I finally got around to reading Downfall, the last of the Bionicle chapter books that I hadn’t read yet. While I was prepared to be moved by the final scenes in which Matoro sacrifices himself, I wasn’t expecting another scene earlier in the book to inspire me to write this. I normally don’t read or write this type of fanfiction, but the idea got stuck in my head and refused to leave. Apologies
Barely able to keep walking any longer, Jaller finally allowed himself to give in to exhaustion as he stumbled into the makeshift infirmary. After so long behind “enemy lines”, as it were--- first as occupants of the universe ruled by Makuta Teridax and then as mind-slaves of a group of cultish Skakdi--- he and the other four Toa Mahri finally had arrived at a place of relative peace and safety.
Jaller still wasn’t sure how he had been freed from the slavish devotion to the Skakdi and their leader, a strange, golden-skinned being calling itself Irnakk^ with a muscular frame and immense proportions. He seemed to recall a bright red radiance, so dazzling and yet somehow evil-feeling that it hurt his eyes to stare directly at it. Then there were two of the Agori, the native Matoran-like beings of Spherus Magna, one with the coloration of the Ice Tribe and the other wearing strange orange-colored armor that Jaller hadn’t yet witnessed on any of the other inhabitants of this planet. And once they were gone… Jaller and his team’s free will returned. None of the other Mahri had been able to explain it, either. Maybe the Skakdi just lost concentration. Maybe the effect had worn off over time.
Whatever the case, the Toa had decided to play it safe. Outnumbered and without their powerful Cordak Blasters, they had agreed to pretend to still be under the Skakdi’s control until an opportunity to escape presented itself. That opportunity came a few days later, in the form of an attack by the Toa Hagah, aided by Tahu, Gali, and Onua. With Irnakk elsewhere for the moment, the Skakdi alone were no match for the combined powers of nine Toa… especially given the multitude of powers that Tahu alone possessed, thanks to his Golden Armor. The former residents of Zakaz had quickly surrendered the Mahri, rather than risk seeing their impressive fortress destroyed a second time.
After that, it had been only an hour’s travel back to the camp that the Toa Nuva had established near the fallen Great Spirit Robot, thanks to the power of Toa Iruini’s Kanohi Kualsi. Now Jaller and his team were being set upon by Toa of Water, Toa of the Green, and a number of other beings possessing healing powers. Iruini, too, was being shepherded onto a bed, thoroughly exhausted from repeated use of his mask’s power.
Jaller, his thoughts deep in shame, barely noticed as his various wounds were healed one at a time. The mission had been a disaster. They had had to be rescued by other Toa--- more experienced Toa, more powerful Toa. Their first mission had ended with the death of a teammate, the second with an embarrassing failure that required others to step in.
Without our destiny, he thought, what are the Toa Mahri? A bunch of novices with the somewhat-useful ability to breath underwater. No track record of battles won, no unity. We saved the universe… but that was all Matoro. His destiny. His selfless act that carried the day.
Jaller closed his eyes and allowed sleep to fall over him. If Matoro were still here… he mused as the darkness overtook him. If only he were still here… we might still be something.
You know, Matoro, you don’t have to keep secrets anymore.
Back when you were a Matoran, working for Turaga Nuju, you heard all sorts of things the Turaga didn’t want us to know. Sometimes it seems like they don’t want us to know anything. You were sworn to keep what you heard to yourself. For years, you knew all about Metru Nui and what happened there and you kept it secret.
I had no choice. I did what the Turaga felt was best.
I know that. But doing that made you alone among the rest of us. Now the Mask of Life is doing the same thing and it can’t be helped. Still, you have to remember you are part of a team now -- you don’t have to keep everything inside anymore.
What do you mean, “the Mask of life is doing the same thing”?
Do you remember, back on Voya Nui, when Kongu insisted you be the one to take the mask away from Vezon? He didn’t explain why at the time. But he told me later that he had read the Ignika’s “mind” and it wanted you to be the one to carry it. You’re the only one who can touch the Mask of Life without being cursed by it. Kongu wasn’t sure whether to tell you or not. I told him I would.
It was hours later, as Jaller explored the Toa camp--- his new home, for now--- that Hewkii approached him. “Hey,” said the Toa Mahri of Stone. “You have a minute?”
“Something bothering you, too?” Jaller asked his deputy.
“Yeah… you could say that. Something.”
Jaller motioned to an unoccupied tent. “I think we both need to unload a little bit.”
When both of the Toa were seated, Jaller motioned for Hewkii to speak first, but to his surprise, the Toa of Stone shook his head. “It’s nothing, really. Just a silly… uh, wish. You start. You seem really upset.”
Nodding his thanks, Jaller began to explain. “It feels like… we’re lost. We can’t work together as a team, we can’t do anything, since… since Mahri Nui.” Since Matoro died, he didn’t say. He didn’t want his teammate to know that he was still fixated on that--- the Mahri had already discussed the issue several times, and each time it ended with them all assuring Jaller that he shouldn’t blame himself. I know that! he wanted to shout. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel incomplete as the leader of a Toa team that’s one member short!
Hewkii seemed to think about this for a moment. “You mean, like our last mission?”
“Exactly! We couldn’t stop the Skakdi from creating the fusion, we couldn’t even try to attack it, and in the end, we pulled nine Toa away from valuable work just so that they could save us from a bunch of half-witted thugs! They still have their fortress, and that Irnakk thing is still out there! We accomplished nothing!”
To Jaller’s surprise, his friend smiled. “You think that was a failure? We gathered weeks’ worth of information on those cretins and their leader! It’s one of the biggest threats to the Matoran and Agori that’s out there right now, and the other Toa only know it exists thanks to us!” Seeing that his leader was still unconvinced, Hewkii added, “Thanks to your leadership, Jaller.”
“Yeah, right,” Jaller grunted. “If you can call ‘getting your team to the right place at the right time to be brainwashed’ a form of ‘leadership’. Tahu or Norik probably would have found a way to beat the entire army and Irnakk without having to call on any other teams for assistance.”
Hewkii frowned. “Are you just determined to be pessimistic?”
“No, no, really, I’m not, it’s just…”
“It feels like there’s something missing!” Jaller snapped. “And you know what I mean by that! You know exactly what I mean!”
Hewkii sighed. “You mean there’s some_one_ missing.” When Jaller didn’t reply, he continued. “Are you ever going to get over this? It wasn’t your fault.”
“I know that! Of course I know that! But it was his destiny to save Mata Nui’s life. What if… without him… we just don’t have a purpose?”
“It was his destiny to save the Great Spirit. And it was ours to help him get there.” Hewkii paused, then added, “Jaller. Matoro’s last act was to save us. He wanted us to keep going, even without him. You know that.”
“I… yeah. You’re right.” Jaller smiled. “I think I just needed someone to remind me. Thanks, Hewkii.”
“Of course.” Hewkii looked around absentmindedly. “So, uh, can I talk about my… ?”
Jaller nodded vigorously for his friend to go ahead.
“I was talking to some of the Agori. Have you… uh… learned about their way their society works?”
Jaller chuckled. “You mean that thing they do where two beings pair up as lifetime companions? Yeah, it’s strange.”
Hewkii looked uncomfortable. “Right. Well. I was talking with Trinuma… the Order’s been working with some of the Agori scholars to establish a comparison of knowledge between our world and theirs. They found some kind of ‘operating manual’ for the Mata Nui robot in Metru Nui’s ruins, written in an Agori script, and some of the scholars were able to decipher it…”
Jaller thought about this. “What’s the problem? Did it reveal something about the Matoran, or the Toa, that was… unflattering?”
His friend stared at the floor. “Sort of. There’s this one particular term it keeps coming back to… ‘canon’. It means stuff that’s part of how the Matoran and the rest of us are supposed to work. Anything that’s permitted.” He paused for a moment. “It looks like some of the files were edited after the robot launched, but… they describe our full range of emotions. Everything we’re supposed to be able to feel.”
Jaller didn’t seem to be getting it. Hewkii added, “That drive to be with another being, Jaller. It’s not in there. We shouldn’t be able to feel that. It’s not canon.”
Jaller stared at him. “Well, of course not. Our society doesn’t work like that. We don’t need it.”
Hewkii threw his head back. “But I can feel it! Every day, I think of Macku, and how our worlds are different now, because I’m a Toa and she’s a Matoran! I want to spend time with her and form a closer bond with her than I have with any of my Toa-brothers or Toa-sister! And I know she feels the same way about me! Who cares what’s ‘canon’, anyway?”
We haven’t always been the best of friends. I guess it’s tradition -- fire and ice rarely get along. But I wanted you to know… I think the Ignika made the right choice.
You do? Why?
Because anything you are asked to do -- even if it’s hard, or painful, or you hate having to do it -- you get done. Look, Matoro, back on Voya Nui you once questioned your worth to the team because you aren’t a warrior. But being a Toa isn’t about who’s strongest or toughest or has the best mask power. It’s about spirit. And by that measure, you are a great Toa.
“Do you know what I mean, Jaller?”
Hewkii’s voice brought the Toa of Fire back to the present. He blinked. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“This--- this feeling. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
Slowly, Jaller smiled. “Yeah. I think I do.”
^ A reference to Wiriamu’s fantastic epic, Battle for Spherus Magna.