The twin suns shown from the midmorning sky, their light tarnished by the soot and ash that hung in the air. Smokestacks stretched from scores of structures, spewing their contents into the sky, as skyscrapers stood among them, soaring above the city. On the streets below, citizens walked to and fro, the sounds of dozens of languages floating to the soot-laden sky. Beings of every race imaginable strode between the buildings, as vehicles of every shape and size whizzed back and forth. Among those riding in the transports were a Po-Matoran and an Onu-Matoran.
The Onu-Matoran sighed. The Po-Matoran looked at his companion, concern written on his Great Style Komau.
"Something wrong, Oruni?" he asked, in a gruff baritone voice.
The Onu-Matoran sighed again. "Yet another day of back-breaking labor begins," he replied, his Noble Mahiki drawn with discontent.
The Po-Matoran threw an arm around his friend's shoulder. "Oh come on," he chuckled, "don't start this again."
"I'm just fed up with this whole situation, Tohra," he replied. "Every day, it's the same thing. Get up, work our Kanohi off digging in some hole in the ground, go back to sleep, and start all over. I know why we're here in Aleris, but…I just want something more."
Tohra sighed, "Yeah, I know what you're saying, pal, but this is our life right now. Maybe someday we can get out of here, but for now, this is the best place to be." He chuckled. "And for the record, you're the first Onu-Matoran I've ever heard call a mine 'some hole in the ground.'"
Oruni chuckled, his expression easing somewhat. He stared out through the throngs of pedestrians. "I don't mean to sound ungrateful or selfish," he said, "but I just feel, no, I know I could be of so much more use elsewhere."
Tohra simply nodded as they carried on towards the mines.
The mining city of Aleris was one of the greatest cities in the universe, rivaling the island city of Metru Nui in size, population, and productivity. The mines just south of the sprawling metropolis produced a steady stream of stone, gems, and minerals that were purified in the city's hundreds of refineries and shipped around the world, to everywhere from Metru Nui in the north to the Amari Islands in the south. To maintain this steady stream of industry, the city needed a steady stream of labor, and besides Tohra and Oruni, there was no short supply.
* * *
As the end of the shift approached, Oruni put down his pickaxe and stretched his back, several satisfying pops emanating from his spine. Nearby, Tohra threw a boulder the size of himself into a transport cart and went to join his friend; the Po-Matoran had gratuitous amounts of strength and put them to good use.
The two of them worked in one of the few mines that still mainly utilized manual labor. The Sapphire Strip, as it was called, was an area heavily laden with not just sapphires, but dozens of other gems as well. The large machines used in most of the other mines would reduce the precious gems to dust; hence, good old fashioned shovels and pickaxes were used to find the precious stones hidden amongst the dark rock.
"Aah, another productive day," sighed Tohra. "Let's go."
Oruni nodded. "Sounds good," he said as they headed towards the lift.
Tohra and Oruni, along with a dozen other miners, got aboard the lift. At the top of the lift, its passengers exited, making their way to the mine's main tunnel. One of Aleris' largest, it was almost a half kio in diameter. Climbing aboard one of the crawling transports that ran the tunnel's length, Oruni and Tohra settled in for the ride. Fifteen minutes later, the crawler exited the tunnel, and its passengers filed out of the transport.
Oruni and Tohra followed the river of workers to one of the many buildings that sat around the mine's entrance. They entered one of the buildings and got in line to have their work cards checked. Each worker carried a small metal card that was fed into a machine at the beginning and end of each work day. It had his name and worker number etched into it. The machines were tied into a large database that kept track of how many hours each employee had worked and how much they were to be paid.
When it was Oruni's turn, he stepped up to the desk and handed his card to the Ga-Matoran attendant.
"Hello, Oruni, enjoy your day?" she asked.
"Hi Kaisha, as much as ever, I guess," he replied.
Kaisha pressed a few buttons before handing back his card. "You know, you could always apply for a transfer and work in repair shop. I know you like technical stuff."
Oruni put his card back into his pouch as he said, "I don't know. I've never much liked having to go through unnecessary paperwork."
Kaisha shrugged. "Ah well, I'll see you tomorrow."
Oruni walked towards the exit door where Tohra was waiting for him. Oruni noticed an odd look on his face.
"Oruni, is there something you want to tell me?" he asked, as they walked out the door.
"What do you mean?" asked the Onu-Matoran.
"Hey, I saw you. You like her, don't you?"
"What! No, she's just friendly. That's all."
"Uh huh, then why is your mask turning red?"
Oruni felt his mask; it was a bit warm. "I'm just overworked," he said. "Tohra, look, love is –"
"Yeah yeah, love is an unnecessary emotion. It serves no purpose for our species, it impairs judgement, yada, yada, yada. You've told me that how many times?" Tohra chuckled as he placed his arm around his friend's shoulder. "Look pal, love might be unnecessary, but it makes life –"
Oruni interrupted this time. "Right, it makes life so much better, knowing there's someone who cares so much –" He laughed. "I'm beginning to think we've had this discussion before."
Tohra nodded. "Almost every time I bring up Nefura."
The two friends continued down the streets of Aleris, dodging workers and vehicles as they made their way home. Coming to a skyscraper, the pair entered through its double doors. The two of them shared one apartment, making rent more affordable. Each apartment had two bedrooms, a great room, and a washroom; running water being standard in the city. Their apartment was on the fifteenth story, right near the middle of the gigantic building. As the elevator doors closed behind them, neither of the Matoran spoke; both were lost in their thoughts.
As the transport rose, Oruni thought about Kaisha's offer. It would not be unheard of for an Onu-Matoran to leave the mines. Unlike the city of Metru Nui, there was no set-in-stone system, telling which tribe or species what they were supposed to do. If a Ko-Matoran wanted to be a transporter, a typically Le-Matoran job, he was welcome to try. If a Cuartan desired to work in a refinery, something Ta or Ka-Matoran usually did, he might have a bit of convincing to do, but if he proved himself, he would be welcomed into the building. Oruni smiled as he reflected on what Aleris meant to so many beings around the world. It was a place where a being could start over and be whatever he wanted to be. It truly was "the city of opportunity."
The elevator stopped, and the two friends made their way down the hall. When they arrived at their apartment, Tohra produced his card and inserted it into a slot by door. Moments later, the door unlatched and opened slightly. Oruni pushed the door open and entered.
Tohra was halfway to the washroom before he turned and asked, "Do you wanna clean off first?"
Oruni shook his head. "No, go ahead," he said, "you need it more than me."
As the sounds of running water filtered out of the washroom, Oruni went to his room and reached under his bed. Grunting as he reached further back, he pulled out a small framed picture he kept there. It was a flash-painting of him, Kaisha, Tohra, Tohra's girlfriend Nefura, and a few other of their friends, well, Tohra's friends anyway. They were celebrating Naming Day together.
Oruni sighed. Everyone looked so happy in the picture, even him. Why couldn't every day be like that, living without fear or worry, good cheer saturating the air. The Onu-Matoran stared at the picture for a while longer. He had to admit Tohra was partially right. Kaisha's eyes did have a captivating sparkle to them.
The sound of the shower turning off broke Oruni from his trance. He placed the picture beneath his bed and made for the washroom. When he entered, he found Tohra still drying off with a heatstone. Most beings did not like being seen dripping wet. For most non-aquatic species, it was a sign of vulnerability, but Tohra had never seemed to mind. He was always so confident and happy; Oruni had never seen him without a smile.
He was a good friend, always dragging him to social gatherings and parties. Were it not for him, Oruni would no doubt have spent his entire life secluded in his apartment, only leaving to go to work. As the Po-Matoran left and closed the door behind him, Oruni turned on the shower and felt the dirt of the day run off his body. Moments later, he heard loud music playing from Tohra's room. His recently acquired crystal player was the Po-Matoran's prized possession. He had only had it for three weeks, and already, he had a music crystal collection that stacked halfway to the ceiling.
Oruni, on the other hand, preferred to curl up with a good story. His collection of tablets, and the new parchment books, filled a whole wall in his room. Not a day went by that he was not, at some point, so engrossed with a story that Tohra practically had to punch him to get him to respond to anything.
Now sufficiently clean, the Onu-Matoran turned off the water and dried off. He left the washroom and knocked on Tohra's door.
The Po-Matoran opened the door and asked, "You ready?"
"Yep," Oruni replied.
The Onu-Matoran's dark blue eyes began to glow. Suddenly, the two Matoran began to glow in a bright blue light, and a moment later, they disappeared.
* * *
The next instant, the Matoran reappeared in a dark room. Oruni reached over to the wall and flipped a switch. Dozens of lights flashed on, revealing a large room, full of machines of every description. On one side, what appeared to exercise equipment stood, but the size of the weights on the machines spoke of someone with strength close to that granted by a Kanohi Pakari. On the other side of the room stood machines that spoke of incredible skill and ingenuity, perhaps on par or better than something made by the Makuta.
Tohra walked over to the weight machines and said, "It's a real shame we have to keep all this stuff a secret."
Oruni nodded as he headed over to the mechanical side of the room. "I agree," he said, "but you know we can't go around parading our abilities."
Tohra picked up a weight three times his size and attached it to a set of pull up bars. "Still, it'd be nice if could actually do something with our powers."
Oruni's eyes glowed again as a small robot scampered over to him. "Yeah, but if the Makuta got wind of two Nui-Matoran in one place, they'd come in and flatten the city trying to find us."
* * *
The two Nui-Matoran spent the remainder of the day in their hidden lab/gym. Tucked away in a pocket dimension of Oruni's own creation, it was the perfect retreat for them to use their Makuta-granted abilities to unwind from a day of work and to do so without fear of being seen.
Tohra, with his super strength and invulnerability, could be seen on one side of the room, straining at weights many times his own size. His size did not show it by any means, but the stones he hefted in the mines were mere play toys for him.
Oruni spent the day tinkering on a new invention, his super enhanced intelligence aiding him greatly as he navigated the intricate circuits and mechanics of the machine. His eyes glowed as he used his technopathy to tell his robotic assistant to hand him another wrench. After tightening one final bolt, he pushed himself from underneath the contraption and got up from the floor.
"Hey, Tohra, come take a look at this," he called. His friend set his weights down and crossed the room to where his friend was standing.
"Whatcha got this time?" asked Tohra, curiosity brimming in his eyes.
"Well my friend, you are about to witness one of my greatest inventions ever. Presenting –"
His dramatic speech was cut by a beeping that filled the room. Oruni sighed and interfaced his mind with the security cameras he had installed around their apartment.
"What is it?" asked Tohra.
"Nefura's at the door," said Oruni.
Tohra slapped himself across the mask. "I completely forgot! I'm taking her to the new Colerin Club across town." The Po-Matoran rushed to the transporter, then turned to Oruni. "Are you sure you don't want to come with us? It'll be a lot of fun."
Oruni shook his head. "No thanks, go have fun. I'll be fine."
As Tohra beamed back to their apartment, Oruni returned to his invention. He had finished its construction, but he still needed to program the device to obey him. As he manipulated the machine's circuitry, he continued on the train of thought he had had before the alarm went off. As he worked, he had begun to consider Kaisha's offer in light of what Tohra had said earlier. Tohra got to use his abilities, albeit in a very limited sense, to do his job. So, why not him?
When Oruni had first come to Aleris, he had taken a job as a miner in order to hide his powers. He had never tried for a more technical job out of fear, but after a few years with no signs of the Brotherhood, that fear had begun to dissipate.
"I'll do it," he thought. "I'll change jobs. Heh, I could probably make the system drop me right next to Kaisha. Whether I love her or not, she is a good friend."
He set down his tools and activated the transporter, beaming into his apartment. He grabbed his satchel and headed for the door. There was a job transition office just across the street, and as he made his way through his front door, he smiled at the thought of what was to come.
* * *
"See you later, babe," said Tohra, as he and Nefura parted ways. He sighed contentedly as he watched the Xi-Matoran disappear through her door. "I've gotta be the luckiest guy ever," he thought.
After reaching his own apartment, he inserting his card into the lock and opened the door, to find Oruni talking on their telescreen.
"Sounds great, see you tomorrow," said a voice from the screen.
"Bye," replied Oruni. He turned to Tohra. "Have fun?" he asked.
"Oh yeah," smirked Tohra.
Oruni decided not to enquire further.
"Well," he continued, "I decided to take your and Kaisha's advice. I'm gonna move to a repair shop. And she invited us to go to lunch with her tomorrow."
"That's great, dude," He smiled, mischievously. "Now, would this repair shop happen to be the one next to Kaisha's work place?"
Without as much as a bashful pause, Oruni replied, "Yes, as a matter of fact. Regardless of what you think is between us, she is my friend, and I'd much rather work around people I know."
"Point taken," Tohra said. "But you know I can't leave the mine for a lunch break, so it'll just be you and Kaisha." The Po-Matoran smirked before a yawn escaped his jaws. "Well, I'm gonna hit the sack. G'night."
"See you in the morning."
Tohra slunk to his room and closed the door behind him. Within seconds, Oruni could hear snoring coming from behind the door.
Oruni stifled a yawn of his own as he glanced at the clock on the wall.
"Almost midnight," he thought, "I better get some shut-eye."
* * *
Patches of light swept over the city as high winds whipped the smog from the sky. Tohra and Oruni had decided to take one of the city's public crawler transports to get to work, the Onu-Matoran carrying his work transfer tablets in his pack. They got off at the mine; Tohra, so he could get to work, and Oruni, so he could talk to the mine manager.
Waving to his friend, Onuni made his way to the office at the front of the mine. Opening the door, he walked in and saw a male Vortixx sitting behind the desk.
The Vortixx looked up and said, "Sit down, please; I'll be with you in a moment."
After a few moments of writing, the secretary turned to Oruni and asked, "So, what can I do for you, sir?"
"I've come to drop off a work transfer tablet," said Oruni.
"I see," said the Vortixx, as Oruni handed him his tablet. He began to type on his workstation's keyboard. "So, where are you transferring to?"
"To the mechanic shop just outside," said Oruni.
"I see," the secretary pulled out a tablet and wrote a few things on its surface. "I assume you have the tablet you're supposed to give to them at the shop."
"I do," Oruni took the tablet from the secretary.
"Well, good luck."
"Thanks, have a good day."
The Onu-Matoran left the office and made his way past the mine's entrance. He arrived at the repair shop and was greeted by a Gar-Matoran manager.
"Transferring, I see?" he said, as Oruni handed him his transfer tablets. "Where from?"
"The Sapphire Strip," Oruni replied.
"Don't Onu-Matoran usually like digging?"
Oruni chuckled. "It's not that I don't like it. I'd just rather work on mechanical stuff."
The manager nodded and motioned for Oruni to follow him. The two made their way into the shop where half a dozen different machines were being fixed by a plethora of other beings.
"Since this is your first day, I won't expect you to start fixing stuff," said the manager. "So, just get to know some of the other guys here and watch what they do."
"Oh don't worry," said Oruni, grabbing a set of tools, "I've been working with stuff like this in my spare time for quite a while. I'm sure I'll learn really quick."
* * *
Oruni was putting away his tools when he heard his name. He moved down the hall and heard two of his coworkers talking.
"I'm telling you, the guy's a mechanical wizard," said one, a Fe-Matoran.
"He couldn't have been that good," replied the other, a Vonatii. "He himself said he's never had professional training."
"Yeah, but you know that crawler that's been here for almost a month?" said the Fe-Matoran.
"The one where we couldn't figure out what was wrong with it?"
"Yeah, well, he walked right into it and found the problem in less than five minutes. It's up and running like new."
"Wow! What was…"
Oruni smiled as he walked back to his tools. Granted, his powers would make this job much easier, but the problem on that crawler had been ridiculously easy to find. He had not even needed to use his abilities.
He left the building and made his way to the registry building to meet with Kaisha. Suddenly, the ground began to shake. Oruni was thrown to the ground as the earthquake grew more intense. Rocks fell from the cliffs above as rifts began to lace the ground. Unable to stand, Oruni covered his head with his hands and waited. Soon, the ground steadied, and Oruni was able to stand. He looked around and saw the registry building had collapsed.
"Kaisha!" he cried as he rushed over to the ruined building.
He reached the pile of wreckage and began frantically pulling on beams and timber. A hand rested on his shoulder. He looked up to see Toa Khorscel, one of Aleris' many Toa.
"Don't worry, my friend," said the Toa of Magnetism. "Let me handle this."
The Toa activated his Kanohi Matatu and began lifting the rubble from the pile. The pieces flew overhead and landed in a pile behind him. One by one, beings were cleared from the wreckage. Finally, the collapsed building had been completely moved, but Kaisha was nowhere to be seen.
Oruni sighed. At least she was safe. He walked towards the mine and saw dozens of beings streaming from the tunnel. Oruni saw Khorscel rush to meet with a group of other Toa standing just outside the entrance.
"It seems there were several cave-ins," said another Toa, a stone Toa named Rayd.
"Let's get everyone who's –" Oruni never heard the rest of what Khorscel said, for his mind was taken over by an overpowering voice.
"Listen, Matoran," said the voice, in a sickly, snake-like tone, "we know who you are, and we have your little Ga-Matoran friend with us. Yes, we caused that earthquake, but don't bother telling the Toa about us or your friend gets it. We're in the cave, behind one of the cave-ins. All we want is for you to hand yourself over to us. We'll give you some time to think it over. Don't worry, your friend won't get hurt unless you try to pull something funny."
Oruni felt the presence withdraw and shook his head.
"Oruni, you okay?" asked somebody nearby.
Oruni turned to see Tohra, staring at him, concernedly. Oruni shook his head.
"Tohra, I'm gonna need your help."
* * *
In the depths of the mine, Kaisha's eyes flickered open. A small fire flickered in front of her, shedding dim light on the surrounding rock walls.
A voice came from beside her. "What did he say?" The voice was gruff and baritone.
"I didn't let him say anything," said another voice, this one sounding like a reptile. "I just told him we had his friend and that we'd let him think it over."
Kaisha heard someone get up. An Earth Toa came into her vision and stood next to the fire, his armor a dirty black and his mask a Kanohi Kualsi. "Good," he said, "obviously we're getting paid to do this, but why do you think the Brotherhood wants this Onu-Matoran?"
Another being appeared, as though he had been invisible. His body was long and lean, and his head was reptilian in form. "Don't ask me," he said, "but when I linked with him, I sensed some unusual energy within him."
"Hmm, I suppose we'll just wait and then contact him again. How long should we wait for?"
The reptilian shrugged. "I don't know, an hour or so, maybe. We're in no hurry."
The Toa nodded.
Kaisha closed her eyes, not moving for fear they might hurt her.
"Oruni," she thought, "I don't know what they want from you, but don't give it to them. All the same," she sighed, "I wouldn't mind being rescued."
* * *
Oruni and Tohra beamed into their lab, and the Onu-Matoran made his way to his side of the room.
"Just what are we doing again?" asked Tohra.
"We're going to save Kaisha," Oruni simply said, determination burning in eyes.
"And how are we going to do that?"
"With this." Oruni pulled the cover off one of his contraptions, the one he had been working on the night before.
It took Tohra a moment to comprehend what he was seeing, but then, he smiled.
"Oh yeah, that'll work nicely."
* * *
"Well, what do you say we give him another call?" asked the Earth Toa.
"I'll do that," said the reptilian being. He concentrated for a moment before he began to speak.
"Hello, my friend, have you considered our offer?...You have, well, that's splendid. Where shall we make the exchange?...Right here? My friend, we're behind more than a bio of solid rock, how could you possibly –"
A bright flash of light caught the reptilian off guard. Now there were two extra beings in the chamber. One was a Po-Matoran, the other was a hulking mass of metal. But on second glance, a Kanohi mask and a pair of glowing eyes could be seen behind its glass visor.
Without so much as a moment's notice, an energy cannon flipped onto the metal being's shoulder and fired a pair of rounds at the kidnappers. One blast hit the reptilian in the chest, and he flew against the wall. The other streaked towards the Toa, but he teleported out of the way, reappearing behind the Po-Matoran. The Toa struck out with his broad sword, but the Matoran turned and caught it. Turning around, he flipped the Toa over him and wrenched the sword from his hands. Before the Toa's startled eyes, the Po-Matoran bent the sword in half and flung it away.
The reptilian being shook off the shock of striking the wall as the metal being approached him. The reptilian dodged the blade extending from its left arm and turned invisible. He smirked as he snuck away from the being, but before he could get far, the metal being reached out with its right hand and grabbed him by the neck. The reptilian was thrust against the wall, the shock causing him to lose his concentration.
"Okay scum, talk," said the mask within the being, the visor rising, "who are you and why did you kidnap Kaisha?"
The reptilian squirmed and clawed at his neck. "My name is Riasek, and the Toa your friend has in a headlock is Rohrer. But tell me, who are you?"
"I'll ask the questions," said the being, "but if you must know, I'm the Matoran you contacted. Now, I'm not going to ask again," the robotic hand squeezed a bit tighter as Oruni's teeth ground together, "why did you kidnap Kaisha?"
Riasek gulped and replied, "We're Dark Hunters. The Brotherhood sent us to find you."
"How did you know Kaisha was my friend? Have you been spying on me?"
"Eh, yes, for quite some time – argh!"
Oruni shook him again. "When did the Brotherhood contact you?"
"A-almost three months ago, we needed to figure out what kind of leverage you –"
"Listen pal, I know your type. Now, I'll give you two choices. You leave here now under your own power and never come back. Or, I take you out with me and turn you over to the Toa. Either way, if I ever see you around here, I won't hesitate to send you two to jail. Tohra, let him go."
The Po-Matoran sighed as he released the Earth Toa. Oruni released Riasek.
"So what'll it be?" asked the Onu-Matoran.
The reptilian shook his head as he smiled. "Fools," he murmured.
Suddenly, the ground began to shake as Rohrer started another quake. Oruni, in his giant robot suit, jumped out of the way of a falling boulder. He looked back and saw the pair of Hunters had vanished. He activated his radar, but saw they were indeed gone.
"They teleported!" exclaimed Tohra, over the roar of the cave collapsing.
A look of horror came over Oruni. He turned towards Kaisha.
"No!" he exclaimed. He rushed towards the Ga-Matoran and threw his weight over her, shielding her from the boulders that fell from the ceiling.
Within moments, the cave had collapsed, leaving the three Matoran buried beneath the rubble.
* * *
Over an hour later, Tohra's eyes opened. He coughed and tried to stand, but found a boulder sitting squarely on his back. Mustering his enormous strength, he pushed himself off the ground with a loud groan. As the stone fell away, he stretched his back and popped a few bones. Even with his invulnerability, having several tons of rock falling on him hurt considerably. Abruptly, he jumped.
"Oruni!" he exclaimed.
He looked around and saw a glint of metal through the rubble. He grabbed one of the boulders and pulled, revealing a portion of Oruni's robotic suit. Using his strength, he uncovered Oruni and pulled his suit up. Surprisingly, the suit was largely undamaged.
"What did he make this thing out of?" Tohra wondered.
"Hey, Oruni, wake up," he said, shaking the suit. The Onu-Matoran opened his eyes.
"What happened?" he asked.
"The Hunters brought the ceiling down," Tohra replied.
"Kaisha!" Oruni looked over at the Ga-Matoran. Her armor was cracked in several places, and several wounds could be seen in her organic tissue. "Grab her," said Oruni, "let's get out of here."
The Po-Matoran picked up Kaisha and watched as Oruni's eyes began to glow. After a few moments of waiting, nothing happened.
"What's wrong with your teleporter?" asked Tohra.
"The quake must have damaged our retractors," replied the Onu-Matoran. "Come on, let's go."
"But which way's out?" asked Tohra. For inside the darkness of the cave, all the walls looked the same.
Oruni's eyes glowed again as he activated his radar.
"That way," he said.
His suit's energy cannon flipped to his shoulder and fired a blast at the wall. Rubble blasted out the other side, and a dim beam of light appeared in the cave. As the two Matoran made their way through the hole, they saw lightstones lining the walls, casting a dim glow throughout the cave. Oruni turned on his suit's spotlight and led the way.
"So what do you call that thing?" asked Tohra. "We left the lab in such a hurry I never got to ask."
"I call it the Exo-Matoran," said Oruni.
"Makes sense, since it's pretty much a tricked out Exo-Toa made for a Matoran."
"Yeah, I – whoa!" Oruni pulled his metallic foot back and stopped. Just in front of him was a giant crevice. He breathed a sigh of relief. "Almost stepped off that."
"How do we get across this?" asked Tohra. He suddenly felt Oruni's great metal hand grab him, and they leapt into the air. Tohra looked behind him and saw flames coming from the Exo-Matoran's back.
As they landed on the other side, Tohra looked up at Oruni and asked, "You can fly?"
"Sort of," said Oruni. "This thing's not aerodynamic enough to fly; that was just a jump-jet."
"Cool, let's go."
"Wait," Oruni held up his large metal hand.
"What is it?"
"I'm detecting a high concentration of cardio-luminescence behind that barrier."
"Huh?" Tohra looked puzzled.
Oruni smiled. "I was techno babbling, wasn't I? My suit's sensors are picking up a lot of heartlights behind that wall, meaning there are some people trapped back there."
"Should we help them?" asked Tohra.
Oruni sighed. "Under normal circumstances, I'd say no and just tell the Toa when we got out, but seeing that the Brotherhood already knows where I am…"
He walked over and pointed his hand at wall. A Kanoka launcher flipped out of his wrist, and a disk appeared in its mouth. The disk flew from the wrist launcher and struck the wall. The rock was visibly weakened as the disk flew back to Oruni. A small device popped out of the suit's shoulder and shot a beam of energy at the disk. It dematerialized and vanished as the device folded back into the suit.
"I keep a supply of disks in an energy compartment," said Oruni, answering Tohra's unspoken question. "I've designed it so I can choose which disk I want with my technopathy." He turned to his friend. "Care to give it a friendly nudge," he said, indicating the wall.
Tohra laid Kaisha on the ground and cracked his knuckles.
"With pleasure," he said.
The Po-Matoran rushed at the wall and threw all his might as he rammed the rock wall. He crashed through to the other side, but tripped as he went and fell into a pile of rubble on the other side.
"We're saved!" cried someone as Oruni approached the hole.
"The Toa have found us," said another voice. "Wait," he said as he saw the giant metal being step through the wall, "you're not a Toa. Who are you?"
Oruni shone his spotlight around and saw half a dozen Matoran of the Earth, Stone, and Gravity tribes, a pair of Cuartans, and a Vortixx. He looked over at Tohra and saw him emerge from the rubble. He was covered in dust and had pebbles and bits of stone stuck in the chinks in his armor. He almost looked like he was made of stone. Suddenly, Oruni got an idea.
"I'm Circuitry, and the Matoran over there is Protostone," Oruni replied.
"What are you, Dark Hunters?" asked one of the Cuartan, limbering his four arms.
Oruni held up his hand. "No, we're not Hunters; we're here to help." He motioned for them to follow him.
As the miners filed out of the cave, Tohra ran up to Oruni, who was leading the way. He looked up at his friend. "Protostone?" he asked.
Oruni smiled and said, "Well, the Dark Hunters use false names to hide their identities. The Brotherhood apparently doesn't know about you, so why risk one of these people telling them about you?"
"Good point, so how much farther?"
Oruni activated his radar and said, "The tunnel goes on for another hundred kio, and then there's another cave-in. We'll have to bust through that."
"Does Kaisha look any better?" asked Oruni. Tohra looked back at one of the Cuartan who had graciously asked to carry the injured Ga-Matoran.
"Well, she's still breathing, so that's a good sign," Tohra sighed, "but her heartlight's a bit weak."
Oruni nodded as they continued on.
"Why am I so concerned with her?" he wondered. "I mean, she's probably better off than some of those poor fellows we just rescued."
* * *
"I can see light!" cried a Matoran. "We're safe!"
"Okay everyone, head on out," said Oruni.
Since finding the first batch of miners, the Exo-Matoran's sensors had found at least three dozen others.
As the miners streamed towards the exit, Oruni turned to Tohra and said, "I'm going to scan for any others who might be trapped. If there aren't any others, I think we might be close enough to beam back."
"Sounds good," replied Tohra, who had kept his dusty disguise.
Oruni's eyes glowed once more as he saw his radar revealing the tunnel network around them. The ring grew larger, but showed no signs of any living beings. Finally, the Onu-Matoran shut off the radar.
"There's no one for as far as this tunnel goes." He sighed, "I kinda feel bad. I mean, if we hadn't been here, the quake would never have happened."
Tohra smiled. "Don't feel that way, pal. Besides, without you, those miners might have suffocated back there."
A small smiled grew across Oruni's face."Thanks."
"Halt!" A shout barked down the cavern.
The Matoran turned to see a dozen of Aleris' Toa, standing between them and the mine's entrance.
"Who are you?" asked Khorscel, a look of curiosity and apprehension on his face.
Oruni smiled and said, "Don't worry, Toa, we're here to help. Those miners you just saw leaving, we found in and rescued. By the time you'd gotten to them, it might have been too late."
"And just what are you?" asked Rayd, apparently not as intrigued as his colleague.
"Just a couple of guys trying to help," said Tohra. "Don't worry; you'll probably be seeing us again soon."
As the Toa looked on, the two beings and the unconscious Matoran disappeared in a flash of blue light. The Toa looked on in wonder.
"Interesting," said Khorscel, "I wonder who those two were."
"Well, I say we try to find out," said another Toa.
"And why is that, Owntas?" asked Khorscel.
The Toa of Fire sputtered. "We can't allow vigilantes in this city. If one person starts taking the law into his own hands, pretty soon, we'd have anarchy on our hands."
The Toa of Magnetism gave his teammate an odd expression. "Well, in any case," he said, "we'll be sure to tell the Chief about this."
The Toa of Magnetism was deep in thought as he and his partners left the cave.
"Who were those two?" he wondered, "and what did the one mean that I'd see them again?"
* * *
Oruni and Tohra reappeared in their lab, and Oruni descended from his robot suit. He moved over to a box-like machine, an advanced healing unit he had made years ago, and watched as Tohra laid Kaisha inside. A light glowed from the inside as it began to heal the injured Ga-Matoran.
Oruni watched as the faint glow of her heartlight grew stronger with each beat. His eyes glistened with unshed tears as he watched Kaisha healing. Now that they were out of harm's way, the Onu-Matoran's emotions were catching up to him.
Tohra saw his friend's expression and knew it might be best to leave him alone for a bit. Even if he was a bit stuffy sometimes, the Onu-Matoran had a soft heart. Tohra stepped into the transporter and beamed to their apartment. He would talk to Oruni when his friend felt like it.
Oruni lifted his head and glimpsed Tohra as he left the lab. He reached into the healing unit and grasped Kaisha's hand, as though it might speed the healing process. His thoughts and emotions were all awhirl as he watched Kaisha's wounds and bruises mending, but in the midst of the chaos that spun in his mind, one thing was abundantly clear.
"Kaisha," he said, "I know you can't hear me, and I don't know if I'll ever have the courage to say this to you face-to-face. But, despite all I've ever said, only one thing can explain the way I've acted lately. It might be hard for you to believe, but it's even harder for me."
Oruni sighed as a single tear slid down his face. "Kaisha, I love you."
* * *
Bionicle (c) LEGO
Story and related characters (c) me
* * *
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