Vakama's chest rose and fell rapidly as he pressed his back closer to the protodermis wall. A pair of Vahki Enforcers passed, thankfully without noticing the out-of-place Matoran.
When the Vahki left, the Matoran dared to breathe again. He looked around the corner of the building, and saw a Ta-Matoran guard and a squadron of Vahki.
Vakama narrowed his eyes and stole away back behind the building. Well, he thought, this isn't going to be easy. From behind his back, he took out the curious red stone that his friend Toa Lhikan had entrusted him with. "Keep it safe," he had said. Vakama sighed, thinking again of the friend who had sacrificed his freedom – and perhaps even his life – for him.
He had to make it to the Great Temple. Yet, Vakama knew, that was easier said than done.
He couldn't help but overhear the conversation between the Matoran guard and the Vahki. Actually, it was something more like a monologue, as the Vahki didn't talk.
"But you don't need to be here!" the guard shouted. The Vahki glanced down at him briefly, then continued to do what they had been ordered to do – watch the border.
Exasperated and seeing that shouting didn't seem to work, the guard tried a more diplomatic approach. "Okay," he said, "I know that Turaga Dume asked you to come out and guard the border. I understand that." He then extended his arms out. "But this village already has guards!"
If the Vahki heard him, they didn't seem to notice.
The guard sighed. He, Jaller, was the last Ta-Matoran guard to stick to his post. The other guards had already left, though the Turaga had not officially dismissed them, having felt that there was no hope for maintaining their posts.
Even the captain of the guard, whom Jaller had once greatly respected, had abandoned his post.
Jaller wouldn't give up though. He continued trying to convince the seemingly deaf law-enforcers that he didn't need their assistance.
Puffing out his chest, he declared with pride, "Nothing gets by —"
"Jaller!" a flailing Matoran yelled from under the arm of a Vahki. The Vahki carrying him proceeded to throwing the Matoran at Jaller's feet. After rolling his eyes and sighing, Jaller helped his friend to his feet.
The Matoran straightened his blue Kanohi Mask that had gone askew as Jaller crossed his arms.
"Takua, what were you doing this time?" the guard asked, wondering what new excuse his friend had come up with for taking yet another unscheduled vacation from work.
The Matoran named Takua smiled innocently. "Oh, I was just exploring the fascinating streets of Le-Metru. There was so many Ussal crabs, Jaller, you should have seen…!" His voice trailed off as his dreamy eyes met the aggravated ones of his friend.
"Takua..." Jaller sighed, "you have got to stop running off every chance you get! Why don't you just stay in Ta-Metru like you're supposed to?"
The other Matoran smiled again, raising one finger with the other hand on his hip. "You know me – always different."
"Yeah, always in trouble," Jaller retorted, punching his friend's arm good-naturedly. Looking back at the Vahki and realizing that there was nothing more that he could think of to say to get them to leave at the moment, he said, "I'll make sure you get back to your workshop this time – and that you stay there."
"Yeah, yeah," Takua said with a playful roll of the eyes.
Together, they rounded around the corner of a building and nearly ran over a Matoran in doing so.
"Hey!" Takua said. "Watch –!"
"Shhh!" Vakama whispered, covering Takua's mouth. Jaller took a step forward and then stopped when Vakama slowly removed his hand.
"I mean you no harm," Vakama said to Takua and Jaller.
Jaller suddenly remembered where they were and crossed his arms. "Hey, don't you know that Matoran aren't supposed to be here?"
Based on what he had heard, Vakama felt that it would be safe to tell these two the truth. "I'm on a mission for Toa Lhikan."
Surprised, the two friends exchanged looks. Takua shrugged and Jaller uncrossed his arms.
Jaller said firmly, "I am loyal to Toa Lhikan. But how do we know if you're really on a mission for him?"
Vakama would, under normal circumstances, not try to prove people when they asked such questions. However, as he was beginning to realize, these were anything but "normal circumstances." Perhaps going against his better judgment, he withdrew the item that his friend had entrusted into his care.
The bright red glow that emitted from the stone reflected in the two Matorans' eyes. Their jaws dropped as they marveled that this Matoran had something so astounding. Feeling that the guard's question had been answered, Vakama returned the stone to its hiding place behind his back.
"Okay, I'm convinced!" Takua declared. Jaller looked at the ground, deep in thought. Slowly, he raised his eyes to meet Vakama's.
"All right, I'm in. What would you have us do?"
After putting their three heads together, they had devised a plan. Vakama told them that he needed to get to Ga-Metru. He didn't tell them where exactly he was going to in Ga-Metru, but not for lack of trust. More than anything, he feared that they might be captured and his destination might be revealed.
"Are you sure this plan is going to work?" Vakama whispered to Jaller as Vakama snuck a look from behind the building.
"Sure I'm sure," Jaller said resolutely from the other side of the building, holding his spear.
"But what about your friend?"
Jaller smiled back at the mask-maker. "Don't worry about him. The Vahki know that the most terrible punishment for Takua is sending him back to work."
Vakama smiled at this, feeling much relieved. He was ready then to execute the plan, knowing that his comrades would be all right.
Himself, on the other hand…
The thought left Vakama's mind as a Ga-Metru vehicle came rolling up the street. As Jaller had told Vakama, vehicles such as this came from Ga-Metru daily carrying protodermis that had been researched and purified in Ga-Metru that would be to heated and cast into Kanohi Masks, tools and other necessary items. It was now empty and ready to return to Ga-Metru to reload before returning again to Ta-Metru.
Jaller gave the signal – he lifted his arms high up in the air in an exaggerated yawn. Then, he walked toward his assigned post as though he had just returned from delivering Takua back to his workplace.
Takua, having received the signal, climbed up into the driver's seat of the Vahki transport parked across the street that the Vahki Enforcers had driven to the border between Ga- and Ta-Metru.
He was so excited he could hardly contain himself. He had never been in a Vahki transport before – except, he corrected himself, for that time when he had accidentally enraged a Kikanalo in Po-Metru that subsequently knocked over a statue of Turaga Dume while pursuing him – but that didn't really count because he had been in the back of the vehicle following that incident…
"All right," he said to himself, "focus." He wrapped his itching fingers around what looked like a joystick and pushed it forward with all of his might. The vehicle took off immediately.
"Woohoo!" Takua cried as the Vahki transport raced away, leaving the Vahki in its dust.
Its owners – even though they technically didn't have facial expressions – looked rather surprised as their vehicle ran away from them.
Jaller suggested calmly, "You might want to go get that."
Quickly, the Vahki regained their senses and followed Jaller's advice.
Jaller smiled and turned around. The Ga-Metru vehicle had just made it to the border and the guard made a gesture indicating that the Ga-Matoran needed to stop for a routine check. The driver nodded and waited patiently as the guard went around back to check the back of the vehicle. Once there, the guard gestured toward his fellow Ta-Matoran, who slipped out the shadows and quickly joined him.
Jaller helped Vakama silently into the back of the vehicle behind the curtain that covered the empty cargo area.
"Thank you, Jaller," Vakama whispered, lying facedown across the bottom of the back of the vehicle with only his head visible. "And to your friend too." Jaller smiled, and then turned his head and frowned.
"I will never for—" Jaller clamped a hand over Vakama's mouth before the latter could finish, and shoved the Matoran's head behind the curtain.
The Vahki had just returned with the flailing Ta-Matoran runaway.
Jaller hailed the Ga-Matoran driver onward, carrying the hope of Metru Nui with it. Somewhat smugly, Jaller turned to the Vahki.
"See?" he said. "Ta-Metru didn't burn down while you were away."
Though much time had passed since that day, Vakama still had not forgotten what Jaller and Takua had done for him. One day, the Turaga appointed Jaller to be the captain of the guard, for he was loyal to both his home and those who protected it. In giving the Matoran his friend Lhikan's mask as a replacement for Jaller's broken one, Vakama felt that he had at least partially repaid the guard for his brave deed.
The Turaga appointed Takua to be the Chronicler, the recorder of the deeds of the Toa Nuva. This position would at least help to fulfill Takua's endless capacity for adventure and travel.
Vakama also remembered how much Takua liked Ussal crabs.
Author's Note: I would appreciate any and all feedback. Thank you.