to Glacii right now and tell him you want to pull out, but he probably won’t be able to speak with the prosecutor until tomorrow, then he probably won’t find the right papers until the next day, and the news’ll probably take another day to filter through. But the bad guys are in a hurry. That place makes money for them. They can’t afford any downtime.”

Nokama frowned. “So, I’m in and I can’t get out?”

“Hang tough” muttered Glonor, patting the Ga-Matoran’s shoulder. “You’ll be OK.”

“I wouldn’t have been OK last night if you hadn’t been here. And you won’t be able to protect me forever.”

“I won’t need to be” sighed the Matoran of Light gravely. “The bad guys aren’t going to wait forever.”

Chapter 13 - A Six-Hour Wait Solves All Our Problems

The house felt safe. Dark and cold outside, bright and warm inside.

Glonor prowled between the library and the parlor and the hallway. He saw nothing from the windows except snow and ice and moving shadows. The wind was still blowing. Not ideal conditions for careful surveillance but Glonor felt the weather was acceptable. Four cops on the case, all guarding Nokama, with himself as backup. Safe enough.

Then his communicator buzzed.

The Av-Matoran had completely forgotten about the device and wanted to kick himself when he realized he must have been wearing it when he inspected the biker camp earlier. It was no wonder they hadn’t believed him.

It was Crystallus, which afforded the Av-Matoran some comfort. “I have something I need you to see” he muttered over the line.

“Where?”

At the station. On a computer.

“Can you bring it over?”

No.

Glonor sighed. “I can’t leave here.”

You said we might never hear that siren again. No escapes, no more riots.

“An educated guess is still a guess.”

I’ll pick you up and bring you straight back.

“You can’t promise that, suppose the siren sounds while I’m over there?”

I’ll still bring you back. I swear, on my life.

“You’d get in trouble.”

I’ll fight it” replied the deputy chief. “And I’ll win.

Glonor smiled. “You should get the department, you know that? The sooner the better.”




Slamming communicators down was becoming something of a habit for Garnax.

Angrily, he hung up on the servant. The guy had called to say the weather in Metru-Nui was due to take a turn for the worse at some point within the next twenty-four hours. More snow, which Garnax already knew. He had a huge mesh dish bolted to a concrete pad right next to his mansion. The dish was connected to a box, and the box was connected to an enormous telescreen – which was probably looted from some Metru-Nui street – on the end wall of his living room. It was tuned to the Metru-Nui weather channel.

Courtesy of the Brotherhood of Makuta of course.

But the screen wasn’t the only thing on the end wall. There were nineteen paintings next to it, all jostling for space. There were forty-three more on the two long walls. Twenty on the other end walls. A total of eighty-two works of art. Mostly second-rate pieces by third-rate painters. Or fourth-rate pieces by second rate painters. He did, however, have one first rate piece, though he suspected it to be a forgery. Garnax wasn’t a fool. He knew what he had and he knew why he had it. He didn’t much care for art. Wasn’t his thing. Each canvas was a souvenir, that was all, of a ruined life.

In the space between the paintings he had nailed small metal trays to the wall. Hundreds of them, maybe even thousands. He hadn’t counted in a long time. In every tray there were as many items of gold, valuables and as many other riches as would fit. He had diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Gold chains, silver chains, jewellery.

Hundreds.

It was all a question of time.

It was a question that interested him. It was dominated by class. How long could people last after running out of widgets, before they had to start selling themselves? How many layers did a person have, between defeat and surrender, between problem and ruin? For poor people, no time at all, and really no layers at all. They needed his money, so whenever their meager paychecks ran out, which was usually payday itself, they would start fighting and stealing and cheating, and then they would take to the streets, and they would do whatever it was they had to do. He got nothing but money from that.

Richer people were different. Bigger paychecks, which lasted longer, but not forever. They would start the slow depletion of savings accounts, salary, investments of all kinds. Then desperate hands would root through drawers and jewellery boxes. First would come forgotten pieces, pieces that were not liked. Those items would find their way to Garnax on long slow journeys from nice suburbs in Nynrah or Metru-Nui or Xia. They would be followed by paintings snatched from walls, wedding rings snatched from fingers. A second wave would follow as concerned friends were looted, then a third when old buddies and colleagues were visited. When nothing was left, the rich people would succumb too. Maybe at first into hotels, fooling themselves, but always eventually out on the street, in the cold, kneeling in filthy alleyways, Matoran and Vortixx, male and female, rich or poor alike, being sold off as slaves or roaming alleyways, trying to scrape up enough scraps from trash cans as they could find.

All a matter of time.




Crystallus arrived five minutes later. He spoke to the cops then found Nokama and told her he was borrowing Glonor for a quarter of an hour. He looked her in the eye and promised her that none of his officers would leave the house until the Av-Matoran returned. She was uneasy, but she seemed to believe him. Glonor nodded a goodbye to her then followed Crystallus out and climbed into his cruiser. Five minutes later he was back in the squad room.

Crystallus sat down at a computer and started pointing and clicking and pursing his lips tight and inhaling and exhaling. He came up with a blank grey square in the middle of the screen. The square had a play arrow over its centre portion.

“Surveillance video” he muttered, answering Glonor’s unspoken question. “From the prison interview room. It’s digital. They send it to us.”

“OK.”

“It’s Glidus and his lawyer. Earlier this afternoon. We never cancelled the surveillance video. You know why?”

“Why?”

Inefficiency.” Crystallus moved the cursor and clicked on the play button. The grey square changed to a grainy color picture of the interview room from above. The camera was presumably hidden in a light fixture, on the lawyer’s side of the glass portion. A Ko-Matoran sitting forward in his chair with his elbows on the concrete counter and his Kanohi Faxon a foot from the glass. Opposite him, on the other side of the barrier, was Glidus. His pose mirrored the lawyer’s. Elbows on the counter, Kanohi Calix a foot from the glass.

Conspirational.

“Now listen” muttered Crystallus. The lawyer said something in a whisper. Glonor couldn’t heat it.

“Where’s the mike?”

“In the light with the camera.” The Matoran of Ice stabbed a key and the computer beeped the volume all the way up. Then he dragged a red dot backwards a fraction and the segment played again. The two Matoran craned closer. The audio quality was very poor, but this time the lawyer’s sentence was at least intelligible.

You know, the ancient Mersion philosophers, in the earliest days of this universe, used to tell us that a six-hour wait solves all our problems.

Crystallus paused the video. “Ancient Mersion philosophers? What’re the chances this guy’s come to the prison to lecture a biker about philosophical proverbs? It’s a code, a message.”

Glonor nodded, impressed. “When was this?”

“Four hours ago, at two o’clock in the afternoon. A six hour wait would take us to eight o’clock and it’s six o’clock now. That gives us two more hours.”

Glonor stared at the screen. “Play it again.”

The deputy chief dragged the red dot back. Hit play. The lawyer’s head moved forward an inch. The scratchy, whispery sound. You know, the ancient Mersion philosophers, in the earliest days of this universe, used to tell us that a six-hour wait solves all our problems.

Glonor shook his head. “I don’t hear it that way. He’s not saying there was a six-hour period during which at some random point all our problems might be solved. I think he’s saying that six hours from then something specific is going to happen in order to solve them.”

“You think?”

“Just an idea.”

“What kind of thing will happen?”

“The siren will sound. It’s their only way to get to Nokama.”

Crystallus’ Kanohi Kakama twisted into a frown. “How can a lawyer make a siren sound?”

“He can’t, but maybe they can together.”

“How?”

“What happens up there at eight o’clock? Are they eating? Feeding time at the zoo is always a good time for a riot.”

“They eat earlier. But you said there wouldn’t be another riot.”

“Well something is going to happen” muttered the Av-Matoran, tapping the screen. “That lawyer was talking about a future event with a fairly high degree of confidence.”

Crystallus’s white armor went even paler. Papery white, under his blank wintery coloring. “Mata Nui” he gasped. “Eight o’clock is head-count time. They lock them in their cells for the night and check them off. Suppose Glidus got out this afternoon and they don’t know yet? They’re going to be one short. One minute past eight, they’re going to hit the panic button.”




They drove straight back to Nokama’s house but, before they could be greeted, Crystallus took Glonor by the elbow and dragged him into the parlor.

“I’m staying right here when the siren goes off” he grunted, glancing out the window.

“Good” nodded the Av-Matoran.

“Two heads are better than one.”

“Always.”

“Are you armed?”

“Yes. And so is Nokama.”

“How will their guy arrive?”

“From the front, in a car. Too cold for anything else.”

“Anything we can do ahead of time?”

“No.”

“We could warn the prison” suggested the deputy chief. “I suppose, if the siren went off right now their guy might be out of position.”

“We don’t want him out of position” muttered Glonor. “We want him walking up the driveway at two minutes past eight. Exactly when and where we’ll expect him. You said it yourself, we need this thing to be over.”




At that exactly moment, several hundred kio away, Garnax came out of his mansion and found the six assassins he had hired standing in easy pairs, heads up, weapons away, hands clapped behind their backs. The Ba-Matoran looked each of them over carefully. He knew them all. Hired guns from all corners of the universe. He had used them all before. They were solid but most of them were... unspectacular performers. Competent but uninspired. Not the best in the world. Second-rate, B-students, adequate. There were a lot of words with which to describe them.

Only two of them stood out, the two who stood slackened and scanning him over with the dull, lifeless eyes of killers. These two had been assigned the task of protecting him by the Cult of Darkness, a branch of Brotherhood servants that Garnax had struck an alliance with in exchange for an estateful of riches. Sooner or later he would have allied with them anyway, but in waiting for his fellow servants to strike a deal he’d made a profit. Besides, they may have a common enemy and the same task of destroying Metru-Nui but the Cult would not be able to match the destruction he was going to unleash. He would reduce Metru-Nui to rubble then track them down. Perhaps this Mudro would make an amusing jester in his new palace, which would undoubtedly be built from the ashes of the City of Legend’s grand Coliseum.

He didn’t know the names of the two assassins, nor did he trust them any further than he could throw them. They’d just been supplied as a precaution, though he was sure they would turn on him and slit his throat the second Metru-Nui was his. That was why he’d hired the other four and had a pistol hidden in his pack.

He looked at the airship, glowing in the distance. In a matter of minutes he would board the vessel and it would begin its journey to Metru-Nui. Elysium was located on the Ko-Metru coast, towards the west of Metru-Nui. The flight path would require the pilot to fly him round the south of Metru-Nui, maybe even over the northern tip of Karzahni, in the which case he could look out the window and look down upon the tyrant’s burning realm. He could reap some comfort knowing the war-ravaged island would be how Metru-Nui would look by this time the following day.

Garnax let a sly smile slip across his Mask of Life Draining and looked again at the assassins in front of him.

Many words to describe them.

The best was: disposable.




Crystallus kept checking the clock. Glonor kept the time in his head. Seven o’clock. Five past. Ten past. Quarter past. No activity on the street. The view out from under the lip of the porch stayed the same. Snow, ice, wind, Crystallus’ parked cruiser, the lookout cruiser, its vigilant driver. Crystallus took out his handgun from the holster built into the armor on his leg, checked it over, and put it back. Glonor could feel his own revolver in his pack. He didn’t need to check if it was there, it was the only thing in there. He could feel its weight.

The deputy chief was at the window. Glonor sat down, in Nokama’s chair. He was thinking about the runway, and the old stone building, and the wooden huts.

The first wooden hut in particular.

“Do you remember what I said about that Vo-Matoran in the hut?” asked the Av-Matoran.

“The one sitting on the bed?”

“She looked familiar. At first I thought I’d seen her before. But I don’t know how. So now I’m trying to pin it down. Either she was just a local type or she looks like someone else I saw.”

Local type?”

“You know, there way other Matoran look when they’ve adapted. Like Lagira and Ninian, like Birus and Algor... Like how you and Glacii look the same.”

Crystallus paused. “He’s older.”

“Apart from that.”

The Ko-Matoran pulled a face. “Ok, maybe we look similar, maybe. But there’s no local type here.”

“Then she must’ve been somebody I saw. On my first day here, I think. But I didn’t see any Matoran of Lightning then.”

“How about the Matoran on the bus?”

“Too old.”

“One of the cops in the squad room?”

“You’d know if one was missing.”

Crystallus turned away from the window and thought for a moment. “What did this mystery female look like anyway?”

“Tall, thin and weary.”


“We’re all tall, thin and weary.”

“My point exactly.”

“But you can tell us apart.”

“If I concentrate.”

The deputy chief smiled briefly then turned back to the window. In the end Glonor got up and joined him there. Twenty-past seven. All quiet.




At seven-thirty, Nokama began to move around. Glonor heard her in the hallway. One of the female cops exchanged an idle pleasantry, the one with the Kualsi who he didn’t like. The Ga-Matoran replied politely. Then she came into the parlor. Glonor wanted to lock her away in the safety of her bedroom, but he decided it was best to wait until the siren sounded. That would be the time she’d be most likely to comply, when she heard that rahi-like wailing.

“What is about to happen?” she asked cautiously.

Crystallus looked at her. “What makes you thing something’s happening?”

“The fact that you’re here, Deputy, instead of being home with Lagira. And because Glonor has gone even quieter than usual.”

Crystallus gave nothing away. “Nothing is going to happen” he stated blankly. Glonor wished he had.

“There’s an eight o’clock head-count at the jail. We think they’re going to come up one short and they’ll hit the siren.”

“At eight o’clock?”

“Maybe a minute past.”

“An escape?”

Crystallus nodded reluctantly. “We think it may already have happened. They’ll find a way out when they count heads.”

“I see.”

“I’m not leaving” added the Ko-Matoran.

“I’m grateful for your concern, Deputy Crystallus, but I shall make you leave” countered the Ga-Matoran stubbornly. “You’re our next chief of police. For the town’s sake, nothing must stand in the way of that.”

“That’s crazy.”

“No, it’s how decisions are made. One must take oneself out of the equation.”

“I can’t do it.”

“A deal is a deal, even if Chief Glacii didn’t stick to his with me.”

“I won’t go.”

“Yes, Crystallus, you will” muttered Glonor, patting the Kakama-wearer on the back. “It’s for the best. And Nokama’s right. You’re needed. Suppose Glacii ends up like Papura tonight and you’re busted for not responding? Someone like Birus’ll probably get the department. Plus don’t forget about Lagira and what you getting fired’ll do to you two.”

Reluctantly, the Ko-Matoran glanced from Glonor to Nokama then nodded unhappily. The Ga-Matoran glanced at him, concerned, then smiled sadly and left the room.




By ten to eight the house had gone absolutely silent. Some kind of drumbeat of dread had passed between one inhabitant and the next. The Kualsi-wearing cop in the hallway had gotten up off the bottom stair and was standing behind the door. The cop in the library had stepped closer to the window. Crystallus was watching the street. Nokama was straightening books on the shelves of the library, butting their spines into line with small, nervous, exact movements of the knuckles of her right hand.

Glonor was lounging in a chair, eyes closed. Nothing could happen before the siren sounded.

The clocked ticked on.

Eight o’clock.




The clock in the Iden-wearer’s head hit eight exactly. Nothing happened. The world outside stayed icy and quiet. Nothing to hear except the sound of the wind and the creaking of wooden tree limbs, and the primeval tectonic shudders as the ground itself got colder.

One minute past eight.

Nothing happened.

Two minutes past eight.

Nothing happened.

No sound.

No siren.

No one in the street.

Crystallus glanced at Glonor. He shrugged. Nokama looked out the window. No action in the driveway. The cop in the hallway moved. Glonor heard the boards creak under her feet.

Three minutes past eight.

Nothing happened.

Four minutes past.

Five.

Six.

Seven.

Nothing happened.

No sound, no siren.

Nothing at all.

Chapter 14 - Faith

At quarter past eight they gave it up and stopped worrying. Crystallus was certain the head count could not have been delayed. Jails ran on strict routines. If the cells weren’t locked for the night at eight exactly there would be all sorts of paperwork and the department would’ve been alerted. Way too much trouble for anything short of a riot in progress, and if a riot was in progress then the siren would’ve already sounded. Therefore Glidus hadn’t taken the hint, or the lawyer had just gone off on a tangent about Mersions.

All clear.

“You sure?” asked Glonor after the deputy chief stepped back from the window and exhaled deeply.

“Certain.”

“Then prove it. Put your money where your mouth is.”

“How?”

“Go home.”

And Crystallus did. He spun it out until eight twenty then nodded to Glonor and left, crunching his way down the driveway, climbed in his cruiser and drove away. Nokama stopped straightening books and started reading one instead.

Glonor closed his eyes and fell asleep.




His slumber didn’t last as long as he would’ve liked. When the Av-Matoran woke up again he didn’t feel any more revitalized or focused than he had been before. But getting sleep, no matter how little, was always a good thing.

Waking up to find Nokama staring at him, however, was not.

The Ga-Matoran was sitting in her chair, reading a book. One of the night cops was standing by the window. The Av-Matoran coughed self consciously and hoped he hadn’t been snoring. There was no significant sound from outside. No significant sound from the inside either.

The Iden wearer shifted in the sofa and craned his neck to look out the window. Snow, ice, the parked cruiser, frozen foliage moving stiffly in the wind. A little moonlight, a little high cloud, a distant orange glow from lamps in the far-away streets. All quiet.

“We’re safe for a spell, aren’t we?” asked Nokama, laying her book down to address the former military cop. “Heads have been counted and there won’t be another chance for mass disturbance till morning.”

“In principle.”

“But?”

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

“Is that your motto?”

“One of many.”

“What are the others?”

Glonor cracked a crooked smile. “Never forgive, never forget. Do it once and do it right. You reap what you sow. Never off duty.

Nokama blinked. “You’re as hard on yourself as you are on others.”

“Cruel but fair.”

The Ga-Matoran nodded then sighed dramatically. “I can’t stand this tension much longer.”

“I hope you don’t have to.”

The Rau-wearer ignored him. “For the first time in my life, I’m afraid.” She thumbed the book over in her fingers then slotted the bookmark between the pages and balanced it on the arm of her chair. “Once, a long time ago, I played Kolhii at the side of a canal near the borders of Ga-Metru and Ko-Metru with some local friends. By chance, I happened to slip and fall in. The current swept me into the other city and the liquid Protodermis froze when it reached Ko-Metru. By the time I was rescued I was half frozen. But that chill is nothing compared to what runs through me right now.”

Glonor remained silent. In the end, Nokama decided to continue her lecture. “My fears are rational, are they not? Surely everyone is afraid of death?”

“That was another motto” grunted Glonor. “I’m not afraid of death, Death’s afraid of me.”

“You sound like you were trying to convince yourself.”

“We were” sighed the Av-Matoran. “All the time. Believe me.”

Nokama tilted her head and leaned forward, digging deeper. “So you are afraid of death.”

Glonor shook his head. “We all have to go sometime. Depends what form it takes I guess.”

The former teacher went quiet for a moment, fresh out of conversation topics. In the end it was Glonor who spoke. “How long have you been retired?” he asked.

“Since the start of the war. The school I taught at was blown up.”

“So you arrived here before the prison was built?”

Years before. It was a different town back then. But not too different, I suppose. The real change is still to come. We’re still in a transitional phase and that will probably end when we get used to all this. At the moment, we’re a town with a prison in it. Soon we’ll be a prison town.”

“So what was it like before?”

“Gentler” muttered the Ga-Matoran, her eyes clouding with memory. “Quiet. Only half the size. None of these fancy restraints, only one hotel.” She hesitated for a moment then glanced out the window, staring at the raging white wilderness outside. “Chief Glacii was a lot younger then, like Crystallus is now. I don’t know why but he just seems to embody the change for me. Everything felt young and cheerful and lighthearted. Not old and tired and bitter, like it is now.”

“What happened to Glacii’s wife?” asked the ex-military cop, recalling the photo frame from Glacii’s office.

“The war. She left and never came back. It’s not uncommon but at least her passing was mercifully quick… if a little gruesome. Of course, the news hit the chief hard and he was devastated, but he didn’t have time to mourn her. He was already strung up in the early stages of planning the prison, which I hope took his mind off it.”

Glonor felt his eyes become heavy as they moved to focus on the floor and a sad, sympathetic smile spread across his lips. Having lived his entire life alone he had no understanding of the Ko-Matoran’s burden. He could only pity the unfortunate Ko-Matoran and carry on his condolences in his mind.

“And what was Birus’ divorce all about?”

“I told you, I don’t know much about it. But the fact that nobody speaks about it invites much speculation, wouldn’t you agree?”

“His fault or hers?”

“Oh… his, almost certainly.”

“Are you going to stay, even when this has become a prison town?”

“Me?” The Ga-Matoran heaved an uncharacteristic shrug. “It wouldn’t be worth starting over somewhere else. What about you?”

“I couldn’t stay. It’s too cold.”

“Eventually you’ll want to stay somewhere.”

“Hasn’t happened so far.”

The female Matoran cracked a smile. “See how you feel about that in a century’s time, or two, or even three.”

“That’s a far horizon.”

“It will come faster than you expect.”

Glonor grunted, considering the weight of the Ga-Matoran’s words. As much as he hated to admit it, she did have a point. He’d spent his whole life wandering, fighting the ever-changing world to remain unbound by the restraints that others embraced.

But running wasn’t in his nature. Sure enough, one day he’d stop and confront himself. He’d weigh up the value of his roaming ways and finally settle down. One day time would take its toll on him and he would gradually become too old to move around from place to place. He’d want different things in life. He’d aspire for peace and quiet, maybe retire to the tranquil coastline of Ga-Metru or a warm cul-de-sac in Ta-Metru.

Nokama fiddled with her book and before cracking a smile and placing it on the floor. “I’ll have plenty of time to read after all this fuss is over.” Her smile lingered on her Kanohi Rau a moment longer before she remembered Glonor was still with her. “Are you warm enough?”

The Iden-wearer nodded. “I’m fine.” Which he was. The ancient radiator on the far side of the room was putting out plenty of heat. The hot water pipes under the floor boards were coursing around the house relentlessly. He could hear it. He could even hear an obscured right-angle joint in the wall of the hallway, hissing louder than the others. He pictured a roaring flame in his mind, orange wisps leaping up and up, roaring. Unlimited heat, available around the clock. Much better than the arrangement at Crystallus’ house. He recalled the old iron stove he’d slept next to, banking and cooling all night, barely warm by morning.

He stared into space for a second.

Stupid!” he grunted violently, causing the cop at the window to flinch and Nokama’s eyes to snap wide open.

“Who or what?” asked the Ga-Matoran.

“Me!”

“Why?”

“I need to make a call” muttered the Av-Matoran. He got up and stepped out into the hallway, his communicator slipped to his audio receptor and dialing before his hand was on the door handle. Since the last time he’d used his earpiece, he’s learnt that the device had two buttons, so therefore only had two contacts: Glacii and Crystallus. He dialed for the latter.

No answer.

Grunting again in frustration, the Matoran of Light turned to see the Kualsi-wearing Ga-Matoran sitting at the other end of the hallway. Her hate-filled eyes narrows and spiteful daggers shot from them. Glonor ignored them and approached her for the first time.

“I need Deputy Crystallus’ home communicator number.”

The cop glowered at him. She was quite attractive with something foreign and distant about her mannerism. Her armor was not from Metru-Nui, though there was evidence where pieces had been repaired using local materials. Judging from her appearance, Glonor would guess she had originated from the Northern Continent. She had very distinct and stunning features, as well as a well-shaped body that would have caught the eye of a less focused Matoran.

But behind her appealing exterior lurked a venomous and malevolent spirit. The Ga-Matoran had hated him from the start without being provoked. Plus, having never spoken to each other, her hatred was illogical. If she did not despise him for who he was then what other reason could she dislike him for? He was here to help.

Unless she was the killer.

It would be tricky, and it was surely a hell of an accusation, but Glonor had noticed something he really didn’t like about this vicious Matoran of Water. Sneaking out of Nokama’s house should be easy enough and her involvement would explain why there hadn’t been an attack when the siren went off. But such evidence would never hold up, and Crystallus had personally ensured him that the cops in the house were trustworthy.

“I’m not sure I’m at liberty to tell you that” she sneered gravely.

“Then dial it on your communicator and give it to me.”

The Kualsi-wearer met his gaze with her fierce glare then ducked away and picked up her communicator. She dialed, checked she was getting a ring tone, then handed the receiver to him. Lagira answered. Glonor politely introduced himself. “I’m very sorry to disturb you but I need to speak with Crystallus.”

There was a reluctant pause. “He just got home.

“I know. I’m sorry Lagira. But it’s important.”

There was a long delay. Maybe the Ga-Matoran had to go and drag her husband out of his den. But he came on the line eventually.

Problem?

“The opposite” smiled Glonor. “I know where the key is. The key for the stone building.”




Glonor stayed on the line while the deputy chief spent a minute talking to himself about what to do next. Like he was talking aloud.

The prison was locked down an hour ago, so the siren isn’t going to sound. It can’t, really, can it? There’s no opportunity for a riot. The guy could come without the siren, I suppose, but in that case we’ll have plenty of cops in the way. Four in the house and two on the streets. All of them are good people. I made sure of that. So right now it doesn’t matter whether you’re there or not, does it? You’re superfluous. In a temporary sense. So it’s safe enough for you to come out, right?

“Safe enough” agreed the former military cop.

“I’ll pick you up in ten minutes.”




Glonor went back into the parlor. Nokama looked up at him. He told her he was going out, and where, and why. “If the cops have to leave, what are you going to do?” he asked.

“Lock myself in my quarters?”

“With?”

“My gun.” The cop at the window pricked her audio receptors and turned her head a fraction but didn’t interrupt.

“When?”

“Straight away, I suppose.”

“Correct” nodded Glonor. “Straight away, immediately, instantly, no delay at all, before the cops are even out the door. You lock yourself in, and you stay there until I get back. ”

Nokama nodded. “Do you think the aggressor might come while the officers are still inside?”

“Hope for the best, plan for the worst. If the cops get a bad feeling they won’t tell you straight away. They won’t want to look like fools afterwards if it turns out to be nothing. So it’s up to you to figure things out. Trust your gut. Any doubt at all, get the hell in there, fast. A stray bullet could kill you just the same as one that was aimed.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“Two hours, maybe.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You will if you do what I say.”

“I will. I promise. I’ll dash in, bolt the door and won’t open it till I hear the password.”

Glonor nodded. Said nothing.




As soon as he saw the leading edge of Crystallus’ headlights on the street Glonor stepped out the door and crossed the porch and hustled down the driveway. The cold hit him like a hammer. Crystallus’ tyres crunched and crackled over the frozen snow. The cruiser pulled up and the Iden-wearer got in. The heater was blowing lukewarm air. The cop maneuvered his vehicle round and headed north, bouncing across the uneven layer of ice. He drove slower than he would have in normal weather, but faster than he would have in traffic. There was nothing else on the road. It was only nine in the evening but the whole city seemed closed up for the night. Matoran were all huddled inside. Crystallus’ cruiser was the only thing moving across the bitter landscape.

They made the turn several mio later and drove on, parallel to the highway. The cloud layer was finally easing out, retreating higher and cutting thinner, allowing moonlight to illuminate the road before them. There was still ice in the wind, coming steadily and relentlessly from the west, a wintery, maritime weather front. It crusted on the windscreen, a thin abrasive layer that the wipers couldn’t shift. Like diamond dust.

They turned right again, exiting the highway and entering the small dirt track, heading east. Now the screen cleared and covered the rear of the vehicle in a wintry blanket. The runway loomed up ahead, grey and massive in the night. It was still clear. They bumped up on it and the tyre chains ground and rattled.

There were two red tail lights glowing ahead.

A parked vehicle. It’s rear-facing lights faced them and beyond its dark end-on bulk was a pool of white from its headlights. There was a swirl of exhaust coming from the pipes, pooling then drifting and blowing away.

Crystallus slowed and put his own lights on bright. The parked car was empty but Glonor had seen the navy-colored transporter before.

“Chief Glacii’s car” muttered Crystallus, relaxing.

They parked alongside it and climbed out into the stunning cold to find Glacii himself at the first hut’s door. He was moving stiffly and clumsily beneath a thicker set of armor, his breath clouding in front of him.

He didn’t look pleased to see them.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” he roared, a dangerous edge to his tone.

“Glonor figured out where the key is” answered Crystallus, calmly. A peculiar contrast.

The Pakari Nuva-wearer grunted and shook his head. “I don’t care who figured it out. You shouldn’t have come. Neither of you. It’s completely irresponsible. Suppose the siren goes off?”

“It won’t.”

“You think?”

“It can’t. Can it? The cells are locked and the head counts are done.”

Glacii’s frown deepened menacingly. “You trust their procedures?”

“Of course.”

“Then you’re an idiot, Crystallus. That place is a damn mess. If you think they do a proper head count every night then I own a village on some beach in the Southern Continent.”

“It’s a brand new place though.”

“Brand new metal and concrete. Same old Matoran working there.”

“So what’re you saying? The headcount could be faulty?”

The police chief grunted. “I’m saying I’d bet my pension there was no head count at all. I’m saying that, at five-to-eight, they sound a horn and expect everyone to wander home and then the cells lock automatically at eight.”

“Even so, there’d be no danger till morning” retorted the Ko-Matoran deputy.

“They do night patrols.” This time Glacii sounded weary. The anger had gone from his tone and his eyelids were drooping, pinned down by the weight of his brow. “Ten scheduled, one an hour. I’m guessing they skip nine of them. But at some point they walk around with flashlights, checking beds, doing what they’re supposed to do at eight.”

“Are you serious?”

“We’re Matoran, Crystallus. It’s in our nature.”

“Should we go back?”

Glacii paused a beat. “No, we have to go back that way anyway. Worst case, Nokama will be alone for five minutes. Maybe ten. It’s a gamble but we can take it. But I still wish you hadn’t come in the first place.”

“Why are you here?” asked Glonor.

The Ko-Matoran looked at him. “Because I figured out where the key is. The one place we didn’t check.”

“Good work.”

“Not really. Anyone with a brain could figure it out on a night like this.”

“So where is it?” asked Crystallus.




It was inside the iron stove in the first hut.

A fine hiding place, with built-in time-delayed access. Too hot to think about searching earlier, now cool enough to touch. Like Crystallus’ own iron stove. Glonor smiled at his previous thought of burning the place down and sifting through the ashes. A Metru-Nui Air Force key would probably be made of the same stuff as an Xian warhead. The key would’ve survived anything. It was fine. It had been dropped on the burner core and it had heated and cooled with no bad consequences.

It was a beautiful sight. Three inches across. Complex teeth. It had the dull glitter or rare and exotic metal. Protosteel, maybe.

Glonor fished it out of the stove. He handed it to Glacii, who carried it to the stone building’s door. He slipped it into the lock. Turned it.

The lock sprang open.

Chapter 15 - The Great Tunnel of Ko-Metru

Glonor gritted his teeth as he tried the handle. It turned downwards in a labored, physical motion, more like some old fashioned bank vault. The door itself was heavy. It felt like it weighted a tonne, literally. The whole thing was about a foot thick. The hinges were massive but weren’t regularly oiled. They screeched and protested but the door finally came open. The Av-Matoran hauled it through a short arc then slipped in behind it and leaned into it, pushing it the rest of the way. Like pushing a broken-down transporter.

Nothing but darkness inside the stone building.

“I have flashlights in the cruiser,” muttered Crystallus. The Kakama-wearer hustled back to his vehicle and returned with three mechanical devices. Glonor took one and turned it over in his hand before remembering it. He had come across a similar contraption several days ago when he was on the crashed tour bus. He recalled his previous theory of how well the mechanism would work against a Makuta.

They clicked their torches on one after the other and beams of clean, white light revealed a bare concrete bunker maybe twenty feet deep and thirty feet wide. Two stories high. The inside was brutal and utilitarian. It was simple and to the point. In the centre of the space lay the head of a spiral set of stairs, which dropped straight down through the floor into a round circular shaft. The air coming up out of it smelled still and dry, maybe even ancient. Like a tomb. The hole for the stairwell was a perfect circle but the steps themselves were welded from simple Metallic Protodermis. They wound down and round, plunging into perfect, undisturbed blackness.

“No elevator,” grumbled Glonor.

“Imagine that,” retorted Glacii sarcastically. “Walking. Mata Nui protect us.”

Crystallus nodded in agreement. “If this place was built to store surplus Air Force equipment and it turns out to be a room full of spare visors I’m going to hit someone.”

“The whole concept was crazy” shrugged the Iden-wearer. “They built the world’s largest storage facility then put a massive, spiral metal staircase in it. What the hell was going through the heads of the Matoran who designed this place?”

Close to the stairwell shaft were two metal ventilation pipes coming up through the floor. Maybe two feet in diameter. They would have reached all the way up to the ceiling, both as a support for the roof and to be used as an air intake, but it had never been completed. There were two circular white marks in the roof where a hole was supposed to have been drilled. The pipes probably would have been filled with filters and scrubbers to refine any poisonous gasses. But, instead, they just sat there, like two broad chimneys on a flat roof. Incomplete.

Crystallus walked over to one of the two pipes and shone his flashlight beam straight down. He shook his head. “I can’t see the bottom. Just black.”

Glonor stepped forward and leaned over the railing around the stairway, shining his flashlight down. He saw only the dull surface of the metal steps and, beyond that, it was like looking down a well. The stairs seemed to wind on endlessly, wrapped around a simple steel pipe yet impossibly wide and a lot thicker than he’d expected. There was no handrail on the inner circumference.

“This place is deep” he remarked. His voice echoed back at him.

“Probably needed to be” replied Glacii.

The stairs had once been painted black, but their edges were worn back to dull metal by the passage of many feet. The safety rail around the opening was scuffed and greasy.

“I’ll go first” volunteered Crystallus, guardedly. Glonor and Glacii glanced at each other then ducked back to let the Deputy Chief descend first.

They waited until the Ko-Matoran’s Kanohi Kakama was seven feet down before Glonor followed. The stairs were in a perfectly round, vertical even. But unlike most underground staircases the Av-Matoran had been down, this one was pretty wide. Normally they would be tight, reflecting the builders cutting corners by not drilling beyond a bare minimum. This stairwell, however, was wide enough to fit an entire police cruiser. It was only slightly wider than the door.

They went down, and down, and down. Crystallus first, then Glonor, then Glacii. Fifty feet, then seventy-five, then a hundred. Their flashlight beams jerked and stabbed through the gloom. The steel under their feet clanged and boomed. The air was still and dry. And warm.

“Can you see anything yet?” called Glonor, his voice barely audible over the metallic clattering.

“No” replied the Deputy Chief.

They kept on going, corkscrewing down, and down, and down. One hundred feet gradually bled into two hundred feet, then more. In the end, Glacii suggested he turned off his flashlight, in case the other two should run out on their trek. The Police Chief was growing rugged and was running out of breathe.

Finally, Crystallus called out to them with the best news Glonor had heard in a long time.

“I’m here” he grunted. “I think.”

Glonor clattered on after him, two more full turns. Then they came to a dead stop, deep underground. He used his flashlight, left, right, up, down.

Not good.

He heard Glacii’s voice in his head again. “Something about the construction compromises made it useless for anything else.

Damn straight they did.

The stairwell shaft ended in an underground chamber made of concrete. It was perfectly circular. Maybe twenty feet in diameter. The size of an average hut in some village nestled in the Northern Continent. That was twice the size of Glonor’s own dwelling in Karda-Nui.

It had eight open passageways leading off to eight opposite corridors, one at each of the eight compass points. The corridors were dark but the entrances were massive; straight and square and true yet deep in shadows. Hard, dry and smooth floor, ceiling and walls. Altogether, the whole place was a neat, crisp, exact piece of construction. Well designed, well engineered, well built. Ideal for its intended purpose.

It was a labyrinth.

What made it useless for anything else was the number of passageways cutting through the unyielding hard rock. He could imagine the engineers confronting the unexpected problem, pouring over geological surveys, revising their plans, raking through blueprints and maps, shrugging their shoulders, signing it off as inevitable. Technically acceptable, they would have said, which was the only standing that Wartime Matoran Air Force engineers would have expected to have built regardless.

But the place was not acceptable for anything else, technically or otherwise. Not even close. Not acceptable for army training or any kind of military purpose. It looked like a long-since abandoned Makuta’s lair that some Matoran had stumbled upon by chance.

Glacii scrambled down and stood beside Glonor, observing the different passageways.

“We won’t be able to hear the siren way down here” he muttered, glancing back at the staircase.

“Does your communicator have a signal?”

“Not a chance.”

“Then we’d better be quick.”

The Av-Matoran noticed the two ventilation shafts coming down through the high-up ceiling and ending a stubby foot before the concrete. Two pipes, both ending the prescribed distance below the surface in a ludicrously high slot burrowed grudgingly into the rock.

“That’s a bit high for a Matoran” remarked Crystallus. His voice bounced around and struck Glonor with a humming echo. The acoustics were weird. The concrete they were walking over was neither warm nor cold. Plus, there was a heavy, oily stench in the stale air. And a draught. Air was coming down the stairwell shaft and circulating back up through the ventilation pipes. The stone building’s door was open more than two hundred feet above them and the wind was blowing hard across it, sucking air out of the bunker.

“Eight passageways” grunted Glacii. “Eight choices. Which one has the Kraata farm?”

“There is no farm” replied Glonor.

“Has to be. The Kraata Nokama saw came from here.”

“Kraata aren’t farmed. There’d have to be a Makuta down here or something, and we know this place was built by the Metru-Nui Air Force.”

“I’m starting to doubt that theory” muttered Crystallus. “The door, the stairway, these passageways: if they were built for Matoran then we should be crouching down, but even the ceiling’s massive. This place wasn’t built for Matoran.”

Glonor and Glacii exchanged surprised looks. The Deputy Chief had a ground-breaking point. They’d both noticed the blown-up scale of the building but only Crystallus had made the connection.

Perhaps this wasn’t a legitimate War Bunker after all.

“Good point” nodded Glonor, as he played his flashlight beam low across the floor. He found a faint track of dirt and scuffs that curled counter clockwise across the concrete to the fifth doorway, almost completely opposite the direction they’d come off the stairwell at. He couldn’t tell which direction it was. He’d been turned around so many times he’d lost his bearings.

“Follow me” he ordered, before marching off. When he reached the doorway he shone his flashlight down the length of the corridor. It was a tunnel maybe a hundred feet long, perfectly horizontal. About as wide as it was high, which was enough to accommodate the average Vortixx quite comfortably.

The left hand half was an unobstructed hundred-foot walkway. The right hand half was built up into a long, low continuous concrete shelf, about two feet from the floor. A sleeping shelf, maybe twenty of them. Room enough for twenty Matoran sentinels. A bio each.

But the place had never been used. There were no bedrolls. No sleeping Matoran. What was on the shelf instead was the war surplus from 3,001 years ago. The aircrew requirements.

Hundreds and thousands of Kraata, suspended in Stasis Tubes.

“I don’t believe it” gasped Crystallus.

The Stasis tubes were stacked ten high and ten deep in groups of a hundred and fifty along the whole length of the shelf. A total of fifteen thousand, minus the one that Glidus had tried to sell.

“And this is just one of the eight tunnels” gulped Glacii.

“This most definitely wasn’t a Metru-Nui Air Force bunker” stated Crystallus.

“It wasn’t” agreed Glonor. “There were two participants in the Toa/Dark Hunter War. This wasn’t a Matoran bunker like we assumed. It was a Dark Hunter base. They filled it with Kraata, almost certainly stolen from the Brotherhood. A final resort. They were going to create an army of Rahkshi from these, to destroy the city if they couldn’t rule it. My guess is that there’s at least another three tunnels identical to this one, probably some with Energized Protodermis pools too.”

“But then they lost the war” grunted Glacii. “Before the Rahkshi could even be released. The Shadowed One ordered a peace conference with Turaga Tuyet. She must have talked him out of destroying us all and they settled an alliance. But why’s it all still here?”

“They couldn’t just junk them” shrugged Glonor. “They couldn’t sell them. They definitely wouldn’t have used them later in the war against the Brotherhood. Otherwise the whole of Metru-Nui would have been destroyed before any weapons had been raised.”

The three Matoran went quiet, just staring at the sight before them.

Then Glacii grunted in disgust. “Right under my nose this whole time. I’m a disgrace!”

The Av-Matoran put a supportive hand on his ally’s shoulder. “You didn’t know. Nobody could have guessed. But we can put it right. We can get rid of these before anything happens. Come on. Let’s find the rest.”




The rest of the Kraata were shared between the next two tunnels to the left. The same hundred-foot shelves, the same stacks of stasis-tubes, the same horrifying flashlight reflections off the glass surfaces of the containers. A full fifteen thousand Kraata in the second tunnel, another in the third.

Crystallus clenched his fists and turned to Glacii, smiling broadly.

Forty-five thousand Kraata” he beamed. “The Turaga High Council will have to listen to us now. This has got to be the biggest Kraata bust in all of recorded history.”

“And we did it” smiled the Police Chief weakly. “Little old Elysium Police Department, hidden away in Ko-Metru.”

“We’re all going to be famous” chuckled Glonor. “We’ll become legends. No more poor relations and isolation for you guys.”

“I could retire off of this” added the Pakari Nuva-wearer, eyes wide.

“Congratulations!”

“Thank you.”

The Av-Matoran glanced at the containers again. “But it’s not all good news. Garnax found all this a year before us.”

“How?”

“Rumor and logic, I guess. He knew it had been a possibility in the war. Maybe a Dark Hunter stole the Kraata off him in the first place. Maybe he knew about the transporting to Ko-Metru, so he tracked it down. That’s probably why it was in the database, because he had guys on the inside searching for it already.”

“I still can’t believe that the bikers left it all here” muttered Crystallus. “I mean... knowing what was coming, the temptation to take at least one with them must have been huge.”

“I get the impression that, if Garnax tells you to leave something, you damn well leave it” shrugged the former Military Cop. “Besides... they’d want to be as far away from those things as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re halfway to Ga-Metru, intent on stealing a boat, by now.”

The Av-Matoran shuffled a little further into the tunnel, picturing a long line of sweating Dark Hunters, 3,001 years ago, passing the stasis tubes hand to hand then stacking them neatly, like craftsmen. They’d probably dropped them down the ventilation pipe then had someone catch them and pass them along at the bottom. It was too laborious to carry them down the stairs one by one, even for Dark Hunters.

He edged forwards further and made another discovery. There was a lateral link feeding sideways off the main tunnel. Like a circle’s circumference with the eight passageways linking a different radius. He squeezed through the tight passageway and emerged in the next tunnel along. The whole place was a warren. A maze. A bizarre layout. The blueprint plans much have looked like an overly complex wheel on the cart of a Matoran street vendor. Maybe there were even more construction compromises. Possibly the whole thing was supposed to look like a series of circles, but with some links between the passageways not even made. The air smelled old. Everything was faced with smooth, brittle concrete. It was dark and dust. The whole place was absolutely silent.

“Take a look at this” called Crystallus.

Glonor couldn’t locate his voice. It came through all the tunnels at once, from everywhere, humming and singing along the walls.

“Where are you?” he called back.

“Here.”

That didn’t help. Glonor threaded his way back to the starting point, where the stairwell was, and asked again. Crystallus was in the next tunnel along, stooping over a cavity in the floor. A cavity that was filled with Energized Protodermis.

But that wasn’t what had caught the sharp-witted Deputy – he’d been expecting to find that. Crystallus was admiring a fuel tank. It was a big, ugly thing that had been welded together out of curved sections of metal small enough to have dropped down the ventilation shafts. It was sitting on a shelf, maybe twenty bio long. Big enough for maybe a thousand gallons. It sweated slightly and stank of oil. Not an original fixture. Technically unacceptable. Dark Hunter mechanics would have done better work.

The Ko-Matoran stooped forward and rapped it with his knuckles. The sound came back dull and liquid. Full to the brim. Glonor thought back to the Vahki Transporter that had nearly run him over when he first tried to leave the bunker.

“Great” he grunted. “We’re two hundred feet underground with a thousand gallons of Airship Fuel in a homemade tank.”

“How can you tell it’s Airship Fuel?” asked the Deputy Chief blankly.

“The smell.” The Av-Matoran wrinkled his nose. “The worse it smells, the more viscous it is, and Airship Fuel is the most viscous type.”

“There’s way more here than the bikers needed in their huts” noted Crystallus sharply. “Plus they just got it, this tank is fresh, maybe a day old. They cleared the runway then filled this container up.”

“Which means an Airship is coming” remarked Glonor. “Probably soon. It’s refueling here.”

The Ko-Matoran shook his head. “Elysium is a no-fly zone because of the prison.”

“But who’s going to notice anything in this weather?”

The Kakama-wearer hesitated. “Fine, suppose you’re right and an Airship is coming here, Garnax would probably be onboard. Plus they won’t spot the runway, there’re no landing lights.”

“Even so, time is tight. How easily can you contact some reinforcements?”

The Matoran of Ice didn’t answer. Instead he asked, “How did they fill a tank all the way down here anyway?”

“They had a renovated Vahki Transporter that somebody turned into a fuel tanker” shrugged Glonor. “They stole it, back it up against the door, dropped the hose down the ventilation shaft then pumped the fuel in.”

Glonor! Crystallus!” bellowed Glacii. “Take a look at this.” His voice reached them with a hissing echo, which seemed to come from all around the circular room. He was in the tunnel directly opposite. Unsure what to expect, the two Matoran made their way over to him. They found the startled Police Chief playing his flashlight all the way down the one hundred-foot length and back again. It was like something out of a fairy tale.

Like a cave filled with buried treasure.

The torch’s beam threw back reflections off of gold, off silver, off platinum. It glimmered and sparkled off brilliant diamonds, deep green emeralds, bright blue sapphires and rich red rubies. Paintings of old muted colors, landscapes, portraits, oils, yellow frames. Chains and pins and rings and jewelry. They were coiled in gold plates, tangled around gold statues, tossed all the way down the shelf. Old things. New things.

A hundred feet of the Dark Hunters’ loot.

Paintings, treasures, jewels, trinkets, charms, ornaments, candlesticks, trays, even a golden bowl entirely filled with stolen wedding rings from Matoran. Glonor hoped none of them still had the fingers of their victims still inside. Dark Hunters were greedy and valued a quick plunder before their victims being able to count to ten with their hands.

They all shuffled down the tunnel, unable to resist. The shelf was a hundred feet long and maybe thirty two inches wide. There was no space to even place a hand. The stolen riches completely covered it. Some of the jewelry was exquisite. Some of the paintings were fine. All of the items were sad. The fruits of tragedy. The flotsam and jetsam of lives ruined by a pointless war. Burglary, greed, loss, murder. Under the triple flashlight beams the whole array flashed and danced and glittered. It looked simultaneously fabulous and awful. Someone’s dreams, someone else’s nightmares, all secret and buried two hundred feet down.

“Let’s go” grunted Crystallus in the end. “We’ve got better things to do. We shouldn’t waste time down here.”




The climb back to the surface was long, tedious and tiring. This time Glonor managed to count the steps, all two hundreds and eighty of them. It was like walking up and down a building. The wide Dark hunter-sized steps required three steps forward for each one upwards. Good exercise, he figured, but right then he wasn’t very appreciative of it.

The air grew colder the whole way. It had been maybe thirty degrees underground. It was about minus twenty on the surface. A fifty degree drop. One degree every five or six steps. Fast enough to notice, but no sudden shock. The Matoran of Light began shivering a third of the way up. Glacii looked the most tired but neither cop surrendered to the cold.

Ko-Matoran pride.

When they finally reached the surface they rested for a minute. Outside the moonlight was still bright. Crystallus went around collecting the flashlights then returned them to the cruisers. Glacii stood panting with his shaking hand on the stair railing. His mask was red from exertion and he was breathing hard.

“You need to make a call.”

The Chief frowned, disorientated. “Do I?” He’d forgotten.

“The siren could have gone off while we were down there.”

All the mottled color drained from the seasoned Ko-Matoran’s Kanohi and it was left whiter than the snow outside. He snatched for his communicator and began dialing. He identified himself, asked a question, then listened to the reply.

Then smiled.

“All clear” he beamed, still short of breath. “Sometimes you gamble and win.”

The two Matoran looked onwards, through open doorway and watched Crystallus putting the flashlights back in the transporters. Glacii watched him through misty eyes for a long moment then lowered his head and glanced at the former Military Cop.

“You and I figured out where the key was, but Crystallus was the one who figured out this was a Dark Hunter base while we still thought otherwise. I want to give him the credit. He’s going to be the next Chief and I don’t think I’m doing this city any justice in my time of life. A discovery like this would really help him to tame the department. A thing like this, it’d set him right up.”

“No question,” nodded Glonor.

“So you’d be OK with that?”

“Fine with me,” he shrugged.

“Good.”

The pair of Matoran exited the concrete structure. The Av-Matoran pushed the door closed against its yowling hinges while the Chief locked it up and pocketed the key. They walked together back to the cruisers, where Glacii extended his hand to his Deputy. Crystallus shook it.

“Now listen up” beamed the Pakari Nuva-wearer. He leaned into his cruiser and unhooked police radio from the dashboard and pulled it out all the way until the cord went straight and tight. He thumbed the key and called in an all-points code. Then he spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he boomed in a voice that sounded like a cascade of tumbling rocks yet as clear as glass. “Tonight, Deputy Chief Crystallus broke open what I’m sure will prove to be our little island’s largest ever Kraata-Bust. Start of business tomorrow, he’ll be calling the Turaga High Council with the details and, about thirty seconds later, this department will be amongst the most celebrated in all of Metru-Nui. He has my congratulations. As do you all. Just another fine night’s work in a long and distinguished tradition.”

He clicked off and tossed the microphone onto his seat.

Crystallus smiled, taken aback. “Thank you, Chief.”

Glacii nodded. “You’re welcome, but you still shouldn’t have come.”




Glonor rode back to Elysium in Crystallus’ cruiser. Glacii followed them in his own vehicle. The Av-Matoran got out at the end of Nokama’s street and waved them both away. Then he eased past the parked cruiser and walked through the snow to the house. The Matoran of Water was still awake when he walked in. She was in the small washroom extension of her chamber, filling up a glass of water from the tap, on her way to bed. When she saw him, however, she marched right out into the hallway and looked him up and down and side to side like she was inspecting him for damage.

“Successful?” she finally asked when she was content he was all in one piece.

The Av-Matoran nodded. “So far so good.”

“What did you find?”

“A Rahkshi Factory.”

Mata Nui!”

“That’s what we thought.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Nothing” shrugged Glonor idly. “It’s in Glacii’s hands now. Not my responsibility.”

“What did it look like?”

“Repetitive. Just stacks and stacks of Kraata suspended in stasis tubes.”

The Ga-Matoran tried to return her eyeballs back into their sockets with limited success. “How in the name of Artahka did the Metru-Nui Air Force manage to just lose such a resource? Then again, why did they even have access to Kraata?”

“It was built by Dark Hunters” corrected the Av-Matoran. “But I still don’t know why it was just left there. Stuff gets lost all the time. Perhaps they weren’t very proud of it. They built it during the Toa/Dark Hunter War, but values changed all of a sudden, from one war to another.”

Nokama smiled. “You act like this is news to you.”

The Matoran of Light chuckled. “I’ve been away for a while.”

“Some of the greatest literary works have come from wartime conflicts” commented the Ga-Matoran trivially. “There’s an Onu-Matoran, the Chief Archivist in fact, who wrote a very interesting book on the changing national feeling during the war. I have his book. It details the switch between peacetime oppression to wartime freedom that was so encapsulating for the Matoran masses. Perhaps you’ll give it a read?”

“I’ll look it up when this whole crisis is over” beamed Glonor. “But it looks like it’s all over.”

The Rau-wearer nodded. “So this is your last night in Elysium?”

“I guess it is.”

“Will you stay in contact?”

“It’s best if I don’t.”

“So this is goodbye as well?”

Glonor nodded.

“Well, it’s been nice knowing you, Major” grinned Nokama.

“Likewise.” The Iden-wearer extended a hand, which the retired teacher shook firmly. “Stay lucky, and thank you for sheltering me.”

The Matoran of Water nodded, her eyes misty, then turned and headed back to her room. Glonor waited for a moment then went to make one last check of the house. The cop in the library was standing easy, six feet from the window, alert and implacable. The Kualsi-wearing cop in the hallway was sat on a chair, sitting forward, her elbows on her knees.

He checked the view from the parlor then sprawled himself down across the sofa again. He kept the lights off and the drapes open. The snow on the wooden railing outside was thick and glazed. The street was empty, a white wintery wonderland that lay unbroken. The parked cruiser seemed to violate the languid arctic wilderness. There were ruts of ice and the relentless wind.

All quiet.




On what may as well have been the other side of the Matoran Universe, Garnax and his convoy of assassins waited in a loose cordon, with the Ba-Matoran in the center. All eyes were fixed on the majestic Airship, landing on the beach before them.

It was not a novelty aircraft. It was a standard issue Airship, looted from Le-Metru prior to the war. A member of the cargo-carrying class of transporters ever built. It was 20,000 years old and Garnax was its third owner since it was hijacked. Not that anyone knew. Only geeky Ko-Matoran could date Airships, and geeky Ko-Matoran knew better than to broadcast their conclusions. If anyone asked, Garnax said it had been custom-built for him a year ago in Xia. In reality, it had been flown to a facility in Ta-Metru and stripped back to its original Protodermis skeleton. The paint had been replaced by a grey-tinted wash that made the bare metal look dark, shiny and evil. Matoran who owed him services regularly spent their days going over it with clay bars and wax. It was polished to perfection. The Ba-Matoran of proud of it. He was the first resident of Vacca-Nui to own an Airship.

Of course, he didn’t much care for the cordon he was encompassed by. The six mercenaries held a wide and respectful curve. Garnax was in no danger, but it helped to appear as if he was, in terms of both caution and reputation. There was an outdated set of fold-away steps leading into the depths of the Airship. Three of the assassins clambered up first. After a minute one stuck his Kanohi back out and nodded.

All clear.

The Matoran of Stone ascended the steps, entered, and took his seat, which was numbered 1A, front row to the left. He was sat in a wide, comfortable leather chair. The craft was rated for a hundred and eighty Matoran passengers when it had been a Cargo-ship. The total lift capacity of the Airship, however, was about thirty-six tons.

Garnax sat while his bodyguards inspected their equipment. It had all been supplied and loaded onto the shuttle by a guy who had owed him a favor. Therefore it all present and correct, under threat of death. But he made them check anyway. Ladders, flashlights, automatic weapons, ammunition, some water. Anything else necessary would be supplied at the destination.

The pilots had finished their pre-flight checks. The first guy stepped out of the cockpit and waited outside the Matoran of Stone’s chamber-sized area. Garnax caught his eye and nodded, as if he were asking a waiter to serve him Fried-Ruki. The pilot disappeared back into the control room and the engines fired up a moment later. The Airship hovered, paused, shuddered, then rose upwards into the sky. Then it accelerated, and finally rose majestically into the night sky.




Nokama’s house remained all quiet for less than ten minutes. Then first one, then two, then three and finally all four of the female cops’ communicators burst into life with loud static, codes and urgent words. Stumbling footsteps crossed the hallway from the bedroom. Doors opened and there were trampling feet on the wooden floorboards. Then the cops started talking at once, loud and scared an horrified.

Glonor stepped out of the front room and hustled down the hallway. The four cops were standing all together at the front door, on the rug. Ninian and her day-watch partner looked fatigued. They’d just been dragged out of their sleep. All of them were talking, all white and shocked. They looked around wide-eyed in helpless, restless panic, all full of adrenalin, all with nowhere to go.

“What’s happened?” asked the former Military Cop, knowing he was going to regret asking even before he’d spoken.

“It’s Deputy Crystallus” answered Ninian, her voice weak and broken.

“What about him?”

He’s been shot and killed.

Chapter 16 - The Measurement of Pain

The Onu-Matoran from the cruiser on the street came in and joined the commotion. Glonor had no doubt the entire department was equally distracted. For the moment, Nokama’s security was worth exactly less than a squashed Bula berry. So he kept half his attention on the parlor window and used the other half to piece the story together from the babble of voices. It wasn’t difficult. The hard facts seemed to be: following Chief Glacii’s most recent orders, the department was still on high alert. Therefore mobile patrols were constant, and vigilance was high. No street was visited less than every twenty minutes. Every pedestrian was eyeballed, as was every transporter. Every parking lot was checked regularly, every alley, every approach.

A unit driven solo by none other than Officer Birus had nosed into a snowbound parking lot North-East of downtown Elysium and he had seen Deputy Crystallus’ cruiser apparently empty and idling with the driver’s window all the way down and its nudge bars pushed up hard against a blank brick wall.

On closer inspection, Birus had found the cruiser was not empty. Crystallus was sprawled across the front seats, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Glonor stayed at the parlor window, watching the silent street, thinking of his fallen friend, leaving the cops to their private grief in the hallway. He could hear their voices. They were passing through a short phase of denial. Maybe the story was wrong, which Glonor considered stereotypically plausible, but very unlikely, even if it had been accounted by the incompetent Birus. Reports called in from the field were occasionally unreliable, and head wounds sometimes produced misleading impressions. Deep comas could be mistaken for death. But, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, hoping for the best was a waste of time. Glonor knew it. He was an optimist, but he wasn’t a fool.

The bad news was confirmed five minutes later by Chief Glacii himself. The Ko-Matoran drove up, parked his cruiser and came in through the cold. He had three items on his agenda. Firstly, he wanted to break the news to his crew, personally. Secondly, he wanted to make sure they got their minds back on the job. He sent the lone Onu-Matoran officer back to his cruiser, he sent Ninian and the Huna-wearing day-watch cop back to bed, he sent the one night-watch cop to the library and he told the Kualsi-wearing Ga-Matoran to focus her attention on the front door. His voice was quiet and firm and his manner was controlled. He was a decent leader. Out of his league, perhaps, in his head, no question, but he was still walking and talking, which was more than Glonor had seen from some Military Commanders he had known when a situation became serious.

The third item on Glacii’s agenda was something halfway between an invitation and a command. He stepped into the front room, looked Glonor straight in the eye and asked him to come out and take a look at the crime scene.




Nokama had gotten up because of the noise and was hiding out in her library. The Av-Matoran found her there with the revolver in her pack. She knew exactly what he was about to tell her and waved it away impatiently.

“I know what to do” she griped.

“Do you?”

She nodded. “My bedroom, the revolver, the password.”

“When?”

Immediately anything happens” she recurred. “Or before. Perhaps now.”

“Not a bad idea” muttered Glonor, shrugging to himself internally. “The guy is out there, and close by.”

“I know what to do” she said again.




Glonor climbed into the front passenger seat of Glacii’s unmarked cruiser. The Ko-Matoran backed up, turned and drove towards the centre of Elysium. He made a left at a park and a right that led past a Matoran Recharging Centre. Then he treaded right, and left, and right again through backstreets to a long block of two-storey concrete buildings. They were plain and square. Maybe once they had been stores or offices or warehouses. Perhaps they had been the hub of Elysium’s commercial district. It was impossible to tell. Now they were decrepit. Most of them looked abandoned. Three in a line had been demolished to make an empty space. A gap, perhaps a hundred feet by forty. It seemed to be in use as a temporary parking lot, maybe busy at day but empty at night. It was humped with frozen snow and rutted by tyre tracks made days ago when the surface had been soft.

The empty lot was guarded by two police cruisers. Their red lights were rotating, their beams dancing crazily and rhythmically across the surfaces far, then near, then far, then near. Each car held a lone cop. Glonor didn’t know either of them. They were just sitting there. There were no crowds to hold back. It was far too late and way too cold for bystanders.

Crystallus’ cruiser was all the way on the left side of the lot. It was still idling. Its driver’s window was still down. The short vertical nudge bars on the front bumper were pressed up hard against a blank brick wall. Which was the side of the next building along.

Glacii parked at the kerb and climbed out. Glonor followed him, strangely not noticing the cold. The side street they were on ran North to South and they were out of the wind. It was habitable. The pair walked together into the lot. There was no danger of messing up any evidence. No danger of obscuring any tyre tracks or footprints. There weren’t any. The rutted snow was like corrugated iron, but harder, and it was treacherous and slippery. They struggled on and approached Crystallus’ vehicle from the rear. Its exhaust pipes were humming patiently. The whole cruiser was just sitting there, like a faithful servant just waiting for its master’s next command.

Sheets of ice creaked under their feet as Glonor and Glacii walked to the driver’s window. They peered in to examine the scene before them. Crystallus’ feet were in the driver’s foot well, and his body was twisted at the waist. He had slumped sideways. His gun was still in its holster. His head was flung back, his neck bent, one half of his Kanohi Kakama pressed down on the passenger seat, as if her was staring at an item of great interest on the inside panel of the passenger door.

Glonor tracked back around the vehicle, his knees passing through the small white cloud of exhaust, and back along the far flank of the cruiser, to the front passenger door. He put his hand on the handle and opened it up. Crouched down. Crystallus stared at him through sightless eyes. He had a third eye in the centre of his forehead. An entry wound, perfectly placed, just like with Papura. Same size, almost certainly. Fairly close range. There were faint burns on the Kanohi, and faint powder prints. About five feet, probably. There was no exit wound. The bullet was still inside Crystallus’ head, deformed and warped.

There was no doubt he was dead. Glonor knew enough about ballistics and Matoran biology and he had seen enough dead bodies to be absolutely sure. But he still checked. He pressed two warm twinned fingers on the cold skin of Crystallus’ wrist. No pulse. Nothing at all, except the waxy feel of a corpse, part soft, part hard. Both solid and insubstantial, already completely alien to a living touch.

The cruiser’s transmission was controlled by a lever on a steering column. The heater was on fifty degrees. The radio volume was turned down very low. There were regular gasps of quiet static and occasional murmuring voices, all of them unintelligible.

“OK” sighed the Av-Matoran.

“Seen enough?” asked Glacii, his eyes ghostly.

“Yes.”

“So what the hell happened here?”

“I don’t know?”

“Why didn’t he drive straight home to his wife?”

“I don’t know.”

Glacii shifted his stance and moved closer. “He was looking for the shooter.”

“The whole department is.”

“But that wasn’t his job tonight. He was off duty. This was freelancing. You know why?”

“No.”

The Police Chief leaned back out again and let his miserable gaze fix on Crystallus’ corpse.

He was trying to impress you. You were practically mentoring him, maybe you were even pushing him.”

“Was I?”

“You told him what to do about Papura. All those photographs? You told him what to do about the Fe-Matoran. You discussed things. He was going to be the next Chief. He wanted to be a good one. He was ready to listen to anybody.”

Glonor’s eyes narrowed and he turned a menacing eye on the Pakari Nuva-wearer in front of him. “I didn’t tell him to go searching for the shooter all alone in the middle of the night.”

“He wanted to break the case.”

“You all do.”

“He wanted you respect.”

“Or yours” countered the Av-Matoran aggressively. “Maybe he was trying to live up to the farce you put on the radio tonight. You made him feel like a fraud.”

Silence for a beat.

Finally Glacii led out the most fatigued sigh Glonor had ever heard. “What the hell happened here?”

The Iden-wearer looked around then lowered his head. “He saw someone in the lost. Almost certainly in a transporter; too cold to be on foot. He drove in, made a wide circle. He stopped, window to window. Pretty close. He turned down his radio and opened his window, ready to talk. But the guy just went ahead and shot him. He slumped over and died. His foot fell off the brake. The cruiser drove itself into the wall.”

“Same basic setup as with Papura.”

“Pretty much.”

“Was it quick?”

“Headshots usually are.”

The pair went quiet. They just stood and shivered in the freezing air.

“Should we look for shell cases?”

The Matoran of Light shook his head. “Same deal as Papura. The shell case ejected inside the shooter’s vehicle.”

Glacii didn’t speak. Glonor could see the question in his eyes. Who was the guy? It was right there on his Kanohi. An awkward question, with an appealing answer.

“Now I see why you wanted me here” murmured Glonor, this time in a softer tone. “You wanted me to be the one who reached the conclusion. The one who said it out loud. Me, not you. An independent voice. A second opinion. Your Deputy’s opinion.

Glacii didn’t speak.

The Av-Matoran hesitated then shook his head violently. “No, this is all just theoretical, in our heads. Let’s not go there. Not just yet. Let’s think for a minute.”




They went back to the station house. The Chief parked in the slot reserved for him and they walked between the garbage cans to the door. They went to the squad room, to the desk that Crystallus had used in his old office.

“You should check his messages” mumbled Glacii. “Something might have led him there.”

The former Military Cop shook his head disapprovingly. “You’re clutching at straws.”

Allow me the privilege!”

“Did he even come here first?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did he even have time?”

“Probably not. But we should check the messages anyway. We need to be sure, a thing like this.”

“You should do the checking” grunted Glonor. “Technically, it’s your department and I’m just a civilian.”

The Police Chief’s weary eyes seemed to sigh. “I don’t know how to. I never learned. I’m no good with technology. I’m old school, everyone knows that. I’m the past. Crystallus was the future.” It looked like the Pakari Nuva-wearer had gained another 1,000 years that night.

So the Av-Matoran puzzled his way through the communicator consoles and computer keyboard. No passwords were required. Everything was set up for fast and casual access. There was only one communicator message. It was from Lagira, much earlier in the evening, just after six o’clock, just after he and her husband had hustled back to Nokama’s house after watching the surveillance video from the prison. The Ga-Matoran’s recorded voice was suspended somewhere between panicked and resigned.

When are you coming home?

Glonor moved onto the mail. He opened the messaging application. Two recent ones appeared. The first was a routine nightly bulletin from the Highway Patrol, a city-wide coordination. Be on the lookout for, in this instance, a whole bunch of stuff. There was a stolen Vahki Transporter in some other rural village, four stolen transporters taken that day from random locations around the Ko-Metru district, a stolen snow plough from a highway maintenance depot, a couple of wacky things the dimensionally displaced Av-Matoran had never heard of, and, not to his surprise, a stolen fuel tanker within driving distance of Elysium.

The second message was from the Turaga High Council. An agent there was confirming his belief that there was no Kraata Factory under the facility North-East of Elysium, Ko-Metru. Expensive surveillance time proved it. Crystallus was thanked for his interest and asked to get back in touch should new information come to light.

“Nothing” grunted Glonor.

Glacii sat down. “So say it” he muttered. “Let’s get some closure.”

The Iden-wearer nodded. “Three questions: Why did Papura stop in the middle of the road in such confidence? Why did Crystallus stop in the lot? And why was he killed tonight, of all nights?”

“Answers?”

“Because Papura felt safe to do so, because Crystallus felt safe to do so, and because you announced the Kraata Bust on the police department radio.”

The Ko-Matoran’s eyes lowered to the floor as he nodded his head, glumly.

“The shooter is one of us” sighed the former Military Cop. “He’s a cop.”

Five minutes to midnight: Four hours to go.




The two Matoran hashed it out between themselves, like people do when searching for weakness in a theory. They found none, which thereby strengthened it to the point of certainty. A rogue cop already in Elysium explained why the watch for incoming strangers had proven fruitless. A bent guy in a cruiser, flashing his lights, maybe patting the air out a window, explained why a cautious Ba-Matoran would come to a dead stop on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. A defector, hearing Glacii’s triumphant radio message earlier that night, explained why Crystallus had died so soon afterwards. The guy would have realized the need for action before morning. Start of business tomorrow, he’ll be calling the Turaga High Council with the details, Glacii had said. A no-brainer, and a collaborating cop parked in a lot, maybe waving urgently, explained why Crystallus had come straight to his side, completely unsuspecting, completely unready.

Plus a treacherous cop hauled unwillingly away by the siren and the crisis plan explained why Nokama had survived the prison riot the night before, all five hours of it.

“It’s all my fault” groaned Glacii. “What I said on the radio got Crystallus killed.”

“I might have done the same” countered Glonor. “In fact, sometime I did do the same.”

“I was trying to help him.”

“Unintended consequences. Don’t blame yourself.”

“How can I not?”

“Why did he even go there?” frowned the Av-Matoran, pacing the room. “He wasn’t on duty. He wasn’t just passing by, because it wasn’t on his way home.”

“He was always on duty” suggested the Chief. “In his head at least. And it could have been on his way home. More or less. It was a very minor detour. An extra two minutes. But that was Crystallus, through and through. Always willing to give a little extra to the cause. Always ready to try one last thing, check one last place.”

Glonor said nothing. His pacing slowed a fraction.

“I’m assuming this Garnax-guy is behind all this? The one we keep hearing about?”

A year” murmured the Matoran of Light, ignoring the muddled Police Chief. “This whole business seems to be a year old.”

“Was it money?”

“Most things are.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Glacii ran a finger over Crystallus’ desk. “A new guy, I’m guessing. I hardly know them. At least not enough to trust any of them. The department is a mess, which is my fault as well. I couldn’t keep up.”

Again, Glonor ignored him.

“Where do we start?”

“Tell me about Birus.”

“He had problems in Stelt. Nothing was proved against him, but there were rumors. But it was Stelt after all, and there was some stolen money involved.”

Terrific!”

“They were just rumors,” sighed Glacii. “I checked his record and it said he resigned for no reason, which is strange, I agree, but there’s no hard data anywhere. Either he’d clean, or someone cleaned up after him.”

“You should look into him. And Algor. What happened to him a year ago? He just appeared halfway through a war. Actually, since Birus found Crystallus you should look at him extra hard. People who are all alone when they discover crimes are sometimes the same people that committed them.”

“Should I bring them in?”

“Safest thing to do would be to bring everyone in. The whole damn department. Sit them all down right here in the squad room, and you’d know for sure your guy was right in front of you.”

“Can I do that?”

“Sure you can.”

Should I do it?”

He stayed silent. Any cop’s most basic question: Suppose we’re wrong?

Finally, the Police Chief resumed talking. “The cops at Nokama’s house must be OK. They didn’t go anywhere tonight. They weren’t waiting in abandoned parking lots. They have alibis. Each other, and you. So I can leave them in place.”

“But you should warn them first” added the Av-Matoran. “If the guy senses the net is tightening, he might make one last attempt.”

“They’d nail him.”

“Not if you don’t warn them first. A fellow cop comes to the door, what’re they going to do? Shoot first and ask questions later?

“They’d nail him afterwards.”

“That would be a little too late.”

“It would be a suicide mission.”

“It’s the endgame, he’s ready for one. He must know he’s going to get nailed sooner or later. He must know he’s dead no matter what happens. He’s between a rock and a hard place. Three homicides or four, either way, he’ll be killed one way or another.”

“He might not come in at all. He might disobey my order.”

“Then he’ll identify himself for you. He’ll paint a target on his own back. He’ll save you the trouble.”

“So should I do it? Should I call them in?”

“I would” nodded Glonor. “It’s any police department’s basic duty: Get the criminals off the streets.




Glacii made the calls. First came five individual conversations, for the four female cops and the Onu-Matoran stationed at Nokama’s house. The subtext was awkward. One of your fellow officers is a killer. Trust nobody. Then he made a general all-points call on the radio and ordered all other officers, whoever they were, wherever they were, whatever they were doing, on duty or not, to report to the station house exactly thirty minutes from then – which Glonor thought was a minor tactical error. Better to have required their immediate presence, which might not have gotten them there any faster in practice, but to set even a short deadline gave the traitor the sense he still had time and space in which to act, to finish his work, and in ideal conditions of chaos and confusion too, with cops running around all over the place. It was going to be a risky half hour.

The Ko-Matoran put the radio microphone back in its rest, hesitated, then reached for a communicator.

“Lagira still hasn’t been informed yet.”

“Don’t do it by communicator” whined the Av-Matoran. “That’s just not right.”

“I’m not” muttered the aged Matoran of Ice. “I’m calling the guy at the front desk because I want you to do it. The desk guy can drive you. He can pick you up again in an hour. An hour should do it.”

Are you serious?

“I don’t have time to do it myself, I’m busy here.”

“I don’t have standing” contradicted the former cop. “I’m just a civilian passing through.”

“You met her. You spent the night in her house.”

“It’s your job, not mine.”

“I’m sure you’ve done it before.”

“That’s not the point. Do you think it gets any easier?”

“I’m sure you were good at it.”

“Not very.”

“You have to do it” implored the Ko-Matoran weakly. “I just can’t. Please, don’t make me.”




Garnax spent an hour in seat 1A, front of the cabin, left hand side. In the end he got restless. Air travel at night bored him. By day there was a view, even from seven miles up, ostly emptiness and the murky brown expanse, to be sure, but with enough civilization to know that there were new puppets down on the ground to manipulate, just waiting to be recruited and serve him. But at night he couldn’t see them. There was nothing except darkness and strings of distant lights.

He got up and walked down the aisle, past his mercenary bodyguards, into the empty cargo area. He looked at the equipment on the floor. His assassins had checked it. He checked again.

Because he was Garnax and they weren’t.

The water was uninteresting. The weapons were sub-machineguns. Short, stubby, futuristic, lethal. His favorite. The ladders were made by a company in Ta-Metru. Metallic Protodermis, thirty-two feet long at their maximum extension. They were all plastered in yellow warning stickers, rattling slightly, picking up vibration from the engines. There were four of them, eighty pounds in total. They would be left behind. It was better to use the airlift capacity for the countless riches hidden in the bunker than for four useless ladders.

The same with the six useless mercenaries, of course. They would be left behind too. Half a dozen replaceable, second-rate assassins verses a canvas painting of Toa Gali? No contest.

The Ba-Matoran was already visualizing the return trip. He knew he would succeed. He had many advantages. Most of them were innate of overwhelming. His man on the ground was insurance, nothing more.




Glonor slipped out of the battered police cruiser at the end of the Crystallus’ driveway and stood watching the desk guy drive away. Then he headed for the house. It was like walking into a white tunnel. Ploughed snow was piled a bio high, left and right. Up ahead lay a Y-shaped junction, right to a garage, to his left. The wind was strong. The land was flat and open.

The Av-Matoran had never been colder. He knew that for a certainty. A superlative had been achieved. One day on Bara Magna, two or three years ago, the noontime temperature had hit a hundred and fifty degrees. Now, in Ko-Metru, he was suffering through minus thirty, which was more like minus fifty with the wind’s chill. Neither extreme had been comfortable, but he knew which one he preferred.

He made it to the Y-shaped split then turned right, towards the house. The path was OK. The underfoot surface had been salted and sprinkled with some chemical. Maybe the last domestic chore that the late Deputy Crystallus had ever done. Ten minute’s work. He had made it easier to inform his widow of his death.

The house loomed up ahead. Red boards, red door, made brown by the blue hue of the moon. Soft yellow light illuminated the window glass. A faint smell of smoke emanated from the chimney. He gritted his teeth and, drawing on his reserves of inner strength, all the willpower he could muster, he walked onwards. It was so cold he felt like he had forgotten how to. He had to concentrate. Left foot, right foot, one step, the next, consciously and deliberately. Like he was learning a brand new skill.

He made it to the door. Exhausted, Glonor paused for a second and coughed freezing air from his lungs before raising his hand and knocking. The way he was shaking turned what was supposed to be a crisp double tap into a ragged sequence of dull thumps. The worst sound in the world. After midnight, a cop’s wife alone in a house, a knock on the door. No possibility of good news. Lagira would understand that in the first split second. The only issue was how hard and how long she was going to fight it. He knew how it would be. He had knocked on plenty of different doors, after midnight.

She opened up. One glance, and the last absurd hope drained from her Noble Kanohi Huna. It wasn’t her husband. He hadn’t dropped his door key in the snow or gotten inexplicable intoxicated.

She fell down, like a trapdoor had opened under her.




Dainoo was considered the low guy on the totem pole, which he considered to be richly ironic. He knew a little about totem poles, and Matoran culture in general. He knew a little about a lot of things, but in a random unstructured way that had paid no dividends in terms of employment opportunities. So he had turned to the Metru-Nui Department of Corrections. The default choice. He had been trained and equipped with a radio and assigned to the night watch of the Elysium district jail lock-up. He was the youngest and newest member of a four-Matoran team. Hence, he low guy on the totem pole.

Except that calling a new guy the low guy on the totem pole was completely backwards. Totem poles were twenty, thirty feet high. Matoran weren’t dumb. They put the most important guy at the bottom. At eye level. What important guy wanted to be thirty feet off the ground, where nobody could see him? Like in market stalls. The eye-level shelf was reserved for the best stuff. The high-margin items. The big corporations hired experts to figure out stuff like that. Eye level was what it was all about, the high man was always the low man, in a manner of speaking. A common misperception. Dainoo didn’t know how it had come about.

Night watch was an easy job. The cells were locked before they came on duty, and weren’t unlocked until after they had left. In practice, the De-Matoran’s team only had one responsibility, which was to monitor the population for medical emergencies. Prisoners could start foaming at the mouth or banging their Kanohi on the wall. Some of them weren’t fully aware of medication they should be taking. One of them had been arrested and injected himself with Visorak venom in his cell. They were a sorry bunch.

The monitoring process involved ten tours of inspection, one every hour. Naturally most of them were skipped, sometimes all of them. Easier to sit in the ready-room and procrastinate. At first, Dainoo had been disconcerted by the negligence. New job, new life, he had started with a measure of energy and drive. He had been prepared to take it seriously. But any new guy’s first duty was to fit in. So he did. After a month he couldn’t remember what he had been so upset about.

But the riot the night before had shaken things up a little. The watch leader had mandated three tours in the aftermath. He had even done one of them himself. Tonight he was looking for two, but four hours into the shift they hadn’t done the first of them, so clearly they were only really on track for one, which was due right about then, and naturally Dainoo would get roped into doing it. He was OK with that, he could do it because he was the high guy on the totem pole.

The beam of his torch was working well. The batteries had lasted and it had a half-decent beam. There was a clipboard attached to the wall with a pen stuck to it by a tatty piece of string. The Ko-Matoran pre-signed it for the fifth tour. The first four were dummies. Nobody looked them up.

There were sixty cells, laid in a two-storey V-shape, fifteen cells per section, an upper and lower level for the North and West wings. At the point of the V there was a metal staircase, and beyond that it was a single-storey mess hall and rec room, making the lower floor more of a Y-shape.

All sixty cells had occupants. They always did. Some of the most dangerous Matoran in the Universe were contained in the facility. Prisoners taken in the war against the Brotherhood that couldn’t be left with the more threatening war criminal captives in the larger prisons dotted around Metru-Nui.

Most of the prisoners were asleep in their cheap beds, rumbling, mumbling and snoring under their grey sheets. Some were awake, their narrow furtive eyes reflecting back like Stone Rats.

Dainoo turned the corner of the V and checked the lower west wing. Fifteen cells, fifteen cots, fifteen Matoran in them. Twelve were sleeping, three were awake, none of them in distress.

The Ko-Matoran climbed the stairs to the upper west wing. Same result. He didn’t know why he bothered. The place was a warehouse, that was all. A kind of cheap hotel. Did hotel staff check their guests every hour? He didn’t think so.

The guard passed the head of the stairs to the upper North wing. He walked a little faster than normal. The shadows of the bars moved as his torch beam passed over them. Cell one, empty space on the left, humped form under the sheet on the right, awake. Cell two, empty space on the left, humped form under the sheet on the right, asleep. Cell three was the same, and so it was till he reached the end of the row. Cell six had the comically wide Le-Matoran in it, the guy who wouldn’t talk, except to the guy in cell seven.

But the biker wasn’t in cell seven.

Cell seven, upper North wing was empty.

Chapter 17 - The Closed Door

Glonor was too slow to catch Lagira before she hit the deck. He bent down awkwardly, slid an arm under her shoulders and sat her up. She was out cold, fainted clean away. Absurdly his main worry was that the front door was open and that heat was leaking out of the house. He jammed his other arm under her knees and lifted her up. Then he turned away and kicked the door shut behind him and carried her through to the sitting room, where he laid her on the battered sofa near the stove.

He had seen females faint before. He had knocked on plenty of doors after midnight. He knew what to do. Like everything else in the army it had been thoroughly explained. Fainting after a shock was a simple reflex. There were five points in the treatment plan. First, catch the victim. He’d already stuffed that one up. Second, lay her down with her feet high and her head low. The idea was that gravity would help the blood flow back to her brain. He managed to do that one, swiveling her so that her feet were up on the arm of the living room chair and that her head was below them, resting on a cushion. Third, check her pulse. He pressed his fingers against her wrist, just like he had with her husband. The result was different. Lagira’s pulse was tapping away just fine.

The fourth point in the treatment plan, stimulate the victim. That involved loud yells or light slaps, which had always felt unbelievably cruel to the Av-Matoran, especially with new widows. Regardless, he gave it a go. He started off softly, speaking in her audio receptor and tapping her Kanohi. When that didn’t work he patted her hand gently.

No response.

He tried again, a little more firmly, a louder voice, a heavier touch. Nothing happened. The room was warm but it wasn’t hot. The stove had banked. For a moment he wondered if the temperature made a difference. After all, waking a Ga-Matoran up in Ko-Metru could be dangerous. He spoke again, touched her hand, then touched her Kanohi Huna.

Lagira opened her eyes.

Point five was to persuade the victim to lie still for fifteen or twenty minutes. In this case it was easy. The Matoran of Water didn’t move. No persuasion necessary. She just lay on her back and stared up at the ceiling, inquiringly, speculatively, her eyes narrowing and widening, as if there was something written above her, something complex and difficult to understand.

“Do you remember me?” he asked softly.

“Of course.”

“I’m afraid I have bad news.”

“Crystallus is dead.”

“I’m afraid he is. I’m so sorry.”

“When?”

“Within the last hour.”

“How?”

“He was shot. It was instantaneous.”

“Who shot him?”

“We think the guy they’ve all been looking for.”

“Where?”

“In the head.”

Lagira cringed. “No, I meant whereabouts did it happen?”

“I’m sorry” gulped Glonor. “It was downtown, in a vacant parking lot.”

“What was he doing there?”

“His duty. He was checking something out, on his way home.”

Lagira’s eyes clouded and her expression became one of hurt. “He was my whole world, you know.”

“I know.”

“What am I going to do?”

“You’re going to take it one step at a time. One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. One second at a time.”

“OK.”

“Starting right now.”

“OK.”

“First thing is, we need to get someone here, right now. Someone who can help. Someone who you can be with, because you shouldn’t be alone. Is there anyone I can call?”

Lagira’s eyes narrowed. “Why didn’t Chief Glacii come?”

“He wanted to” lied the Av-Matoran with a heavy sigh to mark his words. “But he has a big investigation to start.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“He can’t just let it go.”

“No, I mean I don’t believe he wanted to come.”

The Matoran of Light nodded. “He feels responsible. A good Chief always does.”

The Ga-Matoran shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. He still should’ve come. It’s the only decent thing to do.”

“Who can I call?” repeated the Iden-wearer, changing the sensitive subject. That was the second Matoran of Water in Elysium who seemed to hate the poor Police Chief.

“The neighbor.”

“What’s her name?”

“Idris.”

“How can I contact her?”

“Button number three on the communicator.”

Glonor looked around. The communicator in question was on the wall at the end of the sitting room. A cordless handset with a black console. All kinds of buttons. Far more complex than the basic communicator Glacii had given him.

He moved away from the widow and approached the device, picked up the mouthpiece. It had an unusual keypad, six buttons with single-digit numbers on them. Speed dials. Presumably, buttons one and two were the late Crystallus’ work and personal communicator headset numbers.

He pressed the third button then waited patiently as the communicator dialed, hearing a long ringtone relayed from the other end. It lasted for a good long spell. Then a voice answered. A female, sleepy but concerned. A little worried. Maybe she had her own husband out on the road. Late night communicator calls were usually as bad as a knock on the front door.

“Is this Idris?” inquired the Av-Matoran.

Yes it is. Who are you?

“I’m with Lagira, your neighbor” he grunted in response. “She needs you to come right over. Her husband was killed tonight.”

There was silence on the line, then Idris spoke.

But Glonor didn’t hear what she said. Her words were drowned out by another sound. Sudden. Loud. From outside. Wailing and howling. Screaming and whispering. Rising and falling. The new sound rolled in across the frozen fields like a tidal wave. It smashed against the side of the house and battered against the windows.

The prison siren had been activated.

Five minutes to one in the morning: Three hours to go.




The Matoran of Light saw a crazy diagram in his mind, exploding in four dimensions, time and space and distance; cops all over town, all moving randomly north, south, east and west. All answering Glacii’s summons, all heading for the station house, all hearing the siren, all changing direction at once, the five on duty at Nokama’s house rushing straight out into the night, joining the confusion, getting set, heading for the prison, leaving Nokama all alone behind them.

All alone and wide open and vulnerable to a last-ditch swing by the bad guy before he either ran for his life or tried to blend out of it.

I know what to do, Nokama had said.

Glonor hung up the communicator and called to Lagira.

“I’ve got to go” he yelled, fighting back curse words. “Idris is on her way.”

He got the front door open then stopped. The siren howled on. It was deafening. The ploughed path was right there in front of him. Fifty feet to the split in the Y, fifty more to the street. Then a kio back to Elysium and another kio to Nokama’s house.

He was on foot.

Scrap,” he grunted before closing the door behind him and moving out. He slipped and skidded down the pathway, towards the garage. There was a rusty old transporter nestled inside. The door wasn’t locked but the vehicle was.

Growing impatient, the Matoran of Light hustled his way back to the house then pounded on the door, this time ignoring the cold and thumping on it with all his might. There was a long wait, so he pounded some more until Lagira finally opened up again. The initial shock was over. She was deep into the nightmare now; slouched, vacant and detached. She was crying hard.

“I’m sorry,” he implored. “But I need the key to the transporter in the garage.”

She didn’t answer.

“Lagira, I’m sorry, but I really need the key.”

“It’s on Crystallus’ key-ring. He has it.”

“Is there a spare?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s very old. We've had it for a while.”

“There has to be a spare.”

“I think it was lost.” She looked away and turned to walk back down the hallway. The Noble Huna-wearer staggered and put a hand out to steady herself against the wall. Glonor put the door open on the latch and stepped outside to wait for Idris.

These houses were rural, on the very outskirts of Elysium jurisdiction. The landscape would normally be vast and empty without the obstructive blizzard. The houses were not adjacent. She would have to travel using a vehicle, and when she did perhaps she would let him borrow it.

He waited.

The siren howled on.

Idris came on foot.

He saw her a hundred yards away in the moonlight, disheveled and scruffy by her rush, hurrying, slipping and sliding on the ice, her hands out balancing her like a tightrope walker. She came right to left along the road, her pale Kanohi glancing nervously at the newly-broken household, arms and legs jerking, uncoordinated by the treacherous conditions underfoot. Glonor moved away from the door, into the cold, down the path, to the split of the Y, and on towards the street. He met the Ga-Matoran at the bottom of the driveway.

“Don’t you have a transporter?”

“It wouldn’t start” she shrugged. “Too cold.”

The former Military Cop glanced left, towards the road back to Elysium. Idris glanced ahead at the house.

“How’s Lagira?” she asked, cautiously.

“Bad.”

“What happened?”

“Crystallus was shot and killed. Some guy in a vacant parking lot.”

“That’s awful!”

“You’d better go in. It’s going to be a long night, I’m afraid.”

The Ga-Matoran glanced again at the darkened dwelling. “It’s going to be more than a night.”

“You OK with that?”

The female sighed. “I guess I’ll have to be.”

Glonor nodded. “Good luck” he muttered as Idris moved on up the driveway, and he headed left down the street.

I know what to do, Nokama had said.




A minute later, the Av-Matoran was a hundred yards short of the corner that would put him on the highway. To his right, the center of Elysium. To his left, the wild wintry wasteland. Boondocks.


He wanted a cop to be living way out there. The maximum distance. Someone he could trust. Not Birus or any of the new guys. He wanted one of the majority. He wanted the guy at home, off duty, asleep, then waking up, stumbling out into the cold, firing up his cruiser, heading west. He wanted to flag that guy down and demand a ride.

He got part of what he wanted.

When he was still seventy yards short of the turn he saw lights in the east. Pulsing red and blue strobes, a mile away, coming on fast. The reflectivity of the snow made it look like there was a whole lit-up acre on the move. A huge bright dancing circle of horizontal light. He hustled hard to meet it, feet slipping and skating. His arms thrashed and windmilled. His Iden was already frozen. It felt like his Kanohi had been beaten with a Kolhii Staff before a medic had anaesthetized it.

The police cruiser was on chain-tracks, moving at sixty miles an hour. Glonor was struggling along at a twentieth of that speed, on legs that were stiff and unresponsive. He wasn’t going to make it.

But he didn’t need to make it. The cop saw him. The cruiser slowed and turned into Crystallus’ street towards him. Bright headlights, electric blue and deep red flashers. Painful white strobes popping right in his eyes. He came to a stop, rooted his feet into the snow and raised his arms to wave. The universal distress signal. Big overlapping half circles with each hand.

The cruiser slowed.

At the last minute he sidestepped and the transporter slid to a stop alongside him. The driver’s window wound down. A Ce-Matoran. Her Noble Mask of Emulation was pale and her red eyes were swollen with sleep. She was an unfamiliar mess.

“I’ve got to get to Nokama’s house” he panted. His words were unclear because his lips were numb. The entire upper half of his Kanohi felt like a frozen block of ice. The lower half felt like a heavy iron slab. The hinge in his jaw was hardly working at all.

“What?” hissed the cop rudely. One of the new ones.

“I need a ride.”

“Where?”

“Nokama’s house.”

Five miles away the prison siren howled on. There was blaring radio chatter inside the vehicle. A dispatcher’s voice, low and fast, trying not to sound panicked and urgent in the crisis.

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

Glonor swallowed back the grip of the arctic world. “I’ve been working closely with Chief Glacii and Deputy Crystallus to –”

“Crystallus is dead” interrupted the cop.

I know that!”

A shadow fell across the Ce-Matoran’s Kanohi. “You’re that big-shot military guy, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and I need a ride.”

A snide smile flickered across the corner of her mouth.

No can do.”

“Then why did you stop for me?”

“I didn’t. I’m heading for my position.”

The Av-Matoran glanced into the distance. “But the prison isn’t this way.”

“We make a perimeter a mile out. I get the north-east corner. This is how I’m supposed to get to it.”

“What happened?”

“The biker, that Glidus guy, escaped. His cell was empty.”

“No” groaned the dimensionally-displaced Av-Matoran, his expression crunching up in frustration.

“What do you mean, no?”

“It’s fake! He’s decoying you!”

The Ce-Matoran flexed, glanced through the windscreen then leaned forward, clearly losing her tempter. “Look, pal. He’s either in there or not, and the guards say he's not.”

“Then he’s hiding out in there. In a broom closet or something. Under a table, in another cell, under his bed!”

Rubbish!

“I’ve seen it before” whined Glonor. “There’re two issues to consider when escaping: getting out then beating the manhunt. The smart ones hide first, inside, until the manhunt dies off. Then they go. But this guy isn’t going anywhere. He’s doing the first part only. As a distraction.

The cop didn’t answer.

“Think about it” he continued. “Escaping is harder than it looks. I promise you, he’s still in there. Tomorrow he’ll get hungry and come out from wherever he’s been holed up, a wide grin on his face. Because it’ll be too late then.”

“You’re a complete whackjob.”

“He’s still there!” implored the desperate Matoran of Light. “Believe me! Be the one!”

You’re crazy!

“OK” he shuddered, backtracking his argument. “Suppose I am. Suppose the biker really is out. He’ll have been gone for more than five hours. You know that? So what the hell is the point of the one-mile perimeter?”

The cop didn’t answer again. This time she just looked bored.

“Five minutes” he pleaded. “Please. That’s all I need from you.”

But she didn’t answer. She didn’t even make eye contact. She just hit the button and the window rolled back up. Her foot hit the pedal and the cruiser moved off. The stranded military cop leaned towards it and it accelerated. The rear bumper plate smacked him in the hip and spun him around. He was left dumped on his back, where he lay breathless in the frozen snow and watched the acre of lights move away, dulling to distance his one chance of getting back to the city in time.

I know what to do Nokama had said.




Glonor got up and struggled onward to the corner. The siren died. It cut off in mid-wail. Tiny, brittle echoes of its last howl bounced back off the ice before the unbroken night silence swarmed in. Not the dull padded silence of fresh snowfall, but the eerie crackling, scouring, rustling hiss of a deep-frozen world. The crunch of his footsteps ran around him through the sheets of ice.

The wind was still at the west, in his face, hurling tiny frozen needles at him. He looked back and realized he’d only made it through a hundred bio. That was all. He had two kio ahead of him still. There was nothing on the road. He was completely alone.

He was so very cold.

The Av-Matoran half-walked, half-ran, in the gap created by a set of tyre tracks, his feet sliding wildly with every step. It was most slippery where the chains had cracked the surface. He was breathing hard, freezing air burning down his windpipe and roasting his lungs. He was coughing and gasping frantically.

Two kio to go. Maybe a whole thirty minutes. Too long. He prayed that surely one of the cops had the guts to stay behind with Nokama. One of the five. One of the females. Most likely Ninian. Least likely was that Kualsi-wearing Kavinika.


Damn the rules! Damn the plan! Crystallus was dead. Surely one of them would gut it out and tell the prison guards to go to hell. At least Ninian. Maybe more. Maybe all of them.

Or perhaps none of them.

I know what to do Nokama had said.

Did she? Had she done it?




He pounded on. One step, and another, and another. The wind pushed back against him. Ice fragments pattered against his armor, against his exposed flesh. All the feeling was gone in his hands and feet. His blood felt like it was freezing cold.

The scenery seemed to blur. The hoary landscape just repeated itself for kio around. It was impossible to tell where he was or how long it had taken him to get there. He could only guess that, around twenty minutes later, he spotted the first traces of civilization. Dead ahead was an armory, stocked with armor and Kanohi and anything else that could keep him warm. Taunting him. It stood alone in a small parking lot. The edge of town. The first building. It had a sign on a tall metal pillar, displaying time and temperature.

It was twenty-past one in the morning. Minus thirty degrees.

He struggled on faster. The Av-Matoran felt like he was getting nowhere. Left and right there was one building after another. A restaurant, a lawyer firm, a transporter showroom, a post office, a general store. All with empty parking lots. All spread out to cover the sparse landscape. All for customers with vehicles. He hurried on, sweating and shivering at the same time.

The buildings closed in. They grew second storeys. Downtown Elysium. A hundred yards from the prison, close to the highway. He cut a corner on a cross street and found himself at the police station. The wind was raging through the forest of antennas on the roof.

A kio to go... If he could remember his way...

Glonor ran alone down the center of the road. It had been cleared but it didn’t help. He was struggling, taking short choppy steps, legs stabbing into the ground. He was bringing his feet up and dropping them down again almost vertically. His vision was blurring. His throat burned. All around him the windows were dark and blank. He was the only moving thing in the whole white, vacant world.

He passed the restaurant he had visited with Crystallus a little over twelve hours ago. The Deputy Chief’s last meal, technically. Neither of them had eaten. It was closed up and quiet now. Dark inside. Ghostly. Chairs were stacked on tables, like a silent, anxious crowd all with upraised arms.

But the former military cop was dragged out of his thoughts when a navy blue police cruiser cut round the corner and headed straight towards him.

A cop who was driving away from Nokama’s house while the siren was going off.

The cruiser’s headlights blinded the Matoran of Light and his heartlight stopped blinking as the vehicle stopped the width of a traffic lane away. He stopped too, unsure what to do. For a moment he considered pulling out his revolver and firing at the bent cop’s vehicle. He understood that the cars in this universe were fueled by some kind of explosive substance. If he hit the gas tank he could stop the guy’s killing spree right then and there.

But at the cost of his own life, perhaps.

It wasn’t worth it, a choice the wanderer would be more than glad he had made when the passenger door was kicked open and warm, yellow light flooded out into the street, turning the snow ginger.


Algor.


Get in and shut up!” growled the Ko-Matoran ferociously. He didn’t sound like he had the last time he had spoken to Glonor. Now he seemed drawn, determined, fired up and more direct than ever before. There was steel in his tone and unquestionable demand in his words.

He obeyed.

The Av-Matoran clambered up onto the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. Before it had closed Algor’s foot slammed down on the pedal. He did an emergency U-turn and shot back in the direction of Nokama’s dwelling, charging towards the unknown.

The Iden-wearer endured the pain of thawing for a while as the cruiser sped onwards. His audio receptors burned and his Kanohi was itching against his face. In contrast, Algor was entirely undetered. He had been in a heated car, out of the wind, but he still shivered from the cold air Glonor had brought in from the open door. If he was cold he didn’t show it.

Yet another example of Ko-Matoran pride. Different to Elysium pride.

“I thought Glacii took your badge” spluttered the former Military Cop after an awkward moment.

“I kept the cruiser” grunted the Kiril-wearer in response. “I’ve been lying low, listening to the radio and contacting my people.”

“Your people?”

He didn’t take his eyes off the road but Glonor was sure the ex-cop would have turned to fix him with a serious dramatic glare.

“I’m not who you think I am.”

“That’s a triumph of deduction!”

Agent Algor, Metru-Nui Secret Service” grunted the driver. “I’m an undercover operative, tasked with investigating all activities in this town, and the best way to do that was to infiltrate the local police department.”

Glonor hesitated. “So you’re not the bent cop?”

“I’m the guy who’s supposed to catch him.”

“So when you pulled rank yesterday... you were trying to catch the guy who turned up?”

The Ko-Matoran nodded. “But he didn’t show. I blew my cover for nothing. I didn’t expect you to be there. I bet it looked like I was there to kill Nokama. It would’ve been the perfect opportunity.”

“I had my suspicions” countered the former Military Cop. “But why does the Metru-Nui Secret Service care about Nokama? ...Or, rather, what do you have against the Kraata Purge?

Algor didn’t respond.

“You were here looking for Garnax, which means you knew this was going to happen all along.”

“We didn’t know what he was planning” retorted the compromised agent. “One of his servants leaked something to us. She overheard a conversation, something about this specific town and Rahkshi.”

“When was this?”

“A year ago.”

“During the war, which explains why the whole town wasn’t occupied by the military, like it should have been if you Metru-Nui-folk were even half competent.”

Algor nodded. “Nothing showed up on any of our data bases. I didn’t even know the scale of the operation till Chief Glacii announced it on the radio. I’ve spent all night talking to my superiors. They can’t send reinforcements till tomorrow. The snowstorm’s too bad.”

Fantastic!

“Not my fault” bristled the Secret Service agent.

“You had the power to stop this.”

“I tried, believe me.”

“Not hard enough.”

“...I know.”

For a moment there was silence, shattered only by the engine’s cry and the churning of the wheels on ice.

“Alright, maybe I’m being harsh” muttered Glonor. “You’ve been here for a whole year, I’m guessing. Exactly what have you learnt?”

“Pretty much everything you found out in nearly three days.”

“The hired gun?”

“I thought it was Crystallus but it looks like that theory’s been shot down.”

“How did you get hired?”

“Very funny” snorted the driver.

“No, seriously” growled the Av-Matoran through chattering teeth. “How?”

Algor shrugged. “That’s a long story. Elysium’s a popular place, sort of like a local Artakha. But it was growing too, at a rate that nobody had expected. If you build a prison holding every single Matoran war criminal then you need someone to keep them in check. They were hiring anyone with experience for security. They needed cops, I needed another cover-mission. My friend up in Onu-Metru said I should forget it, but I’d just screwed up my last field mission. I wasn’t in the position to turn anything down. I thought I could bury myself down here as a punishment, you know? A kind of penance. So I applied for it and came down a year ago, just when the prison got finished.”

He hesitated, either trying to remember or focus on a difficult patch of road.

“How’s the interview go?”

The Ko-Matoran frowned. “Why?”

“Because I want to know how easily the traitor could’ve gotten in. It might tell us something about him, or her even” he added with the Kualsi-wearing Ga-Matoran in mind, however impossible it was to accuse her.

“It was Chief Glacii who saw me. I was a wreck. I couldn’t string two words together. It had to be the worst job application in the history of Ko-Metru. I must have come across as an idiot. But he gave me the job. Probably has me marked down as an idiot. Not to be promoted further. Makes sense in a way. I still can’t believe he gave me the job in the first place, idiot or not.”

“Were you nervous?”

Incredibly! The Secret Service were depending on me to get that job. If I stuffed up then the entire operation would go down with me. But, fortunately, Glacii was very sympathetic. He gave me a chance... and I spat at his feet yesterday...

“That doesn’t matter interrupted the passenger. “Glacii’s a nice guy but nice guys come last in life. He’ll forgive you because that’s what guys like him do. You have more important stuff to tell me.” He paused for breath. “What about Birus?”

“What about him?”

“There’s something off about him. Tell me, you both served time as runners, could he be the bent cop?”

Algor shook his head. “Far too lazy. He couldn’t have masterminded anything.”

“Why did he come here?”

“I don’t know, at least not for sure. I’ve looked at records of everyone in the department. Birus had a posting in a busier part of Ko-Metru a few years ago after he dropped out of the war. He upped and quit for no apparent reason. No health issues. No debt.”

“And he’s divorced?”

“The records didn’t say but he went on and on about her, saying he’d fight for her, that it was her fault, he’d make her see the truth one day.

“What a loser.”

“I had to spend a week with the jerk.”

“My heartlight aches with sympathy,” snorted the Av-Matoran sarcastically.

They were just four hundred yards from Nokama’s street. Forty second for a half-decent athlete, which was how long it took the cruiser in the snow. The road-blocking car was gone, just its deep tracks remaining. They passed one house, then the next. The earth creaked and groaned beneath the rolling wheels.

The driveway.

Algor braked hard and the cruiser scraped to a stop. The two Matoran burst out, into the savage cold. There were lights on in the house but there was no movement or sound.

All quiet.

They hurtled towards the porch, hopping from one footprint to the next left by the cops as they had left the house. There were four pairs. The door was locked. Algor jabbed a finger at the doorbell. It rang out, deep inside the silent house. They listened to it echoing to silence off the polished wood inside.

No response.

Which was good in a sense. The doorbell was quiet. Nokama shouldn’t be able to hear it hidden under her bed behind locked doors. And if she did, she wouldn’t come to answer it anyway.

He hoped.

Glonor peered in through the stained glass panel. The hallway lights were still on, but it was dyed blue by the glass. He got a distorted view of the room. The chair. The rug. The doors. The candles. No movement. Nobody there. No sign of disturbance.

The Av-Matoran stepped back and examined the lock on the door. It was a big heavy item, probably new, probably carried all kinds of lifetime warranties and insurance discounts. The door itself was probably around a century old, perhaps felled in the forests that populated the Le-Metru of this reality. The snow had frozen in and dried it like iron.

Without a word he stepped back to the edge of the porch. Then he danced forwards and smashed the sole of his foot against the lock.

What in the name of sanity are you doing!?” exclaimed Algor.

He whirled back and hit the door again, once, twice, three times. He felt the timber yield. He grasped the porch railings like a Ko-Metru ski jumper, bounced twice then hurled himself forwards. He straightened his leg and smashed every ounce of his weight into an area the size of his heel directly over the lock. The frame splintered and part of it followed the door into the hallway. Glonor was big for a Matoran, probably a mixture of his time spend in Karda-Nui and from his natural muscular build. It was too cold for patience.

“It’s me!” he called. “Glonor!” She may not have heard the doorbell but she might have heard the splintered wood.

No response.

He stepped into the bedroom. Algor closed the front door behind them, leaving it hanging an inch short of fully closed. All the familiar sights and smells came back to him. The hissing of the pipes. The noise of the ancient water heater, now stone cold. Nevertheless, he fumbled his left hand across the wall and found the switch. Only just realizing his right hand was in his pack, the barrel of the revolver at his finger tips, he clicked on the light.

The bedroom was empty. Nothing but sudden shadows from the mattresses and the single bed. No movement. No disturbance.

He found her in the library.

She was sat in her favorite chair. She had a book on her lap. Her eyes were open.

There was a bullet hole in the center of her Kanohi Rau.

Like a third eye.

'I know what to do,' she had said.

Book Three: The Crucible

Chapter 18 - You Reap What You Sow

The Av-Matoran’s mind stayed blank for a long, long time. His body hurt from all the thawing but he hadn’t noticed the pain until now. His audio receptors burned as if someone was holding a crackling Lightstone on them. Then the searing sensation spread across him. He slumped to the floor of the library, hugging himself in agony. His throat started hurting, then his chest, then his arms and legs. It felt like he was all broken and crushed inside.

Nokama had not possessed a thick skull. The back of it was blown all over her favorite chair, driven deep into the tear that the exiting bullet had left in the lining.

"I’ll have plenty of time to read when all this is over," she had said.

Glonor cradled his Kanohi Iden in his hands, put his elbows on his knees and stared down at the ground.

"I am privileged," her voiced echoed in his mind. "Not everyone gets the opportunity to walk the walk."

He rubbed his eyes. His hands came away bloody. The snowflakes driven by the savage wind had peppered his Kanohi with a thousand tiny pinpricks. Unnoticeable, when he’d been frozen. Now they were raising a thousand tiny beads of blood. He massaged both palms over every inch of his face, as if washing himself, then worked down to his body. The holes dotted his armor. He would need a new set soon, and a new Kanohi. Of course, he wouldn’t stay the same, not after all this. He would change his color spectrum once again. Perhaps he’d disguise himself as a De-Matoran this time, to live a more solitary life.

One thing was for sure, he never wanted to look in a mirror and see his pale reflection stare back at him ever again.




Algor was still in the hallway, standing dumbly, resigned, unsure how to act. He hadn’t cared much about Nokama. Her death was tragic, sure, but it didn't affect his mission. He'd missed his chance to benefit from it and the killer remained at large. There lay the true tragedy for him.

A small comma had formed below the bullet hole on Nokama’s Kanohi Rau. It wasn’t really blood. Just ooze. Leakage. Glonor looked at her for as long as he could bear, then dropped his gaze again.

"Never forgive, never forget," he had once said.

"Do it once and do it right."

"You reap what you sow."

"Never off duty."

Empty words.




The broken Av-Matoran sat in the chair. Nobody else came. The house made its noises, oblivious. Water moved in the pipes, the window frames rattled, the broken front door creaked back and forth as it hinged in the wind. Outside the foliage hissed and the whole frozen planet shuddered and groaned.

Algor stayed in the hallway then moved to the library, contemplating what the next best course of action should be. He took one look at the cold, expressionless Matoran in front of him, now doomed to remain in an icy state more chilling than the arctic blizzard outside for all eternity.

Then he looked at Nokama’s corpse.

“Give me your communicator” ordered Glonor roughly.

The Ko-Matoran blinked. “My... my communicator?”

“Glacii took your badge and your firearm. He forgot to take your communicator.”

“What about the one strapped to your mask?”

The Iden-wearer shook his head. “This one’s set to only call Crystallus and Glacii. I want to call someone else.”

Algor frowned but surrendered his device.

“What’s the name of the Ga-Matoran cop who was guarding Nokama? The Kualsi-wearer?”

Ciancix.

“How do I call her?”

The Ko-Matoran spy began fiddling with the device then handed it back to his ally. He attached it to his audio receptor, balancing the old model on the arm of the chair.

A click. A purr.

What?” answered the cop on the other end of the line. It was definitely the correct Ga-Matoran, he recognized the spitefulness in her voice.

“Get me Ninian,” commanded Glonor.

Excuse me?

“Take off your communicator, hand it to Ninian, tell her it’s Glonor, then shut up. I don’t want to talk to you.”

There was a pause, then the sound of movement as the device was unclipped. The wind howled, silencing whatever conversation the two female cops exchanged. Finally, she spoke.

Glonor?

He didn’t answer.

Glonor? You OK?

He said nothing.

Come on, Glonor. Talk to me or hang up.

“Have you ever been hungry?” he asked, gloomily.

Hungry? Of course. Sometimes.

“I was once hungry for six months straight, back when I was in the army” he continued. “I got drafted off to some place in Po-Vacca. There was a group of Dark Hunters who just walked in and annexed one of our most important cities. It took us three years to get them out. I got there right at the beginning and stayed till their skulls were grinded into the sand. My unit and I were hungry the whole time. There was nothing to eat, no Recharging Centre, no water. But we sucked it up. It was a big operation and many of us had friends in Po-Vacca. It was bound to be a mix-up. The supply chains were always a problem. Getting supplies to soldiers in the field is risky business. Going without food or water wasn’t unheard of, so nobody made a fuss. But it was no kind of fun. I got thin. I was miserable. But I survived.”

And then?

“And then, years later, I was drafted in the Northern Continent trying to track down a deserter. The guys over there had Vacca-Nuian rations. I was bored at the time so, when we caught our guy and returned, I made it a little project to find out what had been going on. One thing led to another and I traced it all back. It turned out our logistics guy had been selling our rations the whole time while we were in that desert in Po-Vacca. You know, a little bit here, a bit there, all over the world. Xia, Metru-Nui, Stelt, Southern Continent, anyone who would pay for trash like that. He was pretty careful. Nobody noticed, but that mission caught him out. The demand for supplies for soldiers was huge and the rations just weren’t there anymore. He was sending it to us on paper, but we lay there, starving and dying in a sand dune.”

And the logistics guy?

“He was a General, a Ta-Matoran, Iolan. He’d spent most of his time as a Colonel. He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was reasonably cautious. His tracks were well covered. But I wouldn’t let it go. It was personal. My people had died because of him. I was in his records and everything. Do you know what he spent all those widgets on?”

What?

“Not much. He saved most of it for his retirement. But he bought a Kanohi Kaukau, shipped it straight in from Metru-Nui, all fancy and expensive. He thought it was some kind of timeless, traditional masterpiece. Like a collector’s item, but it’s the most useless Kanohi ever made! Something just went off in my head. I mean, starving for some kind of criminal mastermind was one thing. But doing it for some utter fool who imports a Kanohi Kaukau was something else. A complete, tasteless, clueless, sordid, pathetic little idiot.”

So you hauled him in?

“I built my case against him like the Coliseum. I was out of my mind! I checked it over, and over, and over again. I could have taken it to Supreme Military Command and had him hanged. But I decided to bring him in instead, to tell him I was upset. He appeared in shiny new armor, with his prized Kanohi. He had all kinds of busywork medals that meant nothing. He laughed at me; a kind of patronizing sneer, like he was better than me. I thought, you spent your fortune on transporting a damn Kanohi Kaukau, you cretin! Not me. So who’s better?

He paused, intent on sighing at the memory but no breath escaped from his lips.

“Then I hit him. I popped him in the gut to fold him over then I smashed his head against the desk. I broke his Mask and dented my workstation. Then I moved onto his legs. I’d crippled him long before the security guards came in and tore me off him.”

What happened?

“I broke his skull. He was comatose for six months before he woke up again and found his legs no longer worked properly. Fixing them would involve experimental medical care that just wasn’t around. Only the strength of the case saved me. They didn’t want the story getting out to the public. So I was demoted. I moved on.”

Where to?

“I don’t remember. I was too ashamed of myself. I did a bad thing, and I blew the best job I ever had. Even when I returned to the military after it had blown over I was different.”

Ninian didn’t answer.

“I got to thinking about it afterwards” grunted Glonor. “You know, why had I done it? I couldn’t answer myself, I still can’t.”

You did it for your unit, right?

“Maybe.”

You were putting the world to rights.

“Not really. I don’t want to put the world to rights. Not anymore. Maybe I should, but I don’t.”

What happened?” she asked, cautiously.

“Nothing more, really. I never found out what happened to him. I think he got shipped off to Karzahni for repairs to his legs. I don’t think he was all quite there afterwards. He never came back.”

I mean, what happened tonight?”

The Av-Matoran didn’t answer.

Tell me. I know something happened.

“How?”

You’re speaking to me.”

“I speak to you plenty.”

It’s in your voice.

“Nokama’s dead,” he grunted.

Silence for a beat.

OK, Glonor, I want you to get out of there. It’s not safe. This isn’t a game.”

“You know damn well it’s a game.”

It’s people.”

“I know its people. I’m looking at one of them right now, and the only thing stopping me from putting my gun to my head is pretending it’s a game.”

Algor’s eyes widened and he glanced at Glonor uncertainly.

You’ve got a gun?” asked the Vo-Matoran over the communicator.

“It’s been in my pack this whole. A nice old revolver. Nokama gave it to me.”

Leave it in your pack.”

Glonor didn’t respond.

Just don’t touch it, OK?

“Give me one good reason.”

“A revolver won’t necessarily get the job done. You know that. We’ve all seen it happen. You’ll end up like this Iolan-guy with a cracked skull.”

“I’ll aim carefully. Square on. I won’t miss.”

Don’t do it, Glonor!” This time there was tangible desperation in her voice.

Relax! I’m not going to shoot myself. Not my style. I’m just going to sit here until my head explodes all on its own.”

I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

It’s just that I don’t like to think of it as a game.”

“You know it’s a game. It has to be a game. That’s the only way to make it bearable.”

OK, fine, it’s a game. What are we in? The final few minutes?”

“Overtime” grunted the Av-Matoran.

So give me the play by play so far. Brief me. Bring me up to date. Like we were working together. We’re on the same team, after all.”

“I wish we were.”

We are. What have you got?”

He took a deep breath and began to tell her what had happened, right from the start. He told her about the bus, the Kraata, Glacii, Algor, Birus, Papura, the bunker, the riot, Garnax, then about Crystallus’ death and finally Nokama’s demise.

There was a long moment of hesitation before anyone spoke. Algor just stood leaning against the door frame, eyes on the floor, listening in, filling in the other half of the conversation.

Put your hand in your pack.”

“Why?”

Take out your handgun.”

“So, now it’s OK?”

More than OK. It’s necessary. The bent cop saw you.”

“When?”

The other night. When the siren went off, when you were left to guard Nokama. He had hours.”

“But he didn’t come. He was up at the prison the whole time.”

That’s the assumption. We don’t know that for sure. He could have checked in, dropped off the radio, slipped away, gone back.”

“But I still didn’t see him.”

He doesn’t know that. If he saw you, he’s going to assume you saw him. He’s going to come after you. You’re too close to this.”

“That’s a lot of assumptions.”

Glonor, think about it. What’s to stop this guy from getting away with it? He shot the Fe-Matoran, he shot Papura, Crystallus and now he’s killed Nokama. That’s four bullets from a handgun. He’s saving the fifth for you, and then he’s home free. Nobody will ever know who he was.”

“I already don’t know who he was.”

He’s not sure of that, and he’s not sure you won’t figure it out eventually. You’re his last obstacle.”

“Then why hasn’t he come for me already?”

No safe opportunity yet. That’s the only possible reason. He’s going to be cautious with you. More so than with the others. The Fe-Matoran was a bumpkin, Papura was a fool, Crystallus was a small town cop, and Nokama was a harmless retired teacher. You’re different.”

“Not so very different.”

You need to pull out. Get out of Elysium. Hole up somewhere and talk to a witness protection agency. Maybe they’ll contact the Turaga High Council and they can send a Toa to deal with this.”

“I don’t have a vehicle.”

There’s a communicator in the house. Put your communicator down and call for help. Keep your guard up till someone comes.”

He didn’t answer.

Are you going to do that? For me?”

“I doubt it.”

You weren’t responsible for all this,” sighed the Vo-Matoran. “This was inevitable. It would’ve happened even if your bus hadn’t crashed. It’s a miracle enough that you’re even here.”

“Crystallus was a nice guy,” continued the Iden-wearer, defiantly. “And a good cop, but he wanted to be a better cop. He was one of those guys who’d see enough of the world to know that he didn’t have all the answers. He stood up for himself when it counted. I liked him.”

Ninian said nothing.

“I liked Nokama too. She was a noble old Gukko.”

You need to get out of there. You’re outnumbered. Garnax won’t come alone.”

“I certainly hope he doesn’t,” chuckled Glonor darkly.”

It’s dangerous!”

“For him.”

Glonor, this isn’t your job. You’re a civilian. You can’t go getting messed up in all this.”

“I took an oath,” he countered. “Same as you did. All enemies, both foreign and domestic. Looks like we’ve got one of each here. Garnax and whoever his bent cop is.”

Please,” implored the female cop, “just go.”

“We’re too short on time.”

You’re not thinking straight. You’re punishing yourself. You can’t win them all. You don’t have to win anything!”

“I’ll tear down the Coliseum to find this guy” snarled the Matoran of Light. “And do you know why? I’m staring at a nice old Ga-Matoran with a hole in her head. She mattered more to me than being hungry, and that worked out pretty well.”

Stop looking at her.”

Glonor looked at the floor.

You can’t change the past.”

“I know.”

You can’t atone and you don’t need to anyway. That guy deserved to be in a coma, maybe forever.”

“Maybe.”

You need to get out of Metru-Nui, put as many mio between yourself and Elysium as possible.”

“No.”

Then go to Le-Metru. I have an apartment there, and friends. We can deal with this together. I can take sick leave, we can get out of here and smoke the bent cop out from a safe distance.”

Glonor uttered no response.

Don’t you want to get out of the cold?”

“Sure I do.”

Then do it now.”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

No, do it now.”

“It’s the middle of the night, Ninian.”

The Vo-Matoran paused, as if she wanted to say something but was debating whether or not to say it. He imagined her grinding her metallic teeth.

Whenever I looked into your eyes, I used to see a question in them,” she muttered, this time quieter. She was embarrassed, surrounded by the other female cops in the cruiser.

Glonor swallowed.

What was that question?” she asked.

“I wanted to know if you were married,” he grunted. Algor raised an eyebrow from the doorway.

I thought so.”

“Are you?”

There was a pause.

No.”

He looked up again. Nokama’s lifeless eyes stared back at him.

“I’ll leave tomorrow.”

He hung up.

Five minutes to two in the morning.

“Two hours to go.




Three hours into the flight, Garnax was getting tense. It was unsurprising. His life was like a simulator in a Le-Metru driving course. One thing popped up at him after another. Each thing was dealt with efficiently and comprehensively. From the most important to the least. Not that even the least important thing was trivial. He spent two thousand widgets a month alone on the containers he used to store his widgets in. There were no small problems, and plenty of big ones, and his performance was judged not only by substance, but also on style. Drama was a weakness. Especially for him.

His communicator was switched on. Normal rules while on an Airship did not apply to him. It rang and he answered it. His guy on the ground. Some fellow cop had found out too much and had been taken out. Garnax didn’t care. Collateral damage. Unimportant. Some other guy was sniffing around too, an ex-military cop. He didn’t care about that either. Not his problem.

But then, finally, the big news: the witness was dead.

The Ba-Matoran smiled.

“You just saved a life,” he sneered.

Then he hung up and made a call of his own. A direct call to his master. Makuta Dredzek. He announced the news. The last obstacle had been removed. Elysium was now definitively a trouble-free zone. The title was impenetrable. Absolutely guaranteed. The Makuta agreed to send the reward immediately. Garnax listened hard and imagined all those riches being packaged up by prisoners on the surface of Bara Magna, made ready to be delivered.

He smiled again. A done deal.

He hung up on the former Makuta of Versuva and looked out of his window. Seat 1A, the best on the whole Airship. His Airship. He looked down at Metru-Nui spread out below. Dark and massive. Strings of lights.

He checked the time. Fifty-seven more minutes. Then, once again, and as always, show time. Another challenge. Another triumph.




Glonor left the library and ventured into the bedroom. It was a small, pleasant room with a cozy smell. He could tell that many sleepless nights had been spent in it from the howling of the chilling arctic wind outside but the chamber was snug and inviting. It felt homely and softening.

The washroom had a small cabinet next to the sink. In it was a basic array of domestic cleaning items, a couple of towels, bed sheets, a few spare scraps of armor, and a dull, colorless Kanohi Pehkui – a replacement for Nokama’s Rau should it ever become damaged. There was nothing of interest there.

He backtracked to the bedroom, stopped to admire the messy covers from when Nokama had gotten up earlier that night, then tore them off and searched under the bed. He found the box of ammunition that Glacii had given her with the handguns. He was sure the Ga-Matoran wouldn’t mind. She hadn’t wanted the bullets even when she was alive.

He put the box in his pack then put the bed sheets back. Then, he went back into the hallway, walked past a confused Algor, into the library, then stood over Nokama. He moved the book away, leaned her forwards, opened her pack and pulled out her handgun. An incredibly impolite gesture, but she wouldn’t have wanted it to be found on her. It was fully loaded, hadn’t even been fired. He handed it over to the startled Ko-Matoran spy at the door then returned the deceased Ga-Matoran back to her old position and turned away, never to cast eyes on the lifeless form sprawled in the armchair again.




The cop who had killed Papura, Crystallus and Nokama sat in his cruiser and stared out the windshield. He was in his designated position on the makeshift perimeter, personally responsible for the eighth of a mile of snow on his right. Not that any escaper would use anything except the road, even in normal weather. The terrain was too flat and featureless for concealment. He’d be tracked in a minute. Going cross-country and hiding in frozen ditches didn’t happen in real life. No, all the sane fugitives would come straight down the road, strapped to the underbelly of an empty transporter.

Not that there was actually a fugitive. Garnax had been clear about that. There were all kinds of voids in the prison architecture. Ventilation shafts, underground piping conduits and access hatches for them, inspection panels. All perfectly safe, because none of the voids actually led anywhere. But useful for purposes short of a breakout. A convict could hold himself in there for ten to twelve hours.

Which would be enough.

The cop checked his weapons. Habit. Instinct. First the official piece, in the holster that was built into the thigh-armor. Then the other piece, sitting loosely at the bottom of the cop’s pack. Loaded, four bullets missing. It would be refilled after Glonor was shot.

But, then again, the eight bullets between the two firearms wouldn’t be necessary.

He only needed one.




Glonor took one last careful tour through Nokama’s house. He was fairly sure he wouldn’t be coming back to it, and there were certainly things he needed to fix in his mind. He looked at the front door, the back door, the hallway, the bedroom, the front room, the washroom, the library. It had taken somewhere between five and eight minutes, he thought, for Nokama to get as comfortable as she had looked, given that she had been starting out from a state of extreme panic. It would have taken her time to relax, even in the safe and reassuring company of a trusted figure, like a town cop.

So, allowing a minute’s margin for her protective detail to clear the area, someone had been between six and nine minutes late to the roll call at the prison.

Surely someone would remember.

Perhaps.

If there had even been a roll call.

If the guy had even gone.

Nodding to Algor, Glonor turned to leave the house. He opened the front door and stepped out once again into the cold. It crowded in on him, battered him, tormented him, frozen his very soul. But he ignored it. An act of will. He closed the door behind his new Ko-Matoran friend then walked down the driveway, made his way back through the footprints to the idling cruiser.

The drive back should have been torture. A guilty silence should have loomed over the two. The whole world should have seemed hostile and cold. The journey was all of those things, but it didn’t drag Glonor’s spirit down. He stayed vigilant all the way, right up there in a kind of hyper-focused zone that made him feel like he could draw a thousand times faster than anyone. The kind of zone that made him feel like he could mine the ore, melt the metal, draw the blueprints, cast the parts and build his own gun, all before any opponent managed to aim at him.

I’m not afraid of death.

Death’s afraid of me.

Guilt into aggression.




The police station was completely deserted apart from the civilian aide back on duty behind the reception counter. He was a tall, creaky Ko-Matoran sporting a noble Mask of Biomechanics, sitting glumly on a stool. Glonor parted ways with Algor then went to ask the desk guy if there was any news. Apparently there wasn’t. So he asked how long the department had been deployed. The lonely Ko-Matoran didn’t know. The department had no experience of such a thing. There had never been an escape before.

“There wasn’t an escape tonight” grunted the Matoran of Light. “Glidus is hiding out inside.”

“Is that your opinion?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Based on what?”

“Common sense.”

“Then I should think they’ll give it another hour or two” shrugged the desk guy. “The perimeter is a mio out. Two hours is long enough to decide whether or not the guy is already through, or maybe not coming at all.”

“Tell me how the roll call works. For the department, at the prison.”

“I do it from here. Using the radio network. I work through the list, they answer me from their cruisers using their communicators, I tick their name.”

“How did tonight go?”

“All present and correct.”

“No absences?”

“None at all.”

“Misfires? Hesitations?”

“None.”

“When did you do it?”

“I started when I first heard the siren. It takes about five minutes, beginning to end.”

“So they’re all self-certifying, right?”

The desk guy looked at him blankly. “I don’t follow.”

“You don’t really know where they are or what they’re doing. All you know is if they can answer you call or not.”

“I ask them where they are. They tell me. Either they’re in position, or close to it, and the prison staff are entitled to check.”

“How?”

“They can go up in a tower and eyeball. The land is flat. Or they can tap into our radio and call the roll themselves, if they want to.”

“Did they tap in tonight?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who was last in position tonight?”

“I can’t say. When I’m calling out names early in the alphabet, they’re all still in motion. Late alphabet, they’re all already on station.”

“So they tell you?”

“Why would I doubt them?”

“You need to call Chief Glacii” muttered Glonor, drumming his fingers on the desk. “One of those guys just killed Nokama.”




The Av-Matoran wandered round the silent station. The squad room, Glacii’s office, the holding cells, the evidence room before finally coming to a rest in the room with the crime scene photographs pinned to the walls. The Fe-Matoran, Papura. He sat facing the images of the Ba-Matoran’s corpse. He didn’t know much about him at all, but he knew enough to know the poor cop had been basically the same as Nokama. He was male, not female, a frozen road, not a warm book-lined room, but they were both half-wise, half-unworldly figures who had been lulled into a false sense of security, tricked into relaxing, their faith in justice exploited. Papura’s cruiser had been set to park and his window was rolled all the way down. That was basically the same as Nokama’s comfortable position and the book resting gently on her lap.

Understand their motives, their circumstances, their goals, their aims, their fears, their needs. Think like them. See what they see. Be them.

They had both been all the way there. Not partway, not halfway. They were completely trusting. They had opened up, literally. Doors, windows, hearts, minds. Not half worried, not half formal, not half suspicious.

It had to be a cop they both knew...

While he was brooding, Glonor heard footsteps in the corridor. Arrhythmic. The slap of one armored heal followed by the scrape of another. The Ko-Matoran from the front desk. He had a slight limp. He stuck his Kanohi round the door and peered in.

“Chief Glacii is on his way over here. He’s leaving his post. He really shouldn’t, but he is.”

The Av-Matoran nodded, said nothing.

“It’s a terrible thing that happened to Nokama,” muttered the desk guy sympathetically, like he was comforting him.

“I know.”

“Do you know who did it yet?”

“Not yet. But I will soon. Did anyone call anything up?”

“Like who?”

“A neighbor, maybe. A shot was fired.”

“Inside her house?”

“In her library.”

The seasoned old Ko-Matoran shrugged. “Houses are far apart out here. Everyone has storm windows. Most of them are triple-glazed and on a night like this all of them are shut tight.”

Glonor said nothing.

“Is it one of us?”

“Why would it be?”

“Chief Glacii called a meeting just before the siren. Can’t see any other reason for it. Can’t see any other way of doing it either. The Fe-Matoran, I mean, then Papura, then Crystallus and now Nokama. The four of them, fast and easy, just like that. It has to be one of us. And then you asked who was last in position tonight.”

Glonor smiled inwardly as he reexamined the Matoran in front of him. He was reasonably well-built for a figure in his time of life. Though he knew he was just as old as this noble Mask of Biomechanics-wearer, it was obvious that he had been worn down by the years more than the Av-Matoran had. It was as if time had eroded away at him, leaving him wrinkled and pale, physically drained but not even close to admitting that he would be dead before the century’s end.

“Were you a cop?” he asked the shriveled Matoran.

“I was the first Police Chief this department had.”

“Then I’m sorry.”

“I’d like to get the hands on the guy.”

“You spoke to him tonight at some point. Either just before he did it, or just after.”

“They all sounded normal to me.”

“Do you know them well?”

“Not the new guys.”

“Was anybody particularly close to Nokama?”

“A lot of them were. She’s a fixture.”

He cringed.

Was a fixture,” he muttered reluctantly.




Seven mio up and four-hundred East Garnax’s communicator vibrated once again. The money that Makuta Dredzek had supplied him with was hammering its way around the Matoran Universe. From one bank to another, shady and untraceable. The deposit had hit a screen somewhere in Xia and tripped a code that meant the account holder should be notified. So the clerk who saw it dialed a number, that bounced around three separate call-forwarding triggers before ringing out inside the Airship high above Ta-Metru.

Garnax answered and listened without comment. He was already the richest Matoran he had ever met. If he pulled this off he always would be. He was Garnax, and his competitors weren’t. Not the police, not the army, not the Toa, not the Brotherhood of Makuta, not anybody .




The Xian bank clerk hung up on his client and began dialing another number. He didn’t recognize the region code on this one. It was a lot longer than the numbers he was used to calling so it took him considerably longer to dial then check over thoroughly. After a full minute of examining the communicator number he was dialing, he made the call. It was after two in the morning but there was no hesitation. He was answered immediately by his client.

“I told him the money was in his account,” muttered the clerk brightly.

Good,” grated the speaker. “Now reverse the transaction.

The young clerk hadn’t heard much about this customer. He was no stranger to the ways of the Matoran Universe’s Elite, but there was something deeply off-putting about his patron’s voice. The response had sounded like a rock being scraped into pebbles. It was devilish and iniquitous, almost foul and barely recognizable over the crackling of the line.

But many of his consumers liked their anonymity. Clearly this was a figure of some standing who would be deeply insulted if he was asked to repeat himself or was delayed. So the Vortixx scrolled down the screen of his personal data hub and clicked on an icon.

“Done,” he stated pleasantly. “Have a good evening.”

The client hung up without thanking him.




Two in the morning in the Matoran Universe did not necessarily correspond to the time on the shattered surface of Bara Magna. Agori and Matoran had used the same time scale throughout their existence, however a cataclysmic event known as The Shattering had altered the length of a day on the fractured world, knocking it out of its original orbit.

Whilst the Matoran Universe operated on a single universal time zone, the Bara Magnan wastelands did not. In the scorched remains of Vulcanus it was roughly eight in the evening, though the sulphuric gases which poisoned the air blocked out all daylight, leaving the decimated settlement in perpetual gloom. As far as the eye could see, the dwellers of the diseased world were retreating to their dwellings. Rahkshi squadrons, fleets of Exo-Toa, hordes of Visorak, and Brotherhood servants of all shapes, colors and sizes were preparing to retire to whatever shabby, gangrenous shelters they called their homes.

Makuta Dredzek observed the scene as he unclipped the communicator from his Kanohi Salek and handed it to one of his servants -- a red-and-blue-armored Agori prisoner named Cromata. The slave bowed obediently then scuttled away into the depths of the Makuta’s makeshift quarters.

The domicile had, at one point, been a temporary measure. When the Brotherhood of Makuta had invaded Bara Magna several centuries ago, there had been some form of festival at Atero. Hundreds of tents had been pitched in the outskirts of the village for spectators to watch the tournament from. This particular tent had been owned by the leader of the Jungle Tribe. It was grand and spacious enough to serve Dredzek’s intended purpose for it.

A watchpoint for him to watch the world be laid to waste.

The surface of Bara Magna had changed dramatically since the arrival of the Brotherhood of Makuta and the horrors of the war that they had carried along with them were reflected in the eyes of the Agori and Glatorian whom they had taken prisoner. Corpses of fallen warriors still littered the streets of Atero, which had been renamed New Destral and now served as the heart of their empire. Several new buildings had been added more recently and there were signs of future construction: scaffolding, lifting equipment, and a great pile of salt that was to be thrown into the Tesara water supply to be mixed with sand to make bricks.

It was hard to believe that so much had been accomplished in just 1,000 years, and harder still to swallow the fact that much of this construction had been the work of a single Toa of Air, Leontes.

Curtly, Cromata returned to the Makuta’s side with the communicator in hand. Dredzek snatched the device off of his slave then dialed the next pawn in his game: the two Cult of Darkness servants in Garnax’s Airship.

There was a pause before one of the Matoran answered. It was the Su-Matoran, Varis. The roar of the Airship crackled over the communicator line. He’d had to scurry away from his seat to find somewhere to accept the call.

Garnax is one hour out of Elysium,” stated the Matoran of Plasma confidently.

“I know,” grated Dredzek idly.

We want fifteen percent.

The disgraced Makuta went quiet for a moment. He pretended to be annoyed. He had promised the two Matoran operatives ten percent. A ninety-ten split was what had been discussed previously, but privately he had budgeted for eighty-twenty. He’d only aimed to acquire eighty percent of the shattered Matoran Universe. Eighty-five percent was an added bonus. A free gift from a greedy bounty hunter. Varis was a shallow, unambitious Matoran. Limited in every way. That was probably why he was selling his talents outside of the law instead of being a General in some useless army.

“You drive a hard bargain,” taunted the Makuta.

Take it or leave it.

“You make it sound like I don’t have a choice.”

You don’t.

A long silence, purely for effect. The Makuta almost smiled.

“OK,” he grunted in the end. “You get fifteen percent. I didn’t want Stelt anyway.”

Thank you,” replied the assassin.

Dredzek hung up. This time he kept ahold of his communicator and gave Cromata a sharp kick in the rear as he approached. The Agori barely grunted anymore, not since his Makuta master had started making changes to his armor. Purely for his own entertainment, Dredzek had stolen his servant’s helmet and replaced it with a crimson Kanohi Crast.

There was something abnormally strange about the fortress-city, which stood on its own, surrounded by sand, like some kind of horrible mirage. First, there was the outer wall, not high but several meters thick with battlement all the way round and solid grey towers rising up much further at each corner. These were punctured by narrow, slot-like windows, making it easy to look out but impossible to look in. The only entrance was through an arched gateway with two huge gates made of whole tree trunks bound with steel.

Inside the fortress was like an army barracks with a dozen buildings neatly laid out around a central wall. Water, of course, was everything in the desert, even to Rahkshi. The Brotherhood’s legions could hold up for months – living, sleeping, exercising and expanding, hardly aware of the world outside, of the smoke that polluted the sky above them, of the thousands of Agori whose corpses littered the sands, even to Dredzek’s feeble little tent, flapping in the nighttime breeze.

He was, of course, the only Makuta who didn’t have some form of residency in New Destral. He never entered the fortress. The others of his kind thought him dead. For decades he had resided in this very tent, shielded from the sunlight and planning his revenge.

One thousand and three years ago, Dredzek had made a fatal mistake. He’d led a squadron of Visorak into the Northern region of Bara Magna, chasing after local rumors of a lost city and volcanic activity. His quest had enjoyed no success, though a surprise ambush from the beings now identified as Skrall had not aided him in completing his mission. Explosive Thornax fruits had torn through his ranks and even pierced Dredzek’s armor. Given no other option but to inhabit the body of a nearby Visorak Boggorak, the Makuta had been forced to beat a retreat.

He’d never been able to soften the shame of returning to New Destral on four legs.

But no more. His self-inflicted exile had not been without cause. Even from his tiny green tent he’d been able to formulate a plan to bring the enemies of the Brotherhood to their knees. Whilst Antroz and Icarax threw rocks at the feet of the Matoran Universe, he was orchestrating a plot to destroy the Matoran from the inside.

And his plan was nearing its final stages of development.

When he was convinced that he’d given Varis enough time to return to his seat, Dredzek dialed a different number. This was his final action of the evening. After this message went out the situation was out of his clawed hands.

There was a routine to be followed in this situation. It had never before been employed, but it had been rehearsed often enough and thoroughly.




Seven mio above Le-Metru, three rows behind Garnax, in seat 4A, a silent communicator vibrated once in the cavity of one of the assassin’s leg armor. He was Varis’ associate, an unidentifiable Matoran sporting a strange Kanohi and silver armor. The incoming message was a solid mechanical thrill against the muscle of his thigh.

The fifth of the six disposable bounty hunters pulled out the communicator and checked the screen. He was the one Garnax had looked over twice, the competent one. He showed the message to his Su-Matoran associate in the next seat, who was the sixth of the six, and who was still shaking from his conversation with their employer.

Both Matoran nodded. Neither spoke. Neither even smiled. They were both far too tense.

The message said: Do it.




A minute later, Glonor hear Chief Glacii’s cruiser in the frozen stillness. The low mutter of its engine shattered the unbroken motionlessness, as did the soft crunch of its tires on the ice. Then the sigh and the silence as it shut down followed by the creak and slam of the door and the sound of Glacii’s feet on the snow. He heard the lobby door open and imagined that he could feel a pulse of cold air coming in from the lot.

He heard the Ko-Matoran’s steps echoing down the corridor until he finally arrived and filled the doorway, stooped, bent, defeated, like he was right at the end of something.

“Are you sure?” asked the Chief.

“No doubt about it.”

“Because sometimes they can still be alive.”

“Not this time, Glacii.”

“Should we check?”

“No point.”

“What was it?”

“Bullet between the eyes, square in the center of her forehead. Same as the others.”

“Any evidence left behind?”

“Nothing.”

“So we’re no closer,” sighed the Ko-Matoran. “We still don’t have a clue who it is.”

Glonor nodded solemnly.

“But I know how to find out.”

Chapter 19 - The Veil Rises

“It’s going to snow again soon,” remarked Glacii icily. “The runway is going to get covered again and the Kraata Purge goons aren’t there to plough it anymore. Weather is unpredictable, therefore time is tight. Therefore Garnax must be on his way, probably right now. Because he needs to get all that treasure out before he turns the place into a Rahkshi Factory.”

“He’s probably going to double-cross his employer, as well,” grunted Glonor. “He has the Rahkshi, but it’s his choice whether or not he uses them to get the Makuta back into our universe.”

“Plus he has a big Airship,” added Algor with a simple shrug. He wasn’t quite on the same wavelength as his colleagues. “So my guess is he told the bent cop to be there to help load all that Dark Hunter loot.”

“So our guy will pull off of the perimeter at some point and head up there,” beamed Glonor, his hand clenching into a fist and his eyes widening in wonder. “We can catch him red handed. All we have to do is get there before he does. We’ll hide out, waiting for him to show up and the guy will practically just walk into our arms!”

“You think?” Glacii remained skeptical.

“For certain.”

“We could be waiting for hours.”

The Av-Matoran shook his head. “I doubt it. Garnax needs to get in and get out. He can’t afford to get trapped in Elysium because of another snowstorm. Otherwise it’ll just be a big Airship on the ground, no proper facilities; he could be stuck until this storm passes.”

“What kind of help would he need anyway?”

“He’ll probably bring people with him,” bristled the Police Chief. “It’s just a case of walking up and down that staircase.”

“You don’t buy a Dermis Turtle only to fetch the newspaper yourself,” shrugged Algor. “That’s all these guys’ll be.”

“You sure?” asked Glacii.

“They’re going to land a big Airship in the middle of nowhere. Someone might hear it. Anything could happen. It’s always useful to have a local cop in your arsenal.”

“We’d still have to sit it out undercover,” grimaced the aged Ko-Matoran. “It’s very cold.”

Cold?” laughed Glonor. “This is nothing. Show some Ko-Matoran pride, Glacii.”

The Police Chief thought about it for a minute. The Av-Matoran watched him carefully. Glacii’s mouth worked silently and his eyes danced left and right. He started out reluctant, and then he got right into it.

“OK,” he nodded. “Let’s do it.”

Five minutes to three in the morning.

One hour to go.




The three Matoran piled into Glacii’s cruiser in the Police Station’s parking lot, three fresh firearms between them from the armory. Nobody spoke. The Ko-Matoran fired the engine up, swung out, and rolled north. His unmarked cruiser was still warm inside. The road were still frozen and empty. The middle of the night, in the middle of Ko-Metru, in the middle of nowhere. Nothing was moving except the wind. They passed the end of Nokama’s street. It was deserted.

The Police Chief was sitting close to the wheel, belted into his seat, his padded armor stiff and awkward against him. His eyes were on the patch of road directly ahead of them yet they seemed to be charging onwards. Perhaps this was the fastest vehicle that Glonor had ever been inside of. The scene inside was certainly the most atmospheric with the old warhorse in the driver’s seat, preparing himself both physically and mentally for his final bout. The dark cruiser rolled onward through the night, like a stealthy Shallows Cat leaving its lair. Like a big black submarine slipping its mooring and gliding out into icy water.

Algor sat perched on the edge of the rear passenger seat, a G43 Assault Rifle on his lap. He had experience with guns. The barrel was angled towards the rear passenger door. He very much resembled a somber-faced General whom Glonor had once worked with. He was readying himself to dive into action, following the Av-Matoran’s lead. Like Glacii, he was all business.

Glonor was sprawled in the passenger seat. He reclined it backwards and made himself comfortable. He liked to keep a level head in situations like this and finding a good sitting position was vital. Otherwise he wouldn’t get the desired effect of hurtling towards his final destination.

The ruts in the road were worn and wizened by the cold. The front wheels hopped left and right. The chains on the back whirred and clattered. The two moons of the Matoran Universe marking the all-seeing eyes of Mata Nui were high in the impossible upper atmosphere, close to full; pale and wan. It was the first time he’d seen a patch of the clear night sky in days, even if he was admiring it from behind thin tattered ribbons of frozen clouds.

“How long are you guys supposed to stay deployed on the perimeter?” asked Glonor.

“There’s no set time,” shrugged Glacii. “It’ll be a gut call by the warden up at the prison.”

“Best guess?”

“Maybe another hour.”

“So any cop we see before then is our guy?”

“If we see one at all.”

“I think we will,” chuckled Glonor with a cruel grin.





They made the turn off the highway, onto the eastern country lane. Not fast, not slow. Wind and ice in the air. Then they turned again onto the narrow, wandering stretch, eight mio long. Then the runway loomed up, spectacular as always, imposing, massive, wide, flat, infinitely long in the headlight beams, still clear and dry.

Glacii didn’t slow down. He just thumped straight up on the moonlit concrete and held his speed. There was nothing but grey darkness ahead. No lights. No activity. Nothing moving. Nobody there. The wooden huts looked black in the distance, and behind them loomed the stone building, larger and blacker still.

Two hundred bio out, Glacii took his foot off the pedal and the vehicle coasted. He was still upright, still close to the wheel, still pinned down by his seat belt, still trapped beneath his thick padded armor.

“Where should I park?” he asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” shrugged Glonor. He was still sprawled out, no seat belt, his hands resting limply by his sides, his eyes closed as if he were sunbathing in Po-Metru.

“We should hide,” argued Algor, his voice weaseling its way through from the rear. “If we don’t then the guy will see us when he comes.”

He’s already here,” stated Glonor, his twisted smile unwavering.

“What?”

“He just drove in.”

The cruiser rolled onwards and slowed before coming to a stop thirty bio from the first line of huts. Glacii kept his foot on the floor. Not on the brake. The lever was still in gear. The engine’s idle speed was not enough to push past the resistance of the snow chains. The whole vehicle just hung there, trembling a little, not quite moving, not quite inert, right on the cusp.

“How long have you known?” sighed Glacii heavily, Glonor’s chilling statement still hanging in the tense air.

“For sure?” Glonor shrugged. “About three minutes. Beyond a reasonable doubt? About thirty minutes. Retrospectively? About thirty-one hours. But back then I didn’t know that I knew.”

Algor’s eyes widened in utter disbelief from the rear seat.

“Something I said?” grunted the Police Chief guardedly.

“Stuff you didn’t say. Stuff you didn’t do.”

“Like what?”

“Most recently you didn’t slow down or kill the headlights when we hit the runway. The guy could have been here already. But you knew he wasn’t, so you just blundered in here confidently. Because you’re the bent cop, Glacii.

The Ko-Matoran shook his head. “You’re wrong.”

“I’m afraid not,” sighed Glonor. “Believe me, I would like to be. But, we spent an hour underground earlier tonight, and the first thing you should’ve done when we got back to the surface was call Ninian or Ciancix to make sure nobody had made a move on Nokama’s house. But you didn’t. I had to remind you. Turned out she was OK, because the guy hadn’t gotten to her during that hour. And you knew that in advance, because you’re the guy. Which is why you didn’t think to call. You should have faked it better.”

Glacii said nothing.

“Only a few hours ago I was sat in the passenger seat of Algor’s transporter. I know it’s a terribly distracting thing to do but I started up a conversation about how he applied here. Maybe I thought this was as good a place to settle as any if I ever took up residency. He told me that he’d stuffed up the interview. He told you that he’d had no previous experience in law enforcement and he barely said a word the whole time? Why would you hire him?”

Glacii said nothing.

“For the same reason you hired all these new guys. All those Kohlii-headed rejects like Birus. All these incompetent new guys. You wanted to fill the department up with Matoran who you knew wouldn’t be able to foil your plan, who didn’t stand a chance of uncovering any evidence that could be used against you.”

Glacii said nothing.

“I had a conversation with Crystallus last night,” continued the Av-Matoran harshly. “He came over when he thought the head count at the jail was going to come up one short. We were worried. We were tense. He took me to one side and asked me, was I armed? I told him I was and that Nokama was too. Obvious questions, in a situation like that. You didn’t ask those questions. You should have.”

“Maybe I assumed. I knew Nokama had a revolver in her house. She asked me about firearm maintenance.”

“I know that’s not true. Where do you think I got my revolver from?”

Glacii said nothing.

“That’s right, she actually had the stones to tell somebody about those guns you gave her. I’ll bet you didn’t expect that. Chances are, you gave them to her to win over her trust, to rule yourself out of the equation. Maybe you were afraid someone would launch an investigation one day. If the guns were found in her house you’d look like a hero. You should’ve made absolutely sure that those revolvers were still in their box tonight. Anyone would have done that. Anyone except a guy who knew beforehand that they weren’t going to be needed.”

Glacii said nothing.

Glonor continued, “Right back at the beginning, Crystallus and I found you confronting those bikers on the street. But you weren’t really confronting them, were you? You were listening to them. You were getting your next set of instructions or a status report about the War Bunker. A regular ten-minute lecture. Garnax had decided that all the witnesses had to be killed. Maybe they were passing on the message. But then you heard Crystallus’ cruiser behind you and panicked. You threw down your gun in the snow, just to give yourself a reason for standing there for so long. Then you shoved one of them and started a fight. All staged, for mine and Crystallus’ benefit. You were never in any danger. The Kraata may have been real, but those Matoran weren’t dead. They just played along. Your cruiser had been properly parked for a good twenty minutes.”

Glacii said nothing.

“And that thing about rolling the dice? No way could they have avoided random checks so long, unless you were calling them up and tipping them off. You were all working for the same guy, which is also why you let them leave town without a word. Small town rules?”

Glacii said nothing.

“Then, much later, Crystallus and I put you on the spot. We showed up right here at the bunker just when you thought it was safe to come and get the key out of the stove. You knew where it was, but you hadn’t seen it. You’d only been told. You’d gone there to set things up but then we all decided to go downstairs together. Because you couldn’t think of a convincing way of stopping that from happening. And so Crystallus obviously saw stuff he was going to react to. So you put that trash on the radio network so that when you killed him straight afterwards there would be sixty other suspects in the frame and not just you. And then you lied to me about Birus. You tried to point me in the wrong direction. Algor told me about Birus’ record, and that said he’d had a posting in another part of Ko-Metru a few years ago. It also said that he quit for no apparent reason. I asked you the same question before you sent me to comfort Lagira and you told me he’d gotten in trouble with stolen money on Stelt.”

“I could have killed Crystallus here,” grunted Glacii, shaking his head. “At the time. Underground.”

“True, but not me too. You knew that. You’re scared of me, and rightly so. You checked up on my army record. You saw everything that I’d done. You got a taster of the kinds of Matoran I killed, the kind of cases I once handled. You knew that all the witnesses were one thing, and you knew that I was another thing entirely. They were easy. You waited on the road, put your lights on and waved two of them down. They stopped right there. Why wouldn’t they? They all knew you and Crystallus would follow you anywhere. Nokama was probably thrilled to see you coming up her driveway right up until you pulled your gun out on her.”

Glacii said nothing.

“Four case shells. Two of them right inside this vehicle, one in an alleyway, and the fourth picked up off of Nokama’s floor. I’m guessing you dumped them all in the trash cans right outside the Police Station. Should I call the old guy at the desk and ask him to have a look around?”

Glacii said nothing.

“I’m guessing the fifth round is chambered right now. My round. It’ll be in some kind of an old thrown-down revolver that some Matoran probably smuggled over here from Xia. Maybe it’s lost property. Maybe it’s evidence from a cold case. Want to empty your pack and prove me wrong?”

Glacii said nothing.

Glonor’s smile deepened. “But my round is going to stay right there in the chamber. Because I’m not like the other four. You knew that. You sensed it, maybe, then confirmed your suspicions by looking at my military service record. You were shocked when you found out what you were up against, as you should be, but you’d calmed down by the time I called you. You were willing to forget about the incident the previous night and started sucking up to me, trying to convince me to rule you out of my suspicions. I notice things. You’ve been trying to get to me for past three hours. Dragging me here, dragging me there, always talking to me, always trying to figure out how much I knew, always biding your time, waiting for your big moment. Like right now. Back at the Station you were debating with yourself. You didn’t want to bring me here and then you did bring me. You thought you were going to get your final chance here. But it hasn’t happened and it never will. You’re a smart guy and an unprecedentedly good marksman, Glacii, but I’m smarter and better. Believe me. Deep down you’re just a worn out little Archives Mole that can’t dig tunnels anymore. You can’t compete. Like right now. You’re all padded up and belted in, and I’m not. I could shoot your eyes out before you even got your hand on your handgun. It’s been that way for the last three hours. Not because I really knew yet. But because that’s just the way I am.”

Glacii said nothing.

“But I should have known.” The Av-Matoran hung his head for a moment. “I should have known thirty-one hours ago. The first time the siren went off. It was staring me in the mask. I couldn’t understand how the guy had seen me without me seeing him. And I knew he would have to show up by transporter, on the street, from the front because of the cold. And he would have done exactly that. But, because of me, he didn’t have to. I was speaking to you on the communicator when the siren went off. You knew I was in position. I’m sure Garnax was upset about that. He was probably very impatient. But you did the job for him in the end.”

Glacii said nothing.

“It was sheer chance that Algor ended up in your place. The guy should’ve just walked right up the porch, bold as brass, a while after everyone else left. Algor came purely to guard Nokama. When you brought the whole gang back to check on her yourself you knew there were too many loose ends. You saw your chance to shift suspicion by pegging it all on Algor. You overreacted. You fired him. A random, spontaneous opportunity which you took advantage of.”

Glacii said nothing.

“And just now, at the Headquarters. Coming here was clearly the best course of action, the only way to catch the guy but you don’t want us sniffing around here. You needed time to think. So you pondered, all conflicted. Or at least Algor and I thought you were conflicted between your duty as the Chief to make sure everything was running smoothly up at the prison and your duty as a cop to get to the bottom of this mess. But really, you were trying to decide how much I knew. You probably wanted to know for sure that I was armed too, and if so, whether or not you could draw faster than me. You concluded that I did, and that you couldn’t. So eventually we left and now we’re here, at the end of the road. You’d hoped to make your move here, dependent upon my ignorance, of course. You were going to shoot me in the audio receptor then turn around and shoot at Algor, hoping he’d still be in shock or fumbling around in the back with his weapon.”

Glacii said nothing.

“Please,” winced Algor. “Chief… tell me any of that is wrong.”

Even to his fellow Ko-Matoran Glacii said nothing. He just sat still for a moment longer. Then he took his foot off the floor and stamped hard on the accelerator pedal.

The transporter bolted forward. Dry concrete under the rubber wheels, a heavy-duty industrial engine, plenty of torque, serious suspension, not much squat, a fast rear axle, good for zero-to-sixty in eight seconds.
Glonor was hurled back against the seat. The firearm shot out of Algor’s hands as he was jolted. They were thirty yards from the side of the first hut. Twenty bio. That was all. The headlights blazed against it. It filled the windshield. It was coming right at them. The engine roared.

After thirty of the ninety feet Glonor had the revolver out in the open. After sixty he had its muzzle jammed hard into Glacii’s audio receptor. Before they hit he had his left hand hooked over Glacii’s seat back, his arm rigid, his shoulder locked. The front end of the cruiser punched straight through the wooden siding. The windshield shattered. The front wheels kicked up on the hut floor and the whole vehicle went airborne. The front bumper hit a bed frame and smacked it like a Kolhii ball, driving it into the metal stove. The heater tore out from under the pipe connection and clanged away like a barrel.
The cruiser fell to earth and ploughed on, hitting the bed again and again, smashing it into the next bed across the aisle. The header rail above the windshield hit the unmoored stovepipe and bent it with a shriek, scraping the length of the vehicle’s roof.
They were all the way inside the hut, still moving fast, the chains on the back thrashing and grinding against the wooden floor. Glonor took a swipe at Glacii’s knee, forcing his foot off the pedal. The transporter crushed beds two deep against the far wall and punched out the other side, landing hard in the moonlight. It came to a rest nose down half in and half out of the hut in a tangle of bent iron frames and tumbling plywood sheets. Both headlights were out; all kinds of grinding and rattling coming from under the hood. The stressed components wheezed and ticked, dust and splinters all around and frigid air poured in through the shattered front glass like liquid.

The revolver’s muzzle was still pressed hard against Glacii’s audio receptor.

Algor was picking himself out of the rear passenger legroom. Glonor was still upright in his seat, still braced easily against the back of the driver’s chair. Glacii’s chest was bleeding from being hit by the steering wheel but he looked completely unfazed.

“I told you, Glacii,” bristled Glonor darkly. “You can’t compete.”

Glacii said nothing.

“You damaged the cruiser,” remarked Algor bitterly. “How are we going to get back to town now?”

“What are you going to do with me now?” grunted Glacii.

“Let’s take a walk,” ordered the former Military Cop, his expression deathly serious. “Keep your hands where I can see them.”

I’ll have plenty of time to read,” Nokama had said, “after all this is over.

You reap what you sow.




They climbed out of the wrecked cruiser into the cold and the wind then stepped away into the narrow lane that separated the first row of huts from the second. Glacii walked ahead with Glonor and Algor following around five bio behind, their weapons held low and easy.

“Tell us about Garnax,” commanded Algor frostily.

The disgraced Police Chief stopped and turned around to address them, his eyes half closed with boredom.
“I never met him. It was all done over communicators, or through the bikers.”

“Is he as bad as he sounds?”

“Worse.”

“What’s supposed to happen tonight?”

“Like Glonor figured,” shrugged Glacii. “He’s going to take all the Dark Hunter treasure out and start making Rahkshi. He storms Metru-Nui, overwhelms our defenses, takes the island by surprise and opens the gates for the Brotherhood of Makuta to get back in. He sells Metru-Nui to them for, he makes an astronomical profit.”

“And you were supposed to help?” grunted the Matoran of Light, bluntly.

“I was supposed to be here, yes. I have some equipment for him, and the key to the – ”

At what could have been the most awkward moment in history, Glacii’s communicator began to vibrate. The Ko-Matoran sighed and glanced at his captors. He read their faces and nodded to the unspoken command. The communicator was unclipped from his Kanohi and he threw it to Glonor, who caught it in his left hand. Removing his own communicator and placing Glacii’s model over his Kanohi was uncomfortable enough even without the revolver in his hand, but he managed to connect the whole thing up in the end. He pressed the button and accepted the call.

“Yes?” he asked curtly.

Glacii?” It was practically a yell but the Av-Matoran still recognized the voice. It was a bad connection and there was a lot of background noise, but it was most definitely Garnax. He still sounded raspy when he spoke, like he had something permanently lodged in his throat, just like he had all those years ago when Glonor shot him and pushed him off the cliff edge.

“Yes.”

Have you killed the hitchhiker yet?

It took Glonor a moment longer than it should have to realize Garnax was talking about him.

“Yes. He’s dead.”

There was a pause, like the Ba-Matoran had been anticipating further delay on Glacii’s part.

Good. We’re twenty minutes out. We need those landing lights. Do it now.

The connection went dead.

“Garnax is fifteen minutes out,” repeated the Matoran of Light idly glaring deep into the Ko-Matoran’s eyes. He looked straight back, ignoring Algor.
It would be so easy to just raise the barrel a fraction, pull the trigger and shoot the Pakari Nuva-wearer between the eyes. The weapon would kick gently in his hand and the sound would be the same as any revolver could possibly sound outdoors in quiet cold air. There would be a fractured, splintering crack that would roll away across the flat land and fade fast with nothing to bounce off of. Glacii would go down with a loud rustle of heavy armor. The stiffness of his armor would pitch him sideways and leave him lying on one shoulder, his Kanohi turned up towards the two full moons in the night sky. Thirty-eight hundredths of an inch larger was mathematically larger than nine millimeters, so the third eye that would form in Glacii’s head would be slightly larger than the one he’d placed between Nokama’s eyes.

“Back in the universe that I come from, Nokama became a Toa,” snarled Glonor. “1,000 years ago she led the Toa Metru in a battle against Makuta Teridax for the Matoran. Of course, you would’ve been locked up in a Canister. She saved your life, and I’ll bet she did it in a thousand, million other universes.”

“I’ve never heard of Makuta Teridax,” sighed the Ko-Matoran.

“Oh, I know that. He doesn’t exist in this reality. But there’s always evil in the world. There are always monsters under the bed, creatures of the night inciting terror in the hearts of Matoran. And while this universe might not have a Teridax, it certainly seems to have given him a viable replacement.”

Glacii’s eyes shifted to the ground for a long moment before a dangerous spark of anger flared up behind his half-closed eyelids.
Neither Glonor nor Algor had anticipated such a fatigued Matoran in his time of life to have moved so swiftly. His entire upper body drooped down, ducking the bullet that fired from Glonor’s firearm with speed that could rival a Kanohi Kakama-bearer.

The next thing either of them knew, he was running towards them, delivering a brutal swipe that caught Algor directly in the jaw. The startled Ko-Matoran’s Kanohi Kiril cracked like a brittle piece of pottery and his weapon fell to the ground.

Kicking the Secret Service Agent aside, Glacii stood firm and glared at Glonor with eyes as defiant as those of an Artahka Bull. His hulking chest was no longer bleeding. Now it looked like somebody else’s blood caked his armor. The Av-Matoran had to think twice.

“You’re not far off from the truth,” snarled the Ko-Matoran, his voice not as menacing as Glonor had anticipated. “You know pretty much exactly what I did. You misjudged me from the start. You have no idea who you’re up against.”

“And who would that be, jerk?” grunted Algor from the floor. The punch had damaged some organic part of his face and blood trickled from the crack in his mouthpiece.

“My name is Glacii,” answered the Ko-Matoran. “31,800 years ago I served as the Commander in Chief of the Metru-Nui Military, a five-star General. I led Metru-Nui into battle against the League of Six Kingdoms and during the Matoran Civil War. I served time in the field fighting on the Southern Continent, Artidax, Zakaz and, as a matter of fact, Vacca-Nui.”

The Av-Matoran’s blood froze.

“So don’t you tell me you’ve got anything on me. I’ve been through everything you have, maybe even more. You think I’m old and muddled? You thought I was weak and at the end of my rope?”
Glacii’s eyes narrowed.
“I crawled out of a crashed Airship while serving in Vacca-Nui. I was on fire. I struggled for my life. The whole reason we’re in this mess is because you didn’t kill Garnax when you had the chance all those years ago. If you hadn’t messed up then none of us would be in this mess. Look to your own faults before you extend the blame to anyone else, Av-Matoran.”

The Matoran of Ice turned to Algor. “And you. Don’t act like you’re any more virtuous. The only reason you’re here is because you want to protect your paycheck. You don’t care about the citizens of Elysium. Just like Garnax you came here to make a profit. You’d blow up the whole damn town if it meant you didn’t have to think of a way around the murder of these Matoran.”

“And you’re any different, murderer?” bridled the spy, his voice rasping from the crack in his Kanohi.

A low grown emanated from Glacii’s throat as he turned his attention to Algor.

Over the course of the next few seconds, the balance of power switched completely. The two Ko-Matoran threw themselves at each other for perhaps the briefest skirmish witnessed in Matoran history.
Algor came at his opponent, springing right off the ground with his fist in the air. He had a big chest but short arms. The Police Chief arched around the punch, letting his enemy’s momentum drag Algor away. When he regained his balance, the Kiril-wearer came back at Glacii.
The seasoned Ko-Matoran swatted his hand away then tapped Algor in the chest with his elbow. It was a soft blow, just to stop the Matoran Universe’s worst Secret Service agent from skittering all over the place.

Compensating, Algor put all his weight on his back foot and lined up a straight drive aimed at his rival’s Kanohi, intent on evening the number of half-broken masks. It was going to be a big punch, one that could potentially leave Glacii unconscious if it had landed. But before he let it go, his foe stepped forward and slammed his right left heel into Algor’s right kneecap.
The knee was a fragile joint, any Po-Matoran Kolhii player could tell you that. There was a loud crunch of armor being dented, audible over the roaring of the wind. The leg folded and Algor fell to the tarmac like he’d been machine-gunned.

The limb was messed up. Walking would be painful on the fractured bone, but it would be manageable. The torn circuits would need repairing with surgical equipment but Glacii hadn’t disabled his opponent. The blow had been backed off to maybe a quarter of what the Police Chief was fully capable of. There was no need for him to land his ally in a hospital, after all.

The bullet that Glonor fired had been aimed square at Glacii’s head when he’d sensed the kick was about to happen. It had just been a matter of pulling the trigger and would have killed the Matoran instantly.

But he’d hesitated and missed his opportunity for a headshot. Instead, the bullet had exploded out of the revolver’s barrel a fraction of a second too late. The gunshot was a supersonic crack that tore through the rising gale. Glacii might have gone down like a puppet with its strings cut in that moment.

But he wasn’t in the same place when the bullet struck him. It caught his left arm, tearing a piece of armor off just beneath his shoulder, burning an orange hole right through it. The plating flew off, bouncing along the tarmac until it finally came to a rest twenty bio away.

A small piece of paper fluttered in the wind, like an insect Rahi with a broken wing. It danced and twisted, dodging the air currents and scraping against the ground near Glonor’s foot.

It was the picture of Glacii’s wife.

The Av-Matoran and the Police Chief stayed quiet for a long moment. Algor didn’t. He was too busy screaming in agony, writhing around on the runway, trying to get his knee into a position where it would stop killing him. He was going to have to wait for surgery before he got any pain relief.

“You know why, right?” asked the Pakari Nuva-wearer, his voice thick with self-effacement. “My motive?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I finally figured it out. I saw the photograph of you and your wife in your office; the Ga-Matoran wearing a Mask of Possibilities. I guess she was also the Vo-Matoran who the bikers were keeping in the huts. They must’ve taken her armor and Kanohi off and disguised her. It threw me off, stopped me making the connection, but I got there in the end. Your wife never died. She was abducted by the Kraata Purge and the only way for you to get her back was by doing Garnax’s bidding.”

Glacii looked deep into his eyes, his face grave. “Then you understand why I had to do it?”

Glonor’s finger tightened on the trigger of his revolver. “She was never a prisoner. They only made a half-hearted attempt at hiding her.”

“Doesn’t make her any less vulnerable,” retorted the Ko-Matoran with a snarl.

“No excuse. There were other ways of dealing with it.”

“Like what?!” roared the Police Chief, his nostrils flaring. “By writing an angry letter to the Turaga High Council? By sending the Toa Metru a message strapped to an Ice Bat’s leg? If you think things work like that they you’re a fool, Glonor.”

The Av-Matoran said nothing.

This was a classic stalemate. No matter who was right and who was wrong, that was all that mattered. Both of their lives were hanging on the line, and that was not beneficial.

The Iden-wearer lowered his gaze then sighed and bent over to place his revolver on the ground. He kicked it aside, roughly four bio out of his reach.

“You’re right, Glacii,” he grunted. “What Garnax did to you and your wife was unforgivable. It’s a true tragedy that no husband should ever have to experience, but there are ways around killing your friends for criminals”

“And what’re those?”

A sly smile crept its way onto Glonor’s Kanohi.
By killing the criminals.

Glacii stared at him.

The Iden-wearer scanned his surroundings. As far as Garnax was concerned only Glacii would be waiting for him. There was absolutely no possibility of an ambush in his head. All systems were ready for launch.

And all that stood in his way was an Av-Matoran, an old Police Chief with a missing wife, and a guy who couldn’t stand up.

He glanced from Glacii’s fiery eyes, to the War Bunker, to the huts, to the cruiser, to Algor’s broken Kanohi, to the runway. All pieces of a puzzle. All numbers in an equation. It all added up.

“I have a plan,” he sneered with an unnecessarily sinister smile.

Five minutes to three in the morning.

Eleven minutes to go.

Chapter 20 - Nothing to Lose

Eleven minutes to four in the morning.


No amount of training could soften the painful impact of being hurled through a concrete wall. The pain was excruciating. Reality was harsh. Survival was hard.

Toa Tollubo, however, was not.

The Toa of Light groaned in frustration as he peeled himself off the ground. Rubble shifted and dust settled, pierced by the iridescent glow of moonlight creeping through the hole his body had just made in the side of the building. The fine mist of debris hung for an instance of perpetual grace, reflecting the midnight-blue brightness in magical splendor.

His serenity was short-lived. The former Av-Matoran felt as if someone had beaten him to a point where he wasn’t sure if he was sunbathing on a beach along the Po-Metru coastline or if he was indeed getting his metallic backside handed to him in a fight.

“You’re blocking my sunlight,” groaned the half-conscious Toa as a dark silhouette appeared on the other side of the hole.

Before another witty remark could leave his lips, Tollubo was torn out of the wreckage and hurled into the air, dragged through the ceiling of the factory, flying upwards at an impossible speed. Unyielding force. Chunks of his armor were scraped off and fresh cuts tore open amongst the old ones. One of these days he was going to get brain damage from all the walls he was being thrown at head-first.

When he burst through the roof of the structure he just stopped in midair and hung like a Plush Doll pinned against a wall, his body sagging beneath him. Of course, his entire world remained spinning and he was still fighting the urge to vomit when his opponent finally returned to view.

The sinister form of the Toa who called himself Graviton drifted into view before him, several bio above the skyline of Ta-Metru. The renegade Toa of Gravity was a large guy in every sense of the word: tall, broad-shouldered, a body toned and hardened by decades of combat and struggle. Even now his Mask of Intangibility looked as though it had been hewn from a single piece of granite, deep-set eyes burning beneath a jutted brow above thin, straight lips.

Plus that Mace he was carrying had felt pretty lethal.

Graviton’s story was a tragic one. Several centuries ago he’d unwillingly been transformed into a Toa on the Northern Continent, which had displeased him considerably as it meant he could no longer work on at some Laboratory he’d owned. Over the centuries though, Graviton had continued to experiment in secret and eventually attempted to replicate the effects of a Kanohi Kualsi to achieve universal teleportation. It had been a noble endeavor that would have unlocked the key to revolutionizing transport.
The scientist had attempted to teleport himself in an experiment but was injured during an explosion caused by overloading the power, charging his particles and awakening a thirst for power within him. His Elemental Powers had been supercharged to an extent that he constantly emitted Elemental Energy. The Toa had become aggressive and rude, forgetting the Matoran he was charged with protecting and turning on his team. It had taken an entire group of Toa from all over the Northern Continent to finally overpower him in the end.

Normally, at that point, Botar would swoop in and whisk the defeated tyrant off to The Pit, where he could spend an eternity in restraints. But, because of Graviton’s unique ability to emit energy – and, Tollubo guessed, because The Pit wasn’t equipped with straightjackets strong enough to hold him – he’d been sedated and moved to a facility in Metru-Nui beneath Ta-Metru. For the past 23,000 years this Toa had been unconscious and in solitary confinement, with machines draining him of his never-ending supply of energy and powering Ta-Metru’s electricity reserves with it.

Or at least until this evening, of course, when the machine keeping his mind anesthetized had been damaged and he’d broken free. That also explained Tollubo’s current predicament of being suspended about a mio above the ground.

"I’m not going to warn you again," wheezed the battered Toa of Light insincerely. "Stand down and I won’t have to shove that spikey Mace of yours where the Twin Suns don’t shine."

But the Toa of Gravity wasn’t listening.

"Where is he?" he boomed in a thunderous voice. "Where is Toa Vilnius? The jerk who locked me up? The overgrown fire-spitter who enslaved me, chained me up in a cell beneath the city and had machines bite into me, sapping my energies like hungry Doom Vipers. He’s the one who made me Graviton."

The blue and black-armored criminal roared and began swinging his Mace above his head with two hands.
"When I find him… I’ll crush him. I’ll crush you. And when I’ve done that, I’ll show the entire world the power of Graviton!"

"I think not, Omashu," chuckled the nearly delirious Toa of Light.
He’d been briefed by Turaga Vilnius himself shortly before arriving in Ta-Metru. There was an entire case file on the Toa known as Graviton in the Coliseum, including his original name, Omashu.

Tollubo had just used it as a challenge.

Using his Kanohi Pakari, the Toa of Light took a mighty swipe at his enemy. Because he’d been suspended in mid-air, the punch propelled him forwards, directly at his opponent, on course for a clean sweep that would knock him out cold.

In recent months, Toa Tollubo had taken to wearing disguises in order to shield his identity from the Matoran of Metru-Nui. Some people loved him for saving their island from destruction at the hands of the Cult of Darkness. Others either didn’t like Toa, didn’t like his counterpart in this warped universe, or had been misinformed. It was safe to say that the vast majority of Metru-Nui’s Matoran citizens, in this universe, hated him.
Today he’d been working alongside a Metru-Nui Law Enforcement Squad to help train some new recruits; something he never would’ve done a few weeks ago but, since an unfortunate experience in Onu-Metru, he’d decided that it was time to clean up his act. He’d started getting more involved with his adopted Toa Team, going on regular patrols, training more frequently, following Turaga Vilnius’ orders, he’d even taken a day off to eradicate all the remaining Rahkshi and Visorak left stranded on Zakaz last week.
Today he was clad in white and black armor. He’d chosen the colors after his favorite species of Rahkshi, the ones which manipulated Cyclones. Makuta Chirox had given the breed a name but it always escaped the Toa’s mind.

In addition, he was wearing a crisp Kanohi Pakari and armed with his brand new Photon Bolt Launcher, a present from Turaga Velika which had recently been upgraded . Now it was a clean weapon, fresh off the shelf, unused.

And he knew exactly which part of his enemy’s head he was going to use for his weapon to taste first blood.

But Graviton’s Mask of Intangibility began to glow and Tollubo shot straight through his gaseous form. He could have continued flying with no gravity, propelled by the momentum of his Kanohi mask, right into Metru-Nui’s dome. Fortunately, his foe created a gravitational field to balance him in place once more, above Ta-Metru.

"You fool!" he bellowed. "Can your brutish mind not understand what I am telling you? I can control one of the fundamental forces of reality! With the power I wield… you are nothing compared to me! "

A sinister smile crept onto the corrupt Toa’s Kanohi. "I can remove gravity’s effect on you, leaving you to spend the rest of your short life pinned to the ceiling of the Matoran Universe, blocking out the Wall of Stars as nothing more than a curiosity for Ko-Matoran scholars."

Accordingly, Graviton forced Tollubo’s body into the air at an alarming speed only to stop him dead in the night sky above them.

"Or I can increase it a thousand-fold, like this!"

The Toa plummeted to the ground, spinning around and around, nose-diving towards the city below. His arms were wrapped around his head to protect it. Even so, he could still see the world looming beneath. He was hurtling towards it at an impossible speed, adrenaline biting into him, the G-Force pressing him back. Tumbling over and over, as if being dragged away down a waterfall. A hollow rushing sound filled the Toa’s audio receptors as the ground charged up to meet him.
He was on fire. The whole world was on fire. The very air was breaking up and crackling from the heat. He had become a fireball. The Pakari-wearer yelled out in pain as he struck the concrete. He couldn’t help it. The force of the fall could have been fatal for a Matoran, but he was a hardened Toa. Sure it had hurt as the street tore up beneath his weight and he sank into the pavement, but the worst was still to come.


Graviton, on the other hand, was busy inhaling the air around him, air from centuries into his own future. What had been a matter or mere minutes for him had been thousands of years for others. This was what victory felt like. Its scent, its taste. One day, he would relive this moment of triumph again and again.
There were a few dozen Matoran and Vortixx scattered on the ground beneath him, trying to aim all manner of missiles and artillery in his direction. Each one that they fired he would just bat aside, peppering the factories of Ta-Metru with explosions until his attackers learnt it wasn’t a good idea to engage the Mighty Graviton.
All of them were beneath him. He was the pinnacle of evolution. They were Brakas Monkeys flinging mud. It was a simple matter with a logical solution.

He wanted to eradicate these vermin. With the power at his disposal that shouldn’t be difficult. He would just open up a black hole above Metru-Nui and watched as the City of Legends was sucked in, one brick at a time. No Toa could stand in the way of gravity. He doubted even the Great Beings could stand in the way of his powers now.

A sharp burning sensation erupted from his lower back, shooting through his body. He yelped and spun around to face his attacker.
Standing on the ground, her legs wide apart and her stance firm, was what looked like a Ga-Matoran; though she looked like no Matoran he’d ever seen.

Back when he’d been living in the Northern Continent, he’d encountered a Ga-Matoran named Merra. She’d been on his Toa Team all those millennia ago. It was her fault that he’d been incarcerated in that dreaded cell.

But the Ga-Matoran in front of him bore no similarity to any Matoran he’d ever seen. Her strange Kanohi appeared alien to him. He couldn’t recall ever seeing that particular variation of any recognized masks and he was familiar with many Kanohi Nuva, as well as their various shapes and irregularities. Even her armor appeared to be composed of some strange metal amongst scraps of Protodermis.

Regardless, the weapon in her hands was something that he was familiar with. It was a Sting Rifle, a non-lethal weapon developed by the Nynrah Ghosts several centuries before his imprisonment. It had made one Fe-Matoran very rich when some Turaga had bought a bunch of them for the Northern Contient’s law enforcement agency to use. The idea was that they fired a beam of concentrated energy from the barrel with a color and shape comparable perhaps to a Rahkshi of Heat Vision’s optical blast or even a Skakdi’s eyebeam.

Struggling to counteract the effects of the weapon, Graviton bellowed as he lost concentration. Fortunately, the gravity field that he’d placed around the oddly-colored Toa of Light seemed to still be in place, but he fell from the sky a few bio, nearly at street level.

"You give Toa and theoretical physicists a bad name, " challenged the lone Ga-Matoran boldly as she fired another laser beam at him. "Now knock it off before I make you. "

A challenge, plain and simple, but still a ludicrous notion.

"Are you joking?" chuckled the Toa of Gravity. This time he dropped back to the ground and loomed forwards, intent on intimidating the female. "With the power at my disposal I can crush you into a speck of – "

He hadn’t anticipated the next laserbeam. The blue-armored stranger was supposed to cower away in fear, but instead she’d risen to meet his challenge. A full-on laser blast to the face shattered his Kanohi and the Toa reeled backwards in shock.

Unfortunately, that meant he’d walking into the path of a Toa of Plantlife.

The Elda-wearing Toa gave Graviton a dissatisfied look then shook his head and snatched the Mace from his hand.

"You aren’t as disappointing as they told me you’d be during the Mission Briefing," grunted the blue and green-armored warrior sarcastically. "You are much, much worse."

Without his Mask of Intangibility, Graviton staggered backwards from the solid punch he received to the jaw.
“You know, I get the impression you’re out to cause some kind of apocalypse,” continued the wise-cracking Toa. “Does that mean you’re trying to kill everyone who hates you?”

A spray of plant seeds peppered the Toa of Gravity’s armor, thrown from his enemy’s hands. Confused, he glanced from the Toa of Plantlife to his own body. Some of the seeds had bounced right off of him and onto the ground, but most of them were small enough to have gotten themselves stuck in the ridges of his armor.

"Those," continued the Toa of The Green, "are the seeds to a Spiked Dagger Plant. It’s a fascinating specimen indigenous to the island of Zakaz. The Skakdi use the mature versions for torture quite frequently."

The Toa raised his hand and balled his fingers into a fist, like he was lifting an invisible crowbar.

"Which means right now would be the ideal opportunity for you to become a missing person, Graviton."

A searing sensation ran down the former Ba-Matoran’s body as the spores began to change. The Toa of Plantlife was using his Elemental Powers, accelerating their growth, making them bite into his armor, wrenching metals apart. He roared out in pain as his heartlight splintered and as roots erupted from the cracks and spaces. One by one, pieces of broken Protodermis clattered to the ground until, finally, he felt the true heat of Ta-Metru rushing against his flesh.

But Graviton only chuckled to himself, rising into the air once again. Even without a Kanohi, he was charged with enough energy to raise the Coliseum then bury it in rubble.

"I applaud your use of resources, Toa of Plantlife," he boomed. "But I am no Makuta. Although you have succeeded in tearing my armor, I remain indomitable!"

To mark his words, the Toa of Gravity ripped his enemy Toa off the ground then hurled him at the Ga-Matoran. The Toa of The Green lay pinned to his back on top of the struggling Matoran of Water. Neither appeared even remotely happy.

"I like you," grunted the defeated Elda-wearer, nodding towards his enemy. "People say I’ve got no taste, but I like you."

Graviton floated away. Although impressive, the efforts of the Toa of Plant Life and the Ga-Matoran were just distractions from his goal. The Toa of Light remained conscious. He was struggling against the gravitational field. He could feel it.

Drifting closer to inspect his handiwork, the Toa of Gravity couldn’t help but smile. The strange white and black-armored Toa was on his knees, at the bottom of a crater big enough to have a small Kolhii game inside of. The ground was crumbling still as the force increased, pressing him deeper into the rubble as he tried to squat. Fiery eyes met Graviton’s gaze.

The Toa’s Kanohi Pakari began to glimmer with energy. Power seemed to pulse from the Toa’s crimson form. His muscles tightened and pressed up against his armor. Hydraulic valves reached their limits. Veins popped up against flesh. His eyes widened then narrowed.

The corrupt Toa strengthened the force of his gravitational field and growled.

"That’s not possible!" he bellowed. "Stay down you insect or I shall destroy you!"

But the Pakari-wearer wasn’t listening. Every ounce of his strength was focused on his legs. Then, with one almighty kick, the Toa bounded into the air, tearing past the gravitational field.

He struck Graviton like an arrow shot from a harpoon, and that was the last thing that he ever felt.




From Tollubo’s perspective, the whole ordeal had been quite a different thing entirely. As he hurtled towards his opponent, he’d noticed that the tainted Toa’s maskless face was white with rage and fear. His mouth was half-open. His thick, metallic teeth bared in panic.

The Toa of Light delivered a lethal but blunt swipe at his adversary. It was a savage blow from a huge fist, powered by blind anger and crushing physical momentum. It caught the blue and black-armored Toa of Gravity on the side of the jaw. His head snapped back and he went down, like he’d been hit by a ten foot Kolhii Staff.

The two Toa were falling through nothingness, plummeting like two wingless Icebats.

Tollubo, however, was instantly aware of exactly how far he was falling. It was easily survivable for a muscular Toa like himself. As the cold, grey ground rushed up to meet them, Tollubo brought his legs together, hunched his back, spread his hands, and prepared to hit the concrete in a crouch. His extra armor and Toa-sized muscles absorbed the shock, although the force of the contact sent him rolling forwards.

Graviton landed with about as much grace as a Manas Crab in a Po-Matoran Bazaar.

The soldiers tackled Graviton, pinning him to the ground and detaining him once again. None of the Matoran soldiers offered Tollubo any help getting up, nor did he request any assistance. Returning to his feet in one smooth motion, the Pakari-wearer acknowledged with a curt nod the solitary Matoran who stopped to salute him as he passed.

"Congratulations, Tourik," beamed the Toa of Light. "You’re now officially getting old."

The Toa of Plant Life snorted as he peeled himself off of Betak, the effects of Graviton’s powers nullified.

"I’m impressed," he chuckled. "I’ve never met such a small mind inside such a big head before."

Tollubo chuckled then clanked fists with his fellow Toa. As cold and introverted as Tourik was, the Toa of Plantlife was a decent ally. He was an effective warrior bestowed with a natural talent for talking back, which was always a valuable asset in their line of work.

But more than that, in the recent months where Jollun had been recovering from his injuries, Tourik had become Tollubo’s friend. They were two surprisingly similar figures only the Toa of Plantlife led a more private life than he did. It was the life that he dreamed of having sometimes.

The Toa’s musings were abruptly interrupted by a sudden spark in the air. There was an electrical crackle that seemed to ignite the thick, tangible warmth of Ta-Metru. Toa Tourik raised a questioning eyebrow. The Pakari-wearer glanced at him to see that his attention was directed to the left – specifically he was looking at a hole in space that had just opened up before them.

After a moment of hesitation, the long leg of a Rahshi stepped through. The green and blue-armored abomination eyes the two Toa carefully then grunted and turned to face the portal. Personally, he recognised the creature as Agitarahk, a Rahkshi of Teleportation that he’d trained a year ago and brought with him to this dimension.

A white-armored heel stepped out of the swirling blue mass and the form of Toa Kualus, veteran Toa Hagah of Ice, materialized before them. His eyes were wide and ravaged from behind his Mask of Rahi Control.

"Brothers," muttered the Toa of Ice uncomfortably, glancing back at the portal behind him. "I believe that we have a matter of some urgency to attend to."

Tourik and Tollubo exchanged concerned glances.

"Preliminary reports are still coming in," continued the Toa Hagah, but it would appear that we have a situation. We think that the Cult of Darkness are staging another attack upon Metru-Nui… and we have eleven minutes to stop them."




Eight minutes past three in the morning.

The task which Algor was facing was by no means an easy one. Only fifteen minutes remained of the initial twenty that Garnax had given them to prepare the runway for the Airship to land. If they were going to ambush the Ba-Matoran then he was going to have to act. The window of opportunity was closing rapidly.

Glonor and Glacii had given him specific instructions before they’d moved away into position, ready to disable his Airship.

Which meant Algor was going to have to think of something all by himself to stop the Rahkshi.

He remained still, watching the two Matoran find cover, already forgetting what Glacii had ordered him to do. He hadn’t seen an electricity supply out on the runway, and there didn’t appear to be any lights dotted along the snow. It was just a flat slab of concrete. It was possible that the cruiser’s headlights were supposed to do the job, in which case Garnax was out of luck as both headlights were busted. But then again, the headlights couldn’t stretch for two mio, and they certainly wouldn’t be seen through the cloud layer.

Fifteen minutes had just become fourteen minutes.

Once again, he checked his pack. The key to the War Bunker was in there. Glonor had taken the Assault Rifle and Glacii had given him the weapon he’d used to kill the suspects. There were only two bullets in it. Two bullets which could just as easily have been used to kill him and Glonor that night.

Thirteen minutes and change.

The cruiser was canted down at the front, half in and half out of the hut. He squeezed along its flank, in through the hole in the shattered wall and stood where the stove had been. He opened the trunk.

All kinds of stuff was hidden in there. But three basic categories: normal cruiser supplies, regular police gear neatly stowed in plastic trays, then other items thrown in on top of everything else. In the first category: maintenance equipment and a plastic can containing additional oil. In the second category: four red road flares, three nested traffic cones, a first-aid kit, three rolls of CRIME SCENE tape, and a bag of white rags. In the third category: a long coil of greasy rope, an engine hoist with pulleys and tripod legs and unopened boxes of large, heavy-duty rubbish bags.

Nothing even remotely resembling a landing light.

Twelve minutes and change.

He really should have paid closer attention when Glacii gave him the instructions.

The Ko-Matoran closed his eyes and pictured the scene from the pilot’s point of view. At the control panel of his stolen Airship, descending, on approach, dim blue-grey moonlit tundra ahead and below. Visible to some degree, but uniform and featureless. The guy would have some form of satellite navigation, but he would need help from the ground. That was clear. But he wouldn’t be expecting any kind of mainstream Matoran Aviation Administration-certified floodlights. This was an illicit operation. Nothing was going to be done by the books.

He’d be looking for something improvised.

Fire, maybe? Maybe the can of petrol in the trunk was supposed to be set ablaze.

Eleven minutes and change.

No, not fires.

Algor slammed the trunk lid and kicked away debris from behind the cruiser. He squeezed around the front and hauled away tangled bed frames from under the fenders, dragging splintered plywood off the hood. The engine was still running. It smelled hot and oily with a lot of broken parts grinding and knocking together loudly.

He squeezed back and opened the driver’s door, dumping himself into Glacii’s seat and put tried to reverse. He put his foot on the pedal waiting for the battered cruiser to jerk, splutter, then drag itself backwards the way it had come. In through the hole in the nearest wall. It thumped down tail-first before he managed to change the gear and maneuver the transporter out towards the northeastern corner of the runway.

The top right corner, from the Airship pilot’s perspective. He braked to stop, slid out and opened the trunk again, grabbing the four red road flares from the plastic tray. He tossed three into the passenger seat as he passed and spiked the fourth onto the concrete. It ignited automatically and burned fiercely. A bright crimson puffball. Visible from a long way on a road, presumably even further from the air.

He got back in the cruiser and headed for the opposite corner, the top left. He had no headlights, but the moonlight was enough to guide his way. A hundred yards. He used the second flare. Then he set off down the length of the two-mio stretch. No fun at al. The windshield glass was biting and his transport was slow, and getting slower still. It felt close to stalling out. It smelled of burning oil. The engine was knocking and vibrating. The temperature gauge in the dashboard was climbing steadily towards red.

Not good.

Nine minutes to go.

Two mio should have taken two minutes, but the wounded police cruiser took more than four. Algor used the third flare in the southwestern corner. The bottom left, from the pilot’s point of view. He got back in the vehicle, backed up, turned the wheel, then headed out. The cruiser continued juddering uncontrollably. It started losing all its power. The temperature needle jammed hard against its end stop. Steam and black smoke started coming out from under the hood. Thick clouds of it.

A hundred yards to go. That was all. One more corner.

The transporter made another ten bio then died. It just ground to a stop and stayed there, refusing to go on, hissing, and inert, right the middle of the runway’s southern edge. The engine was gone, or the oil pressure, or the water, or something, or everything.

Algor swore then got out and ran the rest of the way. He spiked the last flare and stood back.

The crimson glow in the four distant corners was way brighter than anything else around it. And it came back off the shaped slopes of ploughed snow twice as bright. Adequate, from the Airship’s flight deck. Looking forward and down from an oblique angle there would be no doubt about the shape and location of the landing strip. The cruiser was dead right across the middle of the near end, but it was no more than a fence on the edge of an airfield.

Two minutes to go.

Job done.

Except Algor was now stuck two mio from where he needed to be, and it was a cold night for walking. Except that he was pretty sure he wouldn’t need to be walking. He was pretty sure he could get a ride, if he wanted one, before two long. Maybe even before he froze – which was always good. Except that given the state of his current information, it was highly likely that his ride would get to the stone building a little after Garnax got there – which was not good. Not good at all. And now even remotely what he had intended.

Plans go to hell as soon as the first shot is fired, Deputy Crystallus had once said.

The Ko-Matoran hustled back through the frigid air to the dead cruiser. He leaned on its flank and watched the night sky in the south.

And waited.




About a minute later he saw lights above the horizon. Like specks on the Wall of Stars that weren’t stars. Tiny electric pinpricks that hung and twinkled and grew and danced a little, up and down, side to side. Spotlights in an Airships’s landing gear, for sure, approaching head on, maybe ten miles out.

Then he saw lights below the horizon too. Yellow, weaker, pooled on the ground, less stable, bouncing, moving much slower. Headlights. A road vehicle. Two of them, in fact, one behind the other on the wandering snowbound two-lane, approaching head-on, crawling along, maybe five mio out.

His ride.

Close but not close enough.

He leaned back in the cold and waited and watched.

The Airship landed first. It started out small and silent, then it grew larger and noisier. It came in low and flat, all broad and supportive winds and swirling heat shimmer and deafening jet whine, with stabbing beams of light. Its nose was up and its undercarriage was down. Three metal poles emerged as the Airship thundered towards him. They were tripod legs, coming out for the landing. Like the talons of a great bird of prey ready to swoop in and seize the crippled cruiser, like a Lava Hawk about to snatch up a Stone Rat. Algor ducked as the Airship passed right over his cracked Kanohi, huge and almost close enough to touch. The roiled air and shattering noise that trailed behind it threatened to knock him flat. He straightened again then turned to watch over the roof of the transporter as the Airship slowed to a stop in mid-air then descended onto its landing legs gently.

The Ko-Matoran turned and faced south.

The road vehicles were still heading his way. They were moving slowly and carefully along the moonlit two-lane, caution because of the curves and ice but relentless, a miniature convoy with a destination in mind. Their headlight beams swung left swung right, bounced up, dipped down. The first vehicle was a strange open-frame truck, with a big coil of heavy, flexible pipe wrapped over a drum immediately behind the cab, and then a pump built into a square steel frame, and then a second coil of pipe on a second drum. The vehicle right behind it was the same general size and type, but behind the cab it had a big white tank, and a bucket.

Fuel tankers.

Both were obviously stolen on Garnax’s orders, presumably, so that his Airship could be refueled from the underground tank and then flown away safely through the bitter night skies.

Algor pushed off the flank of the cruiser and waited. The tanker’s headlights hit him, and it slowed. Its lights flicked up to bright then it stopped dead. For a second the Metru-Nui Secret Service agent was conscious of the crack in his Kanohi Kiril and the dried blood that still caked his face. Plus the dead cruiser was parked in a way which obstructed the road, like a police road block. And nobody used navy cruisers except Law Enforcement.

But the drivers must have been told in advance that the bent cop would be waiting there for them, because after just a brief pause the pump truck moved on again. Algor raised his hand, partly as a greeting, partly as a traffic stop, and a minute later he was sitting in the warmth inside the pump truck’s cab, riding up the runway towards whatever was waiting for him at the other end.




Glonor watched the scene before him with eyes as focused and well-trained as if he were observing the world through the telescopic lenses of a Kanohi Akaku.

"Do you see him yet?" grunted Glacii.

"No, not yet," answered the Av-Matoran, no longer sure how to treat the Police Chief.
Was he the villain or the unfortunate fool who got played? Glacii fell in somewhere between the two. To what extent was the killing spree something deep within him, craving murder? It didn’t really matter. Not right now anyway. The stakes were too high to risk letting his mind wander astray over such musings.

The Airship was parked as near as it could get to the first line of huts. Even from this distance, it was gigantic. A huge craft, high and wide and long, at temporary rest in the middle of nowhere, towering over the silent buildings behind it, hissing and whistling. It was an active, living presence in a passive, frozen landscape. Its engines were still spooling noisily and its belly light was still flashing red. The forward door was latched wide open. Lights were on inside. A cheap metal ladder had been extended down to the runway surface below. It looked thin and unsubstantial next to the giant Airship.

There were seven Matoran on the ground, or what looked like six normal Matoran and one who’d been sat on by a Kanohi Dragon. There was no mistaking Garnax. Right from the moment Glonor had first met him until now, he had lived a life as a comically short Matoran of Stone. It had caused him a lot of trouble in his life, which might explain some of his bitterness, but there was a difference between attempting to destroy the world for a credible reason and attempting to destroy the world because some Matoran made fun of your size.

Besides, the abstract measurement did not convey the reality, for Garnax had a large Ba-Matoran’s heft, thickness and muscularity, backed off with a full-grown statue’s stiffness and movement. He was not dwarfish. He was not a freak. His limbs and his torso and his neck and his head were all reasonably well proportioned. He was reduced in about twenty five percent of a normal Matoran’s size. He was a miniature tough guy. Like a plush doll.

He looked very cold.

That was a clear weakness. Glonor was no stranger to the numbing effect of the Ko-Metru’s cold winds. Perhaps the Ba-Matoran had never even seen snow. He was disorientated and vulnerable. In a few minutes he would be sluggish and incoherent, which afforded the two Matoran only a small window of opportunity.

But it was more personal than that. Glonor had spent the past three days in Elysium, exposing himself to the extremely low temperatures of the savage world, training his body. If it were possible for such a short space of time, he would say that he had adapted to the colder climate. He had at least some resistance to the tundra while his enemy did not.

Garnax was naïve. He was in the position that Glonor had been in when he’d first arrived in this arctic city, bewildered by the sheer power of the natural world even in a thriving metropolis such as Ko-Metru. All six of the Matoran assassins, and their ringleader himself, had expressions of total disbelief on their Kanohi. They had left a balmy evening knowing they were heading for somewhere cold, but understanding the word and feeling the feeling were two completely different things. Garnax’s gun was bouncing a little on his chest because his whole body was trembling. He was walking small tight circles and stamping his feet. But part of that might have been plain annoyance. He appeared to be staggering and struggling against what was a cool and gentle breeze to Glonor now.

Ko-Matoran pride. Different to Elysium pride.




The fuel tankers drove around and parked close to the Airship’s ladder. Both sets of drivers got out. They had no visible reaction to the abject temperature. They were Ko-Matoran. They knew about cold if nothing else, which may have been the case for both of them. They both wore white armor, were medium height, and were broad. One wore a Powerless Mask of Growth. The other wore a Noble Kanohi Suletu. Hardscrabble guys, rural roots, worn down to the bare essentials. They didn’t seem local but they definitely weren’t from the city. They’d come from another region area in Ko-Metru. There was no way either of them were Seers.

Algor stayed in his seat for a moment, keeping warm, and watching.

Garnax was moving around inside a loose cordon formed by his six guys. No real reason for that. Maybe habit, maybe appearances. Plus the Ba-Matoran and his cronies were armed. They all had varying different sub-machineguns slung around their necks on nylon straps. Short stubby weapons, black and wicked. Thirty-round magazines. They rested raised and proud and prominent on the puffy armor. Butts to the right, muzzles to the left. Six of them were right-handed. One of the assassins held his weapon in his left hand.

Sub-machine guns. A bullet manufacturer’s very best friends.

Algor climbed out of the fuel tanker’s cab, into the perpetual cold and the wind. The other Ko-Matoran were still doing OK with it, but Garnax and his cronies were all shivering hard. The Ba-Matoran was clearly tense. He had a hard and unpleasant Kanohi and his mouth was set down in a grimace.

The two fuel tanker drivers didn’t read it right.

The Ko-Matoran wearing the Noble Suletu, who had driven the vehicle, stepped up, spread his hands and smiled what he clearly hoped was a cunning smile, and he said, “Here we are.”

A self-evident statement. Garnax looked at him blankly.
“And?”

“We want more for our services.”

A plan, obviously. Clearly discussed and pre-agreed with his buddy. Bar talk. Irresistible, over a third mug of Steltian Ale. Or a fourth. Show the guy the prize, and then yank it back and ask for more.

Can’t fail.

“How much more?” grunted the errant Matoran of Stone.

He spoke a little slow and indistinct because of a cold face and the Airship’s engines whining in the background.

The Powerless Mask of Growth-wearer was used to talking over the roar of engines whine.

“The same again.”

“Double?”

“You got it.”

Garnax’s eyes flicked across three of his bodyguards and came to rest on a fourth, a shifty Ta-Matoran sporting a crimson Mask of Sensory Aptitude.

“Do you know how to work this equipment?”

The Matoran of Fire nodded.
“Yes, I think so.”

Think or know?”

“I’ve done it before,” shrugged the Ta-Matoran assassin. “With the fuel, I mean. Many times. The de-icing, not so much. No call for it back in Ta-Metru. But how hard can it be? It’s just a spray.”

“Tell me, yes or no.”

Yes.

Garnax turned back to the two Ko-Matoran, looked them once, then snorted and barked a single-syllabled exclamation. Immediately, a Su-Matoran stepped forwards, raised his weapon, and machine-gunned them both in the chest.
Just like that. Full auto. First one, and then the other. Two brief bursts of fire, barely separated at all. Nine or ten rounds each. An impossibly fast cyclic rate. Shattering noise. Searing, vivid, foot-long muzzle flash. A hosing stream of ejected brass. The spent cases bounced and skittered away. The two Ko-Matoran went down in a mist of blood from their ripped bodies and a cloud of sparks from their torn armor, first one, then immediately the other, with ragged bloody holes in their chests big enough to plunge a fist in. They fell side by side, dead before they hit the ground, torn apart. They twisted round, thumped down and settled at once, metal and flesh, two small mounds close together.

The gunsmoke whipped away in the wind and the sudden noise faded and the Airship’s whine came back, low and steady.

Twenty bio above them a Le-Matoran pilot looked out of his window.


Algor felt a surge of hatred for the Su-Matoran. And for Garnax, for his cowardice. The two Ko-Matoran hadn’t been expecting trouble. They could’ve been knocked out; he could’ve taken them both hostage. But it had been easier to kill them. Already his interest was elsewhere, two Matoran lives simply brushed aside and forgotten about.

But then again, though sickened, Algor couldn’t help but feel glad deep down. This told him something about the assassins he would have to confront. A killer couple always be judged by his handiwork. There had been long bursts, tightly grouped. Great trigger control, great aim, and no muzzle climb at all. With two hands as well. The Su-Matoran had done this before. No question about that.

“You must be Chief Glacii,” grunted the Ba-Matoran, addressing Algor.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Finally, we meet.”

“Yes.”

“Why isn’t the door open and the equipment set up for me?”

Algor didn’t answer. He was trying to remember: what equipment?

“Your wife is still under my direct control, you know.”

“Where is she?” Algor demanded hastily.

“She moved on with the rest of the Kraata Purge. They’re on the other side of Ko-Metru now.”

“Is she OK?” he asked, trying his best to sound like a concerned husband. As far as Algor was concerned, the whole concept of marriage was inappropriate. Love was for Agori. Not Matoran. It just felt wrong.

“So far, yes,” shrugged the Po-Matoran. “But my threat against her still stands.”

“The Military Cop damaged my Police Cruiser before I killed him. It broke down. The equipment is still in the trunk.”

Garnax frowned. “Where’s your vehicle?”

“At the other end of the runway.”

Grimacing, the villainous Matoran didn’t answer directly. The sign of a good leader. No sense in fussing about what couldn’t be changed. He just turned to one of his bodyguards and barked another command.

“Take one of the fuel tankers and fetch the equipment we need from the trunk of Chief Glacii’s cruiser.”

The guy in question, a Fa-Matoran sporting a gunmetal Noble Kanohi Zatth, nodded then headed for the tanker’s cab and Garnax turned back to Algor again.

“Where is the key for the building?”

The Ko-Matoran took it out of his pack and held it up. Garnax stepped through his Matoran cordon. In his mind’s eyes, Algor rehearsed two possible moves. Drive the key through Garnax’s eye, or drop it on the ground and drive a massive uppercut through Garnax’s chin and snap his puny neck.

He did neither thing. Garnax had five sub-machine guns right behind him. Within a split second seventy-five nine-millimetre rounds would be in the air. Most of them would miss. But not all of them.

The tanker crunched into gear and moved away.

Garnax stepped up next to Algor. The top of his Kanohi was exactly level with the undercover spy’s breastbone. A tiny Matoran. A toy. Tactically, he reassessed the uppercut. Bad idea. Almost impossible to launch a blow from so low down. Better to drive an elbow vertically through the crown of his skull.

Or shoot him.

Garnax took the key.

“Now take your armor off.”

“What?”

“Take your armor off,” repeated the Po-Matoran, his metallic teeth clattering.

“Why?”

“Are you arguing with me?”

Algor looked up. Five hands on five sub-machine guns.

“I’m asking you a question,” he muttered defensively.

“You and I are going underground,” grunted the sinister Matoran of Stone.

“What? Why me?”

“Because you’ve been down there before. None of us have. You’re our local guide.”

“I can go down there with my armor on.”

Garnax smirked. “True. But you’ve got Elysium police-issued armor and, as a requirement of the Turaga High Council, all Metru-Nui Law Enforcers have to have a holster built into their right, or in some cases left, thighs for licenced firearms. Entering an unfamiliar environment with an armed adversary is an inadvisable move for me.”

“Am I your adversary?”

”I’m a smart guy,” Garnax said again. “The safe assumption is that everyone is my adversary.”

“But it’s cold,” grunted the Matoran of Ice.

The Brotherhood servant shrugged. “Your wife’s grave will be colder.”

Five hands on five sub-machine guns.

The process of removing all his armor took around a minute. He was reluctant at first but Algor finally found himself standing exposed to the elements on the tarmac. Glacii’s revolver hit the ground with a padded clank. It was thirty degrees below zero. Windy. Within seconds he, the only Ko-Matoran in the crowd, was shivering worse than any of them.

How degrading.

Garnax stood still. Not long, Algor thought, before the tanker got back and the driver described the smashed-up Police Cruiser. Therefore not long before someone looked down the row and found the damaged hut. Not long before someone searched the other huts. Not long before someone started asking awkward questions.

Time to get going.

“Let’s do it,” he muttered, picking a piece of his chest armor back up off the ground.

Twenty-seven minutes to four in the morning.

Time was up.

Chapter 21 - Fulfillment

They walked over to the stone building, the five Matoran. It was a strange procession. Garnax first, then Algor, then, the Fe-Matoran, the Bo-Matoran, and the Su-Matoran. All single file. The Ta-Matoran worked on preparing the Airship with the Le-Matoran pilot whilst the Fa-Matoran was still safely away in the fuel tanker, looting Glacii’s dead cruiser.

The stone building was standing there waiting for them, quiet and indifferent in the moonlit gloom, the same way it had stood for three thousand long years. The stone, the slate, the blind windows, the chimneys, the mouldings and the curlicues and the details.

And the steel slab door.

Garnax put the key in the lock and turned it. The mechanism sprang back. Then he stood still and waited. Algor took the hint. He turned the handle down sixty degrees, precise and physical, like a bank vault. He pulled the door through a short arc. The hinges squealed. He stepped in behind it and pushed it all the way open, like pushing the broken down cruiser.

Garnax stood still and raised his hand, palm up. The Bo-Matoran behind him stepped up and dug down in his pack. Swiftly, he came out with a flashlight and slapped it into Garnax’s palm, the way a lab assistant would feed a surgeon his tools in the middle of a serious operation. The Po-Matoran clicked it on and transferred it to his other hand. He then snapped his fingers and pointed at Algor. The Fe-Matoran behind him reached into his own pack, took out his flashlight, and handed it over.

Surprisingly courteous for one of the Matoran Universe’s most notorious assassins.

Of course, like so many of the new devices flooding into Metru-Nui these days, the torch was of Matoran invention but based off of an Agori creation. A basic circuit with alloy construction. Reliable and practically indestructible. The Ko-Matoran clicked it on. He played the beam around the bare concrete chamber.

This was the most serious part of the mission. Algor himself had never before stepped foot inside the building. He was acting solely on a combination of Glonor’s orders and the assumption that the place was exactly as the Av-Matoran, Glacii and a dead Matoran had left it more than four and a half hours earlier.

But Garnax couldn’t be allowed to know that. Although it felt like conducting a tour around some section of the Archives that he’d never been to, he had to maintain the impression that he knew what he was doing.

There was a circular stair head and the two unfinished ventilation pipes jutting up through the floor, just as Glonor had hurriedly explained minutes ago. He felt dry, stale air rush up to meet him. There was a stirring breeze and the smell of old fears long forgotten.

“After you, Chief,” decreed the Po-Matoran behind him.

That disappointed Algor a little. He had just lost his only weapon, but he still had his wits. He had entertained the idea of letting Garnax go first, and then kicking his head off about a hundred feet down.

But, obviously, so had Garnax. A smart guy.

So Algor went first, starting off an awkward chain. Big armored heels, small steps, clanging metal. The sound of the whining Airship faded as he went down, and he heard Garnax issuing a stream of instructions.

“Wait until the tanker gets back, then set up the equipment, and start the refuelling. Get the other three doors open on the Airship, and get the other three ladders in position. Figure out how the de-icing works and figure out how close to take-off we need to use it. And put a guy on lookout a hundred feet south. That’s the only direction we have to worry about. Rotate every twenty minutes. Or more often, if you want. Your call. I want the lookout alert at all times, not frozen to death. Make sure the Airship is still ready to launch. We are clear here, so Operation: Invisible Sword is still in effect. Tell Tamaru that I want him up in the air and en route to our target as soon as we are refuelled.”

Then Garnax stopped talking and Algor heard his feet on the stairs above him. Smaller steps, more precise. The metal still clanged, but quieter. The two flashlight beams went down and around, down and around, always clockwise, separated vertically by twenty bio, and not synchronized.

This had not been discussed before. During their planning, Glacii had confirmed that Garnax would be getting back on the Airship with the stolen treasures and flying off again. What was all this talk of a second operation? Invisible Sword? Where was the Airship going?

For a moment he considered switching his torch off and doubling back to get a replacement, where he was make a quick communicator call to Glonor to inform him of this sudden change in their plan. But they were under radio-silence whilst his two allies infiltrated the Airship.

So the terrified Ko-Matoran took it slow. After all he was Glacii now, in more than name. He was improvising, and hoping his moment would come.




On the surface the de-icer truck got back with the necessary equipment all piled on and around the passenger seat. The engine hoist, the rope, the garbage bags. The hoist was a sturdy metal thing that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Po-Metru construction site. It was designed to be set up at the front of some off-road vehicle. The pulleys would produce multiplication of effort, according to ancient mechanical principles, allowing a lone operator to lift a heavy iron block.

Three of Garnax’s goons carried the hoist into the bunker and set it up with the jib leaning in over one of the ventilation shafts. Like fishing from a barrel. They started threading the rope through the pulleys. More weight meant less speed. Pull the rope a yard, and with one pulley in play a light weight would move the same yard, but with two pulleys in play a heavier weight would move just only so many inches, and with three pulleys in play a heavier weight still would move just twelve inches. And so on. A tradeoff.

They chose to thread two pulleys. A balance of speed and capacity.

When he returned, the Fa-Matoran who had driven the fuel tanker said nothing about the state of the Police Cruiser.




The dark armored assassin who had sat in seat 4A was standing with the Su-Matoran from seat 4B, out of sight of the stone building, hidden from the Airship’s flight deck windows, invisible to the Ta-Matoran sentry a hundred feet down the runway. The mercenary from 4A had sent a message to Makuta Dredzek: Stakes are getting high.

The Bara Magna-bound Makuta had replied: I will double your payment.

The Su-Matoran from 4B glanced over at the Airship. The Matoran from 4A followed his gaze. A little clumsy, not fast, distinctive in appearance, and stolen. But it was a vehicle, and it would suit their intended purpose.

He said nothing.

The communicator buzzed again against his palm.

The Makuta had offered: I will triple your money. Do it.

Triple the amount was a fortune beyond comprehension. But even that paled against the prospect of certain death.

The Matoran from 4B nodded. They had both just rode inside the Airship. They knew it worked and both of them were trained pilots.

The Matoran from 4A replied: OK.




Two hundred and eighty awkward steps. Algor completed seventy of them, a quarter of the way down, and then he began to speed up. He saw a window of opportunity ahead. Set up the equipment, then start the refuelling, Garnax had said. Which meant that there would be some busywork up top before one of his bodyguards came down to connect the hose to the fuel tank. Five minutes, maybe. Possibly ten. And five or ten minutes alone with Garnax deep underground could be productive. So he aimed to get to the bottom as far ahead as possible. To prepare. So he speeded up as much as he could. Which wasn’t much.

And which wasn’t nearly enough.

Garnax matched him step for step. Gained on him, even. For a Matoran of Garnax’s stature, the winding stair was broad and palatial. And his feet were dainty. He was nimble and agile in comparison.

Algor slowed down again. Better to save energy and avoid busting an ankle.




The fuel tanker was basically a simple vehicle. A relatively recent invention. In the old days tankers refuelled Airships directly. In the modern world fuel tanks were underground, and skeletal tankers drove out on the tarmac and linked nozzles under manholes to nozzles under Airships. The hose on the reel directly behind the cab spooled out and connected to the underground source, and the hose on the reel at the other end of the tanker spooled out and connected to the Airship. In between was a pump, to suck fuel out of the ground and push it onward into the Airship’s tanks. A simple, linear proposition.

The assassins from seats 4A and 4B manoeuvred the vehicle as close as they could get it to the stone building’s door, which put it about halfway between the tank far below them and the thirsty Airship. One jacked the first nozzle on his shoulder and the other operated the electric motor that unwound the drum. The one with the nozzle on his shoulder walked the hose into the building and fed it down the second ventilation shaft, the one that the Ba-Matoran with the rope wasn’t using.




Algor made it to the bottom. He rested on the last step, nine inches off the round chamber’s floor, its ceiling level far above his cracked Kanohi. Garnax shuffled along behind him. He felt the muzzle of the Po-Matoran’s revolver on his back.

“Crawl.”

Algor stooped way down until he was on all-fours then waddled forward, painfully, his legs hurting, his hands scraping against the course stone floor. He shuffled along, undignified, slow and awkward, heels and knuckles, once, then twice.

Garnax stepped off the bottom stair and just walked straight into the chamber. He took three confident strides and then stopped and looked around, erect, upright. Even if the ceiling had been just four inches above the top of his Kanohi, he still would’ve had the advantage.

“So where’s my stuff?”

Algor didn’t answer. He was adrift. The world had flipped underneath him. All his life, to be taller had been to be better. More dominant, more powerful, more noticed, more advantaged. You got credibility, you got treated with respect, you got promoted faster, you earned more, you got elected to things. Statistics bore it out.

You won fights, you got less hassle, you ruled the yard. To be born tall was to win life’s lottery. Born small, two strikes against. But not down there.

Down there to be tall may as well have been a losing ticket. Down there was a world where the small guy could win, even with the ceiling several bio about their heads.

“Where’s my stuff?” Garnax said again, with his hand on his firearm.

Algor took his hand off the floor and started to point, but then there were twin ragged thumps behind him, and a slap, and another thump. He shuffled around and saw that three packs of garbage bags had been dropped down the ventilation shaft, plus the tail end of a greasy coil of rope. Things he had seen before, in the trunk of Glacii’s cruiser.

“We have work to do,” grunted the Po-Matoran. “It’s not exactly rocket science. We put the stuff in the bags, we tie the bags to the rope, they haul them up.”

“How much stuff?”

“The Airship will carry it all.”

“You’ll be here all week.”

“I don’t think so. I have about ten hours. The biker will come out of his little hidey-hole in the jail just after lunch time. I’ll bribe that guard at the prison, Reidak I think his name is. He’ll arrange to keep your whole department on alert, then he’ll come down and give us a hand. So we’ll be undisturbed. And a ton and a half an hour should be possible. Especially with you down here to help. But don’t worry. The hard work will be done on the surface.”

Algor said nothing.

“But we’ll do the treasure first. That way the Rahkshi don’t destroy it. Where is it?”

Algor started to point again, but then a brass collar on the end of a thick black hose dropped through the other ventilation shaft, right next to him. It thumped down on the floor and excess hose came tumbling down after it and coiled all around it. Then he heard feet on the steps way above. Distant tinkling and pattering in the stair shaft, getting louder, getting nearer. A Matoran on his way down.

Refuelling was about to begin.

“Where’s the treasure?” Garnax asked again.

Algor didn’t answer. He was estimating time. Two hundred and eighty steps. Somewhere between two and three minutes before the refuelling guy arrived, however fast he moved. And two or three minutes should be enough. It was a long time since he’d been in a fight that had lasted longer than two or three minutes.

A window of opportunity.

“Where’s the treasure?” Garnax said again.

“Find it yourself.”

The sound of feet on the stairs got a little louder.

Garnax smiled. Then he darted forward, fast and nimble and agile, and he aimed a kick at Algor’s side. From a sitting position he swatted Garnax’s foot aside and came up on his knees. Garnax stumbled away and Algor pivoted up and lunged after him.

But the Matoran of Stone sidestepped, allowing the spy to fly past him, scraping his knuckles, and collapsed back to his knees. Garnax righted himself after a step and danced in and delivered the belated kick, a decent hard blow to the ribs on Aglor’s back.

Then he stepped away and smiled again.

“Where’s the treasure?” he asked sweetly.

Algor didn’t answer. His knuckles were bleeding and he was pretty sure his lower leg armor was torn. The ceiling seemed to loom down over him.

Garnax put both hands on his handgun.

“You get one free pass. And that was it. Where’s the treasure?”

So Algor used his flashlight beam and found the right corridor. Even from a distance the reflection came back bright and lurid. Garnax walked towards it, fast and jaunty, no problem at all, right up on his toes, like he was outside on the street with just the sky above him.

“Bring some bags,” he called over his shoulder.

The Ko-Matoran shuffled over and grabbed a pack of bags, and then he shuffled after Garnax, hobbled, injured, humiliated, following the little Matoran like a giant caged Fusa.




Do it. Short, simple words. A command. Or a short simple plea, or a short simple request. Or a short simple half of a bargain. A very attractive bargain. Do it, and get extremely rich, and live happily for ever with respect and veneration from your whole community. They would be the men who took down Garnax and saved Metru-Nui. Saints. Heroes. Songs would be sung, tales would be told.

The assassin from seat 4A looked at the Su-Matoran from seat 4B. They both swallowed hard. They were getting very close to doing it. Dangerously close. A hundred feet south a new Ta-Matoran sentry had just rotated into position. He was facing away, alert and on guard. Way far beyond him the flares still burned at the distant end of the runway.

On either side of the Airship, the third and fourth flares still burned, bright crimson puffballs. Two blue moons, white snow, red flame.

The other three mercenaries were working in the bunker. Opening the doors, setting the ladders, working out a system for hauling the treasure hand-to-hand along between them and then getting it up into the Airship and stacking it safely on the floor of the old cargo section.

The Matoran from seat 4A hoisted the end of the second hose on his shoulder. His partner in crime from seat 4B hit the switch and the drum began to unwind. As the hose retracted, he pulled a small device from a cavity hidden in his armor.

An explosive charge, just big enough to fit down the ventilation shaft.

Sixteen minutes to four in the morning.

Eleven minutes to go.

The countdown was still going.

And the tiny device in the Su-Matoran’s hands was going to end it.




Garnax was in the right corridor, playing his flashlight beam the length of the shelf and back again, over the gold and the silver and the platinum, and the diamonds and the rubies and the sapphires and the emeralds, and the statues and the paintings and the platters and the candlesticks. But not with greed or wonderment in his face. He was assessing the size of the packaging task, that was all.

“You can start bagging this up. But first, show me the Kraata.”

Algor led him across the chamber, his wounds weighing him down, leaving him to hobble along low and deferential, all the way to the third of the three tunnels packed with Stasis Tubes. A staggering sight, as Glonor had described it to him. Containers stacked ten high, ten deep, a whole solid wall of them a hundred feet long, undisturbed for 3,001 years, old yellowing glass glowing dull in the flashlight beams. Fifteen thousand of them.

“Is this all of it?” Garnax asked.

“A third of it,” Algor replied.

The feet on the staircase grew louder. The fuel guy was hustling.

“We’ll prepare what’s here. Start as soon as the treasure is loaded onto the Airship.”

“What will you do when the Rahkshi are unleashed? They’ll just kill you.”

Garnax cocked his head. “I didn’t say I would be getting my hands dirty. You and my associates will be preparing the Rahkshi for me, while I watch from a safe distance.”

“That’s a double-cross.”

Garnax laughed. “You killed five Matoran for me and now you’re upset that I’m leaving you for dead?”

“I would prefer you to have been true to your word, that’s all.”

“Why?”

“Because I want my wife to be OK.”

The Po-Matoran snorted. “Ten hours from now I’ll have no further use for her. I’m never doing business here again.”

“You’ll have no further use for me, either.”

“I’ll let you live,” Garnax grunted. “You did well for me. Slow, but you got there in the end. There may be a seat aboard my Airship for you. I may even name it after you. The Glacii.”

Algor said nothing.

“I am true to my word,” Garnax shrugged. “Just not with my hired help.”

Behind them they heard the last loud footstep on the last metal stair and then the first quiet footstep on the concrete floor. They turned and saw one of Garnax’s bodyguards arrive. A Fe-Matoran wearing a Noble Mask of Conjuring. He had his firearm on his chest and a flashlight in his hand. He was looking all around. Not curious. Just a guy getting the job done. He found the fuel line and picked it up one-handed and pulled it out straight and jerked it and heaved serpentine waves into it to work out the kinks. He asked where the tank was and Algor pointed his flashlight beam at the relevant corridor. The guy hauled the heavy hose after him and disappeared.

“Go start bagging the treasure,” commanded the Po-Matoran.

Algor left him communing with his stock in trade and shuffled the long way around. Five thousand gallons in a homemade tank. He wanted to be sure the connection was secure. He was going to be down there until Garnax died, which was a minimum of a few more minutes and a maximum of ten more hours, and he preferred one thing to worry about at a time.

He found the Fe-Matoran finishing up. The brass end of the hose was neatly socketed into a matching brass fitment brazed into the end wall of the tank. The assassin was nudging it one way, nudging it the other, feeling for looseness or play. He seemed to find none, so he opened a tap on the tank side of the joint. Algor heard the fuel flow into the hose. Not much of it. Three gallons, maybe four. That was all. Gravity only, into the length of hose that lay on the floor at a lower level than the tank itself. For the rest, the pump would have to prime itself and then suck hard and haul it all up and out.

Algor watched the joint. A single fat drop of oil formed where two washers were compressed. It beaded large and waited and then fell to the floor and made a tiny wet stain.

That was all.

No more.

Safe enough.

Garnax’s guy crouched a little and duck-walked back to the stairs and headed upward. Algor shuffled on around the perimeter of the circular chamber and disappeared into a corridor far from the treasure and far from the Kraata.




Algor heard Garnax moving about. Heard him step out of the corridor into the round chamber. Algor was sitting on the floor in the first of the curved connecting tunnels. In what Glonor had called the B-ring. He’d described the layout of the entire bunker to him. The central chamber was the A-ring. Then came the B-ring, and then the C-ring, and around the outside was the D-ring. All partially interconnected by the eight straight spokes. More than seventeen hundred linear bio of tunnel. Twenty-four separate junctions. Twelve random left turns, twelve random right turns. Plus a total of ten hollowed-out bathrooms and kitchens and storage chambers.

A warren.

A maze.

Algor knew his way around, and Garnax didn’t.

No communicator signal, his bodyguards all busy on the surface, no possibility of reinforcement.

Algor waited.

Glacii?

The sound of the word boomed and echoed and took unpredictable paths and seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.

Algor waited.

“Glacii! Get your backside over here! Our deal isn’t finished yet! Remember, I’ll cripple her and mutilate her and let her live for a year before I finish her off!”

Algor said nothing.

Glacii?

No response from Algor. Five seconds. Ten.

The big gamble came right then, at that exact moment in time. Fifty-fifty. Live or die. A smart guy with a dawning problem would hustle straight up the stairs and send foot soldiers down in his place. A dumb guy would stay to fight it out.

But so might a smart guy overcome by ego, and arrogance, and a sense of superiority, and a need never to appear weak because he was smaller than every other Matoran he’d ever met in his life.

Fifty-fifty.

Live or die.

Garnax stayed.

Glacii? Where are you?”

A trace of worry in his voice.

Algor put his mouth close to the curved concrete and said, “Glacii’s dead.

The sound rode the walls and went all around and came back to him, a quiet-spoken sentence, everywhere and nowhere, conversational, but full of menace. Algor heard Garnax’s feet scuffling on the concrete floor. He was spinning in place, trying to locate the voice.

Garnax’s feet went quiet and he called out, “What did you say?” Algor moved along an empty spoke into the C-ring. A slow, silent shuffle. No sound at all, except the whisper of fabric when the seat of his pants hit the floor. Which didn’t matter anyway. All sounds were everywhere. They hissed and sang and branched and travelled. The Ko-Matoran put his mouth to the wall and spoke.

I shot Glacii in the head. Now I’m coming for you.

“Who are you?”

“Does it matter?”

“Tell me.”

“I was a friend of Nokama’s.”

“Who?”

“The Ga-Matoran witness. Didn’t you even know her name?”

“Are you the military cop?”

“You’re about to find out who I am,” snarled Algor, rage building up inside him, bubbling away quietly.

A smart guy would have run for the stairs.

Garnax stayed.

“Do you think you can beat me?” he called out. “Down here? When I’m vulnerable?”

“I can beat you anywhere.”

A long pause.

“Where are you?” Garnax called.

“Right behind you,” Algor challenged. Loud voice, booming echo. Fast feet scuffling on concrete. No answer.

The Matoran of Ice moved on, in the dark, his flashlight off. He heard Garnax enter a corridor. A straight spoke. The sound of his feet narrowed and then bloomed and the tap of his heels came back from the right and the left simultaneously. Algor scooted left, then right. Into a straight spoke of his own. Adjacent to Garnax’s, apparently. He saw the glow of Garnax’s flashlight as it passed the mouth of the C-ring. He moved on and stopped and lay down on his side, curled like a letter S, in the mouth of the straight spoke, just three feet from the main chamber. Down on the floor, to show a small target. Away from the vertical surfaces, because bullets rode walls, too. Not just sound. Any combat veteran would say the same. Narrow alleys, confined spaces, near-misses didn’t ricochet at gaudy angles. They buzzed and burrowed close to the brick or the stone. Flattening yourself against a hard surface did the other guy a favour, not you. Counterintuitive, and difficult to resist, but true.

He heard Garnax stop in the mouth of his corridor. Saw the glow from his light. He was facing into the main chamber. Two possibilities. One, he would turn right, away from the tunnel where Algor was waiting. Or two, he would turn left, towards it.

The spy disappeared into the shadows.





The assassin from seat 4A walked the second hose into the stone building. He wrestled it across the floor and around the stair head and pulled it over to the same ventilation shaft the first hose was in. He put it up on his shoulder again and faced the void and kicked with his knee until the nozzle fell into the shaft.

Then he fed the hose down after it, yard by yard, ten feet, twenty, thirty, forty, like he was chinning himself backward along an endless climbing bar. When he had a good sixty feet in the shaft he ducked out from under it and laid it down against the lip. He kicked it straight on the floor and checked it for kinks.

All good.

Up the shaft from the tank, through the pump, and straight back down the same shaft again.

A simple, linear proposition.

Do it.

He walked back out to the cold and found his ally.

“Can you shoot the sentry from here?”

The Su-Matoran from seat 4B looked down at his sub-machinegun. It had an incredibly thick barrel with six rotating four-inch nozzles. A great weapon, but no more accurate than a regular handgun. And he was shivering hard. And not just from the cold.

“No,” he muttered.

“So sneak up on him. If he sees you, tell him you’re there to relieve him. Keep him talking. I’ll hit the others. Wait until you hear me fire, and let him have it.”

The assassin from seat 4B said nothing.

“Think about what will happen if we don’t do this, of what our boss is going to do to us.”

The guy from seat 4B nodded. He turned around. He headed south. Slowly at first, and then faster.





Garnax turned right. Away from where Algor was waiting. A disappointment. Or perhaps not. Perhaps just a delay, and then eventually a benefit. Because the flashlight glow was dimming and brightening, then dimming and brightening, slowly and regularly and rhythmically, which told him that Garnax was walking slowly around the circumference of the chamber, counterclockwise, playing the beam into one corridor at a time, pausing, checking carefully, and then moving on. No net loss. After all, in a circular space, turning right was ultimately the same thing as turning left. And counterclockwise was better than clockwise. Much better. For a number of reasons, which were about to be made plain.

To Garnax, especially.

The Kiril-wearer waited.

The flashlight beam moved on.

Then, from far above, he heard tiny sounds. Brief muted purrs. Four of them. Quiet enough to be close to the point of not being audible at all. Maybe the fuel tanker’s starter motor turning over. Maybe something to do with the Airship. Maybe anything.

But if Algor had been forced to guess worst case, he would have pegged them as triple taps from fast sub-machineguns.

Of which there were six on the surface.

Garnax heard them too. His flashlight beam stopped dead. Silence.

Nothing more.

A long wait.

Then the flashlight beam moved on.

Algor saw Garnax from the back through the circular lattice of steel that was the bottom five and a half feet of the staircase. He was twenty feet away. A hundred and eighty degrees opposite. His flashlight beam was horizontal in the corridor directly across from his.

The Matoran of Ice moved his right arm. He cocked it behind him, ready.

Garnax moved on, still counterclockwise, still slow. His body was facing forward, walking a perfect circuit. His head was turned. He was looking to his right at a square ninety degree angle down each of the radial spokes. The flashlight was in his left hand, the beam across his body. Which meant that the revolver was in his right hand. Which meant that the muzzle was facing left, which was fundamentally the wrong way, for a right-handed guy walking a counterclockwise circle. It was facing inward, not outward. A bad mistake. It would take a fast awkward flex of the elbow and a complicated tangle in the strap to correct in a hurry.

Algor smiled.

Not such a smart guy after all.

Garnax kept on coming.

A quarter-turn to go. Two more spokes.

One more spoke.

Then there was a vibration in the hose that led away from the fuel tank. The pump had started, way up there on the surface. Algor heard the swish and rush of liquid as the pump primed itself and sucked air and created a vacuum and fuel moved in to fill it. He heard a hiss of air from the tank as it began to empty, quiet at first, then louder.

The flashlight beam moved on.

It arrived.

It played down the long tunnel, concentrated just above Algor’s curled form. But scatter from the lens picked him up. Garnax froze, a yard away. Just a split second. Algor sensed it. And used it to whip his right arm forward. Like a desperate throw from the outfield of an Alikini match. The torch was a foot and a half long. Cross-hatching on the body. Great grip. Ferocious acceleration. Tremendous leverage. Muscle, fury, anger. Geometry and physics.

Algor’s flashlight hit Garnax butt-end-first square on his Mask of Life Draining. A solid punch. The Ko-Matoran spun on his hip and scythed with his legs, kicking his enemy’s feet out from under him. The Po-Matoran crashed down, flat on the floor. Algor rolled on to his back, rolled on to his other side, rolled right on top of Garnax.

And the world flipped again. Now the horizontal was vertical and the vertical was horizontal. No disadvantage in being tall. In fact, just the opposite. On the floor, the big guy always wins.

Algor started hammering heavy blows into Garnax’s face. One, two, three, hard and vicious. Then he scrabbled for the revolver and got his hand on it just as the Po-Matoran did. The two of them started a desperate tug of war.

The Matoran of Stone was strong. Unbelievably, phenomenally strong for a combatant of his size. And impervious to pain. Algor had his left hand on the firearm and was using his right to hammer more blows to Garnax’s head. Four, five, six, seven.

Garnax was bucking and writhing and tossing left, tossing right. Algor was on top of him, smothering him, all two hundred and fifty pounds, and he was in danger of getting thrown off. The Brotherhood servant was snarling and biting, curling and rearing. Algor jammed the heel of his hand under his nose and smashed his head down on the concrete, one, two, three. Then four.

No result.

His foe started kicking for Algor’s midsection, bucking, thrashing, like he was swimming backstroke. The Ko-Matoran pinned the weapon, clambered off and smashed a right into Garnax’s ribs. He coughed once, coughed twice, and blood foamed on his lips. Swallowing, the enraged Po-Matoran jerked up from the waist and tried to get Algor with a head-butt. The spy clamped a palm over Garnax’s moving teeth and smashed his head back down on the floor.

His eyes stayed open.

Then suddenly: sloshing, gushing, pouring liquid. Loud, forceful, relentless. Like a waterfall. Roaring. The stink of fuel. Algor kept his left hand on the weapon and scrabbled with his right and found Garnax’s flashlight, then jammed his elbow in the Po-Matoran’s throat and played the beam towards the sound.

Liquid was sheeting out of the nearer ventilation shaft. A flooding, drenching, torrential flow. Hundreds of gallons. A deluge. It hammered on the concrete and bounced and spattered and pooled and raced across the floor. Like a lake. Like a tide. Within seconds the floor was soaked. The air was full of fumes. The flashlight beam danced and shivered and swam through them.

Airship fuel.

And it kept on coming. Like a giant faucet. Unstoppable. Like a burst dam. Gushing, sheeting, rushing, pouring, drenching. Garnax bucked and jerked and twisted and got his throat out from under Algor’s elbow,

“What the hell is it? A leak?”

“Not a leak,” Algor grunted.

“Then what?”

The Ko-Matoran watched the flow. Relentless and powerful. And pulsing. It was the pump on the surface, running hard. Two hoses in the same shaft. One up, one down. One emptying the tank, the other wide open and dumping the contents straight back underground.

“What is it?” Garnax repeated.

“It’s a triple-cross,” Algor said. His head was already aching from the fumes. His eyes were starting to sting.

“What?” Garnax said.

“Some of your guys have betrayed you. You’re out of business. I guess they wanted to destroy Metru-Nui rather than ruin me.”

“They think they can drown me?”

“No,” Algor sighed. “They’re not going to drown you.”

There was no possibility of drowning. There was too much floor area. Five thousand gallons would level out less than two inches deep.

He said, “They’re going to burn you to death.”

“Rubbish!”

“Well who in Karzahni tries to drown someone in Airship fuel?”

“How?” Garnax said. “They’re going to drop a match down the stairs? It would go out on the way.”

Algor shrugged. The Po-Matoran wrenched away. Got to his knees. His Kanohi was broken and leaking blood, just like Algor’s. His metallic teeth were smashed. One eye was closed.

He put his hands on the revolver.

Then he took them off again.

Algor nodded.

“Don’t even think about it,” he grunted. “The muzzle flash on that thing? With these fumes in the air? You want to do their work for them?”

“How are they going to do it?”

Algor said nothing. He was thinking. Picturing the scene on the surface, running options through his head. See what they see. Be them.

Not a match. Garnax was right.

A match would go out.

The deluge kept on coming. It was never-ending. It poured and sheeted and hammered. Algor was on his knees. He was soaked. The fuel was already a good half-inch deep. The fumes were thick. Breathing was hard.

“So what do we do?” snarled Garnax.

“How fast can you run up a flight of stairs?”

“Faster than you!” he bellowed, scrambling back to his feet.

They were face to face, mask to mask, Algor on his knees, Garnax on his feet.

“I don’t think so,” the Ko-Matoran snarled.

He unleashed the uppercut from his knees. A colossal, primitive, primeval blow, driven all the way from the center of the earth, pulsing through the wet concrete, through his knee, his thigh, his waist, his upper body, his shoulder, his arm, his wrist, his fist, every muscle and every fiber twitching just once, rippling fast in perfect propulsive sequence and harmony.

Garnax’s jaw shattered and his head snapped back like a plush doll. He hung motionless for a split second and then he splashed down, hard and vertical.

Algor was pretty sure he was dead when he hit the floor.

Then he made absolutely certain of it.

He clamped his hands on Garnax’s audio receptors and jerked his head one way and then the other until he felt the vertebrae pull apart and then he kept on doing it until he was sure the spine was torn all the way to mush.

The deluge kept on coming, rushing, sheeting, torrential. The round chamber, once still and dry and ancient, was soaked with chemical stink and boiling with fumes, the fuel suddenly close to an inch deep, with small urgent waves racing outward from a frothing maelstrom directly under the roaring pipe.

He ran.

He splashed across the floor on his knees and ducked his shoulders down and got his head up inside the stair shaft and crawled and clawed and scrabbled to his feet. He leaned in towards the center pole and took the stairs three at a time, galloping madly, his left hand sliding up over the steel, his right hand pawing crazily at the wall, batting and clutching and grasping at every extra second. The sound of his feet on the metal was drowned out by the waterfall roar of the fuel from below. He charged on, three at a time, four at a time, not breathing, anaerobic, up and up and up, round and round and round, not counting, just running, running, running, climbing, churning, hammering, straining, hurling himself towards the surface.

Five minutes to four in the morning.

Sixty-one hours gone.




The waiting period. Like soldiers in a trench, waiting to go charging over into enemy territory.

Glacii crouched beside him, more alert than tense as he watched a pair of mercenaries emerge from the far side of the bunker, nod to the Ta-Matoran sentry, then climb up the ladder into the Airship. He had done this before. Probably many times over the course of his long and barbarous career. He didn’t fidget around, burning energy and panicking. In the worst case scenario, they would be spotted and there would be shots fired. On the plus side, Garnax was probably too far underground to hear them now, and the engine of the Airship would swallow up any noise that his goons made. It was a good kind of rage that was running through the Ko-Matoran’s body.

“How did you come across a Pakari Nuva?” asked Glonor icily.

The Ko-Matoran stirred.

“It was a victory token,” he muttered, reaching up to run a finger over its many ridges. “I led the Metru-Nui Military into Barraki Mantax’s territory, in the Southern Continent, to siege his primary stronghold. This Kanohi was at the top of his trophy cabinet.”

“So you took it?”

“As tribute to the Toa who died wearing it,” nodded Glacii solemnly. “It helps knowing I’m continuing the legacy of a believer in justice.”

“It suits you.”

“Why did you ask?”

“Just curious,” shrugged the Matoran of Light.


It was seventy-five bio from the mound of snow that they were hiding behind to the first hut, then a further twenty-five bio to the Airship. It took the two Matoran three minutes to reach to reach their destination safely, even with their white armor camouflage. They kept on trudging through the snow until they saw the Fa-Matoran drive past them.

From this position they had a clear line of sight over the entire operation. The cordon had just entered the bunker, leaving only the Ta-Matoran behind. He moved closer to the Airship and stood watch.

Personally, Glonor hadn’t anticipated that Garnax would waste even one of his men as a guard at this point in his plan. His allies were all too important and it was integral that nothing compromised his activities inside the bunker. So what use was the Airship now? Why was the ladder still up? Why hadn’t the engines been switched off? Why had two Matoran just entered it?

Was it possible that Glacii had lied to him? That this was all an elaborate ruse for a darker goal? Immediately he dismissed the thought. He could trust the Ko-Matoran so long as his wife was still being held captive. That much was obvious. He would have an ally who was equally willing to fight to the death to stop Garnax.

Once he was sure the sentry wasn’t looking, he motioned for his teammate to stay hidden behind the hut and crept around to the corner of the wooden structure. In a squatted, awkward movement, the Av-Matoran dropped down onto the snowy ground and shuffled closer to the edge of the runway, ignoring the cold that no longer chilled him to the core. The Matoran of Fire was down the country road. Whatever Kanohi he was wearing appeared to be fitted with Telescopic Lenses.

Leaning downwards slowly, Glonor scooped up a small handful of fresh snow from the edge of the runway. Whatever the guard was looking at it wasn’t in his direction, allowing the Matoran of Light to fling his snowball straight over his head.

The shot was, of course, rushed. Even from his approximate twenty-five bio standing point, his aim was terrible. He hadn’t accounted for the wind blowing against him, which caused the Av-Matoran to stumble to retain his balance, throwing his target slightly off course. He’d hoped to strike the side of the nearest engine and distract the sentry, but his shot was angled lower than it ought to have been. It missed the engine completely and sailed straight onto the Airship’s hull. A hollow thud rang out, startling the sentry and leaving a small white mark on the grey metal. The Ta-Matoran turned around a fraction of a second too late to spot the shattered snowball drop to the tarmac. His torch caught the glimmer of ice moments after the debris has settled. His eyes widened and his hand tightened around his sub-machinegun.

Then he died.

Glonor hadn’t wasted his opportunity to strike. After making the shot he’d closed his eyes for a second and pictured Crystallus sprawled across his cruiser with a hole in his Kanohi. Pictured Nokama’s third eye as she lay crumpled in his armchair. Pictured Ninian shaking with horror as she apologised to him and left the night before.

Then he crashed out of his camouflaged cover and charged, like a Fader Bull materialising in mid-pounce. He’d slipped and gotten off to a bad start but the momentum of his muscular body carried him forwards at an alarming rate, straight up to the guy’s back. When the guard turned around at the sound of his footfall on the tarmac, it was already too late.

He smashed one of his balled-up fists across his throat. His knuckles were hard and he gave it all he had. He felt metal explode underneath. The Ta-Matoran reeled backwards, his weapon dropping to his sides, and danced in a circle; as if he had rubber legs.

Glacii’s sudden appearance hadn’t been anticipated but the Ko-Matoran was suddenly on the scene. Evidently he hadn’t listened to Glonor and had just followed him anyway. He caught the assassin by the throat, looking like a Po-Matoran wrangling the neck of a Husi. He made a fine job of it.

The Police Chief let the body drop to the ground. They waited for a full minute. Listened hard. Nobody else came.

Not even pausing to breathe, the two Matoran hauled the Ta-Matoran’s body aside to the mound of snow at the edge of the airstrip. Glacii tore his Kanohi off as they dumped him there, then hurled the mask as far away as he could.

“Just in case we didn’t kill him,” grunted the Matoran of Ice ruefully, scooping the sub-machinegun out of the corpse’s cold, dead hands.

With no guard left the trip back to the Airship was considerably swift. They mounted the cheap metal ladder, exchanged concerned glances, then climbed up. Glonor planted a foot carefully and silently on each rung, easing his way up slowly, followed shortly by Glacii. The ladder was made from some king of metallic Protodermis. Open treads. The whole damn thing could ring like a bell if they were clumsy. The Pakari Nuva-wearer took up the rear, gripping the handrail with his right hand, gun in his left.

They crept up. It took them a full three minutes to make the climb cautiously. When they had completed their ascent they waited on the platform at the top. Glonor pressed an audio receptor to the thick door as it lay ajar. Aside from the engine’s mighty roar, all seemed quiet. They held their breath as Glacii pulled the door open.

No interior sound.

No reaction.

Glonor had never believed in luck. He’d never had a reason to. He’d never had to rely on it, because he never could. But now he was lucky in a big way. 100,000 years of bad luck and trouble were wiped away in one single bright glance. The Great Beings were sitting on his shoulder, whooping with joy and driving him on. In that one single bright glance, he knew that he had won.

As they ducked into the corridor, the Av-Matoran saw a Su-Matoran appear, dragging a body adorned in green armor: the pilot. The unfortunate Matoran of Air was a mess. His chest was peppered with bullet holes. Behind his battered Noble Rau was another innocent Matoran sacrificed in Garnax’s mad quest for power.

Glonor knew that the Airship pilot had been cheated. Garnax had ordered him to be killed with exactly the same cold-blooded ruthlessness with which he would kill anyone who got in his way. The Rau-wearer had probably been paid to steal the Airship from Le-Metru in the first place, then to carry the Po-Matoran and his bodyguards between islands. Maybe he’d been paid. Maybe he’d been strung up and forced to, like Glacii. He might have been expecting a long stay in jail. He hadn’t been told that his death was a job requirement.

But that didn’t make sense. Garnax needed the pilot alive.

Which meant someone else was going to pilot the Airship without his knowledge.

Another plan. A betrayal.

There was no other way of putting it. The Le-Matoran was meant to fly Garnax and his crew away as Rahkshi swarmed out of the building and into Ko-Metru. They weren’t safe on the ground. If they couldn’t escape then they’d get mauled.

But the engines were still running, albeit gently. The Airship was set for another departure. Perhaps Garnax had planned that, but he certainly wouldn’t have intended to be at the bottom of the staircase, two hundred and eighty steps underground. The death of the Rau-wearing Le-Matoran was treachery. The Su-Matoran and at least one other henchmen had double-crossed their employer.

The orange and white-armored assassin had not noticed them. He just continued dragging the body clear of the corridor, leaving an ugly bloodstain. It was horribly noticeable. The rest of the Airship had been cleaned until it was spotless.

Glonor knew that if he was going to do anything – if there was anything he could do at this point – it would have to happen before the Airship left the ground.

The speaker system suddenly flared into life above their Kanohi. Everything that was said in the main cabin could be heard everywhere on board. And, sitting at the flight deck, the second traitor flicked a twitch so his voice could be heard throughout the transporter.

This is your Captain loud-talking,” he chuckled sardonically. “Please fasten-tight your safety-restrainers and prepare for the high-lifting experience.

He was joking: a grisly parody of a real departure, spoken in Chutespeak, like a Le-Matoran pilot.

Thank you for wind-flying on the Cult of Darkness Airlines. We hope you have a spirit-blessed journey.

The engines roared louder than ever. They’d been background noise till now. Glonor stole a glance out of the window to see a Bo-Matoran wearing a Powerless Mask of Rebounding rush out of the stone bunker, eyes wide in confusion. He stood and gawped for a moment before scurrying away.

The average Airship was equipped with four huge engines. Glonor heard them as they began to turn. They were about to take-off.

At first it was slow. The Iden-wearer felt a shuddering, vague at first, but soon it was all-consuming. The entire vessel was shaking so violently that he could feel his metallic teeth rattling in his skull.


There was an almighty jerk as the thrusters engaged and the Airship lifted off upwards. Glonor felt a sharp jolt as he and Glacii were forced to grab ahold of the walls to steady themselves., like they were being pounded by invisible fists.

They were definitely rising. The view out of the window was different now. They were leaving the surface world behind, rocketing upwards, like they were both trapped inside an oversized firework that would carry them up into the sky.

Everything had been calculated, and eventually the jolting instability stopped pulverizing them. The engines died down a little as the Airship began to drift off in a different direction.

Instantly, Glonor was on his feet, charging forwards, more direct than ever.

“I’ve heard about that Su-Matoran,” grunted Glacii. “His name’s Varis, an assassin based in Xia. He’s been wanted for centuries. One of Metru-Nui’s most wanted.”

“I’ll leave him to you then,” muttered Glonor, raising his firearm. “Because I know who the other guy is.”

The fractured voice replayed in his head once more. A non-Le-Matoran speaker. An assassin of top caliber, ranked amongst the Matoran Universe’s elite. Satirical, snarky and twisted. There could only be one person.

“His name’s Tollubo, and I’m going to kill him.”

Chapter 22 - The Invisible Sword

Following regular emergency protocols the Coliseum lit up with activity. Alert at their stations, a team of Matoran tracked and tried to make sense of the unusual anomaly.

The whole thing had started a little over five minutes ago, when one of the technicians, a Le-Matoran named Carnac had sat up a little straighter and hastily double-checked the readout he’d been getting. Fate had not been kind to him in recent months. Ever since his arrival in Metru-Nui, he’d been Turaga Matoro’s personal bodyguard. When the Turaga had died Carnac had been blamed for not doing his job properly. Although the Le-Matoran was disgraced by this accusation, Turaga Vilnius requested that Carnac should continue working at the Coliseum due to the late Turaga Matoro's fondness of the helpful Komau-wearer. Carnac had been re-employed as a Security Surveillance Officer, rather than his former job as the Turaga's personal bodyguard. This involved a slight decrease in his earnings, which his wife wasn’t all too pleased to hear.

But he was still just getting to grips with all the technical equipment he’d been entrusted with. Having spent most of his life as a Flax Maker, wondering the Southern Continent and selling his wares, he had relatively little experience with technology. But the readout was clear and sharp, so he hadn’t hesitated in sounding an alarm.

Klaxons rang out, underscoring the command that was relayed the length and breadth of the entire Coliseum Security Center.

Impending perimeter breach. Full evacuation of all personnel in progress. Please lay down your tools and vacate the building in a calm and orderly fashion.

The words of Turaga Bomonga, spoken over a speaker system.

Papers were thrown aside, data hubs abandoned while still switched on, records were hurriedly saved as the Coliseum was cleared.

The Toa Metru had been summoned, all six members of the active rostrum: five Toa and Gribrak, a Steltian Trader who was considered an honorary member of the elite taskforce. All six male team members rushed to their stations, each absorbed in his own thoughts. Each wondered, as they always did on such occasions, whether or not this was just a drill.

Nobody recognized Toa Tollubo as he pushed his way through a crowd of Matoran travelling in the opposite direction. The Toa of Light had never been photographed, and even now he was in disguise. His name wasn’t publically known. As far as the Matoran were concerned, the Toa Metru were being led by Toa Hagah Kualus and Tollubo’s name was Teridax, a Toa of Light from an alternate reality, determined to make a difference in this universe.

The Pakari-wearer reached the end of the corridor and swung the door open, stepping into the Mission Briefing room, the unofficial headquarters of the Toa Metru, his team trailing behind him.

A loose circle of smaller individuals were stood waiting for him. Turaga Velika and Turaga Vilnius were on the far side. Carnac was there too, but this time he wasn’t there protecting anyone with a short combat spear. He had a clipboard in his hand and he looked like he’d just been mugged in the middle of Onu-Metru. Most of them had only just woken up.

“Toa… please join us so we can begin.”

Turaga Vilnius wasn’t happy, and it showed. Like all politicians, he didn’t entirely trust his Toa and he certainly didn’t want them swarming around him. It wasn’t fair. He hadn’t been in power very long, just over three months. It was far too soon in his career for his first national crisis. Back in the olden days, when he’d been a Toa of Fire, the story might’ve been different. But now he had to look at it all from a different perspective.

Everyone in the room was trying to remain calm, as if they’d just happened to be passing and had decided to drop in for the evening. Orkahm could barely keep his eyes open.

“Well…” the Turaga began. He licked his lips. “I’ve read Carnac’s report on the situation and it does seem to be very alarming.”

Toa Tourik blinked heavily. “I’m glad you’ve had time to read it,” he muttered with thick sarcasm.

“An Airship originating from Ko-Metru is heading for the Coliseum at full throttle, on a direct collision course,” continued the Turaga, ignoring the Toa of Plantlife’s rudeness. “This building, along with a forty mio radius around it, is a no-fly zone, and there are no flight paths currently scheduled that violate that perimeter.”

“So we have to take it out of the sky?”

“It’s too late for that. The Airship is three minutes away.”

“Are there any civilians on board?”

Vilnius shrugged. “We have no contact whatsoever. There could be a Hahnah Crab behind the wheel for all we know.”

“So what do we do? We can’t scramble together anywhere near enough artillery to shoot and Airship out of the sky.”

The Turaga of Fire nodded. “Ordinarily, no, but I am aware of an old defense protocol which Turaga Tuyet installed during the Dark Hunter War. There are several military bases around Metru-Nui, loaded with several prototype air-to-ground tactical missiles: Gorasts. They should be able to pinpoint a target exactly in about a minute.”

Toa Orkahm, Toa of Air, raised an eyebrow. “What about the debris? You’ll be authorizing a missile-strike on a quick-moving target above a Matoran population. And what about Matoran in the dark-space inside?”

Toa Tollubo grunted in response. “We don’t have a choice, Orkahm. There’s no reason to believe any Matoran are even onboard.”

“And if they are? If our thought-plan turns into dark-luck, what then?”

“I’m sure you’ll agree that we can’t allow a few lives to get in the way of our mission,” shrugged the Pakari-wearer. “The Coliseum is our castle. The surrounding area is disposable in comparison. We absolutely cannot afford to let the Cult of Darkness terrorize us. We can’t be made to look powerless against them. We need to restore the Matoran’s faith in us by showing that we will not yield to acts of terrorism like this.”

“I live close to the Coliseum,” gulped Carnac quietly. “My wife will just be getting home now.”

There was a brief silence. The other Toa were looking more uncomfortable than ever. But then Kualus took a step towards Tollubo and Vilnius. Tourik, Gribrak and Danza exchanged glances then wryly followed suit, leaving Orkahm standing alone.

“I think we’ve come to a unanimous decision,” muttered Vilnius.

Tollubo nodded.

Do it.




The missiles had been activated.

All over Metru-Nui, in deserts and in mountains, on roads and from factories, even out in the Silver Sea, the launch sequences began automatically. Bases in all six districts suddenly went onto red alert. Sirens howled. Data hubs went into frantic overdrive. It was the start of a panic that would spread in minutes all over the island.

And yet, only one Gorast Missile was actually launched, blasting into the air from Ga-Metru in a moment of terrible beauty.

It climbed into the upper atmosphere of Metru-Nui’s dome, travelling at a speed of around fifteen thousand mio per hour. It was a dreadful firework display worth a million widgets that would change the Matoran Universe forever.



The Airship was moving rapidly now, up into the air, ignoring the rest of the runway and angling away in a north-easterly direction. Up in the cabin, the Matoran of Shadow known as Tollubo was going through the final procedures: lifting the elevators up and down, focusing the navigational equipment, finding equilibrium with which to sustain flight. As soon as he was satisfied that the Airship was ready, he would push down the four thrust levers and they would rocket forwards, toward the heart of the island.

But then he became distracted. It was obvious that this was going to be a suicide mission, even though he and Varis were still being paid. Their task was to pilot the stolen Airship into the Coliseum. Upon collision a small detonator, which was hidden just above one of the fuel containers, would be set off, causing the grand structure to be engulfed in flames. Both Cult of Darkness servants were carrying parachutes in their packs, though it was more than likely that they would be killed by burning debris.

Hence the auto-pilot system. The Le-Matoran pilot – Tamaru – had been held at gunpoint until the functioning of the system had been fully explained to him. Now the deceased Rau-wearer’s knowledge was his. A bizarre usurping of information that would make up the difference between life and death.

Not that Varis would get out alive. Tollubo was going to double cross him immediately. He couldn’t jump out of the Airship with his bulky machine gun. The second he put it down, there was going to be a bullet hole in his Kanohi. That way, as the only survivor, the total profit would be his for the taking.

Of course, it was more than likely that the Matoran of Plasma had exactly the same fate in store for him, but he would deal with that problem when it arose.

Checking his in-flight surveillance screen, the Shadow Matoran glanced over the schematics of the Airship. There he was. The assassin was skulking around the cargo bay, a gun in his hand. No doubt the muzzle of that piece was supposed to be pressed into his Kanohi Kakama in the near future. He imagined the mercenary’s expression twisting into a sinister and self-indulgent grin, like his Kanohi Iden appeared in the surveillance unit.

Kanohi Iden?

That wasn’t right. Varis wore a Kanohi Akaku, albeit a variant version of the traditional mask. The Matoran in this frame was clearly wearing a Kanohi Iden. Plus the armor that he had initially assumed to be patches of orange altered by the black and white video feed was in fact grey.

Glonor?

He blinked and leaned closer. There was no doubt. It was indeed Glonor, an Av-Matoran from Karda-Nui who Tollubo had once been forced to share a hut with. However unlikely it was that he had somehow wound up aboard the Airship, it was plain to see that he was the real deal.

This changed his plans considerably. Reaching for his communicator, the Kakama-wearer dialed a quick call to his associate.

“Varis,” he grunted. “We have a stowaway in the cargo bay. Deal with him before the drop zone.”

How in Karzahni did he get on board?” cursed the Su-Matoran.

“Well, obviously he sneaked past your ever-watchful eye.”

Why can’t you just put the autopilot on and come down with me?

“Just do it. He’s hostile and he’s in the way of our millions. Off him, now.”

He hung up abruptly then switched the device off, maintaining radio silence. No doubt Varis would be very confused. The only possible stowaways were Garnax’s assassins, which was exactly what he would go in there expecting. It was exactly the kind of approach that could be expected of the dumb, half-hearted, inexperienced Matoran who failed at a job in construction and wanted to be the next Toa Thode like Varis.

But Glonor was not an opponent who one easily underestimated. Even now, as he stepped aside to reveal a second stowaway, Tollubo was astounded.

Glacii,” he muttered with fascination, as if observing a Nui Rama held in the Archives. “That old war horse.”

Readjusting the navigational equipment, the Matoran of Shadow fed in the coordinates for the Coliseum and activated the Autopilot system. When he was sure that the Airship was now acting independently from his command, he slipped out of his seat and snatched up his own sub machine gun. Glonor would have to be dealt with, Glacii too. They both presented very clear threats and were among the last two Matoran he wanted on his Airship, minutes before the plan’s completion.

This was the endgame, and only one of them was getting out alive.




All across the chaos of Elysium, local denizens were startled by the sound of a loud explosion. Tense, each of them jerked their heads up to search for the source. Thousands of pairs of eyes widened in shock, settling on a blinding fireball rolling into the lifeless black sky, like a ball of gravity-defying tumbleweed .

A gigantic concussion ring blasted outwards. The entire plateau was hit by a violent shockwave, tossing frozen trees sideways. Cops on foot patrol had to stab their feet into the snow as they tried to frantically keep their balance across the city. The terrible explosion had blasted outwards from the war bunker and had met absolutely nothing in its path.


From her position around the prison border, Ninian closed her eyes and stood in silence.

When she opened them again a moment later there was nothing to see in the melancholy sky other than a roiling cloud of thin smoke. No debris, no metal, no clattering wreckage. Nothing at all except microscopic invisible particles of vapor accelerating into the atmosphere. And no survivors.




Glonor clicked the safety off on his Assault Rifle as quietly as he dared. Glacii had done the same moments ago as they edged across the corridor to the closed door. They crept inside smoothly, keeping low and silent.

They found themselves in the cargo bay, which was populated by a number of grey metal crates, each slightly higher than a Matoran. Storage containers, all welded into the ground at irregular intervals. Garnax had probably intended to fill them with stolen treasure. Their placement was somewhat questionable. There was no pattern at all to the oddly distributed containers. It seemed strange that they were even this far into the Airship. Logically, any boxes should have been at the front, so it would take less time to transport them.

It was only then that Glonor realized they weren’t empty. For, as the Airship jerked from a small bump of turbulence, the cargo bay shook and a splash of silver liquid escaped from the tops of the containers. Spray peppered his shoulder and a sharp burn rushed up his arm.

The Av-Matoran clamped his mouth shut and stepped back, moaning in agony and stumbling blindly, making a little too much noise for his liking. Glacii ducked back to cover his teammate as the Av-Matoran regained his balance.

“That’s Energized Protodermis,” he remarked in a whisper.

“I know,” growled Glonor. “And it burns!”

Sure enough, the silver drops had sprayed his entire upper right arm, from his elbow to his shoulder. The armor sizzled and crackled, shimmering as if it were liquid nitrogen. A faint vapor rose from him as the metal began to disintegrate.

Fortunately, he hadn’t immersed himself in the substance completely so the effects were no way near as bad as they could’ve been. The armor was just being worn away, like the Silver Sea eroding a soft cliff face over thousands of years but in the space of a few seconds.

“You’re not meant to transform,” grunted the Ko-Matoran. “You’re lucky it only hit your armor.”

A glimmer of orange caught Glonor’s eye and all hopes of a covert operation were shot down.

Move!” he barked. The Iden-wearer’s training kicked in as he grabbed his teammate by the arm then dragging him aside.

A machine-gun exploded. Bullets sprayed past the spot where Glacii should have been, peppering the metal with holes, only narrowly missing the closest Energized Protodermis container.

“Scrap!” snarled the Matoran shooter. Feet shuffled. A silver barrel glimmered from across the field of Energized Protodermis containers.

Glonor lunged forwards, diving behind the cover of the nearest vat. Whoever was shooting had a clear line of fire from the very corner of the room. He’d been preparing to shoot them from the second they walked in and they hadn’t seen him because he’d been in a blindspot. If the Airship hadn’t jolted and the Energized Protodermis spilled, he’d have killed them both without either of them seeing him.

A second spray of bullets flew towards Glonor, though he managed to find his shelter quickly enough. Instead, the shooter dented the closest metal container.

Pressing his back up against the opposite side of the grey surface, the Av-Matoran cursed under his breath. He’d caught a glimpse of their attacker when he dived from the doorway to the first container. It had been too quick to make out any recognizable features, but he had a rough idea of where the Matoran was standing. Plus he knew enough about his surroundings to know that he could slip away behind another of the five containers just as easily.

So that was what he did.

Clipping the safety back on, Glonor threw his Assault Rifle to the ground and kicked it into the space between the doorway that Glacii had taken cover behind and the container he was sheltered by. Immediately, it was met with brigade of bullets and torn to shreds by the heavy beating.

But everything the Matoran of Light had done was intentional. He whirled around and broke into a run, racing away from the bullets and around the other side of the container, skipping to the next one while the assassin open-fired on the distraction. He didn’t realize until it was far too late.

Glonor circled around the final container and came up on the mercenary’s right hand side. It was Varis, the Su-Matoran. Although the telescopic lenses on his adapted Akaku were working overtime focusing on the broken Assault Rifle lying on the ground a good ten bio in front of him, he failed to notice his own attacker. He was taking advantage of the telescopic lenses' blind spot.

The former Military Cop drove his head into his enemy’s stomach and his fist into Varis’ Kanohi. He grunted, gave a couple of inches, then rooted his feet to the floor and struck at Glonor’s head with the muzzle of the sub-machinegun. The white and grey-armored Av-Matoran took the blow on his shoulder and punched again. This time his foe stumbled. His Kanohi had been pressed sharply into his face and it had cut something organic. A thin trickle of blood trickled from the bottom of his mask. It must’ve been running the whole length of his face. Glonor grabbed his legs and pulled. He fell heavily against the metallic ground.

The Matoran of Light scrambled up his body, pushed the weapon aside and continued pounding his enemy’s face only to remember that his opponent has telescopic lenses. Delivering a blow at the wrong angle could do his knuckles more damage than he would deal. So he hesitated.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Varis went for Glonor’s Kanohi too. However, the Av-Matoran was able to roll away just in time, though he crashed into the container and felt the metal bite into his back. He’d hit the rough surface quite hard and with considerable force. He’d probably have trouble getting out of bed for the next few weeks because of that.

With a growl, Varis pushed after him, scuttling across the grated floor in a grotesque, arachnid-like fashion, hands scrambling for a hold. The Av-Matoran back-pedalled swiftly, trying to make space for an upwards counterattack. He struck his enemy’s head with both feet, but he bore the blow on his muscular chest. It slowed him but didn’t put him down, and he was on Glonor again moments later, all fists and knuckles.

The two Matoran thrashed around for the upper hand for a short while before it ended. In the end, it was Varis who wrestled his way back on top and the former Military Cop who was finally pinned down, pressed tight against the floor.

It was going to take far more than that to finish him off though.

Squirming for his life, the Av-Matoran managed to get a hand between his Kanohi and his enemy’s and pushed. Varis tried to chew at his fingers but the Matoran of Light was too experienced to be caught out like that. His combat instructors had taught him to be wary of the dirty moves as well as the legitimate.

Sliding his fingers away from his foe’s teeth, he jabbed at his eyes, poking the one that wasn’t covered by telescopic lenses. The Su-Matoran howled in agony. That gave him the only chance he needed.

Taking the window of opportunity, Glonor followed like a flash of lightning – desperately glad that the cold had sharpened his senses instead of shutting them down. If he won this fight, he’d be able to travel the Coliseum, with one of the Xia’s most wanted criminals in chains.

But the conflict was far from over and only a fool would congratulate himself while his opponent was still alive and dangerous. Pinning the mercenary down, Glonor found his enemy’s throat and squeezed. His fingers tightened as Varis’ features turned purple. Matoran could not hold their breath for as longer than most other species, but his rival had been panting from the fight and hadn’t much oxygen left in his organic lungs. He had to break Glonor’s grip quickly or he wouldn’t get another chance.

The desperate murderer worked his left arm free and began tugging on the Av-Matoran’s hands. When that didn’t make a difference he flailed out, trying to punch Glonor in the face, hoping to smash his Kanohi. But the white-armored Matoran had been expecting that too. He tucked his chin in tight and took the blows on his forehead, grunting in pain but still in control.

His attacker was weakening. He had fought many fights in his time and knew when one was lost. There was something glinting in his eyes. Pain? Defeat? Anger? Whatever it was, Glonor doubted his enemy was going to give up. He imagined the vigilante making his peace with whatever higher powers he’d worshiped. If he was to die, he’d want a clear conscience. He probably wouldn’t ask for forgiveness for the countless lives he had claimed, probably for the times he’d been weak instead, when he’d disgraced his proud and demanding species.

And that made Glonor taste the temptation of bloodlust.

The Av-Matoran could sense victory, but remained focused. Many battles were lost in their last few seconds, when the one with the upper hand grew over-confident and gave his opponent the chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He was sure that he wouldn’t make that mistake. Just another thirty seconds of pressure and this assassin would be dead. Then he could find the control board and –

Varis’ leg shot up and connected with Glonor’s chest, rocketing him into the air. He gave a cry of shock and pain as his fingers were torn from his adversary’s neck. He was thrown backwards and connected with the wall, hard. He shuddered, wincing from the pain of the last time he’d struck his back against something, and turned to regain his stance in the skirmish only to receive a blunt strike to the side of his head that nearly knocked his Kanohi clean off.

Again he hit the ground, his Iden decorated with a deep scratch. His vision flickered for a moment as he realized part of his optical circuitry had been cut. His left eye appeared to be blinking on and off, which wasn’t a good sign. Damage of any sort rarely was.

“You’re in over your head and out over your depth, Ko-Matoran,” chortled the Akaku-wearer. "You shouldn't have left your Knowledge Tower this morning."

The Matoran of Light barely got a moment of vision back before Varis’ vice-like grip clamped around his neck, squeezing until he felt the mechanical components behind his Kanohi beginning to crumple. His eyes widened and full, unbroken vision temporary returned to him. It was just long enough for him to see his enemy’s distorted Kanohi, his intimidating features, the blood trickling from his eye socket, the hatred in his eyes as he squeezed.

Glonor accepted that his enemy’s ugly face would be his final sight of life.

“It’s a shame you don’t get the privilege of any final words,” taunted the Matoran of Plasma. “But then again, I don’t usually allow my targets that mercy. Instead of saying something meaningful, a lot of them just tend to curse at me. Sometimes I don’t know why it’s even worth –”

That was as far as he got. To Glonor it was as if the mercenary had snapped his head right round, and he was aware of a sudden cloud of red vapor filled the air in front of him. At the same time he registered that there had been a shot and, as Varis slumped aside, he looked round to see Glacii standing resolute, the sub-machine gun in his hand.

The Su-Matoran was dead. There was no doubt about it. He had collapsed forwards, a gaping wound in the side of his head, where the short stray of bullets had caught him.

“Get your metallic backside back up and let’s move out of here,” grunted the former Police Chief. “We have an island to save.”

“I thought you were doing this for your wife.”

“Unless she’s flying the Airship, she isn’t on board,” shrugged the Ko-Matoran. “But I want to make sure she has a Metru-Nui left to live on after I track down the Kraata Purge and smack their heads together like Protodrake eggs.”

“We need to stop this Airship, right now.”

There was a colossal noise and a spark of flame from the corner of Glonor’s eye. The opposite side of the cargo bay. No sooner had he reacted and turned his head to scope out the attacker, Glacii let out a primal bellow. He fell to the ground, blood and splinters of armor arcing from his waist, spraying the wall in crimson drops.

Standing hidden amongst the containers, was the pilot of the Airship: Tollubo. The Shadow Matoran grinned wickedly then lowered his weapon and edged towards them as the Ko-Matoran began the slow process of bleeding to death. There was a short, stubby firearm in his hand. Smoke curled from the barrel.

Glonor felt a wave of anger and disgust. Despite everything, Glacii had come back for him and saved him – for the second time that evening. If he died now, he wouldn’t even get the chance to thank the Pakari Nuva-wearer.

The Matoran of Shadow trotted closer, a spring in his step, his weapon now lowered to Glonor as he lay on the floor. He seemed dramatic as ever but there was something off about the Kakama-wearer. He was not calm and collected as he had been when the two had last encountered each other. The past year had not been kind to him.

“Hands in the air, Glonor,” snapped the alternate Tollubo. His voice was steady but his eyes were bloodshot and unfocused. What skin poked through his armor was stretched tight. He was trembling slightly. He was doing his best to hide it but the shaking muzzle of his own firearm gave him away.

Glonor stayed still.

“What do you want, Tollubo?” he demanded. “I’m not going anywhere. Neither are you. You double crossed Garnax and removed a perfectly credible threat to Metru-Nui’s security. His plan actually could’ve crushed this island and you thwarted it. Now you’re just a fool in an Airship with no pilot.”

“I told you to put your hands in the air,” the Matoran of Shadow repeated. His fingers tightened on the trigger. He was holding the weapon as if he were going to crush it.

Was he scared of who he was aiming at?

“Why?”

“I want you to kneel before your superior. Just for once, I want you to be put in your place and for you to stay there. You’re going to cry and beg me not to hurt you. Then I’m going to put this muzzle between your eyes and shoot you dead.”

Glonor snorted. “Well then, you might as well shoot me here. I’m not playing your games.

Tollubo bristled in fury then lowered his firearm, aiming it at the center of Glacii’s right leg. He knew that the Ko-Matoran’s armor would offer no protection at all.

“I can make it slow...” snarled the twisted Matoran.

Glonor nodded. He took one more look around him, as if worried about what non-existent innocent bystanders would think of him for surrendering.

“Alright.”

His hands rose into the air, stopping awkwardly just above his Kanohi. Yielding to such a disgraceful opponent wasn’t something he was accustomed to. Glonor was used to a higher class of assassin.

“Shoot me,” he dared.

“Why bother,” shrugged the black and silver-armored Matoran. He was inviting curiosity, trying to make one of them ask about his plan.

But Glonor didn’t want to hear him.

“You know, I’ve spent some of the most important years of my life with your counterpart,” grunted Glonor. “We fought Rahkshi together, I killed a Rock Steed under his direction, I even dragged him from a burning hut in Karda-Nui.”

Tollubo remained silent, unmoved.

“But when I look at you, a pale and distorted reflection of the Matoran who showed me the light... I just feel pity.”

The Shadow Matoran’s eyes narrowed.

“You’ve dedicated your entire life to the darkness. You battled hard for things you didn’t even believe in. You struggled every step of the way but there was always someone there to make it harder. You could have overcome impossible obstacles, faced down the world in your daily battle against the Great Beings. And now the good guy gets rewarded. The Tollubo from my universe is a Toa, and you’re on this Airship, about to fly it into the Coliseum on what I seriously hope isn’t a suicide mission. It must burn you inside.”

The Kakama-wearer nearly spoke. He was about to ask how Glonor had guessed his plan to destroy Metru-Nui’s tallest building, but then he remembered what the Av-Matoran’s job had been.

“All your life fortune has been against you. You’ve endured impossible hardships, probably suffered more than any living Matoran in this Universe. You got a hand cut off, got bitten by a Shadow Leech and got kicked out of your own dimension in a skirmish with Brutaka. Someone must hate you. Whoever Mata Nui is, whether or not he'd the one pulling all the strings, he must’ve really screwed you over.”

He was listening. Glonor had just summed up the past 10,000 years of his life in a few sentences.

The Matoran of Light glanced around the cargo bay and smiled.

“What if I told you that this is your destiny, to be continually tormented and antagonized in every single other universe? In every single distortion of reality? That it is the purpose of your existence? That all you can possibly aspire to be is a patch in the shadow of some greater force? That nobody will ever accept you? That you are a treacherous vermin amongst a pack of Stone Rats?”

The firearm moved. It was no longer being aimed at Glacii.

“Great last words for an epitaph,” snarled Tollubo in venomous ferocity. “How about I carve them into your tombstone?”

Glonor cocked his head.

“Must you continue to speak of mine and Glacii's dead bodies? You're beginning to sound quite obsessive.”

The firearm was now swinging towards him.

There was only one possible way this could end.

Acting on instinct, Glonor threw himself to the side, ducking right behind the vat of Energized Protodermis. He timed his jump perfectly, if ungracefully. He heard the bullet thwack into the metal, not far from where his Kanohi.

Clearly, Tollubo’s weapon packed more punch that Varis’. The single bullet dealt more damage than a whole cluster of sub-machine gun bullets had managed. The Matoran had kept on turning. He’d followed Glonor a moment too long and fired into the container at nearly point-blank range.

At once there was a hiss, then a film of grey, slimy liquid began to squirt out of the bullethole. Tollubo was blinded, caught in the middle of the shower. The Energized Protodermis splashed over his Kanohi and into his eyes.

And it burned.

Although it wasn’t a huge quantity, the liquid may as well have been acid to the Matoran of Darkness; for just like Glonor he wasn’t destined for the substance to enhance him. His head bubbled and fizzed until the upper half of his Kanohi melted into an unidentifiable lump sitting atop his gaping mouth. He roared in sheer agony.

Then the real torture began.

Glacii roared and, in a sheer act of will, pulled himself back up to his feet one final time. The Ko-Matoran, glazing like a Toa in his prime, landed an uppercut punch directly under his adversary’s jaw, making his entire deformed head snap backwards.

As Glonor watched in amazement, he saw the Ko-Matoran catch Tollubo’s weapon barrel in his left hand and jerk it up then down at full force across his knee, shattering his foe’s forearm. He pushed the screaming Matoran aside, into the spray of Energized Protodermis that was still coming from the vat.

Then the Pakari Nuva-wearer scooped up the Shadow Matoran’s weapon and aimed. Tollubo was stumbling around in the corrosive liquid, completely blind. Blood was now pouring out of the mess of melted armor in his head and dripping down the length of his remaining Kanohi. It was dribbling off his chin and forming sick bubbles as panting breaths escaped his lips. Staggering about, left and right, turning in circles, he raised his right forearm to his Kanohi to wipe blood from his eyes so he could see.

Glacii fired a single expert shot, landing the bullet directly where Tollubo had shot at him. The Brotherhood servant squealed then pirouetted round only to be shot again, this time his entire melting head fanned out in a cloud of blood and metal and he fell face-down.

Tollubo hit the floor.

A moment later, Glacii grunted and faltered. The seasoned warrior reached for something to latch on to, finding only the smooth surface of the wall and stumbling backwards. He tripped over and crumpled to his knees.

There was a strange quality in his eyes as the color began to drain out of them. It was only then that Glonor remembered he’d been shot in the chest. The Ko-Matoran’s organic parts were even paler than usual and, as his head tilted back, he saw that his ally had a deep scar running up the length of his neck.

A constant reminder of another battle in the warhorse’s long and barbarous career.

Please...” Glacii’s voice was soft.

It was the last thing that he wanted to do, but Glonor crawled closer to him, through the wreckage of the cargo hold as the Airship lurched and thundered through the sky. He remembered how Glacii had just saved his life and sacrificed himself.

He fought for breath, narrowing his eyes for a moment.

Glonor fell to his knees beside the lake of blood that was dripping down the metal grating. Tentatively, he cradled Glacii’s head in his arms. It was the first physical contact they’d ever had. All his energy was gone now. He was completely limp and still, as if his old and saggy armor was empty. But his tired eyes were wide open. They were moving slowly from side to side, searching, like he was curious about something.

“There are some things I need you to do,” he muttered.
The strange thing was that he was speaking absolutely normally, as if it were a quiet conversation between a Police Chief and his Deputy. Despite himself, the Av-Matoran found himself marveling at the Ko-Matoran’s self-control. He must have only minutes to live.

“Firstly, you need to find my wife. She needs to be saved from the... Kraata Purge,” wheezed the Matoran of Ice.

Glonor nodded. “What’s her name?”

A faint smile crept onto Glacii’s weathered and scratched Kanohi, but it was filled with sadness.

Lorvina” croaked the dying Ko-Matoran.

“I’ll do it,” promised the Av-Matoran. He didn’t know how, but he knew he couldn’t leave an innocent Ga-Matoran in harm’s way like this.

Glacii smiled weakly, like the Iden-wearer’s answer satisfied him completely. He was very pale now. There was blood everywhere on the ground, mingling with the Energized Protodermis into a vast, spreading pool. It was warm and slick. Now it was frothing and foaming at his chest. His tubes were empty and filling with air. His eyes moved in his head and settled on Glonor’s face.

“And secondly, I want you to run,” he wheezed. “You get off this Airship and, by Mata Nui, don’t you ever stop, or it might just kill you.”

There was one final pause before a spasm of pain rippled across the dying Matoran’s Kanohi. His lips were stark white. They creased soundlessly, rehearsing the Ko-Matoran’s last words.

The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.

Glonor held his fallen comrade for a few long moments more until he died in his arms. Glacii’s eyes closed and the Matoran of Light knew he would never open them again.

Surely everyone’s afraid of death, Nokama had said.

Depends what form it takes, he had answered.




Toa Orkahm watched from the street as the Airship thundered into view overhead.

His fellow Toa had assembled outside the Coliseum. He wasn’t sure why. It seemed like a final wall of defense, as if the six of them could stop a moving Airship at this late stage in its course. But he doubted that was the reason. The Gorast Missile was trailing in from the horizon, an orange speck. He suspected Tollubo just wanted to watch the firework display.

But there was clearly no way that the missile was going to reach them in time. The Airship would fly directly into the Coliseum entire minutes before the Gorast would arrive. They’d made the wrong choice and now the island was in even more danger.

The Toa of Air glanced around at his fellow teammates then sighed inwardly. Activating his foot-mounted booster rockets, Orkahm hovered above the pavement then rose into the night air. Slowly at first, he began his long journey into the darkness. He vanished into the darkened sky like a pebble being dropped into a well.

His fellow Toa just watched silently, a mixture of shame and guilt in their eyes until Tourik finally turned to face Tollubo.

“If you were twice as smart as you are now, you’d be absolutely stupid,” grunted the Toa of Plantlife starkly.

The Pakari-wearing Toa just nodded and tried to swallow the lump in his throat.




Energized Protodermis had been called many things over the centuries. But stable was not one of them. Words such as corrosive, flammable and explosive were perhaps better-suited to the unpredictable liquid that was beginning to flood the cargo hold.

Just inches beneath the metal grating he was standing on was the metal floor of the compartment. Even now it was filling up, making Energized Protodermis lap at Glonor’s feet as he ran down the length of the Airship’s single corridor. He had to find an exit hatch, as soon as possible.

He’d ransacked every nook and cranny in the armor of the three deceased Matoran left on the Airship. He’d taken Glacii’s Pakari Nuva then cast the body out into the corrosive liquid that now seemed to be all around him. Then he’d gone through Varis’ and Tollubo’s armor and found exactly what he was looking for.

A single explosive charge.

It was a remarkable little device, no bigger than a widget yet capable of destroying the entire Airship. He’d set the detonator to go off in two minutes then propped the alternate Tollubo up against one of the Energized Protodermis vats and left the charge on his shoulder. The explosion would blow his head right off and tear through the metal container.

He had seconds left.

There was no escape pod, no docking bay, no conveniently placed Kanohi Olmak. He was in this alone, and against the clock. From every porthole window, he could see the Coliseum coming into view as the Airship rumbled towards it. Only by clinging to the handrails did he prevent himself from stumbling at every step.

He was operating on automatic at this point. But even then, Glonor was able to push himself further. He sprinted to the cabin door that he and Glacii had entered just minutes ago and wrenched it open with every fiber of his inner-strength. A fierce, unearthly wind whipped at the Av-Matoran as the door swung itself open, letting in the rush of night air.

The former Military Cop peeked outside at the impossible height beneath him, then stole a quick glance back down the length of the corridor. The device was still primed to explode. According to the mental clock in his head, it would go off at any second now.

So he jumped.

Glonor dived out of the hatch and heard only the roaring howl of the wind. He was dropping at a stomach-punching speed towards the surface of Metru-Nui in freefall. There was only one way of stopping now - the hard way.

Glacii’s empty Pakari Nuva should have been torn from his fingers but the Av-Matoran clung to it as if it were a parachute.

And then it exploded.

The charge detonated and the Energized Protodermis ignited. A furious burst of orange flame ripped the entire Airship apart, engulfing the entire metal structure, sending huge chunks of metal spinning off in different directions. He saw one of the engines splinter away. A shower of brilliant sparks and a dazzling burst of white light that stretched out in a cataclysmic explosion that sent shockwaves strong enough to throw even Glonor further off balance in his plummet.

The Av-Matoran felt a sense of euphoria. He had succeeded! He had put the explosive charge in exactly the right place, and instead of propelling the Airship into the Coliseum, it had simply destroyed it. There was nothing left save a few pieces of broken debris falling through the night sky. At last it was over.

Then, from an impossible distance, he caught sight of an emerald speck amongst the yellow lights of the dwellings below. The single green atom of life that the scene contained. It was just a speck of jade a long distance below him, a moving spot.

But as gravity drew him nearer, he noticed that it was a figure rushing up to meet him. A green-armored stranger. A Toa of Air, sporting a Kanohi Matatu, a drawn expression upon his mask.

As the Toa swooped closer into view, he stretched out his hands desperately. Glonor extended his own and grabbed on for dear life.

Contact. Their hands locked around each other’s wrists. The Matoran felt as if his arms had been torn from their sockets but he ignored the pain. Battered, bruised and burnt as he was, this was no time to be ungrateful of his fortune.

The Iden-wearer whooped wildly with joy as the Toa of Air glided him back down to the ground. They landed awkwardly on the pavement with a crowd of Matoran surging towards them. A gaggle of papers and noise and spotlights and chatter. Newspaper headlines were being thrown around.

TOA ORKAHM SAVES MATORAN FROM BURNING AIRSHIP.

ARE THE CULT OF DARKNESS BACK?

MATORAN HERO PUTS TOA METRU TO SHAME.

As so many unfamiliar faces closed in around the delirious Av-Matoran, Glonor too uttered his final words before drifting into unconsciousness.

“Wake me up when it’s time to make sandcastles,” he murmured before quietly, and thankfully, passing out.

Epilogue

It was four days before the Elysium War Bunker was cool enough to inspect.

By that point there was a long line of agencies waiting to join the hunt. First on the scene were the Turaga High Council’s Homeland Security division, followed by the Metru-Nui Military, the Secret Service and the Highway Patrol. The incident had attracted intense interest. The Ko-Metru Air Defense Command had been the first to spot it. Their atmospheric sensors had seen a bloom of amazing heat and their data hubs had interpreted it as either a Gorast Missile launch or a Gorast Missile strike. Their Ga-Metru equivalents had seen the same thing, as had the other four districts. Within seconds the Coliseum had been contacted, reassuring, and receiving matching reassurances. There were launch silos for the Gorast Missiles in Ga-Metru and one had indeed been fired earlier that night, yes, but not at that location. In fact, the missile had been teleported off to the heart of Mount Valamai by a timely intervention on the part of Toa Danza. And in turn, it was confirmed that the missile had been fired at Ko-Metru.

The Metru-Nui Land Army was sent in to secure a wide perimeter. Through it crept the waiting agencies, one by one. They set up forward operating bases five mio out. They sent patrols forward, as close as they dared. Then came news from the nearby town of Elysium of a strange toxic cloud borne on the westerly wind. The patrols were pulled back. Medics has been dispatched to town. Reported symptoms were confusing. It was as if a light dose of exposure to Kraata, as if the entire population had been infected with a sickly plague. The air was tested. No conclusion was reached. The wind had been blowing strongly for days. No symptoms were reported in the surrounding districts of Ko-Metru.

The patrols crept inward again.

Their first discovery was a crashed vehicle four mio south of the epicentre. It was a fuel tanker reported as stolen from a commercial airfield in Ko-Metru. It seemed to have been driving south on the old county two-lane leading away from the site. The road was snowbound and the surface was bad. It seemed that the truck had skidded off the road and turned over at least twice. It was an ungainly vehicle. Several bodies were found close by. Six unidentified Matoran of unknown origin, all but one of whom had bulletholes riddling their armor. Additionally, several of the bodies had been found carrying illegal fully automatic sub-machineguns purchased in Xia. Shots had indeed been fired and, with that news, the Metru-Nui Firearm Danger Awareness taskforce became involved, joined the roster of waiting agencies.

The patrols crept closer. By the middle of the second day the forward operating bases had been moved up to the southern edge of an old air force runway. At that new location they discovered a damaged and undriveable unmarked police cruiser. It was positively identified by locals as the Elysium Police Department’s property. It had been issued to the department’s chief, a Ko-Matoran named Glacii. Glacii himself had disappeared on the night of the explosion and his department was in disarray. It was dealing with three recent homicides, one of the victims being its own deputy chief, Crystallus.

An observant Ta-Matoan fire officer taking a walk found the burned-out husks of two road flares, one in each corner of the old runway, apparently carefully placed. Which suggested the possibility of an unauthorized night landing. No flight plan had been recorded with any known Le-Metru Airship company. But it was clear from the twisted wreckage just south of the Coliseum that this was where the Airship that had nearly destroyed the island’s government had taken off from. With that news, just about every Le-Matoran in Metru-Nui joined the queue, wanting blood from whoever had tried to use their proud transport industry in a terrorist act.

By the middle of the third day, sensor readings showed the outer perimeter to have cooled to seventy degrees. The patrols moved up. The outer perimeter seemed to be about a hundred yards in diameter. Clearly some kind of fireball had bloomed, burned, and died back, but it had been brief compared to the main fire. Close inspection of the area inside the perimeter showed grievous damage. There was a dusting of ash a hundred feet out that might have been the remains of two more Matoran.

The patrols moved up, into a dead world of twisted smoking fragments, some made of tiber, some made of steel, some possibly from a vehicle, some smaller pieces possibly from weapons, and what appeared to have been a crimson Mask of Sensory Aptitude. Piled everywhere was debris from the huts. No attempt was made to quantify Matoran remains. It would have been a hopeless task. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, literally.

The only remotely intact structure was a small concrete stair head bunker disguised to look like a stone house. None of the military branches claimed ownership and it was confirmed that the base was not of Matoran origin by a locals.

The original structural plans for the building were lost, but anecdotally it was known to have been built roughly 3,000 years ago, to contemporary blast-proof construction standards. It had stood up well. The roof was damaged. The interior concrete was blistered and spalled and calcified, but still reasonably solid. There were three circular shafts dropping down through the floor. It was surmised that once there had been steel casings for two ventilation ducts, and a spiral staircase probably also made of steel, but they had first melted and then vaporized.

Which proved, the Ta-Matoran arson experts said, that the fire had started underground.

Matoran donned protective gear and were lowered what turned out to be a total of two hundred and ten feet underground. They found a sequence of small tunnels and chambers, more blistered and spalled and calcified concrete, some ash that might once have been organic, and, amazingly, more than one thousand intact diamonds.

The Secret Service started work in a project spearheaded by a female Agori named Betak. They drew three-dimensional models of the underground facility. They made some guesses and assumptions. They knew from police records that a fuel tanker had been stolen along with the Airship. So, if the remains of the Airship were outside the Coliseum, and if there had been an underground storage tank, then the accelerant might have been Airship fuel. Which was consistent with their estimates of the fire’s temperature, the upper limit of which they felt was defined by the survival of the diamonds, and the lower limit by the fact that the snow on the ground had been melted for two miles in every direction.




Ninian saw the news every evening on the telescreens, and read it every morning in the newspapers, and followed it all day on her data hub. She was moved back into her office in the Police Headquarters, waiting by her communicator. She slept in her visitor chairs, leaning back in one, her feet up on the other.

The communicator never rang.




After a week the Ta-Matoran arson theorists presented their best guesses. The fire had been a refuelling accident. Possibly due to undischarged static electricity arcing between the Airship and the hose, more likely due to vapour build-up underground and a spark from a boot heel on concrete. The fire had burned mostly two hundred and ten feet below the surface, with enhanced thermodynamic characteristics due to a strange aerodynamic stasis in which a gale of air had howled down the stair shaft and the products of combustion had blasted up the twin ventilation shafts, in exactly opposite directions but with perfectly equal masses and velocities, in what amounted to a controlled and everlasting explosion in a narrow vertical cylinder made of fireproof material. Like a rocket blasting off, but upside down, heading for the centre of the earth, not the sky. The roof damage was felt to prove it. Two temporary caps placed in the fake chimneys 3,000 years earlier had blown out and were found six hundred bio away. It was estimated that the narrow cone of flame might have reached a thousand feet above ground level, thereby mimicking the heat signature of a launching missile.

It was felt the initial phase of the fire might have lasted for three hours. Then when the fuel load had depleted below a certain critical point the stasis had collapsed and a fireball had bloomed upward and outward, at a lower but still tremendous temperature, and had burned for an hour or so before collapsing again and finally burning out.

The toxic cloud in Elysium could not be explained. A Dark Hunter spokesman in the Metru-Nui Secret Service admitted to storing a form of bio-weapon in a bunker hidden in rural Ko-Metru during the Toa/Dark Hunter War 3,003 years earlier, but was unable to give any more accurate information as he had not been involved in the project at the time. It was felt that chemical residue from the Energized Protodermis might have been responsible for temporary adverse medical effects on the city’s population.

The presence of the diamonds was not explained, either. A theory was advanced that they had been stolen in the Southern Continent at over 45,000 years ago but, given the possibility of the Dark Hunters being involved, the notion was not investigated further.

After a series of discreet phone calls from the Coliseum, both the Metru-Nui Secret Service and the local agencies in Ko-Metru concluded that in the absence of remains positively identifiable as Matoran, no homicide investigation could be opened.




Two weeks after the investigation was cleared up, Toa Tollubo decided to pay the rural settlement a visit of his own. As Glonor recovered from a hospital bed, he’d made it very clear that he had unfinished business in the small town.

Right at the top of his list was a complete and utter renovation of the Elysium Police Department. He wasn’t sure why it was such a big issue until he’d arrived to find that it was the only place in Metru-Nui without a single Vahki in operation and no Police Chief of Deputy.

The first order of business had been to promote a Vo-Matoran named Ninian to the role of Police Chief. A fitting choice. She was an attractive and well-natured Matoran. Perhaps she could bring a more youthful, revitalizing impact to the town.

Additionally, the prison’s crisis plan had been renegotiated by Turaga Vilnius himself. Now the prison was manned by Vahki squadrons at all times and the Matoran law enforcement could sleep easy at night without fear of being called off to form a perimeter around a prison at four in the morning.

Under Glonor’s direction, several Metru-Nui Land Army officers had been sent in to start off a rigorous re-training of the entire police force. Immediately, a portion of the department had been deemed unfit for duty and, as the Av-Matoran requested, Birus – whoever he was – had been fired on the spot for sloppy policework.

The Toa of Light wasted half an hour in his room in the local inn before deciding it was time to have a wander around the outskirts of the town. He’d just bought a fresh set of silver and blue armor for the first time in months and wanted to test out its insulating properties. Field test, as it was often called.

He left the inn and headed west, towards the coastline. It wasn’t a long walk by his standards, but it took him into downtown Elysium and into the wind.

Of course, the Pakari Nuva that Glonor had been found clutching had been identified as the Kanohi worn by Glacii, the missing Police Chief. Everyone around here was under the assumption that the Ko-Matoran had figured everything out by himself and driven off to the War Bunker to kill the hired gun. A noble act in Tollubo’s opinion, one which justified the statue in the city center that had been built in honor of Glacii, Crystallus and Glonor.

A cold shiver tickled the back of the Toa’s neck as he felt a strange presence behind him. It was just a characteristic little burr down in the small of his back. He slowed up and used a store window of a shop selling second-hand Kanohi for a mirror and caught a glimpse of movement fifty yards back. Too far away for details.

He walked on, reached the boardwalk and walked south, with the same itch still there in the small of his back. He turned suddenly and saw nothing. Walked back north to where he had started. The boards under his feet were in good shape. There was a notice claiming they were made from some special hardwood, the hardest timber the Matoran Universe’s forests had to offer.

The feeling was still there in the small of his back. He turned and led his invisible shadows out onto the pier. It was the original structure, preserved. It looked like he guessed it must have way back when it was built. It was deserted, which was no surprise considering the weather, and which added to the feeling of unreality. It was like an architectural photograph from a stone tablet. But some of the little antique booths were open and selling things. He ignored them and walked to the end of the pier, where he stood and watched the gray ocean for a spell. Then he turned back and headed for the shore and saw two Steltians walking toward him.

They were useful-sized individuals, members of the lower-class species, short but wide, with similar builds and identical blue and white armor, which was stuffed full of insulated padding to protect their meaty heads. Clearly they knew how to dress for the climate.

They both had heavily-armored feet, the sort of things a steelworker on Xia might choose. They were both a little bowlegged, or maybe they were just attempting an intimidating swagger. They both had a little scar tissue around their brows. They looked like scufflers or dockyard bruisers.

Tollubo glanced back and saw nobody behind him, all the way to Karzahni across the Silver Sea. So he just stopped walking. He didn’t worry about putting his back against the rail.

The two Steltians walked on, stopped eight bio in front of him and faced him head-on. Tollubo flexed his fingers by his side, to test how cold they were. Eight bio was an interesting choice of distance. It meant they were going to talk before they tangled. He flexed his toes and ran some muscle tension up through his calves, his thighs, his back, his shoulders. Moved his head side to side and then back a little, to loosen his neck. He breathed in through his nose. The wind was on his back.

“We got a message for you,” grunted the bruiser on the left.

Tollubo glanced at the pier rail and the ocean beyond. The sea was gray and roiled. Probably freezing. Throwing them in would be close to homicide.

“Is this a message from the Makuta who tried to destroy the Coliseum?” he asked.

“From his people, yeah.”

“He’s got people?”

“We’re from Stelt,” the second brute grunted. “Stands to reason our boss has people.”

Tollubo nodded. “So let me guess. I’m supposed to get out of town, skedaddle, beat it, get lost, never come back, never darken your door again, forget I was ever here.”

“You’re on the ball today.”

“I can read minds,” Tollubo smirked. “I used to live on Stelt. I worked at a fairground booth that featured a travelling freak show. Right next to the two-headed Fusa. Weren’t you guys there too? Three booths along? The Universe’s Ugliest Twins?”

The brute on the right snorted and cracked his colossal knuckles. It was only then that he realized, both his attackers had widget coins between their fingers. Tollubo smiled. He liked rolls of widgets. Good old-fashioned technology. And they implied the absence of firearms. Nobody clutches rolls of widgets if they’ve got a weapon in their pocket.

“We don’t want to hurt you,” the brute on the right said.

“But you got to go,” the guy on the left said. “We don’t need people interfering in this town’s economic procedures.”

“So take the easy way out,” the grunt on the right said. “Let us walk you to the nearest chute station. Or you could wind up getting hurt, too.” Tollubo heard an absurd voice in his head, warning him not to fight while wearing brand new armor. Then he heard a Brotherhood of Makuta unarmed-combat instructor saying hit them fast, hit them hard, and hit them a lot. He flexed his shoulders inside his chunky armor and suddenly felt very grateful to the Ga-Matoran in the store for making him take the larger size.

He gazed at the two Steltians, exactly nothing in his eyes except a little amusement and a lot of absolute self-confidence. He moved a little to his left, and they rotated with him. He moved a little closer to them, tightening the triangle. He raised his hand and readjusted his silver Kanohi Faxon. The fresh Kanohi still felt awkward in place of the Mask of Growth he’d worn earlier that morning.

“Better just to walk away now,” he cautioned.

They didn’t, like he knew they wouldn’t. They responded to the challenge by crowding in toward him, imperceptibly, just a fractional muscle movement that eased their body weight forward rather than backward.

They need to be laid up for a week, he thought. Cheekbones, probably. A sharp blow, depressed fractures, maybe temporary loss of consciousness, bad headaches. Nothing too severe. He waited until the wind gusted again and raised his right hand and readjusted his Kanohi again. Then he kept his hand there, with his elbow poised high, like a thought had just struck him.

“Can you guys swim?” he asked.

It would have taken supernatural self-control not to glance at the ocean. They weren’t supernatural. They turned their heads like Vahki. He clubbed the right-hand Steltian in the face with his raised elbow and cocked it again and hit the left-hand brute as his head snapped back toward the sound of his buddy’s bones breaking. They went down on the boards together and their rolls of widgets split open, rolled everywhere and pirouetted small silver circles.

Tollubo coughed in the bitter cold then stood still and replayed it in his head: two thugs, two seconds, two blows, game over. He still had the good stuff. He breathed hard and wiped cold sweat from his forehead. Then he walked away, stepped off the pier, onto the boardwalk and went looking for the Chute Station those Steltians had mentioned.

Continuity Notes

  • In Chapter 5 Nokama references falling into a canal that bordered Ko-Metru while playing Kohlii and nearly freezing to death. This is a canon event as Nokama reflected upon this moment as a Toa in The Darkness Below in the main BIONICLE universe.
    • Additionally, in Chapter 5, Cobarox is mentioned. Aside from Glonor, he is the first character from the main saga to be featured in the Frozen Calling story serial. However, he does not actually appear, which means that Glonor remains as the only character from the previous storyline to appear in Frozen Calling.
  • In chapter 7, Glonor referenced being awarded the Purple Heart-Stone award for being wounded in action during the Vacca-Nui civil war. This is a reference to the real-life Purple Heart award.
    • Furthermore, the book that Nokama received from Glacii was entitled To Kill a Gukko-Bird, which is a reference to the real-life novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • In the earliest draft of Chapter 9, the Prison Sargent was a colossal Onu-Matoran prison guard, three times the size of Glonor. Although this character was later replaced with Reidak, the character was a hidden reference to one of BobTheDoctor27's earliest Matoran creations, Gan.
  • The character Glidus, the biker who was imprisoned in the Elysium jail after being caught selling Kraata, was decided by Chicken Bond, who won a brief Frozen Calling Contest in July 2011.
  • In chapter 13, when Garnax inspects his group of assassins and singles the two experienced members of the squad out for also being the two Cult of Darkness servants, he knows their names but does not refer to them as such. As it will later be revealed, one of these two Matoran is Varis while the other one's identity will remain a mystery until the story's closing chapters.

Characters

  • Matoran
    • Glonor - Core Universe Counterpart
    • Crystallus - Deceased
    • Glacii - Deceased
    • Garnax - Deceased
    • Nokama - Deceased
    • Ninian
    • Varis - Deceased
    • Lagira
    • Algor - Deceased
    • Birus
    • Papura - Deceased
    • A murdered Fe-Matoran resident of Elysium - Deceased
    • A Matoran speaker who informed Knox that the Police Department were sending a vehicle through his communicator
  • Members of the Kraata Purge
    • Glidus - Imprisoned in the Elysium Prison
    • An Elda-wearing Onu-Matoran who lead the group
    • An Infected Ta-Matoran - Injured
    • An Infected Le-Matoran - Injured
    • A Biker who caused Knox to swerve and crash the bus
  • Toa Metru
  • Turaga
  • Twenty Matoran tourists
    • A Ga-Matoran Zatth-Wearer
    • A Ga-Matoran who broke her arm
    • Two Ta-Matoran
    • Seven other Ga-Matoran
    • A De-Matoran who sat in the middle of the bus
  • Agori
  • Makuta Dredzek - Speaks through communicator
  • Tren Krom - Mentioned
  • Cobarox - Mentioned

Promotional Images

Trivia

  • Frozen Calling was officially completed on the 21st May 2013, which is the ten-year anniversary of BobTheDoctor27's discovery of the wider BIONICLE Universe.
  • Frozen Calling is dedicated to Abc8920 for his long-lasting support for BobTheDoctor27's story saga.
  • The story's official banner was, very kindly, created by BionicleChicken.
  • The events of Frozen Calling are concurrent with Falling in the Black.
  • Although the name Frozen Calling was selected through a vote, it surprisingly suggested the importance of the Elysium prison siren, which did in fact shape the sequence of events in the story serial.
  • The characters Crystallus, Papura, Lagira, and Algor all belong to Abc8920, who very kindly allowed BobTheDoctor27 to use them in the story serial. Similarly, Makuta Dredzek is a creation belonging to Chicken Bond as is Glidus, who was conceived solely to be included in Frozen Calling.
  • Whenever a conversation is happening over a communicator link, in the story serial, the character on the other end of the line's words are in italics.
  • Frozen Calling is currently the second longest page on this wiki.
    • Additionally, it is also the wiki's first whodunit story.


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