I was passing through Ko-Koro-Nuva when I first saw him: a figure approaching from a path into the high mountains in the middle of the night. Though he had the stature of a Toa, he walked with a severe limp, using a large stick as a cane to steady himself. Still, his movements were precise, calculated, practiced. He wore a long cloak, with its hood drawn over his head to conceal his face. The few Ko-Matoran about didn't seem to pay much attention to him; there were some odd looks, but his cloak totally concealed his identity, and none of the Matoran seemed interested in interfering with his journey. Just another traveler passing through, as far as they were concerned, but I sensed something more, so I quietly followed him.
He made his way to the train station, where he purchased a ticket and boarded the only waiting train. I asked the Matoran behind the ticket counter where he was going.
"New Atero, ma'm."
So I purchased a ticket for New Atero, and just made it onto the train in time before it set off. Soon, it was rumbling down the track, on schedule to arrive in Onu-Koro-Nuva, the one stop along the way to New Atero, by sunrise.
The car I'd taken a seat in contained but a few passengers, but the hooded Toa had disappeared. Curious as to where he went, I started making my way back through the train. The further back I got, the emptier the cars were. The second-to-last one didn't have a single passenger in it. The last had but one; the mysterious Toa, sleeping on the very back bench. Using my Volitak to keep from making any noise to wake him up, I made my way through the cart and sat down on the bench opposite him.
"I know you are following me." He said quietly, much to my surprise.
"You do?" No reply. I was amazed; even the power of the Kanohi Volitak wasn't enough to conceal one from him. Had he only been pretending to be asleep?
"What do you want?" he inquired.
"I'd like to know who you are." I answered. "Specifically… are you the Toa of that statue in Ko-Koro-Nuva?"
"What would make you think that?" For a moment, I sensed surprise, but after that his mind was closed off, blank again.
"Kopaka, Toa Nuva of Ice. They say he disappeared into the mountains one day and never returned. You came down from those mountains, so I figured you might be him."
"No." Again, it was fleeting, but I could tell that wasn't the truth.
"Then who are you?"
"None of your concern." I could sense a degree of frustration in him. "Leave me be, please."
"Well, newsflash, I can read minds," I explained. "You are Kopaka. I'm sure of it."
"You can?" He was surprised. He sighed, then sat up from his slumped position and pulled back his hood, revealing that most unique of masks; the Kanohi Akaku Nuva. It was old, and looked as though it had sustained plenty of damage, but it was still easily recognizable.
"I'm a Toa, too," I explained, "a Toa of…"
"…of psionics." He cut me off. He eyed me up and down with that alien, calculating gaze of his. The lenses in his scope made constant, minute adjustments, adding to the effect, as though he was trying to find just the right arrangement to allow him to see right through me. "You look new."
"I am, sir." I replied.
"They still need Toa these days?" Skepticism… a hint of irony.
"Rebellious Skakdi," I explained. "Hardly Toa-worthy in the end, but some panicky Turaga decided they needed a Toa anyways. So I was chosen."
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I was passing through Ko-Koro-Nuva when I noticed you coming down from the mountains. I was wondering who you were, since, you know, I could only see a cloaked figure. So I followed you." A vague sense of relief. "But I really do want to know why you just disappeared up there."
"Because it matters!" now I was getting frustrated. "Those Ko-Matoran back there practically worship you!"
"I know. I saw the statue."
"Exactly! Shouldn't you announce to them first that you're back?"
"I am not back." He sighed.
"Then why are you here?"
"Again, none of your business. Leave me be, and do not tell anyone I am here." He pulled up the hood again.
"I can't just leave you be. You're hurt, you're in pain. I can feel it." I could feel it, and now that he was sitting and not using the cloak to fully conceal himself, I could see just what a condition he was in. His armor had many cuts, scrapes, and dents. His right leg had been badly busted and shoddily repaired, and numerous scars littered his body. The more I looked at him, the more I was horrified. What had happened to him?
"My pain is none of your concern. I will be fine."
"Are you going to get yourself fixed up?"
"Well, would you mind if I came along, then?" I asked. "It's not like I have anything better to do."
"So things have not changed in that respect." For a moment, I was confused. Then I remembered what I'd heard about the Toa Nuva before, about how they'd split up. From what I knew, the Toa had begun to argue and bicker over what they should do now that the planet had been reformed. They'd all disagreed on their future as a team, and in the end decided that there was no point in them… being a team any longer, since there was no great evil to threaten the Matoran anymore. It had been a bitter breakup, particularly for the Toa of Water.
"No, things haven't changed, I guess." I informed him.
"You have become a Toa in a world that still does not need any," Kopaka said bitterly. Unlike his voice, his face betrayed no emotion, but I could sense a degree of pity, and decided to play on it.
"Yeah… Now that those Skakdi have been put in line, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do with myself."
"You are looking for a purpose." A shared recognition.
"Good luck finding one." Was that… a glimmer of empathy? Surely, he of all people knew what it was like to be left without a purpose?
"Until I do… would you mind if I stuck with you? I promise I won't tell anyone who you are."
"If you must. But do not expect me to stick around here for long."
"Thank you. I'm Lis, by the way."
So he was willing to tolerate me. That was enough. Looking at him, I was concerned. In his condition, and at his age, if he went back into those mountains it wouldn't be long before he was dead for real. I'm not sure whether I was hoping to talk him out of going back, or whether I just wanted to spend whatever time I could with one of the legendary Toa Nuva before he disappeared for good. Or I just wanted to make sure he got fixed up well. But either way, I was coming with him, and while I had the opportunity, I figured I might learn something about the Toa Nuva along the way.
True to form, he did not talk for the rest of the journey, instead sitting in silent contemplation all the way to Onu-Koro-Nuva. I attempted to read into his mind, to peer beyond the silent exterior, but hard as I tried I couldn't decipher much of anything. First off, there was this constant sensation of severe physical pain, which he was apparently able to ignore, but it was profoundly disorientating for me. Whenever I tried to get a picture of his thoughts, I was bombarded with this astounding stream of information. Sometimes, I caught a hint of a constellation moving in the sky, then the view would expand to include more stars, then more… and then everything would be jumbled again, as though he had moved to a scale my brain simply couldn't process. Then there would only be the pain. Legends always told of the Kopaka's intelligence, of the way he'd analyze and process things at incredible speeds as though he could see the future; they were right. I couldn't keep up, and even trying to do so was exhausting. Still, if he was bothered by me reading in on his thoughts, he didn't tell me.
In Onu-Koro-Nuva several Matoran and Agori left the train, after which more boarded. We still had the back car to ourselves; it clearly wasn't a busy day. The journey to New Atero would take a full day, and having just spent six hours attempting to read the Toa Nuva of Ice's mind and not getting anything, I decided to try and engage him in conversation again instead.
"So, what did you do in the mountains?" I asked.
"Meditate on what?"
"You would not understand."
"Are you sure about that?"
"You were trying all night, were you not? Did you figure anything out?"
"Not much, to be honest… So could you explain?"
"I cannot make clear to you with mere speech what you could not understand directly from my mind."
"Okay, that's a bit rude." Not even a benefit of the doubt? How demeaning.
"Is it not true?" He locked eyes on me, again with that uncomfortable, piercing gaze.
"I mean, yeah… but you don't need to say it bluntly like that. You're basically calling me stupid."
"You are incapable of comprehending my thoughts. So compared to me, you are stupid."
"Again with the insults."
"It is not an insult. It is the truth." I was getting angry at him, but I could sense no… resentment, no intent to mock me, not a demeaning thought on his mind. He was judgmental, maybe, but I could only conclude that he hadn't at all intended to insult me in any way. He simply said what he saw, regardless of the consequences.
"So, you always tell the truth straight up like that?" I asked.
"Did that happen to contribute in any way to the breakup of your team?" Honestly, I was curious as to what he'd think of that.
"I had nothing to do with the breakup," he said coldly.
"How can you be so sure about that?" Now I had him. Surely, the most solitary of the Toa Nuva would have had the least to lose from the team breaking up? It was hard to believe that he hadn't had something to do with it.
"I did not start the arguments. I did not participate in them. I did not make things worse by trying to intervene," Kopaka explained. "It was inevitable."
"Then who started the arguments?" I asked. "And how do you know that interfering would have made things worse?"
"I do not have time to tell you that whole story."
"Then don't." I suggested. "Just think it. I'll pull out of it what I can."
"Think the story?"
"Recall the memories, and I'll read them. It'll be quicker than you telling me everything."
Kopaka sighed. "Fine."
I closed my eyes, focused on his presence, and zoned in on his thoughts. Suddenly, I wasn't on the train anymore; my senses had been replaced by those of Kopaka, or rather, the senses that formed that memory. I should note that I had used that power once or twice before; usually recent memories were quite vivid, while those from further back tended to be much more blurred and unclear. Kopaka's memories had none of this; everything I got from him, I got in full detail, so much so that it was almost overwhelming. All sensation of where I actually was had gone; I was living Kopaka's memory in perfect clarity.