“You’re late. Again.” Letono tapped a pen on his desk. His sole mechanic had just arrived for work.
“Again? Aw, snap!” Telzin rolled her eyes.
“…and I’m guessing that you’re still hung over from last night,” he continued.
“Getting better, actually. I’m keeping a positive attitude.”
Letono’s expression momentarily showed indignation, but he quickly got a hold of himself. “You know, it’s almost midday. That’s just not acceptable. Keep this up and I’ll have to petition for a replacement.”
“Yeah, you always say that, but hey, no one knows this place like I do. Besides, it’s not like there’s anything that needs to be done. No traffic, no maintenance.”
“That may be,” he grudgingly admitted, “but as it happens, there is something in your wheelhouse that needs doing right now.”
“No way!” she feigned surprise. “What needs fixing?”
“Do contain your excitement, please. Line 3 was running slow this morning.”
“For who?” Her boss’s lack of immediate response spoke volumes. “Oh, right, you were just testing it, ‘cause it’s been so long since anyone’s actually used it.”
“Spare me the condescension. Just check it out, will you?”
“Aye aye, sir!” Telzin playfully saluted before all but diving down the ladder to the engine deck of the station. There, between two of the large engines that pulled the cable cars along their tracks, she dug into the tool chest containing pretty much everything she needed for routine maintenance. Most of these were hardly used; maintenance was a busy job on some of the larger stations, but station 8 over the west of the Tahai was the least used by far. Periodic lubrication of the engines and pulleys had to be done, sure, but on most days the station was eminently quiet and demanded nothing of its maintenance staff of one. Apathy was therefore the normal order of the day, but it was events like today’s that kindled what enthusiasm Telzin had for the job. Slow-running cables meant a problem with either pulleys or engines and offered an opportunity for her to practice her favorite activity: rail-running. Having quickly gathered the requisite items and stashed them in a backpack, she moved to the southern edge of the platform, where the rail for line 3 departed.
“You in the car!?” Letono called from above. As if she intended to ride the cable car along its path.
“Don’t need it!”
“Don’t you dare…” before Letono could protest further, Telzin launched forward and ran down the narrow, suspended rail towards the first pulley on the track. Ignoring the rapidly fading calls to stop, she reached it within seconds. Rail-running was far quicker than riding the sluggish cars, and crucially, it was so much more fun. Dangerous as well, sure, but with danger came thrill, something that her bookish manager had no appreciation for. The checking procedure for the pulley was second nature to her by now: lift off the cable, free-wheel the pulley, apply oil if necessary, and re-thread the cable. The first pulley passed with flying colors, as did the next one down the line, which brought her to her last stop: the midway station, a partially covered platform housing another engine that helped to pull the cable along. If the problem wasn’t here, it was either further down the line and the responsibility of Station 3’s mechanics or with the engine back at Station 8. Yeah, sure, she could’ve checked the engine at the station first, but had the problem been there, she wouldn’t have had gotten to have any fun on the line. The midway engine had seen better days; a giant tree branch had fallen over it during the monumental storm that ravaged Gol Rui earlier in the year, and though the block was undamaged a number of still-bent fuel lines attested to the impact. The engine had continued to work fine, at least up until now, and there’d been little reason to fix what was only bent, not broken. At present shut down, the engine showed no sign of issues. Ordinarily, it would be started by running the line, but for maintenance it was equipped with a long starting rope which any one Matoran had to use their whole body weight to operate. Telzin climbed up to a higher branch.
“And three, two, one… Rev!” Holding on to the end of the rope, she dove off the branch, pulling the rope over it with her whole body weight and riding it down to the platform below. On the opposite side, the rope turned over the engine again and again. Right when Telzin’s feet touched the platform, the engine caught. Br-br-br-br-br-br-Brum-BRUM-BRUM-BRUM-BRUM… Telzin gave it some time to settle into idle while she wound up the starting rope and put it away, but she could already tell that something wasn’t quite right by the large, black smoke plume and thick odor of fuel oil coming out of the exhaust. Brum-brum-brum-BANG! A sound of a loud backfire startled her. Brum-brum-brum-BANG-brum-brum-brum-BANG! She to cut the engine. With one last “BANG!”, it stopped.
“Why the celebration?” Telzin mused. “It’s a job. No need for fireworks…” She’d have preferred the problem to be somewhere other than engine itself; now, rather than oiling some slow pulleys, she’d have to do a top-down inspection of the engine. On top, everything seemed fine apart from the pervasive fuel oil smell; she continued her cursory inspection at the front of the engine. Peering between the blades of the large cooling fan, she noticed a piece of string dangling from one of the timing belt wheels. It wasn’t supposed to be there, but when she reached in and pulled it she found it stuck fast.
“That’s gonna have to go…” She wasn’t much pleased at the discovery, as doing any significant work around the timing belt meant that she’d have to remove the cumbersome fan and the cover installed specifically to keep sticks or leaves from getting caught. The process only took five minutes, but felt much longer. However, with the timing belt laid bare, the source of the problem became obvious: wrapped around the crankshaft drive wheel was a layer of ground-up, compacted material. No doubt this was messing with the careful timing of valve and cylinder movements that the belt was supposed to maintain. Telzin tried picking at the stuff with her fingers, but the highly tensioned belt had already pressed it into the grooves of the wheel firmly. She tried again with a knife and finally managed to make some headway. Inspecting the removed detritus, she soon realized what it was: paper and string. Neither belonged on a midway station, but to get wrapped around the crankshaft wheel, they would’ve had to come from underneath the engine.
Lying down and peering under the engine, she found neither paper nor string left, but there was something else: lying under the oil pan was a vaguely translucent rod. She reached over pulled it out from under the engine; to her surprise, it lit up like a bright green flare in the process. Even in direct sunlight, it was so bright that she had to lay it down on the platform to be able to look at it directly. Under closer inspection, it looked like some kind of crystal or coarse glass, but she knew of nothing that responded this way to the touch. Yet it was fascinating, a toy, a lightstone on demand. She touched it a couple of times, watching as its glow intensified and dimmed in response to the touch. Whatever it was, it didn’t belong under or in the engine, which still needed fixing. She tossed the rod into her backpack; there’d be plenty of time to play around with it later.
It took a while before Telzin finished cleaning up the wheel and corrected the engine timing, but when she finally started up the engine again, it ran without a problem. Satisfied, she re-fitted the fan, gave the bearings of the line drive wheels a few drips of oil, and made her way back to Station 8. Letono was already waiting.
“Telzin, what did I tell you about…”
“Spare me the lecture,” she cut him off. “I found your problem. Junk got caught in the timing belt.”
“You mean leaves? Twigs?”
“Nope. Paper and string. No idea how it got there. Whatever it was, the fan probably ate the rest of it.”
“What’s the status now, then?” He pulled a form from a stack in one of the drawers of his desk.
“Fixed. Also lubricated everything, as usual.”
“Very well.” He proceeded to fill out the form. Telzin waited as he wrote up the incident, then
remembered what she’d found.
“Oh, I also found something else,” she said as she took off her backpack.
“A problem?” Letono was already reaching for another form.
“No, you won’t need a form…” She rummaged around the tools in the backpack without looking up. A sudden flash of light from inside indicated she’d found it. “This!” she pulled out the rod and set it on the operator’s desk.
“A green lightstone?..” he trailed off when he saw its glow vanish after she let it go.
“Yeah, I know. You touch it.” He did. It lit up bright green as it had for her. He drew back, then touched it again.
“What is it?”
“Beats me. Either way, I found it, I’m keeping it.” She snatched it from his desk. “It’s gonna be a great party piece tonight.”
“Yeah, it would be…” he agreed, but his mind was already elsewhere. “Imagine if we had more of these. We could send signals to other stations through colored light instead of through wires…” Telzin raised her hands.
“You think on that,” she said as she took a step back and put the rod back in her backpack. “I’m gonna grab lunch.”
“Oh, before you do,” he quickly turned back to finish the form, “could you… get this… and these…” he gestured at a small stack of forms on the corner of the desk, “…back to Central?”
“How do you amass that many forms in a week when nothing happened?” She already knew the answer, but he reiterated it anyways.
“Daily check-outs, line tests, that one collection of tools we shipped to Station 4 on the seventh…”
“I know, I know,” she rolled her eyes. “Just give me the forms.” In some ways, the station operator’s dedication to his job was admirable. However, in a location as underutilized as Station 8, it had rapidly gone from comical to exasperating. She could miss work half the time to no effect, yet he insisted on filing six forms even on days when literally nothing was shipped through the station. She stashed the tools she’d taken out, leaving only the rod and the forms in her backpack, then set off along higher-level bridges and platforms in the direction of the central station. All manner of food was brought up from ground level around there and served to cable car station workers; it was the only meal Telzin usually got in the day and, having had nothing to eat since leaving the party the night before, she was ready for it. Mealtime was also when she usually picked up the schedule regarding impending festivities, but for tonight she already knew she was set: Station 5 had finally finished overhauling its engine floor and the grand re-opening of the station was tonight. No doubt everyone would be there: the perfect place to bring the light show.
And so, at the end of Takanuva’s fight with the Makuta, the gateway was opened for the Matoran to return to Metru Nui.
Garta put down the scroll. That was the last of the material he’d gotten on the island of Mata Nui, material that he’d been reviewing all morning. While there were lots of details about the activities of the Matoran and the Toa on the island, – Garta marveled that so much had been remembered by someone in such great detail post-Transport – there unfortunately was no mention of anything that resembled the rod was now sitting at the other end of his table. The surface between him and it was littered with scrolls he’d already read through, just over half the pile he’d brought home with him. Still stacked in front of him were the ones he hadn’t gone through yet; the scrolls on the City of Metru Nui. He sighed; he didn’t mind reading through history per se, but not finding anything like what he’d been looking for was profoundly discouraging; he needed a break.
Stepping outside for a minute, he noticed the first of the fishermen that had sailed out onto the Komisi that morning were returning. Garta’d sailed out early himself, but only to check the Keras traps, which he’d found empty. After spending over four hours reading through one scroll after the other, though, he wished he’d stayed out there for a bit longer. It was too late to go fishing again now; by the time he’d get back to town with something to sell the day would be all but over. Still, that same sense he always got when not fishing for the day was nagging in the back of his mind, that feeling of “I should’ve been out there.” It was his job, after all. He put the thought out of his mind; the world could do without him fishing for a day… In fact, it could probably do without him fishing on his own altogether, but that was also not something to dwell on. He’d be out there again tomorrow regardless, and in the meantime he had a bunch of scrolls about Metru Nui to get through. He headed back in, poured himself a drink, then sat down again at his table and picked up the first of them: a summary scroll describing the layout of the city.
Garta’s only working knowledge of the City of Legends came from the frequent comparisons made between it and Gol Rui, but as soon as he saw the map of the city that topped the first scroll on the subject he found it hard to believe the comparison was warranted. By all illustration, Metru Nui was a technological metropolis; by comparison Gol Rui was more like what one would get had the Matoran on Mata Nui attempted to reconstruct it with the extremely limited resources at their disposal. Gol Rui’s frequently soot-covered kolhii field between the Golyi and Tahai districts played the Great Colosseum, a haphazard system of cable-cars running on rails suspended from the giant trees of the Maduni played the chute system, and Misira Nui’s temple, the Kini Kofo, wasn’t even in Gol Rui to compare to Ga-Metru’s Kini Nui. The overview featured illustrations of key locations like them along with a description of each. The Kini Nui caught Garta’s attention in particular; for one, it had been under his tribe’s watch, while the Kini Kofo was maintained by Ce-Matoran. He’d seen the latter only once, back when it was at last completed, and from the illustration of the Kini Nui in front of him now it was quite clear where the architectural inspiration for the Kini Kofo had come from. Included for the Kini Nui was a rough diagram of its internal layout, where everything was clearly centered around a hemispherical structure in its center labeled “suva.” An accompanying description informed him about the structure’s role in storing Kanohi belonging to Toa and, when presented with Toa stones, turning Matoran into Toa. Another sidebar in turn quickly explained the concept of a Toa stone: objects of power created by Toa to ensure that, after their passing or turning into Turaga, new Toa would rise in times of trouble. The stones, it was noted, glowed faintly with the energy embedded in them and responded in proximity to Matoran containing the same.
“The Toa stone responds to contact with a destined individual.” Garta read the last sentence of the description again out loud, then looked up to the rod on the other side of the table. He reached for it; with the touch of just a finger, it lit up again. It certainly qualified as a response, as perhaps did the significant sense of wonder that it automatically seemed to instill in him every time he saw it. Then again, Toa stones were supposed to be created by Toa, and Misira Nui had never seen any. Garta contemplated the idea for a bit. It’d certainly be amazing if he’d somehow found a Toa stone, but he couldn’t get around the impossibility. He sighed; the first thing he’d come across that seemed to have a possible connection to this rod, and immediately it was shot down. He returned to the rest of the overview scroll, but none of the other diagrams and descriptions of structures rang any bells. The idea of the Toa stones stuck with him, though, not least because of the content of the remaining scrolls.
All of them, barring one on the Matoran Civil War and its effects, described the rise and fall of the various Toa teams that had defended the city of legends over its existence. Having been engrossed in the stories of the Toa of Mata Nui through much of the morning, Garta found himself just as captivated by these. By now, he was picking up on the pattern; several Matoran would be chosen by old Toa or Turaga – typically guided by Destiny, or so the scrolls said –, turned into new Toa, and set about saving the Matoran from whatever they needed saving from. The city had seen a wide variety of threats over the years and just as varied a group of defenders, all of whom had to leave their former lives, whatever they were, for their new duty. Yet for all the variation, there was one constant in all these tales: every one at one point or another featured a line like “the chosen Matoran journeyed to the Kini Nui, where their Toa stones made them Toa.” The Toa stones, whoever had them, were always the mechanism. Some ascribed the identity of the chosen Matoran to destiny, others to the good taste in choosing by the individuals who provided them with the stones, but all featured the stones in one way or the other. Every time he read about them, Garta found himself looking up at the rod again. If only it could be true.
The last scroll was entitled “Rise of the Toa Metru.” It opened in much the same way, describing how the last remaining member of the previous team to guard the city of legends, a Toa of Fire by the name of Lhikan, sought out six Matoran and presented each with a Toa stone. They met at the Kini Nui and became the team known to history as the Toa Metru. Garta recognized their names; they were the Turaga of Mata Nui, the island he’d read so much about that morning. More than that, he’d seen their statues, their museum in the Old World so long ago. Then something clicked in him. That feeling he got every time he looked at that rod, he’d definitely felt it before. He’d been merely a Nuvatoran at the time, a child being shown around that museum to get an idea of the history of his people. There’d been stuff from a bunch of different Toa teams there, but the most significant and heavily guarded artifact was a set of six Toa stones. Even though they’d been placed inside a thick glass display case, he distinctly remembered getting the same feeling from them back then, that sense of wonder, of being naturally drawn to them. He’d never felt it again with anything else, at least not until now. With this rod, he felt it again, and with that, it almost had to be a Toa stone, right? Yet how could it be? Part of him wanted to believe it, but it should be impossible… well, impossible according to the information he had, which wasn’t much. He needed more information, some way to confirm or put to rest the idea, ‘cause now it definitely wasn’t going away on its own. With sudden determination, he got up and headed for the door. Just outside, he checked the nail he’d driven into the top of a post as a sundial. It was around the 14th hour; he’d have to call it in another two hours or so.
Back to the library it was. This time, he knew exactly what he was looking for.