Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Rilovians, Chapter 7: Out of thin air

The morning was young; the skies, barely beginning to brighten. Most inhabitants of Rilovi were yet at rest. The rahi, though... the rahi stirred across the land, rustling leaves and rippling pools. The air grew unsteady with the faintest chorus of shreiking sounds.

The chorus grew louder.

It drew nearer.

The rahi cried out in unison in their countless voices. They scattered, they ran, they froze in fear. They seeked to escape, but no direction offered a safe route.

The Rilovians awakened.

Across the territories of the Rallo, the Novi, the Foran, the Tiallo, and the Mikau, small groups of vessels of The Unknown flew, descending directly towards their scouts' earlier landing sites. Thedon, now jogging beside his personal rahi transport, his body utterly exhausted from a frantic, but successful night of seeking out and summoning Gelaeus's staff, saw one of the Unknown formations pass directly above him, proceeding in the exact direction he was headed, back to his city of residence and work. Realizing that the fate of the planet could rest in the hands of five gigantic, sleeping robots, Thedon summoned the strength to climb upon his rahi and charge forward at a galoping pace. All he could do was try to aid in the defense of his people and hope the Maxxa could be activated before all hope was lost.

At the landing site in Foran territory, a dozen Unknown established a perimeter around a circular area the size of a small city block. Most citizens of the area stayed back and took shelter, but a handful of police & local government members gathered and prepared to do what they could to push the intruders back. Their numbers doubled when former warriors from the area joined the scene and distributed old spare swords and bludgeoning weapons. They quickly agreed upon a divide & conquer strategy to charge together, but then split into two groups, each attacking one side of the perimeter and to disable as many lone Unknown as possible before the conflict converged. The warriors were ready & anxious for a fight, the others, not to the same extent. Yet, they all realized equally the gravity of the task before them, and agreed to a single countdown.





The Rilovians bravely charged towards a gap in the invaders' perimeter, then split apart before crossing it, each half of them turning the opposite way and attacking a lone Unknown sentinel. The first two enemies were quickly overwhelmed and easily overcome, but the others took notice. The Rilovians continued to plan and charged towards their next targets. This time, there was resistance. The Unknown readied their handheld energy weapons and began to fire, striking down several Foran before being overrun themselves. Four were defeated. Eight remained -- eight who were by now fully alerted, fully aware, and fully prepared, weapons charged. The brave Rilovians weren't able to advance even twenty more paces before being overcome. Their hand-to-hand weapons and metallic shields were completely useless against the invaders' blasters.

The remaining Unknown redistributed themselves equally around the same perimeter they had originally occupied, keeping their weapons fully charged. Shreiks could be heard from the sky once more, though lower in tone this time, and louder as they drew close. A large transport arrived with an escort of 5 more Unknown scouts, landing in the center of the defended area. The vessel was roughly saucer-shaped, but hollow in the middle and deeply textured with symmetrical spire-like protrusions around its circumference and on its upper surface. Four of the newly-arrived individuals took the places of their fallen comrades around the perimeter, while the fifth approached the large vessel and activated a panel, apparently to input some commands. Quickly, the vessel began to transform. Its outer ring turned downward. The inner spires spread apart and to extended twice their height into the sky like an ominous, blossoming flower.

After a brief pause, something began to power up in the mysterious machine. Winds picked up and began to swirl about violently. Arcing electricity surged through the upright structures of the machine, growing in intensity until a beam of unrecognizable energy shot straight up into the sky. The beam was barely visible in the fully lit sky, but a rising cloud of dust made it discernible. Directly above, the sky began to slightly darken, and soon a completely black spot could be seen at the precise point where the beam was pointed. As the wind continued to tear through the immediate area, it was soon apparent that air was not being expelled from the machine, it was actually being drawn into the beam.

As Thedon arrived at his own home town, Tiallo citizens were under attack after a massive, concerted attempt to repel the invaders failed even more miserably than the smaller attempt by the Forans. The Unknown were in counter-attack mode and were brutally assaulting locals in all directions, broadening their perimeter with the help of two squads of reinforcements. Thedon abandoned his ride and deftly snuck past the invaders by staying low and hiding behind structures. He made it to his house and quickly pulled out his proud old set of armor and his weapon and shield. He cautiously peered out the corners of several windows to be sure that the area was clear, then rushed out the front door. There, directly in front of him, standing in wait with its weapon draw and charged, was one of the Unknown. Thedon barely started to swing his double-sided sword when he was struck down. As the under-manned and under-armed resistance around each of the five landing sites across Rilovi systematically fell, the remainder of the beam devices landed and were activated.

At Gelaeus's facility, the last of the workers arrived to a frantic scene. The first Maxxa had been powered up and was undergoing automatic diagnostics to ensure that it was fully prepared for battle. Three of the others were still being readied, and one hadn't yet been touched; there just weren't enough available workers to keep up with the numerous preparatory tasks. Gelaeus, himself, worked on updating the shared intelligence databank that would be distributed to each Maxxa before it was released. Information about changes in city landscapes, deployed civilian technologies, and expanses of population centers all had to be updated from the years the Maxxa had been completely offline. If kept in a fully ready state, the Maxxa update themselves. Upon being activated after a long rest, they are capable of reacquiring all needed information on their on as well, but this requires that they emerge and travel about the land to survey all changes. Rilovi didn't have time for this, plus Gelaeus strongly felt that the element of surprise was critical given the unknown capabilities and numbers of the invading force.

At the landing sites, the Unknown sentinels stood their ground, not moving an inch. The winds were slowed, as the air was growing thin. Though it was still daytime, all things had picked up a strange shading, as if... as if lit by darkness, if such a thing was possible. Directly above, the dark spot in the sky had grown immensely. At the Foran site, nearly half of the sky was darkened and in the center of this frightening occurence, stars of the night sky could be seen with the naked eye.

The Unknown, you see, had befallen troubles quite similar to those of the Rilovians. After millenia of expanding their population, they had run out of inhabitable space on their planet. Rather than fighting over what was left, though, they decided very quickly to simply go find a second planet to expand to. Rilovi was merely the first planet they happened upon that fit enough of their criteria (sun exposure, relative flatness of terrain, mineral makeup, and level of gravity). In fact, Rilovi only had two problems for the Unknown -- it was already populated, and it had a full, thick atmosphere. The Unknown do not breathe and are adopted to live in a very low-pressure environment. Because some of their industrial efforts produce copious amounts of gasseous residue, they developed machines that could remove these gasses from their planet by ionizing the molecules and shooting them straight out into space. These were the machines the Unknown had brought to Rilovi. The dark patches they were creating in the Rilovian sky were actually holes in the atmosphere. If the process was not stopped, Rilovi would soon enough be completely devoid of air, and all of the lifeforms that depended upon this irreplacable element... would die.

Over the course of two more restless days & nights of continuous work, Gelaeus and his crew had finished preparing the Maxxa fleet. The five proud, glorious machines were lined up and ready to take to action on the surface of Rilovi for the very first time. With all personnel waiting in the adjacent lab, one final command was issued and the Maxxas went into fully autonomous mode. Immediately, #2 and #4 stepped forward, readied their weapons, and blasted out nearly the entire ceiling above the room. A large mass of air was sucked out of the facility due to the effect of the Unknown machines, propelling a mushroom-like cloud of dirt and paperwork straight up into the sky. One after another, the Maxxa lept up to the normal ground level above, then each rushed off towards one of the invaders' landing sites, using the medium-duty repulsor units in their shoulders and upper legs to help them glide incredible distances through the air between strides.

The first site was neutralized within 20 minutes of the departure of the Maxxa from their home base. The second, just over 30 minutes later still. The remaining sites were increasingly distant and took significantly longer to reach. Groups of Unknown reinforcements began to descend upon all five sites in waves, but the Maxxa were able to dispatch them, no matter how many approached. The fighting intensified for four days, but the Maxxa held their ground. Casualties among the Unknown were enormous, and mounting.

And then, it all stopped.

The Unknown evidently concluded that this planet was more trouble than it was worth, and gave up.

The Maxxa each froze in place, still alert & ready in case more trouble surfaced. Silence captured the land. Only the wind could be heard, fading ever so slowly after the destruction of the invaders' atmosphere-expelling machines. Night fell and the Maxxa stood watch while the Rilovians remained sheltered.

When the morning came, citizens slowly started to appear again on the streets, cautiously surveying the damage to their towns, reeling at the site of endless piles of fallen Unknown fighters, and shuddering upon noticing that above them, instead of a familiar light sky color, they saw a shade of dark violet-blue, textured by a speckling of stars.

Though the battle was deciseively won and the invaders had been repelled, the damage to the atmosphere was irreparable. Had Gelaeus's warnings been heeded decades before, the Maxxa would have been on standby alert when the Unknown arrived, and when the first of those five ionizing machines touched the ground, it would have been in a smoldering mass of twisted metal and ashes. Instead, the entire planet was left hopelessly crippled, doomed to die a long and painful death.

The thinned atmosphere let in damaging cosmic radiation that damaged or killed many smaller forms of life, starting a devastating breakdown of the planet's food chain. Even worse, the planet began to rapidly cool. A year-round ice cap developed at the northern pole and began to spread southward, freezing away valuable inhabitable land. The variety of usable crops diminished as only the heartiest plants could survive the colder temperatures, especially through the night. Species of rahi were going extinct faster than could be documented.

Within one hundred years, the Rilovian population diminished to less than three thousand. Ten years later, this number had plummeted to less than 500. Only three years after that, the very last Rilovian, a Foran, passed away overnight in a lonely burrow.

So, tragically, ends this Bionicle epic. I am, very sorry, if you were expecting a... "happy ending" to the story. Unfortunately not all civilizations can survive infinitely, and in fact, quite many do not. Even in some of the best of scenarios, there's a character flaw among the people, or an important decision that is made wrongly (or not at all), or an unforseen and devastating consequence to the smallest & simplest oversight. Myself, I can only share the learnings and hope that as a result, some of the great mistakes of history, will not be repeated.

Today, Rilovi is a barren ice planet, still under the protection if the five proud Maxxa.


  1. this is the most horrible (meaning 'sad') story to imagine... but still written very well
    the eldest that said the maxxa are not necessary is the most stupid...a turaga (I think) had granted the maxxa as a PREVENTIVE way to keep the planet save...

  2. Maybe....maybe with all the technology of the great beings.... they could make more rivolri and make them capable to inhabit the planet.....just a thought tho....