CHAPTER 21 IS HERE!!!
The Next Day
“Keep trying!” Kopaka urged. “We don’t have a single second to waste!”
Pohatu and Lewa had spent the better part of the last four hours combing every single prisoner record for New Atero published, trying desperately to find Defilak listed somewhere, anywhere. Not even the Toa were sure about how many prisons were in the city, nor where they were. The RCF had a tendency to disguise their containment facilities in plain sight, often designating them as nondescript buildings with a generic facade. This made it almost impossible to determine which building was set for civilian use and which building was secretly a prison.
“I’m trying! I cannot find the ■■■■ entry!” The exasperation in Pohatu’s voice grew more and more by the minute as they struggled to locate the prison in which Defilak was being held.
“We have no choice,” Kopaka said in a grim tone, turning to Onua. “We have to go out and storm the prison, wherever it may be. Time is running out fast.”
“Do we have proof Defilak is even alive?” Onua asked. “For all we know Defilak has already been executed and is probably decomposing in a morgue somewhere in the city’s basements.”
“He has to be,” Lewa shot back. “He would’ve at least been given a false trial by the accuser just to get it out there that he’s the supposed culprit.” Lewa shut off the computer and readied his air katanas.
“We need to search for him,” he said, bracing himself. “We need to break him out before dawn.”
Weapons in hand, the four Toa went off into the night, splitting into four different paths, with one mission in mind.
The same, unnerving yet very familiar, voice reverberated throughout the minds of the four remaining Toa Nuva.
Time is running out, Toa, do you sense it? You don’t have much time left until everyone you care about and everything you stand for will all come crashing down.
Everything is crumbling to dust.
It’s up to you to stop it.
Time is running out.
“What is this?”
Raanu had opened the RCF command console in his control chamber only to see no fewer than a thousand logins into the prison records maintained by the government.
“What in Karzahni is going on? Why are there so many access attempts?”
After some quick tracing, the Fire Agori was able to pinpoint the location of the requests: an underground bunker in the northern district of the city, specifically in Nuva sector. Raanu suddenly realized that the underground bunker he traced the requests back to was Kopaka’s detective office.
The Toa Nuva know about the plan. They had figured out Defilak was being framed for the murders, and had tried to access the prison records to verify that he is locked up in a prison. It all makes sense now.
“■■■■ it,” Raanu whispered. “I need to stop them from breaking out Defilak.”
Raanu opened up the central command prompt and typed in a new objective:
Complete the trial and execute Defilak before dawn.
The RCF drone landed a solid kick in Defilak’s abdomen, which jolted him awake. Defilak could have sworn he felt something crack inside of him.
The Le-Matoran began to moan, but was abruptly cut off by an extremely loud boom which he was sure woke up every other prisoner in his block.
“Shut up and follow me.” The RCF drone dragged Defilak by the arm, powerfully resisting the Le-Matoran’s attempts to break free. At last, Defilak stopped trying to resist.
“May I know where I’m being dragged to?” Defilak managed to say, suppressing the fear of being pounded into oblivion again. To his utter surprise, the robot actually responded to him in a manner that was not a beating.
“Your trial is scheduled for taking place in another ten minutes. We are bringing you to the courtroom so you can face your destiny the way it was intended to.” There was no emotion whatsoever in the drone’s delivery of dialogue, reflective of the true nature of the RCF: mindless soldiers who do only as they are told.
“We had received word that the Toa are trying to break out you, despite you being a dangerous criminal. We need to complete the trial before then.”
The Toa? What – what made them do this? Had I misunderstood them? Are - are they really here to save me?
The robot initiated quick travel mode, which instantly teleported itself and Defilak to the courtroom. The room was a damp chamber made entirely out of metal, and was located in the highest floor of a tan, nondescript abandoned residential complex not far from the prison where he was held. About ten RCF drones were stationed on the roof, given orders to execute Defilak by firing squad as soon as he arrives.
Defilak was made to stand with supports behind a podium which stood at the front of the room, directly facing the table at which the judges sat. His hands and legs were shackled to the supports, meaning he could not move without them being a massive hindrance. On either side of the table stood two RCF drones, pointing their assault rifles right at Defilak in case he decides to make a run. The judges were both rock Agori who were employed by the RCF. A Ta-Matoran who Defilak did not recognize served as his “prosecutor.”
This isn’t even a legitimate trial. I’ve been thrown into a kangaroo court with a supposed prosecutor who’s here to expose my “crimes” to the world, when in reality that “prosecutor” is probably a Ta-Matoran poor enough to get bribed by the government to throw some falsified evidence at me and call it a day. I’ve lost this mockery of a trial before it even started. It’s completely rigged against me.
“Do I – do I have a lawyer?” Defilak cautiously asked.
As if on cue, an Onu-Matoran entered the room and stood next to him.
“There he is,” one of the rock Agori grunted. The Onu-Matoran introduced himself as Nobua, and wore a purple Hau.
Nobua’s voice sounded very timid, as if he was afraid of something. He sounded on edge, which made Defilak start to doubt his abilities as a lawyer.
On first impressions, Nobua almost felt sorry for Defilak, but quickly brushed his pity aside.
Poor Le-Matoran, being framed into a high profile murder case. He doesn’t even have a legitimate trial to save his face. He’s going to get killed within the next hour, and I’m powerless to stop anything. If only I could do something, anything … My life will be over before I can even think about saving his. I have no choice.
Nobua’s thoughts were interrupted by the strike of the rock Agori’s gavel, after which he was snapped back to reality.
“On this day, here we begin the trial of the Le-Matoran Defilak, who stands here, presumed guilty of orchestrating a master plot to kill Turaga Onewa and Turaga Vakama. Lawyer Nobua, do you have any remarks to add?” One of the rock Agori commenced the trial, and waited expectantly for someone to say something.
Defilak lowered his head and stared at the ground, shaking his head.
The only thing this city is good at is throwing up facades of glamor and splendor at its convenience. It’s all lies, and I’m now one of the countless Matoran and Toa and Glatorian to be ensnared in this web of shadows, this web of lies, never to be seen again. What’s the point? My fate is sealed. No one can change it now. Of course the Toa would not show up. It was my foolishness to think that they would.
The gavel’s strike on the table dispelled the thoughts from his mind.
“We shall begin, then, if you do not have any remarks to add,” the Agori said in a cold tone, as his eyes narrowed onto the crippled Le-Matoran who stood in front of him in shackles, badly beaten and bruised. The rock Agori did not like to deal with such despicable criminals or even look at them, but as a result of his job he has accustomed himself to dealing with such people. Still, he made clear his distaste for the shackled and condemned Le-Matoran by practically spitting out every word.
“Defilak, is it true that you orchestrated the murder of two of the city’s Turaga?” The other of the two rock Agori spoke up. He was also visibly concerned about being in the same room as a supposed criminal, but he tried his best to hide it.
Before Defilak could say anything, however, Nobua spoke up for him in his place.
“No, your honor. You’ve got the wrong Matoran–” Defilak started to defend himself, but he was cut off by the Agori. One of them pressed a button on their remote, and a projector screen rolled down. A video of Sarda delivering the bomb, captured live by the RCF units in the area, started to play.
“If you say you’ve got the wrong Matoran, explain to me this?” The Ta-Matoran had a smug look on his face as he pointed to the video.
“VAKAMA: Sarda, what brings you here?”
“SARDA: Defilak wanted me to give this package to you.”
“VAKAMA: Here, give it to me. Thank you.”
“SARDA: No problem, I’ll see you around, Turaga.”
The explosion that followed immediately after the dialogue was caught in all its detail in the video. At the sound of the blast, Defilak could not help but flinch and turn away from the screen, averting his eyes from the horrid moments that served as the grisly end of his best friend, not wishing to relive them once more.
“That’s clearly you mentioned in the video,” the Ta-Matoran said. “Unless we all have hearing problems.”
“Tell me one thing, firespitter,” Defilak said. “If I was the one to have given the bomb to Sarda to give to Turaga Vakama, where would I have gotten the materials necessary to make a bomb of such high explosiveness? Do I have the means or the money to buy such expensive materials? Do I look like I have the money?”
“You robbed the government armory,” the Ta-Matoran declared. “You, with your low paying job, would not have the means or the resources to get the bomb materials legitimately, which is why you had to resort to illegal means to make the bomb. Not only murder, but you also have theft of a highly guarded armory on your name.”
Before Defilak or Nobua could respond, the Ta-Matoran pulled up some papers and shoved them into Defilak’s face.
“See this? These are forensically proven test results of your fingerprints on Turaga Onewa’s body. They’re all over the corpse.”
“It’s all falsified evidence,” Defilak seethed. “With this wretched city, you don’t know what is true and what is not. It’s all deceit and lies.” Defilak lifted up his head and stared into the Ta-Matoran with a look of pure venom, his red eyes alight with rage. “And you’re falling for it.”
The Ta-Matoran took a step back and laughed. “That may be so,” he jeered, “but it’s only the losers in life that call injustice and unfairness.”
“Also, what’s in it for me if the evidence is falsified or not? I’ve been promised money, and that’s all I care about. Not some ■■■■■■ criminal who’s going to die in an hour anyway.” The Ta-Matoran then pointed at Nobua, who was shaking in a corner, afraid of something. “See? Not even your lawyer cares enough to defend you from your impending death. Maybe he wasn’t paid too much,” he muttered.
I was correct, Defilak thought. He was bribed with money to present falsified evidence. I had an uneasy feeling from the start that I wouldn’t get a fair trial, and it’s playing out exactly how I envisioned it. Sometimes, it’s a curse to have correct predictions.
“That’s all I have, your honor,” the Ta-Matoran said. “Now make the right verdict.”
One of the rock Agori started to speak. “Nobua, it is your turn to present the evidence you have supporting your client.”
Nobua stood up and walked over to Defilak, still very apprehensive.
“You’re a lawyer. Your job is to defend your clients and keep them from legal action, instead of sitting in a corner, afraid,” Defilak spat, shaking Nobua hard. “How about you do something at least now?”
Defilak’s words tensed up Nobua. Inside the Onu-Matoran, an internal conflict raged on.
On one hand, I was given orders by Turaga Dume to stay silent throughout the entire trial, while on the other hand, Defilak is about to die in an hour and the best I can do is make up evidence to save him. But if I save him, I will be killed by the RCF for defying the orders of Turaga Dume. If I don’t save him, I’ll live with that guilt for the rest of my life, of having sent someone to their death.
I don’t want to get killed. I’m too young to die.
Mata Nui, please help me for what I am about to do.
Nobua tried to back off, but Defilak’s words kept ringing in his head.
I’m forced to make the ultimate choice between my life and my conscience.
Do I live, or do I die?
Is my life more important than my conscience?
The rock Agori sitting at the desk repeated his statement once more, hitting his gavel. “Nobua, anything to add?”
Nobua snapped back into reality. “N - N - no, your honor,” Nobua muttered. His voice was barely audible.
“That should be it, then,” the other rock Agori said. “We will go to another room to deliberate.”
The two Agori and the Ta-Matoran left the room to discuss the results, which were already clearly evident at this point.
I knew it, I knew it, Defilak thought. I had predicted from the start that Nobua would not be a good lawyer. I could have easily told that from his body language and the looks on his face.
“My fate is sealed,” the condemned Le-Matoran finished out loud. “And you’ve done nothing to save me.”
“Listen, Defilak, my life would be in danger if I chose to save you --”
“So you work for Turaga Dume. He set you up to be my ‘lawyer’ and not do anything so I can easily be executed. Is that it?”
“Let me explain --”
“There’s no more explaining you need to do, Nobua,” Defilak spat. “I know the full story.”
Nobua hung his head in shame and stared at the ground. He knew what he had done was wrong, and immediately started to regret it.
Was I right in choosing my life and my safety over that of an innocent Matoran, who is not guilty of anything?
“I - I - I’m sorry,” Nobua muttered. He left the room, not wanting to be in Defilak’s presence anymore and experience his piercing glare.
Inside the room, Defilak turned towards the red blinking light in the upper corner of the room that had been monitoring him for the whole trial.
“Turaga Dume, I know you’re behind this madness, and you’re going to pay for this with your life. Farewell, Dear Leader, and look out for your sorry soul. The Toa are out to get you, and it’s only a matter of time before you end up executed by your very own people.”
The last line was said with extra contempt and derision as Defilak raised two fingers to his battered and broken Kanohi mask in a final salute.
Turaga Dume got up from his chair, took two steps back, and laughed out loud.
“This secret dies with you, Defilak,” Dume smirked. “The Toa will not find out until it’s too late.”
“Too bad you’re just one more corpse to add to the pile growing under my foot.” Turaga Dume let out a long and evil laugh.
He reached over and clicked off the screen, stopping the live broadcast. He pulled out his phone and called Raanu.
“Make sure everything is ready. Defilak will be executed in an hour’s time. You must carry out the plan before then.”
Raanu looked around the main hallway of the Council Building and saw his men getting into place, instantly recognizable by the RCF emblem on their shoulder. Each of them pulled out their rifle and moved to flank Raanu on either side on the Fire Agori’s signal. Their rifles were drawn and they were ready to shoot and kill. Everywhere Raanu looked, he saw small nodes on the wall blinking bright red amongst the darkness in the hall, broken only by moonlight streaming in from the massive windows, and the red beam of laser sights attached to the Kanohi of the Matoran and the helmets of the Agori, who were all equipped with black gas masks.
Raanu hung up the phone with a simple nod right after Dume had delivered his message.
Raanu withdrew his own rifle and pointed it. He loaded the first round of bullets.
He held up three fingers in the darkness. Lightpads attached to his glove made his hand visible in the black of the night.
Rifles clicked, one after another.
Raanu held up two fingers.
Fingers curled on the triggers.
One finger remained.
The Matoran and Agori soldiers took aim.
Raanu lowered his finger.
Each node exploded in a blast of smoke as a tsunami of black clad soldiers wreaked havoc on the very foundations of New Atero itself, ready to destroy everything Mata Nui once stood for.