Travel's ended, but for the next few weeks, my internet access will be spotty at best. Luckily I don't need the connection specifically for writing, but for uploading and answering replies, the timeframe will still be erratic.
I’d heard of Matoro, of course, but largely only in name. They teach about him in schools, but history is usually not a subject one pays great attention to. Something about ‘what it means to be a hero’ and all that. I was just a Matoran then; what use was knowing how to be a hero to me? We had Toa for that, and no, at the time I really didn’t see myself ever becoming a Toa. Clearly, though, Matoro meant something to Kopaka.
“Come,” he said, so I followed again. The park’s arrangement was roughly circular, and Kopaka led me down a path to a hill in its very center, which was crowned by a statue. A large plaque identified the statue:
"Toa Mahri Matoro, Savior of Mata Nui"
A lengthy paragraph below described Matoro’s actions, but at that moment my mind was more occupied with the statue itself; statues of heroes were common in any populated area on Spherus Magna, but this one was unlike any I’d ever seen; heroes are usually depicted standing tall, self-assured, and they have a degree of… authority about them. Matoro had none of that. First off, he was in this bizarre, tumbling pose, like he tripped on something while backing up. His back was arched, causing him to look towards the sky, as opposed to straight ahead or down upon those standing at his feet. His left arm, its hand equipped with an odd weapon resembling a set of curved hooks, reached upwards as well, giving the impression that he was calling out to something above him. In his right hand, he held a gatling-type cannon that looked far too heavy for him, and even in this odd pose, it was obvious that he had a comparatively frail physique, coupled with a hunchbacked posture usually only displayed by the far bulkier Toa of Earth. I only know that because I worked with one. And while the statue was marble, Matoro’s mask alone was done in gold.
“Bit of an odd statue, don’t you think?” I observed. “Just… the pose is weird.”
“This is the most important moment in the history of the Matoran,” Kopaka said solemnly. “The pose is because he was falling into Karda Nui at the time he made his sacrifice.”
“He gave his life so Mata Nui could be saved, so all of us could be saved.”
“Oh…” That’s why we covered him in class… Turns out I probably should have been paying attention at the time; this wasn’t the first time that I’d come to realize that long after the class in question was over. “Could you tell me? Or better yet, show me?”
“I was not there at the time. I only heard about what Matoro did from others. If you wish to see, you should seek out one of the other Toa Mahri.”
“Oh… okay, I will.” I turned back to the statue. “What’s with the mask?”
“It is the Kanohi Ignika.” I’d heard of that one; its design was imprinted on pretty much everything of great importance as a symbol of Mata Nui. Apparently, the legendary mask itself was on display at the Museum of Shared History in the city. Another place I’d have to visit at some point. “Another Toa wearing it eventually made the sacrifice to wake up Mata Nui in the same way.”
“Was that before or after the giant robots came?” The ‘giant robot fight’ was one of the few things I had payed attention to, because…well, giant robots, right?
“Several months before it. Mata Nui woke up, stood up, and then the Makuta took over. That was the darkest time for all of us; our worst enemy was in control of literally everything we knew, and he used that power at his whim.”
“It sounds terrible... Were you in there when he and Mata Nui fought?”
“Yes. We evacuated everyone during the fight, then fought the legions of rahkshi that Makuta unleashed on us.”
“Could you show me that?”
“At some point, yes. But not now.”
“Okay…” At first, I wasn’t quite sure why Kopaka wanted me to wait, but looking back on it now, I think that it was because we were in a public place. Memory sharing is… it’s an intimate process, and especially if the memory is a tough one, it can release a flood of emotion; we saw that on the train. Kopaka didn’t want to deal with that in public, but I think he appreciated the efficiency of memory sharing as opposed to telling the story by mouth. So we waited. I read the story on the plaque, which briefly mentioned Matoro’s participation in the fight against “Piraka,” which were apparently some kind of Skakdi, and “Barraki,” who I didn’t even recall from history lessons. After that, it basically reiterated what I’d already been told, so I sat down next to Kopaka, who was once again just waiting silently while deciphering the mysteries of the universe. From memory.
I tried to read into his mind again to try and figure some of it out, but got nowhere. However, it did keep me occupied to where the hours in the park went by surprisingly rapidly. More surprising was the fact that no other Toa showed up in the park all day. I figured Kopaka might have chosen the spot to wait by the fact that he believed it likely that Toa would show up there, so on our way back I asked:
“Were we waiting in that park all day hoping another Toa might show up at some point?”
“It was the closest one.” I guess that made sense, given that his limp probably made walking difficult, and I knew he was in pain. Still, I thought Kopaka might have taken a more…active approach to finding another Toa.
The lines into the arena were enormous. All the ticket booths were opened, selling and checking tickets before letting anyone in. Even though it was late in the evening by market standards, pretty much all the stands on the parkway were still open, and some selling various kinds of food and drink had set up shop as close to the arena as they were allowed.
“Great… we’re going to be standing here forever…” I mumbled.
“We cannot possibly stand here for more than an hour, or we would miss the start of the fight. So, we cannot stand here for forever.” Were it not for my ability to passively read at least his surface thoughts, I wouldn’t have known whether that was the analytical Toa’s concept of a joke or he was being serious. He was being serious. I guess that, after waiting close to ten hours on a park bench, he really did not mind standing in line for just an hour longer. Except he did, because instead of making his way to the back of the lines, he walked right up to one particular Agori who, by his uniform, appeared to be one of the security guards.
“Excuse me,” he got the guard’s attention. “My friend here is a Toa who has saved many Matoran lives,” he gestured to me. “…and I cannot stand for too long due to a leg injury I sustained while protecting many Matoran and Agori as well. Would it be okay for us to move forward so that we may take our seat before my leg becomes too much of a bother?”
“Uh…” the guard seemed a bit perplexed at the request. I was stunned too, but I soon regained my bearings and made sure to stand straight and look like I meant business: square shoulders, a neutral expression with a hint of disdain, and my arms folded across my chest. It did the trick. “Sure, sure you can go forward,” the guard finally said, and he led us past the waiting crowd to the front of the line. I could sense a degree of resentment from many of the waiting Agori, though interestingly not from the Matoran. I did my best to maintain appearances, though.
“Have a great time,” the guard said when we reached the ticket booth, at which point he turned around and went back to his post. Kopaka handed his ticket to the Agori behind the counter; the same one who we had bought the tickets from that morning. He stamped them, handed them back, and we were allowed to proceed into the Arena itself.
It was massive; there were enough seats for tens of thousands of Matoran and Agori, a real indication of how much both the sport and the planet’s population had grown; I’ve heard it said that the population of Bara Magna before it was reformed into Spherus Magna could be seated in the new Arena Magna three times over. Now, one would need twenty to the same. Thanks to Kopaka’s stunt, we were one of the first allowed in; that was when I found out we were seated in the very top row, about as far back from the fight as we could get. No one had sat down anywhere near there yet, so when we reached our seats I felt safe asking about what we’d just pulled.
“What were you thinking?”
“I did not want to stand for an hour. It hurts.”
“I know, but still, did you really have to lie to them about us?”
“I did not tell any lies except by omission, and I omitted the parts that I did to conceal our identities.”
“So yes. But what if he’d called us out on it?”
“He was about to, but I can be very persuasive.” As he said that, he lifted the corner of his hood just enough so I could see his face, and… his mask had changed, but this one I thought I recognized.
“Is that… a Komau?”
“The mask of mind control. A noble one, yes, but it was sufficient on a weak-minded Agori.”
“That’s… that’s just wrong.”
“I could have used a Miru to fly us in instead, or the noble Huna to make myself invisible and sneak by, or a Matatu…”
“Okay, okay,” interrupted, “I get it, there’s all sorts of ways in which we could have gotten in. But why… why choose the one that involves messing with someone’s mind?”
“It was the only way in which we were not breaking any laws. You are a Toa of Psionics: your powers can all be described as ‘messing with someone’s mind,’ and you do not seem at all bothered by it.”
“Because I understand the implications!” I blurted out. “I do not use my powers just to overcome some petty nuisance! There are serious questions to be asked here!” Then I realized that my outburst was probably attracting more attention than we were looking for. “Sorry…” I lowered my tone. “It’s just… I know what misusing psionic abilities can do.”
“As do I,” Kopaka said. I shook my head; there probably had been some event in his past that had brought him face to face with psionic powers run rampant, so I couldn’t really argue his point, but I felt like he was missing mine. Besides, there was another question on my mind:
“How in the world are we actually going to see the fight from all the way back here?”
“I can see just fine.” He pulled back his hood slightly again, revealing that he had switched back to his Akaku Nuva. The scopes were trained on the arena field, still making slight adjustments here and there.
“Okay, but how am I supposed to see?”
Ugh… Like that was going to work out for a fight that could easily last over an hour. Clearly, Kopaka was used to wearing scoped masks. “Do you happen to have another mask that could give me that telescopic vision thing?” I asked him. “Just to borrow for the match?”
Kopaka rummaged around in storage behind his back for bit before pulling out a noble Ruru. “It does not have telescopic vision, but it will make slight improvements to your eyesight,” he explained.
“That’s as close as you’ve got? Just how many masks do you have?”
“Twelve.” Wow… I’d heard some Toa liked to carry multiple masks and switch between them on occasion, but twelve? It’d be hard for anyone to keep half as many of them straight enough to actually be able make meaningful use of each one’s powers; it required tremendous mental discipline. Then again, this was Kopaka… When I put on the Ruru, I noticed everything seemed a bit brighter and I could see detail a little further away. It was odd, and it took me a while to get used to and focus properly, but I eventually worked it to where I had a much better, if still not perfect view of the field than before.
Kopaka, meanwhile, scanned the crowd that steadily made its way into the arena and to their seats. He fixated for a while on what looked to be a press box located on the opposite end.
“You see anything of interest?” I asked him.
“What do you mean, possibly?”
“You will see later.” I looked at the press box to try and see who or what he had spotted, but it was so far away that I didn’t have a hope of seeing anything in there, Ruru or no Ruru. So instead, I went back to trying to find Toa in the crowd until the announcer came online and announced the opening fight for the night; there would be anywhere between seven and ten fights; a four-entry best two-out-of-three elimination tournament lead up to the night’s main event, the face-off between Tahu and Stronius.
I guess that all made the ticket price a little more worthwhile.
author's note: I wanted to find something meaningful to do with the time between Lis and Kopaka arriving in New Atero and the start of the fight, so this chapter's mostly filler. At the same time, there's some nice nods to Bionicle history in there, so I had quite a fun time writing it anyway. Will get back to the action in the next chapter, though, as we'll get to see Tahu in action.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!