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Cederak

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About Cederak

Year 14
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  1. I wonder what's next.

  2. I don't have the case, but the only mask left is the silver Miru. -Ced EDIT: Gold Vahi is available again!
  3. Cederak

    Cynosure

    Guess I'll always have to be, living in a fantasy. –Supertramp Episode 22: Affirmation (Epilogue) <<<Drelinok/Teridax: Onward>>> Approximately 16,800 years ago, on Meldio/One Year after Drelinok's Defeat, on Destral Drelinok looked out from the balcony of the Directorate capitol building, smiling as the crowds cheered for him to speak. He had fought a long and grueling campaign to reach this moment, and he paused before beginning. "The night has engulfed us for centuries and dawn greets us at last. Our war with the Collective is finally won, but we are not victorious, only shortsighted." Teridax stood before his brethren in the Convocation Chamber, a malicious smile plastered across his face. Like the rest of the Brotherhood, the shutting out of his inner light caused him to develop a more sinister appearance in the process. The bright red eyes beneath his Mask of Shadows surveyed the audience of Makuta before him and Teridax began to speak. "Welcome, brothers and sisters. I am pleased to announce that Gorast and Icarax have concluded their hunting trip. As you can see, the masks of Miserix's devotees now hang on these walls as a reminder to where supporting the condemned will get you." "As Meldin, we have a responsibility to uphold the values of the universe, to stand unwavering before those that have lost their way. While we slayed our brothers and sisters over a battle of ideas, Pridak, Kalmah, Ehlek, Carapar, Mantax, and Takadox betrayed the universe, to take up the mantle of Barraki. Such terrible sins cannot be disregarded." "With our knowledge and position of power in the universe, I take comfort in the information Mutran encountered. When Pridak attempted to exploit that same knowledge, I thought him insane. I see now I was correct. Mata Nui had set Pridak aside for the destiny of a pawn, and it was not a destiny he could escape by being chosen to preside over so much for the Great Spirit." "Now the universe of the Great Spirit is in jeopardy and if these traitors are not put down, I see only a future of darkness ahead. Indeed, the time has come where Meldin can no longer turn their weapons on one another. Biomechs need our strength now more than ever, to look outside of ourselves and determine a brighter tomorrow for all, as the Creed dictates." "We were chosen for no such task. Our first request in this universe was to create Rahi, and we obeyed. Our second request was to protect the Matoran, and we obeyed. It cannot be denied that we have a third task before us now, to lead the universe as Pridak could have never imagined and Mata Nui refuses to do." "Mata Nui would stand idly by and watch as his realms are conquered, pillaged, and razed. He seeks a champion of the light, a symbol of hope, and a guardian of all that exists. We will be that guardian. I promise you that we can lead the universe out of the shadows made by these deceptive murderers. If we do not stand against them, they will bring about the doom of this world." "Our reign will be one of activity, where guidelines are not in ambiguous virtues, but are given weight by our actions. Mata Nui has provided an age of information filled with meaningless thoughts, words, opinions, and theories about what the Great Spirit feels is best. The Plan will provide context to declare Mata Nui is disconnected from this world and that it must be run by those in the position to see precisely what its inhabitants need most." "The hour has arrived where Meldin must unite the universe in a concerted effort to save our beloved home and the homes of so many we have never known. I will not allow our kind to be extinguished like a dying flame in the icy wind." "Drelinok nearly took this universe for himself and while I do not know what became of him after his defeat in Metru Nui, the termination of his energy signature would suggest his death. Our greatest threat is now a mere memory." "Monsters and liars have put Mata Nui's universe at risk and they are truly the most dangerous entities we could ever know. To allow them to share and bask in the light of the Great Spirit desecrates the life and freedom he has granted us to defend ourselves." "Drelinok has destroyed his legacy on Meldio, his brethren viewing him as little more than a dark stain on their history after his sudden reappearance. I made a personal visit to the island to ensure we would never encounter another Meldin like him and it was clear they have no interest in such experimentation. Still, having a Makuta stationed there puts me at greater ease." "The Meldin Directorate endures because it is required. We exist to oversee a universe in peril from itself." "Now, let us take to the world and create our façade, to express what noble and proud servants of Mata Nui we are. When The Plan moves into its final phase, accepting the truth will be simple. In fact, they may even thank us for our service. Ironically, the last thing we want on our hands is a rebellion." "And so I have begun construction on what will become the most significant technological advancement in our history – the Amplifier. Through it, every Meldin will acquire the power to enforce the will of Mata Nui." "We were destined for this my brothers and sisters, to claim the throne of an unfit ruler. And destiny is not a force to be ignored." "No matter the cost, whatever the effort; these are the words I swore to uphold when I became your Director. We shall take back the universe together, my brethren, and the Creed will guide our swords and our rifles to triumph." Teridax released a faint laugh, satisfied with his words. "The universe waits for us now; the era of the Makuta has begun." "There can be no room for fear or doubt in confronting the darkness. Truly, our failure would mean the end of everything." <<<Trylac: Mission Complete>>> "After 19,000 years, our indicators show that Project Amplifier has been a success. The outputs are unbelievable if Adrinor can access them at will, and he will make an excellent weapon of light against the Brotherhood. It took nearly twice as long as the process Drelinok experienced, but all of our telepaths have agreed that Adrinor's mental readings are now in good standings. I know how important keeping Adrinor from developing a god-complex was to you." Toa Helryx reflected on Trylac's report, setting aside the official tablet on the matter. She would have it catalogued away with the stored collection of information on Daxia, in the event her team should ever require the data again. "Having consulted with other agents, it has been determined your report is nothing short of stellar. I find no legitimate reason for your continued pursuit of his surviving allies and declare your mission complete. I've signed off to have you moved to a new assignment that has been in the preparation phase for quite some time. The matter is highly sensitive and a single misstep could prove fatal to all of our futures. That being said, your record with the Order is without reproach, especially given your handling of critical operations in the past." "Thank you, ma'am." Trylac narrowed his eyes. "So…Adrinor's friends are being let go?" Helryx sighed heavily and glanced back down at the tablets. "Our surveillance has determined they are not a threat to the agency and have not spoken a word of Adrinor's existence in this facility. They have continued living as outlaws, but with the Makuta ruling under martial law, it's only a matter of time until they come a little too close to a piece of Brotherhood property and have a bounty on their heads. It's a shame, Trylac. With the proper training, they could have been wonderful field operatives." Trylac frowned, nodding. "Yes…a shame, indeed. Have we adopted a codename for the task I am being assigned to?" Helryx smiled facetiously. "Operation Time Slip. I will say no more until you're officially briefed, but I think you'll like this one. Your attention to detail will serve you greatly." "It always has before," Trylac replied. "I only wish I had been assigned to prevent the experimentation on Zakaz before things took a nasty turn." "To be honest, the Zakaz incident was not a worst-case scenario. I admit our management of the Panacea's leftover viruses could have been more…particular, but the blame publicly rests on the shoulders of Makuta Spiriah. We provided the tools for him to conduct his research, and it was Spiriah who gave the Skakdi the power to burn buildings with their eyes and join hands to summon the elements. My curiosity with Magistrate Zanteox's work was outweighed by my apprehension to use it on the public, but Spiriah was not bound by the ethics of being born a Toa. As far as I am concerned, he got what he deserved." "Understood. I'll head out for my operational briefing if that's all right." "Yes, of course," Helryx said flatly. "You're dismissed." <<<Adrinor: Fair Enough>>> There is no description of what it feels like to have your mind running in dreams for so long that would paint an adequate picture. It cannot be appreciated unless it is felt, and I experienced it in full. When I was released from stasis, my initial thought is that I was dying. My eyes jumped open and my body fell forward, scooped up by Trylac. The alarm on the pod was still ringing out when I heard him speak. It was strange to hear words in real life again. I did not listen to what those words meant, but we were quickly teleported out of the room by an unseen force. My breathing was quick and heavy, and I glanced up at the nearest object. It was a colossal statue of a Meldin, sparkling in the sun. I had been returned to my first home. "What's going on here? Has it…has it been 11,000 years?" I breathed out. Trylac slowly forced me to stand up straight before turning my head in the direction of a placard at the statue's feet. "It has been 19,000 years. Read it." I took a step forward and nearly collapsed under my own weight. It was nothing like the walking I had done in my mind. My body was ready to take the step, but my mind had expected something else. I carefully approached the statue and read the placard aloud to myself. "Remember eternal, this statue was erected for the Meldin named Adrinor in the year 20,900 of our society. His bravery allowed him to destroy the evil light of Drelinok and shall remain an honorary Director of this island until the end of time. He upheld the words of our Meldin Creed and an unwavering responsibility to the universe. For this, every part of the world will forever be in his debt. Good night, hero of the dawn." I looked closer at the sculpture and realized that, yes, Meldio had constructed a statue in my image. I whirled back to Trylac. "How did they…?" "I told them after you were locked into stasis," Trylac explained, grinning. "We took the subject to the Makuta of Meldio and requested this statue be made in your honor. He agreed with the decision, seeing as you confronted Drelinok while fighting for the Brotherhood. The whole universe may never know your name, but your brothers and sisters will never forget it. This is your cenotaph, a monument to the greatest victory you ever achieved, built by a world that believes you have passed on." "Thank you, Trylac," I said, still in shock. "19,000 years, huh?" Trylac exhaled heavily and narrowed his eyes on me. "We wanted to ensure you would not be a threat to others or yourself, but it's done now. The intended effects of Drelinok's Amplifier now live within you – perfecting his evolutionary track for your species. Consider it a gift for taking so many years from you. In truth, the real gift here is that I am disobeying my own agency to set you free. Helryx and the others wanted to experiment further when you were released, but you were kept from your life long enough. I understood after a time that someone else was kept from your life as well. You are not mine to keep as an asset, Adrinor, but we will be in touch if anything disturbing should arise." Trylac was teleported away and I had no indication of where the ability was coming from. I did not linger on it long, because a memorable voice caught my attention. "You're looking well." Celvey dropped from the statue's shoulder and landed gracefully next to me. She smiled, still wearing my gunblade after all those years. I laughed for a second and hugged her tight, feeling the first real, warm embrace I had known in a long time. There was nothing to say, because in my mind, I had said it all thousands of times before. Celvey did not know this, but the only thing I was able to do was hold her and smile. "You'll have to let go eventually, Adrinor. I have a gunblade to return to you." I released her and felt overcome with elation. "I've dreamed of this moment countless times. There were days when I thought it would never be real, but I really, truly made it. There was so much on my mind and so many minds that I could hear. Everything Drelinok said about the Amplifier's power was correct. I always hoped there would be a day when I could share all the things I conjured up in there, and, well…here we are." "Here we are," Celvey repeated, smiling wistfully. "Everything is different, but you are so comfortably familiar." I hesitated to ask a question, afraid of the answer I might receive. "Where are the others?" Celvey seemed to look right through me when she replied, "They're gone." It hurt to hear her say that. I wished I could have been there, to save them in their darkest hours. As much as I wanted to blame Trylac and Toa Helryx, they had granted me untold power and I was released into the world with it. They took great care to keep me safe and now I had become something more. At the price of being unable to prevent the deaths of my friends, I had been transformed into a higher lifeform. There were so many others I could protect with that kind of power, listening to billions of their thoughts while I dreamed. "How did they…y'know…? I mean…what killed them?" Celvey almost smiled. "Would you believe that Zanteox survived the fall into the harbor outside Zakaz when you crashed his ship? I don't know what happened in your encounter with him, but he was a mess when we returned to Trevahka to ensure his operations were finished. One of his arms and an eye were mechanical replacements, using his viruses to transform himself for combat. I watched Elendra put a bullet in his head a couple minutes after he impaled Hadliek on a mutated stinger tail. There was no one who could heal Hadliek's injuries, and he died staying behind to detonate the last Panacea base in the universe." "Elendra finished the job for me," I said to myself. "I should have been more thorough. What happened to Elendra, exactly? Who had the firepower to end her life?" "She became a vigilante operating out of Stelt called the Night Angel. She told me that it was a fun habit to target Sidorak's clan most often, but her bold nature got the best of her. I don't know how much truth there is to it, but the rumor is that the Makuta of Stelt utilized Voporak in taking her down. The Brotherhood did something to him…something abnormal. His will is no longer his own and he works for the Dark Hunters. Same as Kyrhus." "You said everyone died." "As we knew him, yes, Kyrhus is dead. He works for the Shadowed One now as an agent named Blitz. We've met a couple times and he's still working out a method to overpower telekinetic abilities." I cursed and growled. "Blitz is a decent codename. I'll have to pay him a visit. What about you, Celvey? I take it you've been busy using my gunblade?" Celvey presented me with my weapon and I studied its surface, admiring the polished and shimmering protosteel blade. "It's been useful, but I keep it in pristine condition. For 19,000 years, it was my only memory of you. Besides the scars and stories of our time together, that weapon is the one reminder that everything we had was real. We all gave up trying to locate the facility where you were being held a few years after you were placed in stasis. To be honest, losing Hadliek caused us to go our separate ways. I went home and stood by Auredel when he passed. His council said the stress of the war years had been too much and prematurely aged his tired form. A similar thing happened to Meruvia too, but she outlived Auredel a while. Eventually, I watched her die as well, and decided to take up the position they had always wanted for me." I smiled at her. "You became the Queen of the House of Crystal." She nodded. "I served by myself for 1,000 years. After that, I extended an offer of peace to the neighboring provinces with a secret plan to overthrow our Makuta. The Brotherhood began to destroy their inner light before you fought Drelinok, and I think the Makuta of Ilisi despised our natural element because of that, happy to watch the Houses distrust one another. United, we managed to kill him. It was a short-lived victory when the rest of the Brotherhood invaded with their armies and wiped out most of the island. I used to be a rarity for my special powers, and now I am a member of an endangered species." I sadly lowered my head. "I'll make this right somehow. The Amplifier gave me the power to correct the faults of this universe." "If you start floating, you'll almost be Drelinok talking like that." I held Celvey by her shoulders and quietly replied, "I promise you, that will never happen." I felt ready for anything the future might have in store, and for the first time in a long time, I was hopeful. I almost didn't want to believe what happened next, because I thought the worst was over. I had confronted my past and survived my demons, but within minutes of being awake again, life was already finding ways to surprise me. I fell to my knees as my vision blurred and my body grew faint. I gasped for air and dropped the gunblade into the grass, feeling Celvey attempt to hold me up by my arm. "What's wrong?" she asked in a tone laced with fear. The sensation lasted no more than a few seconds, and I instantly regained control of my body. I looked up at Celvey and sighed. "I think I'll be okay." Celvey responded with a sigh of relief, unexpectedly followed by her eyes growing wide. She released my arm and took a few uneasy steps backward, as though I had transformed into a monster. I looked over my parts and rose to my feet, gunblade in hand. "Celvey?" I said, walking toward her. She recoiled, giving me a terrified expression. "Your eyes…they flickered bright yellow." Her words froze me in place, and I was reminded of my lengthy discussion on Nohtal with Drelinok. It had been so long, though the exchange seemed etched into my memory. I stared up at the statue before us, almost able to hear the carved Adrinor repeat my ancient words back to me. "I will not be your vessel into the future. Nothing will save you from destruction." As clear as day, my mind evoked the memory of Drelinok's eyes when he replied, and the amplified intensity that lived within them. "That remains to be seen." "I'm not sure what that means…and I won't have to face it alone. The mysteries of the unknown never stopped us before, after all." "That was another time," Celvey replied in an empty tone. "Practically another world. It's refreshing to see you like this, so undeterred and unchanged, but our universe has moved on without you." "Then there's something new waiting for us out there." Celvey gave me a smile, and I could see the years had worn the slightest touch of age into her face. I never did find her while inside the stasis pod, unable to grant her a static avatar like all the other minds that populated my mental world. She had been awake for everything I missed, probably fighting her way through anything and anyone that thought to contain or limit her horizons. Whatever it was, those experiences had exhausted the youthful, energetic Celvey I met. Her eyes were more confident, misted by the burden of gray-tinged wisdom, but no less beautiful and blue to me. "I can take you to it," she replied in a whisper, offering her hand. "If you'll have me." And with that, she led Adrinor and I to the sea. Review
  4. And now, Episode 22, the epilogue, is posted. The top post in this review topic will also be updated with a spoiler-filled sort of "director's commentary" on Cynosure. I would strongly recommend finishing the epic before opening it. So where do we go from here? That's a fair question. I said it a few times before, but including the long-deleted archives, I have completed 12 epics and about 20-some short stories. That's it for me. I'm finished. It has a been a long road to the end here, and Cynosure alone took 3 years. I wish everyone who walked this path at different segments with me were here to see this post. I cannot thank you all enough for the sense of community I have found in this library and I have learned a lot during my time here. It doesn't mean I'm leaving BZPower forever, but this was the one major thing keeping me with any activity outside of the occasional log-in for old time's sake. Perhaps I'll take up reading the stories of others again, albeit less critic club style and more casual interest. To my readers, you have been amazing. I think some of my works have been more self-indulgent than others, but at the end of the day, my focus has always been to give my readers something worth their while. I'm glad you enjoyed this last journey into the Matoran Universe with me. Thank you so much. -Ced
  5. Well, that plus shipping might be a bit steep for one mask, even is it is the vahi Good luck with the selling, anyhow! If you're stateside, I can cover shipping. Also, looking for $5 for the Miru, and $35 for the Trans Hau. -Ced Does Canada count as stateside? If so, I'd like to buy the Vahi. Close enough. Yeah, send me a PM and we'll talk payment. -Ced
  6. Well, that plus shipping might be a bit steep for one mask, even is it is the vahi Good luck with the selling, anyhow! If you're stateside, I can cover shipping. Also, looking for $5 for the Miru, and $35 for the Trans Hau. -Ced
  7. Cederak

    Cynosure

    Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone. -Elton John Episode 21: Halcyon There are nights when I cannot sleep that I think about possibilities. I imagine other dimensions where alternate versions of myself have lived out the decisions I did not. I have envisioned an Adrinor who led the Collective to victory, imprisoned Drelinok, and overthrew the Directorate. I dreamed of an Adrinor who shot and killed Rovaius the day we met, and spent many more centuries working a quiet, peaceful life on a Mahi ranch. As of late, I have conjured up an Adrinor who built his own Amplifier and is staring down at Drelinok. This incarnation of myself believes he will become the next Great Spirit, while Drelinok and his outlaw friends can do nothing to stop me. I wonder if I could ever grow to embrace such egotistic thoughts, but there is surely an Adrinor who has. All of life is decisions, from the easy ones like deciding to polish your weapon today or tomorrow, to the hard ones like choosing to forcefully impale your first friend in the Metru Nui Coliseum. The most critical point that can be made is how we have to own our decisions. I can never take back and retry the important moments in my life and live as the alternate Adrinor entities have lived. Their histories are as locked away to me as my life is to them. So there is no blaming anyone else for where I end up. It is all on my shoulders, and that reality can be hard to face in the instances when I feel let down or betrayed. After Trylac shot me with a blast of energies that imprisoned me on the spot, I was dealing with a mixture of both emotions. I blacked out shortly after he assaulted me, waking up an indeterminate time later in a room I had never seen. Unknown figures were poking and prodding me, moving my parts around. I felt sedated, cognizant enough to know what was happening, but unable to interact. Trylac was among them, pointing to me while staring at a tablet in his hands. "Why are the vital sign indicators shooting up?" Trylac asked. "He's awake!" someone replied. "The sedation injections appear to be keeping him down, but we need to get the lifeform into stasis soon. If his motor functions are restored, the task of sealing him into the tube will be much more difficult." "Is it too early to inject another round of sedatives?" "We could wait a little while longer, but we've had him under for nearly a month now. I have triple checked his nervous system scans every day and nothing has come up out of the ordinary. Everything is functioning as it should, but there's no telling how much more of this his body can take." "What about his energy levels and signatures? Was Jerbraz able to get a determinate figure on that yet?" Trylac wondered. "No, nothing yet. Jerbraz has been discussing the issue with his science team and they've surmised that something about radiation from the prototype suit or the battle with Drelinok is still lingering in the lifeform's system." "There's still so much left misunderstood in that department," Trylac said, setting the tablet down and walking toward me. "Botar confirmed the prototype was destroyed beyond repair by a…stomp into the ground. Much as I wish Adrinor had not done so, I can understand where he got his logic from. As for Drelinok, we found him after Makuta Krika temporarily destroyed his physical form on Suizek by sweeping the universe for absurdly high light energies. We have been performing constant scans since his attack on Metru Nui and nothing has come up. If Adrinor's energy is truly shielded by something that happened that day, then we may be searching for answers for quite some time." "I would trust Jerbraz to find an explanation. Helryx was right to assign him to this." Trylac stifled a laugh before tugging at a tube connecting into my forearm muscle tissue. "Jerbraz personally requested leading the science division on this one. After his own…incident…with our power experiments, I think he wanted to be sure all the proper precautions were being taken on our Meldin friend here." "You may not want to say that like you're talking behind his back," another voice said to Trylac. "He could be here." "The accident rendered Jerbraz invisible," Trylac countered, "he still has a scent. Even the faint ones rarely get by my radar." While Trylac and the scientists chatted, I was caught up in the fact that they mentioned I had been with them for a month. I wanted to know what happened to Metru Nui, and most importantly, what had become of my friends. I felt responsible for their safety because I had adopted the role of a leader, concerned where they might go after seeing their bedrooms burned to the ground. We had nothing left but one another, no longer able to even rely on Voporak and his connections. Sidorak had taken that from us in betraying his clan leader to the newly appointed Makuta of Stelt. If I had the ability to shudder as I pondered, I very well might have as the thoughts of Voporak being subjected to Brotherhood-grade torture filled my mind. They would break him eventually for his knowledge about Barraki Mantax and the ancient arrangements they once made, but there was no telling what future awaited Voporak beyond that. Trylac and a couple of his fellow agents removed all of the devices I was hooked up to and slowly tilted me backwards. I was resting in an open stasis pod and I could see the tube door directly above me. It was transparent clear, reminding me of when I wiped off the dust that caked Drelinok's Amplifier when I woke him. Upon realizing the similarity, I felt cold and scared. Trylac and his agency had not abducted me for testing to ensure I was healthy and safe, they had other plans. "The Iridiex core is stabilized, Trylac," one of the scientists declared. As much as I wanted to delude myself into thinking otherwise, there was no longer a way for me to deny what was going on. They had successfully rebuilt the Amplifier, just for me. "How long are we going to keep the lifeform in this containment pod?" "The lifeform has a name," Trylac snapped. "We had someone check the records on Meldio to determine when Drelinok's experiment failed. It took approximately 11,000 years to supercharge him the way it did. Adrinor will be kept asleep for just as long. When the time comes to release him, we can only hope his energies will rival Drelinok and that he will be willing to fight for us." "We're taking 11,000 years of his life away from him," another scientist argued. "I can't imagine he'll be too fond of us when he learns that. The liquid chemical we're going to keep him in will prevent his body from aging a day, but his friends are going to assume him dead." Someone marched into the room and strode right up to the Amplifier tube. She was a Toa of water. "Which is why," she started, "I have agreed to let his friends say their goodbyes." The room was silent except for the low hum of the Amplifier's mechanics running in what I gathered was a standby state. Trylac finally addressed the newcomer with a warm greeting. "It's good to see you, ma'am," he said. "We are ready for Adrinor to enter the Amplifier as planned." "Excellent," she replied shortly. "We have located his team and they should be getting teleported in shortly." "Are we suppressing the Ilisian with the psionic powers?" Trylac questioned. "Absolutely," she told him. "While it is my opinion that any outbursts could be contained, I would prefer not to have my agents cleaning up a mess today. Similarly, the Trelbin will be monitored carefully after your psychological analysis of her. The Gekalan and the Todrano should not pose any issues for us." As soon as she finished speaking, the sound of multiple bursts of explosive power detonated around the room. I was still tilted back and unable to see what was going on, but I could hear everything. My friends had arrived. "Who is in charge of this?" Elendra demanded. "That's none of your concern," the unknown female replied. "My name is Toa Helryx and I invited you here to say any personal words you wanted to share with Adrinor. We are placing him into stasis for an extended period and, while it is unusual to invite outsiders to this location, I am making an exception in light of Adrinor's recent actions. His defeat over Drelinok has saved our universe and you should all be proud to have served by his side." "I can't believe you, Trylac," Elendra rebuked. "You lied to us about your true allegiance for centuries and now you're going to keep Adrinor here as an unconscious prisoner?" "We need him," Trylac tried to explain. Kyrhus slowly walked toward the Amplifier before staring down at me. My eyes were open, but his face was merely in my peripheral sight. The Gekalan was awestruck when he said, "You rebuilt the Amplifier. Mata Nui! You're going to turn him into a living weapon like Drelinok, aren't you?" "The individuals in this room know better than most that there are difficult times ahead of us," Helryx said. "Drelinok is destroyed, yes, but Makuta Teridax and his new age of the dark Brotherhood leave me uneasy. They have dispersed their kind across the universe and we need to be prepared for the possibility of a concerted attack one day. With Adrinor and this Amplifier, I am fortifying our defenses." "And what are we supposed to do without him?" Celvey asked, walking up and standing across from Kyrhus. I could faintly see a silver and violet device resting over her heartlight. This must have been the suppression method that Helryx had alluded to. "I would recommend you live your lives," Helryx stated firmly. "I am fully aware of the unscrupulous occupations you held before Drelinok's defeat, and I would advise seeking other methods of filling your time. As the Brotherhood of Makuta tighten their grip on our world, we are witnessing a moment of crisis. Nothing will be the same." "Sounds utterly depressing," Hadliek spoke up. I could not imagine how many events Trylac's agency had been orchestrating behind the scenes over the years. This Toa Helryx seemed so familiar with following procedures, that forcing my own friends to say goodbye was treated as commonplace as ever. "I'll give you all a moment," Helryx said. "There will not be a second invitation in the future, so please, say anything to Adrinor that you need to. His hearing is functional. When you have gone, this Meldin will be treated as an asset of my agency." "An asset?" Celvey exclaimed in outrage. "He's a biomech like all of us! You can't just treat him like a lifeless object for your own purposes!" "And what would you do, Ilisian?" Helryx fired back. "Like it or not, Adrinor's body is loaded with an unknown form of radiation after his encounter with Drelinok during the Battle of Metru Nui. I tend to eliminate variables when I can, and Adrinor is, without a doubt, in an undetermined status. There are things inside of him that he may not be in control of, and he will be safer here than unleashed on the universe in his current condition. I put aside the recommendations of my agency and adopted a bit of empathy for you to see Adrinor before I have him sealed. In return, I only ask that his survival remains confidential." "Who would believe me?" Elendra asked, giving Helryx a defeated chuckle. "Take me out of this place…you've basically killed Adrinor already. And as for you, Trylac, I will destroy you myself if you ever come looking." "I'm sorry that's how you feel," Trylac replied bitterly. A couple blurry figures headed for the door and I could hear Elendra being escorted away. "This is wrong," Kyrhus added. "Adrinor, whatever's left of you in there, I'll miss you." "C'mon, Kyrhus," Hadliek called. "We don't need their sympathy." They exited the room and only Celvey remained. She was silently staring at me, probably unable to find the words she wanted. From where I was sitting, I had so much to say. If Toa Helryx ever let me go, it would be at least 11,000 years before that option would be on the table. Celvey had no idea. She touched a hand to my heartlight and whispered, "I'll come back for you." I screamed inside my head, trying desperately to make anything move. I had to tell her. I had to let her know what I wanted to say, but it was pointless. There was no overcoming the chemicals in my system and I could only watch as Celvey walked away from me. Trylac picked something up from a nearby desk and approached her before she left. "I know it isn't much, but you're welcome to take this," he said quietly. "There's no use in letting it waste away in this chamber for millennia." "You're right, it isn't much," Celvey spat. "I'll take care of it for him though. I know what this weapon meant to Adrinor." A low alarm sounded off and I felt myself tilting forward. The scientists returned to my sides and I watched them insert a series of tubes along my body. A pair attached behind my neck, behind each of my arms, into my sides, and behind my legs. When they were finished, the tube door started to close, and I watched Trylac and Celvey stare back at me. As terrified as I was of the Amplifier, I wanted to smile at Celvey and tell her that everything would be okay. She wore my gunblade well, like the warrior I knew her to be. Teridax's universe would not consume her in my absence. The tube sealed tight and the alarm sound became muffled. "Activate the Iridiex core," Trylac commanded. "Flood the stasis pod." The room started to shake, and whatever structural precautions Drelinok had overlooked, Toa Helryx had thought to utilize. I felt cold, and I knew the tubes connecting to my body were active. The semi-transparent liquid that Drelinok had been floating in was filling up the tube, while the chemicals being rapidly introduced to my body were slowly causing my consciousness to fade away. The liquid was above my eyes when Celvey attempted to rush at the stasis pod, throwing her hand against it. She reached for the gunblade, my weapon, on her back, but Trylac stopped her. "Let me go!" she cried. "You can't do this to him!" "You don't understand!" Trylac shouted, pulling her away. He threw her to the floor and shot her with the same silver device he hit me with on Meldio. "Send her to Ilisi," Trylac told one of the scientists. "We have an experiment to monitor here and I don't need her interrupting anything." Those were the last words I would hear for a very long time. The chemicals overwhelmed me and I blacked out. I was alone with my thoughts, listening to nothing. It was hard to say how long I rested in the stasis pod like that, bouncing my own ideas around and thinking about things I had no one else to talk to about. The first few decades were the worst, because my mind had no experience with living inside itself for prolonged periods. It gave me a lot of time to think about everything I ever did, or said, or thought. After that, I started working on turning my thoughts off. It took a few years of practice, but it was much easier than I expected. After the first half-century, I managed to shut down for a couple hundred years. From time to time, an intrusive thought would crawl forward and pester me, although I was quick to withdraw and return to my silent meditation. My mind was clear. I had heard others say that before, when training for combat or with certain weapons. Clear your mind. This was more than that. This was total detachment into a place where nothing was said and nothing would happen. It is very possible that I spent many more years in phases of silence, ignoring any impulse to think. The stasis pod was keeping me alive, that much was certain, and there was no reason to do much else. I waited for my release, patiently and calmly. This could have gone on harmoniously until my 11,000 years were up, but in letting my thoughts slip away, I had forgotten something important. There were words spoken to me on Nohtal by Drelinok, describing his experience in the Amplifier. I had neglected the horror of what it must have felt like for Drelinok on the day of the accident. He entered the Amplifier with the expectation of receiving untold power and was promptly buried in a pile of rubble, commemorated and forgotten by his own kind. It made me curious how long it took him to shut off his thoughts, if he ever managed to at all. The reason this finally felt important after what I thought may have been millennia, is that a curious thing happened one day. I could hear other thoughts. There was so much silence and then an abrupt explosion of sound. At first, I thought I was finally going insane. When I focused, however, I began to listen carefully. I could envision a map of sorts that connected many different mental voices, and all the ones in my immediate surroundings were shielded by some unknown force. Outside of those, I searched further and tried to pinpoint words I could understand. Even Rahi had thoughts, little instincts that caused them to attack, or defend, or become curious. They were not sentences the way I knew them, rather, these thoughts tangled around one another like bright colors. I was having trouble keeping all these minds from whispering things to me, requiring more time to focus through the noise. Eventually, I could scan the universe like a path. There were clusters of voices in some areas, definitely populated islands, and I knew it would take a lot of concentration to reach that far. In the same way that Drelinok searched for me, I started to return to my meditation. I wanted to find my friends out there. There were times when I would exhaust myself and I would "return" to my own mind, having to start my search over from my strange origin point. My 11,000 years did come to an end one day, as Trylac said they would. Before that came to pass, I became the master of my own universe, painting out a vast landscape of peacefulness where I could sort out the thoughts I was listening to. I conjured them up physical forms and I made myself a house. I lived in a cozy little place much like my dwelling on the Southern Continent – in the years I spent following my departure from Meldio and before I took up the gunblade as an outlaw. It was a ranch of endless rolling green hills, where all the spirits smiled at me and welcomed me as I went along. I would "awaken" and listen to them, and "sleep" when I had enough. In my own crazy way, I was home. I had everything I needed and there was nothing that could hurt me. Above the thoughts around me, I was an all-powerful entity connected to them all. I knew why Drelinok compared himself to the Great Spirit, at last. Through their good days and bad, my existence was far beyond anything they could understand. When I slept, there were dreams again. I was their golden savior, silently watching over them and hearing their every wonder. With careful precision, I could add my own thoughts to theirs at times. I could guide them, carving a world made as I wanted it, beloved by those I served and assisted. And together, we would see the light of a hopeful future. It all made sense; I was their cynosure. Review
  8. Shipping from the US, and keeping in line with the current market, I'd be willing to sell it for $10. -Ced
  9. Cederak

    Cynosure

    Lights turned up, it's hard to hide. Sometimes I want to disappear. –Foster the People Episode 20: My Shadow Confident that we had acquired the Brotherhood's aid, we decided to return to Stelt to recuperate before flying further north to Metru Nui. Destral had been warped east of the Southern Continent when Brutaka sent us to it, so the trip back was nearly finished as the night came to an end. It was a brisk, hazy morning when we returned to Stelt. We could hardly see anything more detailed than the island's outline, but as the ship soared closer, I suddenly realized there was more than haze in the air. "There's smoke rising in the distance." "Another skirmish between the clans, most likely," Hadliek replied. "We're sailing up from the south," Kyrhus reminded us. "The largest structure in the area is the coliseum." It was a fact that had not registered with me until Kyrhus voiced it. I made a point to avoid attachment with most things, but losing the place I relied on to set down my weapon and get a good night of rest, I could feel my chest tightening at the possibility. We silently waited and watched, drawing nearer to the port. When we arrived at our destination, I leapt from the cabin door and sprinted across the beach. I could hear the rest of my team was close behind and our fears were confirmed. Voporak's coliseum—the closest thing I had to a home—was in smoldering ruins. Drelinok had been awake for nearly a month and after everything I had experienced in that timeframe, seeing my home destroyed was enough to spark my fury. It did not help that Sidorak was standing there proudly, hands on his hips, surveying his work. Flanked by a group of Steltians and a handful of Ohnbiek, I still had the good sense to know putting a bullet in him would be a bad idea. "Sidorak!" I called to him. "That was my home." His brothers and servants turned at the sound of my voice, and Sidorak joined them in curiosity, drawing out his herding blade in the process. "Ah, Adrinor," Sidorak replied, more condescending than I had ever heard him. "Your home was a casualty in erasing the legacy of a criminal in our midst." "Voporak was a fair clan leader, and he sought the best interest of everyone who served him. Even when they might not have deserved it. And let me tell you, Sidorak, I saw multiple occasions where you were less than deserving. There's only one reason that someone like you would betray him, so why don't you tell me who offered you a greater seat of power." "The Makuta of Stelt," he said, flashing me a grin. "Voporak has been found guilty and arrested for having former ties to the League of Six Kingdoms. I always knew his suspicious, private chats with Mantax would catch up with him, but I never imagined it would be so beneficial for me." "Mata Nui perfected opportunism when he created you," I replied, shaking my head. "We live in an unruly land where the cunning shall be victorious. It will always be an alien world to an outsider like you," Sidorak explained. He pointed his herding blade at me and shouted, "Take these outlaws into custody!" I reached for my gunblade when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and it was Trylac, staring hard into my eyes. "I've got this one." I smiled. "The last time you said something like that, I watched you get shot out of the sky." Trylac glanced at Sidorak's company and looked back at me. "They don't have a Makuta in their ranks, so I should be all right. I need you to head back to the ship and make your way to Metru Nui. You have to finish something that I can't resolve." "Yeah…I will," I replied. "Are you sure about this though?" "Absolutely," Trylac reassured me. "Now get going." "You heard him," I said to the crew, following with a sigh. "Next stop is Metru Nui." "Be careful," Elendra told Trylac, taking the lead back to the ship. I was the last to go, taking one more moment to see a friend I had long thought was dead. Sidorak and his Steltians were getting ready to assault him, wary that a single biomech would stay behind to challenge all of them. Also, Trylac's insectoid features could be unsettling enough on their own. "I'd like to see you again before another 900 years pass," I said, finally turning and hurrying away. "I'll see what I can do." <<<>>> Our passage through the Sea Gate to Metru Nui was eerily silent. I sat next to Elendra and smiled at the renewed glow of the twin suns and a Silver Sea no longer occupied by Ga-Metru's naval forces. She drove our aircraft up along the east coast of Le-Metru, turning in towards the city just before the Ta-Metru border. I was nervous, scared really. I pulled the prototype device from my back and held it in my hands, staring down at the object. "That's an amazing little device that Drelinok created," Elendra commented, studying the prototype. "I never thought something so small would have the power to harm him in his current state. You can almost detect his energy signature from here, can't you?" I nodded, turning the prototype over in my hands. "It feels good, actually. It's pure light, comforting and inviting. It's odd to think that I'm going to destroy something like that." "You wouldn't stop if you didn't. You're like Rovaius in that respect. Nothing short of death stood in his way, and he accepted it to save you and I. I don't care much about rescuing the universe nor am I concerned about what malice Drelinok or Teridax will visit upon the future. The only fear I have left is burying you." I slowly left my seat and wrapped my arms around her, embracing Elendra in a hug. I had never held her before and she tried to recoil at first. She did not hug me back, but she did not brush me away either. I smiled and closed my eyes, just listening to her breathe. It was the closest moment we had ever shared, and I believe Elendra chose to allow it because she knew there was a strong possibility that it would be one of our last. I carefully returned to the co-pilot's chair and continued to examine the prototype device. Elendra cleared her throat and a brief chuckle escaped her mouth. I was hardly surprised when her next words were, "So…do you think the prototype will work?" I smirked before replying, foolish to think Elendra would address my actions. "Drelinok invented it, so yes, I do. His Amplifier had been a success in every way short of causing his laboratory to suffer a cave-in. At some point, he must have abandoned the idea to outfit his army with armor and opted for a permanent chemical solution." "I'm sure you had enough experience with chemical solutions after your run-in with the Panacea." Elendra pushed a couple buttons on the control panel and flipped a switch back and forth a few times, trying to hold some of her focus on steering. "There's an audio transmission being sent out on multiple frequencies and I've almost managed to catch it." I peered out the window at a nearby Telescreen and immediately stashed the prototype into the compartment on my back. Drelinok was smiling back at me and Turaga Zilnyx was strung up in a web of golden lights on the Coliseum's announcement box. "And…I've got it!" Elendra said. The transmission crackled into the airship speaker and I watched Drelinok begin his broadcast. I only looked back over my seat for a second, but I could see the rest of my crew was staring at the Telescreen as well. "Good afternoon, citizens of Metru Nui. My name is Drelinok. I walked the great journey of my life to be here in this moment, and I have something to share with you." "This is it," Elendra said quietly. "I'll take the ship down to the Coliseum's entrance." "You disappoint me," Drelinok continued. "As a Meldin, the years passed and the legends that Matoran were Mata Nui's favorite creations made me take pause. I thought you beyond flaw or fault, capable of making your own fate and bettering your world. But if we have learned nothing else these past 400 years, it is clear that if left to your own devices, you will destroy yourselves." Drelinok turned away from the Telescreen and summoned a blade of light in his hand, identical to the one he used to murder Triphaz. "Turaga Zilnyx, I stand before you, granted the power of a Great Spirit. I come to you in a physical form, to exact justice as Mata Nui refuses or is incapable of doing. Your citizens praise the all-seeing Mata Nui for their precious virtues and the hope of tomorrow, but these are ideas we must preserve by ourselves. I cannot pass judgment on Mata Nui in the physical realm, but you are not so fortunate." "What will you do?" Zilnyx questioned, notably panicked. Drelinok faced the Telescreen again. "For the crime of inactivity against a front of war that nearly tore Metru Nui apart and condemned the universe to annihilation, you are guilty for putting thousands of lives in jeopardy." I froze. It was like listening to Makuta Teridax sentence the Matoran in the Archives all over again. There was no touch of emotion, just cold words leading up to a violent display of force. "Each Matoran will be held accountable for their role in the Great Disruption, but as Turaga, you were trusted with leading this city." Drelinok whirled back to Zilnyx and pointed the blade at the feeble Turaga's neck. "The mark of a leader is the ability to command those beneath him and obtain positive results. So which is it? Were you unable to quell the fighting, or was the conflict of too little importance?" "I am sorry for the Great Disruption!" Zilnyx shouted hopelessly. "Not to you, but to the Great Spirit! I let the situation escalate too far and I allowed a civil war to overtake this city. I served as its Turaga for thousands of years and I never imagined such a crisis would befall the metropolis I have come to cherish so very much." Drelinok nodded. "Very touching. You have some remorse for the turn of events here. I respect that. In any event, your ineffectiveness put countless lives at risk. There are names you will never hear, faces you will never see, that were in danger because of you. Bearing in mind the aforementioned crimes, permitting you anything lighter than the maximum punishment would invite the possibility of a future civil war to overwhelm Metru Nui. Having apologized for the Great Disruption, I consider that to be an adequate confession of liability. Turaga Zilnyx, I find you guilty and sentence you to death. If you have any last words, please speak them now." "A public execution," Elendra muttered. "Pridak was quite a fan of them, too. You have to really love the sound of your own voice to do something like that. There's no call of exacting justice or even a wanton urge to take a life. Using the Telescreen system to kill Turaga Zilnyx is just Drelinok feeding his own ego." "It's more than that," I replied softly. "It's a statement. He wants them to see that he's in control now." The blade pierced Zilnyx's heartlight and ran up toward his neck. The Turaga felt all the pain Drelinok wanted him to, and then he exploded into a burst of golden particles. Drelinok let the sword vanish, and not even a Kanohi was left to mark Zilnyx's passing. "And as for this city," Drelinok started, "I will condemn you to the nightmare you made for yourselves. If you are so eager to go to war, then allow me to fulfill your wish." Elendra landed the aircraft at the Coliseum's entrance when an array of bright lights materialized over the city. We stepped outside, weapons ready, and watched as Drelinok's Light Warriors descended and began their offensive on Metru Nui. "Let's get inside!" I shouted, running for the gateway. I rushed through the Coliseum, hastily accessing the arena. I could see Drelinok on the other side of the stadium, up above in the announcement box. As I ran, my focus was mostly on him, trying to ignore the hordes of Light Warriors in the stands that filled my peripheral vision. The Coliseum announcement box descended slowly onto the arena level and Drelinok kept his gaze fixed on me the entire time. "Our armistice has come to an end, Adrinor," he said, his voice booming through the arena speakers. "I have afforded you enough of my patience and time, and will suffer you no longer. Light Warriors, at my command!" The soldiers of light drew their brilliant weapons and took aim at my crew, ready to destroy us on Drelinok's order. We drew our weapons in retaliation, but I knew we were outmatched in every way. Before that order could be relayed, however, a massive explosion rocked the building from the outskirts of the district. Drelinok paused, presumably trying to sense the cause of the event. "Makuta Teridax," Drelinok snarled. He reactivated the Telescreen function and began to laugh mockingly. "Hello, Makuta…and his little friends. Your victory over the Barraki may have required nothing but scores of Toa, Exo-Toa, and Rahkshi, but I am not so easily put down. As I speak, thousands of my Light Warriors are materializing across this city and should open your eyes to the doom you have walked into." "Elendra, I want you to take point and get out of the Coliseum," I started. "After Teridax's stunt in the Archives, I doubt he'll concern himself with bystanders the way the rest of his army should. Try to protect the city and the Matoran as best you can." "Good luck, Adrinor," Celvey whispered, her eyes unable to veil her concern. "I'll see you again," I replied, giving her a nod. "Come on, Celvey," Hadliek told her. "This is his fight…always has been." Elendra led my crew out of the arena as Drelinok floated down to the battlefield. He smirked. "And who will be your savior, Adrinor? Have you come this far just to die alone?" I reached for my gunblade as he approached, clutching the grip behind my back. "I thought I'd die alone a long time ago. See, Drelinok, you were right to have called me a coward, because the fear of you drove me away from our home land. I was afraid to battle you all those years ago and could only flee when you declared war on the Collective." "If you do not fear me now, then you are a fool. Teridax won't be coming to save you as long as my Light Warriors stand between him and this building. You chose to interfere with my plans for long enough and soon I will watch as fear grips you one last time." "That's going to be a problem," I replied, slipping my hand off the gunblade hilt and into the compartment on my back. I grabbed the device and held it tight when I added, "I'm not afraid of you anymore." As quickly as I could, I pulled the device out and shoved it onto my heartlight. I pressed down on the central piece and it locked into place immediately – an exoskeleton of armor exploding out before encasing me inside it. It was pitch black as the armor conformed to the shape of my body, like a bulky extension of myself. At once, a visual display came to life before my eyes, allowing me the range of sight I would have possessed without the armor. In the same instant it flickered on, though, I watched Drelinok rush at me. Time seemed to slow down when he tackled into me. I felt the sensation of being thrown back, watching my weapon rapidly spin along with me, but my newfound reaction time allowed me to grab the gunblade and swing it at Drelinok. He released me and materialized a pure energy duplicate of the sword, our blades sizzling as they grazed one another. I used my momentum to backflip and landed on my feet, grinding the armor's boots along the hallway floor until my back slammed into a wall. I was immensely powerful, like Drelinok, and I could tell engaging him would be a messy conflict. "I see you've discovered the fruits of my labor!" Drelinok called from the edge of the arena. "You are wearing the prototype of what was to become Directorate soldier armor." "I suppose it's ironic that a Collective sympathizer is going to use it to stop you!" I replied, hearing my voice echo from the armor's vocal modulator. "Let's take it for a test drive then, shall we?" Drelinok's weapon morphed into a sniper rifle when I tried to remove myself from the battered wall. The visual display was able to keep up with the heightened reaction time, and I watched it pinpoint five shots headed at me. I engaged the thrusters in my boots and rocketed forward, making every attempt to evade the energy bursts. I tilted left. One down. I swept downward. Two that time. Another on its way would whiz over me, but I had not left myself enough time to maneuver around the last shot. It shredded through the armor's left shoulder and nearly severed my arm. I did not understand how the suit fully worked, and when time abruptly returned to a normal pace for me, Drelinok sidestepped the projectile I had become and watched me violently tumble across the arena. I smashed against the far wall, screaming in agony. Another shot was fired and I felt it tear through my lower torso. Instinctively, I tensed up and choked, falling onto my face. The visual display was rapidly blinking multiple warnings about damage sustained to the pilot, but all I could do was stare at them. My body refused to respond. "I have detected that the pilot has sustained a critical spinal injury," the onboard computer stated through the helmet. "Repairs are underway, switching to neural interface." "Stay down, Adrinor." I could hear Drelinok slowly approaching and I wanted more than anything to get up and face him. At the same time, I could feel the suit reaching out to my thoughts, like a power that rushed up through my heartlight and into my mind. Without warning, I rolled onto my back and began to hover over the arena. Drelinok smirked, an expression I presumed to stem from being impressed with his own technical achievement. "No thrusters," he said, "yet you fly. The telepathy link must be online. Can you do little more than keep yourself aloft, or is the pain of losing a couple parts keeping you from your full potential?" "What does it matter to you?" I angrily asked through shallow breaths. "The Directorate military will wear the perfected version of that armor one day and, while I may harbor some qualms about sacrificing Meldin who believe in my cause, I am more than willing to allow you to perish in the name of science. Go ahead, Adrinor, try to move me." I could feel the armor building itself back together, clutching in on my damaged pieces and beginning to recreate metal and tissue. My wounds were healing, and I used my opportunity to reach out, not for Drelinok, but for my weapon. I had never felt anything like picking up the gunblade with my thoughts, and I was not entirely sure what to expect. It felt heavy and light at the same time, like a sturdy, solid thing, but capable of being shifted in any direction I wanted. I pulled it toward me, aiming for the back of Drelinok's head. The gunblade picked up an unprecedented amount of speed, but Drelinok effortlessly caught it with his own thoughts before mentally flinging it aside. The use of my limbs had been restored and I reactivated the thrusters, willing the gunblade to come to my hand. I took it in my grip and launched myself at Drelinok. As advanced as the prototype armor was, there was no outmatching the former Director. Our blades clanged and he hurled me up. The recovery time was instantaneous and he lunged out to strike me. Our sword crackled white hot, clashing over and over. Centuries of combat training with the gunblade were meaningless in my fight with Drelinok. His power made him unbelievably fast, and while I could see swordsmanship was a new concept for a battle commander who often relied on rifles, the amplification process allowed him to keep up with me. "I can see now, how you have survived these many long years as an outlaw," Drelinok said, surprised that I parried his attack. "C'mon, I'd have to pick up a few tricks if I wanted to stay alive." Drelinok moved to slash and I retreated, dropping the thrusters for my counterstrike in the form of a super charged shot. I expected an ordinary shell, but the prototype armor directed power down through the protosteel in my blade and rocketed the projectile like a bolt of lightning. The round popped a gleaming hole in Drelinok that quickly regenerated itself. He glared in return. "Impressive." Drelinok advanced, closing the gap for another swing. I landed a kick beneath our swords and took off while Drelinok regained his bearing, flying up in a spiral around the stadium seats. As I ascended, the onboard computer told me, "Pilot repairs complete. Neural bridge will remain active until a direct command for shutdown is initiated." Dozens of Light Warriors converged on me, but the gunblade was rippling with power, shredding them into sparkling nothing with the slightest effort on my part. I swung through them like a machete through plant growth, nothing surviving. All the while, Drelinok hurried after me, consuming his own soldiers and hurling them in my direction. Each time he threw a mass of their light, I bounced the shot away, forcing him to drain the stands of his army entirely. I flew into the center of the arena and loaded Kyrhus' last shadow bullet into my weapon. Drelinok was just about to grab me when I spun back and shot him through the left bicep, severing and destroying the rest of his arm in a nasty thicket of darkness. The shadows burned his arm away and Drelinok screamed like I had never heard before. Imbued with so much light, the power of dark wounded him terribly. I tried to land several more attacks, but he could keep my blade at bay with his right arm, watching as his hand was shattered and restored instantly each time. "Not so fun when it's your body being torn apart, is it?" I taunted. "Drink it in and remember what it feels like. This is what the Light Warriors you've set loose will do to the Matoran here. You deserve to know what you're sentencing them to." Drelinok fell to one knee and continued to hold me back. "This isn't over." He unleashed a mental blast that launched the gunblade from my hand and pushed the suit away by about ten bio. I could tell Drelinok intended to send me further, which meant the suit had a built-in endurance against his telekinetic powers. I summoned the gunblade back to my hand and Drelinok put his hand to his ruined shoulder, regenerating the arm that had been devoured by my shadow bullet. "Nothing will stop me, Adrinor," Drelinok said, standing up straight. "You could rally an army to your side and they will never overwhelm me. There is no end to this battle. You know that, don't you?" "There may not be an end for me, but there's no reason the rest of the world should suffer your tyranny. Catch me if you can." I engaged the thrusters and flew straight up with one last idea left to try. I looked out at the city and stared in awe at the sight before me. Thousands of bright lights flickered through the streets beneath the midday suns, battling the armies of Makuta Teridax. If I failed, Drelinok would come for the Brotherhood next, and the world would be his forever. "Take a good look," Drelinok said from the announcement box, amplified through the speakers and every Telescreen on the island. "This is the second war I have fought in the name of preserving the light of justice for the benefit of others. Meldio flourished in your absence, under the guidance of the Directorate, because I chose to act. That was the critical difference between us. The world is only truly lost when the best of us do nothing, and while you have been content to gallivant across the universe so selfishly, you have unearthed the very truth of our greatest threat: a lack of conviction!" I gave the thrusters everything they had, accelerating my journey into the sky. As much as I wanted to ignore Drelinok, he knew how to make a fine point. The ability to act was beyond me in my youth, but Drelinok only saw parts of my life while he slumbered. He could not feel my emotions for me, or experience my pains and pleasures. They were mine alone, side effects of a life that was lived, not spent peering out from behind mental glass in a stasis tube. Because of this, Drelinok was wrong. There was no doubt, no uncertainty. I had to end him in Metru Nui. I had to kill him, and I had to believe I was capable both physically and mentally of doing such a thing. When the intensity of the suns finally became overwhelming, I fell forward and prepared for my return trip to the city. With the thrusters and my mind focused on picking up as much speed as possible, I could hardly concentrate on Drelinok. I watched him draw near, weapon in hand and reshaped into the gunblade, but my objective was to shatter him. Within my final few dozen bio of impacting Drelinok, time began to slow down once more. I pulled back my gunblade and rerouted all available power into my right arm. The surge exploded through the protosteel in the blade and I had reached terminal velocity. Drelinok moved to counter the attack, but he was helpless against me. The sheer force with which I struck him was enough that I passed through Drelinok somehow, extinguishing nearly all of my power in the process. I was not sure where the prototype drew its energy from, but I assumed it would take centuries to build up what I had released in a fraction of a second. I landed on one knee and caught myself with my free hand. I turned my head up just as Drelinok began to plummet. He fell helplessly and managed to repeat what I had done, only without any noticeable effect on me. Drelinok passed through my body like a wraith and he came to rest several bio away, his form solidifying. He looked up at me, his eyes reverting to the dull blue I once knew, while the Light Warriors above the stadium faded into the energy Drelinok derived them from. "What did you do to me?" Drelinok questioned, visibly shaken. He struggled to his feet and pointed his gunblade at me – the final, enduring piece of his power and the instrument he somehow willed to remain intact. It must have taken an intense focus, a desire to fight me that was so extreme, Drelinok fought the forces of the universe to hold on to it. Tiny, golden particles began to float away from his body and I could tell something was wrong. When I passed through Drelinok, it had been a fatal blow, and he would not survive much longer. "There are two courses for the future," Drelinok said, holding his weapon steady. "In one, I leave this arena with the prototype suit and build a better tomorrow for all. The Makuta have imposed martial law on the world, Adrinor, and you will not stand against them. Give me the prototype and I will grant Meldio the power to fight." I disconnected the prototype core from my chest and the armor vanished. "Biomechs will survive the Brotherhood, Drelinok, regardless of their plans. The Makuta, like yourself, chose a fate at odds with the Great Spirit. Even if they are victorious, they too shall die one day." I dropped the prototype core onto the ground, crushing its components beneath my heel. I took notice of Drelinok's expression (as though I had just done something insane) before turning to leave. In the top of the arena stands, I caught sight of a tall, monstrous figure – the very same entity I saw on the night the Barraki were defeated. He was unchanged in his armor of cobalt, crimson, and gold, baring sharp teeth and piercing orange eyes. He was looking directly at me when he simply nodded, folding his arms. Drelinok was powerless again and there was a chance this figure had arrived to save him from the wrath of Makuta Teridax, but I could not be sure. It hardly mattered, either way. "No matter the cost," Drelinok said, his voice echoing through the arena, "whatever the effort; I will lead us to a brighter future." I continued to depart when I replied, "Goodbye, Drelinok." I could practically feel Drelinok's fury when he said, "Face your Director when addressing him…you cowardly outlaw!" The sound of a charging gunblade rose in an instant and I swung back around, only just deflecting the shot with the broad side of my weapon. I rushed headlong at Drelinok, glaring as he braced himself for a sword duel. I swung once and he parried it, but Drelinok lacked the experience of a practiced swordsman, leaving himself open for my next attack after his exaggerated swing. I had no more than a second of opportunity and, in that instant, I felt pain for what I was about to do. Drelinok was prepared to let Mata Nui die and end so many lives in the name of peace. At one time, he terrified me to the point that I could no longer stay on Meldio – I was frightened by his power and influence. But we stood on an empty field of battle, two Meldin armed with the same weapon. I remembered my first day of life, squinting my eyes against the sun and crawling in search of aid, in search of someone to help me find my way. A hand reached down and took me by the arm, eclipsing the sun with a body of biomechanical parts, studying me with dull blue eyes. His own life had only begun minutes before, but without that knowledge, I trusted him to rescue me from the blinding light above. "My name is Drelinok," he said calmly. "Hello, Drelinok," I replied. Somehow, I spoke his language perfectly. "My name is…Adrinor." "Adrinor," he repeated, smiling. "Are you okay?" "I think so. Where am I?" Drelinok helped me to my feet and put a hand to my shoulder. "This is the universe of the Great Spirit, Mata Nui. I think we're going to like it here." In a single thrust, my gunblade pierced Drelinok's armor and I ran him through with it. Drelinok's eyes grew wide as he entered a state of shock and instinctively pulled away from my weapon, taking a few clunky steps backward. "You have relieved me," Drelinok said evenly, "of my burden." He slowly, forcibly pulled the weapon from his chest and presented the grip-end to me. Bewildered by how he remained standing, I reluctantly accepted the gunblade and stared at him with utter disconcertion. "We just saved the universe," I said miserably. "For your sake, Adrinor," Drelinok breathed, "I hope…you're right." Drelinok suddenly collapsed, causing him and his gunblade to shatter on impact into brilliant, golden particles with the floor. I looked over my shoulder where the entity had been watching in the stands, but he had disappeared. I was alone in the Coliseum, having destroyed my first friend. "Despite the circumstances, it was almost nice to see you again," I muttered, staring at the particles. "You were my hero once, and it was your rare ambition that inspired me to stop you." I glanced up at the twin suns before taking another depressed look at Drelinok's glimmering, mysterious remains. "Good night, old friend." At once, the golden particles fused together and converged on me, creating an explosion of light. I had no opportunity to defend myself, and when my sight was no longer overwhelmed by an infinite white, I was on Meldio. That was strange enough alone, but not as peculiar as my company. It was Trylac, and we were standing in the chamber where Drelinok's Amplifier was built. The room was silent and no longer had a gaping hole in the top, with a series of dim lightstones placed into the ceiling. "Hello, Adrinor," he said, perched on a rather large shelf on the other side of the room. I could see something silver and shiny in his hand, but could not identify what it was. I took a long exhale and dropped my gunblade to the floor, the tragic weight of my actions settling in. Turaga Jovan's hope had come to pass – there was a heavy sadness in Drelinok's death that lowered my head in bitter frustration. "I did it, Trylac. I got him." "Nicely done," Trylac replied calmly. "We would not send you up against such a powerful enemy without a contingency plan. If you're here, one of my fellow agents on Metru Nui sensed you were in danger. With that in mind, I'm surprised to learn Drelinok is destroyed." "The remainder of his essence tried to consume me, and…" I paused. "Trylac, why did you bring me here?" The Dectraz smiled at me. "Our plan was riding on a lot of factors working out perfectly. I had not anticipated having to fight my way out of Sidorak's rebellion, but as you can see, my superiors have few difficulties in the ways of teleportation if we absolutely require it. I had to be here before you." "Okay, great, but why?" "For this." I registered too late that the object in Trylac's hand was a weapon, and it really worked in his favor that my gunblade was already on the floor. A beam of emerald light whizzed across the room and landed center mass. The shot struck me like a solid punch and knocked the wind out of me. I collapsed as an entanglement of bright green energies caged me to the ground. Trylac took flight and came to rest at my side, staring hard into my eyes. "Thank you for your service to our universe, Adrinor. It's nothing personal." Review
  10. I sold off the bulk of my Bionicle collection a few years back, but I guess I missed a few items. Literally, a few items. I want to sell these three masks off, separately or altogether, it doesn't matter. I glanced at some high-traffic buy/sell sites to get an idea of what the competitive market is pricing these items at, but I wanted to come to BZPower first, since I've been here so long. Either by PM or in this thread, make me an offer and I'll see what we can arrange. Image linked HERE to the items. Left to right: Silver Miru, 2014 Transparent Hau, Gold Vahi. -Ced EDIT: Gold Vahi is available again!
  11. So, it has been roughly a year since this epic has seen any reviews, and Episode 19 was the last to be written. Given that much inactivity, I have no idea if anyone is even reading Cynosure at this point, I just feel very compelled to finish it after all this time. 20, 21, and 22 were all finished last year, and will be posted throughout the coming week. I think I have apologized a few times now for how long this has taken, but there will be at least one last post after the epilogue is up to wrap up my thoughts on this story and everything. Anyway, I can get into the details about that next week. Thanks again for reading! -Ced
  12. Cederak

    Cynosure

    Summer has come and passed, the innocent can never last. –Green Day Episode 19: Destral after Dark Our aircraft was hovering just off the ground when Brutaka used his mask power to tear open a portal in dimensional space. The swirling darkness within was a maelstrom of deep blues and rippling white, bleeding into blackness. I was in the copilot seat when Axonn gave us the signal to launch from outside. Elendra pulled back on the accelerator and we shot forward, hitting the portal like a wave crashing against the beach. The impact shook us a bit, but the airship was stable. I expected we would travel through a long tube between dimensions, but the trip was instantaneous. As soon as we crossed through, Mt. Valmai was far behind us, and Destral waited below. The windshield was quickly drenched in rain and we could hear thunder in the distance. Night had fallen on the Brotherhood's base, although the fortress was equipped with enough external lighting that Elendra had no problem steering us down toward Destral. "Where do you think we are?" I wondered. "No idea," Elendra replied, dropping the acceleration. "I'm not even sure how Brutaka located this place. If the Makuta do not reveal the location to us, it may be a while before I can get us back to familiar territory. As far as I can tell through this storm, Destral is the only landmass in sight." Elendra hit the communications panel and opened a channel. "To all Brotherhood of Makuta agents. This is the pilot of the airship above your island. My name is Elendra. We wish to land on Destral and speak with you. My ship is not outfitted with weaponry and we have a desperate message to relay to your leader. Please allow us to land." She tilted the airship and began to circle the perimeter of the fortress, keeping our altitude steady. Without any warning, a Makuta teleported onto our ship and landed in the cabin. I glanced back at him, immediately noting he was shorter than most Makuta. I knew they could shapeshift, but this one was apparently more comfortable in a smaller body. He was roughly my own height, armored in violet and silver. I had never seen his mask before. Purely out of surprise, I nearly drew my gunblade before he put a hand out to me. "I'll incinerate you before you pull that weapon on me, Meldin," he growled, marching toward the cockpit. I slowly lowered my hands and showed them to the Makuta. He glared at me, looking over at Elendra and pointing a finger out the window. "Take your ship down in that direction. You will land the aircraft there." "All right," she replied flatly, taking us down and bringing the airship to a slow halt on the landing pad. The Makuta hurried back to the main door in the cabin and we followed him. He folded his arms together and studied us carefully. "Welcome to the island of Destral. My name is Makuta Ihdal. You will leave your weapons aboard this ship if you wish to disembark. I understand you have reason to speak with our leader?" "Yes," I said. "He has met us before, and we need his help, now more than ever. My life, and the lives of my crew, may be in great danger soon." "I see," Ihdal replied. "And why should a Makuta come to your aid?" "Because allies are no good to you dead," I said, revealing the Tablet of Transit. Ihdal snatched the item from me and eyed it closely. "You should have told me about this at once. Leave your weapons, or keep them. Destral appreciates those who serve our interests." The Makuta engaged the door and we all walked outside into the rainstorm, following Ihdal across the landing platform. Having been given an option, we decided to bring our weapons along. The wind howled over the rain and lightning flashed above, the towers and fortified defenses of the island standing undeterred in the night. From there, he led us inside, to a long hallway. Pointed sconces dotted the walls, containing roaring flames within. We were all admiring the architecture as we went along, but Trylac regarded the rooms differently. He did not seem so interested in how things looked, so much as how the fortress was laid out. He kept looking back and scanning different halls we had missed, like he was building a mental map of the place. I began to wonder if his agency had sent him along for that very reason, entirely untrusting of the Brotherhood after Teridax came into power. They had every right to be. There was little to see on the ground floor chambers, but I could hear a lot of noise coming from the rooms below us. The creation of Rahi and any other experiments the Makuta were working on must have been done on the sublevels. It was hard to say how deep the island was, and by the time I began to think about it, we were standing in front of the doors that led to the master chamber of the island. The throne previously occupied by Miserix, now a spoil in Teridax's victory, waited for us on the other side. Ihdal cracked the doors open and turned back to us for a second. "I'll notify him of your arrival. Do not enter until permitted." A pair of silver Rahkshi opened the doors the rest of the way and Ihdal approached the throne, whispering to Teridax. The Makuta could see us from his lofty chair, well-aware of who his guests were. "Come in, all of you," Teridax breathed. We entered the chamber, lined with translucent green pillars on the sides. Rahkshi armor sat inside each one, curled inward and inactive. I could see Teridax was even taller than I remembered, eyes of sinister red staring at me behind the Mask of Shadows. It felt like he was gazing into my very spirit, listening to every dark thought I ever had. His thick armor, nothing but light-consuming black and gunmetal gray, meshed well with his garnet cape. This was a conqueror, a warlord, and a murderer. And most terrifying of all, I needed his help. "Well now, if it isn't the disrespectful band of gunfighters." Teridax sounded even more callous and cold than I remembered. "Have you come back to taunt us with further lies that a single Meldin could overwhelm my brothers?" "I have come back in fear for my life from him," I replied. "By the end of our conversation, I hope I can persuade you to understand why." "You seem to make the rounds quite frequently, don't you?" Teridax mused. "Was it Drelinok who smashed a massive airship into the port in southern Zakaz? We are still investigating the details of the incident, actively searching the wreckage for anything worth salvaging, and I have this odd feeling in the back of my mind that you know what happened." "Your instincts are as sharp as ever, Makuta. The airship belonged to an organization from Trevahka called the Panacea. They had been working publicly as the island's law enforcement agency, the Magistrates, and working on a plan to incite monstrous wars across the universe in secret. Their research was working toward granting untold powers to any exposed to the substances they had concocted. I have no idea how far they had gotten, but we were onboard the airship when this plan was revealed. I tried to steer the ship into the sea, but it overshot its course." "The Panacea…interesting. Several Trevahkans were taken into custody on Zakaz following the crash, and it should not surprise you that we are trying to gain a better understanding of the experiments they were performing. Makuta Spiriah has been assigned to take charge of the island, certain that he will put this Panacea information to good use. While the threat against the life of a Brotherhood member is far too risky, I understand that Spiriah will be starting preliminary trials on a volunteer basis soon. Perhaps the Skakdi will be served well by the augmentation process – or serve Spiriah well, at the very least." My eyes widened in horror at the prospect. Zanteox said he wanted to give the Matoran the power to end their war, and even with the Skakdi at peace, I could not begin to imagine what would happen if their kind were exposed to the virus. Spiriah was playing with fire just to try and make something burst into flames. It would not end well for any involved. "They told me their lives are in danger," Ihdal told Teridax. "The Meldin said he needs your help." "Is that right?" Teridax asked me. "We traveled a long way to find you, Makuta. I would not have spent the time if I did not think this was of the utmost importance. I…we, need your help." "What desperation has brought you back to my stronghold? As a noble steward of our universe, I have dispatched my brothers across the world to protect islands from ever harming themselves as Metru Nui did. And yet you demand more of me." If Krika had not already told me the truth, Teridax would have been incredibly convincing in his act. I knew I had to play along and feed into his illusion if we were to gain his assistance. "I'm not here to make demands," I corrected the Makuta. "I came here to remind you that I remain allegiant to your cause." I glanced at Makuta Ihdal and he presented the Tablet of Transit to Teridax. The Makuta accepted it, smirking. "This trinket was given to you by, Miserix, was it not?" "It was. We encountered another Makuta in our travels who explained the treason that prompted this exchange in leadership. Even now, however, in Miserix's absence, I wish only victory for your kind. I have come here to request your aid in destroying Drelinok. He is going to Metru Nui soon and intends to murder Turaga Zilnyx before declaring the island as his own." "It is not Zilnyx's island to give, even in death," Teridax replied. "Metru Nui was awarded to me for my efforts in returning the Matoran to peace." "And if he's left unchecked, it won't be the only place Drelinok conquers," I said, trying to sound as scared as I could. "If nothing is done in Metru Nui, he will come for all of us soon. If we stand idly by, he will breach this fortress and bring you down, just as you did to the Barraki so very long ago." Teridax rose to his feet at once. "You dare to compare me"- Everyone drew their weapons, except for Trylac who stood in our way, kneeling before Teridax. "He misspoke, great Makuta," Trylac said. "Do not punish this foolishness." "Weapons down, now!" Ihdal ordered. We lowered them and stared up at Teridax, waiting for him to react. He hurled the Tablet of Transit back at me and I caught it with my free hand. "You have incited my fury with your talk," Teridax said. "Not only are you all disrespectful little ingrates, but the thought of Drelinok openly taking what is rightfully mine, that is unacceptable. Still, I could allow Drelinok to carve a path of war through the universe until he reached my front door, and in that moment, I could destroy him. I could make this one Meldin regret his existence on my time, and my terms, with such ease. Tell me, Adrinor, why you deserve my Rahkshi, my Exo-Toa, my Toa, and my own hands to cut Drelinok down in Metru Nui." "Because a lot of innocent biomechs will die if we don't. There may not be a Metru Nui left when he's done, and the Great Spirit nearly lost his life the last time there were no Matoran to labor and prosper in that city. The Tablet of Transit proves our loyalty to you, but destroying Drelinok proves your loyalty to Mata Nui, the greatest principle your organization was founded on." A cloaked figure exploded into the center of the chamber, instantly flanked by several Light Warriors. His head was down when he hissed, "There is no place for Mata Nui in the future." Teridax moved to strike, but the cloaked entity bent his arm backward and reached his hand out to the Makuta. Across the empty expanse between them, an invisible power rushed to hold Teridax still, taking form beneath his enemy's armor. Teridax seized up, his limbs contorted outward as a golden glow began to emit from his muscle tissues. Ihdal stood in horror as he watched his leader fall prey to this mysterious force, cautiously approaching Teridax. The figure put his arm down and glanced at Ihdal, wagging a finger at him. "I would stay still if I were you," he advised. "I know Teridax has dispatched your brothers across the universe by now, and even with your factory beneath us, you will meet your match in battle. I just want to talk with your guests." "The Brotherhood will not stand for this!" Ihdal shouted. "Oh, I know," he chuckled. "I know exactly what you'll stand for, and I would prefer that you not stand at all." A dozen Light Warriors materialized around Ihdal and immediately shed their bipedal forms, transforming into shapeless luminance that began to consume the Makuta. Ihdal struggled against them, unleashing an array of powers within a few seconds. Laser vision, chain lightning, fragmentation, plasma, anything that could destroy before the Light Warriors did the same to him. The last visible ability I watched him unleash was a contained cyclone, instantly cut short as the lights imploded and claimed his life. Nothing remained after that. "I thought you were going to be busy in Metru Nui, Drelinok," I said. "I will be, but a few other things needed tending to first. We're talking about bringing an end to the universe, after all. Our brethren, the Meldin, will take priority in the new world after the Great Spirit has gone. I'd like to tell them that in person. The Matoran had their chance and squandered it by nearly killing us all with their war. When I have selected the Meldin worthy of command in the future Directorate, the other species who concede to my authority will be welcome to join us." "But there's no place in it for Mata Nui or myself, huh?" "Why should there be?" he asked in shock. "Look behind me, at the Makuta ensnared by my power. He was born to serve Mata Nui, and I could crush him in an instant if I wanted. The Matoran think their Great Spirit to harbor such benevolence, but he regards his servants the same as his disparagers. We are met with silence. And you would come to this Makuta with the intention of destroying me?" "Drelinok, listen to yourself!" I shouted. "I'm here because you want to destroy the world!" "I did this for you," he continued, his voice pained and shaky. "I did this for every Meldin who ever lived. I am the closest thing to salvation you have ever known, and you would put your fate in the hands of this monster?" He pointed at Teridax and sighed. "The kingdom of paradise will be beautiful beyond anything on Meldio, but as you correctly asserted, many biomechs will be barred at the gates." He removed the hood of his cloak, but it was not Drelinok underneath. That is not to say the face staring back at me was entirely unfamiliar either. It was the Dark Hunter who was dispatched to kill me a few weeks earlier. A Jaecolt, codenamed Reaper. "Vylaos should have killed you," Celvey spoke up, aiming her weapon at Reaper's head. "Him, me, there's not much difference at this point," Drelinok replied, laughing through his puppet at Celvey. "When I found this creature, he had been blinded. And now look at him, brimming with my power. There's little of the Jaecolt left within, but he pledged himself to me in exchange for the restoration of his sight. I gave Adrinor the same offer aboard the Panacea flagship. He became part of my power for a few brief minutes, presenting enough of himself to me that I could shape and amplify what he is. True, I hadn't expected him to nearly take his own life afterwards, but by my grace, he lives today." "So you came all this way just to brag?" Hadliek asked him. "I teleported into the room. You make it sound like I swam here," Drelinok replied. "No, I came here to pay you for your services." Drelinok removed the cloak from Reaper, revealing the emaciated form beneath. The Jaecolt was nothing but scorched metal, sickly colored muscle tissue, and jagged edges. The lengthy claws on each hand were pretty concerning too. His eyes began to glow less, but the weird light from within his unmoving mouth remained steady. Reaper got down on his knees, tossing me a tiny bag from his clawed hand. He had not thrown far enough and the bag spilled its contents out onto the floor. Multiple shiny, golden coins emptied themselves from the bag and slid to my feet. "You know what I do for a living," I said. "Why pay me for something you're capable of?" "Because I want to prove a very important point to you," Drelinok growled. "I wish to pay you for the execution of this Jaecolt." "What?" "You heard me," he chuckled. "He would have taken your life from you, and he is a simple pawn for the Dark Hunters. I want to pay you to kill him." "What point will that prove?" Reaper reached a clawed finger out and pointed it at me. "I want to remind you what you've become. I fought the Collective to establish a proper, lasting government for Meldio. You fight because there's a paycheck attached to it. No matter what you believe or how you justify it, this is always the end result. Death. You're just like this Jaecolt, Adrinor. You're a killer, motivated by profit. Now, may I hire you, or are you about to turn down some easy money?" "Reaper trusted in you and you're prepared to sacrifice his life for this?" I questioned. "I thought you held your followers in a higher regard." "Only my loyal Meldin," he replied. "The rest are expendable. Besides, do you think Reaper is the only creature who willingly surrendered himself to my control? The chance to attain true power is a gift sought by many, and such an attractive offer seldom appears to anyone. Once I take command, they realize too late that they have literally given their souls for this. So easily enticed, and so easily shattered. I would advise that you refrain from pitying the tragedy of these selfish entities, but what empathy exists for one so cavalier as yourself?" I glared into Reaper's eyes, hoping Drelinok was looking right through them at me. "I've heard enough," I said, pulling my gunblade from my back. I looked at Kyrhus and reached a hand out to him. "You have any dark energy shells on you?" "Yeah, a couple," Kyrhus replied, handing them over. "Be careful with those." I gave him one back and started walking toward Reaper. "If you plan to release this Jaecolt from my sway by overloading him with shadow, you'd better make that one shot count. I'm paying you for an execution, after all." "It'll count," I said, giving him a smirk. "Let's get on with it." I kicked Reaper in the chest and dropped him onto all fours, pressing my foot into his back. I loaded the dark energy shell into my gunblade and let it charge for a second. Then I pointed the barrel at the back of Reaper's head and took a long breath. "Now we'll always know," Drelinok whispered. "I am better than you." "If you say so." I flipped the gunblade around and fired the dark energy shell behind me, blasting Teridax to shatter the light barrier that held his form. The kick from the shot swung the weapon back down in an instant, and I fired a standard round through Reaper's arm. He buckled and rolled onto his back, lifting his head just as Teridax's laser vision activated and vaporized the Jaecolt above the neck. Teridax fired a second time and eradicated the remains, releasing a furious roar. "You will be nothing when I am finished!" Teridax screamed into the empty air. "Your life will expire! And all traces of your legacy will be stricken from history! You have made your last enemy, Drelinok!" I stared at my crew, my back to the Makuta. He could not see I was giving them a wide-eyed stare that was questioning our potential ally's sanity at the moment. I had never seen him lose control before, but I had also never seen him imprisoned either. "That was a pretty neat trick, Adrinor," Kyrhus said. "He never could handle the kick from firing a specialty shell at an angle," Elendra told him. "He made his weakness a strength." Hadliek put an arm around Celvey and added, "And we would have been glad to intervene, but…after he disintegrated a Makuta, I was comfortable just letting him get his way for a moment." Celvey gently lifted Hadliek's arm up and smiled. "For once, I have to agree with him. Nicely done, Adrinor." I smiled, looking up at the Makuta. "So you're actually going to call back the Makuta and lead an assault to Metru Nui?" Teridax was still incredibly agitated when he replied, "My war fleet is outfitted with enough troops and firepower to remove this annoyance without the presence of my brothers. I'll do it myself." Review
  13. Cederak

    Cynosure

    Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? –Pink Floyd Episode 18: Forerunner Elendra brought us down just north of Mt. Valmai, on the fringe of a forest and a Matoran village. Drelinok opted not to tail us and the Brotherhood was far away from the inconspicuous mountain. With no sign of civilization outside of a small cluster of Matoran, I felt safe dashing off the ship and taking in the scenery. There was nothing to harm us in this desolation. The edge of the forest gave way to a Matoran village, little workers of many colors walking about on their daily tasks. I could hear a voice coming from the center of the village, like an aged tone speaking to an audience. It had to be a Turaga. I motioned everyone to follow me. "I think we're safe here, so we can keep our weapons down for now. Let's see what's going on in the village square." The village was entirely huts, domed with brush and leaves. They would protect the Matoran from the elements, while remaining light enough that they would not become stuffy in the warm climate. We snuck between a couple built closely together—dwellings, based on a brief glance in the open windows—stumbling upon a clearing where most of the village was sitting in a circle. Atop a flat, elevated stone, was a Turaga with his back turned to us. "The serpent was as long as a dozen Toa, coiled and furious," the Turaga told the Matoran. "It reared its head back and hissed at my team, spraying us in bits of harmless slime. Our guide took several crossbow shots at the monster, but they all bounced off its powerful hide. Its scales were dark as the night, slinking and rushing across the floor as the serpent snapped its jaws shut around our guide in an instant." "But you had to save the town from it!" a Matoran of stone spoke up. "What did you do, Turaga?" "We were scared of the creature's power, but my team believed in one another. Most importantly, we believed in ourselves. A Toa of earth in my team reminded us about what happened the day before, when we attempted to merge our elements in a massive blast. They became something else entirely and we shut them down in fear of what we had made. He recommended we try it again and hold the beam steady this time. So we came together, focused our powers, and fired on the serpent." "You killed it?" a Matoran of water asked?" The Turaga pointed his staff at her. "A Toa cannot kill, Anzliat. We locked it in time, is what we did. Our powers combined into a glossy, shimmering case of impenetrable material. We could see the serpent within, unmoving, and harmless. My team returned to the town with it in tow and promised the Matoran their safety before we hauled the serpent onto our watercraft. From there, we sailed north to Metru Nui and turned it over to the Archivists for their own study. We had to be careful about releasing it from our elemental prison, but the Onu-Matoran sedated it at once. To my knowledge, the serpent is still in there, locked behind the security of the Archives." Hadliek nudged my shoulder and muttered, "Think we should tell him it's not locked behind any security anymore?" I said nothing, waiting for the Turaga to finish his story. "In the end, we learned something very important. Pay attention to the steps you take, because you may need the answers they possess on the road you have not yet walked. Of course, defeating the serpent was an exercise in trusting our potential, and the abilities of those we traveled with. Remember the journey, my friends, but also who is taking the journey." "That was deep," Celvey whispered. "Good lesson." "I'm fairly convinced all the strength Toa lose as Turaga is instantly transformed into world-weary knowledge," Kyrhus replied. "I haven't come up with an explanation that doesn't rely on magic yet." The Matoran stood up and began to disperse, and the Turaga slowly turned around to face us. He recognized me immediately. "Hello, Adrinor," the Turaga welcomed me warmly. "You're looking well." There was silence for a moment. I could tell my mouth was hanging slightly open, but I was beyond words. The village's Turaga was Jovan, appearing much shorter and older than when we met a few weeks prior. He gave us a tired smile from behind his Noble Kadin and clutched tight to his magnetic staff, finally chuckling. "What's on your mind? I am sure you did not come all this way just to stand and stare at an old spirit." "We didn't really expect to know this old spirit either," Hadliek said. "Wait!" Celvey spoke up, exuberantly. "If you're a Turaga, then…you found your destiny, didn't you?" Jovan nodded to her. "Far below this place, yes. After our return, we wished the best to one another and went our separate ways. Axonn tells me that they are Turaga now as well, save for Argeph. Nevertheless, it's done now. I have served proudly." "You saved the world," I breathed. "We felt your rescue of the Great Spirit, and the Brotherhood put an end to the war in Metru Nui. I fail to understand how a team of Toa that almost died in a Matoran warzone were able to retrieve a legendary Kanohi. I must know how you completed your mission." Jovan slowly winced. "The trials of the Ignika were treacherous, demanding that we exert every part of ourselves to prove our worth. Even now, I cannot be certain what horrors we faced were real or intricate illusions. Whatever stories you hear, no matter the bounty offered, I have something to tell you for your own safety. Do not go after that mask." Hadliek raised a finger. "I don't want this to come off like I'm one-upping you, but we've seen some crazy things in the past few weeks." I gave him a swift elbow to the side. "I was just saying!" Hadliek exclaimed. "He sure knows how to paint an ominous picture." Jovan rolled his eyes at Hadliek before glancing at me. "So the crisis has ended?" "Yeah, the situation was dealt with," I said. The memories of battling our way out of the Archives were still pretty fresh, but I felt that Jovan did not need to know how many Matoran had to die to return peace to Metru Nui. "When the dust cleared, Makuta Teridax returned home to Destral as a war hero." "I'm not sure if I believe there can be any heroes in war," Jovan replied quietly, shifting his staff to his other hand. "Haltryox was a hero…and he gave his life to achieve that much." I studied Jovan's face and wondered if I looked the same way when Rovaius died. I knew his pain, and I inhaled sharply to keep from breaking down. I slowly knelt down on one knee, eye to eye with the Turaga of magnetism. "I'm sorry, Jovan. If there's anything we can do, anyone we can hunt down for you, we'll do it." "You don't understand," Jovan replied, shaking his head and staring straight at me. "In order for the Ignika to revitalize the Great Spirit, it required a battery. Haltryox volunteered to act as the bearer and the Ignika spent every atom of his being in the process. I could tell he was afraid – frightened of the mask's power, but also of a future without Mata Nui. When he stepped forward and sacrificed himself for everyone and everything, he glowed. His intensity was such that we could not look directly at him, only listening to the weird hum of the Ignika as it restored balance to the universe. My last sight of Haltryox was a gleaming statue of bravery. When the light finally faded, the mask hovered alone. And that was it. Depressed and done, we traced our route back through the world that feeds the world and escorted the Ignika back to its pedestal. The power of life and death is a strange and mysterious thing that I never wish to tamper with again." "And you'll never have to," I replied, offering a handshake. "It seems unfair that you should do such a great thing and so few know your name. Islands will continue on without the knowledge of their saviors, and they owe you their lives. As do we." Jovan accepted my handshake and smiled. "I was not chosen for this life to chase recognition and fame. It was my duty all along, plain and simple. I have not heard about Drelinok in a while. Does he live?" "He does. I know how you feel about death, but I have to terminate Drelinok, Jovan. This has to end once and for all." "Agreed," Jovan said, sighing. I raised my eyebrows in surprise and let him continue. "I wish you the best of luck, Adrinor. With the Great Spirit safe and the war in Metru Nui concluded, I would say that Drelinok is now the greatest threat to us all. Much like my journey for the Mask of Life, the universe hangs in the balance of your success. Here at the end, I can see why it is sometimes necessary to take a life. I hope that you have enough empathy to feel some sense of pain when you do it. It's not a bad thing to feel, Adrinor. Remember that. Only monsters are devoid of emotion when they destroy." I had not felt emotion in a kill for centuries, and Jovan's words struck a sour chord in my chest. Krika defined the dark creatures his kind had become as monsters – embracing the shadows to pursue a grave agenda. Their martial law had rewritten the world, as had Miserix's death. With Teridax assuming direct control of the Brotherhood and winning Metru Nui for himself by killing so many, Drelinok's supposed heroism came back into question. He challenged me with an army just so he could murder Triphaz on Suizek, but there was one last desperate play to be made. If Drelinok saw himself as the cynosure of the universe, the unstoppable guiding light, I would need a horde of darkness to fight his legions. I dismissed the Brotherhood as an ally in fighting Drelinok when the Makuta fell to shadow, but in adopting that element, the light became their enemy. In our few meetings, Makuta Teridax had shown himself capable of great egotism and superiority. If I proposed that we could form a temporary alliance to confront the one entity who threatened his power, then I had a chance. Letting the Brotherhood roam unchecked would be the price to pay, but Drelinok was the higher priority. "I will do what I must," I said to the Turaga. "I know," Jovan told me, patting my shoulder. "Near the foot of Mt. Valmai, Axonn and Trylac wish to speak with you." I stood up and smiled at the Turaga. "I suppose I'm off to face my destiny, then. You had a great team, Jovan, and you were an excellent leader. If the odds run against me when I finally reach Drelinok, well…this may be farewell." Jovan chuckled and tapped my heartlight a couple times with his staff. "Farewell is for dying, my friend. I will see you around." We departed the village and started on the path to the volcano, trekking across the warm, rocky terrain. Near the base of the landmass, Trylac was sitting on a high tree branch, aiming randomly with his compound bow. He spotted us from a distance and fluttered down on his insectoid wings, giving me a smile. "Why do the Matoran call this place Valmai?" I asked him. "What do they have to fear from the mask that saved them?" "A standard greeting is something to the effect of 'hello,' Adrinor," Trylac replied, snickering at me. I held my curious stare and Trylac finally gave in. "My agency told them about this place and we said it was a scary volcano full of monsters beneath the surface and things that would devour them if they ever tried to step inside. But the creatures cannot survive long without intense heat, so they will never leave the volcano. Convinced, the Matoran settled here and called it Mt. Valmai. Now we've got most civilized islands calling it that. A little hearsay can go quite the distance sometimes." "There's nothing in there, is there?" I questioned, confident of the answer. "Of course not," Trylac said, laughing. "But there is a labyrinth to the Mask of Life beneath us, and my agency would rather not have random Matoran stumbling into it." "I think your agency has bigger problems right now," I said, turning the conversation serious. "Miserix is dead." Trylac sighed in frustration. "I'm aware. There's been a convocation among the Brotherhood and Teridax has overthrown their leader. We also have intel about how many lives he took to put an end to the Metru Nui fiasco. Meanwhile, Drelinok is still running around and preaching himself to be this conquering hero who will save us all. Yes, Adrinor, we have much bigger problems right now." "It's scary how well-informed you are," Hadliek said. "Now maybe you can tell us something we don't know." Trylac grinned, extending a hand toward me. "Do you still have that circular device?" I handed it over and Trylac accepted it, delicately with both hands, breathing out relief. "Thank the Great Spirit, it's still intact." "Trylac?" I wondered cautiously. "What have I been carrying around this whole time?" "All of the Amplifier blueprints in Metru Nui were retrieved by an agent and delivered to our top scientists and engineers for study. They concluded that there was enough data to rebuild the Amplifier, but not enough to recreate this circular device. Did you happen to notice that one of the blueprints connected it to the rest of a biomech body?" "Yeah, it's magnetic and snaps on to my heartlight." "And only your heartlight. Well, the heartlights of Meldin to be precise. This thing is a prototype design for an exoskeletal armor suit. Very advanced, very powerful, and very dangerous. We suspect Drelinok had plans to outfit his army with them after he used the Amplifier on himself. There was too much damage to the prototype blueprint to decipher its full design and craft a new one, but that device collects energy and stores it up over its lifetime, presumably to an endless degree. It's probably been active since the day Drelinok finished it, drawing in ambient energy for thousands of years now." I glanced around at my crew and everyone looked stunned. "So if I activate that thing, could I use it to take on Drelinok in fair combat?" "It's the best chance you have," Trylac replied. He spun the outer circle and it clicked four times before locking back into place. "If this thing is attached to a Meldin heartlight, and you spin the dial all the way around like that, the suit should materialize at once." "Out of thin air?" Elendra asked. "How do you even make something like that?" Trylac shrugged. "Part of the blueprints were damaged beyond examination. We don't know what Drelinok and Triphaz were tinkering with to even make this possible. It's as mysterious as a Toa conjuring their element from nothing. We know it can be done, we've seen it, but no one is sure how they do it. Even Toa say it's just a connection they feel." I took the prototype from Trylac and studied it in my own hands. It looked so fragile, so unassuming to be brimming with such power. "Drelinok doesn't know that I have it." "And until you're within striking range of him, you should keep it that way," Trylac warned me. "If Drelinok realized this thing was in your possession, he would annihilate the continent you stood on to prevent its activation. That being said, we cannot risk you testing the prototype or becoming familiar with its use. The agency director believes that if the prototype is storing the power we think it is, Drelinok would detect that energy signature exploding to life and investigate immediately. When you see Drelinok again, you'll need to trigger it and start putting up a fight at once." "He said I'd come to him," I recalled. "Drelinok is going to Metru Nui soon to depose Turaga Zilnyx at the Coliseum and declare himself the ruler of the universe. I know exactly where to find him." "If we'd only known," Celvey muttered. "Adrinor could have destroyed Drelinok as soon as he was released from stasis." "You're assuming the prototype will give me the upper hand," I reminded her. "It will," Trylac cut in. "Drelinok was a field commander who specialized as a quick and sharp shot with a rifle. If you're fast enough and close the distance between the two of you, you can overpower him with the gunblade." "You're betting everything on me then." "And we're hardly enthusiastic about it." We all looked up from the prototype and could see Axonn and Brutaka were approaching. I looked to Brutaka before putting the device into my back compartment. "Not much faith in me, huh?" "The agency is concerned, Adrinor," Axonn clarified. "Drelinok is a deadly opponent. We recognize your history with him, and you'll need to put that aside. Whoever Drelinok was as your friend, that's not what came out of stasis. He needs to be eliminated." "What about the Brotherhood?" Kyrhus asked. "Is there any chance of stopping Teridax without Drelinok's light? Someone needs to put down Miserix's murderer!" "We're looking in to it," Trylac tried to reassure him. "I think we should ask Teridax for his help then," I suggested. "If we aren't going to kill him, he could be a strong temporary ally in the battle with Drelinok. His entire organization could, for that matter. And I still have a token of their appreciation." I revealed the triangular Tablet of Transit given to me by Miserix. "Any Makuta must respect that device as a symbol of trust," Axonn said. "If you walked into Destral with that, you could be granted an audience with their new leader." "What would you tell him?" Brutaka questioned. "A Meldin is not fit to make demands from the Brotherhood of Makuta. They can move mountains if they desire, but will not do so on the whim of such lowly gunfighters." "Hey!" Hadliek shouted, clearly offended. "Take no offense, I'm only speaking to how a Makuta would look down at you," Brutaka replied. Hadliek grumbled to himself when I snapped my fingers with a brilliant idea. "It's clear that appealing to Teridax's sense of compassion is like seeking air at the bottom of the sea. But if I proposed that his brothers, their Rahkshi, Exo-Toa, and loyal Toa should unite to preserve his authority over the universe by destroying Drelinok, that could work. We could play into his ego and tell him that we support the Brotherhood with blind allegiance and wish to see Drelinok dead. Teridax may not care about others much, but if he sees Drelinok as a threat to his own supremacy, that could be our opening." "Why employ the Brotherhood at all, though?" Elendra asked. "Can't Adrinor take on Drelinok alone?" "I don't think it's going to be that simple," Celvey replied. "Drelinok summoned an army above Suizek before he killed Triphaz. If he takes Metru Nui, his Light Warriors could be used to occupy the city for him while he reigns from the Coliseum. If the city is currently demilitarizing now that the war has ended, they'll be too easily slain by Drelinok's soldiers. He'll have an army and if we want to minimize civilian casualties, we'll need one too." "Just one problem," Hadliek said. "How do we even know where to find Destral right now? The whole island fortress teleports as the Brotherhood requires." Brutaka smirked. "My Kanohi Olmak can open a gateway to Destral for you. It may take me a moment to locate it within our dimension, but creating a portal won't be difficult." "Our dimension?" I asked, somewhat confused. "Are you saying that mask can open portals to other realities?" "Keep your mind concerned with this reality," Brutaka replied, not entirely answering my question. "Once I send you through, you'll need to rely on your power of persuasion. Given the importance of the mission, one of us should travel with you." "I can go," Trylac volunteered. Elendra chuckled, looking up at Brutaka. "Any chance you can send a whole airship through one of those mask power portals?" Brutaka narrowed his eyes on her, smiling. "I've sent a small island through before, I can send one ship." "Well, this should be fun," Hadliek said, slapping Kyrhus on the shoulder. "If we live, we can say that we've traveled across dimensional fabric." "And if we don't?" Kyrhus inquired. "Then the prototype is lost between dimensions forever and Drelinok wins." I smiled at Trylac. "I think I'm getting too accustomed to high-stakes gambling with my life these days." Review
  14. Cederak

    Cynosure

    All this bad blood here, won't you let it dry? It's been cold for years, won't you let it lie? –Bastille Episode 17: Past Transgressions On my first visit to Nohtal, I was quickly greeted by one of the island's many generous, and compassionate individuals. The landscape was rolling hills of emerald dotted by towns and the occasional grove or wooded area. Nohtalians—infused with shadow at birth—lived happily beneath a shimmering sun back in those days. Despite the efforts of Toa Jovan's team, however, that star in the sky remained dim. Nohtal remained in a perpetual state of dusk and cloaked in a veil of fog. Why Ilisi was bathed in sun with such immediacy when the Toa used the Mask of Life, well, I chalked it up to the presence of so many imbued with light on that island just north of Nohtal. I sought a moment alone with my thoughts, and that is what brought me into the misty night, to the place where I first took up the gunblade as my own. I journeyed across Nohtal's eerily still coast, over the verdant knolls that appeared more gray than green without the warmth of the sky. From there, it was a short walk through the woods until I stopped in a clearing where five graves had been marked with stones. In the long-unearthed dirt below, five killers had been laid to rest at different points in time. They once called themselves the Rovaius-Trivolox Gang, named after their leader and deputy leader respectively. After years of terrorizing the island as a successful band of thieves, Trivolox was burdened by a guilty conscience and intended to turn his life around. In an effort to tie up loose ends, Trivolox murdered two of his fellow criminals on the night of his planned departure, discovered and pursued by Rovaius and the other survivor, Stalgrax. It was Rovaius that introduced me to the life of an outlaw, with Stalgrax still at his side when we met. The day after the League of Six Kingdoms fell, all three perished in battle, and I felt it was my responsibility to take up Rovaius' gunblade and carry on in his stead. I took the weapon from my back and hurled it at his tombstone, dropping to my hands and knees in a mixture of guilt and anger. Elendra and I had placed the five rocks into the ground there, and all I had accomplished was shattering a chunk of the work I had done 900 years prior. "Leave me alone!" I shouted at the piece of rock. "If there's anything left of you in there, any piece of your spirit, please, listen to me!" There was no response—as one might expect when talking to inanimate objects—but I was hardly in the mood for being sensible. "You didn't warn me! You never told me it was going to be this hard! You lied to me and now the universe is going to die! It's going to die, because you went and made me join up with you. I could be living a simple life on the Southern Continent right now." I thought for a moment about how different things would be if I had opted out of becoming an outlaw. It certainly would have been easier, but not necessarily better. There was even the possibility that Jovan would have failed to retrieve the Mask of Life if I had not assisted him. "I guess they were my choices, in the end. I can't blame you for that," I said, following with a sigh. "I just want to be free of the burden of feeling like you died for me…like you died for nothing. I'm sorry, Rovaius, but I don't know what to do now. It feels as though the world is closing in around me, and there's no hope for any of us." "There's hope for at least one of us," a voice replied from behind me. I picked myself up off the ground and turned to face my guest. It was Drelinok, hovering silently nearby. "What brings you to Nohtal, Drelinok?" I asked, trying to conceal the misery that was wracking my spirit. "You," he replied matter-of-factly. "There's nothing else worthwhile in this land of midnight, once so beautiful and now reduced to another clot of dark in the world. I can see you have something of value there in the dirt, yes?" I whirled back and marched up to the gunblade, bending down and taking it in my hand. I looked back at Drelinok and told him, "You'd be surprised how important this weapon is to me." "I'm sure," he said, unimpressed, "but I was referring to the scrap metal you were trying to make amends with." "For being a thief and a killer, he was twice the biomech you'll ever be," I replied, starting to walk away. Drelinok mentally took control of my body and held me in place as he drew near. "Now, Adrinor," he chuckled, "I wouldn't come all this way and not get what I want. We're going to have a chat." "I don't have anything to say to you." Drelinok released me and landed on the ground, extending a hand toward the tombstones. "Alternatively, I could reanimate your friend with some much-needed life and have his corpse hunt you to the edge of the world." I stayed put and my voice pleaded with Drelinok more than I had intended when I whispered, "Don't." He smiled at me, satisfied with the power of his words. I still remembered what happened to the yellow-eyed Frostelus at the Tren Krom river, and I was not about to tempt Drelinok into proving he was capable of such a nightmarish act. "Okay then, let's talk." Drelinok began to pace the length of the tombstones when he asked me, "Why did you leave Meldio? And don't recite your politically-charged anger with what I did, I want a real answer. Even the Collectivists, the true Collectivists, stood and fought. You were a traitor and a deserter, and I'd like you to explain yourself." "Explain myself?" I said in disgust. "I didn't join up with the Collective army, I merely agreed with what they were fighting for. I never picked up a rifle to assist their campaign in driving back the tide of your brainwashed hordes. But I saw what you were doing, and I could tell how unstoppable you were. So one day, I just sailed off and left. No betrayal, no desertion, I simply walked away." "And that's it?" he questioned. His fiery eyes glowed like a pair of embers in the artificial night. I shook my head in frustration. "The only crime I ever committed is that I disagreed with you. In most parts of the world, that's acceptable, but it honestly wouldn't surprise me if you tried to make it illegal once you became Director." "Well…I didn't," Drelinok replied awkwardly. "I just wanted an answer." "How dare you," I growled. "You drove me out of my homeland and you demand answers from me? When I left, I lived in fear that you would purge every seed of dissent from the universe. I went to sleep for years just waiting for your soldiers to break in and arrest me, or put me to death on the spot. Eventually, I knew the influence of the League of Six Kingdoms would restrict your dreams of conquest to the shore of Meldio, and you never came." "That's not to say I never wondered what happened to you," Drelinok admitted. "All things considered, I'm doing okay. I stopped thinking about you after a while. I stopped thinking about the war, about my home, and I even stopped entertaining the idea of returning. Whatever had become of Meldio under your direction was not the place I grew up in, and I knew there was nothing left for me there." "I searched for you, for a very long time," Drelinok replied. "Meldio is such a wonderful and majestic place, and it was your first home. Those few Meldin with a strong sense of wanderlust were regarded as very strange for leaving behind such a glorious land, and I had to believe you stayed. From my inauguration as Director until the day of the accident, I decreed that it was the responsibility of every Meldin to identify those that had gone missing during the war. The names were brought to my desk and, after a few decades, we located the bodies, living or deceased, of every Meldin on the list." "Except me," I muttered. Drelinok nodded. "Except you. And then, after a very long time in the stasis chamber, a day came when I felt my mind was able to drift beyond my own body. I could, see things, like I had never seen before. I could feel other minds, other thoughts in distant places. From time to time, I would search for you, but it was centuries before my search concluded. And by then, you were already running around as a criminal." "A criminal," I repeated. "Bold accusation for someone like you. I'm sure you used the Directorate to deflect any wrongdoing on your behalf. I'm sure there was no trial, and that you were not charged with a single war crime. And then I come home to find that your guilt was buried beneath a colossal statue. Maybe you did lead Meldio into a golden age of prosperity, but we both know there's a foundation of corpses beneath your administration." "Adrinor, listen, I"- "No, you listen!" I snapped. "You're not better than me, just more determined. I left home because I didn't want to kill you, okay? I didn't want to kill my first friend! And as I stand here looking at him, I wonder if that was a mistake. You owe Meldio a lot, Drelinok, and it'll take more than a machine full of superpowers to repay that debt." "I'm sorry," Drelinok replied shortly. I looked right into his bright lemon eyes, somewhat surprised. "You…you are?" "We can't change what we've done, nor can we bring back the lives we've taken. I can sense the sincerity of your words, and that you think I am some kind of monster. I had to live with my decisions in the war…every day, justifying to myself that somehow, it was worth it. It was terrible, yes, but my actions saved Meldio and made it a better place. Don't you believe me?" I gave a soft laugh in response. "I'll take that as a 'no.'" "Just between us," I said, "I believe that you, believe you. It's been enough to sustain you this long, and I'm sure you can get by on it for a few more centuries." "It's funny, actually," Drelinok replied. "I came here to make a mockery of you, and your life, and all that you have done, and you managed to turn the tables on me completely." "We all have our demons to face. That's why I came here. I lack the conviction in my actions that you have always possessed. I have my doubts and I have to cope with them." "If I had never been in the accident and were still Director today, and if you had to come home to Meldio as the individual you are now, would you run again?" "Nope," I said shortly. "I would probably kill you. And no matter how beloved a Director you would have been, only the soldiers would pursue me. Your army would follow my tracks because that is what they are charged to do. But I can say this next part without a shred of doubt or disbelief. Not a single friend would look for me, to serve justice upon me for what I did." Drelinok frowned in disappointment, but I continued. "You say you made Meldio a better place, and of our kindred I have met in my travels, they have said the same. I believe them. However, now that our home is so vastly improved, there is no place in it for you and I. There's no place for exalted killers in utopia. The Nohtalians buried here learned that the hard way." I walked up to Rovaius' tombstone and tapped it a couple times with the edge of the gunblade. "This biomech died saving my life and the life of a Trelban. He gave the ultimate sacrifice because he cared about someone other than himself enough to do it. It wasn't his job or his duty or anything like that. He could see the odds were impossibly high and if any of us were to survive, we would have to delay our enemies somehow. This Nohtalian, named Rovaius, died so that I could flee to safety and fight another day. And no matter what I do, I can't repay that sacrifice. So I do the best I can, I live on in his name, and I hold tight to the gunblade." "He is lost to this world, yet keeps a living legacy among us," Drelinok mused aloud. "I have often hoped for such a thing, but it was not a hope that came to fruition. I once thought that you could be that biomech for me, and preserve my ideals if you were to survive me. I put the notion aside when you voiced your differences in how Meldio should be run." I put the gunblade on my back. "If you should perish against the Brotherhood in their new effort to conquer the universe, I will not be your vessel into the future. Nothing will save you from destruction." Drelinok eyed me curiously. "That remains to be seen. I have learned things about our world that are far beyond my research for the Amplifier. There is esoteric knowledge out there, hidden away in black, mysterious minds. The Great Beings were geniuses unlike any biomech I have ever known, myself included. Their secrets are buried everywhere, you need only to know where to search for them. If utilized properly, even death can become nothing more than an inconvenience." "I suppose it's too much to ask what you have in store for the universe. With knowledge like that at your fingertips, your horizon seems limitless." Drelinok walked up to me and gently took my wrist in his hand. I eyed him suspiciously, uncertain of what he was after. He turned my palm over and brushed his fingers over the rough scrapes and marks dented into the metal around the muscle tissue. "The Meldio War…my war, was necessary to inspire a change for our species. Part of my earlier apology stems from the fact that I pity you, especially for never living up to what you could have been. For that, I blame myself. I deprived you of achieving your very best when I drove you away and, while I do not hold myself responsible for anyone you have cut down in your new life, I am guilty for creating the biomech you are today." "I'm stronger, if it counts for anything," I said. "I know who I am and where I stand. I'm no hero or anything romantic like that. I am an outlaw at my core now." Drelinok carefully let my hand go and approached Rovaius' tombstone, placing his hands behind his back. "Twice the biomech I'll ever be, yeah?" I nodded. "Yeah." "Hmm," Drelinok replied flatly. "If you must know, I intend to besiege Metru Nui with my Light Warriors and kill Turaga Zilnyx before installing myself as the Director of the universe. If the Brotherhood should contest me for power of the city, they are welcome to try. Now that Mata Nui has allowed the world to fall into warfare and despair, we are in dire need of a better Great Spirit." "I think you always fancied yourself as the king of the world," I told him. "No, not a king," Drelinok corrected me. "The reign of a king is a castle in the sand. I must ascend to godhood. I held many positions in my former life. I was a student, a teacher, a soldier, a commander, a Directorate Lead, and finally a Director. And yet, through all of this, I was a servant, noble and proud. I see now that it was a misplaced pride…a false nobility. If one is tasked with leadership and chooses not to embrace their duty, it stands to reason that a successor be named. My experience and ideals make me a prime candidate to preside over the universe." "Still as inspirational as ever," I muttered. Drelinok raised an eyebrow. "Have you seen reason, Adrinor? Have I turned you, at last?" "Not exactly. Although, you have convinced me to remember why I became an outlaw in the first place. I wish to live on my own terms a while longer, and I can only do that by preventing this universe from hurtling back to the darkness that Jovan's team saved it from. It is a darkness that you are so eager to plunge us into. And so, I'll have to destroy you." "I think we both know that's an empty threat," Drelinok said confidently. "You have turned your back on so much, and now you wander aimlessly in search of adventure and payment. I wonder if you have outlived any useful purpose in this world." "He's still quite a leader." Drelinok looked over his shoulder, watching as my crew stepped into the clearing. Their weapons were drawn and ready to strike, waiting for the Meldin to react. He returned his attention to me and smiled. "I could obliterate them if I wanted, but…I think I've overstayed my welcome." "I'm sure preparing to conquer a universe is hectic enough," I replied. "We are approaching the endgame, my friend," Drelinok said. "By the time everything is said and done, we will all have played a role in the end of the world. I cannot say if you will survive the event, but I will be there. Like a thousand suns bursting forth through the sea gates, I will embody the cynosure that shall lead the scared, the tired, and the victimized out of the universe of shadow that you silently permitted. "I'll see you at the end of the world, then," I said, marching away to reunite with my crew. "Ready to go?" Hadliek asked. I smiled. He was straight to business and our expressions seemed to assure one another that we were all okay. "Where to?" "Mt. Valmai. We encountered Trylac in Valantru and he sent us to retrieve you. He wants to meet with all of us just north of the volcano." I turned back to Drelinok and asked, "Will you pursue us?" Drelinok began to hover and tilted his head. "Like you said, preparations for conquering a universe can be hectic. I have more important matters to attend to, but I thank you all the same for a lovely conversation. I have a feeling that you'll come to me soon enough." We watched him peacefully fly away into the dark atmosphere and I wondered how lonely it was to seek the world without anyone at his side. "What did he say to you?" Celvey wondered. "The entire story, I mean." "Back to the ship," I said, taking the lead. "I'll tell you on the way." Review
  15. Cederak

    Cynosure

    Only set apart from the world I live in now. Ghost of a renegade. –The Paper Kites Episode 16: Lawless (Hadliek's Perspective) We expended the last of the airship's fuel somewhere in the middle of the Northern Continent. After several minutes of "I told you so" being thrown at me for refusing to believe that there were no refueling stations anywhere outside Valantru, we exited the craft and started to walk. Behind us, I could see Valantru's highest skyscrapers poking up over the desert plateaus, blurred by a heat shimmer. I glanced up into the sky and squinted, starting to feel uncomfortably warm in the heat. "You really screwed up this time," Kyrhus complained. "Be part of the solution, not part of the problem," I snapped, starting in the direction of a large canyon. "We were part of the solution!" Elendra yelled. "I told you several times that there was nothing out here and now we're going to bake in the desert heat because you refused to listen!" I chuckled. "Take it easy with the blame there, you're talking to a trained killer." "And you're messing with one in no mood for your sarcasm!" she screamed. "Well I know it usually takes you a while to work your way out of a bad mood, so I'll get back to you in about five hundred years on that." "Do you ever learn?" Celvey asked with frustrated sigh. "I have my own way to things, Celvey. Sarcasm is part of the package. Maybe if I were polite and proper about life the way you are, someone might've asked me to marry them." Elendra coughed up a laugh. "If you think sarcasm is the only thing standing between you and the prospect of your marriage, you should be a little more introspective." "Elendra, why don't you…"- I withheld my insult when the sight of several objects stormed out of the canyon and scattered. "Steltians," Kyrhus said, utilizing his impressive binocular sight. "They're riding Dikapi." "What are Steltians doing out this way?" Celvey asked. "Illicit activities, if I had to guess," I replied. "They seldom do much more in their own homeland, so why show model behavior on vacation?" "There's something on the other side of that canyon, then," Elendra said. "Maybe even a source of fuel to get us back in the sky." I reached for my weapon and gave her a nod. "We're not doing ourselves any favors to sit around out here. Let's investigate." The Steltians had doubled back when we reached the canyon's opening and we had our weapons ready for a fight if they wanted to give us one. I did everything in my power to suppress the signs of my exhaustion after walking in the blazing heat all afternoon. Living among thieves and killers, Steltians were keen to spot an enemy's weakness. Also, there were seven of them against the four of us. The lead rider leapt from his Dikapi while it was in mid-run, his rifle drawn. A pair of blades extended out from behind his elbows, running just beyond his hands. "You're a long way from home," he growled in confidence. "I could say the same to you. My companions and I mean to travel through this canyon, and we're associates of a clan leader. Are you familiar with Voporak?" The Steltian retracted his arm blades. "Yes. And yet, he is terribly far from this place. If my gang were to kill yours right now, what evidence would Voporak possess in linking me to the crime?" "Because there are more of us out here, and at the wave of my hand, I can order them to bring your mount to its knees." "You expect me to believe random travelers in the wasteland are capable of such strange abilities? Prove it." I was fuming when I told him, "Gladly." I shot my arm up and, right on cue, Celvey stealthily engaged her telekinesis to make the Steltian's Dikapi buckle and fall over, squawking unhappily as it struggled against an unseen force. The rider took a nervous step backward. "Release it from their control." I lowered my arm and Celvey withdrew her power at once. "Let us pass." The Steltian angrily turned to his gang, all of whom were scouting the distance for my additional, imaginary allies. He then returned his attention to me. "There is a village on the other side of the canyon. My gang took great pains to demand they submit to our rule. I will permit you to stay the night there, but if we see you after sunrise tomorrow, I will shoot you down in the road." "Your generosity rivals the craftsmanship of Artakha." He glared. "And it runs thin, now move along." I motioned to the group with a brief swing of my head. "You heard him. Time to go." <<<>>> We passed through the canyon trail without any further trouble, and when the towering stones finally gave way to the broad and dusty plain beyond, it was clear just how far from the city we had come. I could see the sun setting in the distance, across a long expanse of rock and sand, littered with desert shrubs. Directly in front of us, however, was a tiny settlement greeting visitors with a wooden sign. I read it aloud with an apathetic, "Welcome to Kivacc: A Piece of Peace in the Sand." "That's an odd attitude to carry for coming from such a folksy background yourself," Kyrhus told me. "It'd only be odd if I never left." I scanned the main street and stopped when I noticed a sign for an inn. "Now let's see what I have to do to get a drink around these parts." Elendra and Kyrhus opted to wait outside on the porch while Celvey followed me inside the inn. I stepped inside and headed straight ahead, ignoring the chatty patrons in my peripheral vision. A few of the barstools were empty and I took a seat next to a Toa of air, glancing down the counter at the Ta-Matoran innkeeper. "What can I get for you?" he asked. "A Fiery Hikaki, if you would be so kind," I replied with a smile. Celvey sat down to my left, folding her arms onto the counter and resting her head on them. She stared at me, angrily, like she was waiting for an apology. I knew I would have to address her concerns eventually. "Adrinor needed some time alone," I said. "I've known him a little longer than you, and I could tell something was wrong. He'll work it out, but you may want to pretend to enjoy yourself for a while until we pick him up." "And that's your strategy, right? Just lying to yourself and smiling when life is hard?" The innkeeper slid my drink down the counter to me and I caught it, giving him a short wave. I took a sip, savoring the chilled sweetness before I swallowed. A Fiery Hikaki got its name from the sudden heat the drinker felt as it traveled down your throat. It was icy cold when swished around your mouth, and the warmth only made it sweeter. I pushed the glass close to Celvey and smirked at her. "My strategy is an improvement to feeling sorry for myself. It's a bad habit to get into, and it doesn't look very nice on you, princess." Celvey sat up and glared at me. "Don't call me that…and don't tell me what looks nice on me. I'm in no mood." She quickly took a drink of the Fiery Hikaki and practically slammed the glass back down. She winced and shuddered for a second, giving me a sour expression before pushing the drink back to me. "You'll be all right," I assured her, taking another sip. "I think our first priority of business should be to confront those bandits who gave us such a hard time on the way into town. I can handle myself without a problem, but their occupation of this peaceful village is rather cruel, even by our standards. They need someone to take a stand." I looked at the entity on my right, watching him swirl a bright orange drink around his glass. "How about you? What's kept you from exacting some justice on these criminals the way that Toa seem to be drawn to?" The room went silent and I instinctively looked over my shoulder. The inn patrons were all staring at me, visibly concerned. The Toa of air tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to face him. "What did you just call me, punk?" I narrowed my eyes at his insult and growled, "A Toa. What're you going to do about it, hero?" A smile formed on his Kanohi Faxon and he shook his head, getting up from his barstool. The Toa unlimbered the air sword on his back and turned to address the room. "Does anyone see a Toa anywhere in the room? I certainly don't, and I am seldom mistaken, so perhaps someone could set the record straight." "There's no Toa here, sir," a scared Po-Matoran uttered. I scoffed and reached for my heavy pistol. "I don't care what you call yourself, I don't appreciate someone calling me out and"- I did not get to finish that sentence. The Toa aimed his sword at me and summoned a concentrated air burst that shot me outside into the dirt road. Elendra casually leaned over the deck railing and smiled down at me. "How was your drink, Hadliek?" "Fantastic," I replied sarcastically. Kyrhus pulled me up by my forearm and watched me dust myself off. "You're always so quick to make friends, aren't you?" I activated the incendiary feature on my heavy pistol and stormed back inside the inn, pointing the humming weapon at the Toa of air's head. "Give me a reason not to put a hole in your mask." "Because I can tell you would rather not kill me if I don't force you to. You were talking about doing something to those Steltian bandits who have made themselves the law around these parts. Picking a fight with me won't get you any closer to accomplishing that, but as your ally, you would be surprised what I could offer your cause." I deactivated the incendiary feature and lowered my weapon, taking a glance around the room at the Matoran sitting nearby. They were waiting for one of us to make a move. "These Matoran are playing along with your game," I started. "Even if you would not call yourself a hero, a Toa, you know what's going on in this town. You know the Steltian occupation of this place isn't right. Why not do something about it? You've held your temper in the face of their oppression but loosed it on my words?" "The bandits know to stay out of my way, but I don't have any stake in their actions. Much as it may surprise you to see someone clad in the armor of what you call a hero and act beneath the title, I have abandoned my creed. The word Toa means nothing to me, and seeing as how the Steltians have not threatened my life or livelihood, we live and let live. You're welcome to the same if you keep that weapon down, although, point it my way again and I'll kill you where you stand." I slowly holstered my heavy pistol, not terribly interested to see if he would make good on his threat. He chose to let the Steltians run wild in Kivacc and was prepared to take my life. Whatever he saw himself as, there was no deception in his words. The green-masked figure staring me down was no longer a Toa. "All right then." I cleared my throat and stepped forward, offering a handshake. "I'm sorry about that introduction. My name's Hadliek." "I won't hold it against you," he replied, shaking. "Name's Lesovikk." "You're really willing to help us out then?" Celvey asked him. "I believe I could try," Lesovikk said. "The bandits usually ride back into town early in the morning. If you intend to kill them, you'll want to be waiting in the street for their return a little after dawn. The Matoran may find it a tad uncivilized, but you don't seem the type to shy away from a gunfight." "I wouldn't shy away from ambushing them in their sleep either," I admitted. Lesovikk shook his head. "They hail from Stelt. Their lives among thieves have made them smart enough to keep a couple of their number on watch in shifts through the night. Some of the Matoran have scouted after them and told me as much. It would be easier to shoot them from their mounts and take them down in the street." "And you'll help us with that, right?" I questioned. "If it looks like the tide of battle is leaning against you, I'll throw my sword into the action. But you caught me right as I was on my way out for the night, so I guess I'll see you in the morning." Celvey frowned. "You don't stay here at the inn?" "I'm too much of a drifter for anything that comfortable. Plus, I like to wake up in the night and take in the night skies above me. I wouldn't think any less of you for choosing the cozy option here though." "No, of course not," I replied facetiously. "I mean, most folks wouldn't bring it up if they didn't feel that way, but you did bring it up and I get the feeling that you do feel that way." "Is that so?" Lesovikk said, grinning. "Seems like you're feeling insecure if nothing else. At any rate, have a good night." He surveyed the room and gave them a nod before heading out. Elendra and Kyrhus passed by him on their way up to me, both staring back with confused expressions. "It's a long story, but that Toa of air is going to help us kill the Steltians tomorrow morning." "This is one of the rare occasions I think I'd actually like to hear the long story," Elendra commented. "Agreed," Kyrhus added, no less perplexed. "I'm going to book us for a night here at the inn," I replied. "I'll tell you the details in a minute." <<<>>> Celvey had been sensible enough to ask the innkeeper about taking some fuel back to our ship in exchange for driving out the bandits. The Matoran agreed and promised we would receive a few containers once we made good on our offer. Elendra was convinced the fuel grade used in Kivacc would burn through her ship's engines pretty quick, but would last long enough to fly us back into Valantru's outskirts for something better. Kivacc was a dark, silent town at night. My bed was nearest to the window and I kept waking up, intermittently scanning the shadowy street for any sign of the bandits' early return. There was nothing. Although, unlike my previous stirring, something caught my attention. It was terribly faint and off in the distance, but there was a light source coming from the canyon. I had no chance at getting back to sleep, and if it was the bandits, lookouts or not, I wanted to pursue the mystery. They may have been Steltians, but I saw myself as the superior gunfighter. I inched a hand beneath the bed for my heavy pistol and crept toward the stairs, hearing the sound of a lone revolver's hammer being cocked. "I'm going out for some air," I said, sighing. "Calm down." I listened as the revolver was gently set on Elendra's nightstand and I made my way down to the main floor. From there, it was an uneventful walk to the front door, out into the street, and on my way back to the canyon. I held my weapon close, and with limited sight in the dark, it felt like my audio receptors could hear the slightest wind knock a grain of sand into its neighbor. As I walked further from town and the light became brighter, I could tell I would have to carefully traverse the cliff to make my way up. There was no sign of the Steltians, but I tried to keep my noise to a minimum. Halfway up the rocks, I could hear kindling. The light was a campfire and someone was very, very close. I sprung up the final chunk of the cliffs, pointing my weapon at the biomech on the other side of the fire. It was only Lesovikk. He casually looked up from the stone he was using as a chair and smiled. "You were expecting someone else, yeah?" "…Yeah." I lowered my weapon and he gestured toward another stone. "Sit down, Hadliek." It was not an order, so much as an invitation. I obliged. "If I had been the bandits, you would be dead by now. What has drawn you from your bed on this lonely mission? What is on your mind?" "It's complicated," I said. "Did you know Mata Nui was nearly dead a couple weeks ago?" "Dead? I knew something didn't feel right, there was a presence calling out to me. It was a voice, reaching out to all who were chosen to be protectors. I may not call myself such things any longer, but the universe has no patience or concern with my private decision. When you are called to serve by the master of all, there are some things you can never be rid of," Lesovikk replied. "Are you going to surprise me and say that you saved his life?" "No, I wasn't chosen for the task. There was a group of Toa led by Jovan"- "Who?" Lesovikk questioned in disbelief. "Toa Jovan, he was this Toa of magnetism. Anyway, he and his team"- "He has a team?" "Stop interrupting!" I growled. "Forgive me," Lesovikk said in earnest. "Toa Jovan was a mentor of mine. When I was far more lost than I am now, I met Jovan and he offered me more than I could have asked for. He made me stronger in many ways." "He also journeyed with his team to save the life of the Great Spirit. They were successful." "Fascinating," the Toa mused. "If anyone were fit to handle such a demand, it's Jovan. If you see him again, tell him about me. Tell him…that I'm doing well. He'd be happy to know that." "You said you were lost?" "I had recently murdered someone. You could call it a metaphorical sense of being lost." "I've been trying not to ask for a while, but I have to know something," I said, tossing a stick into the fire. "When did you start killing?" "It's been 20,900 years now. I was on a mission with my team and we were attacked." "You killed the attackers?" I presumed. "I recognize Toa have their code of honor to follow, but I've put down my share of attackers without a second thought." "Well I had a second thought and it cost me everything," Lesovikk replied bitterly. "They were Zyglak…and they murdered my team. They murdered her." "Does 'her' have a name?" "She did." I stared hard into Lesovikk's bright orange eyes. "I'm sorry." He sighed. "Not as sorry as I am. I had known biomechs to perish before my team, but this was different. It was so sudden…no one should have to die the way they did. My life was…is, empty without them. If I had known they would be lost so quickly, without another word, I feel like I would've done things differently. If I had any indication how terrible their death would be, I feel like I could've saved them and destroyed the Zyglak." I lowered my gaze and reflected on his words, thinking about how it would feel to lose Adrinor, Elendra, Kyrhus, and Celvey. I tried to push it out of my mind, but Lesovikk's tale persisted and gave me reason to appreciate my friends while they were still around. "To answer your question," Lesovikk continued, "I returned home, defeated and alone. I longed to see old friends, still Matoran, that I once enjoyed the company of. When I arrived, I discovered the Turaga had lost his mind and sent the Matoran away to the realm of Karzahni. I remember screaming, begging Mata Nui to return my friends and my teammates and release me from my torment. A moment passed and the Turaga turned away, chuckling. Wracked with so much hate and misery, I pulled the air from the Turaga's lungs and ran him through with my sword, killing him. I ran away and encountered Jovan a few weeks later. He saved me from myself the day we met." "Given what you experienced before all that, your reaction isn't terribly surprising." "That's not the point," Lesovikk replied. "Toa do not kill…ever. When they do, things have to be reevaluated. We don't live the same lives and we no longer acknowledge the title of Toa. I doubt the same stigma existed in your land." "It doesn't," I assured him. "A Todrano is permitted to kill if the circumstances arise." "It must be so simple for you," Lesovikk said sharply. "If practiced enough, anything is simple," I countered. "I can only say I'm fortunate enough to have placed my friends in danger and watched them survive." "What did you do?" "I nearly betrayed them for wealth and power," I said. "Our crew is led by a Meldin who was targeted by the Dark Hunters for recruitment into their organization. They gave up attempting to convert him and went after me instead, hoping to play upon some trace of disloyalty. We were on an assignment and I knew that if my friends were taken into custody by the local authorities, they would be executed. Once that was done, all I had to do was murder our leader to secure a position among the Dark Hunters." "They must have been terribly persuasive," Lesovikk commented. I nodded. "I set up the Trelban and the Gekalan to be apprehended, but the Meldin discovered what I was up to…I've never asked how and I'd rather not know. My Ilisian ally and the Meldin managed to rescue the Trelban and Gekalan, ruining my opportunity completely." Lesovikk raised an eyebrow. "I'm surprised at this Meldin's tolerance for your actions. How are you not dead?" I thought about the question, reflecting on the return trip to Stelt after the mission concluded. I had retreated to the balcony outside Voporak's coliseum, unable to sleep, unable to let myself live with what I had tried to do. That's when Adrinor arrived with my salvation, the sound of his gunblade loading behind me. "I know what you did," Adrinor said calmly. It was late, and only the Ohnbiek guards were around, a couple fending off sleep down near the coliseum entrance. They wouldn't have said a word if Adrinor chose to shoot and throw me from the balcony. "Yeah," I replied, unwilling to face Adrinor. "It really sank in on the way back. I'm sorry, Adrinor. Just let me tell them I regret what I did first…I want them to hear it from me before…before you get this over with." "They don't know." Adrinor swept my legs out from beneath me and held the edge of his gunblade against the back of my neck. He kicked me onto my back and the barrel of his weapon was on target with my throat. He stood there for a moment, his finger twitching over the trigger and I could hardly stand it. "If you're going to do this, just do it," I pleaded. "Fine," Adrinor replied, pulling the trigger. I shut my eyes tight and waited for some intense pain to shoot through me before living out the final moments of my life. Instead, I felt nothing. I hesitantly reopened my eyes and found Adrinor kneeling at my side, the blade pressed against my neck. "It was empty?" I whispered in shock. "You saved my life, long ago," Adrinor told me. "You dragged me through the mud and the rain to safety, and I thank you for that. Now I'm going to save your life from the sharp edge of this sword and we can call it even." I couldn't breathe. "Thank…thank you." Adrinor put the weapon away and offered me a hand up. As I reached to accept, he recoiled for a moment and said, "If you ever put yourself before the safety of this crew again, don't think I wouldn't scour the universe for a tribe of Zyglak to leave you in the company of - unarmed." I nodded and he pulled me up by the arm, putting an end to the matter right there. "I saved his life, Lesovikk," I explained, "and he repaid that by sparing mine." "This Meldin made an honorable decision then," Lesovikk replied. "Foolish perhaps, but honorable nonetheless." "My loyalty to him has been unwavering since that day," I said. "Then continue to pay loyalty to him. Return to the inn and rest, so that you will be prepared tomorrow morning. Remember that you're not just fighting for yourself, you're fighting for your friends." "I'm going to keep that in mind," I replied, standing up. "You'll be all right out here?" "Don't worry about me," Lesovikk said. "Get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning." "If you say so." With that, I started back for Kivacc. <<<>>> "Wake up," Celvey whispered, shaking my arm. "The sun is on its way." I sat up in bed, stretching out my arms and releasing a satisfying yawn. I picked up my weapon and smiled at Celvey. "Then let's give it something awesome to shine on." The four of us walked downstairs together, silently passing the innkeeper. There were a few more Matoran in the room, waiting near the windows. They all wanted to see if we were the gunfighters we made ourselves out to be. I marched out into the dirt road and faced the canyon, both hands gripped around my heavy pistol. Elendra had a revolver in each hand, Kyrhus was staring down the barrel of his sniper rifle, and Celvey had her sonic assault rifle humming and ready. I scanned the buildings and the outskirts of the canyon, but there was no sign of Lesovikk. "Looks like that Toa of air got cold feet on us," I said, frustrated. "Any sign of him, Kyrhus?" "Nothing at all," he replied. "Didn't he say he would only assist if the odds were against us?" "We're outnumbered to start with, I feel like that's reason enough to say the odds are against us," Celvey argued. "It might be easy to drop them from their mounts out here in the road, but we're easy targets if they really know how to shoot." "So we make it an assault," Elendra said. "As soon as we pick them off the Dikapi, everyone unloads everything they've got." "Here they come," Kyrhus told us, tightening up his grip on the rifle. "Get ready and I'll give the order." We could hear the Dikapi rushing through the canyon, heading for Kivacc. And then they burst out from around the bend, charging straight down the road we were standing on. We still had the element of surprise, but Kyrhus held back his orders longer than I expected. "Can we shoot?" I asked, trying not to panic. "Not…yet," Kyrhus replied, holding steady. "Just a few…seconds…longer." As soon as those seconds were gone, Kyrhus shouted, "Now!" He was the first to fire, and one of the Dikapi fell immediately. The rest of us picked our shots and watched the rest of the Rahi drop to the ground, dead or too injured to carry on. The Steltians all jumped from the Dikapi, rushing forward and grabbing for their laser bolt rifles. "Give them everything you've got!" Elendra ordered. I hit the incendiary activator and fired the rest of my clip, emptying it and shoving in another, keeping up the attack. Celvey was launching a constant stream of sonic burst energy from her weapon, charging her bullets with enough force to shred through most any armor. Elendra fired all of her bullets and reloaded with amazing speed, firing her last round just as Kyrhus shot his last sniper bullet. I had spent everything trying to bring the Steltians down, but our assault had caused the dirt to erupt in a cloud around the bandits. When the dust settled, I was sure my team was feeling the same sense of alarm running through my own mind. The Steltians were all surrounded by personal energy shields, glowing brilliant silver in a dome casing around each of them. The shields held strong against everything we had, and the Steltians inside were untouched. The visibility of the barriers faded away and they started walking toward us, pointing their rifles at our heads. "So a full-on assault was a bad move," I muttered. "Can we evade to cover?" "They'd pick one of us off before we had the chance," Elendra replied quietly. Kyrhus was searching himself for any additional rounds to no avail when Elendra furiously shoved her revolvers back into their holsters. Celvey's sonic rifle was drained, but she made an attempt to break the shields with her telekinesis. The Steltians glowed inside their barriers, laughing at our failed attempt to blow them away. "What are you trying to do there, Ilisian?" one of them mocked. "Think you can reach out and hurt me like a Toa of Psionics?" Celvey hunched forward with a heavy breath and I could tell she had put a lot of energy into trying to deactivate their barriers. "Enough talk," the leader said firmly, slowly pointing his rifle at me. "Their luck has finally run out." He took the shot and I thought I had time to see the bullet coming for me. And then it never did. The bullet was spiraling in place, slowly losing speed before it fell harmlessly to the ground. I glanced at Celvey, but she shrugged her shoulders. "Sorry I'm late." Everyone turned and looked to the rooftop of the inn where the voice had come from. Lesovikk was standing there, arms folded, a smile plastered across his face. "Mind your own business, Toa!" the Steltian leader warned. "I'll put you down just as quick if you get in my way. There's no law in these parts to keep you safe!" "And none to save you either," Lesovikk reminded him. "Appearances can be deceiving, Steltian, and I'll only tell you one time, I no longer have reason to follow the code. You can leave now and head home, and I promise you that none of us will trail you and put a well-deserved bullet in your back. But if you pull that trigger, if you open fire with a single round, I will come down there and make you regret it." "Even if I thought you might get through my energy shields, what makes you think I couldn't handle a Toa trying to give me a beating?" "Like I said, I no longer follow the code. If you intend to bring me down off this roof, then you're already standing on your grave." I returned my heavy pistol to my hip and watched the Steltians chuckle with one another for a moment before their leader pointed his rifle at Lesovikk. "I'm calling your bluff, Toa!" The Steltians turned their weapons on Lesovikk and unloaded a barrage of energy bullets on him. Without moving an inch, the Toa of air summoned a cyclone around himself that caught the entire assault before launching it back against the Steltians. Their shields withstood the attack, but the cyclone quickly followed and sent the gang high into the air. Lesovikk leapt from the rooftop and brought himself down gently, a notable contrast to the hard landing each of the Steltians had. Each of their energy shields malfunctioned with a loud crackle upon smacking into the ground and Lesovikk drew his air sword to finish up the battle. Lesovikk looked over his shoulder at us with a grin. "You need a particular touch to take down an energy barrier." "Sure we didn't just wear it down for you first?" I asked. "Pretty sure!" he laughed. Dazed and in pain, the Steltians awkwardly scooped up their weapons and got to their feet, all focused on the Toa of air standing directly in front of them. He took a few steps away and pulled his sword back, aiming his free hand at his opponents. "It's your move," he told them. The Steltian leader had Lesovikk at such close range that missing would be an impossibility. That is to say, had he been shooting at a target like myself. I am not sure if he realized just how powerful this particular Toa was. He hollered as his energy rifle fired a fully automatic stream of rounds that Lesovikk quickly redirected to shoot up the Steltian's gang. Every bullet came within inches of tearing through Lesovikk, and each one found itself in a Steltian instead. Finally, out of bullets, the leader cast his weapon aside and summoned his arm blades, angrily surveying the bodies of his fallen comrades. They were all dead, blasted full of holes by Lesovikk's maneuver. The Toa of air shook his head. "Bad move." Lesovikk rushed forward with a slash and the Steltian leader crossed his arm blades to defend. I could hear the sound of an intense wind fly through Lesovikk's sword just before I watched the blade slice through the Steltian's poorly-made metal and his arms as well. Lesovikk spun all the way around in his attack, crouching once he finished. He gave me a smirk, but I hardly looked. I was more awestruck to see the Steltian's forearms had been severed and a fatal gash had been struck through his chestplate and into his heartlight. The leader fell backwards and Lesovikk stood up straight, walking toward me. "You…you got him." Lesovikk stifled a laugh. "Yeah, I know." I gave him a smile and offered a handshake. "I could have used some of that on my side a tad sooner." He took my hand and balled it into a fist, bumping his own against it. "It was my own hesitation that nearly put you in harm's way like that. I thought about leaving you to handle the situation by yourself, but it was that nagging sense of hesitation to act. It made me think about my old team and the reluctance I once gave them. They deserved better of me…as did you. There's nothing I can do for them, so I came back to rescue a few biomechs with lives left to save." "Well thanks for not ditching out on the party," I said, giving his shoulder a nudge. "One last thing though, Lesovikk. That Toa friend of yours…'her'…are you going to give me a name this time? You thought enough of me to save my life, it'd really just put a small mystery to rest for me." Lesovikk's eyes stared away from me, and his tone was flat when he said, "Nikila. Toa of Electricity, the spark that lit my world." "Sometimes we make our own sparks fly," I replied. "And sometimes our arguments are a little less banal," Lesovikk said, grinning in a self-satisfied way that reminded me why I hated Toa just a little bit. "Farwell, strange, gun-toting travelers. May you never find yourselves on the business end of anything more lethal than your own weapon. Oh, and the innkeeper is waiting with your liquid reward." "Not a moment too soon," Elendra said, glancing at me. "This is the last time I'll be taking orders from you for quite some time on how far an airship can go on so little fuel." I glared, knowing full well that she was right. "Then let's get going back to Valantru and fill the tank. It's going to be a long journey after that." "You think Adrinor is ready to see us?" Celvey asked. "I don't really care if he is," I replied. "We need him, and I won't let our friend sit around feeling bad for himself any longer." "What's got you so sentimental, Hadliek?" Kyrhus wondered, chuckling to himself. "As if I'd tell you when you're laughing at me?" I shot back. "Bring the fuel barrels outside and we'll see if the inn can spare us an extra cart to carry them on. It may be early in the morning now, but before the night is over, this team will have to remind a Meldin about his place among us. He won't find it wandering alone on Nohtal." Review
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