|Setting||Fractures Alternate Universe - Elysium|
|Previous||Ghosts of the Past|
|Next||Judgement Day |
- "The only reason it doesn't add up is because I don't have all the numbers yet."
- ―Glonor, Frozen Calling
Frozen Calling is the first story serial in Matoro1's 2011 Storyline. It followed Ghosts of the Past in the Deserts of Death Universe arc.
Strangely, unlike other story serials written by Matoro1, Frozen Calling does not revolve around Tollubo. Instead, the serial's main character is Glonor, who will break away from the story arc for his own story serial. No pre-existing characters will appear in Frozen Calling.
The plot is also largely inspired by the Lee Child book 61 Hours.
Glonor woke with a shock as his Kanohi Iden smashed against the window. Dazed, he spent a split second thinking dark thoughts and wishing he hadn’t fallen asleep in the first place. It was then that it occurred to him that something was not right.
Almost instantly, he snapped into action. Images flashed through his mind as he tried to remember where he was, who he was, and why he now had a sore head. He was on a bus. Another second flashed by as the bus hurtled onwards while the Av-Matoran decided what was going to happen. The world outside was a crystal image, frozen in place. Not the best driving conditions which meant the sudden change in speed could be blamed on something other than the bus driver. At the speed they were going he calculated that the vehicle was either going to tip over or crash into a road barrier. That was alright for him, he could probably survive a bus tipping over, but a lot of the other Matoran on the bus looked old and delicate. They would probably survive but that wasn’t what concerned him. Glonor had already anticipated that the crash wouldn’t be the worst of their problems. They had been driving through a snow storm, through the most isolated part of Ko-Metru, for the best of three hours. That meant – when the bus did stop – there would be about twenty Matoran with cuts, burns, bruises, and broken bones in the middle of a blizzard. They were mio from the nearest chute station.
The Av-Matoran yelled a warning before gripping the seat in front of him with both hands. He was the only passenger at the rear of the bus. He had a feeling that was worse. Some code of protocol flashed through his mind from his days as a military cop in Vaaca-Nui. He ignored it and focused on his grip. He was holding firmly onto the seat as the bus skidded and scraped on.
He began to wonder how he had actually gotten here. Shortly after meeting the High Council when he arrived in the Fractures Universe, Glonor had decided to set up a home in Ko-Metru. He’d never visited Metru-Nui before and was reluctant to use the Chutes. Instead he had been hitching rides from different bus drivers, getting off and inspecting different areas. After he’d been taken in the completely wrong direction and ended up in Onu-Metru, Glonor had decided to just get off and take a different approach. He was almost going to do something sensible when a white, luxury coach had pulled in to pick up the twenty old Matoran who were around him now. He had hitched another ride in hopes of at least seeing something interesting on his journey. Now it looked like he was going to have to freeze to death in the wreckage of a crushed bus – Not how he wanted to spend his day but Glonor was open minded and had an empty schedule. A bad combination.
Glonor sensed a sudden vibration and the bus jerked. He looked up to see the bus driver had taken his foot off of the gas pedal – a wise move. With no foot on the gas the bus would have to slow down. It didn’t look like they were going to topple over anymore.
There was a loud bang and the entire bus shook. Matoran yelled as they were thrown. Glonor managed to stay seated and braced himself for impact. One of the tyres must have shredded. The driver braked hard, resulting in the bus skating onwards. Direction went out of the window and into the frozen world outside as the vehicle rammed into a bank of snow suddenly.
Again Glonor evaluated the situation. On the plus side, the bus had stopped and nobody seemed to be hurt. That was good. On the other hand, the rear of the bus was now sticking across the open road, covering two lanes. Considering he was in the back, that was not good. Worse still, the lights had gone off and the bus seemed to be dead. That was definitely not good.
Glonor grunted and stood up, grateful he had been wearing his seat belt. He began pushing forwards, making his way to the front of the bus, making sure he inspected the other Matoran for injuries. There were some tears and screams but nobody seemed to be in need of immediate medical attention. When he reached the front, he looked through the driver’s left hand window to see no oncoming traffic.
The other Matoran seemed too shaken to move. None of them got out of their seats yet. The driver appeared stunned. Quickly, Glonor checked that he was alright before deciding he was swallowing back the adrenalin.
“Nice save.” muttered Glonor as he patted the driver on the shoulder.
“Thanks.” panted the Driver. He was an Agori wearing red and green armor. He was no longer young but not yet old.
“Do you think we can reverse out of the snow?” asked Glonor.
“I doubt it.” answered the Agori.
Glonor nodded slowly. “Have you got any flares in here?”
The Agori blinked, still trying to make sense of what was happening. “Any what?” Glonor decided to go easy on him. It wasn’t his fault. Sitting behind a wheel for three hours straight was hard. This could happen to anybody.
“Flares. You know, the flashy-things. The bus is covering both lanes.”
The Agori didn’t respond for a moment then shuddered and blinked. He frowned before reaching for a locker above his helmet. Inside were three flares, which he handed to Glonor.
“Do you have a first aid kit?”
The Agori nodded and got to his feet. He reached into a locker near the steps and produced the first aid kit.
Glonor nodded towards the other passengers. “Make sure they’re all OK. Try and get them to shift to the front of the bus just in case.”
The Agori nodded again. Dazed. He looked at Glonor then pressed a button. The doors sucked open. Cold air raged into the coach as snow pelted the ground. Glonor had to squint.
“Close the doors. If the power’s gone then we lose the heating. Like I said, get everyone to the front and make them huddle together. We could be stuck here for days and the last thing I want as a souvenir is a flu.” Glonor smiled at his own joke for a moment then spoke in a more serious tone. “Stay warm.”
Glonor immediately regretted jumping into the snow. As he was no longer on Bara Magna, he had returned to his normal height, which meant he was now waist deep in snow that would barely have covered his knees a few days ago. He grimaced, fought off the cold and began wading through the snow. He had never been so cold in his life. Vaaca-Nui had been further south than most of the other Matoran Islands had ever been, which meant the land was volcanic and warm. Being an Av-Matoran, this was sheer torture to him.
Regardless of his froze joints, Glonor managed to propel himself away from the coach, into the snow. At fifty paces, he placed one of the flares in the snow then pressed the button on the side. Instantly, it began flashing in the snow. Glonor hastily took another fifty paces then set up another flare.
He was now truly cold, many a time he had received an odd look for his strange behavior. Ko-Matoran had natural resistance to cold. Glonor was adaptable but he could not hope to match a Ko-Matoran’s natural abilities. He didn’t know why the Order had even bothered to hide his kind in the Time Slip. They stuck out like sore thumbs.
Desperate to return to the slightly less cold bus, Glonor set up the final flare then turned around and ran back the way he had come. When he reached the somewhat-annoyingly-colored white bus he hammered on the door with all his might. The driver finally hit the button and Glonor was able to throw himself back inside. Snow had accumulated inside his armor while he had been out. The Matoran shuddered and shook himself dry.
As he had predicted, the windows of the bus were already beginning to freeze. The temperature was dropping rapidly without the heating. Glonor turned to search for the Agori bus driver.
“We need to turn the engine back on. The heaters are going off.”
“Can’t.” shrugged the Agori as he wrapped a bandage around a frail Le-Matoran’s arm. “The fuel supply could get sparked. The wires could have cut.”
Glonor frowned. “I didn’t smell any fuel when I was outside a moment ago.”
“We shouldn’t take the chance.” winced the Agori. “If we turn the engine on we could go up in a ball of fire. The last thing I need right now is a complaint form with that on it.”
“But we could be stuck here for days.” protested Glonor. He was aware that his teeth were beginning to chatter but he clenched his jaw to stop them.
The Agori sighed. “You take over with first aid. I’ll see if we can contact someone.” Glonor felt the box of bandages being shoved into his hands as the Agori slipped past him and began searching for some sort of communicator. The Av-Matoran shrugged and began to check up on the other twenty Matoran. There were no Agori on board and, ironically, none of them were Ko-Matoran either. He noticed one or two Ta-Matoran who were shivering and cursing themselves for planning their holiday here. There was a De-Matoran towards the middle and, of the twenty, there were about nine Ga-Matoran. That struck Glonor as strange.
There were two major injuries, both belonging to Ga-Matoran. He approached the first. She looked old and tired. She wore a Kanohi Zatth. She must have been moving while the bus crashed because her collar bone was broken. That was strange as she was sat alone. Luckily for Glonor she was facing the isle.
“Can I take a look at that?” he asked politely as he leaned in to examine the broken bone.
The Zatth-wearing Ga-Matoran paused before answering. “Are you a medic?”
“I had training in the Vaaca-Nui military, yes.”
“Solving murders and stuff. Not much use now but I had some medical training.”
The Ga-Matoran looked towards the window. Clusters of white ice had formed over the smooth glass surface. “I feel cold.”
“That’s probably down to the adrenalin… and it’s snowing outside.” answered Glonor.
The Av-Matoran pressed his fingers against the Ga-Matoran’s collar. Her flesh was cold but her armor was colder still. Her bones were brittle and delicate. He could tell there was a crack running across it. Her collar bone was definitely broken, there was no question about that.
“Have I broken something?” asked the Ga-Matoran. She was only just coming to speed with what was happening in Glonor’s head.
“It looks like it.” muttered Glonor. “But that’s good. The collar bone is essentially a circuit breaker. It breaks to protect your shoulder and neck. Plus it heals quickly.”
“If it’s broken then I need to go to a hospital.” stated the Ga-Matoran stubbornly.
“You will when we get help.” agreed Glonor before moving on. The Ga-Matoran with a broken arm seemed to know what she was doing. Already she had a burly Onu-Matoran applying pressure and helping her. Glonor decided to turn back. He walked back to the front of the coach to see what the driver was up to. As he poked his Mask into the cabin the Agori sighed and rubbed a hand across his Helmet. He was in conversation with someone on a long-range communicator, the kind of thing that made Tren Krom himself seem young and dashing.
“We have a problem.” grunted the Agori as he hung up on whoever he was talking to. “I called the emergency services. Highway Patrol is busy and there’s another storm brewing up. This entire highway was closed hours ago.
“Where are we?” asked Glonor.
“Ko-Metru.” shrugged the Agori.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, between the Knowledge Tower district and some abandoned Chutes thirty kio East.”
“Where’s the nearest town?” asked Glonor, refusing to believe they were actual kio away from shelter.
“GPS shows a small town called Elysium within driving distance. But it looks pretty small. Can’t be more than a dot on the map.”
“Can we get a new bus from anywhere?”
“I highly doubt it. It would take four days to send one from where we left with the snow storm.”
“What about this Elysium? They must have a police department that can help us, right?”
“They put me on hold and promised to get back to me soon.”
Glonor nodded slowly, taking the information in. When he had processed it he turned to the Agori. “What’s your name?”
“Knox.” grunted the Agori. Glonor nodded again before a buzzing sound filled his audio receptors. His frown deepened before he realized it was Knox’s communicator. The Agori picked it back up and turned away to speak. Glonor watched him as his face brightened then fell.
After several minutes of waiting for the news, Glonor watched as Knox sighed and hung up. “The Police are sending someone, but they’ve got problems of their own. Could take an hour at least.”
“One hour in this temperature’s enough to kill someone. We need to get the engine running again.”
“But fuel could still be leaking.”
Glonor sighed then looked out of the frozen window. Visibility was low. All he could see were the three flares shining in the distance. The third one exceeded his line of vision. He’d just gotten dry again.
“Have you got a Light Stone in here?”
“I’ve got this.” shrugged Knox as he produced a strange metal object. Glonor raised an eye brow and took it. The device seemed to be some kind of Light creating device. It was operated by a battery and had a switch. Simple enough. Glonor dubbed it as a mechanical Light Stone. This Universe was weird. Why build this complicated contraption when there would be a perfectly good Light Stone lying around?
“I’ll go back outside and check under the coach. If it’s all clear I’ll knock twice on the floor. If I see any fires I’ll knock again.”
Knox nodded then pressed the door-button. Glonor immediately felt the last slither of warmth being sucked from behind him, replaced by the icy gale of the outside world. As if diving into a river, he took a deep breath before jumping into the snow.
Glonor paused for a moment to decide what to do. There was no traffic on the road so he had nothing to worry about immediately. Unwilling to stand still in a snow storm, the Av-Matoran trudged his way around to the other side of the bus. When he got there he knocked on Knox’s right hand driver window and waved. When he saw movement behind the frozen glass he squatted down on all-fours and crawled forwards.
Glonor gritted his teeth again then crawled onwards. Half of his body was now under the coach while the other was quickly being buried in the quickly appearing layer of snow. He pressed the button on the mechanical Light Stone and was surprised to find a concentrated beam of light coming from it. For a moment he lay in the mud and snow, gazing in awe at the device. The Light was of course non-elemental but it still intrigued him. The Av-Matoran wondered what would happen if he shone the device on a Makuta.
Glonor shuddered from both the cold and in an attempt to focus. He grimaced then shone the light on the underbody. He saw no leaks, no cracks, and fires. So far nothing seemed dangerous. After inspecting the wires he noticed some of them were disconnected at the rear. They looked severed so he chose not to go near them. Instead he knocked on the metal above his Mask twice. There was an agonizingly long pause before the engine churned into life. The noise hurt his audio-receptors but Glonor tuned it out, focusing on the fuel supply. There were still no leaks, which meant it was safe.
After inspecting the torn tyre and dented luggage compartment, Glonor deemed the coach somewhat drivable. If they weren’t buried in a pile of snow they could probably make it to this Elysium-town in a couple of hours. The Matoran of Light managed to scramble out into the snow again. It took him a moment to regain his bearings. His armor was soaked. Large, heavy snowflakes were pelting him then turning to slush. Already he could see two inches of fresh snow in the holes his footprints had left. He followed them back while clutching his arms tightly, hoping to numb himself of the cold. He was relieved to see that the door was open for him.
Glonor coughed and shivered, once again shaking himself dry. He began to dust himself off and wipe slush from his armor when the engine suddenly stopped and the heating died. Both Glonor and Knox frowned then looked at each other.
“What did you see down there?” asked Knox as he began flicking switches in hopes of making the heating work without power.
“Lots of shaken up stuff. Some damage.”
“Near the back, yes.”
Knox nodded slowly and crossed his arms. “That’ll mean the fuel’s cut itself off. It’s a damage protection system. We’re lucky it’s stopped itself.”
“What did the Police department say they were doing again?” winced Glonor. His brain was a frozen mush.
“They’re sending someone in a car.”
“That’s not going to carry twenty plus people.” shivered Glonor as he eyed the other twenty Matoran. None of them were listening.
“That’s what I said to them.” muttered Knox. “But they’ve got their own problems. They said they were doing their best.”
“Have you seen storms like this before?”
Knox nodded, his arms still cross as he leaned back in his chair. “This is the edge of the storm.”
Glonor took another look at the flares. He could now only see the closest of the three, which he had left at 50 paces. “So is it coming this way?”
“No question about it.” grunted Knox.
“Don’t ask.” Glonor nodded again. Now there was nothing that they could do but wait.
Glonor decided to steal another glance at the frosty bus. The Av-Matoran opened his eyes and scanned the vehicle. The inside of the battered old coach was as hostile as the frozen landscape outside. The twenty elderly Matoran passengers sat huddled around each other. Glonor and Knox sat together at the rear. Although he tried hard not to show it, Glonor didn’t have to open his eyes to see the Agori shivering beside him.
All conversation had long since died out for two reasons. The first reason was common sense: they needed to reserve energy. The second reason was because they seemed to have been shivering on their backsides for so long that there was little left to discuss. If help was coming it didn’t look like they should be packing their bags any time soon.
Glonor turned to face Knox. The Agori sat with his arms wrapped tightly around his legs. Similarly to Glonor, his feet were up on the chair. Some of the Matoran had tried to tear open their seats and use the stuffing for insulation. Knox hadn’t cared. Repairs for the bus would probably come out of his pay check. The bus company wouldn’t care about icy conditions; he would have been in full knowledge of the consequences of working in rural Ko-Metru when he signed up. If he would be paying for the extensive repairs the vehicle needed then he might as well pay for some more chairs too. That was assuming he didn’t freeze to death before then.
The silence was maddening. All Glonor had heard for the past five hours was the wind screaming as it thundered through the frozen landscape. He opened his mouth to start another conversation with Knox. He was surprised at how mature and formal the Agori still was. He hadn’t said a word since telling the other Matoran passengers that the Elysium Police Department would be sending someone to help several hours ago.
“So does this happen often?” asked Glonor.
Knox rolled his empty eyes to face Glonor. They were dark and heavy. “Often enough. First time it’s happened to me though.”
“So what happens next? Do they send someone to tow the bus away?”
Knox shrugged, a gesture that was becoming too frequent for him. “We’re instructed to use our radios and communicators to make contact with nearby towns. That way someone can contact the bus service and they can dispatch a replacement bus.”
“Not too bad.” muttered Glonor.
Knox glared at him. “Not for me. The replacement bus will have its own driver, making me a passenger. I get paid for every journey I complete, which means I not only won’t get paid but I’ll probably have to buy a ticket to get out of here.”
Glonor’s Mask fell. “Not too good.”
“They should do something about that damn bridge.” grumbled Knox.
Glonor frowned. “Bridge?”
“Yeah, we were going over a bridge about a kio ago. That thing’s a damn health hazard even without all this snow.”
Glonor grunted. He agreed with Knox somewhere in the back of his mind but he didn’t really care. He didn’t dwell on the past, that wasn’t his way of thinking. He liked to think he was more optimistic than that. And nothing got him more optimistic than seeing a pair of headlights cutting through the frozen downpour.
The Agori and Av-Matoran exchanged glances before Knox took a deep breath and stumbled to his feet. Glonor watched him shuffle towards the front of the bus. His armor reflected the blue and red flashes that were shining through the frozen windscreen. The police department had finally sent someone.
Glonor watched as the sirens stopped flashing. The lights on the vehicle stayed on, indicating the cop was keeping it running so he wouldn’t have to wait for the heater to warm up when he got back in. It also meant that Glonor wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. His vehicle didn’t look like it could carry an additional twenty two passengers. He was going to have to sit it out.
The Av-Matoran finally got a look at the cop when the coach doors opened and he stepped in. The cop was a Ko-Matoran – not something that Glonor was surprised about considering they were in Ko-Metru. The first thing Glonor noticed was his poor stance. The second he stumbled onto the bus he nearly lost his balance and had to grab for the handrail. He shivered and brushed the snow off of his white and grey armor before Knox began speaking to him. Glonor was too far away to hear their conversation but he noticed that the cop had a weak, grainy voice. Although he spoke with reasonable pace and intonation, his voice was too quiet for Glonor to give a full evaluation.
After finishing his conversation with Knox, the Ko-Matoran nodded at the Agori then stepped forwards to address the passengers. Glonor still couldn’t hear him. Most of the other Matoran were sat further towards the front of the bus than he was. However, being elderly, he doubted they would be able to hear much more than he could. Never the less Glonor managed to pick up some information. The Ko-Matoran claimed to be the Deputy Chief of the Elysium Police Department and that his name was Crystallus. The Deputy Chief began to move down the aisle and shake hands with the Matoran, reintroducing himself to each row and smiling at each individual passenger in turn. That was not a technique that Glonor was familiar with but he assumed it was supposed to make him look young and enthusiastic.
But that wasn’t what Glonor was thinking. Something about Crystallus was scratching at the back of Glonor’s mind. The Ko-Matoran’s blue eyes were sharp and perceptive. While his Kanohi Kakama was twisted into a natural smile the cop was instead running information through his mind. He had begun to ask the passengers personal questions. Who were they? Where had they come from? Did they have accommodation? Did they have friends they needed to contact? All of the questions would be easy for Knox and the others but Glonor couldn’t answer them. He had hitched a ride on a tour coach at the last minute. None of the other twenty passengers would think twice about it but Crystallus’ style seemed a little personal for Glonor. The cop was running every single answer through his head, making calculations and thinking out outcomes. Something told the Av-Matoran that the deputy chief wasn’t just thinking about highway patrol, he had something deadly serious on his mind.
Then he turned and started walking towards the back of the bus. Glonor took that as odd. If he hadn’t raised his voice so that it could be heard at the back then the cop hadn’t wanted to address him. Why he was striding to the back of the bus to exchange a few words with a stranger didn’t make Glonor think this was just going to be a friendly conversation.
Crystallus smiled as he approached Glonor’s seat. “Sir, my name is Crystallus, Deputy Chief of the Elysium Police Department. Would you mind telling me who you are?”
The rest of the conversation seemed almost mechanical. Glonor gave his name. Crystallus asked him if he was part of the tour group. Glonor said he wasn’t. Crystallus asked him what he was doing on the bus then. Glonor told him he was travelling East in hopes of getting to the center of Ko-Metru.
“And you’re hitching a ride on a Tour Bus?” Crystallus was pressing him for information. Glonor felt like he was being squeezed for details.
“I paid if that’s what you mean.” Crystallus turned to Knox who nodded.
The cop narrowed his eyes and leaned in closer, making no attempt to conceal his interview. “Are you travelling on a vacation?”
“Not exactly.” grunted Glonor in response.
“So where do you live?”
That was a question Glonor could not answer. “Where I live doesn’t matter.” refuted the Av-Matoran. “None of us expected this damn bus to crash, nobody here could predict us being stuck in the middle of a snow storm for five hours. It was a road accident. Therefore there’s no connection between us and whatever you’re milking us for.”
Crystallus’ eyes widened and he looked shocked. “Who say’s I’m milking you?”
Crystallus glared at Glonor for a long minute. The Av-Matoran could feel him scanning his armor. “How did this bus crash?”
“I dunno.” grunted Glonor. “We skidded I guess. I was asleep at the time.”
Crystallus pursed his lips then nodded slowly, checking the plausibility of the statement. “There’s a bridge somewhere over here that you probably won’t see in the snow. But I’m pretty sure we put up a warning sign.”
“Actually, it wasn’t just the bridge.” muttered Knox. “There was this biker riding in the snow. He was swerving all over the place. I twitched and we crashed.”
Crystallus nodded slowly again. “A twitch usually does it. I can’t say it hasn’t happened here before. Plus there’s a biker group that’s settled in Elysium, annoying as Karzahni with all their littering and troublemaking.”
Glonor interrupted Crystallus. The Ko-Matoran wasn’t saying anything worth speaking so he had a right to shut him up. “Whatever.” he muttered. “We need to get everyone off this bus or you’re going to have some very realistic ice sculptures.”
Crystallus fell silent for a spell. Glonor could see what the Ko-Matoran was thinking. There’s no connection between us and whatever you’re milking us for.
The cop finally nodded again then began looking around. He finally turned to address the rest of the coach. “Listen up folks!” he boomed. “We’re going to get you into our city where we can look after you properly and decide what’s going to happen. The two Ga-Matoran with broken bones will come with me now for medical attention. I’m afraid there’s not a lot I can do for the rest of you right now, but I can assure you all that replacement transport has been sent from Elysium.”
Glonor watched as Crystallus helped the first Ga-Matoran to her feet then did the same for the second. The cop signaled for Knox to support the second while he half carried the first. As the Agori pressed the button Glonor once again felt the remains of the bus’ warmth being sucked out into the arctic world outside. He watched as Crystallus and Knox disappeared into the snow, carrying the two Ga-Matoran to the Deputy Chief’s vehicle. The last thing the frozen Av-Matoran thought about before he drifted off was of what lay in the world on the other side of the cracking window. It was already covered with several centimeters of snow that blocked his view but he could still faintly see the closest of the three flares. He took strength from the sight. Something about seeing the single flare fighting against the hostility of the storm made him feel safe and protected. He was alone at the back of the bus, isolated between two walls of uncomfortable seats and another two walls of frozen glass. He closed his eyes with a smile on his Mask and didn’t open them again until much later. He began to dream of an evil he hadn’t thought of in centuries.
79,500 years ago. Vacca-Nui Coast.
The roar of the thunder tore across the pearl-black sky. The ocean exploded into a rain of white spray from the violence that it smashed onto the rocks. The sea churned and rumbled as it showered the rocky coast of Vacca-Nui with bitter salt water. It was difficult to understand how the ocean could appear so calm and tranquil at one moment then destructive and violent the next.
No Matoran had lived on this part of the island in years. The unpredictably choppy waves made life too difficult to sustain. Plus the weather was constantly gloomy and dark, which discouraged travelers. The two Matoran who trod through the open wild-grass were among the first ever to journey that far East of Vacca-Nui.
Even from a distance something would seem out of place about the pair. Despite the entire width of the rocky coast the two of them walked in a tight single file, the Po-Matoran at the front and the Ko-Matoran at the back. That would be the first strange sight. The second would be the fact that the Ko-Matoran was carrying a handheld Electro Cannon. However, as slick and efficient the weapon was, the most striking feature would be the fact that it was trained directly on the Po-Matoran’s back.
The two Matoran continued walking until they reached the end of the coastline and found themselves staring towards the ocean. Without a word’s conference, the Po-Matoran stopped, raised his hands, and looked the Ko-Matoran in the eyes. The Matoran of Ice smiled. Of course, unknown to him, he was not in fact a Ko-Matoran. The white armored Matoran’s true identity remained a mystery to both of them. The only truthful piece of information that he knew was the fact that his name was Glonor and this Po-Matoran had been caught leaching land off of the island’s local Turaga then selling it to the Dark Hunters. The Shadowed One now legally owned enough land to establish a base on Vacca-Nui because of this traitor. Glonor reminded himself of that as he cocked the weapon and aimed it at the Po-Matoran’s heart-stone.
The Po-Matoran continued to stare at him. The Matoran of Stone’s eyes were dark and resigned. “I have told you everything that you need to know about my business. How I contacted the Dark Hunters, who I spoke to, and why.” he muttered.
“Shut up you filthy Kavinka.” grunted Glonor, his Kanohi Iden twisted into a snarl as he spoke. “I’ve been doing this job since before Karzahni figured out how to play with chains. Do you think your lies are going to break you out of gun point?”
“How can you tell?” frowned the Po-Matoran.
“Your eyes,” replied Glonor. “they slit and crease slightly around the edges, you swallow before you speak, and you have to have a reason to have sold to the Dark Hunters.”
“They offered the highest bid.” shrugged the Po-Matoran, ignoring the Electro Cannon.
“What? So you had an auction?”
“It’s an open world, an open world in need of someone to fix it.” grunted the Matoran of Stone in response. “Look around you. Just last week Metru-Nui entered a civil war. The industrial heart of this universe is at conflict with itself. Without Metru-Nui everything’s going to go to fall to a stand-still. No more raw materials can be shipped to Xia, no more Kanohi or weapon shipments around the Universe. For Mata Nui’s sake, even the Dark Hunters are beginning to struggle with no trade fleets to attack. Why should such a powerful organization fall over the squabbling of Matoran?”
Glonor snarled, letting the crease in his brow thicken. He didn’t need details on what some Po-Matoran thought of the Metru-Nui Civil War. If he wanted that he would go back to the city and open his audio receptors to the screaming Matoran. “And you tried to ruin the world for your fellow villagers?”
The Po-Matoran raised his Mask so that it stuck up. “I’m not trying to ruin their world.” he refuted. “I just want to leave behind something I’ll be remembered for. I want to leave it bitter and hateful. I want to leave it colder.”
The Matoran with the Electro Cannon ignored the last comment. “And the construction of this base?” pressed Glonor.
“Already underway.” answered the Po-Matoran. “The Turaga have already agreed to the terms on the condition that the Dark Hunters offer us Matoran protection… the old fools.”
“Then that’s all I really need to hear.” snarled Glonor. He took one more look at the Po-Matoran then looked at the cliff edge two feet behind him. “You know I can legally kill you for treason with my rank.” he muttered before cracking a smile. “But it’s much more fun this way.” With those words Glonor pulled the trigger. A ball of Electrical Energy burst from the barrel of the weapon in an explosion of sparks. It struck the Po-Matoran in the shoulder and incinerating most of the armor. The Matoran of Stone screamed as Glonor raised his leg and landed a kick square in his chest. The Po-Matoran went flying over the edge towards the blending of the waves.
Glonor spent a long minute watching the ocean below him. It seemed to become calmer, as if it had been starving for evil and had been satisfied with its meal. Without uttering a word, the Av-Matoran turned around and began his walk back. Even then he knew something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
He should have shot the traitor in the head while he had the chance.
Present Day – Near Elysium
When the replacement vehicle finally heaved into view Glonor was pleasantly surprised. He had initially expected some sort of modern-day wheeled vehicle. However, he was almost shocked to see that it was a good old fashioned Vahki transporter with robotic legs. He cracked smile as he scanned the vehicle – finally something reliable.
As the outdated transporter skidded to a halt beside the battered coach, Glonor couldn’t help but notice how strangely new it looked for a vehicle that had long since been rendered obsolete. It then occurred to him that the entrance to the transporter was in line with the emergency exit. He smiled again. Crystallus must have called ahead and warned the driver about the depth of the snow. He was a forward-thinking guy. Glonor supposed all Ko-Matoran were.
Usually it would take some persuasion to get eighteen elderly Matoran to cross through an emergency exit, through a snow storm, and into a Vahki Transporter. However, none of them had the energy to argue as they pushed each other out of the way, competing to be the first into the warmth of the vehicle. Glonor and Knox were the last to cross.
The first thing that occurred to Glonor as strange was when he boarded the vehicle to find that the transporter had a cover. From what he recalled, Vahki transporters were open and had hive-like storage spaces for the robotic law enforcers. This one was covered up and fitted with seats. The second thing that surprised Glonor was the seats themselves. They were complex mechanisms of straps and restrainers. The grey caging that was used to separate the cockpit from the seating indicated that it was some sort of prisoner transport.
While the new driver got the other passengers seated Glonor and Knox went back outside to pull the suitcases out of the broken coach into the Vahki Transport. Eager to stay in the warmth, they dumped most of the bags in the aisle before they were finally able to sit down. Glonor tried to imagine what was in all of the bags. He always travelled light and didn’t own anything he couldn’t carry. He couldn’t imagine how others found value in the things he would discard at one glance. He imagined low level Kanoka Disks, replacement armor, and other random artifacts that Matoran could grow attached to. Judging by the weight, rock collecting seemed popular among the passengers.
As the Vahki Transporter began to scuttle through the snow, a glimpse of yellow caught Glonor’s keen eyes. He glanced away from the heater to see through his small glass window. He could just make out what the sign said:
Correctional Facility ahead. Do not stop for hitchhikers. The Av-Matoran let out a low groan. The sign seemed fresh and new against the snow. However, he could clearly see several bullet holes in the sign. He didn’t particularly care about the bullet holes. The fact that it discouraged picking up hitchhikers meant moving out of the town would be made difficult tomorrow.
It took just under an hour for the Vahki Transporter to break the border and enter the town. Glonor managed to spot another sign that read: Welcome to Elysium! Population: 8,270. The number made Glonor frown. He glanced at Knox to see the Agori was equally confused. The GPS had shown the town as a dot on the map. It had been tiny.
“Perhaps it was out of date.” grunted Knox, as if he were reading Glonor’s mind. The Matoran nodded. It felt better to just blame the technology.
The Av-Matoran’s faith in machines suddenly plummeted as the converted Vahki Transporter battled on, spraying snow across the street as it slowly fought onwards. Glonor caught glimpses of other vehicles buried under walls of snow. They were durable, bulky vehicles that looked like they could survive just about any terrain. Pity they all had wheels.
The Matoran also began to notice differences in housing. While he was unfamiliar with normal Ko-Metru houses, these structures were well built and well insulated. The dwellings were made from wood, stone, and metal. Nearly all of them were hooked up to electricity somehow but none of the lights were on. Instead the Matoran of Light began to sense light stones inside the houses. Perhaps there had been a power cut recently? He didn’t see any electricity pylons so he guessed the flow was underground – something that wasn’t easy to fix in the middle of a snow storm.
Glonor’s mood did not brighten until the transporter jolted to the left and entered a relatively new-looking compound. Again, the Matoran of Light had to press his mask against the window to read another street sign. This one read: Elysium Police Department. Unwilling to build his hopes up, Glonor scanned the building. He had been correct, it was new. The concrete was fresher than in other sections of the town and was not cracked by the snow. Cables and aerials jutted out oddly from the flat snow covered roof. They looked modern and advanced.
The Vahki Transporter couldn’t have stopped early enough. It skidded to a halt as Glonor smiled. In less than a minute he would be inside the warm, heated lobby of the building. He couldn’t help but crack a smile as a Ko-Matoran hurried out of the building to start carrying the bags. The driver pressed a button and the doors grinded open mechanically.
By the time all twenty extra passengers had filed out of the Vahki Transporter and into the cold, another Ko-Matoran waddled out of the building. Glonor immediately recognized the Ko-Matoran’s authority as he gestured for them to enter the lobby. For once Glonor didn’t complain.
After the party of passengers had spilled into the warmth of the police station, the Ko-Matoran returned to their attention. He still had an aura of dominance but now he appeared softer in the light. He was stooped and tired – what Glonor imagined Crystallus to look like in a couple of century’s time.
“Welcome to Elysium, folks.” he smiled the tired Ko-Matoran. “My name is Chief Glacii and my job is to make sure that all of you have a place to go to tonight.”
Glonor scanned the room. He saw a small crowd of other Matoran who were watching their group. He turned his attention back to Glacii and
“Unfortunately, our hotels are all either full or snowed in because of the weather. But luckily, when we called around asking if anybody could take in any weary, lost travelers we got a pretty good response! We were lucky to be able to find you all rooms living with the good people of Elysium until a replacement bus can be sent for you.” The Police Chief smiled and gestured towards the group of Matoran on the other side of the room. “We have just about a dozen volunteers willing to accommodate your tour group, so by all means get to know each other. It looks like you’ll be spending some time together.”
After Glacii stepped back the other Matoran began to slowly walk forwards to talk to the volunteers. Glonor turned to look for Knox but the Agori had disappeared in the flock of Matoran. The Iden wearer was alone when Glacii turned around and noticed him. His smile disappeared as he hobbled over slowly then put a hand on Glonor’s shoulder.
“I think you’d better come with me.” he muttered darkly, the ridges in his Pakari Nuva became sharp and threatening for a moment before he turned his back on Glonor, signaling for him to follow. The Av-Matoran frowned and tried to think of what he had done wrong.
It didn’t take him long for figure out. The only reason the others had accommodation was because Crystallus had managed to send the hotel reservations that he got from Knox back to the department. From those documents the police had been able to make arrangements for the tour group passengers and driver. If a dozen volunteers had turned up to accommodate those twenty one passengers and Glonor wasn’t on the official paper work then that could only mean that there was nothing planned for Glonor. He had nowhere to go from the police station.
Glacii’s office was no different to a thousand other offices that Glonor had been handed the misfortune of being in. Plain wallpaper, grey tiled floor, a wooden desk, and a window. The walls seemed to be hidden behind seven crooked yet individual filing cabinets. A painting was hung on the left wall – a landscape that was hardly worth examining. There was a shelf full of reference books on a bookcase next to the painting. They had probably never been opened. Offices tell a lot about the people who occupy them. It was clear that Glacii had tried to make sure that his told nothing at all. He hadn’t quite succeeded.
Above one of the irregular containers sat a picture frame. Glonor took a quick glance at it while he waited for Glacii to turn the heating on. The photograph in the frame showed Chief Glacii as a straighter, stronger, younger Ko-Matoran with a Ga-Matoran in his arms – a family photo, maybe a couple of centuries old. The Ga-Matoran looked somewhat attractive from behind her Mask of Possibilities. Her face was alive with young, cunning beauty as her century-old eyes stared back at Glonor.
Glacii, on the other hand, was frozen in an open-mouthed laugh. He looked far stronger than he did now. His hands were large and his arms had been thick. Those muscles wouldn’t look out of place on a Po-Matoran. Yet, when Glonor took a glance at the Police Chief now he found it hard to believe he was the same Matoran as the one in the photograph. Now Chief Glacii was slow and old. Looking at the Ko-Matoran was like staring at a faded athlete. The wrinkles on his Pakari Nuva were heavy under his eyes and his brow was stricken with concern as he heaved his tired body onto a worn leather chair. Glonor grabbed the visitor chair and sat down, staring at the Police Chief square in the eyes. Glacii stared back.
“So what am I in for?” Glonor finally asked.
“We wanted to offer you the same hospitality as the other passengers.” replied the Ko-Matoran.
“So you’re taking care of me yourself?”
Glacii smiled a ghost of a smile before the emotion slipped from his face. “I’m afraid not. Deputy Crystallus volunteered to take you under his wing. But he’s busy right now. You’ll have to wait until his shift ends.”
“What’s he doing?”
“What cops do.”
Glonor nodded. Glacii wasn’t the best Matoran he had ever held a conversation with but Glonor didn’t want to sit in silence.
“Got any questions?” grunted Glacii. He was reluctant to speak but didn’t want to sit in silence either.
“How did this place get so big?” asked Glonor. “The GPS-thing showed it was a dot on the map.”
“We grew.” answered the Ko-Matoran. “The GPS data’s probably out of date.”
“Because of the prison?”
Glacii suddenly frowned then stared at Glonor. “How did you figure that out?”
Glonor shrugged. “Newly renovated Vahki transporter, new sign on the highway, if there wasn’t any snow then I’d probably be seeing a lot of brand new houses too.”
Glacii nodded slowly without taking his eyes off of Glonor. “Yes… we got a brand new prison. The Turaga High Council needed somewhere to dump their Matoran prisoners where they couldn’t escape.”
“Which is why you didn’t just stick us in a hotel. Visiting day soon?”
“There are three visiting days per week, and with snow messing up the transport schedules people are making longer reservations. Matoran running hotels, restaurants, and bus services are drowning in stranded customers. Lots of new jobs, lots of widgets. It’s keeping the Mayor pretty happy.”
Glonor nodded then decided to take another look around the room. The window was triple-glazed, something Glonor had not taken into account before. The glass was clean and shiny. The Av-Matoran could see nothing outside though, it must be getting late. However, he could see the back of Glacii’s head reflected perfectly in the glass. For a moment, the two Matoran sat in silence, listening to the savage roar of the wind on the other side. It was like listening to a thousand Kavinika howling in the darkness.
Glonor eventually let his head tilt to his right. He did another scan of the room before he realized how serious the office was. Apart from the framed photograph there was nothing personal in the room at all. Even the landscape painting seemed strangely artificial. Everything was strictly business.
“How’s life at home?” asked Glonor as his eyes rested on the photograph.
Glacii had been fiddling with a pen while the two Matoran sat in silence. He looked up at Glonor then his face fell and he became as deathly serious as the office they were sat in. “What do you mean?”
“I dunno… the wife? The car? What color you’re having the patio painted in.”
Glacii opened his mouth to ask how Glonor had known about his wife but then he remembered the photo frame and he relaxed. “She died,” he muttered. “In the war. Elysium’s in complete isolation here. That’s why they built the prison here. We take the prisoners and keep our heads down low. We didn’t want anything to do with the war but my wife still got swept up in all the propaganda. She left Elysium a couple of months ago to defend the realm.” The Ko-Matoran paused and stared at the pen in his hands for a long moment, his eyes were cloudy with misery. “It only took one damn Rahkshi of Confusion to send her stumbling in front of a firing Cordak Blaster.”
Glonor’s face fell. He cursed at himself under his breath and regretted saying anything. “I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be.” smiled Glacii sadly. He sighed and put the pen aside. “When I die I can only pray that people will talk about me like this. I suppose it’s all we can hope to be in the end – stories.”
Before Glonor could offer a supportive nod there was a knock on the door. The two Matoran turned to see another Ko-Matoran slip into sight. Without a word he barged into the office and handed Glacii a large folder. The words TOP SECRET were stamped across the cover of the booklet in thick, red ink. It was the type of report that Glonor would have received at his own desk a couple of centuries ago.
Knowing that Glacii wasn’t exactly going to spill the contents of the folder onto the desk, Glonor decided to take a look at the new Ko-Matoran. The Av-Matoran noted his sly body language and immediately disliked him. He also noted that he wore a Kanohi Miru of sorts. Stranger still – for a Ko-Matoran at least – was the fact that he wore traces of light green armor. He added the Ko-Matoran’s appearance to the back of his mind. The back of Glonor’s mind was usually cluttered with random information about people he didn’t like. The kind of information he knew would come in useful later.
Glacii nodded to the Miru wearer as he opened the folder. The Ko-Matoran held it up at an awkward angle so Glonor couldn’t see but, once again, Glonor found himself unable to resist sticking his nose into other people’s problems and took a glance at the triple glazed windows. As he had noted earlier, he could see the back of Glacii’s head clearly. He shifted his chair a little to the left and was able to see the other side of the folder reflected perfectly on the backdrop that was the spotless window. He could clearly see the body of a Fe-Matoran sprawled across the ground. His orange and grey armor was lined with snowdrops as his corpse lay motionless on the ground. It was obvious that he was dead. Even through the reflection of the window Glonor could make out the bullet-hole in his head. The gun must have been pressed directly between his eyes for that effect. The metal cylinder had burnt a hole directly through the Matoran’s Kanohi. No blood.
Glonor frowned and cast his mind back to the tour bus. A faded image of Knox flashed through his mind. He remembered watching the Agori sigh as he closed his communicator. He tried to remember the Driver’s words. “The Police are sending someone, but they’ve got problems of their own.”
Glacii sighed and closed the file. The Miru-wearer left the room without a word, taking the no-longer TOP SECRET file with him. The two Matoran sat without speaking. Not a hostile silence – at least not as hostile as the weather outside – but even so, it felt uneasy. Glonor shifted in his seat and folded his arms across his chest. He sighed and let his gaze wonder to the ceiling. This was going to be a long and boring wait.
Two hours after the passengers from the Coach had arrived in the Elysium Police Department, Deputy Chief Crystallus was alone in his office, using his newly installed communicator to make a late call to his wife. Although the clouds had shrouded the sky for hours it was obviously well past sunset – and well past sunset is not the best time to deliver an apology for a broken dinner arrangement. But Crystallus had been busy, and he anticipated being busier still. So he made the call.
The Ko-Matoran was surprised to find that he had woken her. He had only just realized how late it was when he started to explain that he had been tied up, and that he probably would be for the rest of the week. She was tired and crabby so she made him repeat it at least twice.
Before he had even finished his apology his wife interrupted him and made it clear that she thought his whole message was just a load of Kinloka-droppings. Crystallus got annoyed in turn and told her that his job had to come first if he was ever going to become the next Chief of Police – not the best point to make against a sleepy, annoyed Ga-Matoran near to midnight. They had a short row before Crystallus finally hung up, tore the mouth-piece from his Kanohi Kakama, and threw it across his desk.
After calming down, the Ko-Matoran lifted his head from his hands and looked at his desk. It was buried in crisp, torn papers and glossy, smudged crime scene photographs. The only part that wasn’t stacked high with documents was the part that he had cleared to make room for him to smack his head against the cold wood of the desk. It was getting worn with dents.
After exhaling a long breath he decided to get up. He might as well be on his way. He didn’t get paid for overtime since the expansion of the town. The department didn’t have the budget for its own second-in-command. Plus he would have to make it up to his wife somehow. He doubted her mood would lighten when he brought home another mouth to feed.
By the time Crystallus arrived at Glacii’s office Glonor was well aware that it was quite late. The mechanical clock on the wall to his left was an obvious giveaway. The fact that other Matoran were packing up and going home was another hint. After all, it didn’t take a genius to work out the time.
He had been sat waiting for around three hours, staring at the florescent lighting grid and listening to the mechanical hum of electricity. It was hard to block out the sound of the wind but Glonor was trying not to think about it. He hadn’t uttered another word to Glacii once in those three hours. The Police Chief was almost as relieved as Glonor was when Crystallus ducked his Kanohi Kakama into the office. He signaled for Glacii to come and – to Glonor’s surprise – the Ko-Matoran got up and left the room. He could hear them talking after the door had been closed. They were probably discussing the crime scene with each other. That was quite likely. That or they were talking about some other Fe-Matoran. Based on what he could hear through the closed door, Glonor decided that the he had pretty much learnt more about the victim by looking at the photograph through a glass window than the entire department had. They had recognized that the Matoran had been shot in the head, that there was no blood, and that he had been lying in that position for around three hours but they had not drawn up any conclusions. They hadn’t thought about what that showed. They were taking wild stabs against ghosts in the dark… with blindfolds.
When the two Ko-Matoran cops returned to the room they looked exhausted. Glonor could see the words quitting time written all over their body language. Today had probably been a long day for them both and tomorrow would be just as long, but until then they were free. It was a feeling Glonor recognized from the years he had held a job.
Crystallus nodded towards Glonor as he leaned on the door. “You ready to go?” Glonor nodded as he rose to his feet and kicked the visitor chair back into place. Glacii watched him do it through empty eyes. The Av-Matoran didn’t bother to shake hands with the Police Chief. He knew even then that they would be seeing each other again. It could actually turn out that the police would turn to Glonor to help them with their investigation. Glacii certainly recognized his experience and his analysis skills. The Av-Matoran was willing to bet that the first thing the Ko-Matoran would do was type Glonor into a military database… That or take down the picture of him and his wife. Regardless of which order, one thing was for sure: nobody was ever going to see that picture again.
Crystallus led Glonor out into the freezing night through the parking lot. Their vehicle of choice was a standard police department car. However, after Glonor expressed his dislike for the new vehicles and their wheels Crystallus shrugged and decided to compromise. The two Matoran eventually ended up in a small two-seater car that was fitted with snow-track chains. To Glonor’s annoyance, there was also a digital clock that was running at least six hours early.
“It’s getting too cold to snow.” remarked Crystallus in an attempt to start a conversation. What he had said seemed to be true. The sky had gotten a lot clearer and the wind was starting to pick up. With the below-zero temperature, Glonor was starting to feel the icy grip of nature.
“I thought there was supposed to be a storm coming.” muttered Glonor. He recalled Knox mentioning something about a storm only a few hours ago. Being trapped in the coach seemed like it had taken place weeks ago.
“There are two.” answered Crystallus. “This other storm’s come out of nowhere. Apparently it just appeared in the last few hours. That’s what happens when two snow storms meet, they push cold air ahead of them.”
“How long before they reach Elysium?”
“How well do you want to sleep tonight?” When Glonor didn’t respond Crystallus decided to answer his question. “Shouldn’t take long I suppose.”
“And then it will warm up?”
“Enough for it to snow probably.”
“Good.” muttered Glonor. “I’ll take snow over cold any day.”
Crystallus took his eyes off of the road before them and glanced at Glonor. “You think this is cold?”
“Well it ain’t warm.” grumbled the Av-Matoran. He was beginning to wonder what Crystallus was thinking of him. A Ko-Matoran who shivered was unheard of. It was like a Le-Matoran being funny. Perhaps he should reveal his identity to the Ko-Matoran. He seemed smart enough to keep his mouth shut and if he couldn’t trust the deputy police chief of an isolated Ko-Metru town that nobody had heard of then who could he trust?
However, before Glonor could form an explanation Crystallus beat him to the kill. “You’re an Av-Matoran aren’t you?”
Glonor nodded. “So you’ve heard of Av-Matoran?”
”Yeah,” replied Crystallus, his eyes now firmly fixed on the road. “Toa Saran and Toa Ehrye died rescuing you guys. Of course, back then I didn’t even know you lot existed.”
“Sometimes I wonder if it was better that way.” sighed Glonor as he watched the impossible sky. It was hard to believe that it was completely artificial. He had long since discovered what the Matoran Universe really was, but ever since he had discovered it had been like somebody had just taken his life away from him and told him that he had lived a lie. Everything had changed at that moment. The sunlight became cold, the air became stale, even rocks seemed artificial.
“So how long am I going to be stuck here?”
Crystallus shrugged. "Depends how long it takes for the bus company to send a replacement coach for you and the other passengers.”
“So what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Start collecting ice cubes?”
“Well, Elysium’s plenty interesting.” muttered Crystallus.
“The dead Fe-Matoran?”
“Exactly.” smiled Crystallus before realizing what Glonor had said. His eyes widened and he nearly skidded. Glonor grabbed the dash board in front of him and braced for impact. Fortunately, because Glonor had insisted on not travelling in a car with wheels, the car they were driving was fitted with chain tracks. As the car scraped to a halt Glonor realized he may well have saved both of their lives.
Crystallus on the other hand wasn’t so happy. He pulled the car to a stop at the side of the road and turned to look at Glonor. “What dead guy?”
“Too late to take it back.” smiled Glonor.
Crystallus glared at him then sighed. “Did Chief Glacii tell you?”
“Did he let you see the photographs in that file?”
“He tried not to but your cleaning staff did an excellent job on his window. Make sure you pass on my regards.”
Crystallus frowned, trying to figure out what Glonor was talking about. When he realized he looked out of the window, avoiding eye contact. “So you suckered me with that stuff about ice cubes?”
“I like to know things.” answered Glonor with a shrug.
“So do I.” muttered Crystallus, finally taking his eyes off of the glass. “Exactly how long were you in the army?”
“I was pretty much built in the army.” snorted the Av-Matoran.
“And you were a Military Policeman?”
“With medical training?”
“You’ve been talking to the other passengers about me.” remarked Glonor.
“Of course I have.” sighed Crystallus. “What else do you think I’ve been doing?”
“And you want me in your house for any particular reason?” grunted Glonor. It seemed more likely that he would have been sent off with Glacii. The Police Chief had done nothing all evening, lived alone, and probably had an empty bed now that his wife was dead. It seemed unlikely that he would be bundled off with Crystallus instead.
“Well, you don’t seem to have anywhere else to go.”
“Are you trying to keep an eye on me?”
“You can put it that way if you want.”
“Mind giving me a reason?”
“Why? Because you like to know things?”
Crystallus sighed again before putting his hands back on the steering wheel of the vehicle. “Let’s just say that we need to keep track of whose coming in and out of Elysium at the moment.”
Crystallus didn’t say another word for several kio. When the car had been grinding onwards for long enough Crystallus started speaking again. “So what exactly did you do in the Military Police?”
Glonor shrugged, as if bored. “Whatever I was told to do.”
“Serious crimes?” asked Crystallus. He clearly knew what he was talking about.
“And exactly how much medical training did you get?”
“Are you worried about your driving?”
“I guess I like to know things too.” answered Crystallus as he cracked a smile. Glonor followed suit and grinned before returning to his serious self.
“I didn’t get much medical training really. I was just trying to make the old-folks feel more secure.”
“They spoke kindly of you.”
“Don’t trust them. They don’t know me.” grunted Glonor.
Crystallus didn’t reply. He kept his eyes on the road. Glonor could see him concentrating.
“So was that Fe-Matoran killed where he was photographed?”
Crystallus paused for a moment before answering. He wasn’t built for multitasking. “We’re not sure.”
“I suppose it’s difficult to tell.” muttered Glonor. “He was shot in the head – that much is clear. But to get a bullet-hole perfectly in the center of the guy’s forehead without breaking his mask? The guy who shot him would have had to be right in front of him. Otherwise it would be messy. You’d have found him with a poll of blood about a yard across.”
Crystallus swallowed as the vehicle battled onwards in the silence. After about a solid minute without talking the Ko-Matoran decided to speak up. “Where do you live?”
That was a difficult question but it had a simple enough answer. Glonor didn’t live anywhere, he never had. He had been recruited into the Vacca-Nui Military and spent every day since on the wonder. The few months living in Tethys was probably his longest period of residential stability, and he had enjoyed neither Tethys nor stability. “I’m a nomad” he finally answered.
“Nomads have Rahi.” refuted Crystallus, his eyes sharp as he focused on the road. “They move around to find different grazing areas.”
“Well I met a Mahi once.”
“If you want to put it that way.”
“You don’t have any bags.”
“You got a problem with my light travel technique?”
“It’s strange behavior. Cops don’t like strange behavior.”
“How is it strange to move around instead of staying in the same place.”
Crystallus was silenced for a moment before a fresh argument materialized in his head. “Everyone has possessions.”
“I have no use for them. I don’t waste widgets on cheap, tacky trash.” replied Glonor. Crystallus didn’t respond. “Besides, it doesn’t matter. If Knox hadn’t twitched then I’d have been in a nice, comfortable Knowledge Tower tonight.”
Crystallus nodded slowly, keeping his mind focused on the ice that covered the road. Unfortunately, Glonor wasn’t finished with him.
“How come you got sent out to the coach?”
Crystallus frowned then shrugged. “I suppose everyone else was busy. I wasn’t doing much at the time.”
“Busy doing what?”
“I don’t know. Some of the underground power lines have broken. A lot of cops went out to help dig them up.”
“I hope not.” snorted Glonor. “Because that would be a strange choice of priorities. Your department left twenty seniors freezing on a highway for so many hours to guard a power line?”
Crystallus sighed. “Does it matter? You’re safe now.”
“How big is your department?”
“And they were all busy?”
Glonor folded his arms and glanced out of the window again as the frozen ground slowly rolled past them. “I could have caught a cold.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Too early to tell.”
Crystallus grunted in response. It was the type of sign Glonor knew meant the conversation had been exhausted. In a couple of days a replacement bus would arrive and Glonor would return on his journey, leaving Crystallus, Glacii, and the frozen town of Elysium behind him. He had nothing further to discuss with Crystallus.
However, destiny had other plans. Glonor’s troubled thoughts were disturbed by a strange buzzing sound. Suspecting it to be another of the strange Agori influenced inventions that this universe was so full of, the Av-Matoran turned to look for the device. He was surprised to see that the communicator was mounted onto the right hand side of Crystallus’ Kanohi Kakama. It was barely visible where it was clipped onto one of the ridges in the Mask’s detail. Glonor suspected that must be the mouthpiece and that there would be some sort of earpiece tucked away in Crystallus’ right-hand audio receptor – a sneaky little invention that Glonor had completely missed.
The Ko-Matoran began to speak into the mouthpiece as he drove. Glonor couldn’t understand what was happening. He heard his name being said – or rather Crystallus mentioning him being in the vehicle. The Av-Matoran was well aware that he was listening to half of a conversation but even then he should be able to figure out what the cop on the other end of the communicator line was on about from what Crystallus said. He decided to just let the Deputy Chief explain.
Following about a minute of the broken conversation, Crystallus sighed and reached to press a button on the earpiece. When he had pressed it he pulled on the steering wheel and steered the car onto a side track. It was obvious that they were changing direction. When a cop doesn’t even pause before charging around corners usually means the something is happening.
“Where are we going?” asked Glonor as Elysium came back into view. They had been heading in the opposite direction before.
“Eastern suburbs” muttered Crystallus in response.
“Neighborhood Watch spotted some suspicious activity.”
“In the snow?”
“They’re bikers” replied Crystallus. No further explanation was given. Glonor nodded slowly then sat back in his seat, wondering what kind of trespassing bikers would get the Police Department to press their Deputy Chief into responding to with such urgency.
“How many intruding bikers are there?”
“Two, a Le-Matoran and a Ta-Matoran” replied the Ko-Matoran almost mechanically.
“I wouldn’t expect to find either of their kind over here.” muttered Glonor. When he was not granted a response he decided to dig deeper. “Are they in a vehicle?”
“No, on foot.”
“In that case stick to ploughed streets. The suburbs are rural but nobody walks about in snow this deep for fun, not if one of them is a Ta-Matoran.”
Crystallus slowed for a second and thought about Glonor’s logic. The Av-Matoran could see the cogs turning inside his head as the Ko-Matoran picked a ploughed trail and followed it. Glonor held back a smile as the two Matoran drove on into the corridor of excess snow. He felt sharp and alert. It had been only days since he had last taken arms and fought for his life. He had been running for his life, gambling with fate, and hoping he got away with it. But this was what he truly missed: The Hunt. The two of them were tracing intruders in a frozen village that wasn’t on any maps. The thrill of the chase was pulsing through his mind. He hadn’t felt this alive in years.
They found the intruders about four minutes later. As the Department-issued car grinded to a halt Glonor was able to see the scene more clearly. The Le-Matoran and Ta-Matoran were standing side by side, all emotion void from their masks. If they were cold, they didn’t show it.
Thinking of their behavior as strange already, Glonor took a better look at them both and quickly wished he hadn’t. The two Matoran wore normal, typical armor for their elements. The Le-Matoran wore a Kanohi Hau, the Ta-Matoran wore a Kanohi Akaku – which was fitted with telescopic lenses, like most of them. There was nothing unusual about their armor itself. It was the fact that there was a Kraata strapped to each of their backs. Glonor was no expert in the creations of the Makuta but he knew that their Kanohi and armor would be infected, perhaps even corroded – if evil was acidic.
Another problem with Kraata was the fact that they were able to affect others from a distance depending on their stage. Again, it didn’t take an expert to know that these Kraata would be no different. One touch from either of the trespassers and there would be one more soulless empty shell walking about.
However, that wasn’t what shocked Glonor. The fact that there was also a third Matoran at the scene unnerved him, particularly because that other Matoran was Police Chief Glacii. The Ko-Matoran’s Kanohi was stricken with fear as he pleaded silently for them to help him.
Behind the three Matoran was Glacii’s vehicle of choice, a large automobile that was either dark blue or black. Two beams of light streamed from the headlights and the driver door was open. The engine was obviously still running which meant Glacii had arrived to confront the two Matoran head on. It was unfortunate that he was about to die. One more step forwards from the two infected bikers and his soul would be ripped from his body. Only the empty, twisted shell would be left and worse still: There was nothing that Glonor could do about it.
The vehicle remained stationary as Glonor and Crystallus watched the scene before them in nothing less than sheer horror. The headlights cut through the darkness like two knives, and the effect they had was just as brutal.
The standoff wasn’t going too well for Glacii. He looked terrified. The two infected Matoran didn’t. They let no emotion slip. Why should they? After all, they were long since dead. The only reason they were walking was because the Kraata were controlling their corpses. They were no more than Rahkshi.
The two dead bikers were in Glacii’s space. If they stepped forwards then Glacii would have to jump over a snow bank. Elysium’s Chief of Police looked petrified. He was shaking from something other than the cold and Glonor could see why. The Ko-Matoran was wearing a leather sheaf, which was strapped around his waist. It appeared to be the type of accessory that would be used to hold a dagger or – judging by the shape – holster a revolver. The Av-Matoran could see that the sheaf was empty but there was no weapon in Glacii’s hand. Instead the cold shine of the gunmetal firearm was lying in the snow. He concluded that it had therefore either been tossed aside as a sign of surrender or had been forced from his hands. Either way, the situation was not good.
Glonor glanced at Crystallus, questions forming in his mind. “Who exactly are your Kraata-loving friends?”
“Members of a biker gang” responded Crystallus as he finally decided to take his hands off of the steering wheel. “Undesirables.” Both the Le-Matoran and Ta-Matoran were staring at them blankly, as if waiting for them to make a move. That gave Glonor time for an interview with Elysium’s Deputy police Chief.
“So undesirable that your Chief of Police joins the chase?”
Crystallus shrugged. “You’re seeing what I’m seeing.”
The Av-Matoran grunted and wrapped his hand around the door handle. “You got any plans for these guys?”
“If you’re talking about fighting them you can forget it” responded the Ko-Matoran. “They have Kraata. They’re dangerous.”
“So am I” replied Glonor. His hands tightened around the handle as he prepared to open the door and plunge into the cold.
“Wait!” insisted Crystallus as he grabbed Glonor’s shoulder. “Not yet. Look what happened to Chief Glacii. He stepped out of his vehicle and then cornered him.”
“Not recently” remarked Glonor. “Look at his car. The exhaust is leaking into the snow. Judging by the puddle I’d say he’s been standing like that for at least twenty minutes.”
Crystallus frowned. “How does that change anything?”
“It doesn’t. I just think standing in the cold in a standoff for twenty minutes is quite serious.” Crystallus narrowed his eyes and continued to look out of the window. He didn’t move.
Glonor decided to ask again. “Who are they?”
“Bikers” repeated Crystallus.
Then where are their bikes?“
“They’ve been stealing cars” replied Crystallus.
“So you know they are bikers despite the absence of their bikes?”
“Not personally” replied Crystallus with a heavy sigh. “They’re part of a gang: the Kraata Purge. The Kraata on their backs kind of give them away.”
“And they live in Elysium?”
“About a mio or two from here, maybe a hundred of them. They camp around an abandoned concrete war bunker.”
Glonor nodded slowly, racking his brain for more details that he had picked up and filed away. “What about the dead Fe-Matoran? Was he involved with this?”
“He was one of the guys the Mayor sent to evict the bikers from their camp site at the bunker. He disappeared for about a week until he was found earlier today.”
Glonor grunted to show his understanding. He filed the new information away. This bunker seemed quite important. Perhaps he should take a visit to it tomorrow. After all, if they all managed to get out of this alive then he was going to be very bored.
The two Matoran watched and waited. About 10 bio away Glacii was still standing in the same position, shaking with fear. Meanwhile, neither of the infected Matoran had moved. Instead they stood still, staring at Glonor and Crystallus through the windscreen.
Glonor turned to his left and nudged Crystallus. “You’d better do something quick.”
Crystallus did nothing.
“Interesting strategy” commented Glonor. “You’re going to wait until they freeze to death. Ingenious!”
Crystallus did not reply.
“Come on” chuckled Glonor. “We can take them. It’ll be three against two.”
“You’re a civilian” muttered Crystallus. “This is none of your business.”
The Av-Matoran paused. No responses came to his mind to counter Crystallus’ point but he wasn’t going to let the Ko-Matoran cop talk him out of helping. Not when Glacii’s life was at risk.
“Besides,” continued the Kakama-wearer “you’re unarmed.”
“Against these guys?” snorted Glonor. “I don’t been to be armed.”
Crystallus didn’t seem to get Glonor’s joke as he continued to stare at the Av-Matoran. Now there were four pairs of eyes staring at him. “Those Kraata are no joke. One touch from either of the bikers and you die, Glonor. You’ll die just like they did.”
“I guess that makes us even” muttered Glonor as he began cracking his knuckles.
“But you’re missing the point” implored Crystallus. “They don’t feel pain. They’re both dead.”
“They don’t need to feel pain” answered the Av-Matoran. “They just need to feel consciousness and unconsciousness.”
Crystallus fell silent. Both Matoran gazed out of the glass window at the three Matoran outside. Glacii made some kind of a remark that caused the Le-Matoran to peal his eyes off of them and take a step forwards. Startled, Glacii grunted and stepped backwards. He tripped over the snow bank behind him and landing on his back. The Police Chief was now about a bio further away from his revolver.
“It’s now or never” stated Glonor darkly. Crystallus finally nodded and opened his door. As he did so, he produced a firearm of his own. Glonor was immediately hit by cold air as the Ko-Matoran leaned back inside the car from the still, frozen world outside.
“Remember, don’t touch them. Kraata are illegal here for a reason.”
Glonor grunted before he too opened his door and slipped out into the frozen night.
As soon as they had taken their first steps, Glonor knew the temperature was well below freezing. The Department vehicle had been warm. Stepping out of the warmth and into the cold was the worst way to adapt. It was like stepping into an air conditioner.
As Crystallus and Glonor approached the two infected Matoran stepped back, away from Glacii. The Police Chief grunted and struggled to his feet. Without hesitation, Crystallus drifted over to help his fellow policeman, holstering his firearm while he did so. Glonor watched as the two Matoran turned to let their eyes follow the Ko-Matoran. As they did so he slipped behind them unnoticed. They had already forgotten about him.
Standing on the cleared snow on the street was like standing on a frozen beach of ice crystals. Each individual shaved snow flake glittered in the moonlight, not that Glonor was looking at the snow. He was looking at the four other Matoran, busy evaluating the situation. Like he had guessed, the two bikers were wearing infected Kanohi and he could now confirm that the Ta-Matoran’s Akaku was fitted with telescopic lenses. However, now he was able to see that both Matoran were fitted with level 5 Kraata of Ice Resistance. He immediately recognized the yellow and dark green scales of the slimy creatures. He knew that Kraata could automatically seek out Kanohi or even dead Matoran by that stage, but they looked like they had been attached to the Matoran for weeks. Worse still, they were welded onto the backs of their hosts, which meant somebody had grabbed a blow torch and soldered a screaming slug onto somebody’s back. That was bordering on Rahi abuse… if Kraata could be considered Rahi.
It was then that Glacii burst into life. He growled and stepped forwards angrily. “Get the hell out of my town!” he roared as his arms flew through the air. His right hand balled into a fist as he landed a solid punch to the Le-Matoran’s jaw.
The biker stumbled backwards, his head jerking away from Glonor. After spending a moment regaining his balance, the Le-Matoran distributed his weight to his right foot – which was the furthest away from his target – and turned to face Glacii, as if he was about to fling a Kanoka disk. Before the Ko-Matoran could blink, the Le-Matoran flailed his arm forwards, a fist bound at the other end on a direct collision course with the Matoran’s Pakari Nuva.
Luckily, Glonor noted the stance and prepared to take action. As the Le-Matoran’s fist flew over his shoulder his weight shifted to his forward-most foot. Thinking quickly, the Av-Matoran pulled his leg back and took a swipe at the Le-Matoran’s ankle, causing his foot to rocket out of place and disrupt his balance. The Hau-wearing biker didn’t make a sound as his leg gave way and he crumpled to the ground. His fist sailed through the air, missing Glacii by the diameter of a Kanoka disk.
But that wasn’t good news for Glonor. As soon as the Le-Matoran hit the ground the Ta-Matoran jolted and turned to face him. He showed no trace of surprise but he was confused. He had not known that Glonor had been behind them. In desperation, the Ta-Matoran lashed out and aimed a punch straight at Glonor’s Iden. The Av-Matoran had seen better punches from Ga-Matoran. Without hesitation, he stepped back, letting the fist buzz past his Kanohi.
Judging by how easily the Ta-Matoran lost his balance, Glonor was betting that the Kraata had not matured into a stage 5 on the Matoran’s back. If it had then it would have better control over its puppet. Instead, the Ta-Matoran’s punch sent him flying off balance, allowing Glonor to land another good kick at a Matoran’s feet. The Ta-Matoran hit the icy ground like a tightly bound bundle of Harakeke. He landed on his back, giving the Av-Matoran a satisfying scream as the Kraata was crushed from the dead weight.
Glonor hadn’t celebrated a victory halfway through a fight in centuries and was in no mood to start doing it now. He had long since learnt how to tell whether or not an enemy was conscious or not. Almost instinctively, he spun around to face the Le-Matoran as he struggled back to his feet. The Av-Matoran almost smiled as the Hau-wearer slipped and ended up throwing his arms out to break the fall, something the Kraata controlling the Ta-Matoran had not thought of. The Le-Matoran was bent on all fours, trying to regain his stance. Glonor didn’t let him. The Iden wearer grunted and landed a solid kick in the Le-Matoran’s head, causing his Kanohi Hau to smash like some expensive vase. The Matoran grunted and sagged to the ground, lying face down in the splinters of his smashed Kanohi.
Glonor cracked a smile then turned to look at Glacii and Crystallus.
“Mata Nui!” cursed Crystallus. Both Ko-Matoran stood in utter disbelief. Two pairs of eyes were blinking between Glonor and the two Kraata possessed corpses he had just pummeled.
Without a word, Glacii tore his eyes off of the scene and walked over to his vehicle. He emerged a few minutes later looking just as shocked. “I just called for two ambulances” he announced while looking straight at Glonor. “Do you want to explain why I had to call for two ambulances?”
Glonor shrugged casually. “Because I slipped.”
“On the ice.”
“What? You slipped and accidentally clobbered them both?”
“No,” smiled Glonor. “I slipped while I was kicking the Le-Matoran. It softened the blow. If I hadn’t slipped you’d probably have called an ambulance and a scout team to find his head.”
Glacii looked away.
“Go wait in the damn car” ordered Crystallus, his eyes still wide. Glonor shrugged again then started walking back to the vehicle. When he clambered into the passenger seat he was glad to feel the warmth of the interior. He redirected the heating-vents so they faced him and turned the temperature dial up to the maximum. There, he waited.
About ten minutes later, two ambulances arrived – just as Glacii had said. Glonor was still unsure what an actual ambulance was. From what he was seeing, it was a very small Vahki Transporter. He let out a sigh of relief at the sight of another vehicle from the universe that he recognized. All of the cars and torches and guns in this universe were gnawing away at his sanity. Whoever invented the wheel was going to get one hell of a long argument from Glonor if he ever met them.
The freezing Av-Matoran shuddered uncomfortably before taking a glance at the bikers. They were both dead already so he was unsure why Glacii had bothered to call ambulances. Perhaps they would perform some sort of an autopsy on the Kraata or try and track down where the Matoran had come from. It also gave them fresh information about what was going on at this concrete bunker. Glonor didn’t know why Glacii and Crystallus weren’t more grateful of him. He had just made their lives a whole lot easier. The Av-Matoran could see them both talking while the ambulances left. It didn’t take a highly trained ex-Military Cop to figure out what they were talking about. Glonor decided to read their body language. Judging by the fact they deliberately weren’t looking in his direction their list of conversation topics became considerably thinner. They were talking about him.
“Could he be the guy we’re looking for?” asked Glacii, desperation in his voice as the furrow in his brow deepened with the weight of more unanswered questions.
“I doubt it” muttered Crystallus. “If he was then he just floored two of his possible allies. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like great teamwork.”
“What if that was a decoy? Perhaps one of them was about to tell us something and he had to shut them up?”
“Look, Chief” sighed Crystallus “He was just trying to protect you. I’m certain. Besides, he can’t be our guy. It’s a miracle he’s even here. Like he said, he’d probably be on the other side of Ko-Metru now if the bus hadn’t crashed.”
Glacii grunted in response and made a face, as if he didn’t quite agree with his Deputy. “How sure are we that he didn’t cause that crash? It would create a good distraction, keeping us busy sorting out the other passengers.”
“He couldn’t have” answered Crystallus. “He was sat at the back, asleep. The only way he could have caused the bus to crash would be by getting up and physically attacking the driver, and none of the other passengers saw him get up. That’s twenty witnesses who trust him.”
“OK” frowned Glacii. “Could the driver be the guy? Could he have crashed on purpose?”
Crystallus let out a low whistle. “Hell of a risk, Chief.”
“Not necessary. What’s to stop him from driving straight into a deliberate skid?”
Crystallus shook his head. “He said a biker caused him to flinch.”
“Did anyone else see a biker?”
Crystallus shifted uncomfortably and steered the conversation away from Glacii’s point. “But he could have gotten himself injured. He could have killed the other passengers. What use would he be in hospital or jail when he’s supposed to be performing an assassination?”
“Perhaps not” muttered Glacii as he rubbed his forehead. “These modern-day vehicles have all sorts of gadgets. I still don’t know what half of the buttons in my car do. You have anti-skid brakes, collapsible steering columns, traction control, crumple zones. All he had to do was slide along the road for a couple of bio then ram the bus right into a snow mound.”
Crystallus sighed again, his breath freezing as it left his mouth. “I’ll talk to Glonor tonight. He may have been asleep but the other passengers are saying he took charge afterwards. He knows what happened.”
“He’s a psychopath!” Glacii snorted. “You saw what he just did! That’s just not natural!”
“Do you really think that?” pressed Crystallus. “He’s a pretty smart guy. He saved you from a busted Kanohi and me from having to shoot two already-dead Matoran. He did us both a big favor.”
Glacii stared as his deputy in sheer disbelief. “You actually think he had a sane thought in his head just now?”
“No I don’t” replied Crystallus. “I think it’s a long time since he’s done a single rational thing. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a different way of getting things done.”
Glacii continued to stare at Crystallus before he finally turned away and let out a long breath. “Fine, if you trust him then I guess you can talk to him about the case.”
“Can’t we use him some more?” implored Crystallus. “He’s an ex-military cop. He’s definitely got enough experience to help us. Besides, half the department’s working on the case. An extra head can’t do too much harm.”
The Police Chief’s frown deepened. He was clearly anxious about allowing Glonor’s involvement in the case. “How much would we have to tell him?”
“Probably most of it” shrugged Crystallus. “But like I said, he’s a smart guy. He’ll probably figure it out for himself.
Glacii nodded slowly. “So is this what you would do if you were chief?”
Crystallus smiled sadly for a moment then finally met the Chief’s gaze. “Yes, sir, it is.”
Glacii nodded again then looked away, a lump in his throat. “Alright then,” he muttered sadly “that’s good enough for me. You can let him get involved but just remember, he’s ex-military for a reason.” With those parting words Glacii turned away and started walking back to his car. Crystallus was left standing on his own.
Crystallus didn’t live far away from the Police Department. It didn’t take him long to explain why either. Glonor listened intently the Ko-Matoran defended his department’s policy of having all officers live within ten minutes drive of the building and wished he’d never asked.
The Ko-Matoran’s house was nothing special in Glonor’s opinion. It was very remote but at least it was within the ten minute drive and looked like it had enough open space. The building itself was round and well insulated, which indicated that Crystallus had a wife. Glonor couldn’t recognize any significant details about the trim for the snow so he decided to forget about an evaluation.
Walking into the house felt like a blur. The city was still too cold to allow snow but Glonor’s’ vision still felt obscured. The door seemed dark, distant, and opened the second Crystallus and Glonor were within reach of it. A worried looking Ga-Matoran stepped into the light and beckoned them in. Crystallus’ wife, presumably.
There was an awkward moment at the door where nobody moved. Crystallus was eager to get inside, his wife was anxious to keep the warmth in the house, Glonor just didn’t want to blunder inside uninvited. Even in the middle of a freezing Ko-Metru village he put his manners before his safety.
After a long instant of hesitation Crystallus placed a hand on Glonor’s shoulder and herded him in. His hand was warm but he was reluctant to touch the Av-Matoran.
The introductions were brief. The name of Crystallus’ wife was Lagira, a Huna-wearing Ga-Matoran. She seemed nice enough as she explained that she had set up a spare bed in the other room. She sounded almost apologetic as she explained.
“Ma’am, the floor would have been fine” chuckled Glonor with a smile. “I’m very sorry to have to put you to this trouble.”
“It’s no trouble at all” smiled Lagira. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you need to.”
“That’s very kind of you” beamed Glonor. After centuries of experience, he knew it was usually best to act grateful around females – not that he wasn’t grateful but it couldn’t hurt to exaggerate it a just little.
“Where are your bags?” asked Lagira as she raised a questioning eyebrow.
“He didn’t bring any” answered Crystallus as he opened a door. “He’s drifting.” With those words the Ko-Matoran walked forwards into a different room, leaving Glonor alone with Lagira.
“He wants to talk to you” sighed the Ga-Matoran. “I can tell because he isn’t talking to me.” For a moment, her eyes became watery as she stared into space. Her Kanohi Huna seemed to crease into a gloomy expression all too easily. Glonor nodded and decided to follow the cop.
The room was more comfortable than the Av-Matoran had initially expected. There were two large windows on the walls that were covered in snow and mostly concealed behind two thick but short curtains. There were three comfy chairs and a desk. Much to Glonor’s relief, he was met by the welcoming glow of a light stone as it illuminated the room. Crystallus was sat in one of the chairs, with the closed curtains to his right – as if he could see through them and face Crystallus.
When Glonor sat down the Ko-Matoran sprang into life and began to speak. “We have a bit of a situation here.”
“How much do you know?”
“I know that you’ve got a bunch of Kraata-powered dead bikers living in a war bunker in the snow and that your department are terrified of them.”
Crystallus winced. “Let’s leave the bikers for now. What do you know about our police department?”
“I know that you were working at full capacity all day today. So full that your Chief and Deputy Chief – who were both off duty – got called in to answer civilian calls, which indicates that the rest of your department weren’t guarding broken power lines.”
The Ko-Matoran nodded. “We’ve got every officer in Elysium on red alert. Do you know why?”
“Because you’re worried about somebody coming inside?” Crystallus’ words echoed through Glonor’s mind. “We need to keep track of whose coming in and out of Elysium at the moment. ”
Crystallus nodded silently.
“What about the bikers?” frowned Glonor. “It doesn’t exactly seem like you know a lot about them. You said yourself they steal cars and don’t pay taxes. People like that keep a low profile. How do keep a record of them?”
“With tremendous difficulty” sighed Crystallus.
“Then tell me what you know so far” muttered Glonor, every trace of the kind and witty side of his personality was gone. If he still felt like cracking a joke he did not show it. The eyes behind his Kanohi Iden were as cold and unforgiving as the weather on the other side of the curtains as he stared at Crystallus.
“About the bikers?” snorted the Ko-Matoran. Not a muscle moved in Glonor’s face. The Ko-Matoran sighed again and shrugged casually. “I’ll start from the top. Chief Glacii told me you guessed the prison was new. But what you didn’t know is that it took two years to build, cost millions of widgets, and about one hundred freezing Po-Matoran construction workers. Living and working in Ko-Metru for two years is hard on Po-Matoran, so the Turaga high council decided to extend the budget to put together a couple of cheap tenement huts in some public land in the outskirts of the city, right next to an old concrete army facility. It was like a small village. Then the prison was finished and the Po-Matoran left.”
“What happened next?” muttered Glonor, his mind slaving away trying to make connections.
“The bikers moved in. The ‘Kraata Purge’.”
The Av-Matoran raised an eyebrow at the mention of Kraata. “Did you know they were dealing with Kraata before today?” he asked.
Crystallus nodded. “We didn’t know any of them were being animated by Kraata but we definitely knew there was something going down at the bunker involving those things.”
“How come?” pressed Glonor.
“About a month ago we caught one of them in an alleyway. Some Ga-Matoran stumbled across him selling a Kraata to a Ko-Matoran. We managed to arrest the biker but the Ko-Matoran got away.”
“And this Ga-Matoran saw the whole thing?” muttered Glonor solemnly. Crystallus nodded. “And he’s in your prison now?”
The Ko-Matoran nodded again. “He’s awaiting a trial.”
“For a whole month?” remarked Glonor. He wasn’t greatly familiar with the court process but a month felt like a long time to leave a Matoran in a prison without questioning whether or not he deserved to be in there.
“He’s waiting,” answered Crystallus “either for the witness to forget stuff or for her to die.”
“Who’s the witness?” asked Glonor.
“A Ga-Matoran named Nokama. She’s some retired Ga-Metru Teacher, perfect credibility for the trial.”
“And is she likely to forget stuff or die?”
“Of course she is” sighed Crystallus. “We’ve stationed four of our best female cops in her house around the clock. Plus there’s a police cruiser sat on her street waiting.”
“And she’s OK with this?”
“She won’t leave, says it’s something about principle or some other moral trash.”
Glonor’s frown deepened as he pondered Nokama’s situation. He was not particularly familiar with the name. He’d only been in the universe for a couple of days, let alone the town. “How would this affect the bikers?”
“Kraata are illegal” grunted Crystallus. “If she tells the truth – when they finally get round to organizing a trial – and says she saw a Kraata then the entire biker gang gets booted out of Metru-Nui. We can finally nail the whole lot of them. They’re scared, they’re desperate. Silencing her is the only thing that will let them stay.”
“Which is why you’re worried about who’s coming and going” muttered Glonor as the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together in his mind. “You think they’re sending someone to kill her?”
Crystallus nodded. He didn’t utter a word.
“Well why can’t the bikers do it themselves?”
“You saw what we’re like. One sighting of trespassing bikers and my department is all over them” answered Crystallus. “The whole town’s suspicious of them, so it won’t be a biker. It’ll be somebody who we won’t recognize on their behalf – it has to be – and whoever it is on his way.”
The Ko-Matoran stopped talking, plunging the house into silence. The air outside was still. No wind. The cold was so intense that Glonor could still feel it creeping up his arms from behind the walls.
The Av-Matoran grunted as he shifted and leaned forward in his seat. “OK, our guy can’t be a biker and he can’t have come on the tour bus, so that leaves 8161 possible assassins.”
Crystallus frowned. “What makes you think that?”
Glonor smiled and leaned back in his chair again. “Well, assuming your sign is accurate, there are 8,270 people living in Elysium. Assuming that the dead Fe-Matoran won’t be killing anybody too soon, that you’re innocent, that Glacii is too, that it won’t be any of the 100 bikers, that Nokama won’t be hired to kill herself, and that the five cops stationed at her house are reliable then that rules them all out and narrows our list of suspects down, of course that’s just assuming your guy’s already living in the city and that your road sign is accurate.” Glonor paused. “How about the people visiting the prison?”
“We track them” answered Crystallus firmly. “They settle down in motels for the night, they visit the prisoners the next morning, then they leave. Any change in that pattern and we’d be all over them.”
Glonor nodded again without saying a word. His eyes were fixed on the curtains as he sat back in his chair again and put a hand to his forehead. He could feel the metaphorical cogs churning away inside his head.
“How about this army base?” asked Crystallus, a glimmer of desperation in his eyes. “Can you tell us anything about it?”
Glonor’s eyebrows rose again. “What would I know?”
“You were in the Vacca-Nui army at one point and it’s an army facility.”
“Well it depends” shrugged Glonor. “When was it built?”
“During the Toa/Dark Hunter War.”
“By which side?”
“Not a clue but logic tells me it would be the Toa.”
The Av-Matoran nodded, his Kanohi appeared dark and ridged in the poor lighting. “But you don’t know for sure?”
Crystallus shook his head.
“Then it could be anything. The damn thing could have been started and never finished. “
“I doubt it” muttered Crystallus. “Otherwise it wouldn’t be much use to the bikers. Why would they seek shelter inside a half-built concrete war bunker?”
“I’ve heard of stranger things” grunted Glonor as he heaved a shrug. “You don’t even know if they are using the bunker at all. Like you said, there was already the camp site for the Po-Matoran who built your prison, what other reason do they need?”
“Well we need to know” sighed the Kakama-wearer. “Chances are – if Nokama has a month left in her – we’ll have to march up there and make a hundred arrests. I’m not a great tactician but I would prefer to know what my department will be going up against.”
The Av-Matoran paused, processing the words. He sighed, raised his hand – as if to make a point – then lowered it again. “I can’t help you. I’ve never served here.”
“You could drive down there and take a look for yourself” suggested the Ko-Matoran.
“What would be the point?” grunted Glonor. “It’s a damn concrete building that you don’t even know they can get into.”
Crystallus shook his head slowly. “You’re missing the obvious here. What’s the point of any concrete bunker?”
“Shelter” grunted Glonor.
“And where do they usually lead to?”
“Exactly,” muttered Crystallus darkly. “We’re looking at their camp when it could only be the tip of the ice berg. If they can get inside then they can store all kinds of things down there. They could have supplies and weapons hidden away. They could have fortified the entire bunker. This whole thing could turn into a siege, and I don’t think anybody wants that.”
Glonor nodded, his hands once again keeping his neck propped up. He yawned then shook his head vigorously, trying to shake the tiredness out of him as he shuddered from the cold. He didn’t feel bored by the idea of the bloodbath that Crystallus was talking about, it just seemed unlikely. Similarly to him, the bikers were drifters. They moved from town to town, city to city, trying to find shelter. Just like him they were probably regretting coming to Ko-Metru to find that shelter but that was beside the point. If Glonor didn’t feel like fortifying a hotel room then there was no reason why the bikers would want to fortify the bunker. It was illogical.
“What do you think of Glacii?” asked Glonor, trying to direct their discussion away from the bikers and their bunker.
Crystallus looked up, as if surprised. “He’s my superior. I can’t just talk about him behind his back.” The Ko-Matoran paused, studying Glonor. The Kakama-wearer was trying to read him, something that many had tried to do in the Av-Matoran’s life. “Why do you ask anyway?”
Glonor pulled a face then shrugged again. “I don’t know. I’m just wondering how useful he is. He seems a little… overwhelmed?”
“Glacii’s alright,” grimaced Crystallus “but he’s pretty worn-out these days. His wife died so he’s all alone now. I guess he just feels beaten down.”
“I saw a picture of them both in his office.”
“Happier days,” muttered the Ko-Matoran. “They were a happy couple once upon a time.”
“So is he up for the job?”
This time Crystallus shrugged. “Enough to ask for help when he needs it.”
“And who’s he asking?” snorted Glonor in response.
“What can I possibly do?” snorted Glonor. “Just so you know, I’m not some miracle worker. I can’t fix all of your Chief’s problems.”
“I’m not asking you to do that” muttered Crystallus as he heaved a sigh. The Ko-Matoran placed his hands up to his face and rubbed the wrinkles under his eyes. “There’s more that you need to know.”
“This is serious,” sighed the cop. “It’s about Nokama.”
“She’ll be fine,” smiled Glonor as he tried to persuade the resigned Ko-Matoran before him. “You said so yourself that you’ve got five of your best cops with her around the clock. She’s buttoned away safely enough.”
“But we competed for the prison,” continued Crystallus.
Glonor paused, trying to see where Crystallus was heading. “Glacii told me in his office. Something about jobs and widgets.”
“Yes, except those could have been some other Ko-Metru town’s jobs and widgets. There was only one reason why we got chosen above other towns and that’s because we agreed to everything on the documents.”
“And?” grunted Glonor, his hand cupped over his mouth as he focused on Crystallus.
“We had to agree to their crisis plan.”
“And what does that mean?”
“If there is ever an escape from the Elysium prison, when the siren rings, then we have prearranged roles.”
“Which means what?”
“The whole of Elysium’s police department gets called in to form a perimeter around the town until the Turaga High Council can send us backup.”
“Every cop,” repeated Crystallus with a single affirmative nod. “Every last one of us. On or off duty. Awake or asleep.”
Glonor’s eyebrows rocketed upwards. “Are you serious?”
“It’s what we had to agree to if we wanted the prison, which we evidently did.”
“That’s not good” muttered Glonor cautiously. His tired eyes began to widen.
“Not good at all,” chuckled Crystallus whilst shaking his head. “Because the second that prison siren starts ringing we drop everything and head north, which means if that siren goes off any time in the next month then we have to pull out all of our cops and leave Nokama completely unprotected.”
Silence hung over the room for a long time. Glonor remained sitting with his hand cupped over his chin while Crystallus looked at the curtains. The Av-Matoran’s eyes were fixed on a stain on the table. Once again the imaginary noises whirled away inside his head, like they always had.
“Which is why you need me? If the siren goes off and you have to pull your department out then I have to guard Nokama, don’t I?”
“It’s your choice,” replied Crystallus. “But essentially yes, you’re our only hope if that siren rings.”
Glonor nodded slowly. He looked around the room, taking in the wooden table, the bare walls, the horrible curtains, and the Ko-Matoran before him. How could he resist? “Alright,” he smiled. “I’ll do it. I’ll look after your witness but I don’t plan on waiting a full month just to look after some teacher… I have a life.”
Crystallus smiled sadly. “I’m afraid you may have to. The sooner I can get you over to her house the better. I’ll take you to meet her tomorrow.”
“You’re getting rid of me awfully quickly,” smiled Glonor. “You don’t trust me yet, do you?”
“I met you hours ago and now you’re in my house with me and my wife. Of course I trust you.”
Glonor nodded as he stretched. “Can’t argue with that,” he muttered as he yawned. “Now if you don’t mind, I have a mattress to hit with my face.”
Crystallus cracked a smile then got up. The two Matoran exchanged their brief farewells before getting up and leaving the room.
Glonor began wandering the house, searching for the mattress Lagira had mentioned. After ducking into the kitchen, a study, and a cupboard, Glonor finally found the make-shift bed in the front room. The Av-Matoran yawned as he lifted his feet onto the mattress and pulled the covers back. The springs creaked and twanged under his weight. He rolled one way, then rolled the other. About a minute later he was fast asleep.
In a normal town it would have taken a little under ten minutes to get to Nokama’s house. However, Elysium was no normal town, and with the snow blocking everything in sight it took about three times as long.
Glonor was already regretting picking the Ko-Metru bus company before Crystallus’ cruiser grinded to a halt. If he had chosen Ta-Metru or Ga-Metru then he wouldn’t be sitting shivering in the worn leather seat that he was in now. He would be warm and calm, sitting beside a canal, relaxing and surrounded by Ga-Matoran. His ideal day.
“Do you really want me to get out here?” he muttered as he shuddered.
Crystallus frowned. “It’s your choice.”
Glonor groaned whilst he wished he had never volunteered for this. “I know, it’s just ridiculously cold outside.” Crystallus checked both sides of the road then glanced at Glonor.
“Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this?” asked the Ko-Matoran without a trace of humor in his voice.
Glonor paused then nodded. He didn’t want to speak. That way he would see his breath freeze and it would remind him how cold it was.
“I’m just saying that it’ll be unlikely we’ll need you yet. The siren could go off at any time in the next month so their hired-gun has time at his fingertips.”
The Iden wearer shrugged. “I might as well introduce myself to the person I’m supposed to protect. If the worst comes to the worst and the siren goes off today, then I might as well know my way around. Plus he’ll be expecting us to take our time. He’ll be able to catch us off guard otherwise.”
Crystallus mulled Glonor’s words over then shrugged. “Does the name Papura mean anything to you?”
Glonor frowned as he stared at the rows of houses. “Nope” he answered through chattering teeth.
“Papura was a Ba-Matoran who used to live here in Elysium. He worked as a cop, one of the newer ones who joined when we had the jail built. This morning we found him dead in his car with a bullet-hole square in the middle of his mask.”
Glonor fell silent. The only noise was the wailing of the wind as the snow sliced through the frosty air. “That’s interesting” he muttered. He did not know the Matoran personally but he still felt what he had just said sounded offensive. Matoran died all the time. He must have realized that at some point in his life.
“We still don’t have a clue why he was killed, but the bullet between the eyes is the exact same way that the Fe-Matoran died.”
“Did he have any link to the bikers?”
“He hated them. He had the largest reputation for unlawful arrests of bikers than anybody else in the department. Plus he went down to their camp a couple of times.”
Glonor nodded. “That’s bad.”
“It’s bad because he was shot” answered Glonor with a sigh as he shivered. “The guy the bikers are hiring to kill Nokama? The one you’ve been on red alert looking out for? You missed him. He’s already here.”
There was another awkward pause before Crystallus nodded slowly. “I know” he sighed in a tone that made Glonor wonder if the Ko-Matoran had completely resigned himself. “But are you sure you want visit Nokama today? We could really use your help with this Papura-case.”
“You’ll do fine” muttered Glonor as reassuringly as he could. “You know what you’re doing. It snowed last night so there’ll be plenty of footprints and on the ground.”
“Sure” grunted Crystallus with a shrug.
Glonor nodded then reached for the door handle. As his fingers wrapped around the cold metal he thought of something else to say. “Actually,” he implored with a fresh spring in his voice at the thought of an extra few seconds in the warmth. “Can you make sure that the cops at Nokama’s house know I’m coming? I don’t want them panicking when I walk up to the front door.”
“Crystallus nodded then frowned. “But… you don’t know where she lives.”
“I’ll find it” grunted Glonor as he pulled on the door handle then slipped out of the cruiser.
The world outside of the frozen town known as Elysium was very different. While the town was isolated by mio of snow, the rest of the Matoran Universe was not. In fact, it was quite the contrary. Entire forests had been burnt to ashes by the armies of the Brotherhood of Makuta, mountains had been leveled, tunnels had been destroyed, lakes and rivers had been dug up and drained to make the entire Universe into one great big battlefield. Zakaz was in crisis while the residents of Xia and Stelt clung on to life by threads. Everything south of the Northern Continent had been a constant bloodbath for over a thousand years.
Yet, despite millennia worth of navigation, exploring, and map reading, one island remained unknown to the rest of the Universe. It was tiny in comparison to the other continents yet it had remained unaffected by the war. It sat, almost floating on the silver sea, hidden away between Odina and Nynrah to the far East of the Universe. It had never been named simply because its owner had never taken the time to think about it. For a long period of time it had simply been named Island X by a number of the residents. The only reason the land mass had survived so long was because the island housed a small population of Matoran. The Toa had assumed that it was their territory so had seen no reason to invade it during the war. However, they couldn’t have been any more misguided.
The island was in fact under the ownership of the Brotherhood of Makuta, which meant that they had seen no reason to invade it either. As a result, the island had remained untouched by outside forces since the start of the war, and now the war had been won the island’s ruler was becoming impatient.
His name was Garnax and he was a Po-Matoran servant of the Brotherhood of Makuta. At that moment he was standing on the balcony of his mansion – which had been paid for and built by the Brotherhood. He was not in a good mood – he very rarely was. The Po-Matoran had been thinking about his position for years now. The Brotherhood had given him this island, his mansion, his servants, whatever he had wanted from the organization had been at his disposal on the condition that he did his job, and right now his job had just gotten a whole lot harder.
Naturally, Garnax’s main priority was to help Garnax. His own life was above anybody else’s in his eyes. Two weeks ago he had received orders from the Brotherhood. They had not been signed and had been handed to him personally by a Vortixx named Cobarox. After the Vortixx had left for Metru-Nui, Garnax had read his instructions, then read them again, then he had destroyed the tablet by throwing it off of his balcony, leaving his cleaning staff to deal with it.
While he had been reading his instructions, Garnax had been analyzing his assignment from the unnamed Makuta and had come to a satisfying conclusion. Not only was it in his power – and his alone – to get this Makuta what he was asking for, but he was also in a position where he could take advantage of the Brotherhood member. He could turn this deal into something a little more adventurous. In fact, the plan he had in mind was bordering on completely one-sided in his favor.
He was Garnax and the unnamed Makuta obviously wasn’t.
But now Garnax wasn’t feeling so confident. He had pulled some strings and given a few orders but he had made no progress in the two weeks that he had spent trying to accomplish his assignment. Something had gone wrong. Now he thought about it, the Po-Matoran was beginning to realize how dependant he was on the situation in Metru-Nui. Clearly, there had been too many people with understanding of his plans running around. That was why he had ordered that the Ba-Matoran cop and the Ga-Matoran witness were to be silenced. He had issued that order nearly a week ago and was yet to receive confirmation from his field agent in Elysium. He wondered what in Karzahni’s name his agent was doing.
Garnax’s communicator suddenly buzzed on his Kanohi. There was a sharp sizzle as the radio static echoed through his audio receptors then the voice appeared.
“Is that the cop?” asked Garnax, making no attempt to hide the dissatisfied tone in his voice.
“Yes” came the reply from the agent. Garnax had not bothered to learn the Matoran’s name but he knew enough about his agent. He knew he had his complete loyalty. Holding hostages always seemed to work in Garnax’s favor.
“Good” muttered the Po-Matoran. “I’ve arranged for one of the prisoners in your prison to find a very good hiding place for the next roll call. When the prison guards see him missing they’re assume he’s escaped and the siren will go off. I want you to kill the Ga-Matoran in that time. Is that understood?”
“I understand” muttered the agent darkly. “But you’d damn well better leave my wife alone. If you so much as lay a finger on her then I will hunt you down and kill you myself.”
Garnax smiled darkly. “I don’t think you’re in any position to make threats like that.” He paused as he stared out at the ocean. He did not have many fond memories of water, just as he did not have many fond memories of his days on Vacca-Nui or of being shot in the shoulder by an Electro cannon. The Po-Matoran rubbed the ancient wound at the memory. Even after 79,500 years the burn mark had never faded. The pain had dulled but it still stung whenever he touched it or when his armor rubbed against it. Garnax had been put through a living hell and forced to live through it. If he ever found the damn military cop who had given him the injury then pushed him off of a cliff then he could guarantee that the Matoran would suffer even more than Garnax himself had.
“We’ll be in touch.” With those parting words Garnax clicked off his communicator then balanced it on the balcony railing. He stared once more back at the ocean then turned his back on it and walked into his mansion.
By the time Glonor reached the police cruiser on Nokama’s street he had finally realized that it was snowing harder than before. The big white flakes rained down upon him, whipping him in the mask and stinging his eyes as they melted. It was freezing, but he was struggling on. He gritted his teeth to the point where he didn’t care whether or not they cracked. His mouth was too numb to feel anything.
The visibility was terrible. Glonor could barely see a five bio in front of him in any direction. He was almost certain that he had managed to get lost by walking from Crystallus’ cruiser to the other end of the street. He could not describe the sense of joy he felt as a pair of headlights cut into his vision. They sliced through the snow like a pair of large, yellow, parallel knives. The vehicle growled gently as the engine hummed, indicating that the driver was not a Ko-Matoran. Even outside Glonor was sure that he could hear the roar of the heating.
As he drew closer Glonor could see through the windscreen to make out the figure of the driver. He couldn’t see much but it was obvious that the cop had seen him. He looked neither alert nor enthusiastic. Probably one of the new ones.
The driver’s window retracted and the driver stuck his head out. Glonor was mildly surprised to see that the inhabitant was in fact an Onu-Matoran. His eyes were dull and unfocussed. Glonor guessed his would be if his job was sitting in a car outside some Ga-Matoran’s house in a snow storm.
“Are you Glonor?” he asked with a rough, deep voice.
Glonor nodded in response. His mouth was too cold to allow him to speak clearly.
The Onu-Matoran nodded then pointed in a vaguely Western direction. “Nokama’s house is the one on the left, three down from here.”
Glonor nodded again then raised his hand, as if to say thanks. The Onu-Matoran nodded then buzzed his window back up.
Glonor pushed himself onwards with his arms wrapped around him. He could handle warm temperatures. Sure, they were easiest. All sort of life existed in warm, damp places – rainforests and jungles were testaments of that. But nothing grew in places like this. Nothing grew in the cold because it was just uninhabitable. Back on Vacca-Nui, it was a well-known fact that you were a thousand times more likely to freeze to death in Ko-Vacca than you were likely to burst into flames in Ta-Vacca. Ice was not meant to support life. The cold was deadly.
Before Glonor knew it he found himself at Nokama’s front door. The door opened for him and a female cop stepped out. She stood in the cold and examined him closely.
“Are you Glonor?” she asked, echoing the Onu-Matoran’s question.
Glonor nodded again. He could feel the heat from inside the house washing over him. He could feel himself defrosting.
“I have to search you”
Glonor frowned. “For what? Weapons?”
“Weapons” repeated the female cop with a slight nod.
“Against a retired Ga-Matoran teacher? I wouldn’t need any?”
“True,” shrugged the female cop. “But you’d need weapons if you were to fight me or any of the other officers inside this house.”
Glonor grunted. “Can we do it inside then?”
“No” answered the cop certainly. “I know it isn’t exactly warm but rules are rules. I’m not allowed to let you inside until I’ve checked you.”
The Av-Matoran nodded slowly then turned around. The female stuck her hand inside his pack. She thumbed around the emptiness then pulled her hand back out. Glonor could feel her fingers in the hollow container that made up the upper section of every Matoran’s back. She looked mildly surprised. There had been nothing in Glonor’s pack. There hadn’t been anything in that thing for a long, long time. It was empty because he liked to travel light.
The female patted his armor, sticking her fingers into any loose holes or ridges to make sure he wasn’t concealing anything. When she realized that he was carrying absolutely nothing to his name she shrugged then gestured into the doorway, indicating that he could go in.
Glonor stepped in through the door then immediately began scanning the interior. The weather outside was getting worse so it was getting a lot darker. To compensate, the cops had put dozens of light-stones up on shelves and tables. They glowed almost effortlessly in the gloom, making the house feel warm and cozy behind layers upon layers of insulation.
Glonor was generally quite impressed. The front room was immaculately tidy. Most dwelling he had been in were simply single rooms. It looked like the houses in this area were a completely different story. The house had a small hallway which divided into three separate rooms: the front room, a bedroom, and some sort of study at the end of the corridor.
Glonor nodded slowly before turning around again to face the female cop who had welcomed him. He had not gotten a good look at her before so now was probably the best time. Crystallus’ words echoed through his mind once again. We’ve stationed four of our best female cops in her house around the clock. So where were the other three?
Glonor decided to ask the question later. The female cop was a Matoran of Lightning. He had assumed her to be a Ga-Matoran in the snow. She wore a Kanohi that Glonor was unfamiliar with but its shape curved into a warm smile as he analyzed her. She seemed reliable enough. She was sharp-looking, competent, and sleek. Crystallus had made it clear that all four of the cops in the hose were efficient, which meant none of them had joined the department with the construction of the prison. They probably would have come to the city at the start of the war with Crystallus and Nokama.
“Nokama’s in the library,” muttered the Matoran of Lightning. She pointed towards the room that Glonor had guessed to be the study. The Av-Matoran smiled at her, noticing the weight of her eyes. She looked completely exhausted.
“Which one’s the library?” he asked, pretending not to know. He liked the Matoran of Lightning. She seemed very professional and she definitely knew what she was doing. That or he just had a peculiar taste in possible friends.
“Follow me.” She spoke with a tone that appeared cheery enough but Glonor was regretting asking her to show him now. It meant she was abandoning her post at the door.
Nevertheless, Glonor followed the Matoran of Lightning down the corridor and into the study. She pushed the door open then held it for Glonor, revealing a large, rectangular room that was filled to the breaking point with bookcases. There was a large window frame that ran from the ceiling of one wall right down to the ground – presumably some sort of doorway into a frozen garden. In contrast with the front room, the library was a complete mess, despite the floor being clear. The bookcases seemed strange and irregular. They clearly weren’t meant to fit across the wall the way they had been compressed into doing do, and the books were old and torn with pages falling out of them.
A second female cop stood by the window. She glanced briefly at Glonor then turned back to face the window. Her arms were folded and her gaze was distracted. Similarly to the Matoran of Lightning, she looked exhausted. Perhaps their shift was nearly over. They must have done the midnight to midday shift. Glonor couldn’t tell what time of day it was. The sky outside was completely obscured with falling snow and dark clouds above that. It was hard to imagine a calm blue sky.
There was a rustle to Glonor’s left. He stole a glance in the direction to see a Ga-Matoran sitting in a chair with a book on her lap. Behind the papers, the Av-Matoran could see a particularly bored looking expression plastered across the Matoran’s Kanohi Rau. Her eyes seemed to spark with life when she saw Glonor: Nokama presumably.
The Av-Matoran smiled then walked over to the corner of the room where an assortment of chairs were arranged. Compared to the rest of the house they looked somewhat out of place. He guessed that they had been bought for the four female cops in the house to sit on while they guarded Nokama. There were two chairs in total, one for each officer on a shift. The first was a small, comfy miniature armchair made from dark red fabric. There were no patterns stitched into it, just the simple, crimson color.
The other chair was made from metal and plastic. Not a particularly inviting piece of furniture but it was strong and sturdy. Glonor could see the nails had been drilled deep into the seat to hold it together tighter. The chair had no backrest.
Glonor grabbed the metal chair, the only logical choice. The metal chair was sturdy, so he was sure it wouldn’t break or that he wouldn’t damage it. Additionally, the fact that he had just come in from outside meant that the warmth from the inside of the house was causing the snow on his armor to melt. He was soaked. He didn’t want to make the fabric chair wet. Fabrics took longer to dry. Sitting on the metal chair also meant that it would force him to stay focused whereas the fabric chair would make him relax.
“So you’re Glonor the military cop?” asked Nokama with a slight smile.
“The one and only” replied the Av-Matoran without letting his frown crease into a smile. He was here for business.
Nokama smiled sadly for a moment then glanced out of the window. “So you were in the army?”
“A long time ago” muttered Glonor in response.
There was another spell of silence as the wind roared. Glonor continued to look at Nokama while she avoided his eye. The Ga-Matoran cop at the window glanced at him quickly then turned around again. Glonor could feel her eyes.
“Do you think I’m making the right decision?” asked Nokama after a full minute of quiet.
“About what?” frowned Glonor “The trial?”
Nokama nodded. “About risking my life.”
“Well I guess it depends what you saw.”
Now it was Nokama’s turn to frown as she turned from the window to face Glonor. “In what way?”
“Well, you say that you saw a biker trying to sell a Ko-Matoran a Kraata. If that’s what you saw then you’re doing the right thing. If it isn’t then you’re putting your life in danger for nothing.”
Nokama swallowed the nodded defiantly. “I know what I saw.”
“Do you think it’s enough to nail the guy?”
“I think it’s enough to ensure that he is convicted.”
“Then describe it to me” murmured Glonor as he leaned closer. “How much did you see?”
“I saw them talking, I saw the biker pull out the Kraata, I saw the Ko-Matoran examine it, I saw them argue then the Ko-Matoran paid the biker.”
“From what distance?”
“About ten bio.”
“Through a window?”
“From inside a shop, yes.”
“Was the glass clean?”
“It wasn’t snowing.”
“Where were they doing the trade?”
“In an alleyway next to the shop.”
“Was it brightly lit?”
“How’s your eyesight?”
“Good enough” answered Nokama with a smile.
“Why were you shopping in the evening?”
“We’d just heard that this snow storm was going to happen. I was stocking up on supplies.”
Glonor nodded slowly as he tried to keep thinking like someone at the trial. He knew he would make a terrible lawyer – he actually cared about the truth – but even he could see how strong Nokama’s case was. “And what did they actually trade?”
“I saw a small glass container, like a stasis tube, with a purple Kraata inside.”
“A Shadow Kraata?” Glonor cocked a questioning eyebrow.
“Did you see what stage it was at?”
Nokama’s eyes widened as she breathed out then shook her head slowly. “You can only see so much through the window of a shop. I’d have to guess it was an early stage otherwise it would be no use to a Matoran.”
“No doubts whatsoever?” asked Glonor as he leaned closer still. “Are you absolutely certain that you’re not resorting to any guesswork or assumptions whatsoever?”
“No gaps” answered Nokama “apart from the stage of the Kraata. Even if I’d been standing right in front of it I still couldn’t tell. It’s not the sort of thing you teach in schools.”
“I think you’ll be a great witness.”
“But is it worth risking my life for?”
“With a case like that?” Glonor cracked a smile. “Definitely. I’m guessing the Police Department has custody of the Kraata as evidence, right?” Nokama nodded in response. “Then they’ll probably ask you to describe it then, when you get it exactly right, they’ll be able to prove that the biker is involved with Kraata and the police can get a warrant to search their camp and, hopefully, boot these bikers out of your town.”
Nokama smiled slightly then leaned back in her chair. She relaxed, content that her suffering was worth it.
“How many others were in the shop?”
“Four, including the Matoran at the counter.”
“Did they see it too?”
“No, they were too busy ransacking the shelves for provisions.”
Glonor paused then leaned back in his chair. It didn’t have a backrest so he didn’t lean too far away from Nokama, but he felt as relaxed as anybody who had just walked into a house from a snow storm could be.
After about a minute of open silence, Glonor raised his head and evaluated the perimeter. The Ga-Matoran cop was still in the room facing the window, the Matoran of Lightning who he liked was in the hallway, the Onu-Matoran was in his cruiser outside, and there were presumably two other female cops asleep or on a break in the bedroom. Plus the entire neighborhood would have learnt of the importance of Nokama’s trial. They would probably have been alerted after hearing that Nokama’s life was in danger. And just to top it off, there was a paranoid police department that would disappear the second a siren sounded from the prison. Glonor was beginning to wonder if he was some sort of a magnet for situations like this.
“What do you know about the Kraata?” Glonor was mildly surprised as Nokama broke the silence with a question.
Confused, he straightened then turned to look her in the eye. “I know that your bikers seem to have quite a lot of them at their little war bunker and that some of them think it’s fashionable to have the things welded to their backs.”
Nokama raised an eyebrow. “That’s new” she muttered.
“So not all of them are like that?”
“No,” snorted the Ga-Matoran. “but they’re growing Kraata. It’s common knowledge here, drives the police mad though.”
“I guess it would” commented Glonor. “What do you think of Chief Glacii? How’s he handling this Kraata thing?”
“I think that he’s getting lazy” answered Nokama simply yet harshly. “Sure his wife died but it’s changed him. He’s starting to get sloppy. If Crystallus wasn’t at his side then who knows what would happen to Elysium.”
Glonor felt a little shocked. He had liked Glacii. Hearing Nokama bash the grieving Ko-Matoran didn’t feel right. It was obvious that he was in hot water at the moment. The prison had only recently opened and his department had just doubled. Crystallus seemed to be coping with the sudden expansion but Glacii didn’t seem to have. Glonor cast his mind back to the night before, to the moment when the headlights of Crystallus’ cruiser had revealed the scene in the alleyway. He remembered the look of fear in the police chief’s eyes. For Mata Nui’s sake, Glacii had nearly been killed yesterday. If the tour bus hadn’t crashed outside the city then Elysium very well could have lost its chief of police that night. Maybe Nokama would have had something nicer to say about the chief of police if Glonor hadn’t been around to save him.
“What about the bunker?” Glonor muttered, trying to change the subject. “Do you know much about it?”
Nokama shook her head. “I was living in Ga-Metru when it was built. I only moved here after the war, a lot of people did, people like Crystallus.”
“What about stories or rumors?” asked Glonor, a note of desperation in his voice. “I don’t know when but Crystallus is probably going to make me go down there and have a sniff around.”
“Oh, the stories” sighed Nokama. “To tell you the truth nobody really knows what goes on down there. From what I recall, it was built to house weapons or surplus war supplies. Crystallus is probably right to send you for reconnaissance.”
“But what about the Kraata? You witnessed a biker selling one to a Ko-Matoran and I got into a fight with two bikers who were possessed by Kraata. There’s a connection.”
Nokama’s eyes widened. “You got into a fight with two bikers? Who were being controlled by Kraata?”
“I won if that’s what you’re wondering” replied Glonor with a shrug.
“Remind me not to get on your bad side” muttered Nokama as she blinked and shook her head. “But still, to answer your question people around here are certain that the bikers are involved with growing Kraata. It’s part of the reason why they want me to testify. If we win the case then the bikers get evicted from the town.”
“It makes sense I guess” grunted the Av-Matoran. “An underground bunker would be ideal for growing Kraata. But they aren’t grown. We all know where Kraata come from.”
“Makuta” answered Nokama with a sigh.
“Do you think there’s a Makuta inside that thing?”
“How else are Kraata made?”
Glonor shrugged. “There is no other way, and the Kraata from the two bikers who I got into a fight with were both in stage 5. That’s quite old for a Kraata but it’s still quite recent.”
“Which means there’s definitely a Makuta down there” muttered Nokama darkly. “Kraata aren’t like weapons. If they were building anything else then the police could track the raw materials. But one Makuta can create an army of those things.”
“So the cops have let a gang of bikers, your hit man, and a Makuta into the city while they’re on red alert” grunted Glonor. When he saw Nokama’s frown he realized he must have said something he shouldn’t have. Frowning, he replayed the conversation in his mind and realized that he had mentioned the assassin who had killed Papura. Nokama obviously hadn’t been told that her killer was in the city… Oops…
Luckily for Glonor, the doorbell suddenly chimed shortly before the door opened. The Matoran of Lightning mustn’t have been at her post. The Ga-Matoran at the window suddenly tensed and turned to face the doorway. Whether he feared the worst or was just practicing for when the killer arrived was beyond Glonor. What he did know was that he was standing at the doorway to the library before he had even realized he had stood up.
He stood there for a few seconds before the door reopened and two Matoran entered the hallway. The first one was the Matoran of Lightning officer who had been in the hallway. The second was Chief Glacii. A soft flurry of cold air and snow followed them in. Glacii stamped his feet on the mat then cringed as the warmth hit him. Being a Ko-Matoran the outside weather was normal to him. Coming into the warmth was probably painful.
The Ko-Matoran turned to see Glonor. When his eyes rested on the Av-Matoran he smiled faintly then made his way over to him, leaving a melted trail of slush behind him. Glonor decided to meet him in the middle of the hallway so that the wooden floorboards didn’t get wet.
“How are things?” asked the Av-Matoran, hungry for more information on the situation.
“We’ve been looking into the Papura case” replied Glacii with a cough. “He was in his cruiser, with the window rolled down and a bullet hole between his eyes.”
Glonor nodded slowly, filing the new information away in the filing cabinet that was his brain. “How’s Crystallus?”
“He’s fine I guess” grunted Glacii. “He’s been leading the investigation for the past hour, but that’s not what I’m here for. I need to bring you over to the headquarters right away.”
“What?” frowned Glonor. “Why?”
Glacii smiled then nodded towards the front door. “We’ve caught the guy who killed Papura.”
Glonor’s smile suddenly disappeared as he grew serious. This was a ground-breaking turn in the case. Crystallus seemed to have cracked the mystery right open in the hour that Glonor had spent sitting in Nokama’s house. Naturally he was skeptical.
The investigation could only have started when Crystallus arrived at the headquarters an hour ago. One hour was too quick to reach a solution to a case like this. Solutions that were too good to be true usually weren’t.
“So who killed Papura?” asked Glonor cautiously.
Glacii smiled widely and leaned closer, as if it was some sort of secret.
|Spoiler Warning: Upcoming plot and/or ending details follow. Highlight the white space below to view text.|
“Knox the bus driver” he answered.
|Spoiler Warning ends here.|
The Ko-Matoran smiled, leaned back again then frowned when he realized how confused Glonor seemed.
Glacii didn’t explain anything to Glonor during the drive back to the police headquarters, leaving the two Matoran sat in a hostile silence. In the meantime, Glonor tried to recall what Knox would have done. He cast his mind back to the bus, when he had sat next to the Agori as they froze. The reason that the police had been unable to send someone to the tour bus was because they were investigating the Fe-Matoran’s death. Knox had not stepped out of the bus once in that time, so he clearly could not have killed the Fe-Matoran if he had been found dead while they were in the tour bus. If Knox was the hired gun then he couldn’t have killed both the Fe-Matoran and the Ba-Matoran. Even so, could Knox have tracked Papura down and shot him overnight in the snow? No, he couldn’t have. It was such a small amount of time. The police certainly seemed to think he had but Glonor didn’t. The Agori he had spoken to on the bus had not struck him as a killer. It didn’t make sense.
The police station looked very different in the daytime. It wasn’t much lighter as the snow was still falling heavily and the clouds above that were grey, but Glonor could see a lot more than he had seen through the grimy window of the renovated Vahki transporter. He noticed how large the building was. It was two stories high and was built from an immaculate white stone. The cables and wires still jutted out of the roof, exactly the same as they had done the night before.
Just like the snowy roof, the inside of the building didn’t seem to be any different from how it had looked the night before. Now it was almost empty. The department was absent of the noise and chatter of tired Matoran, Matoran who had probably only crawled out of bed a little over three hours ago into another day in the freezing city of Elysium. There were about ten cops in the room, most were Ko-Matoran but Glonor managed to spot a few other kinds. There were several Onu-Matoran and Ga-Matoran amongst the others. He might have spotted a couple of other types but he didn’t feel like evaluating them. He hadn’t expected to see any Ta-Matoran and he had not.
Some of the cops looked exhausted, some of them looked wide-eyed and awake. Some of them looked focused, some of them were fooling around. Some were tidy, some were a complete mess. It was easy enough to pick the older, more experienced officers from the newer, careless ones who had come to the city when the prison was expanded. It was also easy enough to see the tension between the two groups. The focused, more reliable group seemed to sit at desks nearer to the doorway to the offices while the distracted, lazy group seemed to slouch nearer the entrance, like a massive classroom with the good students at the front and the underachievers at the back. The Av-Matoran was clearly beginning to see Glacii’s problem. He was running a department of two halves: a good half and a bad half. It was a wonder Crystallus had gotten anything done all morning with some of the cops in the room.
Clearly the weather seemed to be eating into the numbers. Glonor imagined that the snow would cause car crashes and traffic violations all over the city, plus some of the lazier cops would have stayed at home if they were snowed in.
Glacii continued towards the better half while Glonor followed. When he reached the end of the room he opened a door and stepped into the office section. Several small desks lay behind the glass door. There were about five in total but only two were occupied by a pair of Ko-Matoran. The two Matoran of Ice looked up at Glacii then glanced at Glonor blankly. One of them was the Ko-Matoran who had worn white and green armor and had handed Glacii the TOP SECRET file about the Fe-Matoran the night before. The other was someone who Glonor had not met before. Both Matoran had identification plaques attached to their desks. The Ko-Matoran who Glonor had met before was apparently called Birus. The other Ko-Matoran was called Algor. The plaques on their desks were a testament of that. Neither of them were armed. They had no communicators either. To Glonor’s well trained eye, they both looked suspicious. Why were they in here away from everybody else?
The Av-Matoran decided to dig deeper. He glanced from Birus to Algor as he walked past them. Both of them stared back but Glonor didn’t care. Algor wore a Kanohi Kiril. Birus wore a Kanohi Miru. Algor was sat up straight with a stack of paperwork on his desk. Birus had been slouching back in his chair doing nothing before he had noticed Glacii coming and decided to look busy, it was obvious. Both of them looked fit and healthy. Neither looked remotely happy.
Glonor waited until they were out of the room before he turned to Glacii and asked a question. “What was with those two?”
Glacii frowned then glanced behind him at the two Ko-Matoran in the inner office. “Who? Them? I guess they’re being punished.”
“For what? Throwing snowballs?”
Glacii shrugged then sighed. “Birus didn’t respond to an important call last week and Algor got flagged for police brutality against a biker.”
“Are they new?”
“Birus is new but Algor’s been here a little longer. He joined about a decade or two ago, during the war. A bit of an odd time for a transfer out of the war zone but we accepted him nonetheless.”
“So what’s their punishment?”
“They spend two weeks being runners. They carry stuff from place to place within the department, like Birus carried that folder to me when you were in my office last night.” Glonor grunted as he filed their names away. He didn’t trust either of them. Birus seemed like some lowlife slacker while Algor didn’t make sense. He was being punished for violence but the Matoran sitting in the room behind him – the Matoran who was sat up straight and working hard – didn’t look anything like a violent person. So why was he in this position?
“What’s the deal with Algor?” asked Glonor. He didn’t feel like keeping the question tucked away at the back of his mind. He’d forget it that way.
Glacii’s brow became more creased as he shrugged. “What? Why he attacked the biker?”
“Why you hired him if you thought his timing was suspicious” corrected Glonor.
Glacii shrugged again. “Well, the department was a lot smaller back then and he stuffed up the interview. I guess I felt sorry for him and offered him a job. He’s doing well enough now. Bit of a loner though.”
“I’m not sure. He just seems kind of distant and he doesn’t talk much” explained Glacii. Glonor nodded as the Ko-Matoran opened the door to the inner squad room, where Crystallus was waiting.
Glonor got the story second hand. Around forty minutes ago a cop on patrol had been driving along when he noticed a pedestrian struggling through deep snow in a particularly rural area, about a mio out of the Elysium town limit. Crystallus described the patrolling cop as one of ours, which indicated he was one of the older members of the department.
The Av-Matoran continued to listen to learn that the cop had stopped to offer the pedestrian a ride back into town when he had noticed the stranger was carrying a handgun. The cop had managed to make the stranger hand over the gun where he learnt that it had been recently fired and that there was a bullet missing.
The cop then arrested the pedestrian and drove him back to the police department to be put in a cell. However, when he had entered the building one of the cops in the lobby had remembered him from the night before and revealed that he was the bus driver from the tour bus that crashed. The stranger had then been forced to reveal that his name was Knox. Shortly afterwards he had been detained. Crystallus had been informed of the Agori’s arrest and had leapt out of his seat.
After Knox had been tested for gunshot residue the results had come back positive, which meant that he had definitely fired the gun that he had been found with at some point in the last few hours, which fitted in with the time when Papura had been shot. The Agori had then been dragged down to the cells and thrown into one of the empty holding pens while the cops decided his fate. He hadn’t asked for a lawyer and he hadn’t said a word since he had revealed that his name was Knox when he arrived at the building.
Glacii had left to look at Knox in his cell. Glonor had seen that urge dozens of times back on Vacca-Nui. The cops would go down to the cells just to look at the prisoners as if they were animals in the Archives. Afterwards they would return and say something about how there was something not quite right about the prisoner. Glonor doubted Glacii was going to be much of an exception.
Crystallus had moved from the squad room and was now in his office with Glonor standing at his window, unsure whether or not to watch the snow or the police officer before him.
It was obvious what the Ko-Matoran was thinking. Glonor could imagine him tying up the loose ends in his head, another urge that he had seen before – a particularly dangerous urge. It meant that he was tying the case around Knox and that he was seeing what he wanted to see. The Av-Matoran finally sighed then walked around the desk, grabbed the visitor’s chair, then sat facing Crystallus.
“How many bullets were in this Papura guy?”
“Just the one” replied the Ko-Matoran. “Between his eyes.”
“And does it fit the barrel on Knox’s gun?”
Crystallus nodded. “It’s a common bullet and it’s a common gun.”
“How many bullets are missing from the gun?”
“Is the distance plausible?” asked Glonor.
“The cop found him about 3 kio away from where Papura was killed.”
“3 kio?” repeated Glonor as he raised an eyebrow. “That’s a bit far for him to go on foot through heavy snow.”
Crystallus shrugged casually. “He could have ditched his vehicle.”
Glonor’s forehead creased at the mention of transport. “Vehicle? What vehicle?”
Crystallus cracked a smile as he grabbed a file from a pile of folders then handed it to Glonor. “Take a look for yourself.”
Cautiously, Glonor took the folder then opened it. His eyes rested upon a stack of photographs, photographs of the crime scene that Crystallus had gone to that morning. Glonor thumbed through them, taking in everything in each picture then handed them back to Crystallus.
“Well?” muttered the Ko-Matoran. “What did you notice?”
“There are no footprints and there’s a second pair of tyre tracks” replied Glonor with a grunt. “Which means your killer arrived on a car, flagged Papura over, then shot him in the Mask, which tells us he’s a pretty damn good shot.” Crystallus did not comment as Glonor came to the same conclusion in seconds that had taken him the best part of half an hour. “How does this fit Knox?” asked Glonor as he tilted his head. “What would he have done after crashing the bus?”
“OK,” muttered Crystallus as he scratched his forehead. “Knox crashes the bus on purpose, uses anti-skid brakes or traction control or something to make it look like he skidded. He sits with you and the other passengers until I arrive, then he gets brought into Elysium and some Ko-Matoran offers him a room until a replacement bus comes.”
“Did the guy who volunteered to take him in notice the gun or anything?” asked Glonor.
“If he did then he hasn’t mentioned it. We spoke to him immediately after Knox was arrested and he said that he left the house early in the morning and that he hadn’t come back since.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to bother the Ko-Matoran” suggested Glonor with a shrug.
“Possibly,” replied Crystallus idly.
“So how would he have killed Papura?”
Crystallus picked up the folder and leafed through the pictures until he produced the fourth photograph. It showed the body of a Ba-Matoran driver and the interior of the car. The black and purple armored cop was slumped backwards with his Kanohi Pakari facing upwards. There was a large pink stain against the glass, which was undoubtedly the Matoran’s blood.
“Knox is in a car, Papura’s in a police cruiser. They’re both heading down the same road but in different directions. They’re driving slowly because of the ice. Knox might flag down Papura and pretend he needs help. Being a cop Papura’s forced to pull over and check. He winds down his window, probably trying to guess what the problem is before Knox says it. But, instead, Knox shoots him in the head then drives on.”
“Is Knox left handed?”
“I don’t think so.” Crystallus turned to scan his desk for a file. When he found it he grabbed it, like a Lava Hawk swiping up a Stone Rat. He skimmed through the details then pointed at something on the paper. “Yep, right handed.”
“Did you find a shell cartridge?”
“No. It probably bounced off into his vehicle.”
Glonor sighed. “It wasn’t him.”
Crystallus’ brow became lined with ridges as he frowned. “How come?”
“If he’s right handed then he would have been shooting across his body and out of the window. He’d have to have one hell of a good aim to shoot Papura directly between the eyes about three or four bio away while holding the gun across his body. Is he that good a shot?”
Crystallus didn’t answer.
“What about this mystery vehicle? Has anybody reported any cars parked in the middle of nowhere?”
The Ko-Matoran rubbed the back of his head. “It would have been pre-arranged. A biker probably got it for him then he could have returned it before he was arrested.”
“A biker? I thought you said their camp was a mio or two away from the city.”
“Another reason why you should go up there and check it out” muttered the Kakama wearer. “They have at least half a dozen stolen cars up there. If you search them you might find our missing bullet case.”
“How would he even know where Papura was?” asked Glonor as he took back the folder and looked at the pictures again. He was growing bored.
“The guy who gave him the car probably told him. I can look into Papura’s patrol schedule if you want. Perhaps he’s been taking the same routes recently. Could have formed a pattern.”
Glonor sighed as he tossed the file back onto the desk without looking at any of the photographs. “I still don’t get how he would have crashed the bus. He said something about how the fuel cell could have been damaged then when he turned the engine back on the power cut. You can’t fake that. It was a genuine crash. If he had planned it then he probably would have crashed the bus in a way that allowed him to keep the heating on.”
Crystallus leaned closer. “He said that he swerved because a biker was heading right for him and he twitched. That could have been arranged. Did you see the biker?”
“I don’t know, I was asleep” grunted Glonor. An awkward silence hung in the room as the two Matoran looked at each other, cogs whirling away inside their heads. Glonor finally spoke up after he realized Crystallus was out of ideas. “I think you’ve got the wrong guy. I spoke to Knox on the bus and, with my professional opinion, he did not strike me as a killer.”
Crystallus sighed then held his head in his hands. “He had a gun and he fired it. That’s been proven. Did you know he had the gun?”
“No I didn’t but it doesn’t mean he shot someone.”
Crystallus grunted then leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. As if on cue, the Ko-Matoran’s communicator suddenly started to buzz on the side of his Kanohi Kakama. He reached up then pressed a button, listened for exactly eight seconds, then shut it off. He cracked a slight smile then turned to face Glonor. “That was chief Glacii. Apparently Knox has finally started talking.”
Glonor nodded slowly then rose to his feet. “Well then I guess things are about to start changing.”
Glonor had been right. The situation had definitely started to change by the time the two Matoran had arrived at the holding cell. Knox was being interrogated by Glacii. The Agori had started speaking moments ago and was now talking about his gun.
Knox said he had always carried the weapon for self defense against particularly aggressive passengers. After the bus had crashed he had gotten angry, at himself mostly for twitching and landing all twenty-one passengers in Elysium. He hadn’t liked the Ko-Matoran who had taken him in so he had left the house early in the morning to get away from him.
He then stated that he had gone off for a walk in the snow, a long angry walk. He had tried to wear off his fury. However he had soon come across a road sign warning about how slippery the road was. Seeing the sign in such an inconvenient place had made him lose his temper, particularly after the absence of such a marker had caused him to crash yesterday. He had pulled out his handgun and fired a bullet at it. After Glacii had shifted in his seat Knox had apologized but justified his action by claiming that every single road sign in the city seemed to be pitted with similar bullet holes.
Knox had then admitted that he had tried to find his way back to where he had crashed the tour bus. He could vaguely recall the route back to the abandoned coach and had tried to make his way over to it only for the cop to show up and arrest him. Crystallus had noted that Knox had actually been arrested fairly close to the bus and that his journey through the snow was plausible. He also mentioned if Knox had done the walk on foot then his footprints would still fresh in the snow. It was unlikely that anybody else would have walked along the same path in the past two hours so they would still be there. Glacii sent a patrol car to check after requesting that it was fitted with a metal detector so that they could find the bullet Knox had fired at the road sign.
Approximately half an hour later, the patrol cop called Glacii through a communicator channel and reported his findings. He revealed that he had found Knox’s footprints and that he had found the shell case too, which had burnt its way through the snow. The cop also confirmed that the road sign in question had a new bullet hole in it. The hole was brighter and clearly fresher than the other bullet holes. Knox had not shot anybody.
The Agori was completely free five minutes later. All charges had been dropped and his alibi was strong enough to exclude him from the investigation. However, Glacii had insisted that his hand gun should stay with the police until the replacement bus arrived. Knox agreed without argument and told them they could keep it for all the trouble it had caused him.
Glonor watched the Agori leave the building through the window of the main squad room. It was obvious that Knox was still angry. He’d just been arrested for taking a walk. His fury was evident from the way he kicked the snow as he strode onwards. When he finally got out of Elysium, Glonor doubted the Agori was going to stay in Ko-Metru.
The Iden wearer turned around to face Crystallus. The department was now completely empty. After letting Knox go Glacii and Crystallus had agreed that the mystery killer was still on the loose and that the department should be on red alert. Every available officer, including Birus and Algor, had been bundled into cruisers and had been sent off to prowl the streets for suspicious behavior. Glacii had disappeared into his office on the other side of the building, leaving Glonor and Crystallus as the only Matoran in the squad room. The Ko-Matoran looked depressed as he flicked through the crime scene photographs.
“If it makes you feel any better those were some pretty good pictures you took” commented Glonor.
Crystallus grunted then placed the pictures back in their folder. “I just made a fool of this whole department” he sighed. “Who was I kidding? It obviously wasn’t Knox. I was trying to convince Glacii about that last night. I’ve just wasted time.”
“No you haven’t” implored Glonor in the friendliest tone his voice box would allow him to make. “You did a great job! So you blamed the wrong person. I think you were right about how it went down. The fact there were no footprints at the crime scene proves your theory. The shooter rolled his window down to call Papura over. They both stopped. The question is why he stopped.”
Crystallus frowned as confusion spread across his Kanohi Kakama. “He stopped because he got flagged down. He probably thought it was some citizen in distress.”
“Did he have his foot on the gears?”
Crystallus paused then voiced his response. “No. If I recall correctly he stuck it on Park.”
“So he expected he was going to be there for a long time?”
“What? You think he knew the shooter?”
“Why else would he expect a long conversation?” shrugged Glonor. “Plus, the fact he was a Ba-Matoran’s another thing you missed out. He was like me. He didn’t have any resistance to cold temperatures. He only would have buzzed his window down slightly to keep the heat in. The fact he buzzed it down all the way suggests he was expecting a fully blown discussion.”
“It’s worse than that” winced Crystallus. “He was probably friends with the shooter, which means he’s been here for ages.”
Recently, Garnax had taken up the hobby of walking around his island every. As most of it was covered by lust green rainforest and smooth sandy beaches, he usually returned to his mansion in a much calmer mood. Today he decided to end his walk by walking past his latest prisoner. The unfortunate Le-Matoran was chained by his wrists and ankles between two parallel metal poles. He was hoisted into the air supported only his own strength as he gripped his hands around the chains to keep himself from having his arms torn out.
This particular Le-Matoran had been a thief. He had once worked in the kitchen of Garnax’s mansion. Normally, Garnax would never harm members of his own staff, at least none of the current ones. One or two had annoyed him in the past and had been buried alive in the rich soils of his island, but nobody needed to know about them. However, this Le-Matoran deserved something worse than being buried alive. Garnax’s guards had caught him trying to hide treasures – which he had stolen from Garnax’s mansion – inside a hollow tree trunk in hopes of selling them on and buying his freedom. Garnax wasn’t a slave driver, or at least he didn’t like to think that he was. To an extent, Garnax was willing to turn a blind eye on the odd mistake made by his staff but he was not tolerant towards disloyalty.
Hence the Le-Matoran, chained to the post by his limbs.
The rainforest could be a beautiful place by day but at night it was a different story. Miniscule insects such as Protodites or other parasites would emerge from the damp conditions with their venomous stingers. Garnax ensured that his mansion was locked up tight and that all the members of his staff were indoors every night. All of the necessary precautions had been taken to protect his home from the insects but the jungle remained untouched. Anybody left on the outside of the mansion was a meal on legs to the creatures of the night, a meal that they were glad to feast upon. By midnight the Le-Matoran thief was going to have more venom in his bloodstream than blood.
Unless Garnax decided against it.
He wasn’t going to but until nightfall Garnax could do what he wanted to the Matoran. After all, a sharp sickle was in his hands and he Le-Matoran’s fingers were in his reach. Perhaps he would have a little more fun out of his victim before he died a slow painful death.
Garnax was about to say something witty and cruel to the Matoran when his communicator buzzed. The Po-Matoran frowned and pressed the button on the ear piece while he lay his sickle down on the ground. He assumed that it would be his agent in Elysium but he was surprised to hear the voice of his master on the communicator line.
“What is the situation?” growled the Makuta. Garnax’s eyes widened. Despite the fact that his master was trapped on Bara Magna with the other Makuta, the Po-Matoran felt afraid. He always did when he spoke to his master. That was why he had joined the Brotherhood. It was the only thing in existence that he feared.
“The Ba-Matoran cop was killed three or four hours ago.”
“And the Ga-Matoran witness?”
“Not yet” answered Garnax. He felt a lump develop in his throat as his stomach began to hurt.
“So when will she be dead?”
“Soon” promised Garnax with as much meaning as he could manage.
“How soon?” replied the unnamed Makuta impatiently.
“And what of your plans?” demanded the Makuta. “When are you launching the attack on Metru-Nui?”
“I’m leaving as soon as the Airship arrives” answered Garnax. “It’ll still be a couple of hours though.”
“How much longer must I wait for you?” growled Garnax’s master.
“Don’t worry, Master” grunted Garnax as he desperately tried to hide his fear. “Two more days, that’s all it will take. Once the witnesses are eliminated I can begin the next phase. I’ll call my agent in the city and tell him that killing the Ga-Matoran is our top priority.”
The line went dead as the Makuta broke off the communication line. Garnax sighed then switched the device off on his Kanohi. He shuddered then tossed the sickle towards the Le-Matoran. It landed about a bio away from him. The Matoran of Air whined as he tried to reach out for it to no avail. His legs were restrained. His arms were restrained. The sickle could easily force apart the chains, it was the key to his escape, but he was too far away. His escape was so close but he could not reach it. He wouldn’t reach it. Garnax doubted that he would manage to touch the sickle let alone use it to escape.
The journey ahead of Garnax was not going to be a pleasant one. The Po-Matoran looked at the next forty-eight hours in his mind. He liked to think visually. He was going to be in Metru-Nui as it fell. He was going to be there, in the heart of the flames of the final battle for the Matoran Universe.
He was going to need a team. Six strong, reliable Matoran were going to have to accompany him on his mission. Good Matoran, but now so good that he couldn’t afford to leave them behind if the situation came to that.
Which he hoped it would.
Glonor sat alone and gazed out of one of the triple glazed squad room windows into the heart of the howling snow storm. On the other side of the glass the sky was dark and ominous, like it had been every single day for the past month, which was one hell of a storm, even for Ko-Metru.
The Matoran of Light wondered how the residents of the village could continue to live in Elysium with such little sunlight. The city had come to a standstill with Matoran being snowed into their homes and the ice getting thicker every passing minute. The police headquarters was the only place that seemed to have electricity for kio around. Nokama’s house didn’t. Crystallus’ house didn’t. Glonor could only guess how Matoran were keeping warm. He tried to imagine the 8,270 nearby souls as they huddled together in the cold. A couple of kio away Nokama would be watching the four female officers switch shifts and take up positions in her house. To the east the bikers would be doing whatever the hell they wanted to do.
And somewhere in the frozen city, the hired-gun would be preparing for his next kill.
Glonor was abruptly forced to peel his eyes away from the window as the orange glow of the lighting grid flooded the room. The department was still on red alert, which meant either Glacii or Crystallus had just turned on the lights, a 50/50 chance of guessing who it had been. Glonor took a guess then turned around to see Crystallus standing at the glass door to the offices. He had guessed correctly.
“Why are you sitting in the dark?” frowned the deputy chief. “I thought you Av-Matoran liked things bright.”
Glonor shrugged – a slight movement of his shoulders – then turned back to the window, his arms still folded. “It’s bright enough” he replied. Now that the lights were on he could only see his reflection in the window, just like he had seen the TOP SECRET file in Glacii’s office nearly a day before. Seeing as he could no longer observe Elysium through the glass, the Av-Matoran decided to turn his attention to Crystallus.
“We just got a call from one of the bikers” grunted the cop. He strolled over the desk next to Glonor’s then sat down heavily in the chair. “He was wondering what happened to his two buddies, the ones you put in hospital last night.”
Glonor said nothing.
“I told him we’d look into it” muttered Crystallus after the pause.
“Did he mention the Kraata?”
“While talking to the police on an unsecured communicator line? He wasn’t that stupid.”
“Did he make any threats?” asked Glonor.
“He hung up after I said we couldn’t pull anybody off of the red alert patrol.”
The Av-Matoran nodded faintly as he examined himself in the glass. He didn’t look too shabby, not for a Matoran who had spent five hours in a frozen tour bus a day ago. He compared his reflection to Crystallus’. The two Matoran were about the same height but Glonor had a much broader frame.
The fact that Crystallus looked tired was an understatement. His eyes seemed heavier than usual and he had hobbled along slower than he should have when he crossed the room to the desk. Plus he had literally collapsed into the chair. Only then did Glonor catch his first glimpse of Crystallus’ responsibility, the weight that would soon be resting on his shoulders.
Lately, Glacii seemed harassed – losing a loved one could do that to a person. As Nokama had told him, the police chief was getting sloppy. One day, in the not too distant future, he was probably going to have to retire. And when that day came, Crystallus was expected to idly jump into the ring and take up Glacii’s position. He was supposed to be the shining future for the Elysium police department, the fresh new blood. Yet Glacii hadn’t even taken up fishing and Crystallus was already tired.
“What about the bunker? Do you still want me to check it out?”
Crystallus tilted his head so he faced Glonor then shrugged. “I guess I can rope Birus and Algor into going with you tomorrow morning. It would give them something to do and I’ve had them both in my face all morning. A bit of fresh air will probably do them some good.”
Glonor shook his head. “Actually, I was going to go there alone. Besides, from what I’ve seen, Birus is a slacker and Algor’s a creep. They’ll stick out as local cops for kio around.”
Glonor watched as Crystallus’ face fell. Clearly the two Ko-Matoran had been disturbing him while Glonor had been with Nokama. Why would they do that? Had they been trying to keep up to date with the department’s progress on tracking down the killer? Again Glacii’s description of Algor drifted into Glonor’s mind. He just seemed like the suspicious type. Why would he want to stay close to a case that presumably didn’t involve him?
Crystallus shifted in his seat so that he faced Glonor fully. “So you’re just going to show up there tomorrow?”
“I’ll say I’m from the army” suggested the Av-Matoran. “It’s a military facility so I’ll turn up and say I’m doing an inspection of our property.”
Crystallus shook his head. “Won’t work. They’re want proof.”
“No they won’t” retorted Glonor. “They’re in no position. If they’re staying there illegally on the army’s property and I turn up they’ll get scared. They won’t think about checking my credentials. They’ll just see some big, mean guy from the army doing an inspection.”
Crystallus did not respond. The two Matoran sat in suspended silence. Glonor returned to his original trail of thought. The mysterious hired-gun was still at large, which was definitely not good news. Clearly the murderer had no motive behind his killings, which suggested he was more of an assassin, which in turn told Glonor that he was one hell of a smart guy. So far, he had baffled the local police by carrying off two homicides without leaving anything linking him to the crime scenes. They knew that he had used a common handgun that was fitted with an equally common bullet and tracing either would be like searching for a Rahi-free area in the Archives.
However, the fact that the killer had driven past Papura and managed to press his weapon against the Ba-Matoran’s forehead indicated that he was left handed, an unusual trait that Glonor hopes would help him to catch the killer before he turned up at Nokama’s doorstep.
Crystallus finally brought Glonor back to the present with a new question. “So when will you go down to the bunker?”
Glonor shrugged casually. “I could go now and get out of your way.”
“Now?” repeated Crystallus with a frown, as if the word was alien to him.
The Av-Matoran raised a finger from his folded arms and pointed towards the grey sky. “It’s still early enough. If I was doing an official inspection I’d probably have set off from some army base in Ko-Metru in the morning and would be arriving here at midday, which, believe it or not, was about two hours ago, plus the roads would be all blocked so it would take longer. The timing would work perfectly.”
Crystallus nodded gently. A long moment passed until the Ko-Matoran extended his palm towards Glonor. The Av-Matoran expected him to be doing some sort of a fist-clank. He twisted to face the deputy chief to see a small device in his hands – a police communicator.
“So I can keep in touch with you” muttered Crystallus.
Glonor snorted as he picked up the tiny gadget and thumbed it over in his fingers. “Whose idea was this?”
“Mine” responded the Ko-Matoran.
“So you can keep track of me?”
“So you can talk to us over here” corrected the Kakama wearer.
Glonor grunted in response and connected the earpiece of the small metal device to his audio receptor. He then tried to clamp the mouthpiece to his mask. After several unsuccessful attempts Crystallus finally decided to attach it for him.
“Are you sure you want to head over to the bunker now?” asked Crystallus.
“Depends how I’m going to get there.”
“I can’t drive you” muttered the Ko-Matoran. “I have work to do. The department has a couple of unmarked cruisers though, maybe one with the snow-chains you insist on using.” The Kakama-wearing Matoran paused for a moment before asking his next question. “What time will you get back?”
“Late” grunted Glonor without taking his eyes off of their reflections. “It’s probably best if I don’t stay with you and Lagira anymore. It would be a lot more convenient if I just stayed at Nokama’s house. That way I’d always be there if the siren went off. Plus this communicator will let me keep up to date.”
Crystallus nodded, his arms now crossed as he listened. The cop leaned forwards and looked Glonor in the eye. “There’s one last thing I want to know” he muttered. The Av-Matoran did not take his eyes off the window. “Why did you leave the army?”
Glonor shrugged then faced Crystallus fully. That was a personal question, one that Crystallus had left for quite some time. He had obviously been wondering about it for a while now. Glonor imagined the question gnawing away at his conscience. The Ko-Matoran was skeptical to trust him without knowing the answer to that particular question, which made Glonor’s response extremely important. Something he took into account as he cast his mind back.
“There was a war, back on Vacca-Nui” he said with a grave sigh. “Mata Nui knows how it started but it lasted for twenty seven years.”
Crystallus nodded vigilantly then leaned in closer.
“Ironically, I made it through to the twenty-sixth year on the front line.”
“I thought you were a military policeman.”
“I was” grunted the Av-Matoran. “But I volunteered to fight. Major Glonor. Stupid little fool. I served over a century in the army and the only time I ever got wounded wasn’t even with a bullet.”
“What happened?” asked Crystallus, his brow creasing into a deep frown as he studied Glonor.
The Av-Matoran shrugged again then cast his mind back. “I was standing outside a secure compound with my regiment, out in the open. Some Po-Matoran battalion turns up with Nektann Blasters. One goes off and causes an explosion about 100 bio from the compound.”
Crystallus nodded slowly. Glonor could picture him trying to rebuild the scene in his mind, which would be hard for him. He knew nothing of warfare or explosions. But there was still a glimmer of understanding in his eyes.
“I was out in the open. One of the other guys in my squad was standing about 30 bio away from where the Nektann warhead hit the ground. He was torn apart.”
“So you quit after seeing that?”
Glonor smiled then shook his head. “I’d already seen a bunch of things that were worse than that” he grunted as he uncrossed his arms, sat up, and pulled off a piece of his chest armor that was directly above his right thigh. The millennia-old battle scar revealed itself.
“Is that a bullet wound?”
“Nope” chuckled the Av-Matoran darkly. “The guy’s jaw bone was the only piece left of him. By chance it hit me right in the chest. I went down. The Po-Matoran left me for dead, killed off the rest of my squad, then blew up the compound.”
Crystallus was silent.
“I lay there in the rubble and filth for eight days before somebody found me covered in my own dried blood. I was caked in so much mud and grime by then that they probably thought I was a Po-Matoran myself. I was transported to a hospital, where I spent four months. When I finally recovered and returned to duty the war was over.”
“So that was why you retired?” asked Crystallus. “You were wounded in action?”
Glonor shook his head again. “The military had changed a lot after the war, it had been torn apart then forced back together again after nearly three decades of hate. I just didn’t was to be a part of it anymore.”
Crystallus nodded slowly, trying to take in all that Glonor had said. His eyes were still wide with shock.
“I got a medal for it” remarked Glonor irrelevantly.
Crystallus said nothing.
“They placed it on my desk the day I quit. No ceremony. No fancy cushion. Just a cold piece of metal. I got a lot of medals while I was in the army. That was the worst of them all. It was like being rewarded for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“What kind of medal was it?” asked the Ko-Matoran.
“A Purple Heart-Stone.”
“Do you still have it?”
Glonor smiled sadly then shook his head weakly. “I went to the burial for the other members of my battalion. I was the last surviving member. I threw the damn medal in with their caskets and they buried it for me.”
The department was as silent as a grave. Glonor took his eyes off the window and decided to stand up. He tried to think of what to expect when he arrived at the war bunker. He doubted the area would be a greatly confusing place to get around, the army didn’t tend to go for complex structures, which made things considerably simpler. The terrain would be flat and it would be kio away from anywhere, typical army location. However, as simple as Glonor told himself that it would be, he knew that there would still be a problem. And that problem would be the one hundred rebellious bikers, who just so happened to be resisting the entire Elysium police department.
Crystallus opened his mouth, paused, then swallowed back the words he hadn’t even said. “I was going to say that I would bring your bags over to Nokama’s but you don’t have any, do you?”
Glonor nodded then smiled as reassuringly as he could in an attempt to lighten the mood that he had set. “Still hate my light travelling technique?”
“Not so much” shrugged Crystallus with the slightest of smiles. “I’ll call ahead to the cops at Nokama’s and tell them that you’ll be staying.”
Glonor grunted in agreement. “And make a call to the prison as well” he added. “Tell them that I’ll come around at some point tomorrow.”
Crystallus nodded then frowned. “Sure, but why the prison?”
The Av-Matoran cracked a smile. “You told me that Nokama witnessed a biker selling a Kraata to a Ko-Matoran. Well I want to meet the biker.”
Glacii sat alone in his office. His chair was swiveled around so he was facing the window. The lighting grid and heating were switched off, which meant the office was about as cold and dark as the arctic world on the other side of the triple glazed glass. The filing cabinets looked strange and crooked in the shadows of the office. Perhaps that was why the police chief did not want to look at them.
Although the dull grey clouds covered the sky some sunlight was managing to penetrate through the snow storm. It bounced off of the ice and reflected into the office, through the over-insulated windows, casting a cold blue light into Glacii’s face.
There was nothing left for him to do today. The department was still on red alert so it was unlikely that Glacii himself would be called out again like he had been the night before. He shuddered from the thought of how close he had fallen towards the icy clutches of death’s frozen claw. He wasn’t a particularly faithful person in that he liked to be certain. He did not like to entrust responsibility in other people – something that was ironic given that his job relied on him letting about sixty other Matoran do the dirty work for him. Perhaps that was why he hadn’t retired yet.
The Ko-Matoran continued to watch the window, staring at the city he had sworn to protect so many years ago. He was one of the few remaining original residents of the town. Back in its earlier days, Elysium had been a tiny place, far smaller than it had been before the expansion. There had only been a couple of dozen citizens back in those days, about forty Ko-Matoran toiling away in the cold as they tried to build a city out of snow. At one point Glacii had even been in line to become the city’s Mayor, but that was a whole lifetime ago. Now he was a completely different person. The years had not been kind to him, he was noticing that every time he looked in a mirror.
The Ko-Matoran finally broke his focus from the falling snow flakes and the bitter roar of the wind. He looked down at the picture frame that was resting on his lap, the photograph of him and his wife, the photograph that Glonor had noticed and thought would be good conversation material. To be honest, the Ko-Matoran felt a little insulted by the Av-Matoran’s actions but, in hindsight, he couldn’t see why for his life – which was all he had at the moment. He could not blame the ex-military policeman for not knowing that his wife was dead. The picture should not even have been on display in the first place, it was too personal. Any visitor in the room could get the wrong impression from it and get mislead. It had been trouble waiting to happen.
The police chief took one final look at the picture. He stared at it for a long time. It had only been three or four years since he had received the horrible news, enough time to study the photograph until he could recall every minute detail. He had committed every line, every dot, every detail on the image. Sometimes he wondered if his weary old memory would fade, that he would slowly begin to forget things about his wife. Her eyes. Her smile. Her voice. He prayed to Mata Nui every night in hopes that he would not forget her.
But she was destroying him from the inside too. He was making so many mistakes because of her. One minute he would be looking at a street light, or a snow flake, or a table and the next second something would have gone wrong. What happened last night in the alleyway was a testament of that. He knew that he was beginning to lose his touch.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be long until Crystallus replaced him.
Glacii took a deep breath in then picked up the silver key on his desk. He pushed his chair backwards and leaned forwards. He wedged the piece of metal into the lock on one of the draws of his desk, rotated it clockwise, then pulled it open. Glacii was a tidy Matoran by nature – something else that was ironic as his own department was an unorganized shamble.
The Ko-Matoran placed the picture frame back in the drawer then paused. He looked at picture again, specifically at his wife’s face. Her eyes were supposed to be wild, young, and adventurous like they had been when the photograph had been taken. However, she looked scared and vulnerable. Perhaps it was just his imagination playing tricks on him but Glacii felt strangely uneasy. In the end he decided to change his mind. He took the frame back out of the draw, opened it, took the photograph out, then put the empty frame back in the drawer. He closed it then locked it up tight.
The police chief sighed heavily then picked up his letter opener, something that he had been given as a present from Crystallus a couple of Naming Days ago. It had done nothing but gather dust until now. Glacii placed the tip of the knife at the top of the photograph and dragged it downwards. In the photograph a younger version of himself had his arms wrapped around his wife. He was on the right half. His wife was on the left. By cutting down the middle he was cutting through his own arms.
When he had split the photograph in two he put the letter opener aside then reached for the piece of armor that covered part of his left arm. He gripped the fingers of his right hand around it and wedged it off to reveal a small hollow, something that he had used as a second-pack over the years. Although it was small, Glacii had managed to use the space to store particularly small items in. This time was no exception. He placed the half of the photograph that had his wife on it against the inside of the armor then pressed it back into place.
A moment passed as he sat at his desk, the other half of the photograph that showed the now armless version of himself lay in his left hand. There was a vacant expression on his face. He glanced at the image then transferred it to his right hand. He scanned it blankly then growled. His snarl grew gradually louder until he clenched his fist and crunched up the photograph of himself. Fuelled by cold fury, the Ko-Matoran rocketed to his feet, kicked his chair backwards and hurled the scrunched up image at his trash can on the other side of the room. It skimmed across the top of one of the many crooked filing cabinets then disappeared into the darkness. Glacii hoped that he never saw the damn thing again.
It didn’t feel like him in that photograph.
After spending a minute standing whilst breathing in and out rapidly, the police chief finally managed to calm himself down. He swallowed on the lump in his throat then turned towards the door. The Matoran grunted and strode forwards past his desk. He grabbed the handle and yanked the door open. He walked through into the small corridor that led to the base. He pressed his fists against the doors then paced forwards slowly. He had his hands at his hips and he seemed to have calmed down when he arrived in the main squad room. Glonor must have left to check out the bunker or something. Glacii only wished that the Av-Matoran would share what he was thinking with the rest of the department. He had a big brain inside an even bigger head. There was a lot that went through his mind despite his reckless streak.
The Pakari Nuva wearer glanced plainly at the desks and computers as he strolled through the second glass door. Almost instinctively he reached for the light switch to turn the lights off. Crystallus had probably left it on when he gave Glonor the communicator – something that he had only briefly mentioned to Glacii and not asked about. Glacii wouldn’t change much about his future successor but the fact that he kept leaving the lighting grid on was becoming annoying. It was light enough outside, there was nobody in the squad room, and electricity was expensive these days. Three of the few factors that Crystallus was going to have to take into account every time he walked into the room before he could become the next police chief.
Glacii heaved himself onto one of the squad room chairs, one which had a computer screen plugged into the desk in front of it. The Ko-Matoran swiped his hand across the touch screen to drag the machine out of its hibernation. The key pad appeared on the lower half of the screen whilst a police search engine was visible on the top half.
That was no good.
Glacii muttered something to himself darkly then flexed his fingers. He leaned forwards and began typing. His hands flitted across the key pad as he trawled through the search engine until he was able to access the military files that he wanted. When he had hacked his way into Metru-Nui army’s database he let slip a ghost of a smile then typed in his first word into the military data base.
Despite the heavy snowfall, Glonor managed to drive over to Nokama’s house quickly enough in the spare unmarked police cruiser.. He had decided that it was probably best to check up on the Ga-Matoran. He didn’t plan on stopping there for long but he had to ensure that he could stay there for the night. If she said no then he would either be sleeping outside in the almost arctic snow storm or he would be calling Crystallus up on his new communicator in the early hours of the morning. He wasn’t sure which option sounded worse.
Some unfortunate Matoran had spent the morning clearing the main roads of the town with a snow plough – a strange name for a machine that did not actually plough snow. Glonor had never heard the word before until he had arrived in Ko-Metru yesterday but it seemed strange. Ploughing was an agricultural technique that involved the careful process of cultivation of soil and the sowing of seeds. As far as he knew, snow ploughs did not do that. They were more like snow-bulldozers. Glonor began to like the machines even less as the chains of his borrowed police cruiser began to scrape against the tarmac of the road. It was damaging his car.
After taking a detour onto a road that had not been cleared to save the snow-chains, Glonor managed to get himself to Nokama’s street. He parked the vehicle at the end of the boulevard then killed the motor. The world around him was far from silent as he opened the door, breathed in, slammed the cruiser shut, then broke into a run across the knee-deep snow layer. Breath exploded from his aching lungs. He could see the vapor even as it was whipped away by the roar of the wind.
Glonor charged past the parked police cruiser with the Onu-Matoran sentinel inside. Instead he ran straight for the door. It was too cold to mess around in the cold and explain to some Matoran of Earth why he was there without Crystallus calling ahead. The air was sour from the savage snowfall that pelted against Glonor’s mask.
The freezing Av-Matoran ran up the steps then stopped at the porch. He knocked on the door then stood shivering. He imagined the female cops tensing. He could just about picture one of them stepping forwards from her perch.
The door opened. Glonor stepped inside without giving whichever cop greeted him the chance to conduct a frisk search. It was far too cold and they all knew that Glonor would be clear.
Orders from above, presumably.
The cops had changed shifts from the midnight-midday pair to the midday-midnight pair. A Ga-Matoran who he had not met before had answered the door. Her hand was still resting on her handgun. She looked alert but not tense. Professionally cautious.
Without uttering a greeting, Glonor shuddered then wiped the snow off his armor. He glanced at the female cop. She gestured towards the library. Glonor smiled a silent thank you then turned away and strode over to the doorway. Nokama was still in the same chair but she was reading a different book. It looked like an autobiography, the type of thing that had probably been written by some long forgotten female Toa from Metru-Nui who Glonor would never have even heard of. He didn’t even bother asking himself who in Mata Nui’s name Naho was.
The fourth female cop was also in the room. She scanned the Av-Matoran from behind her Kanohi Kualsi then shrugged to herself and returned her attention to the snowy perimeter on the other side of the window. A wise choice. They were hopefully going to be seeing a lot of each other if Nokama was to stay alive.
“Back again so soon?” asked Nokama with a smile as she put the book aside.
“Apparently” grunted Glonor as he entered the room. He stayed standing. The cop at the window took no notice. “Sorry I had to leave earlier” he continued “Glacii’s fault.”
“Glacii’s got a lot of faults” muttered the Ga-Matoran darkly.
Glonor shrugged and decided to ignore Nokama’s last statement.
“I understand you’ll be staying here from now on, to protect me?”
The Matoran of Light nodded. “Only if it isn’t a problem.”
“Weren’t you comfortable with Lagira and Crystallus?” asked the Rau wearer as she raised a questioning eyebrow.
Glonor pulled a face. “I didn’t want to bother them for too long.”
Nokama blinked in surprise. “One night was too long?”
“I figured they had enough on their plate at the moment. I didn’t want to intrude.”
Nokama stared at Glonor, trying to read his face. If there was anything written in his eyes the words might as well have been scribed in scribbled. Glonor’s eyes were impassive.
“Well, whatever your reason might be, I’m glad to have you here. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to.”
The former teacher smiled then glanced at the female cop. The Kualsi wearing Ga-Matoran was still facing the window. Her eyes were hinging half-open and she wasn’t looking around much. Just staring around, bored out of her skull. Glonor couldn’t blame the female cop. She was stationed in a snowed-in town where the last big excitement probably happened at somebody’s Naming Day party last year.
“Do you remember the book that I showed you earlier?” asked Nokama with a smile.
Something suddenly clicked in the back of Glonor’s mind. He paused before blurting out the word no then decided against it. He had worked as a military policeman for over a century. He had received more special training classes than there were pieces of paper in the books inside Nokama’s library. He was trained to spot details, tiny details, the types of details that anybody else would ignore. And he had just spotted one.
Nokama had not shown him a book earlier. If he hadn’t taken any of those thousands of training courses then he would have dismissed her statement as a simple mistake. But the Ga-Matoran in front of him was not the type to make mistakes. He may have retired to Elysium during the war but she was far from being old enough to forget things that had happened hours ago.
“Yeah, I remember” he grunted. About a moment ago Nokama had glanced at the Kualsi-wearing cop and she was doing it again now. The cop hadn’t been in the room that morning so she didn’t know what they were talking about. She continued to stay out of the conversation by staring through the window.
“Would you be interested in reading some more of it? It’s a personal favorite of mine.”
Glonor paused then glanced at the book case. “Sure” he muttered, still trying to piece together what Nokama was talking about. “Where is it?” The cop at the window glanced at the both again through vacant, exhausted eyes then turned away again.
“I’ll get it” declared Nokama as she sprung to her feet. “I’ve barely gotten up all day. I could do with a stretch.”
Glonor watched as the Ga-Matoran made a show of how numb her legs felt. He was quite impressed. She was almost convincing. He frowned at her as she strode over to one of the bookcases and pulled out a particular book that was both bulky and square. It was a large, hardback volume with fresh leather binding. It looked brand new.
“Light reading?” muttered the Av-Matoran quietly as the sheer weight of the book dawned upon him as it was thrust into his hands. Nokama nearly smiled.
“Let’s go through to the front room. It’s warmer and brighter in there.”
Glonor didn’t have much of a choice when he felt Nokama’s hand grip his wrist. She couldn’t drag him – she wasn’t strong enough for that – but she was a lot stronger than she looked. The Av-Matoran stumbled after her as he carried the book. He wanted to tuck it under his arm and carry it with one hand to impress the female cops but something told him that he should keep it flat.
Perhaps it was his own idea of what being professionally cautious meant.
The two Matoran left the room and entered the hallway. The Kualsi-wearer remained by the window. That wasn’t very professional of her. It left the other cop to guard the door and to watch over Nokama. As the Ga-Matoran’s hand wrapped around the door handle the other female cop suddenly panicked, torn between her two stations. When the policewoman didn’t relax Glonor gestured towards her then towards the former teacher with his free hand, indicating that he would stay with Nokama. He didn’t know if any of the cops in the house trusted him yet. Perhaps that would be worth looking into.
No sooner had he entered the room Nokama shut the door behind him. She gestured towards the ring of furniture, signaling for Glonor to sit down. He shrugged, strolled towards the leather couch and resisted the urge to put his feet up on the low hanging table in front of it.
“I know the real reason why you came around, of course” muttered Nokama as she sat down next to him and placed the book between them. “You wanted to search the house. Perhaps it’s a force of habit. Yet, as far as I recall, you came to Elysium after your tour bus crashed. You weren’t even planning to stop off here and here you are, volunteering to defend me.”
Glonor said nothing. He was still wondering what was so special about this particular book that made Nokama want to move to a room where there were no cops.
“I just want you to know that I’m very grateful of your kindness in this very difficult time.”
Glonor shuffled his position so he faced Nokama. He looked her directly in the eyes. “You know, you don’t have to do this. There would be no shame in backing out. These bikers will probably get kicked out of Elysium for something else sooner or later, regardless of whether or not you testify.”
Nokama shook her head. “You said so yourself. My assassin is already in the city. I’m a witness so the bikers want me dead. If I pull out then the trial is cancelled so the police have to withdraw their officers from my house. But the bikers won’t want me walking around knowing that they are dealing with Kraata. They’re not going to tell this hired-gun to cancel his mission, not if he’s already come all the way here.”
Glonor grunted. Nokama had a point but he didn’t want to argue. It was a moral issue, a matter of principal. She wanted to stay in her house and testify no matter what.
“Are you armed?” she asked.
“I’m a retired military policeman” muttered Glonor. “Do retired engineers carry wrenches and spanners around for the rest of their lives?”
Nokama smiled again then pointed towards the book. “I got it a couple of days ago. Chief Glacii brought it over when he came around for a check.”
Glonor picked up the book, remaining careful to keep it flat. He studied the plain, unimaginative cover. It was some sort of fiction piece that was entitled To Kill a Gukko-bird. The name was completely unknown to Glonor but he doubted that there were many real fiction books that were four inches thick.
“Take a look at the inside” murmured Nokama as she leaned forwards over his shoulder to see.
Cautiously, Glonor turned the first page and immediately raised an eyebrow. He had expected to see the fresh, clean first pages of any unread novel. Instead, when he pulled on the cover it came off, like a lid, a lid that covered two cavities inside the book. Two small, angular objects were encased in cheap black cloth and were pressed into the holes. Glonor smiled as his fingers snaked around the material and pulled out what he had been expecting all a long.
A handgun, or rather two handguns which had been concealed behind the cover of an otherwise ordinary book.
The weapons looked old. They were medium sized models of a military issued revolver. They both had an identical, effective design and looked well used. Glonor had known soldiers who had carried duplicate handguns for years. He had trained with such weapons back in his days. Touching the cold metal brought back memories.
However, the handguns suddenly began to make Glonor think. All military issued revolvers had the serial number of their user scribed into the barrel on an aluminum plate. The serial numbers had been scraped off on both handguns. Not a greatly elegant way to erase the numbers but it worked all the same, and Glonor wasn’t happy about it. It meant that somebody in the military had sold these weapons to a civilian.
“And you say Glacii gave the book to you?” asked Glonor as he raised a questioning eyebrow and toyed with the first weapon.
The Av-Matoran noted her response then turned away and started checking the revolver. That changed things. Being chief of police, Glacii could easily slip any confiscated weapon into a box and hand it over to Nokama. That meant that the police had arrested some Matoran who had either been selling the weapons or who had bought them.
Glonor cracked a smile. “And you hate this guy?”
Nokama blinked in confusion. “You don’t?”
“Of course not” smiled Glonor as he check the barrel for ammunition and found that there was none. “Why do you think he gave you a pair of guns?” Nokama paused and shrugged. Glonor’s smiled widened as he put the gun down and turned to face her. “Because he wanted to protect you. You said he gave you this book a couple of days ago, which was well before I was even in Metru-Nui, let alone Ko-Metru or Elysium. Back then the police had no fall back option if the siren was to go off. None of them could break away from their pre-arranged positions or they would lose their badges. So Glacii did some thinking and decided that you could defend yourself.”
Nokama did not respond. She just glared at the handguns.
“He trusts you with these” added Glonor irrelevantly.
“Will they still work?” she asked with a tinge of annoyance in her voice. She obviously didn’t want to talk about Glacii. If Glonor left her to think about the risk that the police chief had put himself at to give her the weapons perhaps she would change her mind.
All the same, Glonor nodded in response to her question. “Revolvers are reliable, which is why the military uses them. They have to be seriously wrecked or rusted solid to malfunction.”
Nokama nodded then swallowed. “I think that you should keep one. The policewomen have already searched you once and if the police chief and deputy chief trust you to be in the house then they won’t have to search you again. You could walk right on in here with it in you pack and they wouldn’t check.”
Glonor grunted then placed the revolver that was in his hand in his pack. He tucked it closed then placed the cover back on the book. “Where’s the ammunition?”
“Under a loose floorboard in the bedroom.”
“That’s not a great place” murmured Glonor. “Not if you’re keeping the guns in the library.”
“Well, I thought I would have time to get to them, if it came to it.”
“A lot of dead people probably thought that.”
Once again, the Ga-Matoran chose not to respond.
“Look away from me then look back and point your finger directly at me” ordered the Av-Matoran.
Nokama’s eyelids flashed as she blinked in confusion. “What?”
“Just do it. Like I’ve been talking in class.”
“I wasn’t that kind of a teacher” complained the Ga-Matoran.
“Then pretend you were.”
Nokama sighed then raised her hand and extended her index finger. She pointed towards Glonor’s mask, directly between his eyes.
“Good” he said with an encouraging tone. “Now do it again and aim at my chest.”
Nokama muttered something the lowered her arm and raised it again slowly, her finger pointing straight at his heart-stone.
“OK. That’s how you shoot. Imagine the gun barrel is your finger. Don’t try to aim, don’t even think about it. Just pull the trigger and shoot. And remember to point towards his chest. It’s the easiest target and it’ll knock him down. Even if you don’t kill him you’ll buy yourself time.”
The former teacher’s eyes widened as Glonor handed her the second gun. She took it then left it in her hand, as if unsure what to do with it.
The Ga-Matoran stared at Glonor then at the gun. Reluctantly she pointed the weapon towards the floor and pulled the trigger. It worked perfectly. The hammer rose, the cylinder rotated, the hammer fell – simple enough for the former teacher to understand. “Wouldn’t there be a certain amount of recoil?” she asked as she placed the revolver on the leather couch.
“Unless the laws of physics changed overnight.”
“Will it be painful?”
Glonor shook his head. “If you ever have to fire it I doubt you’ll notice it. Even so, I need you to practice shooting with it. It’ll be tiring at first I want you to keep on shooting. Put six rounds in the guy. Don’t stop until the gun’s empty.”
“That’s awful” protested the Ga-Matoran as she looked away from the weapons.
“It won’t be when it comes to it” sighed Glonor. “It’ll be either you or him.” He reached across the couch and picked up her gun. “Where are you going to keep this?”
“In the book I suppose” answered Nokama with a shrug.
“Wrong answer. You keep it with you at all times. You aren’t going to get up unless you have it in your pack. At night you don’t go to sleep unless it’s under your pillow.” Glonor handed the weapon back to Nokama. Reluctantly, she took it and dropped it into her pack, a resigned expression on her Kanohi Rau.
“What about the other one? Are you going to keep it?”
Glonor nodded. “I’ll hand it back to Glacii before I leave. Do still want to keep this a secret?”
“Yes, I do” murmured Nokama as she picked up the book and rose to her feet. “The officers in this house need not know.” She walked towards the door of the room then stopped. She hesitated then turned back to face Glonor. “It’s a shame” she muttered. “I was looking forward to reading that book.”
The Iden wearer smiled as Nokama opened the door, slipped through, then closed it behind her, leaving him alone in the front room.
He smiled to himself. Nokama was nice enough. They disagreed on a couple of issues but he had a feeling that they were going to get along fine. Perhaps he could make her change her opinion of Glacii. The police chief had just proven himself to be more forward thinking than Glonor had expected. Hiding the guns in the book had been a nice touch. Glonor had seen better concealments in his days but he had not known the Ko-Matoran to be that resourceful. He wanted to congratulate the police chief.
Glonor was suddenly reminded of the police communicator device attached to his mask. He lingered on the thought of using it then looked outside. It was about three or four hours past midday and the grey sky looked just as bleak and depressing as it had when he had left the police station. Glonor finally decided to make the call. After all, it promised him a could more minutes in the warmth of Nokama’s house before he set off for the biker camp.
He pressed his finger against the earpiece and found a button. He pushed against it and radio static surged through his audio receptor. After a moment of noise the sound subsided as his communication was received.
“Yes? ” muttered the voice on the other end. It was Glacii’s voice. Glonor doubted that Crystallus would give him a communicator that allowed him to speak to anybody in the department. It was probably tuned to only call either himself or Glacii. Plus was only supposed to be used in an emergency, which explained the panic in the Ko-Matoran’s voice. Of course, that was assuming Glacii even knew who he was talking to – which Glonor didn’t think he did. Getting a call on a communicator was never good news when there was a red alert on.
“Hey there” replied Glonor in the friendliest tone he could manage. “It’s Glonor. I was just calling to check this thing worked.”
There was another moment’s pause before Glacii responded. “Sorry, can you move the mouth piece a little closer to your mouth and say that again? ”
The Av-Matoran paused then began fiddling with his mouthpiece. He repeated what he had said before and was surprised to hear the sudden change in tone in Glacii’s voice. Before he had been formal and cold because he hadn’t known who he was talking to. Now he seemed almost relieved.
“Good to hear from you” came the reply. “Anything you wanted to say? ”
“Nokama showed me the book with the guns in it. Nice touch. Congratulations.”
“Thank you” grunted Glacii from the other end of the communicator. “Speaking of congratulations, I just read your file on the military database. ”
Glonor’s smile suddenly disappeared. “My file?”
“Yes, it was quite lengthy but I read it all and I have to say, I misjudged you.”
“How’s that?” asked the Av-Matoran. He was confused. He had never read his own file so he didn’t know what was in it. There were things that he had done in the past that he was not proud of, things that he wasn’t sure he felt comfortable with other people knowing. After spending a couple of seconds thinking about it, he decided that he might as well let Glacii know. After all, who was he going to tell?
“Well, last night for example. I thought that you were some arrogant, reckless, soldier after you pummeled those two bikers. But then I saw all the medals you earned. I had no idea.”
“Those medals mean nothing to me” muttered Glonor blankly. “I’m not proud of some of the things I did back then.”
“I’m sorry to hear that” replied Glacii. “But I’m glad you called anyway. I’ve been meaning to apologize.”
“The way I’ve been acting. What I said in the alleyway. You did the department a great favor yesterday and I flamed you for it.”
“Doesn’t matter” grunted Glonor. “I’m not trying to put the world to right, I just don’t like people who put it to wrongs.”
There was a pause on the line before Glacii continued. “Is that a saying? ”
“Not as far as I know” muttered Glonor.
“Well it should be.”
“And what about the bunker?” asked the Av-Matoran. “Did that show up on the database?”
There was a heavy sigh. “No it didn’t. According to the army it doesn’t exist, which is Muaka-dung because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
Glonor frowned and tried to picture the concrete bunker. Crystallus had managed to tell him so much about it. “Perhaps it won’t show up there” he muttered as he rubbed his forehead. “What kind of database are you using?”
“The official one. I hacked in.”
Glonor’s eyes widened in surprise and he sat up straight. “You hacked in?”
“How do people do that?”
“That doesn’t matter” answered Glacii. “Hacking is something that isn’t important right now. Maybe it isn’t in this database because it was built in secret as a fallback shelter or a weapons testing lab in the war against the Dark Hunters. Perhaps they didn’t want to risk information about it falling into their enemy’s hands. ”
“Perhaps” agreed Glonor. “But if it was ever that important then somebody would have stopped the Po-Matoran who built the prison from setting up their camp there in the first place.”
Silence hung over the communicator channel. It was obvious that the discussion was drawing to a close. They were talking about why the bunker didn’t exist on the data base, and talking about something that doesn’t exist was hard to make a conversation out of.
Glonor decided to change the mood. “Are you going to be working on that all night?” he asked.
“You know how it is” came the reply. The Matoran of Light cracked a smile. He had spent many years in Glacii’s position.
Glonor opened his mouth again, ready to make a comment about how he understood Glacii’s pain when he was interrupted by a strange noise. The line went silent as the noise continued then became live again as the Ko-Matoran on the other end swore.
“Damn!” roared the police chief. “I’ve got to go. Get the cops out of the house and into the patrol car outside. You’re on your own now.”
Glonor frowned, stunned by the howling that prevailed over the shrieking wind. “What? How come?”
There was no answer. Glonor could hear movement on the other side of the communicator channel as the police chief sprang to his feet. Then the line went dead. Glonor’s eyes widened and he swallowed as the female cops began to move around in the other room.
The siren was ringing from approximately five mio north of Nokama’s dwelling, but its sound came through the forbidding night as blunt and sharp as a blade. It was somewhere between loud and distant, somewhere between urgent and somber, somewhere between everyday and alien. It shrieked and howled, it rose and fell, it screamed and whispered over the wind. It rolled over the flat land and down the snowy streets, shattering the crystal air as it blundered through the frigid wilderness.
The cops in the house reacted instantly. They were well rehearsed, probably physically, certainly mentally. They’d prepared themselves for the tough choice. There was the sound of footsteps on the wooden floor.
The night watch scrambling.
Glonor pushed the living-room door open to watch the first two Ga-Matoran run out into the snow. They headed straight for the parked cruiser as it flared into life. Broken slabs of snow were sliding off its roof and windscreen as the Onu-Matoran sentinel kicked the vehicle into gear and backed it up, fast. A moment later the other two, the ones who’d been asleep on their break in the bedroom, ducked their heads into the hallway. They were the ones that were on when he’d first visited the house. The first one ran straight for the door and followed the others. The second hung around for a moment, conflict all over her mask. She was the one who’d welcomed Glonor, the first cop he’d met, the Ce-Matoran. He’d liked her. Though he still couldn’t place a name to her Kanohi, he felt it twisted into a strangely affectionate smile. It made him feel warm inside.
The Matoran of Lightning hesitated, looking from Nokama to Glonor, then at the open door. “Sorry” she sighed.
Then she was gone. She spilled out of the house frantically, the last to leave. The cruiser’s rear door was open, waiting for her. Glonor could hear the furious radio chatter over the sound of the siren. He watched from the doorway as the Matoran of Lightning threw herself into the cruiser and slammed the door shut. Immediately the vehicle shot forwards, its wheels churning away down the street and out of the Av-Matoran’s hindered range of visibility.
The Matoran of Light stood there a moment, watching them go and wondering what this meant. The siren had gone off around a day after he’d arrived in the city. What were the chances of that happening if I hadn’t turned up yesterday? he thought as he stepped back into the house and closed the door carefully, making sure it was bolted tight. Have I really made that much of an impact?
“Obviously” he muttered aloud to nobody in particular.
Tactically, the best move would have been to lock Nokama away in a cupboard but the stubborn Ga-Matoran refused to go in. She just stood firmly in the hallway, her handgun out in the open. She craned her neck looking around, one point of the compass then the next, as if she understood that the four walls that were supposed to protect her were really just four different ways to get in. There were doors and window all over the place. Any one of them could be forced open or busted in an instant.
The second best would have been to simply stash her away in her bedroom. At first Glonor thought she was going to comply as she walked off only for her to come back a minute later. He heard the creak of the floorboards as the Rau-wearer returned with a crisp box of a twenty-five gunmetal bullets. She simply refused to argue with him after that, claiming she would feel she’d have nowhere to run if she was penned into her bedroom.
“You won’t be running” grunted the Matoran of Light as he began loading bullets into his own handgun. “You’ll be shooting.”
“Twelve bullet-holes in the aggressor would be better than six” retorted the Ga-Matoran decisively.
After that she fell silent for a spell. “Shouldn’t you be patrolling outside or something?”
“No” stated Glonor definitely.
“It would take me far too long to get from front to back, if I had to. And it’s too cold to shoot accurately outside. My hand would be shaking all over the place. I’d probably shoot myself in the foot before I shot any trespassers.”
“So we just wait here?”
The former military cop nodded. “That’s right. We wait here.”
They waited in the front room. Glonor figured it was the best choice. It overlooked the front yard and, given that snow covered the ground, frontal approach to the house was most likely. And, even in the unlikely event that an attack wasn’t attempted, the room was still their most logical option. The roof covering the outside porch sheltered the window from a potential sniper. Any gunman would have to be standing out in the open to even get a clear shot. He’d be spotted at twenty paces by Glonor’s keen eyes, before he even managed to take aim.
There were of course other potential dangers facing the two Matoran. Bombs, missiles, and starvation being top of the Av-Matoran’s list. But if that kind of attack was coming their way it didn’t really matter which room they were in.
The mechanical clock on the wall ticked well into the night, marking the end of their first hour alone. The street outside was deserted. Glonor made a careful sweep of the interior perimeter. The front door was locked. The window in the library was latched shut. The windows in the front room and bedroom were bolted. Safe enough.
The weather was changing. A light wind was gathering energy, causing the night sky to clear. The stars were visible in the heavens. Plus the temperature was dropping. Every window he checked seemed to have a layer of air encompassing it, pulsing with cold. The breeze didn’t help either. It found invisible cracks and made draughts, sucking heat out of the dwelling. Still, no matter how gentle it was, the wind made strange sounds as it blew. Rustling, cracking, crunching noises. The brittle chafing of frozen foliage, hollow clicks and clonks from icy trees, and the sinister animation of rotten branches that cast shadows across the rear perimeter. The noises were quiet but Glonor could have done without them. He was depending on hearing the soft crunch and sliding of feet on snow, and the chances of picking it up were rapidly diminishing. Worse still, Nokama kept talking in the silence. That seemed to make matters worse but he didn’t want to shut her up. She was nervous – understandably – and talking seemed to help her.
The Iden-wearer decided it was time to check up on the Ga-Matoran again when she fell silent. He could hear her muttering through the thin walls and being in a different room to her felt weird. He wasn’t afraid of being alone in the crooked house, he just wanted to make sure his host was still alive.
“How many times have you done this before?” asked the Ga-Matoran as he entered the room.
“Once or twice” grunted the Av-Matoran vaguely as he eyed the window.
“And clearly you survived.”
Glonor nodded. “So far.”
“What’s your secret?”
“I don’t like getting beaten” muttered the former military cop. He wondered over to the couch and sat down heavily. “It’s better for everyone if it doesn’t happen.”
“That’s a heavy burden to carry” murmured the Ga-Matoran.
“Are there people who like getting beaten?”
“Well, not as such” shrugged the retired teacher. “You wouldn’t have to enjoy it, but you could be at peace with whatever comes your way. You know, win some, lose some.”
Glonor shook his head then glanced back at the window, uneasily. “Doesn’t work like that. Not in my line of work. You win some, then you lose one and it’s game over.”
The dwelling stayed silent for less than a minute before Nokama began to speak again. “You’re still in the army, aren’t you. In your head.”
“Don’t you miss it?”
The Ga-Matoran didn’t answer. The mechanical clock ticked on. Nobody approached the house.
Hide and seek. Perhaps the world’s oldest game, revolving around primal thrills and fears hidden deep in the back of every Matoran’s mind. Predator and prey. The irresistible shiver of delight, crouching in the dark, hearing the footsteps pass by. The rush of pleasure in doubling back and yanking open the closet door to discover the victim. The instant translation of primeval terrors into modern-day laughter.
This was different.
There would be no laughter. There would be short seconds of furious gunfire, followed by the stench of smoke and blood then a sudden deafening silence. Then the shaking and the need to throw up.
And this wasn’t hide and seek. Nobody was hiding, and nobody was really seeking. Whoever was out there knew exactly where Nokama was. An exact address would have been provided. She was just sitting, right there, waiting for him. No art. Just plain brutality, which disappointed Glonor a little. He was good at hide and seek – the real world version, not the game. He was good at hiding, but far better at seeking. His former profession had led him in that direction. Fugitives, mainly. He’d learnt that empathy was the key. Understand their motives, their circumstances, their goals, their aims, their fears, their needs. Think like them. See what they see. Be them. He’d gotten to the point where he could spend an hour with a case file, a second hour thinking, a third with maps and communicators, then predict pretty much the exact building the guy would be found in.
The Av-Matoran ducked towards the window for the umpteenth time that hour, checking the view at the front.
Nobody there. Just a white world that seemed to be frozen solid.
The Iden-wearer glanced back at Nokama. “I need you to watch the window for me” he grunted.
“OK” replied the Matoran of Water uncertainly. She reached for her handgun as she rose to her feet, wondering if he’d spotted somebody.
“I’ll be in the hallway. If anybody comes in through the bedroom or the library I’ll catch them in the corridor.”
Nokama nodded slowly.
“Stay back in the shadows. If you see anything at all you call to me, loud and clear, with information. I’ll need numbers, location, direction, and description.”
“OK” repeated the Ga-Matoran, a little taken aback by the sudden demand.
“And do it standing up.”
“So I’ll hear you hit the floor if you fall asleep.”
The Rau-wearer paused before nodding and stepping back, further into the room. A decent angle. Her handgun was still in her grip. Satisfied, Glonor stepped out into the hallway and moved the chair that the two cops had used. He twisted it around so it faced the library door, which he’d left open, allowing him to see through the window and out into the rear garden. He rested his handgun on his lap. Even in the corridor he could hear the mechanical ticking of the clock in the front room. The way he saw it, every full minute was a small victory. A prison riot couldn’t last forever. Its initial phase would be relatively short. The whole situation would be a mess of hostages and territory in place of tactics, a standoff would ensure. Strategic adjustments would be made. The prison guards would regroup, the cops would be released from duty, Glonor knew that.
Therefore the guy knew that too.
Still, the Matoran of Light didn’t understand why he didn’t come. His target was a retired Ga-Matoran in a house. What the hell was he waiting for?
About an hour later, Nokama insisted on getting a glass of water. Glonor wouldn’t let her. Perhaps that was what the assassin was waiting for. The victim needed water. Water came from the tap. The tap was over the sink. The sink was under the window in a small addition to her bedroom. A preoccupied Kanohi Rau on the other side of the glass might be a tempting target. So he retrieved the water himself, after a vigilant inspection of the vicinity.
An unnecessary inspection, as it turned out. Glonor stepped out the front door and trudged his way through the snow around to the back of the house. The cold hit him like a fist. It was raging, way below zero, too far below to guess at a number.
He was visibly shaking when he stepped back inside. There was no need for an inspection. Nobody was waiting out there for a target of opportunity. After a minute you’d be shaking too hard to see, let alone shoot. After an hour you’d be in a coma. After two you’d be dead, even if you were a Ko-Matoran.
Still, his hardship had managed to nullify one of his many doubts. There wouldn’t be a long, stealthy approach on foot through the snow. The danger would come from the front. The guy would have to drive up, jump out, and move fast.
And Glonor would sure as hell be ready for him.
Again, he drifted in and out of the house’s five rooms: the hallway, the front room, the library, the bedroom, and the small washroom. It was his eighth sweep of the interior perimeter. He saw nothing to get concerned about. Nothing to see from any window except frozen emptiness. Nothing to hear except the rush of icy water in the heating pipes and a faint creaking as the wilderness outside grew colder, compacting under the weight of the ice. The Av-Matoran thought about the town’s original settlers, the pioneers and explorers of days long since forgotten.
What in Mata Nui’s name had they stayed?
The Iden-wearer was on his way to the library again, to check that the screen window was still tightly bolted when Nokama called out.
She spoke loud and clear, though she added no information. None of the vital statistics Glonor had asked for. Nevertheless, he stepped into the front room and eased himself past the Ga-Matoran to the window. Sure enough, the female Matoran had been right. There was a dark, shadowy figure approaching on foot, in the middle of the road, coming from the left.
He was small, about Nokama’s height would be Glonor’s best guess, and most of his Kanohi was covered by some sort of eye-covering-device – presumably to block the snow from obscuring his vision. The outline of the Matoran’s arms hung loosely around his sides, occasionally slinging up in desperate attempts to remain in balance on the icy. Nothing in his hands.
The stranger moved on, slowly, tentatively, unsure of his footing. He stopped directly opposite the end of Nokama’s front yard. Just standing there.
“Know him?” grunted Glonor, his right hand drumming against the barrel of his loaded handgun, his trigger finger instinctively itching.
Nokama paused and squinted.
The guy turned around – a stiff ungainly half-circle – and faced the other way. A Dermis Turtle trotted up to him. The guy turned around again, and the pair walked on, master and Rahi.
“A neighbor” sighed the Rau-wearer in relief. “A she actually. Officer Birus’ wife. It was hard to be sure with her peculiar choice of headwear.”
“She’s married to Birus?”
“Used to be” corrected Nokama softly. “Officer Birus moved out a couple of months ago. There was some kind of unpleasantness.”
“I don’t know.”
“I saw Birus this morning” muttered Glonor. “I didn’t like him. Glacii didn’t seem to either.”
The Ga-Matoran muttered something under her breath at the mention of the police chief’s name. Obviously, she still held a grudge against him, though Glonor couldn’t – for the life of him – see why. In spite of the fact the Ko-Matoran had taken away what little freedom she had actually used by placing her under house arrest, but surely she must understand that it was for her own good. Glacii was a weary, tired old police chief, nearing the tremulous end of his long career. He was no longer in his prime and his recent decisions were growing questionable, but that was hardly his fault. Glonor found himself pitying the weary Ko-Matoran.
“Have you noticed anything strange about Algor?” he asked, trying to wring more information out of Nokama.
“Officer Algor?” she frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Nokama paused then made a gesture that was something between a sigh and the shake of her head. “Well, I’ve met him, certainly. I’ve become acquainted with most of Elysium’s police department recently.”
The Ga-Matoran shrugged away the crease on her forehead. “I know he moved here from Hua-Nui, same place as Crystallus, which strikes me as odd now I think about it.”
The Av-Matoran murmured to himself quietly in response. This was in fact the first time he’d heard that particular piece of information. Glacii had claimed he’d hired the Ko-Matoran because he messed up in his job interview and he felt sorry for him. But if he’d originated from the same place as Crystallus then Glonor suddenly got a different impression. Did that mean there was some kind of connection between the two of them? He wasn’t sure but he doubted it. This Hua-Nui was presumably another island-metropolis similar to Metru-Nui. Personally, he’d never heard of such a location but it was a coincidence.
And Glonor never ignored coincidences.
“Me too” grunted the Av-Matoran darkly. He stayed at the window and watched Birus’ wife and Dermis Turtle disappear round the street corner and out of sight.
They didn’t speak again for another thirty minutes. The mechanical clock on the wall ticked on past midnight and into the early hours.
“Are you tired?” asked Glonor, talking for the sake of talking.
Nokama looked up at him, a hint of surprise in her eyes. “I haven’t really thought about it.”
“You could go off to bed, if you like. I can take care of things here.”
The Ga-Matoran hesitated. “What if you fall asleep?”
The Iden-wearer smiled darkly. “I won’t fall asleep” he stated, certainly.
“And I won’t go to bed. This is my responsibility” retorted the retired teacher, crossing her arms. “I shouldn’t even be involving you in this, anyway.”
“A problem shared is a problem halved.”
“You could be killed!”
Glonor snorted. “Unlikely.”
The Matoran of Water took an overly-dramatic pause then looked at the ground, betrayed by her reflection in the window. She was bottling away a question.
“What is it?” grunted the Av-Matoran, calmly.
The Rau-wearer shrugged, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground. “Are you married?” she finally asked.
“Were you ever?”
The Matoran of Water nodded then glanced at the clock. “Do you have any friends? Anyone who’d care if you died here tonight?”
The Av-Matoran’s confident smile slipped into a plain expression, which seemed strangely grave in the candlelight. The flickering shadows did not compliment him. “Not anymore” he answered simply. “I used to, before I came here. One day I might track some of them down… if there’s anything left of them.”
“Not your fault.”
“Do you always deflect sympathy in that way?”
The Matoran of Light continued to stare out into the arctic wasteland outside, wandering how long Nokama had wanted to ask him that question. There was a lot about him that she didn’t know, a lot of good stuff – stuff that could benefit her if their lives boiled down to such dependency. Perhaps it was time he asked her a question of his own.
“I don’t suppose you know much about local mining, have you?” he grunted.
The Ga-Matoran looked blank. “No, I’m afraid not.” She hesitated for a moment, unsure. “Why?”
“Crystallus thinks the concrete war bunker at the bikers’ camp could run underground. I was hoping you taught Geography or something.”
The Rau-wearer shrugged simply. “I’m afraid I’ve never been down there. It’s considered something of an eyesore.”
“Did you live here at the start of the war?”
“Because if you did you might’ve heard some local news. Maybe rumor or gossip. You might’ve heard something about the place. Maybe not exact enough for your scholarly mind to pass on as useful information, but you much have heard something.”
“Nothing worth repeating.”
“All I know is that it was built and never used. Apparently because its purpose was far too revolting. There was some scandal about it.”
“And what was its purpose?”
“I don’t know” answered Nokama glumly. “No one spoke of it to me.”
The house was silent for less than fifteen minutes. Then, over the screech of the gale outside, Glonor heard the patter of chains on snow and the grind of a big, hulking engine revving fast and urgent.
Tense, he glanced at Nokama then ducked towards the front room’s window. Bright headlights. A police cruiser. Unmarked. Black and blue, hard to tell in the darkness. It crunched to a halt at the end of the driveway and a white armored figure climbed out.
It was Algor.
Relaxing, the Av-Matoran tucked his handgun into his pack and gestured for Nokama to do the same. She followed suit. They both knew what would happen if the cop learnt they had guns.
And neither of them trusted him.
Why wasn’t he on patrol?
The Iden-wearer stepped out into the hallway and opened the front door, just as the Kiril-wearing Ko-Matoran made it up onto the porch.
He looked startled.
“I didn’t know you were here” he grunted, the first words the strange Matoran of Ice had said to Glonor’s face. His voice was deep, a rumble. Like some successful Ko-Metru banker. He was brisk and confident, like a cop should be. But there was something unnerving about him.
“It made more sense” grunted Glonor, assuming the cop knew he’d been bundled off to stay at the Deputy Chief’s place. “There’s a comfortable sofa here and Crystallus’ wife doesn’t need my protection.”
“Was this his idea or yours?”
The Ko-Matoran blinked, and narrowed his eyes. “Is Nokama OK?”
“Let me see her.”
Glonor stepped back and let the rude Ko-Matoran barge past him into the hallway then closed the door. The Rau-wearer appeared at the front room door.
“Ma’am, are OK?” demanded Algor, slightly more desperate than he needed to sound.
She nodded. “I’m fine. And I’m very grateful you came. I appreciate it very much. But shouldn’t you be guarding the prison?”
The Kiril-wearer nodded sullenly. “I was. But I didn’t think it was right that you should be left alone. So I broke rank.”
“Rules are rules” grunted Glonor, returning to the conversation. He hadn’t noticed it before but he towered over the Ko-Matoran.
“Even so” he retorted. “It’s my duty.”
“I’m fine” smiled Nokama falsely. She was just as confused as Glonor was. As far as they all knew, Algor had never even spoken to her. Why he felt such a moral duty-defying obligation to protect her all of a sudden seemed a little suspicious. “Glonor has proven to be more than capable of protecting me.”
The cop glanced back at Glonor, unsure what to do next, wretched conflict in his eyes – just like the female cop in the hallway.
“What’s happening at the prison?” asked the Av-Matoran.
The police officer shrugged casually. “Two sides having at each other. A regular prison riot.”
“First one in Elysium?”
“Tell me about it.”
“Bottom line, what happens if you don’t go back?”
Algor broke eye contact. “The department is disgraced and I get fired. After that, I’m not too sure.”
“So go back.”
“I don’t want to.” A simple statement, but the way the Matoran said it and the way he stood there after articulating it made Glonor think he had more on his mind that just his department’s duty to Nokama’s protection. He wanted to stay indoors, comfortable, in the warmth, where he was safe.
Algor was scared.
“Have you ever worked in a prison before?” asked Glonor coldly.
“It’s simple enough” muttered the Matoran of Light. “The cops hang around outside, maybe form a barrier with their cruisers. If any prisoner breaks out you’re usually inclined to shoot them dead. Easy as that. They know the rules. And they won’t try, anyway. Not at a moment’s notice in weather like this. They’ll stay inside, fighting. They’ll burn out eventually. They always do. They’ll get cold and bored, but that’s all.”
“Have you worked in prisons?”
“I’ve worked in everything” grunted the Iden-wearer. “Including personal protection. And, with all due respect, I can do at least as good a job as you. So you should let me. That way everyone wins.”
The Ko-Matoran shook his head, decisively. His mind was made up. “No” he stated inflexibly. It’s my duty. I gave an oath to protect the people of this town. I gave my damn word, and I’d sooner shoot down this hired gun before I back down on my word. Besides, you don’t have any weapons. How’d you fight this guy if he did turn up?” Glonor and Nokama glanced at each other, neither of them willing to reveal their hidden handguns. There was no way out of this situation without revealing their concealed weapons, and that would set Algor off asking how they’d acquired them, which would put Glacii in a very sticky situation.
“Fine, you can stay” muttered Nokama, darkly, making no attempt to hide her opposition.
Algor nodded, pulled out his own handgun, then marched off into the front room.
Glonor prowled through the house one more time. By that point he was completely accustomed to the sounds: the creak of the wooden floorboards, the obscure hissing of the steam pipes, the rickety catch on the window in the library that trembled because of the relentless wind.
The smell seemed to be changing now, and not in a good way. The house smelt dingy and unpleasant. Just old. Rotten wood, dust, smoke, even the stench of long-since eaten food. Ancient, deep aromas, a testament to the house’s history and its previous owners.
Growing bored with the history lesson he was giving himself, the Av-Matoran returned to the front room to see Algor standing at the window and Nokama sat down on the sofa behind him. Her handgun was still in her pack but she was beginning to fidget with a piece of cloth, trying to keep herself awake no doubt.
“You still OK?” he asked plainly, ignoring Algor. He didn’t want the Ko-Matoran to be there so didn’t acknowledge his presence.
The Ga-Matoran nodded formally. “I have reached the conclusion that I am privileged.”
“I’m experiencing the chance to live out my principles” she answered. “I believe that ordinary citizens must confront wickedness. Well that’s what I’m finally doing, isn’t it? Living up to face my fears, staring Death square in the face. Not everybody gets the opportunity to walk the walk. But now I can.”
For the first time in far too long, Glonor clacked a smile and nodded. “You’re doing great” he muttered.
The Av-Matoran was about to say something else to stimulate the sleep-deprived Ga-Matoran only to be interrupted by Algor. The Ko-Matoran grunted and grew stiffened. Glonor’s eyes widened. Instantly, he snapped into action and stepped up to the window.
He saw what the cop had seen: the wild bounce of headlight beams on the street.
A car. Coming fast.
It was Crystallus, leading what looked like most of the Elysium police department. Six cruisers, seven, eight. Then a ninth. They braked and skidded to a crunching halt all over the road. Twelve cops spilled out, then thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. They drew their weapons and formed up an approach driven partly by desperate haste and partly by extreme caution. Because they had no idea what they were going to find.
Either tranquility or a double homicide.
Bravely, Glonor stepped out to the hallway and lined himself up with the edge of the door. He flung it open and stayed well out of sight. He didn’t want to be fired on by mistake. Fifteen nervous cops made for an unpredictable situation.
“Crystallus?” he called out. “This is Glonor. We’re all clear.”
He tried again. “Crystallus?”
Icy air flooded in, the deputy police chief’s voice coming with it. “Glonor?”
“All clear in here. Holster your damn weapons before one of them goes off in my face.”
They burst into the hallway. All fifteen of them. Crystallus first, followed by Glacii and the four female cops who’d been placed in the house, then another nine Matoran Glonor didn’t know.
Birus wasn’t there.
The cops brought in gusts and billows of soul-freezing air with them. All of them were battered and beaten by the cold, their flesh red and chapped, even the Ko-Matoran. The warm inside atmosphere hit them all immediately and they began to thaw.
The four female cops formed up around Nokama, a protective cordon, and bustled her off into the bedroom. Glacii ordered three of the cops to take up night watch patrols around the neighborhood then sent the remaining nine back to the police station.
Crystallus was the one who found Algor first. He was surprised, straight away. Shock surged through his eyes and he flinched. The two Ko-Matoran grew tense as their eyes met. After an awkward moment of eye contact, the Kiril-wearer sighed
“What the hell were you doing here?” he demanded so quietly that it seemed even more threatening.
“What I thought was the right thing” retorted Algor glumly, his eyes hazy and fixed on the carpet. He knew what came next.
“Doesn’t matter about that.” Glonor watched as Glacii marched forwards, shaking his head. “You were given direct orders, we all were. If the siren goes off you get your scrawny little backside over to the prison. That’s what everyone else did so why the hell couldn’t you manage it?”
“Well someone had to protect Nokama!”
“Evidently we had that covered!” snapped the police chief, gesturing wildly at Glonor, his voice riddled with something dangerously close to aggression.
“I didn’t know” retorted the Ko-Matoran. The Kiril-wearer stepped forward to confront Glacii. The chief’s eyes widened but he stood his ground.
After a moment of awkward intensity, Glacii finally spoke. “Give me your badge” he snarled.
Algor continued to glare at him.
“I said give me your damn badge!” roared the police chief with fiery wrath. The Ko-Matoran stared him in the eye a moment longer, as if trying to make a point, then reached into his pack. Defeated, he brought his hand up a moment later and opened it to reveal his service badge. Glacii snatched it off him.
“And your firearm?”
“I want to keep it.”
“You do that and you’ll be sharing a mess hall with the biker in jail.”
The Matoran of Ice glanced coolly at Glacii, then at Crystallus, then at Glonor. He wanted support but he wasn’t going to beg for it. Glonor thought it best to stay out of this one. After all, Glacii was right. Algor had pulled rank, he’d admitted to that. If the Iden-wearer hadn’t been in the house then who was to say the cop would’ve have chosen to follow his orders? He had no legal obligation to protect Nokama, which made his activity around the house suspicious.
Glacii was right to overreact. Algor could be the hired gun, anyone could. He probably would’ve known Papura, but even if he hadn’t then it didn’t matter. The cops would probably be able to prove that the two Matoran had known him one way or another. Even the timing seemed to fit the theory. Algor had waited several hours before going to Nokama’s house. If he’d really had her protection in mind then he would’ve arrived earlier.
Of course, that was assuming he didn’t know the killer wouldn’t show up.
Because he was the killer.
Plus with two witnesses seeing him abandoning his pre-assumed role to arrive on the doorstep. He’d been surprised to see Glonor but he’d picked himself up. He could’ve been planning to shoot the Ga-Matoran right after walking through the door.
But that was just speculation.
It was probably what Glacii and Crystallus were thinking. Alarm bells and klaxons would be blaring in their heads, misleading them into some sort of hysterical deduction of the situation. Even with Glonor’s expert skills of interference, he remained professionally stumped. If Algor really was the killer then there would be evidence. The police would need to launch an inquiry to find the vehicle he’d used to flag down Papura then the gun he’d used to kill him. Fingerprints would be involved, and he’d have to be tested for gunshot residue with the murders still being fairly recent. Warrants would need to be signed to allow them to search his dwelling. Then there would be a court case, and that wouldn’t end well, not if a police officer had committed two homicides right under Glacii and Crystallus’ noses. They’d both be axed. The media would catch wind. Glacii probably wouldn’t be trusted to direct traffic in the Silver Sea, let alone keep his position.
But then again, there was always the possibility that the other Matoran had realized that too. Or maybe they were both too narrow-minded to perceive such a possibility and were simply angry at the cop for pulling rank and abandoning the department. Glonor doubted it, but he didn’t want to rule the possibility out.
Algor stood still a moment longer, glaring at Glacii. The two Ko-Matoran were now openly hostile.
“You’ll damn-well regret this” scowled the Kiril-wearer as he pulled out his revolver and threw it at Crystallus. The deputy chief caught it single handedly then tucked it away into his pack.
“Get out” growled the police chief with venom in his voice.
Algor snorted, turned to leave, then spat at Glacii’s feet. The police chief grunted in disgust as the ex-cop turned slowly then headed out the door. Glonor guessed that would be the last he saw of the shifty Ko-Matoran.
How wrong he was.
The Iden-wearing Ko-Matoran watched as normality began to restore in the hallway. In the space of five minutes all was as it had been five hours earlier.
Nobody spoke to him until stability had returned. When it did he found himself stuck with both Glacii and Crystallus in his face.
“So what happened here?” asked Crystallus worriedly.
“Nothing at all” shrugged the Matoran of Light, choosing not to mention Algor’s arrival – there was no longer any need to defend him. “What happened at the prison?”
“A riot” answered Glacii bleakly. “Not that we saw much of anything. They shut it down real quick.”
“Because it was a diversion.”
The two Ko-Matoran exchanged glances then nodded. “Damn straight” grunted the deputy chief.
“But their guy never came here?” asked Glacii darkly.
“He didn’t” confirmed Glonor. “Which leads to the big question: why the hell not?”
“Maybe he saw you.”
“But I didn’t see him” retorted the ex-military cop, leaning against the wall casually. “Which raises another big question: if he’s good enough to see me, without me seeing him, then why didn’t he just go for the kill?”
“Not a clue” muttered Crystallus.
“I saw a Ga-Matoran walking her Dermis Turtle.”
“Who?” demanded the police chief, his voice filled with urgency.
“According to Nokama, Birus’ ex-wife.”
Once again, the two Ko-Matoran exchanged glances before the deputy chief shrugged. “She’s a neighbor. She walks it every night.”
“You should’ve told me” muttered Glonor. “I might have shot her.”
“Sorry, I forgot” winced the Kakama-wearer as he rubbed his hands together, trying to stimulate circulation. It was no surprise that he was having trouble acclimatizing. His body temperature had vaulted sixty degrees in less than five minutes.
There was an awkward moment of silence where the three Matoran just stared at each other. It was finally broken by Crystallus, who let out a deep, heavy sigh. “Bad thing to say, I guess, but I kinda wish the guy had come tonight. I’m not sure we can take another month of this.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to” uttered Glonor with a ghost of a smile. “My guess is they’re fresh out of diversions.”
“But they can start another riot any time they want to” frowned Glacii, his forehead creasing further under the weight of his brow.
“They can’t. That’s the point. Prison riots need a build-up. About a third of the population would riot every day of the week, given the choice. Another third never would. It’s the middle third that counts. Once the feeling passes for the middle guys it has to build up again. Their passion is gone. I’d say it’ll be another couple of months before they get agitated again. So you guys are in the clear now, you’re safe.”
“You sure?” grunted Glacii, his eyes deathly serious.
“You might never hear that siren ring again” shrugged the Av-Matoran.
Glacii and Crystallus blinked in surprise at Glonor’s statement, unsure whether or not he was joking. When they finally realized he wasn’t they began to relax.
The Av-Matoran tried to share in their moment of relief by staring out the window. Once again, no one approached the house. The world outside was dead. Deep frozen. Nothing was moving, except the wind. It was blowing steadily out to the west, scouring powder into small stunted drifts of exposing ridges of ice that glittered blue in the light of the stars. A spectral, elemental scene.
It was time for him to go back out into it.
“Crystallus, remember when I asked you to book me a tour of the prison?”
The deputy chief frowned then shrugged. “Sure, I remember it, but in fairness I have spent all night freezing my wits out around a prison. I haven’t had a chance to arrange anything for you.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter” smiled Glonor as he nodded a farewell to the two cops. “I’ll forgive you if you give me a lift.”
“No time like the present.”
“But it’s two in the morning!” protested the deputy chief. “I’m pretty sure that isn’t a visiting hour.”
“Really?” frowned Glonor sarcastically. He paused before cracking a sly smile. “I suppose it’ll really annoy the guards up at the prison, right?”
“It sure will.”
“Do you want the honors or shall I?”
The prison was silent save for the three pairs of echoing footsteps as Glonor, Crystallus and the Prison Sergeant marched down the corridor. The Av-Matoran imagined the walls to be hard and grey both in color and in texture. The dim lights above their heads were florescent and fitted into thick, metal grilles in the ceiling, which cast an almost green yet dim light into the cells. Prisoners rolled over or sat up to cover their eyes as the Sergeant’s torch caught their tired masks.
“Quiet night at the inn” Glonor muttered as they passed the umpteenth empty cell. The Onu-Matoran Sergeant grunted then chuckled loudly, trying to irritate as many of the prisoners as he could with his laughter at such an early hour of the morning.
The jailor was a giant with rough, hard armor with both the color and smoothness of a rock. How he passed for a Matoran was beyond Glonor. All he knew was he could have fitted himself, Crystallus, and maybe a couple of rocks into the Onu-Matoran’s armor. And they still wouldn’t be able to reach his noble Kanohi Huna . The guy was the exact ideal guard.
“Just to confirm, Sergeant,” muttered Crystallus “this is an off-the-record visit. Doesn’t need to go in the log.”
The colossal Onu-Matoran nodded in agreement as they reached the end of the corridor and produced a loop of keys. He fumbled for the correct one, unlocked the heavy door, then swung it open. The three Matoran stepped through into a small office-like area, presumably the guard post. There were screens showing hundreds of sleeping prisoners. The walls on either side were grey and gloomy, just like the rest of the prison.
The Sergeant strode over to the other end of the room and opened another door, this one leading through to a small lobby with four more locked doors covering four locked cells. The Huna-wearing Onu-Matoran flicked a switch and more fluorescent tubes stuttered and flooded the corridor with dazzlingly artificial white-light. Glonor scanned the doors to the cells, noting the heavy iron bars and enormous outlines. The bars were thickly covered in shiny silver paint, each about ten feet wide and equipped with a hidden camera, presumably. That was assuming there was any logic at all behind this state-of-the-art prison that seemed to be causing so much trouble.
Three of the cells were empty. The fourth was occupied, its door bolted shut. Behind it was a very tired and bitter biker.
Crystallus glanced at Glonor uncertainly. “You sure about this? We’ve tried questioning him dozens of times. He’s too dumb to tell us anything.”
“I’d guessed as much” muttered Glonor, taking his time. “The fact he was slow enough to get caught by you guys while his client gave you the slip was a bit of a giveaway. I thought he might name some names, maybe lead us to somebody more important.”
“A bigger fish?”
Glonor nodded. “Someone doing enough illegal business down at the bunker worth sending a hired-gun after a witness.”
Crystallus cocked a questioning eyebrow. “You think someone’s ordering the bikers around outside of Elysium?”
“Outside of Metru-Nui , probably” responded the Av-Matoran. “But that doesn’t matter.”
“Any idea who he might be?”
The former military policeman rolled his eyes. “Not the foggiest. We don’t even know for sure if there is a guy. He’s just a guess right now. A theory.” The Av-Matoran turned to face the jailor as he jerked at the grave weight of the door. “Are you sure he hasn’t said anything? Not a single name?”
“Not a damn word” he grunted. “We’ve been trying for a month solid. We’ve got hundreds of prisoners here, this guy’s the only one who sits around with his mouth shut tight. If there is a big-guy, like you say there is, he’s really put the frighteners on... if he exists.”
“Oh, he exists” chuckled Glonor as the guard finally managed to haul the door open. If he exists to be found then I’ll track him down he thought to himself.
The Matoran of Light could see the biker struggling awake, the light from the jailer’s torch shining in his eyes and the metallic scraping of the heavy iron door burning his audio receptors.
“Visitor for you” called the Onu-Matoran.
“I’ll stay out here” muttered Crystallus darkly. “He knows me. I’ll watch on the screens.”
“Suit yourself” replied the Iden-wearer as he stepped into the cell.
Immediately, Glonor noticed the metal grid of bars that separated the chamber, cutting it in two. On his side of the gate there were two tall wooden stools in the other corner of the dingy cell. The Onu-Matoran sergeant carried the nearest one over to the middle of the wall and sat down on it heavily.
The Iden-wearer ignored the other stool and stood with his hands behind his back, gazing silently at the convict on the other side of the bars. The biker known as Glidus pushed his tatty blanket aside and swung his feet to the floor. He was a Matoran of Plasma – which was evident from the color of his armor – and had a badly twisted right arm, an injury he’d probably acquired during some bar fight or public brawl. He wore an orange Kanohi Calix, which had a deep scar running down it, just below his left eye and snaking off towards his audio receptor.
He was a big guy, about Glonor’s size. The Matoran had obviously attempted to rebuild himself. Perhaps he’d escaped from Karzahni after an upgrade had been started. Either way, regardless of whether or not he had inflicted the twisted appearance upon himself or if Karzahni had, it only looked half-finished.
The Matoran of Plasma was heavily muscled, had a thick neck, big arms and small, hollow yellow eyes. The Av-Matoran stood absolutely still, watching the biker, saying nothing.
“Hell are you?” grunted Glidus. His voice matched his bulk. It was deep, and the words were half swallowed by a heavy chest. Glonor made no reply. It was a technique he’d perfected half a lifetime ago. Just stand absolutely still, don’t blink, don’t say anything. Wait for them to run through the possibilities. Not a buddy. Not a lawyer. Who, then? Make them start worrying.
“Hell are you?” growled the Matoran of Plasma once again.
Glonor walked away. He stepped over to where the Sergeant was sitting and whispered to him. The guy’s eyebrow’s came up. “You sure?” he asked. Glonor nodded and the jailer got up and handed him the loop of keys. He went out through the door and closed it behind him. The Av-Matoran hung the keys on a small hook sticking out of the wall then walked back to where he’d been standing before. The Calix-wearer was still staring at him, like a mirror image.
“What the hell do you want?” he demanded.
“I want you to look at me” snarled the ex-military cop, the little light of the darkened cell casting crooked shadows over the ridges of his Kanohi.
“What do you see, Glidus?”
“No, I ain’t blind.”
“Then you’re a liar” grunted Glonor. “You don’t see nothin’.”
“Fine” shrugged the Matoran of Plasma. “I see some guy.”
“You see some guy who’s bigger than you, who had all kinds of special training while you were still fighting arena matches back on Stelt, like a slave.”
“So” grunted the convict.
“So nothing” answered Glonor smoothly. “Just bare that in mind for later, is all.”
“What do you want?”
“I want proof” challenged the Av-Matoran. “Proof of exactly how dumb a piece of Muaka dung like you really is.”
Glidus paused. His eyes narrowed, pushed into slits by the deep burrows on his brow. “Easy for you to talk like that” he growled. “Standing six feet away from these bars.”
Glonor took a couple of exaggerated paces forward.
“Now I’m two feet from the bars” he taunted. “And you’re still a dumb piece of Muaka dung.”
Glidus sneered menacingly and took a step forward too. He was a foot inside his cell, holding a bar in each clenched hand. A level gaze in his eyes.
Glonor stepped forwards again.
“Now I’m only one foot from the bars, same as you... and you’re still a dumb piece of Muaka dung.”
Glidus’ damaged right hand came off the bar and closed into a fist. It rammed straight out, like a piston, heading for Glonor’s throat. The Av-Matoran caught the wrist and tugged, hauling the prisoner tight up against the grid. He twisted the limb and stepped to the side, bending Glidus’ arm against the elbow joint.
“See how dumb you are?” he growled. “I take another step to the left and I break your arm.”
The Matoran of Plasma was gasping against the pressure. Glonor smiled at his torment then dropped the wrist. The biker snapped his arm back through the bars and rolled his shoulders, testing the damage.“
“What do you want?” he demanded again.
“Want me to open the cell?”
“Keys are right over there, on the hook. You want the gate open, even things up a little?”
The Matoran of Plasma’s eyes narrowed a little more. He nodded slowly. “Yeah... sure... open the gate.”
Glonor stepped away and lifted the hoop of keys off the iron hook. He shuffled through them idly and found the one that fitted the lock with relative ease. He’d handled plenty of cell keys in his time, probably to the extent where he could’ve picked the right one blindfolded. The Matoran stepped back and unlocked the gate, swinging it open. Glidus stood still. The Av-Matoran walked away and dropped the keys back on the hook. He stood facing the door, his back to the cell.
“Sit down” he ordered. “I left a stool for you.” He sense the Matoran emerge from his cell, heard the slow heavy padding of his feet on the concrete floor. Then they stopped.
“What do you want?” repeated the dim Matoran of Plasma.
Glonor kept his back turned, straining to anticipate the biker’s approach. It wasn’t happening.
“It’s complicated” he muttered furtively. “You’re gonna have to juggle a number of factors.”
“What factors?” asked the Calix-wearer bluntly.
“First factor is I’m unofficial, OK?”
“You tell me, wise guy .”
“I don’t know” snarled the aggressive Matoran of Plasma.
Glonor turned around. “It means I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an army cop. I’m not a civilian cop. In fact: I’m nothing at all.”
“So there’s no comeback on me. No disciplinary procedures, no pension to lose, no pay to cut, no nothing.”
“So if I leave you walking in crutches and drinking through a straw the rest of your life, there’s nothing anyone can do to me. And there are no witnesses in here.”
“What do you want?” commanded the convict for the fifth time.
Glonor ignored him. “Second factor is whatever the big guy says he’ll do to you, I can do worse.”
“What big guy?”
The Iden-wearer smiled. Glidus’ hands bunched into fists. Heavy biceps, broad shoulders.
“Now it gets difficult” grinned Glonor. “You’d better concentrate real hard on this part. Third factor is, if you give me the guy’s name, he goes somewhere else, forever. You tell me who he is, he can’t get to you. Not ever. You get it?”
“What name? What guy?”
“The guy who sent your little biker gang to Elysium. The guy who knows what’s inside the bunker.”
Glidus shook his head. “No such guy. The bunker’s locked up tight.”
“We’re past that stage now, OK? I know there’s such a guy. So don’t make me smack you around before we even get to the important part.”
Glidus tensed up, breathing hard. Then he quieted down. His body slacked and his eyes narrowed again.
“So concentrate” repeated the Av-Matoran. “You think that ratting on this guy puts you in trouble, but you’re wrong. What you need to understand is this: you rat him out and it actually makes you safe, the whole rest of your life, because people are looking at him for a bunch of things a whole lot worse than trading Kraata.”
“What’s he done?” asked Glidus uneasily.
The Matoran of Light let a smile slip. He wished the video cameras could record sound. The guy exists. Crystallus would be dancing around outside.
“The Turaga High Council thinks he’s responsible for the deaths of four Toa” lied Glonor. “You give me his name, they’ll put him behind bars. Nobody’s ever going to ask him about anything else.”
Glidus fell silent, thinking about his position. It wasn’t the speediest process Glonor had ever seen.
“Two more factors” he continued. “You tell me his name right now, I’ll put in a good word for you, maybe get you out in time for Naming Day. They’ll listen to me. I can get you easy time.”
Glidus said nothing.
“Last factor” murmured Glonor, this time more gently. “You need to understand, sooner or later, you’ll tell me anyway. It’s just a question of timing. Your choice. You can tell me right now, or you can tell me in half an hour, right after I’ve broken your arms, legs, and started working on your spine.”
“He’s a bad guy” muttered the Matoran of Plasma anxiously.
Glonor nodded. “I’m sure he’s real bad. But you need to prioritize. Whatever he says he’s going to do, that’s only theoretical, way off in the future. And like I told you, it isn’t going to happen anyway. But what I’m going to do, it’s going to happen right here, right now.”
“You aren’t gonna do anything” snorted Glidus confidently.
Accepting the challenge, Glonor smiled then turned around and picked up the other wooden stool – the one he hadn’t offered the biker. He flipped it upside-down and wrapped his hands around two of the legs. Taking a firm grip, he bunched his shoulders and pulled steadily. Then he breathed hard and snapped his elbows back, causing the legs to tear away at the rungs in a shower of wooden splinters. The broken pieces clattered to the floor. The former military policeman’s smile grew broader as he scooped up the broken chair and snapped the last two legs off, single handedly, dropping the wreckage but retaining the fourth leg. It was about a yard long, half the length of a Kolhii Staff but just as thick.
“Now you try” he ordered.
Glidus snarled and scooped up his own stool in fury. He tried hard and grasped the legs in the same way Glonor had. His muscles bunched and swelled, but he got nowhere with it. He just stood there, holding the stool horizontally with a disturbing facial expression.
“Too bad” shrugged Glonor as the Matoran of Plasma threw the stool aside and began panting for breathe. “It tried to make it fair.”
“He’s in the Brotherhood” protested the biker. “He’s got some powerful friends. He’s real tough.”
“Doesn’t matter” grunted Glonor. “If I report this back to the Turaga they send the Metru-Nui land army over to him and they shoot him down. End of problem.”
Glidus said nothing.
“He won’t know it came from you, not ever” reassured the Av-Matoran, his compassion running thin. “They’ll make it look like he left some evidence behind.”
Glidus remained silent. Growing impatient, the Av-Matoran began to swing the leg of the stool, like a mace.
“Right or left?”
“What?” spluttered the Calix-wearer.
“Which arm do you want me to break first?”
Glidus glared at him, hatred burning in his eyes before he finally caved in.
“Garnax” he grunted. “His name’s Garnax. Some big-shot Brotherhood supporter, a Po-Matoran. He’s our leader.”
Glonor nodded solemnly then glanced at the chair leg in his hands through empty eyes. He looked at the Matoran of Plasma in front of him then smiled sadly before snapping the piece of wood over his knee and tossing it aside.
Not that traitor again he thought to himself as he turned to exit, snatching the keys off their hook as he did so.
I should’ve gutted him when I had the chance...
“Ok, Garnax” chuckled Crystallus. “We’re on hot on you heals now.”
The two Matoran were back in Crystallus’ cruiser, cold from the failing heating system but the high spirited scene could not be suppressed. Handshakes had been shook, high fives had been smacked, knuckle clanks had been clanked. The Ko-Matoran was still smiling, basking in relief and triumph.
“Loved that business with the stool” he added. “I watched the whole thing through the security camera.”
Glonor shrugged. “I cheated” he admitted. “I chose the right stool. I figured that massive juggernaut of an Onu-Matoran would’ve sat on it every visiting session, maybe wriggled around when he got bored. A Matoran that size, the joints were sure to be cracked. The thing practically fell apart in my hands.”
“But it looked real good.”
“That was the plan. First rule in the book is to look real good.”
The Matoran of Ice nodded before glancing at the dashboard. His face fell when he caught sight of the digital clock beside the glove compartment. It was late. Dawn would be approaching in a couple of hours.
And his wife probably would have waited up for him.
But the Kakama-wearing cop shrugged thoughts of the future aside and tried to return to his optimistic mood. “Didn’t you mention something about knowing him?”
The Av-Matoran grunted. He could have nodded but the cop was driving and being in another crash wasn’t how he wanted to spend his night.
“Has he been in trouble? Anything we can hold against him as blackmail?”
“He was a traitor” responded Glonor. “Once upon a time he was a good little Po-Matoran, working on the Vacca-Nui council. But then he started selling land, trading it off to the Dark Hunters. Thanks to him my island was terrorized by those cut-throats. Crime went through the roof, Matoran were abducted for experiments and my job got a whole lot harder. The military always got called in to deal with them. There were brawls in every district, soldiers taking on Dark Hunters twice their size, some of them winning, most of them being left crippled and broken. That damn Po-Matoran caused me a hell of a lot of paperwork.”
“Well if he’s involved in Kraata trading then he’ll know it’s illegal” muttered Crystallus. “If word of this gets out to the Turaga High Council then he’ll be public enemy number one. You’ll finally have him locked away.”
The Av-Matoran didn’t respond. He remained silent for the rest of the journey, letting Crystallus articulate his high hopes and images of a shining, crimeless future.
Even then Glonor knew something terrible was about to happen.
There was a brief flash of alarm when Glonor knocked on Nokama’s front door. The smooth wooden surface was yanked back inside and a handgun thrust into his mask. The Iden-wearer raised an eyebrow at the female cop on duty. She was the first one he’d met, the Ce-Matoran.
The one he liked.
“Honey, I’m home” he grunted quietly as he stepped inside.
The Ce-Matoran relaxed then lowered her weapon. “And what time do you call this?” she whispered, more a joke than a question. Her tone was off.
“Bedtime” yawned the Matoran of Light as he scanned the hallway. The second day-time cop was peeking around the library door, the telescopic lenses on her Kanohi Huna whirling in and out of focus on him. When she finally recognized him she gave him a warning look then ducked back to her post, irritated by his ill-timed entry.
“Where most people are at four in the morning,” answered the Ce-Matoran, “in her bed.”
Glonor glanced at the bedroom, trying to imagine the three Ga-Matoran sleeping inside. It was a small chamber from what he’d seen. Most of the floor had been taken up by two mattresses and the single divan.
“Any chance she left me anywhere to sleep?”
The Ce-Matoran shook her head, paused and bent over to pick up a towel at her feet – presumably something she’d been huddling into to keep warm. She offered it to him.
“Keep it” whispered the Av-Matoran, hoping it came out sounding sensitive and caring. That was the effect he was going for.
The cop nodded and folded the blanket over her arm then dropped it neatly on the floor. “There’s always the couch. I doubt anyone’ll mind if you use that for the night.”
Glonor turned his head to the left to see that the front room door was open.
“I never got your name” he muttered calmly.
The Ce-Matoran raised an eyebrow and glanced Glonor over. She hesitated a moment longer then extended her right hand. Glonor took it and shook gently, not wanting to crush anything under his grip.
“Well, goodnight Ninian” smiled the Iden-wearer as he stepped into the front room and closed the door softly behind him. He didn’t want to taunt the Matoran of Psionics with his snooze, though it was only going to be a short one. A couple of hours at the most. Still, his slumber would be well-earned.
The household had gotten right back into its settled routine and silence engulfed the dwelling once again, penetrated only by the now-docile rush of the wind. The Av-Matoran tried not to think about the window behind him as he drifted off. In principle, it should be the most vulnerable point in the house, but he wasn’t too worried. Sheer rage ought to overcome any tactical disadvantage. He hated being woken in the night. If an intruder came in through the window then he’d go straight back out like a spear ... in pieces...
Glonor had planned on sleeping until eight but he was woken at half-past six by Ninian. She came into the front room and some primal instinct must have made her pause and kick the sofa frame then step back smoothly. She must have figured that was the safest thing to do. Perhaps she figured that if she leaned over and shook the Av-Matoran gently on the shoulder she could get her arm broken.
And she might have been right.
“What?” grunted Glonor groggily.
“First light’s less than an hour away” she murmured.
“Apparently you need to get going.”
“The biker camp” explained the Ce-Matoran. “Crystallus said you offered.”
Nokama was already wide awake when Glonor found her alone in the library, her Kanohi Rau nestled into a new book.
“I have to go out” grunted Glonor.
The Ga-Matoran nodded. “Deputy Crystallus told me. Will you be OK?”
“I sure hope so.”
“I don’t see how. There are a hundred hardened bikers out there and all you have is a pistol.”
“I’m going for information.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got Mata Nui on my side for once” chuckled the Iden-wearer. “If I get killed or don’t come back then the police get a reason to conduct a search, and the bikers don’t want that. They’ll treat me like a Turaga.”
The Ga-Matoran frowned. “That’s hard to imagine.”
“Will you be OK here?”
“If the cops leave again, take your gun and lock yourself in a cupboard. Don’t open the door to anyone except me.”
“Should we have a password?”
“You could ask me what my favorite book is.”
The Matoran of Water hesitated then frowned. “OK. But, incidentally, what is your favorite book?”
“I’ve never read one” shrugged Glonor casually. “That’ll be the correct answer.”
Nokama hesitated then nodded slowly and put her book aside, placing a small bookmark in her page then balancing it on the arm of her chair. “Will the police be leaving again?”
“There could be another riot.”
“Unlikely” grunted the Av-Matoran slightly more insensitive than he’d intended to sound. “Prison riots are rare. Like revolutions in history. Metru-Nui’s only ever had one in centuries. The conditions have to be exactly right.”
“What about an escape?”
“Even less likely. Escapes are hard. The guards make sure of that.”
The retired teacher blinked in surprise. “So, are you saying my problems are over?”
“So will you come back here?”
“I think the roads are still closed.”
“When they open again, where will you go next?”
“I don’t know” shrugged the Av-Matoran carelessly.
Nokama nodded then glanced out the window. “Head for Ga-Metru” she muttered. “It’s peaceful and warm this time of year, not like this arctic prison.”
“I might” responded Glonor calmly before flashing a mock salute and ducking back into the hallway.
The Av-Matoran walked right into Ninian in the corridor, who briefed him with new information. Glacii had called ahead and organized one of the cops from the station to bring a spare unmarked cruiser to the house. How the guy who’d driven it had gotten back to the station was beyond Glonor but it meant the cruiser would be warmed up and running.
The Ce-Matoran led him outside into the frozen wilderness to inspect the vehicle, leaving the second duty cop to guard the house. The cruiser was reliable and appeared to have been recently serviced. It had a full tank and had been fitted with chains in place of the useless tyres that Glonor detested.
After deeming the vehicle safe, Glonor asked Ninian for directions. The Matoran of Lightning suggested he headed north for a mio then turn east short of the highway. The two Matoran found a paper travel-map on the dashboard and studied the detailed plan of Elysium’s road systems.
“If I go north then I’ll end up on the same street Papura was killed on” grunted Glonor coldly.
Ninian pricked her audio receptors and let her brow crease into a frown. “I thought that was classified.”
“I figured it out.”
The female paused before batting the problem aside and returning to her directions. “Well, it isn’t actually the same road. It’s the one that runs parallel to it. But still, perhaps you shouldn’t stop if anyone tries to flag you down.”
“I won’t” muttered the Av-Matoran as he folded the map up and Ninian opened the passenger door again. “You can count on that.”
Garnax growled at his communicator as he pushed his breakfast aside and gave the Ga-Matoran waitress a disgusted look. Without a word she picked up the tray – that was still stacked high with food – and carried it off, back into the kitchens to be put to waste.
The communicator line hummed and crackled for a moment before he got an answer from his guy in Metru-Nui.
“Is the damn witness dead yet?” he demanded.
There was a pause on the line before the guy responded. “You knew there was always going to be a delay between killing the cop and the witness.”
“And how long has that delay been?”
“Too long.” The guy knew what to say.
“Correct” muttered Garnax darkly. “I arranged a riot at the prison last night.”
“Evidently you didn’t make use of it.”
“There was a guy in the house.”
The Po-Matoran paused before responding, trying to calculate what that meant. “The problem being?”
“I had no instructions.”
“That’s your answer?” he spat in fury. “You needed instructions?”
“I figured there were complexities I wasn’t grasping.”
Garnax leaned forward and held his head in his hands. He sighed deeply in frustration. “How can I hurt you?”
Again, the guy knew exactly what to say. “In ways I don’t want to be hurt.”
“Correct” repeated the Po-Matoran. “But I need you to be more specific. I need you to focus on what’s at stake.”
“You’ll kill the person nearest and dearest to me.”
“Yes, I will, eventually” snarled the Matoran of Stone. “But first, there’ll be a delay, which seems to be a concept you’re very familiar with. I’ll cripple her and cut her then let her live for a year or so. Then I’ll kill her. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, I do.”
“So, for your own sake, get the damn job done. I don’t care about complexities. Wipe out the entire damn town, for all I care! How many people live in Elysium anyway?”
“Around 8,270 Matoran.”
“Right” grunted Garnax. “That’s your upper limit for collateral damage. Get it done.”
The Po-Matoran hung up and turned his attention back to abusing his staff.
Glonor cursed and muttered darkly to himself as he shivered in the cold. He wrapped his frozen fingers around the chains of his borrowed police cruiser and tugged. They didn’t budge. They weren’t designed to. They were meant to do the exact opposite and stay attached to provide the grip that the stupid wheels couldn’t.
The Av-Matoran gritted his metallic teeth and roared as he tried to snap the cursed chains. They rattled against the underbelly of the vehicle but didn’t come off.
In the end the Iden-wearer just gave up and sat back on the road. He half expected to land in a pile of snow only for his backside to be scraped against the rough surface of the road. That was of course the reason why he was trying to remove chains from the wheels. He’d been making good progress driving east towards the final leg of his journey when the road took a surprising turn to the left and he found himself on solid black tarmac. The road ahead was completely clear.
There hadn’t been a speck of ice on the coarse concrete surface before Glonor had arrived. But someone had obviously been busy, for a trench had been created with the cleared snow, making up the side walls that surrounded the Av-Matoran and his police cruiser. It created a natural barrier against the almost vertical snowfall, as if his arrival was being expected.
The former military cop didn’t utter another word until he arrived at the camp. His left eye twitched angrily as the noise of the chains scraped against the concrete drilled into his sanity. He didn’t need to steer. The narrow road cut directly through the wilderness like a blade. The chains splintered and rattled as the cruiser grinded onwards, keeping him going in a roughly straight direction.
The world outside was entirely white. There was a pale brightness in the sky but no sunlight. The air was too full of ice. It was like dust. Like mist.
Glonor tried to put the scenery out of his mind. He didn’t want to become distracted. Sliding into a ditch could be fatal. He was too far away from Elysium to be rescued by the police this time.
He drove four careful kio, then five, then six, then seven before he noticed the change in the road surface. Before it had been bumpy and irregular – distorted by centuries of freeze-thaw action – but now the tarmac was becoming smoother and leveled. Staring off into the murky distance, Glonor began to realize that he was driving on a magnificent, surreal piece of road, absolutely flat, and absolutely straight as far as the limited visibility in the snow would allow him to see.
And it was ploughed.
The two sets of chains clanked and rattled, chattering away over the almighty roar of the wild wind. Gazing out into the misty horizon, Glonor began to make out small dark smudges far away into the unknown. Wooden huts, lined in neat rows.
The cruiser pattered and thumped. The chains didn’t work all too well on the concrete but the Av-Matoran kept going.
Another couple of kio into the snowstorm he began to see signs of life ahead. There were cars and transporters of all shapes and sizes. Beyond them were dozens of dark, bulky figures, working away with shovels or hurling handfuls of some de-icing chemical into the snow. The Matoran wasn’t all too sure of himself but, for a second, the mechanical rhythm of their labor reminded him of Bohrok. They were cleansing their whole camp. They wanted the whole place immaculate, as good as the road.
The huts weren’t exactly a triumph of craftsmanship. They looked like they were just pieces of raw timber nailed together and given a couple of layers. The exterior was bleached and faded, thought they didn’t look too old. Behind the first row of dwellings, Glonor’s keen eyes spotted the dull grey outline of the concrete war bunker. It was tall and peaked, constructed entirely from the hard, jagged slabs of stone, the same color as the road he was driving on. It dominated the bleak landscape, dwarfing the lesser huts and contrasting the blank snowy-sprawl.
And, of course, there were the actual bikes. Counting quickly, the Av-Matoran spotted around thirty of them, stacked up for winter. They were big ones, the kind that any normal Matoran would usually struggle to use, which was surprising.
The Iden-wearer slowed and came to a gentle stop about 50 bio from the bunker. Matoran had stopped toiling and turned to stare at his cruiser. Freezing hands were resting on shovel handles.
Glonor took his foot off the brake and looked down at the dashboard. The car’s temperature sensors were saying it was twelve degrees below zero. If he switched the engine off he doubted it would turn back on again. So he left it on and gripped the cruiser’s steering wheel, squeezing hard until it started to give and his muscles stood out; big and obvious.
When you have arms thicker than most other people’s legs, sometimes you need to exploit what nature’s given you he thought, thinking back to how many times he’d said that in the military.
Taking a final breath of warm air, Glonor opened the door and slipped out. About twenty bio ahead, the crowd seemed to have gotten larger. There were Matoran of just about every element, though there were no females, which didn’t exactly strike the Iden-wearer as odd considering this was a biker gang. There were around a hundred Matoran in total, as advertised. They were all shapeless and crooked, hidden behind thick, second-hand armor and hunched over in the cold – even the Ko-Matoran. Their breath condensed around their masks, forming an unbroken cloud that hung stationary before rising and being whipped away by the wind.
The cold was stunning and it was getting worse. After a mere five seconds Glonor was already shivering from the exposure. His entire mask felt numb after ten, making him suddenly aware of the fact he was wearing a cold, metallic Kanohi.
He tried to picture what the bikers were seeing: a shivering Ko-Matoran with a thick build and an obvious police cruiser behind him. Not even remotely convincing.
There was a moment of hush before an Onu-Matoran finally strode forwards, sidestepping, leading with his left shoulder, then his right. Pitch-black armor. A Kanohi Elda. His body language was like every interrupted worker in the world: irritated, but curious. He swiped his thick forearm across his brow, paused, thought, then moved forwards again. He stepped out of the ranks and stopped a yard short of the crowd.
“Who the hell are you?” growled Glonor menacingly. He had to appear threatening in front of the bikers or they’d become suspicious.
“Get lost” retorted the Onu-Matoran icily.
The Av-Matoran took one step forward, then a second and a third. “You’re not very polite.”
The Elda-wearer snorted. “Show me where it says I have to be.”
The Matoran of Light smiled. “Well, for starters, you’re walking around on my property.”
There were a couple of confused expressions in the gaggle of bikers and a low mumble started. The Onu-Matoran ignored them and sneered at Glonor. “How so?”
“I’m from the army. I’m here to check on our real estate. A two-year maintenance inspection.”
“That’s a joke!”
“Whatever” muttered the Av-Matoran. “I need to take a look around.”
“I told you to get lost.”
“I know, but what are the odds I’m gonna take you seriously?”
The Onu-Matoran’s eyes narrowed as the chattering continued. “You can’t fight a hundred of us, buddy.”
“I won’t need to” shrugged Glonor triumphantly. “Looks like two thirds of you guys are complete pansies, which leaves around thirty of you. And half of you look too lazy and tired to even move. The others, maybe half of them are cowards. They’ll just run away, leaving eight to ten guys, max. And one of me is worth eight or ten out you rejects, easily.”
“Plus, I’m from the army. You mess with me, the next guy you see will be driving a Nektann Rocket Launcher on wheels.”
Silence hung in the dense air for a beat. The Onu-Matoran stared at Glonor, at his armor, his vehicle, then came to some sort of decision.
“What d’ya need to see?”
“The stone building.”
“That ain’t ours.”
“None of this is yours.”
“We ain’t using it.”
“You shouldn’t be using it, either.”
“Squatters’ right” shrugged the Elda-wearer. “It’s an abandoned facility. We know the damn law.”
Glonor didn’t dignify that with a response. He just stepped left and skirted the crowd. They all stood still to let him pass. Nobody moved to block him or moved aside to let him through their ranks.
As he walked, the Iden-wearer noticed the corner hut. It was a simple, plain structure, the type of dwelling he’d expect to find in the Southern Continent on some tropical island paradise, but not in the heart of arctic Ko-Metru. All around it the snow had been cleared away. Directly behind it was the bunker. There was no snow there either. Just clear, swept concrete.
“If you’re not using it, why bother clearing the snow?” he grunted at the crowd in general.
The same Onu-Matoran stepped out of the crowd again. “For the satisfaction of a job being well done.” The obvious spokesperson, perhaps the only Matoran in the gang with enough brains to think of an answer.
Glonor ignored his response, seeing straight through the lie. Instead of continuing the argument he decided to analyze the stone building. It certainly was a strange thing, something that probably could have been copied straight off a building on Destral. There were no windows, no colors, and no clear reason for its construction. The bunker stood crookedly in the icy gale. It was the right volume and shape to be roughly the same size as the Elysium police department headquarters. But, instead of glass and satellites, the walls were filled in with layers of flat, unbroken concrete. There was a small, well disguised metal plate that covered an immense entrance but the door itself made no attempt to hide itself. It was a sickly olive green slab, bolted down. Massive and completely obvious. The hinges were huge, indicating it opened outwards as opposed the inwards. Like a blast door. It meant an explosion would hold it shut, not blow it open.
The door had a noticeably large keyhole; smaller than the key to a vault, bigger than a house key. The metal around it was rimmed with frost and entering the final stages of rusting.
Stepping towards it, Glonor wiped snow away from the keyhole to see no scratches or striations on the soil-colored surface. The lock was not in regular use. No key had been inserted or withdrawn, day in and day out.
The Av-Matoran turned around, forcing a smug look onto his Kanohi. “You know what this place is?”
“Don’t you?” grunted the Elda-wearing Onu-Matoran.
“Of course I do, but I need to know how our security’s holding up.”
The Matoran of Earth shrugged plainly. “We’ve heard things.”
“The construction guys who were here before us.”
“About chemical bombs.”
“They said there were bombs in here?”
“No” snorted the Onu-Matoran. “They said this was a clinic, set up to treat victims in the cities. If you got hit by something the Dark Hunters made back in the war, chances were you’d lose most of your face. Turaga Tuyet set this thing up for survivors. Theory was, they could come here and get a new face.”
“A Kanohi foundry?”
“No” came the answer, definitely. “Like prosthetics. Kanohi have holes in them, it’s the only part of the body that exposes organic tissue. So to treat it, they had to make replacements.” The Onu-Matoran chuckled and rapped a frozen fist on the metal door. “That’s what’s in here. Thousands and thousands of synthetic faces, ready to be plastered on behind your mask.”
Taken aback, Glonor snorted and shook his head, dismissing the theory as farce. That was another lie. He could see it in the Elda-wearer’s eyes when he’d been speaking. He knew what was inside, where else would the Kraata Nokama had seen come from?
There was something inside that bunker, and it certainly couldn’t be piles of plastic faces.
The Av-Matoran grunted then walked on around the strange structure. It was the same on all four sides, save for the dirty green door. Heavy stone, fake windows, snowy roof. A bizarre contrast to most buildings Glonor knew.
He walked away then stopped at the nearest hut. The crowd seemed to be following him in a long, untidy straggle. Steam hung above the freezing bikers.
The Matoran of Light shrugged to himself at the peculiar flock of Matoran and pushed the hut’s door. It creaked and swung all the way open.
The Onu-Matoran caught Glonor’s eye and began striding forwards. He’d been about six feet away before, keeping his distance.
“That ain’t yours” he growled. “The construction workers built that, not the army.”
“But it’s bolted down on army concrete. That’s good enough for me.”
“You don’t ‘ave a warrant.”
Glonor didn’t answer. He was all done talking. It was too cold. His face was numb and his metallic teeth were hurting. He just stepped inside and ignored the Onu-Matoran’s protests.
The hut was dark but surprisingly warm. There was a small fireplace and a pipe leading out to the roof. Glonor could smell the oil. There were twelve beds in the structure, six in each row. Each bed was covered by a messy, plain grey blanket. There were a couple of boxes and containers under each bed.
But the dormitory-style hut wasn’t empty. There was a settled Matoran of Lightning nestled on the edge of the furthest bed to the right. She looked a little sullen and grimy, but behind that she looked pretty. Tall and slender with strong vivid features. There didn’t seem to be anything interesting about her blue and white armor, but the eyeholes on her Kanohi Kadin seemed pitted and dark, as if she’d seen too many sinister things through them.
For a moment, Glonor thought he recognized her, like he’d met her before. But he hadn’t. She was a type, that was all. Like Ninian. A female Matoran who had adapted to the harsh temperatures of Ko-Metru after years of freezing her backside off.
Wherever these bikers were from, they seemed to have picked up local recruits.
The Av-Matoran backed out of the hut and closed the door behind him. He turned to the Onu-Matoran questioningly.
“Want to show me what’s in the other huts?”
“Whatever” grunted the guy. No reluctance. The Elda-wearer just started moving his aching limbs beneath his thick, well-insulated armor and trudged on down the path. He pushed open door after door. The rest of the huts were exactly the same. Rows of beds, crude fireplaces, grey blankets, shipping boxes. No benches, no work tables, no stasis tubes with Kraata inside. No other Matoran either. The Matoran of Lightning in the first hut was the only one not outside and working. Maybe these bikers had some decency after all.
The Matoran of Light hunched down in his thin armor and came out between the huts. His cruiser was still there, idling faithfully. Beyond it the ploughed road narrowed into the distance, high, wide, and attractive. As flat as glass. After three centuries of constant snowfall it hadn’t heaved or cracked at all. The Iden-wearer began to wonder exactly how big Metru-Nui’s defense budget had been 3,002 years ago.
Big enough to construct a state-of-the-art-bunker then completely forget about it he thought to himself.
Glonor turned back to the Elda-wearing biker and nodded solemnly. “Have a nice day” he grunted before saluting and heading back to his cruiser. Instantly he knew the truth.
They hadn’t believe he was in the army for a second.
The drive back was the same as the drive out, except for a strange slow-motion near-collision when Glonor left the narrow country lane and turned left, travelling south back to Elysium. He’d driven the clear part of the road quickly and the rest of the two mio journey slowly and carefully. He’d been about to turn back onto the highway when a massive, bulky Vahki Transporter skidded around the corner without slowing at all, heading straight towards the camp.
It was a low vehicle, or at least lower than the one that had rescued Glonor from the freezing tour bus two days ago but had been modified too. As he looked up he could hear the viscous splash of a heavy liquid. It was probably carrying some kind of oil for the bikers’ vehicles.
Regardless of its contents, the transporter turned sharply at the same time as Glonor, coming right into his lane.
The Av-Matoran braked hard, hoping the chains would bite into the ice but the wheels didn’t lock – a useless security feature he could have done without. Instead, the cruiser rolled on with all kinds of thumping and banging coming from the brake pistons. The fuel-carrying Vahki Transporter kept on coming.
Glonor cursed and yanked on the wheel. The two front chain-fitted wheels swerved and skated, their grip lost. The car’s rear right-hand corner missed being mashed by the transporter’s legs by an inch yet the vehicle rolled on, fast and dangerously.
The stunned Iden-wearer watched it go through the back windscreen, not bothering with his mirrors. He’d ended up stationary, at a right angle to the narrow road, taking up both lanes.
The cop in the cruiser outside Nokama’s house was Birus, which surprised Glonor. The strangely-colored Ko-Matoran examined him carefully before backing up his vehicle to allow him to pass. The Av-Matoran parked parallel to Birus’ cruiser then got out and struggled through the snow, hustling through the blistering cold. When he finally reached the front door he was welcomed by the second female cop, the one with the Kanohi Huna. Her telescopic lenses whirred in and out of focus. She hesitated before letting him in.
“All quiet?” he asked through chattering teeth.
“So far” she grunted in response.
“Let me see her” commanded the Av-Matoran, echoing the exact words Algor had uttered hours ago, and just as pointless. If anything bad had happened, the cops wouldn’t be sitting around doing nothing.
The Ga-Matoran shrugged idly. “She’s in the library, like always.”
Glonor nodded and strode towards the room at the back of the house. He found her there, in her usual chair, an old, dusty book on her lap. The title was too small for the Av-Matoran to read from a distance. Ninian was standing by the window. She flashed a quick smile at him then turned her attention back to the rear perimeter.
“Well?” muttered Nokama as she looked up from her book, “did they treat you like a Turaga?”
“They gave me the guided tour” he grunted in response.
“Did you learn anything?”
Garnax snarled menacingly as he trudged along the beach of his island, taking long, angry steps. He was beginning to grow irritated. His patience was wearing thin. It would only be a matter of hours before he was to set off for Metru-Nui and one of the witnesses was still alive. It was messy, and Garnax didn’t like it. He didn’t get paid for messy. He’d get paid for the complete destruction of Metru-Nui and nothing less.
And he sure as hell wasn’t going to let some retired school teacher stand in the way of his paycheck.
Once again, he activated his communicator and began furiously dialing for his guy Elysium. The fool answered, which annoyed Garnax considerably because the guy’s communicator was switched on, which meant he wasn’t – at that very moment – in the act of killing the damn witness.
The hired-gun answered.
“If I don’t hear the words she’s dead then I’m hiring a hitman to take care of you” snarled the Po-Matoran.
“You can damn well try it” retorted the guy angrily. “You remember I told you about the guy in her house last night?”
Garnax didn’t dignify him with an answer.
“Well he’s becoming something of a problem.”
“A problem that can’t be solved by bullets?”
“He was down at the prison interrogating Glidus at four in the morning and he’s just left the biker camp.”
“Who the hell’s Glidus?” snorted the Matoran of Stone as he plucked a shell off the sea shore and hurled it into the ocean violently.
“The biker who got arrested.”
“Does he know my name?”
“Then kill him too.”
The Matoran on the other end of the line didn’t respond to that.
“The next time I call you, I want there to be at least three fewer Matoran in this world” grunted Garnax. “And if it takes you that long to figure out which ones then you may as well shoot yourself in the mask right now.”
He hung up.
Glonor didn’t stay for long. The Iden-wearer got back into his cruiser then headed off for the police station. He ditched the vehicle in the parking area outside then fought his way inside into the main lobby, braving the cold. He found Crystallus in the squad room, talking to a tired-looking Ko-Matoran. The noble Matatu-wearer stopped talking at the sight of Glonor then nodded to the deputy chief and ducked away.
“They’re moving” he announced.
The Kakama-wearer blinked in surprise. “They told you that?”
“No” he confessed with a shrug. “Have you ever sold a house?”
Crystallus’ brow creased into a frown. “Once.”
“You cleaned it all up, right? Made it look like it did before you lived there?”
“I painted the roof.”
“Well they’ve got all the snow ploughed. Everything’s immaculate. Their stuff’s in boxes and their vehicles are defrosting. Whoever owns the place is selling it out from under their feet.”
“So when are they going?” asked Crystallus cautiously.
“Did they give you any trouble?”
“Did they believe you were from the army?”
“Not for a minute. But they’ve been told to keep their noses clean. The place needs to be a controversy-free zone. Whoever owns it doesn’t want the title damaged. So they couldn’t give me a hard time.”
“Nobody owns it. It’s all public land. That’s why the Turaga High Council built the huts on it in the first place.”
Glonor shook his head. “It’s making a profit for someone. Therefore someone thinks he owns it. The bikers are his slaves, that’s all. Workers. And now they’ve got their marching orders. They’re moving onto his next project.”
“Garnax the Brotherhood servant?”
Crystallus nodded then glanced across the busy squad room, at the window. “Did you find any Kraata?”
“No, but I want to see the one you guys confiscated from Glidus.”
The deputy chief’s eyes widened in shock but he masked it well, recovering from his surprise over being asked to hand over an infectious piece of evidence. “Why?”
“Because that’s how my mind works. One step at a time.”
The Ko-Matoran paused then shrugged and led the way back to the corridor, around a corner, to an evidence room. There was an Onu-Matoran wearing a Kanohi Komau, who was sitting behind a small counter, outside the room. He took one look at Crystallus then ducked down and produced a loop of keys. The Kakama-wearer nodded to him and took them. He opened the door.
“Wait here” muttered the deputy chief.
He entered and came out a couple of seconds later with a clear plastic evidence bag. It was big, stapled with some sort of custody form. Inside it was exactly what Nokama had described: the purple colored Kraata in a stasis tube. It was a level three Kraata, suspended in the midst of its maturity.
“Did you test if that’s real?”
“Of course” answered the Ko-Matoran. “It’s a Kraata. No question. It’s illegal so it doesn’t sell, Turaga Matoro banned that. But on places like Stelt and Xia? Two hundred thousand.”
Glonor blinked in surprise. “And the Ko-Matoran who bought it off Glidus? Have you got his money in there too?”
“Can I see it?”
“Don’t you believe me?”
“I just like looking at stuff.”
Crystallus sighed then ducked back in and came back out with another clear evidence bag. Same size. Same kind of form stapled to it. Inside it were twenty bricks of solid gold, packed together into the tight bag.
“How long would it take you to earn that much?”
“After taxes?” Crystallus let out a deflated breath of air. “I don’t really want to think about that.”
Glonor nodded then fell silent for a beat.
“So did you find their lab?”
“Did you see the stone building?”
“From the outside. It’s all locked up and, apparently, they don’t have a key.”
“Any chance they told you what it was?”
“No, but they told me what it isn’t.”
Crystallus’ frown deepened. “How so?”
“They’ve cleared it, the entire bunker, all the snow.” Glonor cracked a sly smile. “We started off on a false assumption here. You told me about an army facility, a stone building at the end of a two mio road. I just went there. It’s not a road. It’s a runway. It’s an air force facility, not army.”
“And what kind of Matoran-air-force-building would store Kraata?”
“One that wasn’t built by Matoran I assume.”
“Then who built it?”
“Someone who isn’t a friend of Metru-Nui” shrugged the Av-Matoran decisively.
The Onu-Matoran took the hint and took the two bags of evidence back into the room and Crystallus dropped the keys back on the counter as Glonor began walking back, forcing the deputy chief to chase after him for answers.
“How’re you coping?” asked the drifter.
“I think I need to get some sleep, I’m not thinking properly” grumbled the Ko-Matoran as he rubbed the back of his neck, trying to stimulate concentration.
“You can sleep when you’re dead. This is urgent” retorted Glonor. “The runway is ploughed. Two whole mio. Nobody does that for fun. Therefore someone is due to show up. Plus I passed a fuel transporter going up there when I left. Maybe that someone’s planning on some heavy lifting.”
“Have you contacted the Turaga High Council or whoever’s supposed to be dealing with this?”
“Yes,” nodded Crystallus “but they ignored me. They’re not interested. They have sensors and thermal imaging all over the place. They scanned the bunker and couldn’t detect any heat signatures. So, as far as they’re concerned, it’s just a real estate deal, until proven otherwise.”
Now it was Glonor’s turn to frown. “But we know there are Kraata underground.”
“The Turaga Council says not” shrugged the deputy chief. “Their imaging can see into basements and they say there’s nothing down there.”
“They didn’t see a lab.”
“The bikers have Kraata, we have solid evidence to support that, so they must be growing them in a lab somehow.”
Crystallus shook his head. “I’m afraid we don’t know if there’s even anything under the ground at all. Not for sure.”
“We do” protested the Av-Matoran slightly more aggressively than he’d intended to sound. “Nobody clears a two-mile runway for nothing. That’s long enough for any kind of airship. Any kind of bomber, any kind of transport. And nobody lands bombers or transports next to buildings the size of a house. You were right, Crystallus. It’s the tip of an ice-burg. A stair-head. Which means there’s definitely something under it. Probably very big and very deep.”
“But what exactly?”
Glonor paused then shrugged. “You’ll know when I know.”
As if on cue, chief Glacii chose that moment to stop them in the hallway. Glonor hadn’t noticed him until he stepped in front of them and put an arm out to block them.
“I just got a call from highway patrol” he grunted.
Crystallus and Glonor exchanged glances, both anticipating what came next.
“The bikers are leaving. Thirty-six stolen cars and motorcycles just hit the highway.”
Glacii told the story on the way to one of the conference rooms. The highway patrol had been out checking there were no remaining weather problems. One of them had parked on the snowy shoulder when he’d spotted the bikers. He’d been watching traffic coming and going in his vehicle when a long fast convoy headed down the snowy ribbon that led to the construction camp. It had been quite a sight, between thirty and forty cars driving nose to tail, each with three bikers and entire stacks of crates in each. They’d slowed, turned, swooped around the corner, merged onto the highway, then accelerated north. It had taken twenty whole seconds for the cars to pass any one point.
A couple of other officers managed to confirm the news and highway patrol cruisers were calling in reports. The convoy was now ten mio north-east of Elysium, and still moving fast. But not fast enough to be ticketed. They were holding steady, driving straight and true, still keeping their noses clean.
They used the smallest conference room, which consisted of four tables and chairs boxed together in a square-shape. Crystallus sat beside Glacii on one side and Glonor sat on the other, opposite the Pakari Nuva-wearer.
“You happy to just let them go?” asked Glonor doubtfully.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” replied Glacii.
“They were selling Kraata.”
The police chief shrugged. “This is a small town at heart. We operate under small town rules. If I see the back of a crisis, that’s generally as good as solving it.”
“End of problem” added Crystallus.
“Not really” winced the Av-Matoran. “They cleaned up and got out because the place is being sold and needs a good title. Nokama’s the last little smudge on it. She’s in more danger now than she ever was before. She’s the only obstacle between someone getting a load of money.”
“Well, we’re doing everything we can” sighed Glacii. “We have five police officers around her house day and night, and they’re staying there.”
“Unless the siren goes off again.”
“You said it won’t.”
The Matoran of Light grunted dismissively. “An educated guess is still just a guess. This is the time to start worrying. Not to stop.”
Glacii grunted aloud. “You see me relaxing, I hereby give you permission to hit me. We may have our problems, and we may not be the Vacca-Nui army, but we’ve struggling along so far. You should remember that.”
The Matoran of Light nodded. “I know. I apologize. It’s not your fault. It’s the mayor’s. Who the hell would sign a plan like that?”
“Anyone would” snapped the police chief. “Those are jobs that Elysium needs. Now the war’s over, do you think people want to stay here, in the cold?”
The conference room fell silent before Crystallus finally managed to speak up.
“So where is the hired-gun sleeping if all the hotels are full?”
“In his car, probably” grunted Glacii.
“Then where’s he eating.”
“Same answer” muttered Glonor. “He’ll want to stay quiet, and that means staying on the outskirts of Elysium.”
“So should we install road blocks? There’re only three ways in.”
“No” grunted the other Ko-Matoran. “If he’s already killed then there’s every chance he’ll manage to slip past us, and that’s assuming he isn’t already here.” The police chief took a break from speaking for a moment to think of his orders. “We stay mobile. Keep the patrols regular.” The Pakari Nuva-wearer nodded to himself slowly then at Glonor. “I’m sorry for snapping at you” he muttered. “I didn’t mean it. Without you we’d be lost here.”
The Av-Matoran nodded then glanced at Crystallus. Neither of them had anything to do and they both knew it.
Glonor gestured towards the window through folded arms. “We should go to the camp. To take a look around. Now it’s empty. While we’ve still got daylight.”
“Sounds good” agreed the police chief. He looked at the clock on the wall. “I might as well come with you guys when I get through the paperwork on the siren last night.”
“We’ll meet you in the lobby at the end of lunch” suggested Crystallus, his arms crossed.
Glacii nodded then fell quiet, as if he was running through a mental agenda and checking all the items on it had been covered – which they must have because his next move was to stand up and walk out of the room without another word, heading for his office presumably. Work to do.
“We should get lunch before we go up there” muttered Crystallus. “You could come back to the house and be company for Lagira. She’d probably like that.”
“Because she’s lonely?”
Crystallus nodded reluctantly. “Yes.”
Glonor smiled widely. “Then you and I shouldn’t be the only Matoran specimens she sees all day. Why not pick her up and take her into town with us?”
The Ko-Matoran nodded again. He paused, as if holding something back then opened his mouth to speak but he didn’t get far into his sentence before his communicator began to buzz. He sighed lightly and pressed the button to accept the call, listened for exactly eight seconds, then shut it off.
“That was the desk sergeant?” he announced. “Calling to tell me a replacement bus has just arrived in Elysium. All the passengers are supposed to be in the lobby when it arrives.”
Glonor didn’t respond.
“I take it you’re still planning on staying here and helping us?”
The Iden-wearer cracked a broad, devilish grin. “Like hell I am.”
The walk down the street to the restaurant was short, but it was straight into the bitter wind. The blowing ice hurt for the first few steps, like tiny needles. Luckily, Glonor’s mask was already numb and he didn’t feel them anymore.
The line for a table was out the door, so Glonor took his place behind a shivering Ga-Matoran, presumably the wife of a Matoran who’d committed a war crime and was locked up in the jail.
The line moved slowly but steadily until the Av-Matoran got a level view of the steamed window. He could see vague shapes bustling about inside. Two waitresses. Probably got steady wages, though tips weren’t likely. Friends and partners of prisoners didn’t have a lot of money to waste like that. If they did then they wouldn’t be friends and partners of prisoners. They’d have been bailed out long ago.
The Ga-Matoran in front of him managed to squeeze in through the door while Glonor waited his turn on the sidewalk. He pressed up under the shelter to protect himself from the wind. He didn’t have to wait long before he was up at the counter, mouthing the word three to a waitress. The over-worked Matoran of Lightning nodded then swiped a wet rag across a table and beckoned him over.
As he sat down, Glonor noticed Crystallus’ police cruiser grind to a halt in the street. He saw the deputy chief step onto the sidewalk. His wife wasn’t with him. The Ko-Matoran cut to the front of the queue then stepped in through the door. No one complained. Crystallus’ badge was in his hand.
Glonor staying in his seat as the cop sat down to an awkward silence, which wasn’t broken until the Av-Matoran caught the him looking at the misty window.
“I know” he muttered. “It’s all steamed up. But a bus is a pretty big thing. I’ll be able to see it.”
“And you don’t want to leave on it?”
Glonor shook his head. “Where’s Lagira?”
“She didn’t want to come” responded the cop. “She doesn’t like crowds.”
Glonor looked around at the rest of the restaurant. They were two Matoran at a table for four, and the line was still stretching out the door. Other people came in, glanced over, maybe took half a step, then looked away. The world was divided into two halves: people who liked cops and people who didn’t. The military had been exactly the same. Glonor had eaten next to empty chairs many, many times.
A grim sigh broke his focus and he realized that Crystallus had his head in his arms. “What would you do, if you were me?” he asked.
“It’s not yours.”
“I’m next in line.”
“I’d start some serious training” stated the Iden-wearer firmly. “People like Birus shouldn’t be cops. Then I’d renegotiate this deal with the prison. Their crisis plan is completely unsustainable.”
“It worked OK last night” shrugged the deputy chief. “Apart from the thing with Nokama. As far as anyone other than us is concerned, that makes the plan a success. Besides, when this month is over and she’s out of our protection we won’t have anything to argue about. Nobody will listen.”
“You’re in Metru-Nui now” chuckled Glonor. “Complaining seems to be everybody’s right.” When the Ko-Matoran failed to laugh at his joke so there was no more conversation.
Neither of them ordered any food, only warm drinks – which defeated the entire purpose of going to the restaurant. Crystallus kept quiet and Glonor had nothing more to say. Without Lagira the whole thing was a bust.
The drinks were good though. Glonor wasn’t sure what the mud-colored liquid was but it was warm, fresh and strong, forcing him to concentrate. It was like throwing coal into a furnace. Being cold was like starving.
When they grew uncomfortable of the covetous stares from the queue leading out the door they decided to pay, or rather Crystallus did. He left a generous fifteen-percent tip – unless Elysium was one of the towns that allowed cops to eat for free, in which case it was a solid one hundred-percent tip. Either way, it earned the pair a weary smile from the waitress.
After stretching, the two Matoran headed off to the parked cruiser outside, just in time to see a big blue bus pull up in the police station parking area.
The coach was roughly the same size and style as the vehicle that had crashed two days earlier. Same number of seats, same blacked out windows at the rear, same kind of door. The only obvious difference seemed to be the fact it was colored blue instead of white.
It had entered the lot from the north, so the door was facing away from the police station. Glonor stood with Crystallus in the open street with the wind on his back and watched the thin line of shuddering Matoran emerge from the building and walk around. There were all kinds of grateful farewells going on. The locals, shaking hands, getting hugged, giving out addresses and contact details. He saw the Ga-Matoran with the busted collar, the Zatth-wearer. Her right arm was in a sling and someone else was carrying her bags. Most of the others had their bandages off. Their cuts were all healing up.
The new driver was crouched down and slotting suitcases into the hold under the floor. The passengers stepped around him, gripping the handrail carefully and walking up the steps slowly and cautiously. Glonor could see their heads bobbing through the windows, masks of different colors but all the same smudged, blurred shape moving down the aisle, pausing to choose their spaces, then settling.
The last passenger aboard was Knox himself. On the journey he’d been the driver, now he was just another passenger. The Av-Matoran watched his scarlet helmet wondering down the aisle then ducking into the window seat three rows away from the last of the other passengers. Glonor’s seat. Near the rear wheels, where the ride was roughest.
No point travelling if you’re not feeling it he thought, a sad smile slipping onto his Kanohi Iden.
Then the new driver latched up the luggage compartment and bounded up the steps. A moment later the door sucked shut behind him and the engine started. Glonor could hear its faint, diffused rattle over the raging wind. The four rubbery tyres roared and the coach moved away, out of the lot, onto the road. The icy gale battered at it as it headed east, towards the road that would take it back onto the northern highway. Glonor watched it go until it was lost to sight.
Crystallus clapped a hand on his friend’s back supportively.
“A viable mode of transport just left town without me one it” remarked the Av-Matoran. “I’ve broken the habit of a lifetime.”
Garnax dialed the guy once again. A direct call, which could present itself as a risk when he calmed down and reflected on his actions later. But he wasn’t going to cool off any time soon. In his experience, sometimes it was best that caution was abandoned. Timing was everything and the clock was ticking on.
The guy answered.
“Do you have any news for me?” demanded the ill-tempered Po-Matoran.
“Not yet. I’m sorry.”
Garnax paused. “It almost seems like it would be easier just to do the job than find new ways of delaying it.”
“It’s not like that.”
“It would seem you are working very hard to save the wrong life.”
“Focus on the life you really want to save.”
“I will. I am.”
“You have a deadline” taunted the Po-Matoran sardonically. “Please don’t let me down again.”
He hung up once again.
- In Chapter 5 Nokama references falling into a canal that bordered Ko-Metru while playing Kohlii and nearly freezing to death. This is a canon event as Nokama reflected upon this moment as a Toa in The Darkness Below in the main BIONICLE universe.
- Additionally, in Chapter 5, Cobarox is mentioned. Aside from Glonor, he is the first character from the main saga to be featured in the Frozen Calling story serial. However, he does not actually appear, which means that Glonor remains as the only character from the previous storyline to appear in Frozen Calling.
- In chapter 7, Glonor referenced being awarded the Purple Heart-Stone award for being wounded in action during the Vacca-Nui civil war. This is a reference to the real-life Purple Heart award.
- Furthermore, the book that Nokama received from Glacii was entitled To Kill a Gukko-Bird, which is a reference to the real-life novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Glonor - Deserts of Death universe Counterpart
- Papura - Deceased
- An unnamed Ko-Matoran Police Officer who wore a Kanohi Miru, had white and green armor, and was immediately disliked by Glonor.
- A murdered Fe-Matoran resident of Elysium - Deceased
- A Matoran speaker who informed Knox that the Police Department were sending a vehicle through his communicator
- Members of the Kraata Purge
- An Infected Ta-Matoran - Injured
- An Infected Le-Matoran - Injured
- A Biker who caused Knox to swerve and crash the bus
- A member who Nokama witnessed trying to sell a Kraata to a Ko-Matoran. - Imprisoned in the Elysium Prison
- Twenty somewhat-elderly Matoran who were on the tour bus
- A Ga-Matoran Zatth-Wearer who broke her collar bone
- A Ga-Matoran who broke her arm
- A burly Onu-Matoran
- Two Ta-Matoran
- Seven other Ga-Matoran
- A De-Matoran who sat in the middle of the bus
- Garnax’s unnamed Makuta master
- Tren Krom - Mentioned
- Several other bus drivers who offered Glonor lifts prior to the bus crashing - Mentioned
- Cobarox - Mentioned
- No pre-existing creations of User:Matoro1's - aside from Glonor - will appear in Frozen Calling.
- There will be 17 chapters.
- Unlike the Matoran used in the main story, none of the characters will have painted 2004 Matoran Kanohi. Instead, they are planned to have pre-existing Kanohi. However, User:Matoro1 hopes to make these as random as possible.
- Despite the fact that no links to the past story line are made, the second storm - which is approaching Elysium in the early chapters - is the same storm that was artificially created in chapter 3 of Whispers in the Dark, which takes place at the same time as Frozen Calling.
- Frozen Calling is dedicated to User:Abc8920 for his long-lasting support for Matoro1's story saga.
- Although the name Frozen Calling was selected through a vote, it surprisingly suggests the importance of the Elysium prison siren, which does in fact shape the future of the story serial.
- The characters Crystallus, Papura, Lagira, and Algor all belong to Abc8920, who very kindly allowed Matoro1 to use them in the story serial as he was unable to think of character names while writing the story.
|Fractures Storyline||2011||Whispers in the Dark • Frozen Calling • Falling in the Black|
|2012||Vendetta • Judgement Day|
|See Also||Saga Guide|