|Persistence is a Virtue|
This story was originally released in Sidd's blog as a way of establishing both an independency from the main storyline and a sense of supense as the reader waits for the next chapter. Both apparently succeeded, but the proper method of writing a story, which is in a fiction article, was revealed to Sidd later and the story was copied down into this article.
This is perhaps Sidd's best side-story ever, and his favorite to write.
Part 1 Edit
The sun was overcast on a brisk, breezy Altronian winter day. If the sun and moon could speak, they would tell of this little land, and how it had come to be a wasteland, once a temperate island, now a large, snowy dust pit, only sufficient for the Chilas that inhabited its main canyon, which was named for them. The sun would also tell how it was nearly impossible to establish large settlements, but a fortress with lots of imports might. So Altronia Fortress came about. Lead by one of the most hardened and experienced Toa in the universe, and inhabited by some of the toughest, most mutated, and/or most rejected Toa as well, it grew to a state of completion and refinement over time, and soon became a force to be reckoned with.
However, it tried not to be reckoned with, preferring to remain secluded and somewhat hidden until its forces were required. The sun would also tell of the new recruits who just arrived recently, the most un-Toa band of newcomers yet, and how their skills were now being used to strengthen and diversify the fortress' military force. The sun might be a more observant kind of sun, and actually tell of some of the other random newcomers, as well, such as a black-green psychopath, a depowered Makuta megalomaniac, a Hordika strongman with an outgoing personality, and a weirdo who seemed to know the place too well.
However, as some, assuming the sun were a sentient being, would expect the sun to have an amount of dignity, so they would expect the sun to close its "eyes" and try not to watch the unfolding drama.
Zallirix was in thought. This seems strange to most who know Zallirix, but this time he had a good reason. There was something to steal. Zallirix had been running around and doing errands for Altronia Fortress operatives, as was his current job...or punishment...description, when he happened on the Altronia hangar. In there, he saw his nemesis, Levuku, and some others, including Rajal, Vohk, Ferrak, and some unknown engineer-type Toa, just standing around in the back discussing something. Zalirix could not hear them from his side of the hangar, of course, as the hangar was enormous, big enough to hold a few Metru Nui airships, lined up laterally. They were about a hundred or so feet from Zallirix (about 25 bio), and, conveniently, all facing away from the eavesdropper.
Zallirix decided to not look for any more errands to run for the time being and sneak up on the group. But how to do it? With Zallirix's abilities, he could do it several ways. Hmm, he thought. How to do it...Should I sneak across the floor, dart from shadow to shadow, leap through the air and land noiselessly, or scale the wall and scuttle across it like a bug? I've sneaked up on so many adversaries, rivals, and clients, and I hate to form a pattern.
He decided to scale the wall and look like a dust scarab as best he could. These lowly bugs were green and black, like Zallirix, and were completely harmless and perfectly stable creatures, unlike Zallirix. Still, from a distance, if Zallirix kept his limbs tightly bent and close to his body, none could tell the difference. He did this, scaling the wall with little effort, his claws easily penetrating the stone deep enough to hold his weight. He even made his approach seem random, unhurried, and jerky, like a bug might move. Zallirix had been bored, so he had had plenty of time to watch bugs.
As the creep-a-zoid neared his targets, he began to hear parts of their conversation. Stuff about "rockets," "stabilizers," and "air flow." Sounds like they're designing an aircraft, Zallirix thought. Maybe, when I ride it, I'll escape with it, so it won't turn out like the last one I rode. As Zallirix neared the group, he dropped to the ground, glad no one noticed him, and determined to not let them notice an odd beetle with a kooky grin stalking them. As he neared them, he began to realize more what they were saying. The engineer was explaining the design and effectiveness of two craft, which, due to gestures, Zallirix could tell were on the floor in the middle of the group. Must be small craft, he decided. Oh, well, the other one was, too.
Zallirix was near enough to listen in now. He put his audio receptor almost in the open, and kept as silent as possible while still breathing heavily like a hyperactive Matoran. Finally he understood what was being discussed. Understanding came when Rajal spoke up. "Well, I'm sure you'll all be ready to help us test Nytrix's prototypes with us. After all, they're bound to be marketed everywhere! Imagine! Altronian-made, super-efficient, rocket-powered personal flying machines!" How very, very worth stealing, Zallirix thought. Maybe I'll let them keep their masks and weapons, if not their toys.
Part 2 Edit
Vohk decided to speak up and put his thoughts out there for all to hear. "You know this isn't a new idea. I heard that someone somewhere, I think Stelt, was already making these."
"Ah, so you're not as ignorant as I feared," Ferrak teased. "I was beginning to think you were such a dunce you had no idea what Stelt was."
"Shut...up!" Vohk shouted. I've had too much of this constant irritation! Really! Please! Stop!"
"All right, you two adolescent Gukko," Suntrah cut in, "quit bickering like novices. I sends a bad image to the authorities here."
"Vohk sneered and pointed at Ferrak. "He sends a bad image to the-"
"Vohk!" Ferrak interrupted. "Obey your superiors like a good boy." Vohk snarled. Ferrak grinned.
With a nasty glare form Suntrah, the conversation continued. Rajal was first to speak. "All right, so this isn't a new technology, but it's the new state-of-the-art, as far as we know. And we here at Altronia know a lot. Specifically, I called you here because you are the best candidates for trying these out. Being living test-pilot dummies, so to speak, but, of course, we wouldn't have invited you if you were dumb. We invited you because none of you is too heavy, too broad-shouldered, to oddly-shaped..." Rajal gestured to himself, "...to keep it from operating well. I now ask for a volunteer."
"You got one," Levuku said, enthusiastically. "It looks real fun, and I'm not going to miss out if I can help it."
Rajal smiled. "That's the kind of enthusiasm we need here at Altronia."
"Just one question," Levuku continued, "How in Karzahni do you fly the darn things?"
Zallirix watched as Levuku was outfitted with the jetpack, and noticed that it was the one without stabilizer-wings. Rajal said that if Levuku could fly this one, the other one would be a piece of cake. Zallrix saw Rajal's logic, and also saw an opportunity. With the group moving off to test-fly the un-stabilized jet-pack, Zallrix would have a clear shot at the better one. It was almost too delicious. Zallirix almost started drooling.
Occasionally, Vaturi would glance back at the better jet pack as she and her comrades moved off to the test site. Zallirix had no idea why she behaved this way, and really did not care. He simply waited for her to round the corner of the doorway, then he would leap. Leap, strap on, kill, steal, escape, do donuts, all that lovely stuff. He could barely wait.
Fortunately for him, he didn't have to wait much longer. the group walked out of the hangar and out onto the sandy lot between the Altronia fortress hangar and the launch point where the watercraft would be launched into the bay. They prepared for launch, making sure Levuku was strapped in, then beginning the test.
First, Rajal, controlling the thrust remotely, set it to low power, just to see Levuku hover. It took some practice, but Levuku found his balance. Next, with the thrust on low, Rajal instructed Levuku on steering. Levuku took to flying quickly, and soon he was flying with some exuberance around the team, whooping with excitement.
Then it came. The burst of small, distant engines, the ever-approaching roar of the rocket engines, the maniacal laughter. Rajal rushed back into the chamber to find Zallirix strapped into the better jet pack, laughing hysterically, and rushing at high speed for the open air.
Better duck, thought Rajal.
Part 3 Edit
Rajal hit the ground hard as Zallirix careened by overhead. The maniac is going to ruin that prototype! Rajal stormed to himself as he watched Zallirix shoot off toward Levuku and the others. Oh yeah, and he'll get himself killed, Rajal thought, and with a smile, he added to himself, That's not as much of a problem, though.
Zallirix might have thought it was a problem, but he was quietly confident in his ability to adapt to the hang of the machine. He wasn't quiet, though. He was laughing maniacally, thoroughly enjoying himself as he flew low over the sand and gravel of the Altronia Fortress parking lot and made a beeline for Levuku. As he got nearer, Nytrix shouted a warning, Vaturi shrieked, and Levuku barely turned in time to be pummeled by the onrushing thief. Zallirix slammed into Levuku's chest, knocking the wind from the Crynok and sending him flying off toward the beach. Ferrak launched a spinner, but Zallirix swatted it away with his spear. More followed, but Zallirix never wavered. He simply figured out how to hover and stayed where he was, batting Rhotuka aside right and left. Vohk shot off behind Zallirix, did a 180, and shot up at a diagonal toward Zallirix's back. Zallirix never looked back, but proved that he was expecting Vohk to do that when he cut the jetpack's power and let Vohk shoot over him and land on Ferrak. Zallirix landed like a cat on the ground, then flipped backward to get away from Nytrix's plasma blasts.
Rajal had gotten to his feet by now and was now trying to nab Zallirix any way he could. Zallirix could well escape, and divulge who knew how much info to who knew how many enemies once gone. Rajal somersaulted on the ground, then kept rolling, the spikes on his back turning him into a mutant Buzzsaw of Stone. He rolled after Zallirix, quickly approaching the maniac as he was avoiding plasma blasts. Zallirix rapidly stopped dodging and ducked to the side of Rajal, forcing Nytrix to cease fire for a moment. Zallirix then tried to run Rajal through, but Rajal fell over sideways, allowing the tough armor on his back to parry Zallirix's blade, after which Rajal followed into sweeping ground kick that sent Zallirix flying away.
The maniac rolled and tumbled along the ground until he slammed into a wall of Altronia Fortress. Rajal advanced, blades ready, to finish this little charade, but Zallirix simply sat up, smiled, waved, and activated his stolen jetpack, taking off into the sky. Rajal rolled at the wall, allowing his spikes to stick into it. He rolled up after Zallirix, then leaped off the wall and tried an air tackle, but Zallirix met it with an outstretched leg, which Rajal slammed into and fell. Nytrix was using his tentacles to follow them up the wall, and, plunging his Crescent Blades into the wall, reached out with his tentacles, straining to reach Zallirix. The tentacles continued to follow Zallirix away from the wall, and, to Zallirix's surprise, they stretched to three times their original length. After that, though, Nytrix could extend them no further and he gave up.
As Vaturi took off on her own wings after Zallirix, Ferrak and Vohk tried to revive Levuku. Vohk eventually gave Levuku a little shock, which started the Crynok awake. "Get up, junior pilot," Vohk said, pointing to Zallirix, "and go catch yourself a bogey."
Levuku saw what was required, and what he was to do. He grimaced at the thought of fighting Zallirix, but also was anticipatory at the some time. He started up his jetpack, then stared off across the sky.
Vaturi tried to meet Zallirix in the air, but Zallirix had the advantage, for he did not use his primary weapon for flight unlike Vaturi, and managed to fight her off. He heard the sound of Nytrix grunting when he caught Vaturi, and also heard the sound of approaching engines. He smiled, and, turning, saw Levuku approach over his shoulder. Truning his body to face Levuku, he said, "Not so good and virtuous now, are you? When Faxhuun's not around, you're perfectly fine with doing me in."
Levuku hesitated. Zallirix continued. "That's just too bad for everyone who looks up to you," he said, gesturing to Vohk and Ferrak on the ground, "and everyone who expects great things from you. You've devolved into a murderer, and now they're too good for you. They'll eject you and shun you, because you broke their honor system, and your murderous reputation will be known everywhere..." he paused for effect, "...kind of like mine."
Levuku wasn't sure what to make of this. There was some truth and plausibility to his words, but Levuku was sure he was exaggerating. Or was he?
Zallirix shrugged. "Oh, well. Makuta will take you, of course. He's willing to accept any soulless slime ball to help his cause anyway."
Levuku thought it over some more. Zallirix had to be trying to demoralize Levuku, trying to get Levuku to back down. Levuku wouldn't let that happen. Zallirix was lying, way better than Levuku thought Zallirix could manage with such a jumbled mind, and hitting on Levuku's insecurities. He'll have to try something new, because Burtok already tried that, trying to keep me on his side. Kanahka told me better. Zallirix killed him, and now Zallirix is trying to erase him completely. That will not happen.
Levuku composed himself. "Okay, Zallirix, because you virtually asked for it, because you deserve worse, and to prove I can do it, I'll stop you and catch you without killing you, so your life can continue to be miserable here at the fortress."
Zallirix grinned from ear to ear. "I like this idea." With a sinister tone, he continued, "All right, give me the fight of my life. promise I'll enjoy every moment of it."
Part 4 Edit
Levuku steeled himself for the battle to come. Zallirix laughed and shot forward through the air, slicing at Levuku with his spear. Levuku dodged and kicked Zallirix in the side, sending the maniac lurching sideways. Zallirix attacked again, this time parried by Levuku, and Levuku twisted his staff to swing Zallirix's blade far to the side, allowing Levuku to attack. Zallirix quickly threw his jetpack into reverse to avoid Levuku's thrust, and began flying away.
I can't let you escape! Levuku thought. With a yell, he blasted after Zallirix. Zallirix swiveled in midair to recieve Levuku with open arms. Those arms wrapped around Levuku, and the claws that they ended in tried to gore Levuku in a gap in his armor. The Crynok youth forced his elbows out, keeping Zallirix's claws away from his back, and began to spin. He spun faster and faster, hoping Zallirix would let go. Zallirix simply clung to Levuku's staff, knowing the Crynok wouldn't let go of it, and cheered. "Wee-hee-hee! Thanks for the ride! It's just like that time I went through the Le-Metru Notch fighting a Cyclone-Rahkshi! Mata Nui, was that fun!" As Zallirix continued to laugh, Levuku fought the g-forces, but knew he would lose. He was going to black out trying to get Zallirix to let go, then fall to his death, and Zallirix was just laughing! With a burst of strength born of anger an desperation, he gave one last spin, then rammed both legs into Zallirix, sending him flying through the air and through a nearby tower window.
Fighting to keep his head, Levuku allowed the dizziness to pass, then flew over to the tower to inspect the damage and Zallirix's current condition. He peered into the window, seeing only the stairs leading up to the lookout window at the top and glass shards everywhere. Then, with a green flash, Zallirix tackled Levuku from the shadows and sent the two plunging to the fortress wall below. Levuku was flipping end over end while grappling with Zallirix, who was trying to knock Levuku's jetpack off his back and take off in escape. That wasn't likely to happen, but Zallirix landing on Levuku upon impact with the fortress wall's walkway was. Levuku decided against this by firing his jetpack to rotate the two over one more time, then landed on Zallirix's midsection when they landed.
Levuku used his staff to pin Zallirix's neck between the tines and drove those tines into the walkway. "Ready to give up?" he asked.
"No," Zallirix replied, snarling, "Ready to stop having all your body parts attached?" With that, he tossed Levuku off him and flipped to his feet. Levuku fired acid, which Zallirix swatted away, then advanced. Levuku swung his staff, which was blocked and countered by Zallirix, which in turn prompted many similar strikes and responses to follow. They were both very skilled, very fast fighters, and if they let too powerful a blow through, or it just one hit the right spot, they would then be open for more, and probably pounded to the floor shortly after. Every move mattered. It was a rapid flurry of slashes, swipes, thrusts, kicks, and even an attempt by Zallirix to bite Levuku's mask and pull it off with his teeth.
Finally, the metal cyclone of combat stopped, and the two locked weapons. Levuku was grateful from the reprieve, but his joy vanished when Zallirix began rapidly pushing him back. Oh, crud, Levuku thought.
Part 5 Edit
Levuku was in a bit of a tight spot. He had challenged Zallirix to a duel, trying to keep the maniac from stealing a jetpack prototype and escaping Altronia. Just when it looked like Levuku would maybe win, Zallirix revealed himself to be easily twice as strong as Levuku. How is that possible!? Levuku exclaimed mentally. He's thinner than me!
Seeing the fear in Levuku's orbs, Zallirix continued to force the Crynok youth backward. He drew his face closer to Levuku's, until it was mere inches from the Kualsi on Levuku's face. Levuku could feel Zallirix's warm breath, smell the fetid stench of the same, and see the utter insanity in his enemy's eyes. All three unsettled him. He could also hear Zallirix grunting in enthusiasm under his breath, which disturbed Levuku in a slightly different way. Aiming to end the experience as soon as possible, the youth fell on his back and forced Zallirix over him with his legs, sending the psycho flying. Zallirix banked in midair and made his way back, Levuku realizing as he rose that Zallirix's jetpack had engaged.
I have to remove it somehow, he thought. Zallirix was too intent on divebombing Levuku to realize what Levuku was bracing for. Exactly one second after Levuku kicked Zallirix into the air, he tackled Levuku, and Levuku hung on for his life as Zallirix flew away from the wall, and over the fortress, so far below. The Crynok grabbed Zallirix underarms and twisted the maniac's torso around, then shot his hand between Zallirix's back and the stolen jetpack like a wedge. The rockets shot off Zallirix's back and died out a split second later, but Levuku's pack engaged to keep the pair in the air. He hurled Zallirix back to the walkway and followed overhead. Once above the walkway, Levuku undid the straps keeping the jetpack on his back, sending it arcing over the wall, like Zallirix's pack had, where Levuku knew Rajal and Nytrix would catch the prototypes. Levuku dropped to the wall, only to be rammed in the gut by Zallirix. Levuku slid across the walkway and hit his head on a tower wall. Zallirix advanced, raising his spear high and preparing to bring it down quickly on Levuku. "Time to slice and dice and cut you into slivers!" he exclaimed joyfully. "Then I think I'll take the weekend off. Or maybe the whole week. Karzahni with it; I'll just leave forever!"
"Like to see you try," Levuku replied quietly, trying to avoid Zallirix replying and filling Levuku's head with more random nonsense. He managed to get his staff up to block Zallirix's blow, and kicked Zallirix in the backside, sending his head into the tower wall. Levuku grunted as Zallirix fell on top of him, then, with all his strength, hurled Zallirix off him in disgust. Zallirix landed on his head with a yell, then fell on his front. Levuku scrambled to his feet and leaped at Zallirix. Zallirix lay still, leading Levuku to think the nut was unconscious and aiming his leap to land on Zallirix. Zallirix waited to the last instant to react, then thrust his feet up into Levuku's midsection. Levuku flew back, but stayed conscious, and landed on his feet. Zallirix lunged for him, tackling Levuku they rolled backward several times, striking and struggling each other all the while. Soon the stopped rolling, with Levuku on top. A few quick blows followed, but then Levuku shot his staff between Zallirix's blade and his underarm, and used leverage to fling the weapon out of Zallirix's hand.
"Eeeyagh!" Zallirix cried out in shock. Levuku then forced Zallirix's neck between the tines of his staff, and drove the staff into the ground. "There," he said, relieved. "Now I'll let you stay there until a custodian finds you still lying here, whining and yelping and laughing and--" His words were cut off by Zallirix diving at his legs, tripping him.
"Now you'll see that you're a weak moron!" Zallirix shouted. "That's my job! To make the obvious known to--" His words were cutting off by Levuku's foot landing in his mouth. The blow flung Zallirix back, but not far. He advanced, slashing at Levuku with his protosteel-tipped, clawed fingers. "Just die already! Maybe then you'll stop tickling me to death!"
Levuku didn't dignify that with a response. He simply dodged Zallirix's strikes while backing toward his staff. He had dropped it when Zallirix knocked Levuku's feet out from under him. Soon Zallirix noticed, and stopped trying to strike Levuku and simply stood there. Levuku did the same, not wanting to leave himself open. Zallirix simply gave a goofy smile.
"What are you doing?" Levuku asked. "Why do you ask?" "You want to kill me. You're not trying. Something smells like a Ruki." "Your senses are adept," Zallirix responded, lunging for Levuku and grabbing both the Crynok's arms in his hands. "Too bad your gray matter isn't."
Levuku kicked Zallirix in the shin over and over, to no avail. Then Zallirix returned the favor, the blow much stronger then Levuku's. Levuku bent slightly in pain. Zallirix grinned maliciously. Levuku tried to head-butt Zallirix, but found the move being stopped quickly. There was a quick yank, and Levuku's mask was removed from his head. Zallirix spit the mask out. "Try to leave now."
I didn't actually think of that, Levuku realized. Well, there's your problem.
Crynok, unlike Toa, are not weakened by a mask being removed, since all it does is add a power to theirs. Levuku hefted both his legs off the ground, then rammed his knees into Zallirix's abdomen. Levuku's enemy let go, allowing Levuku to retrieve his tools.
But he could only choose one. Zallirix was too quick to allow both to be retrieved. Which to use?
Levuku dove for the mask. Thank you, Kanahka, he thought as put it back on its destined owner's face, which was his own. It's not leaving me again.
Levuku launched a flying kick. Zallirix dodged, but Levuku teleported to the side to hit Zallirix, keeping his forward momentum. Now came the hard part. Concentrating more than ever before when using this mask, he willed himself to teleport rapidly, relocating as soon as he materialized in a given location. By doing this, and using his preserved momentum, he teleported to every angle around Zallirix in the space of one-and-a-half seconds, landing hundreds of blows to multiple parts of Zallirix's body.
As the Crynok finally landed his last blow and hit the ground, exhausted, Zallirix recoiled from the last hit, landed hard, and lay still. This time, it was no deception, or even a spontaneous change of mind. He was beaten, and had no intention of getting up. Levuku stooped to retrieve his staff, then stood erect in victory, both over his lifelong enemy and over his juvenile hatred. He no longer wanted Zallirix dead, but respected him, and simply wanted relief from the maniac in his life. This was not going to happen, but Levuku no longer cared. Sometimes it takes a dozen near-death experiences all crammed into the fight of your life to grow you up.
He turned to leave. Zallirix watched him for a moment then said, "Kill me already. You know you want to."
Levuku turned to meet Zallirix's eyes, never glaring, shouting, or getting angry. He simply replied calmly, "If I did, you would have won, not me. I would have lost to you and myself, and you would have won in making me into your successor as resident Psychopathic Cornball of the Universe."
"It's not that. Just kill me so I don't have to live with the torment of my conscience."
Zallirix has a conscience? Levuku thought. There was no sarcasm, just surprise and curiosity. I had no idea. Still his expression did not change. "No, I'm letting you live. We all have to face the consequences of out actions, so death would be a mercy on my part. No, to give you what you deserve, I'm letting you continue existing."
Levuku walked away. He saw stirring below him. Shortly, a ladder landed next to the wall with a crack, and two figures scrambled up it toward him. The first was Nytrix, who passed Levuku with a short "Nice, kid." The second was Rajal, who stopped in front of Levuku and extended his fist. Levuku smiled and clanked his fist with the trainer's. Their eyes locked for a long time.
Levuku eventually broke the stare to glimpse Zallirix's fate. Nytrix was enraged over the theft of his two creations, and was going to show it. Ignoring Zallirix's dazed grin, he coiled his tentacles around Zallirix and heaved him into the air. Tighter and tighter the coils wrapped. Zallirix noticed the majority of the coils were around his joints. That was an instant before the pain started. First small, then great, as Nytrix superheated his unnatural appendages to molten temperatures. Targeted at Zallirix's organic tissue, the pain was excruciating, and, when unconsciousness came, it was a mercy.
Levuku sighed at the sight. Rajal took up position beside him, placing his arm over the Crynok's shoulders. The trainer looked on with a satisfied smile, happy to see the thief brought to justice, as well he should be. Levuku smiled as well, but it was a hollow one, because he had much more on his mind. Zallirix was a killer, a mental case, and a liar, but he still had potential. He was smart, he was quick, he was skilled with a blade, he was cunning, and, as Levuku had previously observed, he was skilled with technology. So much potential, all of it wasted in the shell of a Psychopathic Cornball.
So, as Levuku looked on, he was filled with relief that the battle was over, satisfaction that justice was being enacted, and sadness over the great person that could have existed, but never would. Or would he? Zallirix had a conscience, as he had said, and their had been an air of sincerity when he said that that was nonexistent in most of Zallirix's speech. Could that mean that this person would ever come into being?
It would be a miracle, as well as too good to be true, Levuku realized. Two qualifications for fantasies.
And, as he, Rajal, Nytrix, and the unconscious Zallirix descended the ladder and reentered the fortress, Levuku went on with many lessons learned, but with one notable one not learned: Many fantastical events can indeed be true.
(Listed in order of appearance)
Mentioned Only Edit
(Listed in order mentioned)
- Sidd is not going to explain that last line.
- This story does a good job of secluding itself from the main flow of the story, since it takes place during a waiting period in the mainstream. Thus, it is a good way for Sidd to introduce others to his story, if he ever needs to in the future.
- Argh showed this story to JJS495 on Double-Throwdown HQ.