Jaurius, matoran of gravity, and son of Athruan senator Gamanta, sat silently in the living room of his apartment. It was not overly furnished, but neither was it sparse. Rather it reflected the tastes of a typical male warrior, with only those items which were needed included, and little other frills. Two major ornaments upon the walls were a highly customized crossbow and a slightly oval hat, mainly brim, made of metal and razor edged. His glance flitted to them occasionally, as he waited patiently.
Waiting was always the hardest part, especially when one was alone. His sister was expected to be here, and his boredom would only last until then.
Seconds ticked slowly by as he sat, until at last he could stand inactivity no longer. He got to his feet, slinging his crossbow over one shoulder and slinging his shieldlike hat onto his back.
The rest of his small house was empty and undisturbed, and outside, although he looked through several windows, there was no sign of anyone approaching. Without expressing himself in the curses and exclamations most would, he looked at the clock, noting the lateness. Then he sighed, his eyes narrowing into a frown under his sleekly shaped Sanok.
She may be just late, was Jaurius's first, more placating thought. She is late, certainly. But 'just'? Such an assumption is unfounded, he shot back at himself. Although he wanted to decide with his first thought, his will coldly forced him to consider stronger the second, factoring in the letter he had received sometime earlier.
We've been marked matoran for a while, Jaurius. Father is no longer certain either he or I are safe at his home. He's sending me to stay with you at least for the time being; I'll be coming over this evening. Father sends his apologies for the short notice, and says he trusts I'll be safe with you.
That had been the last he had heard from her, just this morning. He had noted it with some concern, made sure he had spare sleeping quarters ready for her, and promptly proceeded to go about his day. In the middle of a week of unusually busying work, he had completely forgotten about it, until an hour ago when he had arrived home, exhausted. It was most unlike him to forget something of this importance, especially in the circumstances it came in.
I should have gone to escort her, or at least met her halfway here, he reprimanded himself, even as he buckled his ammo belt on, adjusted his armor, and donned his hat.
I remember tears streaming down your face
When I said, "I'll never let you go"
When all those shadows almost killed your light
I remember you said, "Don't leave me here alone"
But all that's dead and gone and passed tonight
In the midevening, the streets of Athru were still quite busy, and few really noticed Jaurius as he moved swiftly through them. Weaponry was not uncommon at all, as most all citizens had some form of defense. Rumor even had it that military-only mutagenic weapons were available to some lucky few. For days it had been the talk of the island. Although illegal, with extremely strict laws placed upon them, mutagenic weaponry was coveted by the many mercenaries and warriors on the island, and even the toa, who were supposed to be the highly incorruptible Protectors of law and order, had been elated at the rumor although they themselves had easy access to such weaponry. Jaurius sniffed rather cynically at the irony.
"Jaurius, if you could have a widget for every dissenter on this island, you'd be a millionaire!"
"I disagree; there are dissenters, but not all Athruans are like that!"
"Call it what you will, but it's still a miracle father hasn't been impeached yet."
The conversation between him and his sister, hardly two months ago, seemed to mock him, his position then seeming so naive. The intensity of his work, the strange forgetfulness that had fogged him the same week, and then this note. It was more than simple coincidence, he fully knew.
You're not thinking rationally, you're letting worry get the better of you… She's just a little late, maybe she took a little too long to pack, he countered, although by now rather futilely. Still, assuring himself like that prevented, at least partially, guilt and worry from consuming him.
But those feelings returned in full force as he turned onto another street, where the number of people thinned out rapidly as if no one was coming from the way he was traveling. With an impatient shrug, Jaurius shrugged his crossbow into his hands, loading a canister of bolt onto it. Soon he was the only one on the street, and after another minute of moving he could see more people ahead, weapons in hand this time. Let it be something else, he begged in his mind as he moved closer to the walls of the buildings near him, his eyes fixated on the group ahead. They were spread out, and after a second of thought he realized that they were surrounding a large, but old, apartment building.
Jaurius changed his course swiftly, slipping into an alleyway. More apartment buildings, he recognized, and his eyes scanned for a way up them. The fire escape was the first thing that caught his eye, but its first balcony was more than twelve feet above the street; close to eight feet above Jaurius's head. For a being only four feet in height, it would be formidable, but Jaurius smiled slightly at the challenge, stepping back a few feet and preparing his jump. His leap carried him well over the fence and onto the balcony, where he landed in a roll, on his feet in a second, his inert gravity powers both increasing his jump and lessening his fall. His crossbow held at the ready, he moved up the stairs at a swift climb.
The apartment was ten stories in height, and Jaurius was breathing hard when he vaulted onto the roof a short time later. He slung his crossbow onto one shoulder, breaking into a run across the flat roof. He knew the number of buildings he had to cross, counting them off in his head.
You're all right. Youarealive.
The edge of the building approached, and he threw himself over the gaps, landing on the next roof.
I didn't become a warrior for nothing. I didn't become one to watch you die.
The next building ended, and he jumped onto the last one.
If you live, I save you, If you die I avenge you.
The edge of the last came up, and he slung his crossbow into his hands. He jumped, lower this time.
I will save you.
Then he smashed into and through a window, crossbow first.
Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You'll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound
It was an attic in which the matoran landed, as the old box he slammed into and through attested. Coughing from the dust filled air he had stirred, Jaurius rolled to his feet, fragments of glass not shaken off by the impact flying from his armor. In the close surroundings, he resorted to his own eyes instead of the scope of his crossbow, sweeping in a full circle to cover the entire room. Junk and boxes were stacked everywhere, so that move failed. Relax, he told himself. This is the top floor, and most likely anyone besieged here is probably not your enemy.
The matoran located the direction of the voice even as he instinctively moved, changing direction in accord; the word had come from behind and to his left, so he leaped forwards, dodging around a stack of crates, crossbow readied. In his protective move he had not recognized the tone of the voice, or even what it said really, only that someone had spoken. Another sound came to his ears, and he registered it as a sigh. Then:
"Get out from behind your boxes, brother." A little exasperated, and yes amused, with the more present undercurrent of fear and worry; it was his sister's voice.
"You first, Nalena," he said, half jokingly though, as he visibly relaxed.
"That's not an option for me right now," was the reply, causing Jaurius to become even less relaxed as he moved towards his sister. He came around another stack of boxes, and halted, his ice blue eyes meeting her deep pink orbs. She was half sitting, half lying on the ground, and most visible was the wound in her leg that marred the now-battered purple and black armor, the blood red covering the pink highlights as well. Jaurius gulped.
"Are you... all right?" he asked, voicing perhaps the most used phrase for this position. Nalena recognized this, for she smiled a little as she responded.
"Partly. I'm not dying at the least," she answered, and Jaurius visibly relaxed a little.
"Can you… walk?" he ventured.
"I could hobble, I suppose," Nalena answered in a combination of wry humor and grimness.
"I should have come to get you," Jaurius replied, more to himself than her.
"I won't say 'it's no problem', but if you had, who knows, we might both be dead." She paused for a moment, then raised herself up a little.
"They planned for this, Jaurius, and probably most everyone on this accursed island besides us knew about it. Had you been with me, they would have sent twice the number they did. Who knows, one of our Noble and Benevolent Toa Protectors might have lent a hand." There was a brief silence after her words: they had engaged in many discussions of like nature, with each other or with others. Jaurius always inclined to go for the less cynical view, and Nalena mercifully refrained from pointing out the now-so-evident falsehood in his position.
"How did it happen?" he asked offhandedly before the silence could set in too much.
"They've been watching us for some time. I think father sent me away too late, in fact. I knew they were following me when I left, and from the way people were looking at me, I guessed most everyone else knew the same. Typical Athruan behavior: side with the government or look the other way." The bitterness in her voice was evident in the last statement. Jaurius nodded slowly.
"The large portion of Athruans that don't side with the dissenters don't dare side against them. I bet after this, they'll have even less reason to. Our family is a lesson, Nalena, a hard painful lesson they're using," he replied.
"Yes," Nalena replied, ignoring the stress he had laid on 'large'.
"People avoided me quite a bit," she continued, "so the streets were close to empty when, perhaps a block away, they decided to strike at last. There were probably a dozen or more, all armed for a fight. I decided not to talk, and engaged them in a running battle. I escaped them until I got to this building, upon which they got my leg. I locked the door and hobbled up to here; assumedly they've decided to wait me out."
Jaurius was silent for a little, thinking. "Your rifle," he began, gesturing at the weapon now strewn to the side carelessly. "Did being a crutch destroy it, or not?"
"I could test it on you, I suppose, but I think it still works," Nalena replied.
"And there are only a dozen of them?" he continued rhetorically. His words trailed off into a tuneless 'hmm', and he absently stroked the chin of his mask.
"All right," he began, "I think I have a plan."
That was when the clearly audible sound of a door being smashed down reached their ears.
Don't you dare look out your window darling
Everything's on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold on to this lullaby
Even when the music's gone
Ten stories. That's how much space was between them and their assailants, and the sound of rapidly advancing footsteps up the metal stairs was audible to the siblings.
"Do they know I'm here?" Jaurius asked, more to the air than his sister.
"They might; your entrance wasn't exactly soundless. But they won't know if it was you, or me breaking a window for no reason, or something else," she replied nonetheless.
"They'll be cautious then, and most likely more defensive than otherwise. But they won't call for more forces," Jaurius concluded. He checked instinctively his ammo and weapon condition, wishing for an instant he had come fully prepared for a battle like this. Below, the footsteps grew closer.
"Okay, you're going to be my backup on the stair. I'll try to draw them out and divert them farther down,," he snapped, impatiently switching the half empty canister of bolts currently on his crossbow out for a full one. Nalena attempted to rise, and Jaurius gently helped her to her feet, supporting her to the door. He let her down, positioning the door so as to provide partial cover and a sniping position. Then he continued downwards, his footsteps joining with the fainter sounds of their enemies, until he reached the next floor. The stairs proceeded further, but to their right was the door to the ninth floor. He went through it, and came into a long corridor lined with doors; a good ambush spot as any. As he positioned himself, sights in line with the window in the door, he regretted the time he had to think. Now alone, he could not help but to think of his sister, alone now and far less mobile than he.
Relax; you'll be able to divert them before they even spot her. She's safe, you're not. In that, it can be said you've succeeded, he told himself.
In silence he listened to the footsteps growing closer, his eyes fixated upon the view of the blank wall opposite the door.
It was no surprise then that he started at the sight of a head in his view, his finger instinctively pulling the trigger.
The figure—a Huna wearing matoran of unidentifiable element—had stopped, maybe for a breather. At any rate, his pause was ceased by the bolt slamming through the glass and into his head, forcing him to collapse to the ground, and then resumed as his still body lay out of Jaurius's view. Whirling, he shot the lock of the door behind him repeatedly, and then kicked it in, stepping out of sight. A second ticked by as he waited, and then another, although to him each seemed like minutes.
The door flew open from a violent shove, and Jaurius shot again and again-
-Only for his bolts to bounce off the metal shield that was blocking the doorway. Protosteel, he thought, the word almost a curse. An energy bolt flew by, narrowly missing him, and he ducked into the apartment, in his mind an image of the opponent: a rectangular shield as high as a matoran, with a small window—bulletproof or better, most likely—framing his mask. He unclipped his canister of bolts, slipping it into his belt, and pulling out another; this one with a lime stripe long the length of the otherwise grey surface. Clipping it on, he stepped back to his former position. Two matoran had entered, with more, he guessed, behind them as they advanced slowly down the corridor. By now, they probably knew exactly who they were facing.
Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You'll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound
Jaurius stepped out again, fired a bolt, and stepped back in, glancing momentarily out to see the result, even as another shot forced him back. The first matoran had collapsed, a hole through his small window, and a bolt through his eye. Behind cover again, he prepared himself: being pinned down was not something he could afford, but it was the position he was in. He closed his eyes, envisioning the speed his enemy was going at, and his location. Then, opening his eyes, he focused on the lock of the door across from him, and shot it off with far more ease then before, the acidic bolts shearing through with hardly a problem.
The matoran advanced slowly, hidden almost completely by his shield. The corridor ahead of him was empty, there being only one way his target could hide. The door was out of view, but from the fact that Jaurius had just fled into it, he knew well where to go. The dark figure of his target leaped out of the door, rolling across the passage and letting lose a bolt that bit deep into his shield, only to slam into the door across, and into the room beyond. The matoran halted, ducking his head out of the window, and listened, fully confident in his shield's protective ability.
The rocket that flew out of nowhere however was far deadlier than a mere bolt, protosteel shield or not. As his assailant and a goodly portion of surrounding collapsed, Jaurius ran back through the now half destroyed corridor, clipping his canister of bolts back on as he did so.
He had hardly reached the still open door when he heard the scream. It stopped him in his tracks, before he broke into a run, barreling out the door, and straight into the rear of the assassins. With his shield forwards, the other matoran had no defense against Jaurius, who slammed into him headfirst, sending him into the wall. Before the matoran could recover, Jaurius slammed his crossbow into his chest, the bayonet-like blades affixed there driving deep in. He pulled his weapon out of the now dead matoran, whirling and shooting repeatedly at the backs of the rest of the attackers, bolt after bolt impaling him. The last matoran turned in time, blocking the bolts with his shield and returning fire. Jaurius ducked his head and the energy bolts slammed into his wide-brimmed helmet, scorching and denting but not breaking. There was no time for a second shot, as Jaurius closed the gap between them with a leap, slamming straight into the shield and sending it and its matoran to the ground. Jaurius rolled off, twisting around to send a bolt through the head of his foe, even as the matoran attempted to huddle under his shield.
Breathing heavily, Jaurius got to his feet, hardly noticing the corpses behind them as he looked ahead, to where the door to the attic stood in front of him. It was almost completely closed, but what his eyes focused on were the multiple holes in it. His crossbow fallen carelessly to the side, he flung open the door, and rushed in, kneeling down. For just within the door his sister lay, wounded not only in the leg but also in the chest. His hands shook as he reached out, supporting her head and body in his arms. Her eyes had been closed, but opened now.
"Are you all right?" he asked again. She did not answer, but he could have sworn he saw her eyes roll slightly.
"Did you kill them?" she asked a few seconds later. Jaurius nodded silently, his eyes flitting to where the last of the bodies could be seen outside the door.
"No matter. They won anyways," was her bitter response, to which he again had no words to reply to. He looked at her heartlight, seeing how faint it was.
"I will avenge you," he said softly, unable to say anything else. She smiled.
"Can the sandcastle be avenged on the tide that swept it away?" was her response, more resigned than angry. "Father signed a warrant on his name, we supported him. What is there to be avenged?"
"The consequences!" Jaurius snapped, anger flashing through his grief.
"We're only matoran, Jaurius… These things are too big for you, for us. Islands factor in, not people, and our island is already against you," Nalena replied, her voice fading. Jaurius's hand slipped into hers, gripping tightly in futile desperation.
"Nal, don't go yet," he whispered, for all his skills seeming no more than a young child.
"You can't save me, Jaurius. Nothing can."
"I wanted you to be safe!" Jaurius snapped.
"I am. Just not here," his sister replied, barely above a whisper. Her grip tightened in Jaurius's, although only a shadow of his strength. He struggled within himself for a moment, until his face under his mask featured resigned grief, although the former tinges of anger still showed.
"Then be safe, sister, and rest in Mata Nui.," he responded softly, his voice quivering despite his attempts to reign himself in.
"And… may he guide you," Nalena answered, even as her heartlight faded.
And Jaurius sat alone in the now bloodied building, his sister in his arms, his enemies sprawled below him. And all the warrior could do was weep.
Just close your eyes
You'll be alright
Come morning light,
You and I'll be safe and sound...