No matter how many times Paravhiki travelled to Ko-Metru, he could never truly get used to how cold it was there, never mind the general atmosphere. Being a Ta-Matoran meant he was more used to heat, smoke, and the din of the forges cranking out product day and night. Ko-Metru's frozen white plateaus under the brilliant blue sky of theirs felt foreign, if not to say empty, the only sound being the howling wind that stung his face beneath his mask. Even in the more populated areas it always seemed like the Ko-Matoran didn’t want to go outside unless they had to. He never could shake the feeling that nothing outside the local routine was welcome.
He had been called down to investigate a murder at the Towers of Reason. Information from the two Ko-Matoran Officials that responded to the scene said that a Scholar named Ehtoro was found dead on the floor by the other academics in the tower, with his apprentice weeping over his body. With no signs of a weapon or wound to the body, the cause of death was thought to be poisoning. By the time Paravhiki got the call, the deceased had already been hauled off for examination, but the witnesses and apprentice were told to stay to take down statements. He wasn’t one to shirk his duties, but he couldn’t help but wonder why he was being called to work this case by his superior. A total of eight Officials were there well before he had arrived. However, his doubts were cast aside once he was inside and asked the Ko-Matoran Task Force Officials what their working theory was on the case. “We believe it was the apprentice,” said one with a Noble Matatu, Thalokk, as if the stars themselves told them so. Paravhiki looked over to the open door, peering into the room where the apprentice was being held. The Ko-Matoran in question was being watched over by two other Officials in the Researcher's former study. The Noble Akaku-wearing scholar-in-training was still sobbing and sniffling even now, a few hours after the crime was discovered. “You mean him?” Paravhiki motioned to the accused, “The one who’s about to turn into a Le-Metru crash site?”
“He’s most likely putting on an act,” said the other Ko-Matoran, a Kakama-bearer named Marzok. “He gained a lot by having his superior pass on. He poisoned him, pretended to stumble across his dead body to make himself look innocent, and thinks he’ll get away with it.” Paravhiki crossed his arms. He never liked how the Ko-Matoran elite would treat their theories as fact. The Officials almost seemed to act like it was a contest as to who could figure out the crime the quickest.
“What exactly did his superior do here?”
“Among other things, he was in charge of Knowledge Crystal distribution. He’d grant permission for use and stockpile of them, and order more to be harvested as well. A great responsibility that many see as a symbol of respect and status.” Paravhiki looked from one of them to the other, processing the information. “Do you have any evidence to support this? Something from the suspect?”
The two shared a look, and Marzok reluctantly spoke. “We were waiting until your... arrival, to fully corroborate his story so you wouldn’t miss any details.”
“Couldn’t get him to say anything past his blubbers, huh?” Paravhiki wasn’t surprised. Ko-Matoran tended to keep their emotions safeguarded. To see one openly weeping for as long as this one had would be off-putting, especially when “calming the grief-stricken” isn’t exactly something you would have a Ko-Matoran first in line for. “I’ll talk to him, but I need to be alone with him.” “You sure? He could -”
“Station them to guard the door outside if you want. The only way he’s gonna talk is if he’s not being treated like he’s guilty.”
The two shared another glance. “You get ten minutes,” said Thalokk.
“What? You’re not gonna wish me luck?” Paravhiki called back, already walking to the room.
Upon entering, he dismissed the two standing guard over the apprentice. He pulled up a chair from a nearby desk, and moved it in front of the weeping Matoran.
As Paravhiki sat down, the grieving suspect lifted his head from his hands to see who entered the room. The Ko-Matoran did his best to keep any lingering sobs to a minimum, letting the stranger speak.
“Hey there, I’m Paravhiki. I’m with the Metru Nui Task Force.” He changed his tone from how he'd talked to the other Officials, trying to make it calming and projecting genuine concern for the Matoran's well-being. “I’m afraid I wasn’t told your name?”
“You’ve been through a lot today, Totahri. I know the pain is still fresh for you, but I need you to tell me what happened. I was told that other scholars found you at the scene grieving, what happened before that?”
“I-I was in his study, he had asked for a tablet on star alignments. When I came back he...he was dead, with his tea spilled on the floor. I heard one of them say it was poisoned?” It was then his eyes went wide with realization. “You think I did it, don’t you?” “Relax, Totahri, I’m not here to interrogate you. I just need to hear your side of the story. Did anyone come in or leave this chamber besides you two in the last few days?”
“No, anyone working in a Knowledge Tower tends to be left undisturbed.”
“Is there anyone who has access to this chamber besides you or Ehtoro?”
Paravhiki noticed Totahri’s eyes glance away for a moment. “No, just us.”
“You aren’t making this look good for yourself, Totahri. Is there anything else you can tell me?”
Totahri seemed reluctant, as if there was some truth he couldn’t admit. “There’s a story of a Cliff Bug trapped in a Fikou’s web, soon to be eaten. A Bog Snake passed by and told the Cliff Bug he could free him. The Cliff Bug agreed, only to be devoured by the Snake instead. The story is meant to teach others that you can’t trust everyone to help you from a bad situation. Please keep that story in mind as you investigate, Paravhiki.”
“Well, thank you for your time, Totahri.” Paravhiki got up from his chair, the two guards re-entering the study as he left.
“Well?” said Thalokk as Paravhiki joined them in the main chamber.
“I don’t think he did it, but he definitely knows more than he’s willing to tell me. He hesitated when I asked him if anyone besides him and Ehtoro had access to their chamber. He also told me a parable about who to trust when getting out of a bad situation.”
“You think he might know the murderer?”
“Possibly; I’m not certain yet. He’s definitely trying to protect himself from someone, either they’d ruin his reputation or make him the next target. I say he should be taken to HQ for questioning, and to make sure he doesn’t get taken out on the chance someone decides he’s too much of a risk alive.”
The two Officials looked at each other for a minute; Ko-Matoran who valued silence above all else had figured out how to communicate through their eyes alone. It also served as a valuable way to keep others out of a discussion.
“Fine, we’ll have him escorted down to HQ when we’re done here,” said Marzok.
“Good, I have some investigating to do. I need to go over the recording of my questioning and see if there’s anything I missed.” “Don’t linger too long, the Chief will want to debrief you before the end of the day.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there before dark.”
Paravhiki then took off to the Public Sector, where a shelter lay in wait for him to collect his thoughts and hopefully more clues.
Paravhiki had many “homes away from home” while working on cases in any given Metru. In the case of Ko-Metru, it was a small metal shanty next to an obscure but memorable loop-shaped ice structure in the Public Sector. Upon entering the shack, he was surprised to find the lanterns inside turned on, along with the vents of the small heatstone heater left open. Before he could ask himself who’d trespassed, the voice of a Ga-Matoran coming from behind a chair at his desk answered preemptively.
“It’s about time you showed up. For a moment, I thought I’d become an ice sculpture waiting for you.” The voice rang painfully clear to Paravhiki. The figure rose from the chair to face him.The mask she wore was different, but he could never forget her calm voice. It had a tone that told everyone she was in charge, and knew exactly what everyone was up to at any given moment. He reached for his stun prod as he spoke - he had let the head of the Tarakava Syndicate get the one-up on him before, he wasn’t going to let it happen again.
“What are you doing here, Nanohi?” His words were as cold as the air around him.
Nanohi, this time wearing a Noble Rode, chuckled. “Despite no one knowing my face, I never forget anyone else’s. Especially not one like yours, Detective.”
“If you’re here for small talk, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere.” Paravhiki walked over to his desk, beginning to write down notes from the questioning he gave this morning, “I have work to do.” The Ga-Matoran stood several steps away behind him; despite her intrusion, she respected his personal space. “I heard about the murder of the scholar at the Towers of Reason. I came because I wanted to help.” Paravhiki didn’t look up from his work. “Great. you can head on down to the Task Force Headquarters and turn yourself in. It’s right by the Coliseum, you can’t miss it.”
Nanohi plowed on through his sarcasm. “The murder is tied to a cover-up of an operation to smuggle Knoweldge Crystals to Xia by the Kopen Stingers.” That got Paravhiki to stop and look at the Syndicate leader. “Do you have a single fact to back that up?” “They’re loading a shipment up tonight. it’s going to be the last one for a while because of what happened, so they want to make this a big one for a good payout.”
“Why are you coming to me with this? How can I trust you with anything you’ve told me?”
Nanohi sighed, thinking about how much trouble the gang had caused her. “The Kopen Stingers only seek to sow chaos so they can gain power. I may not follow the Law, but do my best to do right for our people. The Stingers want to rip it all asunder to create another conflict, and I’m not here to lead a rebellion.”
Paravhiki resumed his sarcastic tone. “Glad to see you have standards.”
“Meet me in Le-Metru’s port district. At the tower near Dock 451 tonight. If there really is nothing there, I’ll turn myself in and burn the information I have on you.” “That’s a big sacrifice you’re willing to make.”
“There’s a lot at stake with this. The Kopen Stingers thrive off hatred and conflict; that puts what you believe is right in jeopardy just as much as it does for me. If you want that right to continue, we have to work together.” The two of them were silent for a moment, then Nanohi turned to the door. “I hope to see you there.”
She walked a few steps before Paravhki asked her “What if I decide not to show up?”
She glanced back at the detective. “Then don’t expect me to clean up your mess for you.”
With that, Nanohi shut the door, and Paravhiki was left with another set of weights on his shoulders.
Nanohi sat at the balcony of the hydraulic accumulator tower that provided power for the machinery of the Le-Metru docks, watching activity through the scope on her Noble Kaukau. Matoran hauling crates and supplies on and off ships and cargo freighters were caught between the bright lights illuminating sections of the docks against the darkness of night. The stillness from high above mixed with the sounds of the oceans and the scattered lights created a feeling of watching from a dream. The stillness was interrupted by the sounds of footsteps on the metal floor of the balcony ringing the tower. The footsteps got closer to Nanohi, along with the sound of tired panting. The footsteps stopped right next to her, the ragged panting didn’t. “I made it, despite your directions,” wheezed the hoarse voice of Paravhiki. “You could have warned me I’d have to climb a service ladder twenty two and a half kio up here.” “I figured you could handle a little exercise, Detective,” Nanohi replied, still watching the docks. “You took the akhta service elevator, didn’t you?” Paravhiki cursed. “If we could get to business, you can pick up the binoculars I left for you and look west by southwest to Dock 451.” Paravhiki obliged her request, picking up the pristine binoculars next to her and looking towards the dock. “So what am I looking for to prove what you told me is true?”
“Do you see the Matoran opening shipping containers and putting in different crates?” He zoomed in on some figures barely illuminated against the dark; he could just barely make out the markings on the crates indicating their contents of Knowledge Crystals. “They’re loading the crates now to smuggle them on a ship that already had its cargo inspected.”
“That boat is scheduled to leave for Xia tomorrow evening,” confirmed Nanohi. Paravhiki lowered the binoculars, already trying to plan out everything needed in his head. “That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get enough evidence to warrant an investigation.”
“I know you’ll find what you need, Detective.” Nanohi hadn’t looked away from the dock as she spoke. He looked over to the Ga-Matoran. “Because you’ll be watching me to make sure that I do?” “Because this is important to you,” Nanohi corrected “And I know you won’t let anything get in the way of stopping an operation like this.” Paravhiki leaned against the railing, he gave a deep sigh. “How in Karzhani do you know me so well?” “I make it an objective to keep an eye on everything that can work for or against my goals.” “And which category do I fall under?”
“That’s something I’m still figuring out myself, Detective,” Nanohi answered. “Now that you have some cause for investigation, I’ll leave you to that. I’m going to stay here a bit longer.” “To see where the goons head off to?” “To enjoy the sights,” she said, “It’s not everyday I get an excuse to take in a view like this.”
“You don’t care about finding out more dirt on what’s happening?”
“I already have the dirt I need, Paravhiki. What matters now is that you find it on your own so you don’t get arrested for colluding with the leader of a criminal syndicate.” He saw through the passive-aggressive nature of her statement, if her operation wasn’t considered illegal, or if he invested himself into her “noble cause”, she could provide more assistance. She was right though, he’d find the information he needed if it meant he didn’t have to choose either option. “I don’t suppose you know how I can take the lift down?” Paravhiki asked. “Sorry, I don’t have the key to the front door,” Her tone wasn’t that of an apology. “unless you’d want to stoop down and pick the lock open?”
Paravhiki sighed, grumbling and cursing to himself as he made his way back down via the service ladder. He hoped he wouldn’t be too exhausted to call in a favor from a contact he knew could give him the information he needed once he got back on the ground.
To be continued...