* * *
* * *
Teridax had never cried before.
What unholy wickedness was this? Chaos loosed without limit, without inhibition, bereft of the goodness he was to uphold. His brethren, his own kind...terror ravaged the land itself. Death was omnipresent. The sky was heavy upon Destral, almost otherworldly in its purple shade. The scene was dreamlike. Nightmarish. The land bled and flooded the waters as shrieks pierced the heavens and Teridax's own heart.
The plague was a systematically murderous virus. It knew not the meaning of mercy--it ripped through the body, ripped through the species, but most of all it ripped through Teridax's soul.
He supposed that was selfish of him. But he was a Makuta...he was Makuta. He watched his family die, and the agony that overtook him and coursed through his skin and his heart and his bloodstream stole from him his own body. He merely watched as control over his body, the only thing he yet possessed, was ripped from him as well. and tears fell from his face as blood fell into the sea.
The voice was almost unrecognizable in its torment. He who was once so confident, almost arrogant in his prowess was diminished to a creature who felt only the agony. And yet he held on still, and that broke the dam. Rain fell free from the clouds within the Makuta's eyes.
"T-Teridax...I will die--"
"My master. Destiny will not f-forsake us...the Great Spirit created us and he will not abandon us."
"Teridax. Destiny has..." He coughed up blood, wheezed several times. With each spasm Teridax felt the breath rush from his own lungs. "Destiny has forsaken us because the Great Spirit has forsaken us."
"Do you not see, Teridax!"
"Teridax, let me finish. I will d-die....I will die if not for y-you. I have...I've given you a squadron. The virus has not yet t-touched them." His voice cracked on this last. "Y-you will find Turaga Girj. H-he will heal us."
Teridax gaped. "He will stop this?"
"He will stop this."
"My master...master! Where is the squadron!"
"They will find you."
"Miserix, I will not fail you."
At that, Miserix grimaced. The gesture seemed to take all his might--his eyes quivered, and suddenly all the strength left within him was crackling in the air as his own body crackled weakly. The sneer upon his face was pasted there, painted by the same demons that had torn apart his body and eaten his soul and conquered his mind. And Teridax knew he would be dead before he returned.
If only to fulfill his last wishes, Teridax would not fail.
There will be no failure.
* * *
* * *Silence had reigned for the past thirteen hours and twenty-four minutes. Teridax had been counting--there wasn't much else to do in flight. None of them had been much in the mood to talk. Death and the memory of death had a tendency to render any spoken word useless. Disrespectful, even. Yes, that was it...the dead had no speech, only rest. Until the antidote was secured, they were nothing more than an extension of their species, and if the Makuta were quiet they too must travel in silence. They too must--
His reflections on the universe were interrupted by Tuck, his voice shrill, almost piercing. The screams that pierced the purple sky knifed through his mind, and his wings wavered as the steel of memory tore through them...he got hold of his body again and shook the past momentarily. He existed now, and memory's pain thrived only in his mind. He would remember his mission, but the sensation would be left to before. "Boss, land to the east."
Teridax's head twitched and his body lost total control while his wings were still raised, sending him plummeting before he regained it. He was beyond exhausted; in fact, he felt close to death, but he could not form those words and expel them from his lips while the memory of his brothers remained intact. Tuck chuckled. Binkell shot him a look of dark disapproval--out of the six, Bink was the least likely to approve jokes about the situation. Never much of a humorous individual prior to the plague's outbreak, his lover had died in the catastrophe. Brutally. In an attempt to escape the virus's tortures she'd jumped into the sea, too pained of both heart and body to form final words for her lover. For the past thirteen hours (and twenty-eight minutes, now) his aura had been, to say the least, upset.
Teridax recalled the plan. D'vader, the more youthful of the squadron, had flown up further--praise the child for his exuberance and ambition--in an attempt to find land. Once he'd found the place Miserix had spoken of (hold back the flood, Teridax, you're in the company of soldiers), he would light a flare for the rest to see when they flew over. Spearheading the group, Teridax made a lazy right as the others followed. They were still a couple kio too far to pinpoint any fire.
Anticipation sparked between the Makuta, but Teridax's ever-cautious better judgment kept him slow and steady. Tuck was literally bursting, barely able to keep in a straight line. Thirteen days and thirty-five minutes without punching anything in the face was quite likely killi--uh, causing immense amounts of mental stress to him.
Huski spoke up, her voice gentle, fragile, even, but firm. "You think that's it?"
Teridax's chest heaved, several times...anxiety was a force unknown to these guardians of Destiny, and that made it all the more potent. It gave the illusion of relevance, of ability in the face of adversity, denying the reality of helplessness. It stole your mind and caged it in a time that didn't belong to you. In their insufferable anxiety they had all denied to voice their emotion, to actualize it, and Huski had broken that wall in four words.
She'd always had a way with words.
"I think it's worth confirming. We can't afford to screw this up. D'vader's been a reliable informant as long as I've known him."
Tohu grumbled. Teridax never appreciated Tohu's grumbles--far more archaic and undoubtedly experienced than the others, he'd been climbing Destral's military ranks for a literally unquantifiable amount of time. He was the wisest of the group, and apparently that licensed him to advise every junior Makuta as to the performance of their every action. "Which is maybe two years, Teridax. He's got less experience than a Matoran with a Toa Stone."
Teridax's eyes narrowed, his tone a blade. "Experience and talent are not correlated, Tohu." He huffed, leaning forward in his descent to the island. "You will not correct a senior officer."
Tohu laughed from deep within his chest. The noise was uncomfortable to hear in these cirmcumstances.
* * *
* * *
D'vader's world became a momentary hurricane as the others landed, their wings whipping the air. He bared his teeth, struggling not to fall back in an ultimate display of humiliation. He was the smallest of the squadron, but at least he wasn't old. The older ones had a tenedency to overexaggerate everything, like taking twenty minutes to get their feet on the ground.
"D'vader! What's the report?"
"This is it, boss."
Teridax's mouth opened, then closed again. D'vader awaited a reply for what seemed to his youthful perception eternity...and then he felt ashamed of his irritation. He was here for the salvation of his brothers, not because a senior officer had commanded him to move. Tohu stood in his smug arrogance, an interesting contrast to Tuck's hyperactivity. The guy wouldn't stop moving, and his enthusiasm at D'vader's confirmation was overflowing. Binkell's gaze followed Teridax's, concerned for a friend. Teridax felt some innate connection to Miserix that the others did not. They all understood the dire straits they flew in, but Teridax's emptiness was somehow more disconcerting than the rest of them.
Huski stood almost apart from the rest, observing, reluctant to voice her opinion. She was shy, D'vader had noticed in his few encounters with her, but when she spoke she was surprisingly tactful. He'd never seen her upset anyone. He'd actually never seen her become upset, though he supposed if he did it would be the most evil wickedness he'd witnessed in Mata-Nui's good realm.
Teridax found the words, finally. "This is it?"
Wise words, boss.
Huski prompted him. "This is Girj's island?"
"Yeah, it is. This is Turaga Girj's island. The locals call it Metru-Nui, and right now we're in Le-Metru, which translates as district, more or less. There're six districts, and locals are sort of fanatic about color coding everything. That's why it's all green."
Bink raised an eyebrow. "Color-code? What, is this place the Great Spirit's filing cabinet?"
Tuck chuckled. D'vader followed suit. "Actually, you'd be surprised. Mata-Nui spent a lot of time fiddling around here--all the Matoran from each district have almost identical personalities. Everyone from the Ta fire district seems to be hotheaded, the ice district is all cold and distant, stuff like that."
"I always wondered if the guy had a sense of humor."
"Anyways, here's the kicker. Before he was a Turaga, Girj was a doctor--and he specialized in the diagnosis and cure of genocidal viruses. I swear, Miserix is a propher."
Teridax stuttered in. "G-good find, D'vader. Great, actually. Fantastic. Indescribably. Where's Girj? How do we get him?"
D'vader bit his lip. The hardest part about reporting the facts was when the boss decided to shoot the messenger. "So that's the tricky part. I figured he'd be living in a hut or something, being all short and all, but he's living in a palace. In Po-Koro, the stone district. Where, I hear, they grow the soldiers hard and fast. Best on the island. And the place is supposed to be incredibly well-guarded.
Tuck, ever-enthralled with plans of action--he was generally useless until the battlefield itself, where he served as quite the strategically and physically formidable corporal--cut in swiftly. He seemed to talk exclusively in interruptions. "You didn't scout the place out already?"
"I'm a Makuta. These Matoran are a bio tall. I'd look like I'm out to kidnap their leader."
Teridax sneered. "Shut up. Tohu, what's the plan of attack?"
Tohu assumed the air of a master general--he'd clearly been waiting for the opportunity to grace his fellows' presence with some words of stategic brilliance. "Bink, you come with me. We're the biggest, we'll be the distraction. We can afford the collateral damage on the Matoran end--we're guests. And we're saving a species here." Teridax inhaled sharply. "Teridax, man up. D'vader, you're going to get Girj. Tuck, once the halls are clear--they'll need all the help they can get from inside to hold us back outside--you run like a crazy clown through and knock out anyone in the way. Then you and D'vader play good cop bad cop with the Turaga. Keep your fury in check--he dies, we lose any info we have on the antidote's location and function. Tuck, you'll have displayed your rage, so you'll be the bad guy. D'vader, play nice and get him to sing. Huski, you're Destral's scrollkeeper, correct?"
"I want you to stay here and write everything down since the plague's outbreak. We are living history, and that must not be forgotten. If, by some astronomically miniscule chance, six enormous terrifying alien beasts fail to wrench a vial of liquid from a bio-tall Turaga surrounded by dwarfish Matoran, you are to carry the tale to Artakha. He is the living channel between our world and the Great Spirit's."
Tohu paused, apparently waiting for the inevitable stupid question. Teridax seized the opportunity. "And me?"
Tohu grinned somewhat madly. "You're my superior, boss. I don't tell you what to do."
Teridax swore. "I'll guard the perimeter. Backup, in case you and Bink are, as you said, being detained by an astronomically miniscule chance. Or if Tuck gets lost." Tuck replied with an obscene gesture.
Silene reigned again. That silence was perpetual--it was forgotten beneath the sound of voices, but ultimately it returned. Death seemed to creep forth from the grave memory and wallow in it each time no one spoke, and once it sat redemption seemed impossible.
Bink growled with a fury that reeked both of primal lust and of a lover's lament. The terrible enemy is the one who has nothing to lose.
"Just remember. Victors write the history books."
* * *
* * *
Binkell had been resting atop the Po-Koro palace's turret for three hours when Tohu landed beside him. His voice was a raspy whisper. "What took so long?"
"I have no idea how to get around this place. D'vader omitted directions." He hissed. "Teridax is pretty broken up about this."
Bink let the darkness speak. Circumstances were sufficiently horrible to be broken up about.
"Of course I'm broken up about it too, Bink, and of course you've got more reason than any of us, but we are logical beings, not emotionally overcharged wretches. It's just irrational to assume we won't do this right. You're a veteran of this business, you know that."
"Him and Miserix were close."
"We were all close with Miserix. That's why he picked us."
Bink glared at Tohu, and Tohu shivered. "He picked us because we weren't dying." Binkell was really the only Makuta besides Miserix himself that he'd ever met who could instill this sense of guilty terror within him. The depth of shadow in those eyes...he was dark, Binkell, not like the others.
Bink looked back at the ground, or at nothingness, and his voice assumed sympathy. "Let's shed some blood." The words felt odd, disconnected from his tone. They upset Tohu, who shifted before nodding in silent agreement.
* * *
Violence razed the palace grounds as screams of rage, pain, and bloodlust pierced the sky. Tuck recalled a similar sensation--but memories were for another time. He left his mind in the past as the smell of violence rushed through his nostriles and permeated his being.
It felt good.
Tohu and good ol' Binkmeister had done a good enough job of clearing a path straight through the entrance, which was more or less bereft of guards. Tohu was right--he and Bink had sucked all the firepower out from inside. If Tuck thought they were a handful, he could only pity the Matoran for the sheer horror they been blessed with. A few still remained inside, armed and ready, if not suffering from mental breakdowns. How considerate. Tuck was in the mood to break something.
Still, though, he couldn't attract too much attention away from the big black beasts or else the plan would collapse on itself. Holding back a furious roar of imminent victory, he dashed through the entrance and kicked bones and bodies to and fro in a glorious dance of terror. He'd just cleared the hall when he arrived at a fork, both unguarded and devoid of any apparent bloodshed.
"To the left."
He whirled around, still jumpy. D'vader stood proud, an arrogant smirk traced across his countenance. Tuck furrowed his brow. "How'd you get in?"
"Just a couple minutes ago, after the majority of the little guys scurried out. Nobody noticed me. Reporter's stealth, I guess." That, Tuck did not believe, had ever been a commonly used phrase.
The Makuta appeared perplexed. "You didn't kill anything?"
"You don't have to to get a job done."
"I beg to differ."
"Shut up. Go to the left, I scouted the place out."
Tuck sprinted through with a delightful exuberance only the young possess, D'vader swiftly stalking after at his rear, slicing the occasional body part of a Matoran aspiring to heroism. D'vader directed the pair to the courtroom, where the doors, enormous (by Matoran standards) and protodermis-laden, stood bold and locked.
Tuck snickered and crashed through them with a demonic might and a childish glee.
* * *
* * *The Turaga stood utterly humbled by the shadows of the world.
He would not huddle in his throneroom's corner as the fools of legends, but stand nobly in its center at the defense of his people.
As his people were slaughtered beyond the walls, though, he could not muster the energy in his archaic limbs to resist a tremble.
The demons broke through the doors after an interminable seventeen minutes. The one at the pair's head bore an expression of incomparable malice, and as its lifeless eyes tore into his own soul he felt the carnage that lie within it. The destruction, the anarchy--he felt the being's madness and he knew its destination. It was bent on the bloodshed of the innocent, and the Turaga would not abandon his nation in the face of such evil.
The creature took two tremendous steps and gripped the Turaga at his throat, and he suddenly felt too small to be significant. It stretched a pale claw toward his throat and a for a moment he was lost to all the--
"Tuck. Get a hold of yourself."
The being's grin fell to the earth and the Turaga fell to the ground. He heard something snap, but the fear and adrenaline stifled the pain. Another creature, this one smaller and more lithe, stepped out from behind the first's back. His expression was of a sort of sinister sophistication--this one was intelligent. He wasn't sure if that scared him more than the first. If he could be any more scared than he already was.
The voice of the second was a deep bellow, but quiet. Almost haunting, as a ghost's.
The Turaga blinked. The awkwardness was entirely misplaced, but by some cosmic error had overtaken the scene. The bigger demon stood almost frozen over the Turaga's shivering body, just standing, standing, glaring...
"You are Girj?"
"W-what? I am--I...I am Greg."
The first regained that insanity, his face beaming of victory. "It's him, D'vader."
"Tuck, shut up." The smaller monster leaned in, breath putrid but eyes somehow...charming...hypnotic...
"All we want is your research. Then we will leave you to your Duties."
The Turaga stammered. "W--My research? My...No! You will not condemn these people to die! Disease will ravage none as long as I reign!"
The crazed one growled impatiently. The one he had called D'vader spoke again. "Exactly. That is why we need it. You will save your nation from death by giving it to us."
The Turaga knew what he must do.
In his research of biochemical genocide, he had naturally discovered the formula for the most simple of killing gases. The ethics of its possession made it far too controversial to publicize--as well to allow him a good night's sleep for years--but he had become addicted to his own constant safety. And this, after all, would be the salvation of all Metru-Nui...
Turaga Greg, which in the Makuta language transliterates as Girj, popped open the cork of a certain bottle that contained gaseous death.
* * *
* * *Chaos had loosed for about twenty minutes on the grounds of the Turaga's palace before the screams erupted from the northeast tower.
Binkell actually felt his senses sharpen, his head snap abruptly in the direction of the agony. The eastern wall of the throneroom had been torn off, the rubble resting atop the vengeful earth. Some kind of vaguely pale steam hovered in the air surrounding the tower, steadily coalescing into a thick cloud through which Bink's vision could not penetrate.
The depth of those shrieking throats were unmistakable, though--Tuck and D'vader.
His initial reaction was one of a mild surprise, an emotion he would soon feel a misplaced sense of guilt for, considering the magnitude of the situation. The pair had that almighty invincible aura of those soldiers too fresh out of the crib to feel vulnerable, and Bink finally felt victorious as a veteran of war. What immediately followed the surprise was a mighty wave of urgency, and a cosmic kick in the gut by an impossibly large being.
The screams pierced the sky, an eerily familiar phenomenon that actually terrified the Makuta. Tohu ceased his huffing and puffing as Binkell watched his comrade's face transform from one of animal joy to graceless shame, which in turn was replaced with that storm of urgency. Wings flapping before their feet left the ground, the pair flew with a speed far greater than they should have been capable of, soaring headfirst into the same torture that befell those friends and saviors of a species in the throneroom of Turaga Girj.
* * *
* * *
Teridax stood among this eternal, unfathomable silence. He felt the souls of these dead creatures claw without noise against his skin, their breath an invisible frost in the still air, in the still silence.
He felt his body once again lose itself to that span of the infinity he would never comprehend, felt his spirit convulse and rattle against this hollow shell, felt the silence pierce through his own damp eyes as it had the skies that hung above his dying breed, but most of all he didn't really think he felt at all.
Teridax stood lost and numb among this silence, awaiting the rage and the grief and the fury and the guilt and the blood and the vengeance, but it did not. It hung in the air before him where he gazed at it until his knees gave way to the gravity of mortality, but it would not meet his eyes. All he felt was numb, bland shame, but its taste was not felt upon his limp tongue.
Lost as a friend, lost as a leader, lost as a Makuta. He simply was. There was nothing more than his existence. Unity was lost, Duty was lost, Destiny was lost. Miserix was lost. Makuta was lost. Purpose was lost. Only silence remained.
* * *
* * *
It is, by Matoran count, the fifth year and two-hundred and thirty-seventh day since Girj's suicide. His death is commemorated as a national holiday, an permanent memory of the salvation of their kind.
I do not know why they celebrate the destruction of my people.
Teridax has been lost to that memory. He has, in his black oblivion, allowed it to consume him. This newborn cause for him is in no way justifiable, but I empathize nonetheless. I understand him. He is stricken by his loneliness, stripped of purpose, and so he constructs one for himself. I do not believe he sees his own corruption. He genuinely believes in his righteousness.
After Girj's death, he adopted a new title--the Black Six, a reference to the team he believed all dead. Four of their bodies are buried beneath the palace grounds that he has conquered as his own, guarded by his enslaved. His cause has been perverted from one of salvation to the condemnation of the innocent. He has renamed Metru-Nui 'Beezee-Koro,' a word in our language that translates as 'vengeance.'
I know my own Destiny, but I cannot come to face it. I should reveal my own yet breathing body, I should welcome him into my arms with the warm love of a true sister and carry him home. I should leave this place to its own quarrels. We are not to interfere here beyond Miserix's--and Mata-Nui's--word. But we have no home. And that is the source of Teridax's insanity. It has wrecked him with a hunger so deep he would not hear me. He would kill me too, likely, and bury me beneath my brothers.
So I remain in hiding, awaiting the word of Artakha, as Teridax once promised. I will give him this chronicle and he will return with me to my people, if they survive yet. I do not know if he exists, or if he has any reason to leave the security of his own haven. We are selfish creatures, are we not? Why would he sacrifice his own safety in the interest of ours? We are lesser beings, after all. I respect him for that, but I remain in this quiet desperation. I only wish watching Teridax collapse into himself did not tear me apart as it does.
So I wait here, on the empire of Beezee-Koro, for a sign of any sort, forfeiting all I once believed in and lived for.
Long live the Black Six.
--Writings of Huski
Edited by Riisiing Moon, Aug 17 2012 - 04:10 PM.