IC: Sidra – The Far Shore
The Kanohi Dragon’s massive tail slashed through the water.
It was closer to the heat, but there was still a great distance to cover. Now it remembered this place and the little ones who lived in it. The dragon had been here before, long before so many buildings had crowded together on the island. It had come to feed then, too, but the inhabitants had caused it pain. Flying over the city would just invite them to do it again.
Then it would not fly, it decided. Although the cold water was uncomfortable and swimming not its favoured means of transport, it would stay under the water. It would find a way to the heat without the little ones noticing.
Then, when its strength had returned, old scores would be settled.
* * *
Takea and seabirds wrestled over the remains of Dume’s doomed messengers, stirring the shattered scrap that had been their boats. Other unfortunate vessels that had passed by, towards or away from Metru Nui, had met with similar fates, their ruined remnants sinking slowly below the surface.
From the cockpit of his airship, the Dark Hunter known as Eliminator watched on in disinterest. He could strike down a Toa with a single blow and annihilate entire squads of Vahki at once; obliterating pitiful Matoran was beneath him.
But it was a necessary task, and one that was almost over.
He’d heard the explosions in the distance, seen the plumes of water spattering skyward. Assuming Avak hadn’t screwed up the calculations again, that meant the Kanohi Dragon was now free. Soon the plan would advance to its next phase, and his talents would finally be put to good use.
Sure enough, he soon received a message from Lariska. The dragon is loose. Meet us at Coliseum, and pick up Avak on the way if you can find out where he’s floundering.
Settling into the too-small pilot’s seat, the massive Dark Hunter hunched over the controls and accelerated towards Metru Nui.
* * *
Sidra – soaked to the skin and gasping for breath – materialised from amid the shadowed confines of the chute station that had first brought her to Le-Metru earlier that day. The station was empty now, not a soul in sight to see her sprawl to the floor with a comical splat, seawater sloshing around her.
Shaking, she forced herself to her feet long enough to stagger over to a seat and slump down in it. Her breaths came out ragged and sparse, punctuated by the occasional wet cough as she regurgitated more of the Silver Sea.
The Kanohi Dragon was free, and en-route to Metru Nui. There were at least four Dark Hunters still in play, perhaps more if Avak was still alive or there were others in the city that Lariska hadn’t mentioned. Dweller seemed like a likely candidate, depending on whether he'd been sent to spy on the city in this timeline. And of course, there was no ignoring the fact that Sidra had nearly died. Again.
Once upon a time, a brush with death wouldn’t have bothered her. She’d lost count of the number of close scrapes she escaped over the centuries. But after NUVA, after Wairuha, she was all the more aware of her own mortality. Most beings never came back from death, but she’d already done it twice. She wasn’t so self-important to believe that she’d be granted a third chance. What would even happen if she died in the Far Shore? Would she be spat back out in the state she’d been when she arrived? Or would she stay gone, alone and lifeless and lost forever with no way for anyone to ever know what became of her?
She didn’t want to find out.
She didn’t want to think about it.
She didn’t want to deal with any of this.
She wanted to walk away, and leave the Dragon and Dark Hunters to their work.
But the portal had placed her on a collision course with this whole karzing mess of a situation. Someone or something – probably the same force that had been plaguing her existence with coincidences for more than a month now – had wanted her to be in this place, in this timeline. She didn’t have anywhere else to go. She didn’t have anyone else to turn to. She didn’t have a way to return home. She didn’t have a choice.
The Matoran had a word for that, one they stupidly raised up as a virtue instead of fearing it as the inescapable fate that it was. Destiny.
And now Sidra was caught in its clutches.
She rose unsteadily to her feet, her palms slipping on the bench a few times as she tried to push herself upright. Her hands were still shaking, both from the cold and… more.
Focus. She closed her eyes, thinking back to her time with the Dark Hunters. Back to the moments of comradery and mirth between missions, sparring and training and day-drinking over the tales of missions past. Remember the story. What happened next?
And then the earth shook, and she remembered.
* * *
The Kanohi Dragon smashed through an intricate series of suboceanic chutes, then battered its way through the thick walls of the Metru Nui Archives.
Matoran scrambled down to investigate the source of the terrible crash and flooding. As soon as they saw the monstrous Rahi that had broken in, they scrambled back up again as fast as their legs could carry them.
The dragon didn’t care anything about them, not yet. Its goal was the source of heat, which was still some distance away. Rather than go aboveground, it made its way through the lowest levels of the Archives.
* * *
Lariska, Eliminator, Reidak, Vezok, and Avak flew through a city filled with chaos. It had been nearly two hours since they’d freed the dragon, and the chaos it was unleashing beneath the city was already making itself manifest.
Gas lines ignited beneath homes and businesses, structures shook as their foundations were broken or melted, and rahi rampaged through the city as the intense heat the dragon gave off sent them scurrying from their subterranean hiding places.
It was exactly the kind of carnage the Shadowed One had demanded.
The airship came down to land near the Coliseum. With the Vahki spread thin with the evacuations in Onu, Ko, and Le Metrus, and now the damage being done below ground, the heart of the city was nearly unguarded. The Vahki that weren’t already assigned elsewhere were swarming towards airships and chute stations that led to Ta-Metru, the Kanohi Dragon’s obvious destination.
Lariska cartwheeled down the ramp, eager to stretch her limbs after the cramped airship ride. As she sprang to her feet on the street, she took a deep breath, exalting in the heavy scent of smoke and success on the air. Great cracks had formed in the pavement surrounding the Coliseum, belching forth smoke from the burning Archives below.
“Alright rahi-bones, we’ve got work to do,” she twirled back around towards her companions as they too disembarked from the airship. “Eliminator and I are hitting the Hive. You three wait here for nightfall… then you can go tell the Turaga who owns this city.”
* * *
Dweller followed in the dragon’s wake, his mental powers allowing him to monitor the beast’s progress from a safe distance. Though it was already hundreds of bio ahead of him and growing further away still, the tunnel it left in its wake was still searingly hot, the rock retaining the growing heat put off by the beast’s body. Spot fires swirled and sparked where the dragon’s path had intersected with equipment and machinery and people.
It wasn’t too long before the archives were evacuated and emptied, only the immense consciousness of the distant dragon and meagre dreams of the rahi in stasis remaining to keep Dweller company. As he walked, Dweller sent regular updates to Lariska via his iStone, informing her of the dragon’s progress… though he suspected it would be obvious enough to anyone above.
But then he felt another mind, somewhere behind him. One that was familiar… and not. It felt like Lariska’s lackey Skirmisher, the one who'd apparently turned traitor, but she burned bright and blinding like a beacon, giving off an incredible degree of psionic power that put his own limited abilities to shame. He reached out, tried to scan her mind, but she rebuffed and reversed the intrusion, following it back to pry into his mind. Shattering his mental defences with the strength and ferocity of a Ce-Skakdi duo, she sifted through his thoughts, saw through his eyes- and then she was gone.
Gone from his head.
Gone from the Archives.
Gone from… everywhere.
He couldn’t sense her at all anymore.
Dweller slumped against the sizzling stone of the tunnel wall, his skull throbbing from the unexpected assault. He didn’t understand. How had Skirmisher become so powerful? Where had she gone? Why was she in the city? What had made her turn against the Dark Hunters?
He never got to find out.
Sidra materialised in front of him, having shadow-travelled to where he’d been looking when she’d seen through his eyes. She had a seismic pickaxe in her hands, its sawing edge already slicing forth, and the last thing Dweller ever saw were his own feet as his severed head plopped to the ground beside them.
* * *
The Vahki proved to be no more than an annoyance for the Kanohi Dragon. The heat generated by the now fully thawed creature melted most of the city’s guardians. The rest fell to its claws and teeth.
It moved unopposed to the area just below Ta-Metru, and once it was beneath the source of greatest heat, it smashed its way through the ceiling.
The dragon found itself in the heart of the Great Furnace. Matoran scattered in panic as it plunged into the flames.
* * *
The Zadakh squads were restless.
They were runners, fighters, the strongest and fastest of the Vahki. They wanted to be on the frontlines with the units combating the dragon. But they’d been instructed to continue guarding the Coliseum and its essential subterranean systems – the Central Vahki Hive, the Kanoka storage rooms, and the generator that powered all of Metru Nui – for if the Coliseum fell, so too would the city.
As the Vahki patrolled the chamber, their complex optics registered that the room was growing dimmer, the shadows seeming to shift unnaturally. That, accompanied with the furtive footfalls of an unseen being that their audio receptors were registering, raised their status to high alert.
Several of them raised their staves or summoned Kanoka, and began moving towards the sound, but it was too little, too late.
The immense figure of Eliminator released the cloak of shadows that had hidden him from sight as he’d slipped into the room, and stepped towards the Vahki. The four Kanoka mounted on his back – and those in the jaws of the Vahki – grew hot as he drew upon their power, drawing their energies together into a crackling orb of lighting-like light between his hands. The Vahki chattered amongst themselves in hyper-fast Matoran, and a Brood Mother stepped forward, issuing an order for Eliminator to surrender as she charged up her stun staffs.
Eliminator responded simply by turning his clenched hands towards the Vahki and opening his palms. Crackling arcs of lightning leapt forth from his claws, lashing across the room and striking down each Vahki where they stood, even those still hibernating in their charging cradles, the torrents of raw power obliterating the circuitry of their neuro-cores. The drained Kanoka fell to the floor, cracking apart on impact.
“A nice warmup,” Lariska slipped into the chamber, shivering at the tingling sensation of the lingering static energy in the air. “Crack open the storage room. It’s time for the main event.” She closed the door behind her, using a dropped Vahki staff to barricade the handles. More Vahki would no doubt be on their way soon enough, assuming there were any left to spare.
Behind her, Eliminator set to work ripping open the door to one of the rooms where the Vahki summoned their Kanoka from. Inside, rack upon rack of powerful disks lined the walls, all hooked up to teleportation equipment. He set to work ripping the banks of disks free and piling them onto the carts the Matoran used to bring them into the storage room. And once the carts were full, he and Lariska dragged them into the generator room.
“Stand back,” he warned, kicking over one of the carts and scattering the Kanoka across the floor. “I’ve never tried something this big before.”
“Oh no, I’ll be standing outside,” Lariska was already clambering up towards a ventilation shaft that would allow her to scurry back to the surface without contending with any Vahki reinforcements, “I’m not sticking around to see if you blow yourself up. Good luck.”
Once she was gone, Eliminator raised his hands, applying his power to harness and combine the power of Kanoka to all of the disks around him. He nearly blacked out in the first moment from the sheer volume of power that abruptly flooded his body, but he held on, fighting past the pain to raise his hands, aim them at the city’s power generator, and unleash the immense wave of energy directly into the power grid.
Lights and machinery exploded around him as the power surge ripped through the generator, burning it out in an instant and surging through the rest of the city. Eliminator sunk to his knees, clutching his blistered hands to his chest as the room fell dark around him. In subsection hives throughout the city, hundreds of Vahki were baked in their cradles. Entire districts went dark as their factories and facilities shut down. Chutes sputtered to a halt, leaving thousands stranded mid-transit. In one fell blow, the Dark Hunters had reduced the City of Legends to a city without light.
* * *
The roars of the Kanohi Dragon sliced through the skies as Sidra clawed her way up out of the Archives and staggered towards the Coliseum. Flakes of ash drifted on the air like a grim grey snow, contrasting with the flickering flames.
She felt exhausted, physically and psychologically. The only time she remembered feeling worse than this was when she’d died trying to open the bunker at Kini-Nui. She’d been on tough missions before, but never such a prolonged pursuit in some inhospitable conditions.
Her search for the Kanohi Dragon belowground was well and truly over. Molten protodermis from the ruptured furnaces of Ta-Metru was flowing through the tunnels, burning the city from below. Tongues of flame and plumes of smoke erupted from the growing cracks in the streets, making even traversing the city a challenge, since the position of the cracks seemed to shift along with every other detail of the city.
The Vahki that hadn’t been disabled by the power surge wandered the streets like zombies, dazed and directionless without a network to coordinate or orders to follow. The air was filled with the sounds of screaming and crying, as Matoran scrambled for safety, or writhed where they lay. The suns were setting, and the streets were staying dark, only the fire bleeding up from below offering any illumination to those still unfortunate enough to be caught somewhere that didn’t have a backup generator. Though Karzahni was one of the few islands in this universe that Sidra had never visited, she imagined it was very much like this.
As she drew near the Coliseum gates, a voice called out from before her.
A teal-clad figure Sidra knew all too well emerged from the gloom, throwing daggers glistening in each hand. She moved like a wraith through the smoke, darting and leaping over the flaming cracks in the ground. Lariska was fresh for a fight, eager to eliminate the traitor she herself had brought into the organisation.
“Why?” Lariska demanded, stopping a few bio ahead of her. “Why did you betray us? Why did you betray me?”
“This isn’t personal,” Sidra sighed, coming to a stop as well. She drew her own dagger, letting it hang at her side. "You aren't supposed to be here."
“What are you talking about? This is my mission, my moment!” Lariska snarled. “You’re the one who's not supposed to be here!”
“You hate The Shadowed One,” Sidra scoffed. “He cut your karzing arm off! How is helping him take over the city your moment?”
“You think he’s going to pack up and relocate our entire operation here? No, he’ll do what he always does, stay safe and secure on Odina while we bleed and battle in his name. So who’ll run this city for him? Who’ll do all of the hard work while he sits back and reaps the rewards? Me. And you want to know who was going to be my right hand?”
“I don’t want to rule,” Sidra said. “I doubt you do, either.”
“No. I want to be free,” Lariska emphasised the words by spreading her arms wide, as if to embrace the open space of the city around her, “Free to call the shots, to run things the way I want to, out from under the old man’s thumb. And I won’t let you ruin that.”
Before Sidra could reply, Lariska’s daggers – glistening with poison – flashed through the air towards her. She deflected them with telekinesis, then flung her own dagger at Lariska, who expertly caught it with her mechanical hand and tossed it aside. “You’re not going to get rid of me that easily,” Lariska leapt at her.
She never reached Sidra. Instead she stumbled straight into Sidra’s memories, as the NUVA brought the full force of her psionic powers to bear against her former mentor.
The Grand Untethered began to sing with guttural tones. It sang in discordant voices, all singing different songs and different parts. Each song was unique, and each song only existed in accordance with the others. The hands atop of the Grand Untethered reached for the fireball. They extended their fingers towards it. They were moths to a flame, and the light called them home.
One of the hands touched the underside of the fireball. It burned away, turning to charcoal before it could finish its task. Then another touched, and another, until at last one hand grasped the bottom of the flame’s range. Torch found his own elemental energy siphoned out of him as a presence entered his mind. He felt deeply seen and fully drained, and he buckled to his knees to wretch into the swamp as his energy left him.
The massive fireball became tiny, a single bead of compressed heat and potential floating mere inches above the hand extending into the air. Then it released in an instant as blinding light.
Grey steam rose from the sinkhole.
A familiar being crawled out, her tall figure splashing through the water and her hands twisted above the water line in search of something stable to grasp. Her body burned and steaming, she fell forward into Sidra’s arms before the mercenary could protest. A single hand caressed Sidra’s chin. Sidra couldn’t look away. She couldn't be here. How could she look away? How could she be here?
“I’m so… proud of…”
Lariska’s body melted into silver protodermis and dispersed into the waters of the swamp.
Lariska stumbled to a stop in front of Sidra, staring at her hands. “What- how- what the karz was that?” Her eyes were wide and wild from fear and confusion. “What did you do to me?”
“I showed you the future. Your future.”
“No!” Lariska shrieked, whipping out another dagger with her mechanical hand and stabbing it at Sidra.
Sidra was ready for it. Her arm was already raised to grab Lariska’s wrist, and her other hand was outstretched to receive a fallen dagger that she was pulling back towards her with telekinesis. She caught it and whipped it towards Lariska, who managed to grab her wrist, leaving them in stalemate. A stalemate that wouldn't last long, given that Lariska was better rested, and Sidra was tired from several fights and the trudge through the burning Archives.
“I taught you everything you know,” Lariska snarled, “You really think you can best me?”
Sidra’s mask glowed momentarily, and the nektann drones hanging from her belt unfolded from their ball forms, firing their weapons straight up at Lariska’s face. The Dark Huntress recoiled with a cry, releasing Sidra’s wrist to shield her own face… leaving an easy opening for Sidra to swipe the dagger – one of Lariska’s – across her mentor’s open palm.
That was all it took.
Lariska felt it immediately, sinking to one knee as the poison that coated her blades took hold. Her dagger clattered to the ground. Tears tracked down her cheeks from the singes near her eyes. Her tortured expression was one of confusion, hate... and fear.
“How…” she stammered, “I don’t…what are you?”
Sidra abandoned the poisoned blade, drew her own dagger back to her, and returned it to its sheath. “Honestly, I don’t know anymore. Goodbye, Lariska.” She started to stride past her fallen mentor, but Lariska’s bloodied hand caught her own. “You’re too late. Dume is… surrendering the city to us… right now. Whatever you were hopin-”
Sidra didn’t hear the rest. She'd already pulled her hand away and started running.
She knew the story. She knew Dume. He was never going to surrender.
* * *
As darkness fell on Metru Nui, it was a city in fear. Fires had spread out of control in Ta Metru. The streets were littered with pieces of the mechanical Vahki. Matoran were gathering weapons and preparing to make a futile attack on the dragon.
Turaga Dume sat in his chamber in the Coliseum, brooding on the fate of his city. A slight shift in the atmosphere of the room told him he was no longer alone.
“Having a bad day?” asked Vezok.
Dume looked up at the three Dark Hunters who had invaded his sanctum. A lesser being would have fled at the sight. But Dume had been a Toa and later a Turaga for centuries. His heart knew no fear.
“I should have guessed,” he said, rising. “The Kanohi Dragon is the weapon, but the hand that wields it belongs to the Shadowed One.”
“It’s a real shame what’s happening out there,” said Reidak. “It sure would be awful if the Kanohi Dragon trashed Ta-Metru. Would be even worse if something like this happened every week.”
“It should be obvious the Vahki can’t protect you,” Vezok added. “Work with us, and you won’t have to worry about this sort of thing anymore.”
A cold silence descended on the room. Dume turned his back on the Dark Hunters, deep in thought. The seconds dragged by. Then the leader of Metru Nui spoke once more.
“You’re making a mistake,” Avak snarled. “A big mistake.”
Dume ignored him and locked eyes with Vezok. “I’ll see this city reduced to rubble… with not even two bricks still together… before I’ll let your kind take root here.”
“Now you’re not thinking about the best interests of your city,” Vezok replied. He raised his harpoon weapon and aimed it at Dume. “Maybe it’s time Metru Nui had new leadership.”
The stinging sliver of silver streaked across the chamber, skewering Dume where he stood and changing the fate of Metru Nui forever.
OOC: Part 4 of 5 of Sidra’s Far Shore Adventure.