This is a short story I wrote for a Bara Magna writing contest on the Custom Bionicle Wiki late last year. Thought I would share it here.
Kirbraz’s world was upside down.
His head weighed as if his brain had been replaced with a pile of rocks. He still couldn’t tell if the ground was supposed to be the sky or if the sky was supposed to be the ground. In the distance, he could hear a voice speaking loudly over the noise of the crowd.
“Vulcanus wins the match! The prize goes to the Fire Tribe!”
Kirbraz rolled his head to the side and saw a pair of silver feet in front of him. Said feet proceeded to kick sand into his face, causing him to cough harshly.
“Get up,” an all-too-familiar voice growled.
Still rubbing sand out of his eyes, Kirbraz sat up and gazed upon the results of the match. The pieces of the Kaxium V3 laid scattered across the arena, with tires burning up in one corner and a Thornax Launcher buried in another. He couldn’t even tell which parts belonged to his side of the vehicle and which parts belonged to his partner’s side.
Scodonius grabbed him roughly by the arm and pulled him up, a nasty scowl twisted upon his face. “Nice going,” the other Water Agori muttered. “That’s the third match in a row we’ve lost.”
Kirbraz frowned at him. “How is this my fault, again?”
“I shouldn’t even need to tell you!” Scodonius retorted. “I told you to flank the Thornatus on one side and you went to the other, cutting me off! What were you even thinking?”
“I just thought I would get a better vantage point because the Thornax Launcher is on the left side and I wouldn’t be able to use it if—”
“You weren’t supposed to use the Thornax Launcher! You were just supposed to bump into him and knock him off course so that I could—”
“Ram into him head on?” Kirbraz interjected. “Oh, yeah, because that worked so well last time in the Iconox match—”
“That was different! I didn’t know that guy had a blade attached to his vehicle! If you ask me, those should be illegal.”
“Well, if you ask me, stupid Agori should be illegal, and that’s exactly what you—”
Scodonius cut Kirbraz off by stepping closer to him and holding up a fist. “You wanna finish that statement, you little desert leech?”
“All right, guys, cut it out.” The voice came from the pair’s trainer, who was walking up to them with a tired expression on his face. “The match is over. Pick up the pieces of your vehicle so that we can leave.”
“What?!” Kirbraz exclaimed. “Why do we have to do clean up? That’ll take forever!”
The trainer glared at him. “Then you’d better get started.”
With that, the trainer left, leaving Kirbraz and Scodonius to pick up the pieces of their wrecked vehicle. Scodonius spent the entire process glowering at Kirbraz while Kirbraz had his attention on Perditus, who was still standing from the seat of his Thornatus V9 to accept the cheers of the crowd.
Enjoy your victory while you can, Perditus, Kirbraz thought to himself. You haven’t seen the last of the Dangerous Duo.
The return to Tajun was not a pleasant one. After getting an earful from their trainer for how embarrassing their failure was for him, the two Agori pilots then got another reprimand from the leader of the Water Tribe, who seemed to be reconsidering her choices for pilots. After that, Kirbraz had gotten a mouthful from Scodonius about how he wished he had a different partner before retreating to his home.
Deciding it would be best to avoid Scodonius for a couple of days, Kirbraz instead set his mind on rebuilding the Kaxium yet again. The parts of the previous version were mostly salvageable, but he knew he was going to need new ones if he wanted to create an improved version; one that would impress even Scodonius.
Fortunately, Kirbraz knew of someone from the Water Tribe who was rather notorious for his collection of salvaged equipment. Perhaps Berix would be willing to part with some of that equipment for a (hopefully affordable) price.
Kirbraz found Berix sitting outside his home, tinkering with some kind of mechanical device. Upon noticing Kirbraz’s approach, Berix hastily tried to hide the device behind his back, even though the other Agori had already gotten a good look at it.
“Hey, Kirbraz! How’s it going?” Berix asked, his expression making it very clear that he was trying to hide something.
“Not very well,” Kirbraz muttered. “Scodonius and I lost another match.”
“Oh, really? That’s a shame.” Berix did not at all sound sympathetic. “Well, it’s been nice seeing you!”
“I was wondering if you had any parts I could use for a new version of the Kaxium.”
“Sorry, I’m not selling anything at the moment!” Beads of sweat were glistening on Berix’s forehead. Kirbraz knew they were living in a desert, but he had a feeling that the perspiration was not just due to the heat.
“Berix, I know you’re holding something behind your back,” Kirbraz sighed. “You could not make it anymore obvious.”
Cursing under his breath, Berix glanced around to make sure no one else was around before bringing out the device he had been working on. “Don’t tell anyone, okay?” he whispered. “I’ve been trying to get it to work all day.”
Kirbraz looked down at the device. To him, it just looked like a metal box that had been crudely put together, with all kinds of knobs and switches on it. “What even is it?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out,” Berix replied. “I know it does something; it’s just a matter of what.”
“Well, it doesn’t look like it would be useful for the Kaxium, so I have no interest in it.” Kirbraz looked back up at the other Agori. “You’re sure you’re not selling anything?”
“Sure, that’s what they all say,” Berix muttered in response to Kirbraz’s first statement. After realizing that Kirbraz had said something after that, Berix jolted up. “Oh, um, well, what is it you’re looking for?”
“Just the basics for now; thicker tires, a new steering control, maybe a new attachment piece for the Thornax Launcher.” Kirbraz sighed. “Though I doubt you would have what we really need to win a match.”
“Maybe if you named it, I could get it for you.”
“Better communication skills between me and Scodonius.”
Berix blinked. “Oh. Yeah, sorry, no, I don’t have anything like that. I have all that other stuff, though.”
“How much will it cost?” Kirbraz asked, tensing slightly.
“Depends on how much you smooth-talk me. And since you’re not Metus, I don’t have much to worry about.” Berix stood up and patted Kirbraz on the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get you your parts.”
“I told him to go left. Does he go left? No, he goes right! Idiot.”
Scodonius grumbled to himself as he tossed another stone into the river. It did not skip, nor did any of the others. Yet another thing that wasn’t going right for him today.
“Why does he always do things differently than how I want him to do them? Can’t he listen? Is he that dumb?”
“It sounds to me that there is an issue of communication.”
Startled, Scodonius turned around to see the leader of the Water Tribe approaching him. While not quite as old as the Fire Tribe leader Raanu, Karesa was still older than most of the Agori in the Water Tribe, and even Scodonius had to admit that she was probably one of the wisest people he knew. Still, he wasn’t exactly in the mood for talking to her — or anyone, for that matter.
Turning back to the river, Scodonius let out a heavy sigh. “I know you’re still disappointed with me, Karesa.”
“I am. Even moreso, now that I know where the issues lie.” The older Agori came to stand beside Scodonius, watching him closely while he stared at the river. “Do you not realize how… petty you’re acting?”
“I told him what he needed to do!” Scodonius snapped. “He chose to go against my directions because he thinks he’s better than me!”
“Does he?” Karesa asked. “Or do you just assume that he does based on his actions?”
Scodonius fought the urge to glare at the tribe leader. As mad as he was, he was in no mood in getting kicked off the team, or worse. “I’m not a child, chieftain” he muttered. “Don’t treat me like one.”
“Then stop acting like one,” Karesa said harshly. “If you want to win your next match, then you need to patch things up with your partner. Otherwise, I will have to end up replacing one of you.”
Scodonius moved with a start at this. He turned to look at Karesa but she was already walking away, leaving no room for further conversation. Clenching his fist, he picked up another stone and threw it into the river.
This time, it skipped across the water, making an almost melodious sound as it did.
The Agori stood there for a moment, his leader’s words still stewing in his mind. Closing his eyes, he let out a heavy sigh and turned away from the river, walking back the way he had come. Already, he was hating himself for what he was about to do.
He was going to find Kirbraz.
“Oh! It made a sound!” Berix held up the mysterious device to his ear, listening to it closely. “I think. No… wait… I think that was my stomach.”
Kirbraz rolled his eyes as he attached a wheel onto the new Kaxium. After buying the parts from Berix, the Agori collector had offered to help Kirbraz put the new vehicle together. The pilot had agreed, but had he known that Berix would have spent most of the time playing with his new “toy,” he would have definitely said “no.”
“Where did you even get that thing?” Kirbraz asked as he picked up a shield piece to attach to the larger section of the vehicle.
“Can’t tell you! It’s a secret.” Berix looked around conspiratorially. “Can you keep a secret?”
“I’ll probably forget what it even was by next morning.”
“Okay. So about a week ago, I went to Vulcanus with Tarix for his match with Ackar. While I was there, I found Perditus working on his Thornatus. Naturally, I had to talk with him because you know how much I love machines.”
Kirbraz did not, but he said nothing as Berix continued his tale.
“So, while we were talking — well, I was talking; he wasn’t saying much — I saw this thing in his pile of parts. It was buried beneath a bunch of other stuff, but I noticed it because… well, of course I would. I wasn’t sure if Perditus was trying to hide it, so I distracted him while I swiped it and stuffed it into my satchel.”
Kirbraz paused in his work to look at Berix. “So you stole it from him.”
“I didn’t steal it!” Berix protested. “I’m just borrowing it until I figure out what it is. I’ll give it back to him. Eventually.”
Kirbraz opened his mouth to say something but stopped when he heard a knock at his door. Putting down his tools, he walked over to the door and opened it. He had to stop himself from slamming it shut.
“Oh. It’s you.”
Scodonius stared back at him, stone-faced. “Yeah. It’s me. Can I come in?”
“I’m surprised you even want to talk me, after all those things you said to me. I think even Kiina would have blushed at some of the words you dropped.”
“Can I come in?” Scodonius repeated.
Kirbraz grudgingly stepped aside to allow the other Agori in. Once Scodonius was inside, he closed his eyes as he took a deep breath, letting it out in a sigh.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“’Sorry?’” Kirbraz raised an eyebrow. “That’s a big word for you. I didn’t even think you knew how to pronounce it.”
“Just shut up and let me talk,” Scodonius snapped. “Look, I’ve been thinking about the match and… I realized I may have not been clear in what I expected from you.”
Kirbraz bit back a snippy retort, instead allowing his partner to continue.
“I mean, I thought I was clear in my directions, but maybe I should have been clearer with how… important they were. Like, maybe I should have double-checked with you before the match started to make sure we were on the same page. Or maybe—”
“Or maybe you should take the smaller side,” Kirbraz interjected.
Scodonius stared him, looking confused. “Huh?”
“I just realized now… each time we’ve lost our matches, you were in the big side of the vehicle and I was in the smaller one. Each time, we lost because I did something with the smaller bike that you didn’t want me to. Maybe… maybe you should handle the smaller side from now on.”
Scodonius looked as if he was about to object only to stop, considering Kirbraz’s suggestion. The more he thought about it, the more he seemed to like it as a smile slowly crept onto his face. Kirbraz rarely saw Scodonius smile and this was probably his first time seeing it without feeling at unease.
“That… might actually work. That way, I can pull off the stunts and you just follow my lead. People will think I’m the brains of the group while you’re just my dumb sidekick!”
It took every fiber of his being for Kirbraz to not take exception to what his partner was saying. “Yeah, sure,” he said through gritted teeth. “That sounds like a great idea.”
Scodonius laughed as he slapped Kirbraz on the shoulder, a bit too hard for the latter’s liking. “Ah, I knew we would reach an understanding eventually. All we needed was a little communication.”
“Right.” Sighing, Kirbraz looked over to Berix. “Say, Berix, what say we take a break? I have some fruit leftovers from this morning.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m starving!” Berix tossed the device he had been tinkering with to the side. A piece of it broke off as it hit the wall, causing the Agori scavenger to wince. “I’m… sure that wasn’t anything important,” he said quietly.
“Did you figure out what it was?” Kirbraz asked.
Berix shook his head. “No. It just kept making a warbled sound that I couldn’t make out. Anyway, let’s eat.”
While Berix ran over to the kitchen, Scodonius threw his arm over Kirbraz’s shoulder, grinning widely at his partner.
“So,” he said. “What do you say to a rematch with Vulcanus?”
Kirbraz couldn’t help himself from smiling as well. “I’d say that would be a great idea.”
Perditus cried out as Scodonius rammed his vehicle into the side of the Glatorian’s Thornatus V9. Knocked off course, the sand-colored vehicle spun out of control as Kirbraz came charging with his larger cycle, colliding into the Thornatus. Perditus’ vehicle flipped forward and flung the Glatorian out of his seat, sending him flying through the air. He landed headlong onto the ground, his head burrowing into the sand.
“Tajun wins the match!” a voice roared over the sounds of the crowd. “Victory goes to the Water Tribe!”
Perditus pounded the sand as he pulled his head out, glaring in the direction of his opponents. Kirbraz and Scodonius had dismounted from the Kaxium V3 and were basking in the glory of their victory, shouting incoherent nonsense as they bumped their helmets together and pumped their fists in the air. This triumph was sure to inflate the pair’s egos, as if they weren’t already inflated enough.
Growling, Perditus dragged himself onto his feet. He looked up, expecting to see his Agori trainer, only to see a villager from the Water Tribe instead. The Glatorian furrowed his brow, feeling like he had seen the Agori before.
“Hey, there,” said Berix. He shuffled his feet, keeping his hands hidden behind his back. “Remember me?”
“What do you want?” Perditus grunted, removing his helmet to massage his sore head.
“Oh, nothing. I just wanted to return something that I think belongs to you.” Berix pulled his hands out from behind his back and presented a metal, box-shaped object to the Glatorian.
Perditus’ eyes went wide as he snatched the device from the Agori. “Where did you get this?” he growled.
“I found it laying on the ground, just outside the arena,” Berix replied. “I guess you dropped it or something—”
“I’ve been looking for this for a week! Did you have it this entire time?”
“No, sir!” Berix held his hands up, eyes wide. “I just found it. I… I swear by every drop of water in Tajun!”
Perditus growled. He could tell the Agori was lying. However, there was no time — nor any point — in confronting him. Doing so would only expose himself, which was the very last thing he wanted to do.
“Next time,” the Glatorian said as he turned his back to Berix, “don’t touch things that aren’t yours.”
With that, he strode back to the wreck of his Thornatus. Staring down at the device, Perditus could only hope that his contact on the other end would not be too upset over his temporary radio silence. He had meant to send a report on the day he had lost the device. Hopefully his contact’s disappointment would not be too severe.
However, as Perditus reached the Thornatus, he noticed that the device was slightly bent in an odd way. Frowning, the Glatorian gently turned one of the knobs, only for it come right off.
Perditus’ screams were drowned out by the crowd as they cheered on the Dangerous Duo.