A long chapter, this one, and another one in which what was supposed to be a short writing session turned into the better part of an afternoon and evening... I'd better get started on homework now...
Kopaka’s eyes were wide open, and I could see the flash of panic akin to that of a cornered animal. For a moment, I feared he might kick into a fight-or-flight response.
“It’s okay! It’s okay!” Gali turned to her brother, raising her hands slightly, trying to calm him down. On the other side, however, Jaller looked about to pull out his sword, and he was holding Kopaka’s detached lower right leg. In between them, I stood, still all but frozen in position as I tried to recollect myself; shaking and with what I imagine was a look of terror on my face, I definitely didn’t look good.
Luckily, Kopaka’s habit of checking himself kicked in; he looked around, still obviously unnerved, but after a few seconds his rational brain took over and his face returned to its typical, neutral expression. “I believe… I am not supposed to be awake right now,” he said, his voice still revealing a tremble.
“No, you’re not!” Jaller exclaimed, still on edge. He turned to me. “What was that!?”
“I… I saw his dream,” I stammered.
“Are you okay?” Gali asked, concerned. I looked to Kopaka, whose had mind telepathed agitation the moment I mentioned seeing his dream, then back to Gali.
“Yeah…” I reasserted myself. “Yeah, I think I’ll be okay.”
“You look like you’ve seen ghosts,” Gali noted.
“I… I think I kind of did,” I said, still with the image of the shadow Kopaka in my head.
“Excuse me,” Kopaka got our attention. He pointed at the broken-off leg that Jaller was holding. “Do you need to be in here to work on that?”
“Come to think of it, no.” Jaller answered. “Not until we put you back together.”
“And you,” Kopaka turned to Gali, “is your presence required at this time?”
“I’m stopping you from bleeding out,” Gali pointed at where the leg had been broken off, just below the knee, where an open blood channel was curiously dry. Kopaka leant forward and inspected the spot, then reached forward and covered the open channel with his hand, freezing a clump of ice over it to seal it.
“That should hold it,” he asserted. “Now, I would like to have a word alone with Lis.”
“No problem,” Jaller said curtly as he got up, then made his way around me and out of the room.
“You sure?” Gali asked.
“You know me to kid?” Kopaka said, sounding moody even by his standards.
“Okay,” Gali sighed as, with considerable effort, she got to her feet. “But call me if anything happens with that.” Kopaka nodded, after which Gali departed the room. I stood, waiting for Kopaka to say something, but he waited in silence for a good thirty seconds as the Toa of Water audibly made her way down the stairs.
“Close the door,” he finally instructed. I obliged, then returned to my position standing at the foot of the bed. Again, Kopaka paused for a moment, but already he had adopted that piercing gaze again, much to my discomfort.
“Look…” I began, “I didn’t mean to get so caught up...”
“WHAT IN KARZAHNI’S NAME MADE YOU THINK YOU HAD THE RIGHT TO DO THAT!?” Kopaka thundered at me. His forceful outburst caught me by surprise; dumbfounded, I couldn’t muster an immediate reply. “I told you certain things are to be left hidden,” he continued, “and you blatantly disregard it!”
“Gali told me to!” I blurted out. Kopaka didn’t believe me. “I mean, she said you looked uncomfortable,” I elaborated, “so I blocked out the pain just like I was supposed to, but it was those dreams that were causing you pain. I told her I’d check it out!”
“One’s dreams are meant to be private.” Kopaka contended, sounding calmer but no less agitated. “Especially so when they are influenced by mind-altering substances.”
“I know, okay? I’m sorry!” I apologized. “I didn’t mean to… to get caught up like I did.”
Kopaka’s eyes remained fixed on me. “You did not mean to,” he said sternly. “You mean to say that you were not prepared for what you saw.”
“Well, should I have been?” I asked, exasperated. “Y-You saw what I saw, right? The… the twisted monsters, the evil Toa.”
“The shadow Toa, they are ancient history now,” Kopaka dismissed. “Mere illusions, nothing important.”
“Not important?” I was staggered.
“We dealt with them,” Kopaka explained. “They are long gone, if they even existed in the first place.”
I thought for a moment. “But, they looked real… Yours claimed to still be a part of you.”
“What you saw was a drug-induced nightmare,” Kopaka reminded me. “Do not expect it to be accurate. In fact, consider it false.”
“You’re sure?” I couldn’t just believe that there was no significance to these dreams whatsoever. They had hit far too hard and close for that.
“I am,” Kopaka asserted. “Refrain from looking into my dreams again, or there will be consequences.” I couldn’t imagine what those consequences might have been, but felt inclined to believe him.
“Okay, I won’t do it again,” I agreed. “But if you think there’s no meaning behind what we saw, you’re wrong.”
“Believe what you will,” Kopaka said coldly, “but I will be awake for the rest of this procedure.”
“Fine…” I acquiesced. “I’ll tell Gali and Jaller.” I turned and headed out into the hallway. Kopaka seemed awfully eager to shut down the dreams as anything of value, but that only reinforced the notion that there really was some meaning behind them. No, I didn’t believe that they were mere drugged hallucinations; they reflected deeper feelings, exactly those that Kopaka worked so hard to suppress, and if any in particular stood out, it was guilt. Guilt about Gali, about leaving her when he was her last rope, about helping to push her over the edge. I couldn’t decide whether he was really the one responsible for it, but he had been the last to walk out of that room, the last to turn away. And the guilt proved that Tahu was right; for all his pretenses, the way he deluded himself and others, Kopaka did care, something that his darker side, shadow Toa or not, tried desperately to cover up.
I found Gali sitting on a couch in the living room with a drink and a large bowl filled with some kind of fried snack food, watching a news broadcast on the telescreen.
“Hey,” I greeted as I took the chair next to her.
“How are you doing?” she looked up, still concerned.
“Shaken a bit, to be honest.”
“He was angry, wasn’t he?” she said somberly.
“He believes I invaded his privacy by looking into those dreams,” I explained, “and yeah, he was angry about it.”
“It was necessary,” Gali reassured me. “No matter what he says, you were right to look into it, even if it was a risk.”
“Yeah…” I sighed. Both of us were quiet for a moment, but then I remembered something. “I have a question.”
“Go ahead,” Gali invited.
“Did you ever use a nova blast?” The question clearly surprised Gali.
“Nova blast?” she asked. “Well, yes… once. Why do you ask?”
“The first dream… I think I saw it,” I continued. “You were facing some kind of gigantic evil creature in a cave, a lab of some sort.”
“Makuta Icarax,” Gali said, shuddering as she remembered the name. “Stronger than Teridax, and several times more ferocious.” She paused, trying to recall more. “We were sent to retrieve a staff,” she continued, “the staff of Artakha. Icarax had stolen it, and we tracked him to Karzahni.”
“The confrontation didn’t go well, did it?”
“We were struck down, one by one,” Gali said quietly. “The nova blast… it was my last ditch option.” She sighed; this wasn’t a pleasant memory. “Sorry, but… you said you saw me do it? In Kopaka’s dream?”
“Yeah. He saw it, too,” I recalled. “He even jumped in with his shield, blocking one of the chain strikes while you were charging.”
Gali looked rather perplexed. “Chains? What chains?”
“The flaming chains,” I explained. “Icarax almost hit you while you were charging the nova blast, but Kopaka blocked him. Then he used ice to freeze over Icarax’s eyes, so he couldn’t see. You don’t remember?”
“No.” Gali shook her head. “Flaming chains? Icarax didn’t have any of those… And my brothers were all knocked out; they only knew about the nova blast when I told them afterwards.”
“Then… who did I see?” I asked.
“I’m not sure.” Gali pondered what beings she’d heard of that used flaming chains.
“He had a weird mask, too,” I elaborated, “like it was made from scrap metal, or a few masks welded together.”
Gali’s face turned bleak. “I think I know who you’re talking about.”
“Karzahni,” she answered. “We never faced Karzahni… not in his own realm, that is.”
“So, Kopaka was making things up?” I didn’t take him for the imaginative type.
“Could be. I mean, it was a dream, not an exact memory,” Gali reminded me.
“That’s true…” I wondered what exactly its significance was, then. How much of what I’d seen was wrong? Or was it Kopaka’s idealized version of events? Of course, it hadn’t been the only dream either… “I, uhm, I did see something else,” I continued, unsure of how to approach the second one.
“What was it?” Gali asked curiously.
“Well, it might be a bit personal,” I said, still hesitant, “but… was there ever such a thing as shadow Toa?”
“Shadow Toa?” Gali said, somewhat shocked. “Yes… but they were illusions, created by Makuta Teridax.”
“So Kopaka told me,” I continued, “but I saw them. In his second dream, that is.”
“That’s… that’s odd.” Gali’s voice had weakened in tone; clearly the shadow Toa were an uncomfortable topic for her as well. “That was ages ago, back on Mata Nui. They… they were created by the Makuta… dark versions of ourselves for us to fight.”
“How did you beat them?” I wondered.
“We… we realized that they were just mirrors… mirror versions of ourselves,” Gali said, taking a sip from her drink to steady herself. “When we accepted that, they… we absorbed them… and they were gone.”
“I saw that,” I acknowledged, “but I still saw shadow Kopaka after that… he was taunting Kopaka.”
“They did do that… all of them.”
“He was still doing it after he was absorbed, though,” I continued. “Like he was still there.”
“That’s not possible…” Gali said it but her reaction confirmed that she didn’t fully believe it. “They, they’re gone. Even the Makuta that created them no longer exists.”
I remembered hearing shadow Gali’s voice… had Kopaka’s dream been accurate in that regard? “I’m sorry, and I know this is hard, but… do you remember what your shadow Toa said to you?” I asked.
“Yes…” Gali sighed, lowering her head as she gathered her thoughts. When she looked up at me again, her expression had changed. Rather than shocked, she looked troubled, sad. “She… she said I couldn’t do anything about the other Toa,” she began, “that I couldn’t do anything at all… She told me I was worthless, that I should have given up, t-that nothing I could do… nothing would matter.” She choked and teared up as she recalled her vicious counterpart.
“It’s okay…” I reached in, trying to comfort her. “That’s… that’s all I need to know.” As far as I was concerned, that confirmed it; Kopaka’s dream had been right as far as shadow Gali was concerned, much to my dismay. We sat there for a bit as Gali recollected herself.
“Sorry…” she said, “it’s… it’s difficult. They were horrible.”
“Y-you said the shadow Toa… they were in his dream? All of them?”
“Yes, they were… I saw you fighting them, absorbing them… and I heard what they said.”
“I’m sorry,” Gali said, “sorry for making you go in there… You shouldn’t have had to see that.”
“It’s fine,” I assured her. “I'm sure they're long gone. Besides, I wanted to check it out, remember?”
“That’s true… that you did.” She gave a meek smile; I did the same. After a moment, realizing the absurdity of our now shared experience, we chuckled. There was a certain relief; we’d seen bad things, but hey, we made it through, and here we were…
“You did warn him about the dreams,” I reminded her. “He was pretty shaken too.”
“True,” she smiled. “You know, I wonder…” she paused to think for a moment. “How exactly did you end up with him anyway? You seem to be the one person that can stand him.”
“Probably true,” I admitted. “I basically walked into him in Ko-Koro-Nuva… he was coming down from the mountains, he looked hurt, and I was curious, you know? I mean, he was wearing a cloak, so I couldn’t see who he was, and he looked hurt.”
“So you followed him,” Gali nodded.
“Yeah… he boarded the train north, and I didn’t really have any place to go, so… I went with him. We talked on that train, and I figured it’d be interesting to stay with him for a while, to learn something about, well… being a Toa.”
“Makes sense,” Gali agreed.
“Yeah…” I reflected. “A lot has happened the last four days. He’s told me a lot of things, too, about history and such.”
“Well, you’ve accomplished something pretty amazing, then,” Gali noted. I looked to her, wondering what she was referring to. She explained: “You’ve managed to get Kopaka to tolerate you for four days on end.” We laughed; she was right. Over the last few days, I’d seen Kopaka being grumpy and distant to just about everyone, but somehow he’d allowed me to stick around.
“Well, he did try to get rid of me once,” I remembered, “and he did make the point multiple times that I didn’t have any obligation to stay with him… but yeah, here I am.”
“Maybe he sees something in you,” Gali said, “but I don’t know what that might be.”
“Maybe…” I sighed, relaxing. “I mean, he’s kind of been teaching me, I guess…”
“Educating the future generation,” Gali remarked. “Not something I imagined him doing, but hey, maybe he just wants company after all those years alone.” We looked at each other, then burst into laughter again. Kopaka? Looking for company? Yeah right…
“What’s going on here?” Jaller appeared in the doorway, followed closely behind by Hahli.
“Gali?” Hahli looked surprised, then stepped forward, noticing the bowl on the table. “Already?” she asked. The connotation was obvious.
“Kopaka asked them to leave for a while,” I explained.
“Did he, now…” Hahli turned to Jaller, then noticed the partially re-assembled leg he was holding onto. “You’ve got his leg!?”
“I’m working on it,” Jaller said. I noticed the leg’s armor had already been largely bent back into something resembling its original shape.
“It looks better already,” I observed.
“Well, we were right,” Jaller said to Gali. “Not much we can do about the ankle, but this section is pretty much done otherwise. It goes a lot quicker when you don’t have to worry about the person it’s attached to.”
“You should remember that for the next time Tahu shows up,” I quipped, getting a chuckle from Gali and a restrained smile from Jaller.
“On a more serious note, you might want to go and re-attach it,” Hahli pointed out.
“That’s the plan,” Gali informed her.
“I’m pretty sure Kopaka is ready whenever,” I said. “He said he’d rather be awake this time, though.”
“Of course he does…” Gali mumbled as she prepared to get up.
“Awake? For this?” Jaller didn’t look all that excited about the prospect.
“Yup… that’s Kopaka.” Gali sighed after she got to her feet.
“Probably trying to prove how strong he is,” Hahli said sarcastically. Gali, Jaller, and I momentarily exchanged looks.
“Let’s go with that,” Gali said as she started around the table, grabbing a handful from the bowl along the way as Hahli and Jaller looked on disapprovingly. “Shall we?” the older Toa gestured towards the hallway.
Jaller turned and quickly made his way to the hallway and the stairs, slightly shaking his head ‘no’ as he mumbled something to himself. Gali and I followed, the former either oblivious to or ignoring the apprehensive look on Hahli’s face as the Toa Nuva waddled past.
Heading back upstairs, I thought back to the Gali I’d seen in Kopaka’s second dream… from Macku’s description and the memories I’d seen from Kopaka, it had certainly been an accurate portrayal, yet I found it scarcely believable that I’d just been talking to, joking, and bonding with that same Toa. Gali seemed all at once lively, enthusiastic, concerned about her brother… not at all the depressed, apathetic shell of her former self that Macku had described and the vision had showed. Was it all a shallow façade, or was her confidence just shattered so easily that she inevitably collapsed back into that downward spiral the moment her services weren’t needed anymore? And if that was the case, what would happen after we fixed Kopaka’s leg? He clearly wanted to leave, and with his leg put back together, he totally could, possibly taking Gali’s one reason to come alive with him. I noticed that, by the time we reached the room, Gali’s mood had fallen considerably as well; it had become tainted, once again, with a nervous edge, and it wasn’t just about the surgery…
Was she thinking the same thing I was?
author's note: the aftermath of the storm, and another chapter that just seemed to flow very nicely as I was writing it, especially after Gali and Lis finish discussing the shadow Toa. I tried to add in some mild comedy at the end as Jaller comes walking in, still carrying Kopaka's leg. That image kept cracking me up, especially Hahli's reaction when she sees it. Give that the Toa are 85% mechanical beings, though, I don't see it being at all unreasonable to operate like that.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!