This story serial is brought to you by V.K. Seeker of Legends.
The thoughts and chronicle of a Vahki Keerakh looking for his place in the world after discovering the long-loved art of curiosity. A little longer than a short story, too long for an epic...
It still seemed strange, even kind of wrong at that point – the notion of “feeling”. It was not a Vahki thing to do, at least not the way I saw it. The others seemed so cold, uncaring… mechanical. But I was different.
Anyway, I was “feeling” how those Matoran felt… true, they were breaking the law… but they were doing it for better reasons. They were not trying to burn down Metru Nui, or hunting the Toa Mangai… they were smuggling Rahi from the archives to make them free again. Wasn’t that a noble cause? Wasn’t that something be respected, not punished?
No. Not according to Dume. The law was the law. Interestingly enough, do you know the Matoran word for law? Vahki. So the Vahki was the law… and the Vahki followed the law, and Dume, blindly.
It was the day of the Archives smuggling that I raised this suggestion to my compatriot. If Vahki had friends, Keerakh-632 would have been it for me. He… if you could call a Keerakh “he”… was in my squad, often my partner for hunting and subduing criminals.
“Keerakh-632,” I called to him, in the high-speed, high-pitch speech of a Vahki.
“655. Orders from superior? Criminal activity?” he replied.
“No, no orders,” I replied, “More of… a question. Have you ever really… thought about this all?”
“Request not recognized, 655. Restate request, proper protocol.”
“Look, 632, I’ve just been thinking lately… with all this Matoran crime and all… and after what happened with Tuyet a few weeks ago…”
Oh. Right. I forgot to mention that, didn’t I?
A few weeks before the smuggling, a few Dark Hunters had appeared in the city, while many of the Toa Mangai were away. A Matoran had been found dead in Ta-Metru, the name of a Toa, Tuyet, had been found on a tablet with the body. The same thing happened a couple times more, even after the Dark Hunters were subdued.
Here’s the thing. It wasn’t the Dark Hunters. It was Tuyet… the very Toa who appeared to be the victim of this hideous chain of crimes. She killed three Matoran, all to protect some stupid artifact… something that would give her more power.
Isn’t that what all sapient beings want? Power. It seems that way. Even when they have it, like Dume, they want more, like his army of Vahki. Or the Matoran… although they controlled their own lives, they captured the Rahi in the Archives, or longed to be the boss in their chain of work - the head scholar, or the chief archivist, or the best mask-maker, or the teacher with the highest proto levels or… uh… what would Le-Matoran and Po-Matoran dream of? I don’t know… probably the biggest sculpture, fastest airship, shiniest mask, strongest arms… something primal.
But that’s not what this is about. I wouldn’t know, anyway. I wasn’t sapient. I was a Vahki. Attempting to have a philosophical discussion with his fellow mechanical monster.
“See, what I’m saying is… what if someone else took over the Vahki? We may trust Dume… but what if it was another Turaga? Someone who made laws to enslave the Matoran, keep them under oppression. We’re programmed to subdue, punish, uphold the law, 632,” I insisted, “Blindly. No matter the cost… no matter how horrible it may be.”
632 nodded. At least it was something. At least I could pretend in my mind that he agreed. Or I could have if he didn’t say anything afterwards.
“Vahki Programming. The law is the law. All those who break it shall be deemed criminal. The law may not be bent, except by the superior.”
I sighed. Well, Vahki don’t sigh. I made a drawn-out “huh” noise in my metallic vocal convertor. 632 did not recognize that as a command, and so, walked away to the hive to recharge.
I, however, did not. I had to do something… different… something much more important than recharging my power cells. And as I grabbed the electric cutter from the Vahki repair table in the center of the hive, I knew – it was something that had to be done.
The surge ran through my body once more, this time shutting down my left leg. The electric cutter was still firmly attached to my right stun staff with cable fasteners… You see, our producers neglected to give us hands… figured they would be useless to creatures who would only carry stun staffs. Yeah. Thanks, producers. I owe you one.
I was at a strange angle to say the least. My visual receptors were removed and twisted around on themselves so I could watch myself dig into my own robotic mind. If I had been a Matoran or a Toa, I would probably be dead, or at least mentally scarred for life. In some regards, then, a Vahki is better.
I was searching for something within my own mind… the clockwork cogs that controlled my legal reasoning… but this was nothing like what I had seen in the minds of damaged Vahki, crushed by Rahkshi, or trampled by Kikanalo… this was a labyrinth of lights, circuits, gears, electrical pulses… One wrong cut and my memories could vanish… my legs could start flailing wildly… my head could spin and start singing a Le-Matoran folk tune – and if there was a worse death than that, I didn’t know it.
“Just one cut, 655, just one rearranging…” I hissed to myself, watching as the right cogs turned and circuits flared to allow myself to think about my self-surgery.
Suddenly, an idea! Automatically, I thought about breaking the law. Specifically, I thought about attacking Toa Nidhiki, throwing him out of an airship above Po-Metru. As I attempted to stand up, to act out this plan, my programming kicked in. The Vahki’s sense of law and order. A large cog spun wildly in my brain, as lights flickered in spasms.
The electric cutter came down, paralyzing the cog, and dug into the mechanical mind, gouging out that one bit. I tried the maneuver again. Toa Nidhiki began to fall in my mind once more. But this time, as I stood, nothing stopped me. Granted, my left leg was still paralyzed, but nothing in my mind made me turn around… I was under my own free will now… and nothing else.
This was sentience, I realized. This was the mind of a being, not a machine… I was a sentient Vahki. ‘‘The’’ sentient Vahki, to be exact – the only one… The only law-bent machine to ever think, ponder, suggest, feel…
And suddenly, I felt very, very alone.
I recharged in the hive for three hours before dispatching. 459 had asked where I was going… and for the first time in my Vahki life, I lied.
“Duty,” I replied, “Order from superior.”
The Vahki Keerakh turned its head in confusion.
“Repeat order, 655,” it requested.
“Confidential. Select task squad. Inquiry forbidden,” I explained, transforming to a quadruped as I spoke, “Dispatching immediately.”
459 nodded in response, as I raised my staffs into the air and hovered away to the north. I was not heading to join any select task squad… I was heading to Onu-Metru, district of the Archives. I was leaving to meet my creator.
I found him alone, not working, but tinkering. In his hands were tools I was not familiar with… perhaps they were of his own devising. He did not notice my entrance, of course. I was still a Vahki Keerakh… I was adept at using the shadows, moving in silence.
Was this really my designer? He seemed too simple, too curious, to have been the creature to design the massive labyrinth of cogs and circuits I had witnessed in my own mind.
I looked around his small work area, noticing a robotic limb, shaped somewhat like the noble arm of a Toa. However, I knew what it was. Prototype Vahki called the Krahli had once worked in Metru Nui… they had been too clunky and too vicious and had been ordered destroyed… Nuparu’s folly, they had called them. This was him.
“Nuparu,” I said.
He barely even twitched, let alone noticed me. Then I remembered something – another change I had made to my programming. Focusing on a new part of my brain, a mechanism I had built myself, I slowed down my speech, back to the level of a Matoran.
“Nuparu,” I repeated.
The Onu-Matoran with the orange Pakari spun around, grabbing one of his tools in defense as he backed up. I stepped out of the shadows to be met with a gulp. No Matoran was stupid enough to fight a Vahki… especially not the Matoran who designed them.
“What are you?” he asked curiously, “You’re speaking normal speed… and… and… I haven’t broken any laws. Have I?”
“No,” I admitted, “I’m here… on my own.”
“On your own?” Nuparu muttered, more to himself than to me, “Then that can only mean…”
He ran across to a small tablet hung on the wall. On the front of the tablet was a transit map, and on the back – three Matoran circular symbols. Numbers.
“Six fifty-five?” Nuparu asked slowly.
I nodded. “I have come to ask my purpose, Nuparu. I understand more than the other Vahki. I have modified my programming to allow myself free will, to go along with the free thought that you have given me. As any good inventor, you had to have had a reason.”
Nuparu shrugged a little. “Well. Part of it was curiosity.”
That was not the answer I was looking for. I needed to know that I wasn’t just a toy for this Onu-Matoran, made on a whim. Maybe Nuparu sensed that, so he continued.
“Part of it was worry. Worry of what my creations had the potential of becoming. I toyed with the idea for quite some time. At first, I thought of creating one of you in each squadron. Unfortunately, the Vahki were not, on the whole, a success…” Nuparu mused, “The Nuurakh were always too angry… Bordakh and Zadakh simply saw law apprehension as play… Rorzakh were self-destructive… Vorzakh were destructive of everything else.”
The inventor sighed, frowning. Then, he smiled, looking up at my white armored form. Admiring his own creation.
“But Keerakh, my friend… the Keerakh came out perfectly. Looking to the future, using their knowledge of Matoran and their surroundings to beat law breakers to the punch, apprehend before the criminal even knew they were there.”
A Vahki may not be able to smile, but my eyes lit up the same way Nuparu’s had. It was rare to hear a Matoran talking nicely of the Vahki. Most avoided us, cowered in our presence…
There was a silence. Nuparu and I stood there for a while.
“You have a name,” Nuparu quietly explained. “It’s a Matoran word, not in common use. But you know it. Krehkis.”
Of course I knew it. Krehkis meant “defense within”. It was a Vahki maneuver, used mostly by the Keerakh. We would ward the grounds of a hideout, so that as soon as we entered, the criminals would be blasted and trapped by the walls of their own fortress, allowing us defense from any weapons they may have.
But I knew what Nuparu meant as well. I was his defense… no, Metru Nui’s defense, within the Vahki ranks. I would protect the Vahki against the corruption I feared, should it ever arise.
I nodded my farewell to Nuparu, and explained that I owed him my life.