|A Normal Day in Hokanuka Central|
|Previous||Island of Power|
A Normal Day at Hokanuka Central is a story serial set in the Altronia Continuity.
Yaltrax strode purposefully through the dark hallways in the Altronia-based Hokanuka tunnel network. He had a lot on his mind, which was a nice change. His thoughts were of defense and strategy and keeping secrets, ones that Zalkatrex, his employer, was ever so nice to share with Yaltrax.
He was thinking these thoughts because of reports of a Chilas breach in one of the tunnels. The ape-like creatures liked to dig and they dug either tunnels in rock or in the sediment to make their burrows. The problem was that sometimes their colonies were too populous, and they had to dig more and more to accommodate their increasing numbers. This was only an issue if one of their colonies was near a Hokanuka tunnel. Then the beasts would bore through and start pouring through into the open space, claiming it as their own. The Hokanuka, like Yaltrax, being territorial by nature, didn't take kindly to this, and would quickly drive the beasts out and plug the hole, if they didn't first kill every single Chilas in the colony first.
The idea this time, however, was to get rid of the beasts quickly. Yaltrax knew why, and he was going to put all the more effort into it. If the Altronians find her, they'll try to take her in for study, but that's what we're doing. They must not know anything we don't, he thought dutifully.
He continued his slightly rushed pace, anticipating a battle. Oddly, it was tough to get Yaltrax to run, but his loyalty to the Hokanuka and especially Zalkatrex was his driving motivation. They shared views and he appreciated that. Also, when Yaltrax anticipated a battle, he usually was pretty confident. He just had to defend a stasis tube in the heart of the Hokanuka's laboratory sector, keeping it from being broken and keeping the room it was in in good shape. This would only be difficult if there were multiple Chilas by now. Slaryka had reported that he had only seen one, and he had driven it back up the tunnel, but they all knew that Chilas, and Hokanuka, were too stubborn to leave it at that.
Yaltrax rounded the last bend and found that this, indeed, would be difficult. He had no doubt he could survive this fight, and was practically guaranteed to, but he was to defend the stasis tube, which made it harder. One Chilas was easy to keep tabs on, but several were a major issue. He just really had to act fast and only pummel each a little at a time, so he wasn't distracted from one for too long. There was only one visible, but Yaltrax could hear at least four more coming down the tunnel.
Better end this quick, then, he thought, as he charged. He slammed his horns into the first Chilas, sending it flying. He then ran down the hall, picked it up by its head, and dragged it back to the lab door. He then shifted his grip lower on the animal and drove its head through the door with one hand. That'll keep it still. More piled into the hole after their brother's defeat. Yaltrax hit two simultaneously, one with his tail club, another with the back of his right hand. As another poked it head in to look around, Yaltrax grabbed its head with his hands and squeezed. It didn't take long for the creature to go.
Now Yaltrax got a reprieve. The mangled Chilas was blocking the hole, stopping more Chilas from coming in. The two he had smashed aside were trying to help their brother. They succeeded in getting its head out of the lab door, then they started working at it with their claws, trying to enlarge the hole to gain access. They could smell stasis fluid and didn't like the smell. They wanted to kill whatever was making that smell, and this door was in the way. Yaltrax smashed into the thick of them, and batted one aside. The other two ducked under his swiping claws and around the back of him. As one was claimed by his sweeping tail club, the other jumped on his back, trying to take him down. Smiling as best he was able with his strange mouth, Yaltrax fell backward, allowing the venomous spikes on his back to work their magic. The creature would never rise again.
The other two Chilas were still at work on that door. The door was quite wide, so Yaltrax had some room to smash two more heads through different spots on the door, which he did. The two Chilas were trapped, but not gone. Yaltrax changed that by slamming open the lab door as hard as he could. The Chilas were almost completely flattened, and what wasn't flattened was stuck in the wall.
Now two more Chilas managed to remove their brother's corpse from the hole and drop through. Yaltrax had more difficulty now, since the door was stuck open. He had to swat the beasts back, trying to block the door as best he could. With the agility of the beasts, this was no easy matter. Finally, another overly brutal idea came to Yaltrax's dim mind. He grabbed one of the beasts as it tried to rush him, and thew it headlong at its partner, who was also rushing the door, hitting with the combined force of the rushing beasts. Both Chilas were down, but not out, so Yaltrax now prepared to make them and their brothers stop being a problem altogether. He shoved them back up the hole, and, taking dirt and plugging the hole with it, he pressed a horn-generated force field into the ceiling by jumping, compacting the earth and sealing the hole for good.
There! he thought. That's all of them. Or was it? There was one more, the second one to be struck with his tail. He hadn't done that one in completely. Lame! Very, very lame, he shouted to himself.
As Yaltrax scanned the hallway looking for the primate, he heard a crash and tinkle of crystal from the other room. The stasis tube was no more. The Chilas would be immediately slain, but he wasn't sure what to do about the stasis tube's contents. Before the Chilas could eat the little blue figure kept in the tube, Yaltrax rushed into the lab, grabbed it and ran out. Still holding the beast, pulled a shelf into the doorway to block it, and threw the Chilas with all his might down the hallway. It instantly disappeared from sight, and Yaltrax heard a satisfying smash of metal on the far end of the hall.
The hall was filled with the stench of prolonged stasis, leaking into the hall from the lab. It was a smell Yaltrax was not supposed to have smelled, but he was, and he would have to report his failure right to the Big Cheese himself. Yaltrax was hoping those tales of Zalkatrex's temper were false, for, even though he wouldn't admit it, Zalkatrex was perhaps the only foe Yaltrax wasn't sure he could beat.
Slaryka was sure this would be a bad day. Yes, veeerrry bad indeed, he said to himself. Yaltrax had done his job, but, in classic Yaltrax style, had created a bigger problem while solving one. He had driven off the Chilas invasion and killed all the invaders, but had endangered the rest of the base by blocking the doorway of the lab with a shelf. The test subject had the ability to absorb impact and use the energy to grow, like a Kraawa. And, last I checked, the primary response to a shelf being in one's way was to bash it repeatedly with one's shoulder until it gave.
The sound of huge impact against protosteel confirmed this theory. Slaryka increased the speed of his dash to make it to the doorway in time to restrain her, hoping he wasn't too late. Their subject had a name, they were sure, but they had not asked her of it, seeing as she was in stasis. Using her powers as an inspiration, they called her Absorber to have something to refer to her by. Due to her being in stasis, she actually wasn't aware she had the nickname.
Another crash ended Slaryka's musings. The shelf had changed somewhat, having a big dent in the center. To the side of the dent was a hole that revealed the contents of the room. From what Slaryka could see, Absorber had smashed almost everything in the room looking for another exit. Finding none, she had decided to punch her way out. Slaryka could also see what size she had reached, and he estimated that she was about two feet taller than Yaltrax. That was bad. That made it harder to stun her, and if she got much bigger, she could defeat Slaryka with one hit. He would have to find some way to contain her. Still, Slaryka had had some extremely tough challenges in his time, some tougher than this, which, under pain of what Zalkatrex would do to him, he had to succeed at. There has to be a solution.
"Yes, Zalkatrex, I actually failed." Yaltrax's eyes were cast down at his feet ten feet below his head. Zalkatrex looked up to see his face, but his expression was still condescending.
"So, my newest recruit has failed me, and one of my oldest operatives has made off to fix your problem. There is no doubt Absorber has gotten much larger, quite likely past the volume of your hulking brainless mass," Zalkatrex lectured. "You have left Slaryka to deal with it and come back to report your failure to me."
Yaltrax grimaced. If he didn't fear Zalkatrex, the Hokanuka elder would be long gone.
"That is your mistake. Not failing. Many of my minions fail, but are not punished for it. Want to know why? They tried again. They fixed their own problems. They stopped what they could not prevent."
Yaltrax looked up, intrigued. Zalkatrex smiled a sly grin, almost revolting on his animalistic face. "What I wanted them to do was succeed, no matter how hard they have to try. If they come back to report failure, then they did not try their hardest, putting everything on the line. It means they wasted an opportunity to undo their failure just to waddle back here and tell me, in effect, that they were too spineless and lazy to truly complete their mission before giving up."
Yaltrax winced. Giving up. The way Zalkatrex said these words was almost as if he had uttered an obscenity. He had practically spat the words out as if his tongue had been burned. That is the true mistake, then. Not failing, giving up. Zalkatrex was right. Yaltrax could have contained the creature had he tried. He could maybe even found a spare stasis tube to power up. He wondered if there had been one to find if he had looked for it. Too late now. Absorber probably destroyed it by now. We'll have to do it the hard way.
Yaltrax's eyes narrowed in resolve and determination. "I will aid my brother. I will undo my failure," he said to Zalkatrex. "And I will never, ever give up again."
Zalkatex's smile broadened. "That's it. Most of my operatives do not have the luxury of learning this from me. I want you to be at top of your potential. Now go show me some of that potential."
Slaryka had to come up with something quick, or Absorber would pound her way free, leading to a quick and possibly lethal trampling being given to Slaryka. That would be bad, so the Hokanuka had to find a way to prevent it as soon as possible. Absorber stopped momentarily, noticing Slaryka and stopping briefly to meet his eyes through the tear in the metal. Slaryka lifted his sword and pointed it at Absorber. She mirrored to gesture, thinking it to be a declaration of animosity. The truth was revealed to be much different and more deadly as a metal dart flew our of Slaryka's sword and lodged in the inside of Absorber's elbow, injuring the organic tissue. To Slaryka's curiosity, the reptilian female did not grow larger from the impact, but simply cried out in pain and pulled the dart out of her arm. Intrigued, the Hokanuka assassin aimed another dart, this time at her armor. It struck dead-on, and, bouncing off, caused a small increase in his opponent's size.
So, it's the armor, he realized. Her little growing trick only works if her armor is struck. That didn't help much. He still had to contain her, but he could perhaps do it in a way that was different than Zalkatrex expected. She's not an animal. She's an intelligent being, and I need to treat her like one.
He focused the power of his Kanohi Jutlin, the Mask of Corruption. He aimed it not on the floor beneath her feet, as he might do if he could see the floor, but at the metal shelf. Rust began to form on the metal and cracks formed in the structure. Once the shelf was badly weakened, Slaryka casually kicked the structure and shattered it.
Absorber looked puzzled. "Why did you free me?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.
Slaryka was glad she didn't charge, only stood there, which allowed him to continue with his plan. "Because I want to have a discussion about your immediate and more distant future, and that is difficult from behind a battered wall."
"If it involves me captured or killed, get out of my way if you want your head pounded into your shoulders."
"The former, but not the latter. If you'll agree to my terms, you can be freed."
"Freed when?" Absorber asked, not entirely convinced of Slaryka's honesty.
"Soon," was all Slaryka said at first. After an uncomfortable pause, he continued. "Within a month, most likely in the next two weeks, my commander, Zalkatrex, the main muscle, Yaltrax, the second-in-command, Trallix, and several others, all of whom are the best of the Hokanuka forces, will leave this place to attack a fortress up above." Another pause, as Slaryka seemed to be listening to something. He began anew in a conspiratorial whisper. "I can arrange to be the last one out of the headquarters. On my way out, I will forget a bit of equipment back here. I will puncture your tank, leave with the bit I came for, and make myself scarce. Shortly after, you will awaken, and I suggest stomping a lot on your way out so you can just plow through all guards in your way."
Absorber folded her arms, gouging out parts of the door jamb with the action. Assuming I take your deal, how am I getting back in the tank in the first place?"
Slaryka smiled. "You allow Yaltrax, who is on his way here, to defeat you. Trust me, he'll find a way to get you in the tank." Another pause. Slaryka glanced behind him. "He's coming. Decide now."
Absorber's brow furrowed. She tapped her clawed finger on her arm in thought. The idea was mulled over, sought through for flaws, omissions, or questionable sentences. Finding none, she nodded. No words were spoken for Yaltrax's footsteps were audible to her now as well.
"Good," Slaryka mouthed. "Hit me."
This Absorber did, lashing out with a giant, three-fingered hand to smack Slaryka into a wall. I'm glad I met him. He's like a shining light or compassion in the darkness of heartless desire for knowledge and wealth.
The impact was not too weak for Yaltrax to pick up on. The eleven-foot tall monstrosity pounded around a corner just as Slaryka slumped to the floor. He was a little surprised to see that Absorber was in fact three feet taller than him, but nevertheless braced his legs and hurled himself at her in a flying shoulder tackle.
Ah, yes, Absorber thought. Here comes the darkness, attacking and provoking, heedless to the fact that light has already won.
Part Four Edit
Absorber's back slammed into the wall behind her. Yaltrax tried his best to latch onto her with his mandibles, but the female creature grabbed his arms, keeping him back. Yaltrax kicked her in the shin, but regretted it soon, since he could feel her hands get bigger around his arms.
Must hit her as little as possible, he thought. I have to knock her out without striking her.
That, he realized, was going to be hard. It would require brains, something Yaltrax was a little short on. It would be easy for someone like Slaryka or even Yarik to figure out, Harder for Yarik, Yaltrax thought, since he's fish food, but Yaltrax? It was hard enough for him to figure out how to avoid hitting Absorber, let alone defeat her while doing it. Still, if he stalled, it might work out.
Yaltrax grasped her arms with his claws. He had no choice. If he had to hit her this one time, so be it, but after he was free, he would not hit her again until a way to defeat her arose. Yaltrax dug his talons into the ground, then, with every bit of his disproportionate strength, whirled and slammed Absorber against the wall. The shock made her grow yet again, but she grew so fast her grip slackened enough for Yaltrax to free himself.
Absorber, now sixteen feet tall, got to her hands and knees and slashed at Yaltrax. He ducked, then jumped as she struck with her other hand. He rolled when she punched, dove when she tried to grab him, and backed off when she tried to ram him with her horns. Looking behind him, Yaltrax saw the limp form of Slaryka on the floor ten feet away. He had not particular like of Slarkya, but it was his duty as a Hokanuka cult member to protect his foster brother from unnecessary harm. He dodged Absorber's next attack and broke through the left wall in one motion.
Yaltrax found himself in the lab, in the front-right corner. Of course, he thought. Whatever they originally used to put Absorber to sleep must still be here.
The doorway to his left crumbled and caved inward. Following quickly was the animalistic head of Absorber, who spotted Yaltrax immediately and backhanded him back through the wall he had just dove through. Once back in the hallway, he was followed by Absorber, who began pulling out of the doorway. He lurched forward, trying to snag Yaltrax on her index finger's claw. Yaltrax somersaulted back through the the new hole, ending up back in the lab. He heard the sound or a massive creature shrugging, quickly followed by the wall exploding toward him. Yaltrax simply stood straight, allowing the giant chunks of stone to bounce off or shatter upon impact with his extremely thick armor.
Absorber then grasped the wall to her left and tore a chunk out of it. She looked at Yaltrax. She smiled.
Yaltrax jumped out of the way of a massive piece of rock as it hurtled past him. It had been half his size and plenty big enough to cause significant pain if it hit. Absorber had been enlarged by her impact with the wall a moment ago and was now twenty feet tall, being forced to crouch deeply in the enclosed space. While her offensive capability increased with her stature, Yaltrax's somewhat limited mind could see that her defensive ability was hampered by her size change as well. That sparked an idea, but one that Yaltrax had to wait to put into action. At least until he dodged that next piece of wall headed right for him.
Abosrber was having a good time. She was perfectly aware that Yaltrax was avoiding hitting her. She was just having some fun with him. Absorber was also completely aware that her size made it harder to defend in this tunnel, and that was what she was counting on. To make her defeat believable, Yaltrax would have to think he had outsmarted her. The truth was that even if he won, he'd lose.
Yaltrax caught the fifth chunk of wall hurled at him in his hands and, flexing his pectorals, crushed the stone to gravel between his palms. He spat acid at the sixth and shot an explosive stinger ball at the seventh, fragmenting it. As he punched the eighth to powder in one blow, Yaltrax began advancing. He activated his force field and barreled at Absorber. She hadn't been expecting an attack so soon and thus put up no defense. Yaltrax bashed through what was left of the front-right wall of the lab and slammed into the reptilian giantess. straining, he pinned her between the wall and his field, with his enormous leg strength keeping her back.
Absorber was in pain. Worse, she could do nothing to alieve it. Try as she might, Yaltrax was, despite her size, stronger than she, and now Absorber wondered if that would still be true even if she were to reach maximum size. She had no intention of finding out. At that size, her backside and her head would be pressed against the ceiling and floor and her spine would telescope, ending her life in a painful way. Instead, Absorber whipped her tail, striking the ground at Yaltrax's feet, causing bits of dirt to crumble beneath his talons to crumble and Yaltrax to slip. Absorber then pushed with all her might, sending Yaltrax sailing across the hall, his flight ending sharply at the back wall of the lab.
Yaltrax peeled his back out of the wall and dusted himself off. His armor was now noticeably damaged, his wings were injured, and his legs ached slightly from the effort. This battle was getting too costly, and Absorber being bigger than ever didn't help.
He almost stepped on a jar filled with some blue liquid. Making sure Absorber was still recovering her bearings, Yaltrax knelt to examine his find. He picked up the crystal container and unscrewed the lid. Instantly the liquid began to froth and Yaltrax smelled something. At first it smelled nasty, but then it wasn't so bad. Nothing was. He was fine. He might as well take a nap...
Yaltrax slammed the lid on tight. Now he knew what this was, and how it would save his hide.
Part Five Edit
Yaltrax needed two things to win this battle: One, a means to get Absorber back to normal size, and two, an opportunity to make it work. The first he had, the second he had to make himself. Placing the jar of liquid on the floor, Yaltrax rushed out into the center of the room. Absorber had her wits back and was lumbering on her hands and knees toward him. She swiped her clawed hand out, the massive appendage nearly missing Yaltrax's head.
Instead of ducking to the side, Yaltrax jumped back to evade the attack and set his eyes on the ceiling above Absorber's head. He did his best to prepare as much of his acid spit as he could then waited. He didn't have to do that long. The female creature attacked the male one in the same way as before, and as she did, Yaltrax avoided by beginning to strafe around her, spitting all the while.
Absorber looked perplexed, but did her best to turn herself around to face her enemy. It was hard, given her size and the speed Yaltrax's mighty legs could afford him. Finally, though, he stopped and Absorber was able to face him squarely. As she did, something clicked in her mind. Sher looked up just in time to see a quick blast of acid strike the ceiling, aimed at a large chunk that Yaltrax had carved out. The acid ruined what little support was keeping the chunk up, allowing it to fall, burying Abosrber's head in a few tons of sediment.
That was the distraction Yaltrax needed. It would last about ten seconds, but that was enough. Taking off at full tilt, Yaltrax ran in an arc from the center of the lab, barely pausing to pick up the jar of blue liquid, then toward the left. Searching the air for a scent of a certain type of crystal, Yaltrax was able to pinpoint the location of some of that crystal in one of the cabinets that lined the left wall of the lab. As Yaltrax slid to a stop, he dug the ends of his claws into the metal door of the cabinet and ripped it off. Inside were several Zamor spheres, made of the crystal Yaltrax had scented. Smiling, he dropped the jar of fluid on the floor and simultaneously loaded a Zamor into his stinger launcher. He then touched the Zamor to the surface of the liquid with his tail, hoping for the filling process to initiate.The Zamor, while somewhat ancient, did not disappoint him.
Absorber was half-done clearing the dirt off her head, and the Zamor was already more than half-filled. Despite the speed of the process, enough of the fluid was automatically tuning to gas to force Yaltrax to hold his breath to avoid passing out. Still, if it was that strong, It would surely knock Absorber out when Yaltrax did what he planned to.
Both Absorber's process of freeing her head and the Zamor's process of filling with the sleeping drug were now done. Yaltrax just had to get an opportunity to hit Absorber with the Zamor. It would appear that this would be an easy task, given her immensity, but the drug had to be delivered to her torso to guarantee the best results. The probelm with that was that Absorber was in too good of a defensive position. Yaltrax had to get her to leave herself open.
He was pondering this as he dodged a horizontal swing of Absorber's fist. After the blow was finished, she continued to hold her fist close to her torso. Yaltrax expected her to swing out, since it looked like she was simply waiting for the right moment. Instead, she lunged forward, trying to use her shoulder spike to good effect. Startled but still focused, Yaltrax rolled onto his back with speed that partially surprised even him. Once on the floor, he thrust upward with his legs, using all his strength to push Absorber up and over him. As he did, he curled his tail forward and between his legs and fired his launcher. The Zamor struck Absorber in the side and phased inside her body.
The shock and surprise of the drug being suddenly released into her system startled Absorber, and she let out a cry of surprise. As it took effect, she shrank all the way back to normal size in the span of one half-second. Because she shrank so fast, she found herself suddenly launched into the air by Yaltrax's legs, because he didn't adjust his exertion of strength fast enough to prevent it.
Yaltrax didn't care either way, though. As Absorber shot toward the ceiling, he got back to his feet, and as she fell, he caught her with one hand around her waist. With complete surprise, he noted that she was still conscious, but barely. Good, he thought. That means she'll thrash less.
Yaltrax then crossed the lab and opened the closet in the back-right of the room. In it he found a spare stasis tube, obviously put there with the intent of containing a second specimen if one were to be found. In any event, it was filled completely with stasis fluid, and ready for occupancy. With his free hand, he grabbed the tank by the lid and dragged it across the lab to the middle of the room. Kicking the old, ruined tank aside, Yaltrax put the spare in its place, and prepared to place Absorber in it.
The female reptile was not oblivious to all this. It took a lot of effort to stay awake, even thought she knew that her ability to stay conscious wouldn't last much longer. For a moment, she wondered if she had been tricked. After all, the red one worked for the beings who had imprisoned her, and who could say wether he had deceived her into letting herself be captured? Maybe she should have fought in earnest when she was bigger.
'No, she thought. He practically begged me for his trust. I could tell he was desperate. If I can't trust one who begs me to do so, how can I rightfully trust any others, or even myself? I must trust him. I will trust him.
She looked at Yaltrax, so sure of his victory, the grin of a hunter on his lips. All right, you brutish creature, she mentally said to him. Put me away. Lock me up. The one I rust will come through for me. I'd bet my life on it.
Yaltrax was unaware of her mental commands, but he obliged Absorber anyway. He thrust his hand into the tank, shoving Absorber deep into the liquid, then forcefully shut the tank's lid. Yaltrax stepped back from the stasis tube to look upon his work with pride. Absorber moved slowly, pounding weakly on the glass, pretending to try to escape. She knew it was futile, and she also knew it was unnecessary, but she did it to make Yaltrax all the more sure of his victory being genuine. Even though it wasn't, he had done his job, as had his red-armored partner, and Absorber had done her job by keeping her promise to Slaryka. The efficiency and genius of this plan combined with the satisfaction of having done her duty welled up inside Absorber. That was why, as she felt her mind slipping into blackness, she locked eyes with Yaltrax and gave a brief, smug grin. Then her face slackened, her eyes closed, and her chin fell slowly to her chest.
It was over. Yaltrax looked over the room, not with regret over the damage caused, but with a purely objective view, merely preparing a damage assessment that he would report to Zalkatrex. Shortly he turned and started out of the chamber. He didn't run, not even trot, to go report to his master. He walked slowly, and for one simple reason: He would have to stop relishing his victory once he found Zalkatrex, and after the damage assessment, his triumphant feeling would be forgotten. He decided to make this proud moment last as long as possible. Striding proudly through the hall, Yaltrax walked past the spot where Slaryka had been thrown by Absorber's attack. However, had Yaltrax not been so enveloped in his pride, he would have noticed that Slaryka was no longer there.
Where was he? He was a hundred feet away, in a shadowy corner, standing next to the corpse of a Chilas Yaltrax had tossed down the hall earlier. He waited until he could no longer hear Yaltrax's thumping footsteps, then emerged from the darkness and made his way to the lab. It looked just about as he expected it to. Table were overturned, instruments were crushed or mangled, and the walls were badly damaged. Most importantly, Absorber was back in stasis. Slaryka nodded toward the unconscious creature and took the same path Yaltrax had taken, preparing to meet with Zalkatrex.
Absorber lay unconscious for a month-and-a-half, simply floating there. No one came to the lab, barely passing by it. No maintenance work was done, though Zalkatrex was aware of the damage. This was because the Hokanuka in the underground complex were preparing for an assault on an enemy fortress, and no repairs were to be done until the attack was finished. Slaryka had been aware of this fact, and it allowed him to keep his part of the bargain with Absorber. By picking and choosing the time and nature of his assignments around the catacombs, Slaryka was able to ensure that, out of the Hokanuka selected for the attack, he was the last to leave. On his way out, he passed by the lab. Making sure no one was around, he ducked into it. Just as he knew she had to be, Absorber was still there, right where Yaltrax had left her.
Slaryka had two tasks to accomplish. This first was part of the bargain, the second he had resolved to do on his own accord. The first was to puncture the tube. Slaryka opened one of the cabinets and removed from it a needle, with which he made a tiny hole near the base of the tube. A tiny stream of fluid poured out of it, which would not be noticeable to passers-by in the corridor. Also, Slaryka could see a small bubble form at the hole and travel up to the top of the top of the tank about every second. Soon, the tank would be empty enough for the air inside to awaken its occupant.
After making sure the air-fluid exchange was steady, Slaryka set about his second task. This he did by taking in hand a bolt that would normally serve as ammunition for his sword-mounter launchers and carving a message in nearby tablet.
That done, Slaryka faced the stasis tube and saluted to his female ally, as if she could somehow sense his presence. He knew that she couldn't, but it still felt right.
The Hokanuka assassin then realized it was time to make himself scarce. It was time. Time to get back to doing his duty. As Slaryka trod slowly down the dark hall, he, not for the first time, considered all the pain he was about to cause, all the lives he would prematurely end, and hated the thought of it. All those intelligent beings, all with awareness and lives and feelings, soon to be coldly killed by the finest Hokanuka at doing so. Still, everyone has a place to fulfill in this universe, and if his was being an assassin for an ancient zealot, then so be it. His duty was his life, and there was no escaping it.
Slaryka heard a drop of something hit the ground. Looking down, he saw a tiny wet spot by his feet. Glancing across the ceiling above him, Slaryka saw no source for a leakage of any kind. That was when he realized something. There was a damp trail leading from the corner of his eye down his cheek.
What's wrong with you? he suddenly exclaimed to himself. Stop blubbering like a Matoran and start acting like the Hokanuka that you are! You have to overcome way more than they do, so sadness is a luxury you can't afford. Even as he thought these words, Slaryka knew he didn't mean them. That was what had been hardwired into his brain for 69,000 years, courtesy of his Hokanuka superiors. That was what they believed, and what they expected him to believe as well.
One tear, that was all it took to smash that perception into a billion pieces. You know, he said to himself, you bashed Matoran just a moment ago for being foolish, but in reality they are wiser than all your bosses.
Another voice in his mind spoke up to protest. You're just a soft-hearted spawn of Iceriax, you sentimental old fool. Get your feet back on the ground.
Iceriax was the second most powerful Hokanuka in history, and had wisdom and leadership skills to match, Slaryka answered. He was truly an admirable being.
And where did that get him? the voice countered. He's gone. He went missing on an assignment years ago, and now even the Great Beings couldn't fins him if the wanted to. What good did his self-righteousness do then?
Slaryka replied, He lived his life honorably, and was willing to sacrifice his life, but not his values.
That was the problem, The voice said. He always disagreed with Zalkatrex on the Hokanuka Code of Conduct, and they were always bickering over one clause of it or another.
Slaryka simply mentally said, Maybe Zalkatrex doesnt know everything.
He waited for a counter from the voice, but none came. Slaryka could very well be serving a flawed leader, and was certainly living a life he hated. Perhaps rectifying that need be considered.
Slaryka caught himself. Despite the difference in beliefs, he admired Zalkatrex, and didn't want to disappoint his boss. Also, Slaryka quitting would make him the first Hokanuka in history to do so. This was a radical step he need ponder further.
Despite this, Slaryka was sure more than ever that his life was one of murder, death, and destruction, all in the name of a zealous visionary with a bone to pick with the most powerful force of evil in the universe. The guilt-afflicted assassin had had many such moments of dissatisfaction before, but what had made him so sure of his pitiful lot in life this time?
Slaryka found himself stopping in his walk and staring back down the way he came. Why? There was nothing back there but the lab, with nothing in it except...
The realization made Slaryka's eyes widen. After a moment, he shook his head. All these little moments of guilt, and it took meeting a truly kind and noble creature to put things in perspective? Perhaps seeing and knowing what he wished he could be was what made Slaryka so sure he wasn't what he should be.
These things, Slaryka decided as he resumed walking, warranted much thought. Right now, Slaryka had a job to do. It wasn't sticking to his duty as an assassin that was the driving force now. It was simply an unwillingness to let his brethren down. They were counting on him, as had Absorber, and he would not disappoint them, as he did not with her.
It was about three days until Absrober finally awakened. She opened her eyes to see that the tank had been emptied of about one quarter of its fluid, which air had replaced, allowing her to return to consciousness. Not only that, as she swung her tail blade, she found that the leak Slaryka had made weakened the structural strength of the glass, allowing her to break out of the tube with ease.
She turned to go, but something made her stop. Because she had been thrown into suspended animation, the memories of the clash with Yaltrax were still fresh. And she knew that that one tablet, resting on a table a short distance from her, had not been there before.
Absorber was tempted to dismiss this as trivial, but the writing on the tablet...it wasn't in Matoran, as she might expect. It was written in the language of Absorber's species. She wondered how any of her captors could know her language, since only her brethren knew it, the only exceptions being ambassadors, traders, spies, or even...
Assassins. The word sprang to her mind. This meant that this tablet was a message addressed to her. After reading it, she was sure that the red one had written it, for it posed a question that he would ask. She scratched her answer below the question, using her best Matoran.
Once she was done, Absorber took her leave. She slipped out of the Hokanuka complex without any of the inhabitants taking notice. None of them even bothered to walk by the lab, which is a bit of a shame for them, but very good for Slaryka, for he would get to intercept Absorber's message first. If any had found the tablet before Slaryka did, they would have read:
- It's time for a proper introduction. I am Slaryka, 27th of the Hokanuka Order.
- I thank you for the giving me the means by which to preform an act of compassion in
- a profession where such is undervalued. What may I call you, if we are to meet again?
- Please write your response below.
- You are welcome to ask for my assistance any time you want, Slaryka. As for my name,
- I am called Otriedah.