Someone commented to me that the last chapter felt like a 'silence before the storm.' By that logic, this is the one in which the clouds begin to gather. Enjoy!
Macku was carrying a large tray filled with some kind of roasted bird rahi. “Dinner’s here,” she announced as she set it down on the table.
“Husi!” Hewkii identified the meal. “You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Macku.”
“Best to bring out something special when we have guests,” Macku smiled, looking at me and Kopaka. No kidding about the ‘special’ part. Not only did the husi look to be impeccably cooked; it was lying on a kind of seaweed salad bed, with various fruits arranged throughout. A carving fork and knife protruded from the top of the roasted bird. Macku’d clearly put time into the presentation.
“It looks great,” I commented. “Thank you.”
“Please, tuck in,” Macku stepped back and walked around us, taking the one spot remaining on the couch next to Hewkii.
Jaller got up and pulled the carving equipment out of the bird’s back. He turned to Kopaka, asking: “how much?” Kopaka held up two slightly pinched fingers, prompting Jaller to carve off a small piece of the husi and deposit it on Kopaka’s plate. The Toa of Ice sat back, while Jaller turned to me.
It wasn’t long before he’d served everyone their desired helping, and we all enjoyed the result of Macku, by her description, “…experimenting all day with different spices to get just the right flavor.” As far as I was concerned, she’d hit the mark, and I don’t think anyone at the table would have argued. The arrival of food as a topic also dispelled the uncomfortable air that had pervaded before Macku’s arrival, though the Ga-Matoran’s curiosity and conversational drive certainly helped. Hewkii told us about the progress that his Kolhii team had made again, after which Jaller and Hahli described exactly what all they’d done to fix up Kopaka’s insides. The Toa of Ice remained noticeably quiet throughout the conversation, his eyes mostly fixed on Gali, who was making her way through one generous helping of Husi after another. I got a growing sense of disbelief and frustration from Kopaka; I think he was having a hard time believing that that really was his sister sitting down the table. His mounting feelings had me worried, too. What would he say if he was left alone with Gali?
“What do you think, Lis?” Hahli asked.
“Huh?” for a moment I’d stopped listening. “Sorry, about what?”
“Going back into the Great Spirit Robot,” Macku explained.
“We’re going to get a hold of some Kaukaus, if possible,” Hahli added. “It’ll be expensive, but it would help a lot for those of us who can’t breathe water.”
“Oh, right, since the thing is flooded,” I caught up. “Well, if we’re going that route, we might look at a few other masks that could be helpful.” I’d seen first-hand from Kopaka how useful an arsenal of Kanohi could be, taxing as it probably was to maintain.
“Not a bad idea,” Hahli said. “Again, though; it’ll be expensive.”
“Who else do you have so far?” I asked.
“Well, we’re all coming,” Jaller said, gesturing to himself as well as Hewkii.
“I’m going to work on documenting the trip,” Hahli said. “There may not be much left in there, but any footage would help teach newer generations about where their ancestors came from.”
“It’s documenting our history,” Hewkii added. “We’ve come far ever since we all left that robot, but sometimes it pays to look back.”
“And, when is this all supposed to happen?” I wondered.
“Sometime early next year,” Hahli answered. “We’ve been thinking about it for years, but only recently have things really begun to pick up steam. That said, there’ll be a lot of equipment involved. Even if we decide to bring more Kanohi, it’d only be the start of it.”
“Of course,” I agreed, “and I’ll help in whatever way I can.”
“Good to see that at least someone is still interested in preserving our past,” Hewkii smiled. “Seriously, I had to explain to one of my Kolhii players the other day what a Bohrok is.” Everyone chuckled, though again there was a kind of uncomfortable undertone, an acknowledgement that, barring me, they were all getting on a bit, and the experiences that had defined them were now well beyond the memory of most people.
The conversation soon moved on to some of the stories Hahli had covered as of late, which in turn led to a discussion of the renovations being made to the city’s largest Kolhii stadium. Macku stepped out to get drinks at one point. After a good hour and a half, there wasn’t anything left of the Husi beyond its bones, largely due to Gali’s ‘efforts.’ Macku brought out a very nice looking pie for dessert. It turned out to taste as good as it looked, and it wasn’t long before the plate was all but empty, and all of us were quite satisfied.
“That was excellent, Macku,” Hewkii complemented. The rest of us agreed.
“Glad you all liked it,” the Ga-Matoran smiled. “So, what’s the plan for the evening?”
“I think we should start on that leg.” Jaller gestured to Kopaka, then looked to Gali. “Can we get it done before midnight this time?
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Gali said somewhat sheepishly.
“Well, if you’re all going to do that…” Hewkii got up and turned to Macku, “… I’d like head out for a bit. Would you like to join me?” he invited the Ga-Matoran.
“Oh, I’ve got to take care of the dishes first,” Macku blushed, “but after that…”
“I’ve got it,” Hahli interjected. “You two go have fun.”
“Really, Hahli, it’s no problem,” Macku argued.
“No, just go,” Hahli urged her. “You’ve been working like mad for us the past two days. Go and enjoy yourself.” I wasn’t going to say it, but I could tell Hahli had her own reasons to want to occupy herself with the dishes; her mood had sunk the moment the topic of Kopaka’s leg was brought up. I think she wanted to keep some distance between herself and him for a while, and this was her ticket out of helping with the surgery.
“Well, if you insist…” Macku turned back to Hewkii. “Shall we?” They left the room and were soon out of the house.
“Not that it is any of my business, but… where are they going?” I asked.
“The beach, probably,” Hahli explained, relieved. “It’s nice and quiet in the evening. Romantic, even.”
“Ah…” I was right; Hewkii and Macku’s relationship was far more than a close friendship, though I couldn’t really decipher the reason why.
As Hahli gathered the dishes and took them to the kitchen, Jaller, Kopaka, and Gali proceeded to make their way upstairs. I followed them, and soon we were ready to start fixing the most obviously broken thing about Kopaka’s body; that mangled right leg. Kopaka’d already acknowledged that a Muaka was responsible for it, and by the looks of it the leg had been used as a chew toy by one of those massive creatures. Its armor had large holes and gashes torn into it, and was bent in a number of ways that would have made it impossible to fit it onto a… non-mangled leg, I guess.
After we removed the plating, the true extent of the damage became clear; the leg had been broken in multiple places and clearly hadn’t been set properly; the core structure had several jarring, unnatural angles to it, exposed between the atrophied muscle strands that stretched over it but failed to cover it in any way. The knee joint was in poor shape, and the ankle was busted to the point of locking Kopaka’s foot in place.
“You tried to fix this yourself, didn’t you?” Gali asked.
“Of course,” Kopaka said as though that was never in question.
“Well, it’s not good,” Gali continued. “The muscle in here’s almost gone… looks like you haven’t had much circulation in here for a while.”
“It kept freezing,” Kopaka answered. Somehow I found the thought of a Toa of Ice having to worry about freezing a bit ironic.
“That’s because there was no circulation,” Gali concluded as she started to inspect some of the muscle strands more closely, disconnecting and peeling them back to lay bare the structure underneath. “Well, good news is the muscle isn’t dead,” she said, “but even if we arrange everything properly, it’ll be weak. You won’t be rid of that cane for a while.”
“At least it will recover,” I said, trying to put a positive spin on things. I was relieved; for a moment, I thought the leg was beyond fixing and that we’d have to amputate it and get a hold of replacement parts.
“Just like Tahu, right?” Jaller asked. “Start by straightening the bone?”
“Right,” Gali agreed. “Work from the inside out.” She had now disconnected almost all the muscle strands, laying them on the table beside her. They looked like dark, shriveled worms; not at all the healthy, reddish tissue that one would normally expect. The leg’s jagged and bent metal inner structure was now laid bare; I sensed disbelief from Jaller.
“Even Tahu’s never this bad,” he half mumbled as he begun to inspect some of the sharp turns and jagged edges on the bone. It clearly had been set badly, and Kopaka’s body had ever so slowly welded it back together, cementing its new position. “I may have to break and re-weld it altogether,” Jaller informed us. “It’ll be quicker than trying to melt and bend it all back into shape.” Kopaka nodded, but Gali looked a bit more worried.
“You’re sure?” she asked. “It would also be the most painful way to go about it, and we’re out of pain killers.”
“You’ve got me,” I offered. “If Kopaka’s fine with it, that is…” I looked to Kopaka, who uncharacteristically hesitated at first, but then relented. “It would help if you were asleep,” I suggested. “Less noise for me to keep track of.”
“So be it, then,” Kopaka said.
“Very well,” Gali sighed, opening up the drawer of the bedside table, and pulling out one of the bottles that Hahli and Macku had gathered the night before. “This’ll help you get to sleep,” she explained to Kopaka, “but don’t hold me accountable for the dreams.” Apparently unconcerned by the warning, Kopaka took the pill and swallowed it, then lay back and closed his eyes.
“That was quick,” Jaller noted. “Usually it takes longer with Tahu.”
“He’s not asleep,” I corrected him. “He’s waiting. Give him a few minutes.” I could still see plenty of activity in Kopaka’s brain, but it slowly started to settle down. While I waited, Gali and Jaller discussed the exact procedure lying in front of them; Gali’d stop the circulation running through the leg altogether so they could operate on it safely, after which Jaller would heat up the bone in its worst bent spot until it was hot enough to break cleanly and reset. He’d probably have to move quite a bit of metal about in the process, but once the worst break was corrected, the rest could probably be bent back into shape. After the muscle strands were re-fitted, the knee joint would have to be oiled.
“As for the ankle…” Gali sighed. “I’m afraid there’s not much we can do there without new parts.” She pointed out the ankle had probably received the worst end of the Muaka’s teeth, and that it had been broken so badly that in the process of welding the pieces back together, Kopaka’s body had completely locked up the joint. Short of a new ankle, not much could be done to fix it.
“I think he’s asleep now,” I informed her. It’d been about ten minutes, during which I’d gradually watched Kopaka’s mind settle into its resting state.
“Let’s get started, then.” Jaller picked up the mangled armor plates and used them to prop up the leg to make sure the sheets wouldn’t catch fire (apparently, that had happened with Tahu, once). He then placed his hands on the worst bent section of the bone, channeling his control of fire to gradually heat it up. Meanwhile, Gali focused her power in on the blood channels higher up the leg, stopping the flow as to dry up what little remained in the vessels further down. I closed my eyes and focused on Kopaka’s mind more clearly, ready to block out the ‘red’ signals. Already, a slow stream was pouring in as the bone was heated up to painful levels.
That incoming stream steadily grew stronger over the next fifteen minutes as Jaller heated up the leg to the point where, as Gali described, it was glowing in an orange-red color. After another minute or two, I suddenly had to block a near avalanche of pain signals; Jaller’d broken the leg in two. Now he’d clean and reshape the breaking points so he could smoothly weld everything back together at the right angle. Had Kopaka been awake, I couldn’t help but think that even he would have been screaming with the pain that was surging through the nerves in the part of the leg that was still attached, but I was keeping him insulated from it, and I was getting better at it.
Then I noticed signals beginning to flare up in a different area… they certainly weren’t pain. Was Kopaka waking up? I considered trying to block them, to try and dim the lights, so to speak, but I quickly realized that this wasn’t Kopaka’s regaining consciousness… no, he was dreaming. For a while, I considered trying to read into the signals, but I didn’t want to lose track of the ones I was actually supposed to be watching for, so I waited.
“Hey, Lis,” Gali got my attention, sounding somewhat concerned.
“Yes?” I answered.
“He’s looking a bit uncomfortable… Are you doing alright?”
“Yeah…” I looked to see if I was missing any pain signals. I could imagine Kopaka was shifting, or grimacing, or something of the kind. However, as far as I could see, he should have been perfectly fine, unless… “It’s not pain,” I informed Gali. “I think he’s dreaming… maybe it’s a nightmare. I’ll try to check it out.”
“You sure?” Gali asked.
“Yeah, hang on…” I couldn’t quite untangle the new dreaming signals from the underlying noise, so I didn’t want to try and block them, but I could try to read into them, to get a picture, a snapshot of what exactly Kopaka was experiencing. Turned out I was in for a lot more than just a snapshot.
author's note: Dinner conversation and surgery preparation; riveting if I say so myself. I've been working my way up to the next 'emotional gut punch' chapter for a while now, and this chapter is basically the setup for it. That said, there still some potentially useful stuff in there, particularly when they talk about their plans to re-enter and document the Great Spirit Robot.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!