The thunderous sound of footsteps was all Zaekura could hear as the horde of Rahkshi charged over the sand towards Xia’s gate. She and Charla sank back into the center of the army, while Antroz and Krika led the way; Bitil had disappeared somewhere, but Zaekura knew that meant he was seeing to his part of their strategy. From atop Xia’s walls, numerous Hagah Plasma Cannons opened fire, blasting shots at random into the oncoming forces. A massive, skeletal Rahkshi Kaita rapidly teleported through the air above, leaving a trail of afterimages in their wake—as the blasts approached them, each image suddenly turned solid for a brief moment, exerting their own Plasma power to nullify the attack before fading away entirely.
Gappel can handle the turrets, but we still have to worry about…
Two enormous boulders were suddenly launched over the wall. Antroz and Krika sprang into action: flying up to one of them, Antroz grabbed it with her telekinetic powers and cast it aside, and Krika moved beneath the second, rapidly increased its gravity to fall straight towards him, removed all gravity just before it hit him, and then stepped behind the floating rock and gave it a quick tap to teleport it back whence it came. The stone cracked open like an egg on the wall, spilling out a huge amount of liquid protodermis that quickly hardened as it spread, forming a bizarre-looking cage around the guards unfortunate enough to be near it. More such boulders were catapulted into the sky, so Antroz and Krika resumed dealing with them as the Rahkshi continued to close in.
Alright. So far, so good.
As they drew closer, she could spot Toa lining up on the walls, most of them commanding either Iron or Magnetism. They merely waved their hands in the direction of the two Makuta, exerting their power in unison, expecting to stop or at least slow them by seizing control of their armor. Each gained a look of panic as their efforts proved fruitless.
Just what we expected. Alize’s power should hold for about an hour—we’ll need to incapacitate all of those Toa before that time is up.
The Toa of Iron switched tactics: enormous spears sprang into being in front of and above the army, forcing them to loosen their formation to avoid being skewered. Toa of Fire, Plasma, and Lightning were now taking shots from the battlements, scattering their lines even further. Only a small handful of Rahkshi were able to continue along the straight path towards Xia’s gate. Before they reached it, however, the sand beneath them suddenly shifted, pulling them all down into the ground. Zaekura squinted to see four Toa with tan and gray armor standing just above the gate.
“Halt!” Zaekura shouted. “Hold position and take up defensive formation!”
The Rahkshi all stopped marching, turning their attention solely upon the incoming fire. Many gathered into small groups protected by Rahkshi of Invincibility, while the Rahkshi of Dodge worked to draw the enemies’ focus, and Antroz and Krika took the brief opportunities they had to begin recovering those who had been swallowed up by the sand.
“Is he in position yet?” Zaekura asked.
“Yes,” Charla said, “we need only hold out a little longer!”
The Toa of Magnetism had now taken to hurling large chunks of metal to contribute to the onslaught. There was a flash of light as three Toa formed into a Kaita, and the resulting being hurled a blast of elements so intense it knocked Antroz from the sky momentarily. The sand grew less and less stable, and without Antroz to cover, several boulders impacted nearby, the Rahkshi only narrowly avoiding imprisonment. Just as Zaekura was reviewing her backups, Bitil dashed across the top of the wall, breaking artillery and knocking aside resistance as he went; after pausing to disable the Toa of Sand with his Sleep powers, he faced the Toa Kaita and, ducking under a beam of entwined elements, shot forward to deliver a punch that knocked it into separate beings once more. Zaekura grinned.
“There he is!” she yelled. “Charge!”
Once more the army advanced, this time with hardly any impediments as Bitil continued dismantling Xia’s defenses. Soon they were nearly upon the gate, so the other two Makuta flanked it: Antroz attacked the wall on one side with her sword, slicing it from top to bottom, while Krika melted the other side using plasma. Two very large Rahkshi tackled the gate head-on, and it fell inward with a mighty crash. Panicked guards fanned out, hastily arming themselves as Rahkshi streamed into the city and spread out in every direction. Zaekura looked up as Bitil dropped down next to her.
“Enjoying your swim?” she asked.
Ignoring the question, Bitil said, “Don’t worry about the oasis. I’ve found more turrets being set up throughout the city, dealing with as many as I can. Emsar is headed for the tower.”
Antroz took off around the corner. Small explosions began going off all around as the guards attacked with Cordak Blasters. Zaekura ducked behind some cover as Bitil began to tackle them one by one, Azin appearing to assist him in knocking them out. The Rahkshi of Chameleon faded from view as several of the miniature rockets flew at him. Erad, a blue and purple Rahkshi with eight firearms strapped to their chest, leapt atop a broken catapult and twirled two pistols in their hands to draw attention. Using one to shoot any rockets coming towards them, they used the other to fire tranquilizer darts at the guards in the vicinity, their efforts combined with those of the Rahkshi still charging in quickly securing the area immediately around the gate. Erad paused to blow smoke from their weapons before climbing up to the nearest rooftop, a dozen or so other Rahkshi following them.
“Wait here for now,” Bitil advised. “Once we’ve made some headway, it’ll be safe for you to keep a closer eye on things.”
Zaekura nodded, and Bitil returned to the wall. As he headed off, she glanced over the wrecked gate, becoming filled with a grim feeling. Just beyond, she could see Erves going down a line of captured foes, sealing them in stasis one-by-one, and several other Rahkshi searching for any working weaponry they could salvage. She turned to look up the road then: Toa, Glatorian, Matoran, Agori, and Vortixx had all come to fight them off, but despite their weapons they were steadily falling before the Rahkshi’s teamwork and versatile abilities. Another Hagah Plasma Cannon briefly appeared on the roof above, but someone in Erad’s squad sliced it in two before it had a chance to fire. Zaekura was transfixed by the sight until Charla’s voice snapped her out of it—the Rahkshi of Telepathy sat next to her with eyes closed, scanning the entire city with her mind.
“Lord Bitil has secured the financial district—there was minimal resistance. Our forces have broken into the armor and industrial districts, but the defensive line of the weapons district is holding firm.”
“I see,” Zaekura said. “Where’d Krika get to? Can he help them out?”
There was a brief pause, and then Charla said, “He is en route. I will inform Clera.”
Three Rahkshi stepped into formation around the two of them. Zaekura waited a moment before turning back to Charla.
“…Also. Do you sense any Vorox fighting?”
“No, not a single one. Weren’t we told they would be here?”
“We were. I wonder what changed…”
“Whatever the case, I believe it is now safe for you to proceed down the main road. Do take caution, however.”
“Right. Thanks—and please keep me updated.”
Zaekura returned to the road to find it mostly clear, so she followed it. On all sides were immobilized foes, Rahkshi nursing wounds, and buildings with entire chunks missing. It was all going according to plan. But upon realizing this, she felt no pride or sense of accomplishment. Everything she saw only reminded her how much she wished she didn’t need to be doing this. The reminders grew more numerous as she went, and when she reached the main square, she saw it filled with forces still clashing with all their might. After staring a moment, she realized she was exposed and hopped behind some cover. Part of her wanted to retreat. She made herself stay and watch.
A Toa of Ice wearing a Mahiki stood at the front of the Xian forces, fending off attacks with an Electro Chute Blade before taking aim with a cylindrical weapon. It fired a blast of energy, hitting a Rahkshi dead-on, but the shot had no effect. The Toa grunted as he jumped back.
“Why aren’t the Ghost Blasters working?!” he exclaimed. “We’ve tested them on Rahkshi before! What’s different about these?”
Neton charged him, the Rahkshi of Gravity swinging his massive hammer in a sweeping arc to catch the Toa. However, his target vanished on contact, only to reappear several feet to the side and retaliate with a blast of ice. Neton’s feet were frozen in place. The Toa advanced, but a large crimson Rahkshi with four arms bounded in suddenly, repelling the Toa with two arms while shattering Neton’s bindings with a third. The two Rahkshi faced their opponent, not noticing someone else approaching from behind.
“Neton, Gantra!” Zaekura shouted, being sure to stay out of sight.
Hearing her cry, Gantra rushed the Toa of Ice, while Neton spun in place to see a Toa of Stone swinging a battle axe roughly three times his size. Neton readied to parry the blow, but the weapon fell short—the newcomer flashed a bright smile from beneath his Sanok.
“Looks like you could use some help, Ehrye!” he called to the Toa of Ice. “Hope you don’t mind me stepping in?”
“Hardly, Hewkii!” Ehrye said as he wove between blows. “Just be sure to watch your own back!”
Neton took a step back to size up his foe. Hewkii lifted the great axe onto his shoulder, saying, “So, a Rahkshi of Gravity? This’ll be interesting. I’m sure you recognize my element and mask, but do you know what this weapon is?”
“…Sorry, can’t tell if that’s a yes or no. Just to be on the safe side…” He held the axe forward, blade sizzling with heat. “This Rhotuka Battle Axe is equipped with levitation weights, making it light enough that I can easily handle it despite my size! Its edges can also be heated to increase its cutting power, and as you’ve likely guessed, it features a Rhotuka launcher. Mine are able to make a target heavier with every strike—though with powers like yours, I guess you’ll be able to negate it easily enough.”
Cocking his head, Neton grumbled something.
“I bet you’re wondering why I’m telling you all this,” Hewkii said. “Well, from observing you, I can tell you’re an exceptionally skilled warrior. And when I see someone like that, I want to be sure I have a fair fight with them! So, now that we both know everything the other can do…let’s see who comes out on top!”
The pavement lurched beneath Hewkii, flinging him through the air towards Neton. Reacting quickly, the Rahkshi reduced his personal gravity to jump out of range, and as Hewkii passed beneath him, he let go of his hammer and rapidly increased its gravity so the weapon would shoot straight down at him. A curved shell of rock sprouted from the ground to intercept it, not completely stopping the hammer but throwing it off-course enough that Hewkii was able to twist his body out of the way and land safely. Neton slammed down and retrieved his weapon. The stone under him tried to reach up, but he anticipated the attack and maintained an intense field of gravity to make the rocks too heavy to rise. Hewkii swung, hurling a Rhotuka from his axe. Neton rolled out of the way and began to increase gravity on the Toa of Stone, but a few seconds later, the spinning wheel of energy arced around and hit him in the back, suddenly making him feel heavier and causing his concentration to falter. At that precise moment, a fist of stone shot up to punch him in the jaw. Neton was sent reeling; Hewkii stood up, but he didn’t press his advantage.
“Forget about the Sanok?” he said, tapping the edge of his mask. “Most people take a bit to adjust: you get so used to dodging working that your reflexes tell you it’ll be enough. Keep it in mind going forward!”
Getting back to his feet, Neton hissed quietly to himself. A light application of his power was enough to negate the effects of the Rhotuka, but this meant that every time he adjusted his own gravity, he would need to compensate when deciding how much power to use. That, combined with the Mask of Accuracy and elemental attacks that could come from any direction, was a lot to keep track of during a fight. Neton found himself chuckling.
“Ready?” Hewkii said.
The two charged at each other. Their weapons clashed, producing a brief shockwave that split open the pavement. Neton made a downward swing, so Hewkii stepped back to counterattack, missing as the Rahkshi kept his weapon anchored, made himself light enough to swing above it, and then made himself much heavier to stomp Hewkii’s back. Due to the reach of the axe, Hewkii was easily able to twirl it around to force Neton to retreat. He launched a Rhotuka as he recovered, but Neton rapidly increased gravity on it, overcoming the effects of the Sanok to force it to plummet to the ground. Unfortunately, doing so took a great toll on his focus: Hewkii willed a boulder to shoot from the wall behind Neton, launching him forward into the Toa’s range. Neton was able to reduce his gravity to alter his trajectory, but the stone beneath Hewkii lifted him up so that he could still land a solid blow. Zaekura winced as Neton skidded along the ground.
Hewkii was about to move in when a Rahkshi clad in maroon armor came running up. Before they came too close, however, Neton held up a hand and shrieked. Once he was upright, he turned and said something to the other Rahkshi, and then faced Hewkii and raised his hammer. He pointed first to the Toa, then to himself. Hewkii nodded. Neton ran forward, and Hewkii launched a Rhotuka as he came to meet him. Not having enough time to sink the projectile, Neton instead blocked it with his hammer—the weapon’s weight shifted immediately, but he was able to counter it fast enough that he could still block the axe and reach around Hewkii’s guard to punch his chest.
“Hm,” Zaekura murmured. “I can’t help but wonder if now is really the best time for one-on-one…”
She looked across the square. Gantra was still locked in combat with Ehrye, the smaller being nimbly avoiding almost all of the Rahkshi’s attacks while steadily wearing him down with weak but quick ice attacks. She then turned back to the maroon Rahkshi, who now seemed confused as to what to do.
The Rahkshi spotted Zaekura.
“Why don’t you back up Gantra?”
Aleps took one look at their brother’s predicament and charged in. Ehrye slashed one of Gantra’s arms—the chute blade passed straight through him, but the electricity coursing through it stunned the brawler—and then blew him back with an icy burst. Gantra was about to renew his assault when Aleps leapt in front of him, one hand glowing.
“A Rahkshi of Sleep?” Ehrye said. “Hah! Go ahead: I’ve been through training to shield my mind from abilities like yours! You’re wasting your time!”
Aleps smirked. Raising their hand, they pointed it at Ehrye a moment, before slapping their own chest instead. The Rahkshi’s body half-crumpled as they lost consciousness. Ehrye blinked.
“Strange way to surrender…” Shaking his head, he raised his sword and faced Gantra. “Well, it doesn’t matter. I’ve just about got you beat!”
Using the power of his Mahiki, Ehrye generated three illusions of himself to join him in circling the four-armed Rahkshi, making him hesitate to attack for fear of providing an opening. One of the illusions jumped forward. Gantra dispelled it with a punch, leaving his back exposed to the real Ehrye. The Toa of Ice was just about to swing when someone hit him in the back of the head. He stumbled into Gantra, confused, and the Rahkshi grabbed him before he had the chance to run away.
Craning his neck, Ehrye saw that Aleps was still asleep nearby, but their position had changed. He was halfway to understanding when he realized Gantra was carrying him off. Opening his mouth, Ehrye exhaled a massive blast of frost into Gantra’s face, forcing him to release his grip and drop Ehrye. The Toa scuttled back hurriedly, this time staying alert. Sensing movement, he ducked, and saw Aleps—still asleep—leaning forward to awkwardly swipe at him.
“Are you serious?!” Ehrye said.
He swung his sword, but Aleps spun out of the way, staggering about as they eventually stopped, only to fall forward to launch into a flurry of random blows. It took all of Ehrye’s focus to track and parry the strikes, allowing Gantra to blindside him with a powerful double-punch. Gantra paused to watch his sibling stumble about a bit, but then returned focus to their opponent: Ehrye sent out a wave of ice spikes at the two Rahkshi, so Gantra leapt in the opposite direction. Aleps, however, remained where they were. The spikes passed through them harmlessly, meanwhile Gantra backed into something sharp that he couldn’t see. Ehrye walked forward steadily as he exerted more of his power, encasing Gantra’s arms in ice shackles to immobilize him.
“Alright, you surprised me,” Ehrye said. “I’ll just have to be more careful!”
He sent more illusory copies of himself towards Aleps. However, with their eyes closed, the sleepwalking Rahkshi didn’t even realize they were there, and simply shambled in the direction of the real Ehrye. The ground beneath them froze over—they slipped and fell, but continued sliding forward, eventually springing up and nearly landing a punch on Ehrye. The Toa slashed with his chute blade, hoping to stun the Rahkshi. Aleps’s body spasmed at the sudden shock, but they bounced forward as this happened, making their flailing limbs even more unpredictable for a few moments and rolling right over Ehrye. With a frustrated groan, Ehrye picked himself up and created a tall ice platform to stand on, keeping him out of range of Aleps so he could return to restraining Gantra.
“There,” he said, “that ought to be enough.”
No sooner than the words had left his mouth, Bitil came running around the corner. Upon surveying the scene, he charged straight for the platform, shattered it, and snatched Ehrye out of the air as he fell. Ehrye swung his sword through the Makuta, but the electricity didn’t affect him in any visible way.
“Save it,” Bitil said. Turning to Aleps, he snapped his fingers a few times, and eventually the Rahkshi woke up. “Good work—see if you can get your brother out of there.”
As Aleps saw to that, Zaekura stepped out from her hiding spot. “Things are going smoothly, I take it?”
Ehrye’s eyes widened when he saw her. He raised his Ghost Blaster, but Bitil pushed it aside and glared at the Toa, saying, “Don’t.”
In the distance, Neton and Hewkii were still fighting. Bitil prepared to head that way, but Zaekura said, “No, he’s fine. They agreed to a fair one-on-one fight—your son turned away Aleps when they tried to help him earlier.”
Bitil sighed. “Sounds reckless…but, if he’s not in any real danger, I suppose I’ll take this one to Erves. And you should find more cover, Lady Zaekura! I thought we agreed you wouldn’t be getting this close?”
Zaekura shrugged. “Can’t recall.”
Bitil simply shook his head and walked towards the gate. Zaekura turned to see Gantra finally free, and then looked back to Neton and Hewkii as she dropped back out of sight. The two traded blows as they slowly fought their way across the square. At a glance, the match seemed even, but watching more closely revealed Neton making several small mistakes, struggling to stay focused on balancing his weight against the effects of Hewkii’s Rhotuka. The Toa of Stone leapt back and created a wall between them, immediately firing three Rhotuka as Neton bashed through it: the wheels struck bits of rubble and caused them to drop down onto Neton, stunning him so Hewkii could smack him with the flat of his axe. Leaning on his hammer for support, Neton paused a moment to catch his breath.
“You’re every bit as good as I expected!” Hewkii said. “Thank you—it’s so rare that I can enjoy a fight this much.”
Neton nodded as he gave his response.
“Still…much as I’d like to draw this out, we both have other things to do, right?”
Neton started to one side, then dashed in the other direction. Hewkii saw through the feint and drew back his axe, but Neton focused his power upon the weapon’s head, rapidly increasing its weight to disrupt Hewkii’s grip on it. As the Toa fumbled, Neton alleviated gravity on his own weapon and threw it, letting it fly over to its target within the span of a second. Hewkii shot a small stone at Neton, but the Rahkshi crossed his arms and increased his own gravity to prevent the blow from pushing him back. Reducing it next, he ran forward, jumped when Hewkii swung his axe, and placed his hand on the blade to more easily flip overhead and grab the handle of his hammer as he landed. Neton glanced around to see he was surrounded by the remaining bits of ice from Ehrye’s earlier attacks.
“Ah…Lady Zaekura?” came Charla’s voice.
Zaekura looked up. “What is it, Charla?”
“I’m sensing something new. It’s hard to describe: the presence feels feral, but it’s definitely sentient, unlike a Rahi. There’s dozens of them moving in swiftly from the direction of Iron Canyon.”
“Hm…is anyone free to go investigate?”
“I can—oh…? Oh, Lord Bitil says he will see to it. I will share his findings with you.”
“Thanks. I’d like to avoid as many surprises as possible.”
Hewkii began to drive Neton back. Neton did his best to counterattack, but Hewkii proved too quick for him. One slash clipped his leg—the searing pain made him realize just how high the temperature of the edge was set. He slipped over a patch of ice, coming up in time to parry a blow, and then backed away until he was up against a line of icicles. Hewkii jumped forward and swung with all his might. Narrowly, Neton twisted out of the way, and the blazing edge of the axe dug into the ice, releasing a blast of steam right in Hewkii’s face. Neton smirked—he swung upward, launching Hewkii into the air, and then used gravity to pull him right back down for a hit that knocked him through a wall. Cautiously, the Rahkshi advanced.
“Heh…” came Hewkii’s voice from the rubble. “Guess…I should’ve paid more attention…”
He crawled out from the hole in the wall, half of his mask missing. Neton gave a short hiss and stored his hammer on his back as he rushed over, helping Hewkii to his feet; he gestured to the mask, but wasn’t sure how to express what he wanted.
“Don’t worry: I know you didn’t mean to hit me that hard,” Hewkii said. “I’ll be fine.”
Neton sighed in relief.
“Your name was…Neton? Did I hear that right?”
The Rahkshi nodded.
“Neton. I’ll remember that! I hope we get another chance to fight someday.”
The Toa extended his hand. Neton seemed surprised at first, but then chuckled, taking the hand and nodding. Both took a moment more to gather their bearings before heading away from the battle, and Zaekura found herself rolling her eyes, mumbling, “Well, if we can garner respect even amongst our enemies, I guess it’s a good thing…”
“L…Lady Zaekura!” Charla said.
“Huh? What’s wrong, Charla?”
“Lord Bitil has made contact…they’re…those presences I couldn’t identify, they’re…”
Dread began to build in the back of Zaekura’s mind. “Can you show me?”
“Y…yes…perhaps you should see it for yourself…”
Zaekura closed her eyes, feeling Charla bring an image into her mind. The dread instantly consumed her. They had found the Vorox, all in one large squadron that was closing in on the city, but these were not the beings they had been prepared to fight. Whatever animalistic air the Vorox’s stinger tails lent them, it was nothing compared to the bestial visages of the pack Zaekura now saw. No two looked entirely the same—some had oversized claws, others had rock-like growths along their backs, one of them now had three tails at their command—but every one of them ran ahead on all fours with a look of savage fury in their eyes, snarling wordlessly in a wild cacophony.
“Oh no,” Zaekura said, body trembling in shock and disgust. “What did the Great Beings do to them?!”
A barrier lined with Hagah Plasma Cannons blocked access to the weapons district, with combatants constantly popping up to fire Cordak rockets and other projectiles. The Rahkshi held their own well enough, but faced with so much firepower, they had yet to find a safe way to get past their foes. Suddenly the turrets exploded, and the guards shouted as they engaged in combat with an unseen foe; shortly afterwards, the barrier crumpled under intense magnetism, revealing Krika as he bowed and gestured towards the road beyond. The Rahkshi ran past him with a cheer, and he knelt next to one of the incapacitated Vortixx.
“No need to worry,” Krika said. “We aren’t going to hurt you.”
“Why should I believe that?” the Vortixx asked.
“That’s always such a hard question to answer…”
“Either way, you’re not going to take over our city! Xia is loyal to the Great Beings!”
Krika stood, turning aside. “Why?”
“Surely you’ve heard the rumors—why do you choose to ignore them and continue to side with the Great Beings? Reluctance? Convenience? Feeling there’s no other option? It’s not—”
He was cut off as a powerful blow connected with his mask. Krika flew back, righting himself quickly as he could to identify his attacker. A Glatorian with red and orange armor stood before him, holding in one hand a slender blade with prongs attached to its end, his opposite arm a prosthetic made of dark metal with three flexible claws uncurling as he stalked forward. His glare was fierce, but more than that, Krika could see a wealth of experience in his eyes, making the sureness with which he carried himself into battle with a Makuta genuinely discomforting.
“How rude,” Krika said, casually strafing. “Can’t you tell when a person is mid-monologue? I would speak with your superiors.”
The Glatorian slowly turned, keeping his gaze fixed on Krika. “No one’s superior to me.”
“My, you are an arrogant fellow. What’s your name? I’m curious if I’ve heard of you.”
Readying his blade, the Glatorian said, “If you did, you’d know by now.”
Krika parried the swing with a focused burst of magnetism. “I just thought perhaps you’d like to introduce yourself. But, you are right: your reputation does precede you, Ackar.”
Ackar jabbed with his prosthetic, the claws forming into a drill that nearly pierced the Makuta’s side. Krika moved to chop Ackar’s shoulder, but Ackar blocked him with the blade, spun the weapon around, and nicked him as he pulled back. An odd sensation rippled through Krika’s being as the sword made contact, but he had no time to analyze it. Ackar didn’t let up: he twirled his sword around as he advanced, not leaving any openings for Krika to exploit, then made a short jab that led into a sweeping blow as he leapt forward, slicing open the wall of a nearby building as Krika ducked just beneath it. Krika fired a weak plasma blast at the Glatorian’s torso, but to his surprise, Ackar ignored the attack and simply brought his claw down on Krika. The prosthetic was made of solid protosteel—Krika could tell from the way his armor strained, sure it would have buckled if not still held in place by Alize’s powers. He teleported beside Ackar and tried to counterattack, but Ackar’s blade found him. Krika teleported even farther away as he worked to process the bizarre effects the weapon induced. A black and green glow begin to emanate from the sword, and it was this that allowed Krika to begin lining the pieces up.
“Ah,” he said. “An Energy Siphon Blade…you came prepared.”
Ackar remained silent. He moved in yet again. Krika created a bright flash to blind his foe before moving in, aiming for Ackar’s jaw only to get bashed across the face. The blade sliced him again as he stumbled back, stinging far worse than its previous strikes, draining even more of his power into itself until he threw himself out of range.
Goodness, he thought, another one who doesn’t need his eyes? I suppose the Mahiki will be of little use then…need I really play the brute in order to prevail? How dreadful.
Krika charged the moment Ackar opened his eyes. He ran half the distance before teleporting the rest, punching as Ackar formed his claw into a shield and forcing the Glatorian to attack with his sword. Krika ducked and pivoted his whole body, avoiding the blade altogether, and connected with a kick to Ackar’s head as he lessened his foe’s gravity, knocking him down the street and then reaching for his prosthetic using magnetism. Ackar simply rose to his feet, unaffected.
I suspected they have their own methods of countering such attacks. He’s immune to Sleep as well, and presumably all mental assaults. Well, most.
Ackar barely had a chance to move before Krika seized his body telekinetically. Remaining focused on immobilizing on his foe, Krika walked forward, saying, “I commend you, I truly do. There is no question you would best me in a fair fight. Alas, while you may be able to counteract some of my powers, they remain too varied for—”
Something struck him in the back. He could feel his energy draining away, just like when he was struck by the siphon blade, and it made his concentration falter. Ackar leapt from his hold and knocked him to the ground with an overhead slash. Krika rolled aside to avoid being pierced by his foe’s drill, but when the device began to spin it kicked dirt up over the eyes of his mask, giving Ackar the chance to land another strike. Teleporting away bought him some time, but another mystery attack made contact before he was prepared. Ackar advanced on him.
“Curious,” Krika mumbled.
The Makuta willed vines to erupt from the soil to bind Ackar’s legs. The Glatorian kept his guard up, but Krika amplified the force of his punch with his Vacuum powers, successfully pushing Ackar back into a wall of sonic energy that reverberated painfully until he fell out of it. Krika attacked next with his Electricity powers, keeping the intensity low while making the bolts look very flashy—having more focus to spare this time, he was able to avoid the next surprise attack, and caught a glimpse of an Agori holding a rifle ducking down on a nearby rooftop.
“Ah, yes of course!” Krika said, dodging another shot. “You have a blade to siphon energy, but Xia also makes rifles that do the same!” Multiple shots came at him, but he avoided them all while maintaining his attack on Ackar. “You have quite a few helpers waiting for the right moment, don’t you? Isn’t that tactic a bit cowardly for the noble warrior Ackar?”
Ackar did his best to fight the pain, slowly raising his prosthetic. “How else would you fight a coward?”
“Your accuracy wounds me.”
A smirk broke Ackar’s face as a panel in his palm slid away. A Thornax was shot out instantly, striking Krika square in the mask; the electricity dissipated as the Makuta stumbled, half a dozen rifle shots pelting him at once. Ackar surged forward and gave a mighty swing of his blade, this time cutting open a gash in Krika’s chest. Antidermis poured out as Krika retreated, and Ackar waved his sword through it, letting it all slowly collect within the weapon.
Krika grunted as he watched his foe, taking stock of how much energy he had left. “Heh…well-played. You’re far more merciless than the tales give you credit for, Ackar.”
He carefully dodged another swing. Ackar used the blade to absorb the following light bolt, saying, “Because this is the first time I’ve fought a rogue Makuta.”
Krika teleported away from his next swing. Ackar spun in place and pointed: when Krika materialized, he had another volley of sniper shots to deal with, only able to dodge some of them. With a groan, he said, “Come now…am I really worth all this? Best be careful not to strain yourself in your old age.”
“This is no time to be careful,” Ackar said as he walked towards Krika. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep the citizens safe, no matter what cost I might suffer. Makuta were supposed to do the same. Yet here you are, attacking those you were sworn to protect…”
He lunged. A storm of slashes and punches came at Krika, who had only just enough strength to dodge them—and when a single shot stole some of that strength, he was grabbed by Ackar’s claw and slammed into a wall, feeling the blade immediately poised to wrench his mask off. He weakly said, “We’re not…going to hurt…anyone…”
“I’m not going to gamble on your word. Not when it comes to my people. Now fade.”
The sound of sniper shots reached his ears. Whirling about, Ackar threw Krika forward, smacking him into Bitil just as the Makuta was about to attack. A few shots hit Bitil, but he simply shrugged them off as he pulled Krika back under an overhang.
“Hello there, brother,” Krika said. “Forgive me for greeting you in such a sorry state, but you won’t believe the day I’ve had.”
“Shut up,” Bitil said. “I need you to use what remains of your strength to help me. I’m told this foe is skilled, but I sincerely doubt he can repel two Makuta at once.”
Someone above shouted to Ackar. The Glatorian raised his claw to catch a rifle, planted his sword in the ground momentarily, and then ripped a cartridge from the firearm before tossing it aside. He jammed the component into the elbow of his prosthetic—a surge of energy suddenly moved through the metal limb, and the tips of its claws gained a faint azure glow. Drawing his sword once more, Ackar began another slow advance.
“See if you can lock him in place,” Bitil said. “I’ll knock him out.”
“I shall strive do my best,” Krika said, “however inadequate it may prove.”
Bitil gave a sigh as he ran out to meet their foe. Krika tried again to telekinetically restrain Ackar, but Ackar fired a second Thornax at him, this one flying even faster thanks to the charge imbuing his arm. Krika was unable to dodge, and unable to help, but Bitil still managed to get close while Ackar was focused on firing. Ackar held his blade low, so Bitil swung high. He landed a punch, but Ackar had braced himself well enough to withstand it, and now slammed his open claw against Bitil’s midsection. The azure glow intensified suddenly, signaling a function that consumed all of the extra energy just plugged into the device: a ring of crystalline protodermis sprang into being around Bitil, binding his arms to his sides. Bitil stumbled back in shock. He then realized the ring was shrinking.
“You’re finished,” Ackar said. “Coming here was a mistake.”
Ackar left Bitil where he was, facing Krika once more. The two Makuta exchanged glances. Just as Ackar moved to attack, Krika activated his laser vision powers, forcing Ackar to form his shield to block the beams. As he did, Bitil’s body contorted, shrinking and turning into a mass of white light as it slid free from the ring only to reform right behind Ackar. Ackar’s eyes widened. Bitil dealt a heavy blow to the back of his head, and as his consciousness faded, he saw the ring of protodermis now constricting around a round metal object that floated in the air.
“My gratitude,” Krika said. “Lucky for me you can be in so many places at once.”
“One less now,” Bitil said. “I’ll have Charla tell the nearby Rahkshi to scour the roofs, but for now, stay out of sight and keep him under. I won’t save you a second—”
The projector cracked open under the pressure of the crystal, and the hologram of Bitil blinked out. Krika pulled Ackar inside the nearest building, muttering, “I’m touched by your concern. At least notify Surja of my condition…”
-Glad I got this out before the end of the month! As of this past Monday, I’m officially back taking college courses (going for a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction), and while I will absolutely do my best to stay on top of this story, it’s hard to know for sure how exactly my routine will change until I get into the thick of it. So now you know: if I appear to be lagging, give me the benefit of the doubt and assume I’m doing coursework rather than my usual shenanigans! …Please?
-Xian weapons galore! This is a big part of why I loved the idea of having Xia to work with in this story. So many of these weapons are really interesting, both in what we’ve already got and ways they could be tweaked, and once those designs are in her hands I think Zaekura’s going to have a lot of fun. However, the one that’s probably my personal favorite is being saved for next time…
-I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in-story yet, but Sand is a Toa element in this universe! I haven’t 100% decided on details like prefix and Matoran ability, but it remains to be seen if those will even become relevant, so, eh…?
-Since Ehrye was established earlier I definitely wanted him to reappear, but he probably won’t carry much weight until he gets to talk to Antroz directly. He was going to be more of a threat thanks to his (non-Nynrah) Ghost Blaster, until I realized Alize’s power would protect from that manipulation as well (see below for more on that). I also knew I wanted someone to fight Neton using a Vortixx Battle Axe, and looking over my options, Hewkii seemed like a solid choice—he should be pretty fun to work with.
-Ackar was one of (if not the) only Glatorian who could convincingly go toe-to-toe with a Makuta under the right circumstances. The Energy Siphon Blade was implied to be very dangerous to Makuta, and I knew I wanted someone to use the Earth Claw…though, I guess it’d be called something different here. It also felt like I should include the Griffin Gauntlet at some point, hence the azure glow function, though to prevent it from being overused it requires a large amount of energy to activate.
-When I was tossing around ideas for what Bitil can do with his Faxon, I began to wonder if he could use a replica of Mavrah’s projection lure—or even several at once. Since the projection is made of hard light, he could have a very refined level of control over it using his elemental powers, and this is a Rahi ability. Of course, you have to share the environment with the Rahi you’re copying—but luckily, Xia is situated next to an oasis, so as long as he stays submerged there he can use his mask to interface with as many lures as they’ve brought!
-New Rahkshi names, en masse: “Gappel” comes from “doppelganger,” they’re a Kaita of Plasma, Teleportation, and Molecular Density with the power to leave afterimages that can briefly increase their density and fight autonomously; “Alize” comes from “neutralize”, she’s a Rahkshi of Magnetism who can temporarily render a metal object (or a person’s armor) immune to manipulation, which unfortunately also includes the recipient (which is why Krika isn’t using his spikes here); “Erad” comes from “desperado”, they’re a Rahkshi of Accuracy who likes firearms (I mentioned them last time but forgot to elaborate whoops); “Clera”, only briefly mentioned, comes from “cleric”, she’s a Rahkshi of Faith and…well, we’ll see when she shows up properly; “Gantra” comes from “gigantic” and “tetra” (four), he’s a Rahkshi of Courage with an internal focal point and, uh, I just thought a four-armed brawler would be a cool go-to; “Aleps” comes from “narcolepsy”, they’re a Rahkshi of Sleep with the ability to fight while sleepwalking in a highly erratic manner to catch foes off-guard, similar to the technique of “drunken boxing”.
-Next time is Antroz vs Emsar, as well as the arrival of the Vorox Hordika!
-Reviews to be submitted here