I seem to be on fire lately as far as writing goes (or I'm taking far too much time away from class for it). With that, here's chapter 22.
“Good news!” Jaller announced as he entered the room ahead of Gali and me. I was wondering where the sudden rush of euphoria had come from, but he answered my question before I could ask it; “This is ready to be re-attached,” he continued, holding up Kopaka’s severed leg, “and it’s not even nine o’clock yet!” Gali and I entered the room.
“How are you feeling?” Gali asked the Toa of Ice, who’d apparently been waiting patiently for us to return.
“Fine.” I rolled my eyes at Kopaka’s usual answer.
“Unfortunately, it looks like your ankle won’t be working again,” Jaller continued his presentation, “but other than that, this is as good as new.” Comically enthusiastic he may have been, but I couldn’t say the leg looked ‘good as new.’ Functional, yes, but it was also abundantly clear that Jaller really wanted to get this over with in good time.
“You’re sure you want to be awake for this?” Gali asked. “It will be painful.”
“I can’t do much about pain signals when you’re awake,” I added. “Too much noise.”
“I will manage,” Kopaka said calmly. He’d probably been mentally preparing himself already, knowing his penchant for planning ahead.
“Okay then, let’s begin.” Jaller said as he positioned himself at the foot of the bed, motioning for me to step aside. Gali sat down on the chair beside the bed and focused in on the blood channels leading down to the point where Kopaka’s leg was severed.
“I’ve got the blood flow stopped,” she informed us.
“Wonderful.” Jaller reached and put his hand against the chunk of ice covering the end of the blood channel. Adding heat, he melted it in a matter of seconds, but thanks to Gali no blood came rushing out. Jaller looked up to Kopaka. “Ready?” he asked. The Toa of Ice nodded, to which Jaller placed his hands on the exposed bone on both the attached and severed parts of Kopaka’s leg, channeling heat to bring them up to welding temperature.
Kopaka remained stoic at first, blocking out or managing the pain as best he could, but as Jaller got to the point where things began to glow red, signs of stress began to show on the old Toa’s face. He clenched his teeth, closed his eyes, and at one point grimaced for a moment before reasserting his expression again. Gali looked on with concern; I tried to focus in on Kopaka’s mind to help block out some of the pain, but it was such a jumble of activity that I found it hard to get anywhere. Nevertheless, I kept trying, but this time I kept my eyes open to avoid getting caught up in his thoughts again.
“Almost there,” Jaller said after he’d been heating things for about ten minutes. In spite of my help, I could tell Kopaka was in pain that I personally would have considered unbearable, and even he couldn’t conceal that as every muscle in his body contracted; his way of blocking out the opportunity for any reflex to kick in and pull his leg ‘out of the fire. “Okay, this should be hot enough,” Jaller decided. The edges of the broken bone gave off a bright yellow, almost white light. “Gali, can you hold down his leg?” Jaller asked, motioning towards Kopaka’s right thigh. “This’ll hurt, but I can’t afford him moving while I do it.”
“Of course.” Gali got up and placed her hands on top of Kopaka’s thigh, then leant forward, pressing down a considerable weight on the leg and effectively holding it in place with a vice grip.
“Ready?” Jaller asked. Gali and Kopaka both nodded ‘yes,’ though Kopaka did so with significant difficulty. Jaller lined up the lower leg with what bone was still attached to the knee. Satisfied with the alignment, he counted down: “3… 2… 1…” and shoved leg forward when he reached his unspoken ‘0.’ He pushed hard, forcing the two hot ends of the bone together to start the melding process. Kopaka grimaced and let out a forced grunt, keeping himself from howling out in pain as his body jerked in response to the thunderbolt of pain signals shooting up his leg. With Gali holding it down, however, he couldn’t move it, even as Jaller kept pushing to meld the metal further. Once he was satisfied with that, the Toa of Fire began squeezing the joint to complete the weld… after about a minute of shoving, prodding, shaping, and periodically checking the alignment, he seemed satisfied.
“Gali, water. Now!” he ordered. Gali obliged, moving one of her hands to above the still glowing joint and creating a bubble of water to envelop it whole. With a loud hissing sound, the bubble evaporated, but Gali continued to replenish it, rapidly cooling the metal down. Within seconds, it had cooled to where it had stopped glowing. Gali recalled her bubble as Jaller inspected the weld. The metal was still hot and discolored, and the bone’s surface was somewhat uneven. It looked strong, however, and above all, straight. Jaller put Kopaka’s legs together, checking the length. They appeared to be exactly even.
“Well, I think that’s just about perfect,” he declared.
“You feel it?” Gali asked Kopaka, who was no longer having to concentrate all his efforts on not giving in to the pain. I’d drawn back as well, my presence in Kopaka’s mind no longer necessary.
“Yes,” he answered, looking down at the reattached leg.
“Good.” Gali stepped back. “Blood should be flowing into it now,” she assured him.
“It’s still cooling down,” Jaller advised, “but it should be good for the rest of you to touch pretty soon.” We waited a minute while he kept a close eye on the weld, watching for any cracks or imperfections, but nothing bad happened.
“Keep an eye on it; I’ll go get some oil for that knee.” He stood up and headed downstairs while Gali and I watched to make sure there were no leaks anywhere along the bone or in the foot. After a minute or two of nothing happening, Gali declared the re-attachment a success. Kopaka wasn’t one for celebrating, so she and started fiting the loose muscle strands over the core structure, carefully aligning them to match Kopaka’s other, undamaged leg.
“It may be a little while before everything is fully reconnected, but all of these should still work, and they’ll get better over time,” she explained, referring to the dark, dried-up muscle strands. Jaller soon returned with a squeeze bottle with oil in it.
“About that knee,” he pointed at Kopaka’s right knee. “It’s going to need a few drops of this.”
“I will take care of it.” Having recovered from the agonizing experience of getting his leg re-attached, Kopaka sat up and took the oil from Jaller, then proceeded to apply it to his knee by squeezing drops of oil onto the seams of the joint and then allowing it to slowly sink in. Jaller leant down to inspect the weld one last time; it had now cooled down, and was still clean of the imperfections he’d worried about.
“Okay, then…” he yawned. “I’ve got an early guard review for tomorrow, so unless you need me to weld something else shut I’d like to call it a night.”
“This should be all,” Gali said, though she didn’t sound particularly excited about it.
“Great.” Jaller said. “Goodnight then.”
“’night,” Gali said without looking up. Kopaka nodded, I said “goodnight,” and with that, Jaller headed off to one of the other bedrooms. Things were silent for a while after that; I watched as Gali meticulously aligned the muscle strands to provide as much strength as possible, while Kopaka patiently re-lubricated his knee.
“So, how long are you staying?” Gali eventually broke the silence.
“Staying?” Kopaka didn’t look up.
“A couple of days, maybe, just to recover,” the Toa of Water suggested. “I mean, your leg will be good after this, and we fixed your heart and lungs, but… you know, there’s a few other things I could take a look at.” I couldn’t help but notice that she sounded a bit nervous.
“No,” Kopaka said, much to Gali’s disappointment. “I will leave when this is done.”
“So soon?” Gali asked. “Why do you need to go so badly?”
“It is easier to travel unseen at night,” Kopaka explained. “I would rather not reveal my presence to the world. The attention is only a hindrance.”
“Oh… of course.” Gali sighed, then continued working the leg. A minute or so later, she broke the silence again. “You’re sure?” She asked. “I mean, I really should take a look at your spine, too. I noticed there was a nick in one of the links.”
“Dangerous?” Kopaka asked.
“No…” Gali admitted, “but it could start to hurt. You don’t want that, right?”
“I will manage,” Kopaka answered. Again, there was silence for a while. Then Gali tried again.
“What about your chest? Did Jaller connect all the muscles properly?”
“Well, at least let me take a look in there, then,” Gali suggested. “I mean, I’d like to wait and watch this for a while anyways,” she looked the leg, now with all muscle strands properly re-attached, “just to make sure they’re getting blood. Can I?”
“Do what you must,” Kopaka said, clearly growing annoyed with Gali delaying his departure. After setting the oil aside, he reached for the sides of his chest plate and unscrewed the bolts that held it in place. It didn’t take long to remove the piece of armor, but Gali was clearly shocked by the mess that was revealed underneath.
“He just tied them up like that!?” She exclaimed.
“It was temporary,” Kopaka defended Jaller.
“Well, good thing you’ve got me to fix it up properly, then.” Gali said. “Lie down.” Kopaka did so, after which Gali proceeded to untie and untangle the muscles. “Really,” she said, “these things would have died if you’d left them like this.” Kopaka didn’t respond, preferring to wait silently while Gali properly reconnected everything to brackets around his heartlight. It really was a tangled mess, and the fact that Kopaka had used them while they were tied up like this had only made the knots tighter. I helped out for a while.
“There,” Gali said, a good half hour later, satisfied but dismayed at the same time. “That’s how it’s supposed to be.” Kopaka moved his arms back and forth, testing the range of motion. It appeared that everything was now functioning properly, so he reached for his chest plate to re-attach it while Gali turned her attention back to his leg. “This is looking good so far,” she informed him, though again there was a sadder tone to her voice than I expected. “I think… I think I can finish it up.”
“At last.” Kopaka mumbled under his breath. Gali didn’t respond.
“Lis, would you hand me that, please?” she asked, pointing at the repaired shin guard that Jaller’d left lying on the table beside me.
“Sure.” I handed it to the Toa of Water, who proceeded to line it up with its attachment points just below the knee and above the ankle.
“You know, if you have time, I’m sure we can find the parts to fix your ankle, too,” she pointed out. “I mean, right now your foot’s kind of fixed in place…”
“I already said I am not staying,” Kopaka replied.
“Right… I guess it’ll be fine.” Gali knew the ankle would, at best, be a minor problem, but I could tell she was scrambling for some valid reason to keep Kopaka around for longer. She really didn’t want him to leave… “Where are you going, anyways?” she asked.
“Back to where I was.”
“The mountains?” she sounded concerned. Kopaka nodded. “After everything that happened up there, after all this, you want to go back?” Gali didn’t get it. “For what? What do you do up there?”
“But… you could do that here,” Gali argued. “The knowledge towers have telescopes, really good ones, and I’m certain they would let you use them. You could even show the Matoran everything you have found out.”
“Why not?” Gali continued. “I mean, you could stay around here instead of going back into those dangerous mountains, you’d have better equipment to work with… I’m sure they’ll let you work alone, if you prefer.”
“They would not.” Kopaka seemed pretty certain about that, and he was finding Gali’s continuing questions very annoying to deal with.
“But what if you get hurt out there again?” Gali asked, increasingly worried. By now, she’d stopped working on the leg and was arguing with Kopaka directly. “I mean, we’ve fixed you up for now, but I guarantee sooner or later something else will fail, and you probably won’t be able to make your way back again. What then, brother? What happens then?”
“Then I do not return,” Kopaka said coldly.
“You would die up there…” Gali stammered, “and you’re okay with that?” No reply. “I’m telling you, we can stop this right now. Stay, stay here with me, with us,” she pleaded, now frantic as her brother’s suicidal plan dawned on her. Kopaka didn’t respond, but I could tell his expression was darkening. “You and I are all that is left,” Gali continued. “Lewa, Onua… they’re gone. Tahu and Pohatu aren’t themselves anymore. It’s just you and me… Kopaka, we’re the last ones, the last of the Toa Nuva! You can’t walk away again, not to where you’re planning to go!” She stopped and waited, hoping Kopaka would say something. He remained silent, but his eyes shot daggers. His patience had run out. Gali tried one last time: “I know you don’t like it, but believe me… believe me when I can say you can’t take care of yourself out there.”
“That may be…” Kopaka replied at last, “…but in that I am not alone.”
“What…” Gali’s eyes were wide open. Kopaka’s anger spiked.
“Look at yourself!” he scolded her. “You argue that I cannot take care of myself when you can barely stand under the weight of your own failing! Were it not for your mask, I would not have recognized you!” Gali shrunk back… “I remember who my sister was, and this travesty, this mockery of a Toa,” Kopaka gestured at Gali’s body, “this isn’t her. The sister I knew is gone, and you’re all that’s left! How dare you call yourself one of the Toa Nuva!?” Gali was beyond shocked… she looked terrified. I’d seen all I needed, and more than I wanted to.
“That’s enough!” I stepped forward and tried to interfere, but Kopaka wouldn’t listen.
“How did you let yourself go like this!?” he continued. “Do you think that, just because we fulfilled our destiny, we can afford to rest on our laurels!? I still have a duty, Gali, and I will not abandon it for your satisfaction!” He stood up beside the bed, now towering over Gali, using the cane to support himself. “You are wrong,” he said cruelly, looking down on the speechless Toa of Water. “There are no two Toa Nuva left. There is but one: me.”
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” I positioned myself between Kopaka and Gali, who by this point had been reduced to tears. She didn’t even try argue back… instead, she just retreated… retreated into an inner shell, cocooned away from the vicious attacks of her brother. “She saved your life!” I angrily reminded Kopaka. “She fixed your heart and stayed up all night afterwards to watch over you. She fixed your stupid leg! And what do you do!? You berate her for it!” Kopaka glared down at me, but refrained from saying anything. “You know it’s true, I’ve seen it!” I continued. “If there’s one Toa Nuva left, it’s not you! It’s her, and she deserves far better than you for a brother! You should be thanking her on your knees, not destroying what little of her is left!” I paused for a moment and took a deep breath, trying to keep calm. “If you’ve got any honor, you’ll apologize to her,” I ordered, “and you’ll apologize right now.”
“Impossible,” Kopaka said through clenched teeth, clearly restraining himself. I wanted him, oh so desperately wanted him to apologize, but he blew it.
“Don’t give me that, dammit! I saw you, parts of you that you so stupidly deny.” I recalled Kopaka’s second dream. “I know that somewhere in there you care, and that you feel guilty for everything you’ve done! It’s eating away at you, and you just don’t let yourself admit it.” I really needed Kopaka to show some humanity for once; I knew it was in there. “Apologize to her, if only to ease your own conscience,” I begged of him.
“I have nothing to apologize for or to.”
“You’re kidding.” I was in disbelief, but as I turned and looked at Gali I was surprised to find that she’d gone, vanished in the heat of the argument. “Where… where’d she go?”
“Irrelevant,” Kopaka said as he sat down on the edge of the bed and finished fixing the shin guard onto his leg.
“You know, I thought, just for a while there, that you actually had a shred of humanity left in you,” I said, exasperated. “But… I don’t know whether that shadow Kopaka really exists or not, but he’s clearly got a hold on you.”
“He doesn’t exist…” Kopaka proceeded to argue, but he was cut off by the appearance of a furious Hahli in the doorway.
“WHAT DID YOU TELL HER!?” she demanded, marching up to Kopaka. “What in Mata Nui’s name did you say to her!?”
“I told her the truth,” Kopaka said coldly.
“You monster!” Hahli slapped Kopaka square in the face so hard that for a moment I thought she’d knocked his mask off. “You promised me! You promised you wouldn’t bring it up!”
Incensed, Kopaka rose to his feet. The temperature in the room instantly dropped something like ten degrees. “She would not listen,” he seethed, “and I swear that if you hit me again I will leave you a frozen doll without a second thought.” I tried to get in between them, to put some distance between them, but with them standing face-to-face between the bed and the wall, I couldn’t get in.
“Hey, that’s enough!” I called out, but neither Toa was paying attention.
“Oh, you wanna go!?” Hahli challenged Kopaka. “’cause I’ll fight! I’ll fight to protect her from you.”
“Do not fool yourself into thinking that you stand a chance!” Kopaka threatened. “You are even worse than Gali! She may have let herself fall, but you jumped voluntarily!”
“TAKE THAT BACK!” Hahli took a step back but stood in a combat ready position, with a blueish energy already forming around her hands. “Or I will blast you out, through that wall and into the street!”
“Try me,” Kopaka narrowed his eyes and braced himself.
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” a voice thundered from the doorway.
author's note: well, it seems that, at last, Kopaka's time in surgery is coming to an end. I originally intended for this chapter to fully conclude this part of the story, but once again things ended up longer than planned. And of course, the confrontation that has been brooding for the last five chapters at least finally happens... poor Gali.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!