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The autumn of our lives asks us to recede, determining whether we shall last the winter… Episode 00: My World Has Changed My name is Adrinor and I was born in the universe of the Great Spirit, Mata Nui. In this world, for 14,000 years, the League of Six Kingdoms controlled many realms with a forceful grip. Their reign was simple and their demands as well: align yourself with the League or become their enemy. By declaring these enemies to be in conflict with Mata Nui as well—having received the divine right to rule the universe—the Barraki were able to dispatch their rivals without remorse and gained a fearful respect as the mighty warlords they were. In time, the world was not enough, and the Barraki sought the one seat of power seemingly out of our reach – Mata Nui's. This betrayal was revealed to the mysterious Brotherhood of Makuta, and one of their kind flanked by his noble legions managed to successfully put down the attempt to usurp Mata Nui's throne. In a single day of battle, the League's warriors were defeated and displaced, bringing a swift end to the rule of the Barraki. It was their abrupt departure that gave rise to the burden of choice throughout the universe, allowing islands to elect leaders that put the interests of their kind before the orders of a half dozen warlords. An organization known as the Dark Hunters began operating out of Odina during this time, nearly monopolizing the business of hiring out biomechs to perform unscrupulous tasks. Elsewhere, relations began to sour between the districts of Metru Nui, and what had begun as minor disputes among the Matoran led to all-out civil war that divided a once prosperous city. Without their labor, a Great Disruption began throughout the universe and it became abundantly apparent that Mata Nui fell weaker with each passing day. Suns lost their shimmer, seas fell quiet, and the wind carried an icy touch. These were the darkest and most desperate times the universe had ever seen. Everything we knew was shutting down slowly, but surely, and we were hopeless to stop it. I have seen a great deal during my lifetime, but the story I am about to tell is from an era of terrible memories. This is ultimately a story of responsibility and the battle between light and darkness that surrounds us all. Looking back, it would be arrogant to say I lived through those days. On the contrary, I barely survived them. Episode 01: Soldier On A powerful light shone down through my window, illuminating my face and stirring me awake. I squinted against the intensity of the sun, feeling the warmth of a familiar star as I slowly sat up in my bed. I was three stories above the ground level, peering out at the island of Stelt with mixed feelings. The island's caste system made the elite Steltians (their self-proclaimed title) the undisputed rulers of the land with Matoran ranking just below them. The Ohnbiek, meanwhile, were relegated to being laborers and the Pontiir were slaves to slaughter one another in the arenas. My employer, a Steltian named Voporak, had agreed to allow my crew to rent out several rooms above one of his coliseums. Few buildings lasted very long on Stelt, but anything that supported a good fight was sure to hold. After the first few years, I grew accustomed to sleeping through the sound of biomechs being murdered beneath my room. While Steltians went about their morning in the dirt roads below, I pulled my weapon out from behind my bedpost and set it at my side, carefully examining the silver and obsidian wonder. It was a gunblade, a specially crafted weapon made many centuries earlier. It once belonged to a friend I had the misfortune to dig a hole in the dirt for, not long after the League collapsed. Unlike the revolver gunblades sometimes manufactured in Nynrah, my weapon possessed a thinner blade and a long, bayonet-shaped attachment on one side. This was where my bullets fired from, activated by a sequence of gears that connected to the trigger. The grip piece of the weapon was slightly curved, allowing me better control whether I needed to shoot or swing. Above that was a guard piece that arced back from the protosteel blade, doubling as a stabilizer when I took long-range shots. The gunblade was a fine weapon, finer than any I could have asked for. I placed the weapon on my back and stared down at my armor for a moment, shades of crimson and ivory composing my sleek parts. A male Meldin, my form was similar to that of a Toa, minus the elemental powers. In spite of that fact, after years of using the gunblade and many decades as an outlaw, I had trained and achieved a physical strength that rivaled some of Mata Nui's champions. I was living a dream, pursuing a life of freedom alongside a crew of likeminded biomechs. I described my gunblade so particularly because it was the catalyst of my freedom, the instrument that took me across the Matoran Universe, exploring new lands and carrying out jobs for the right price. My team was like a privatized sector of Dark Hunters and, as you might imagine, we were on the Shadowed One's radar. Voporak's clan offered my crew a degree of protection from wandering Dark Hunters on Stelt, though I remained conflicted about how their island operated. Whenever I broached the subject with Voporak, however, he politely reminded me that it was not my place to argue the matter. He was a clan leader, not me. I was not even from Stelt - my native land of Meldio just south of the Southern Continent. Steltian society was the concern of the Steltians and, if they were content to wage war until the end of the world, that was their business. I opened my bedroom door and shut it behind me, whistling as I headed down the corridor to speak with Voporak about new work. I heard a weak grunt echo above me and instinctively drew my weapon, pointing it toward the ceiling. One of Voporak's guards, a Steltian named Sidorak, was forcibly connected to the ceiling by what appeared to be magnetic force. He suddenly dropped, crashing on his face and passing out. "I traveled a long way to speak with you," a voice called from around the corner. "Your friend seemed to think his arm blade would stop me." I smirked at the thought as I lowered my weapon, flipping Sidorak onto his back with a push of my foot. "This Steltian is an insincere, power-hungry moron. Had you done this to one of my actual friends, my patience would be much thinner right now." My visitor stepped into view, a lone Toa of magnetism. His gunmetal and black armor was scratched and scraped, suggesting he'd seen as much of battle as I had. He wielded a launcher of unknown origin in his left hand and a magnetic weapon in his right. I paid close attention to his lime green eyes, staring me down from behind his jet black Kadin. "You have a name, hero?" I asked. The Toa held his stern expression. "You're Adrinor, right?" "No one's told me otherwise," I said, relaxing a little bit. If the Toa wanted a fight, we would have been fighting already. Toa did not dance around their intentions often, it was not in their nature. "My name is Jovan. My team heard about you a couple months back," he told me. "You were on an assignment in the Northern Continent, escorting a Toa with some dangerous enemies. I was told the mission went successfully." "I got paid, if that says anything," I replied, letting one of my fingers wrap around the trigger of my weapon. "I don't like the suspicion that I'm being followed, so you might want to make your point soon." "Then I'll dissolve any suspicions and tell you outright that my fellow Toa and I have been on your trail," Jovan said awkwardly before clearing his throat. "After seeing your team in action, I think you're exactly what we need. I'd like to hire your crew as security detail for my own." "And where would we be going if I accepted?" "Before I say," Jovan started uncertainly, "I'd like you to accompany me out to the balcony momentarily. I need you to see something." Sidorak groaned and rapidly blinked his eyes, glancing up at me. "What happened?" "Business transaction," I muttered. "I'd tell you not to run off in case things turn against me on the balcony, but I have a feeling you'd just accidentally shoot me anyway." I followed Jovan out onto the nearest balcony of the coliseum, watching him put his weapons away. I stepped out further then, catching sight of four more Toa near the building's entrance. They had incapacitated an Ohnbiek guard by the name of Krekka, his burly form collapsed into the dirt. Nearby Steltians went about their typical morning activities, walking by or chatting up merchants with wares for sale. The sight of Toa on Stelt was a rarity, but no one was terribly interested in starting anything with them. "Mata Nui is dying, Adrinor," Jovan said sadly, looking into my eyes. "Stelt is still fortunate enough to have a sun shining in the sky, but there are other lands not quite so lucky. This place is a brigand's haven, not a home for a Toa, and yet I do not wish anything ill on the biomechs that call this place home. My team and I want to save the universe and we're in desperate need of someone who can protect us." I nodded slowly. "Then I'll ask again; where are you headed?" "Metru Nui," Jovan replied, suddenly lowering his voice. "The Onu-Metru Archives are legendary for containing rare and one-of-a-kind items among their exhibits. I recently encountered a rumor that the Archives may contain information about a Kanohi that could save the Great Spirit from death. Furthermore, they may also hold a Kanohi that can ascertain its location, called an Elda." "Sounds valuable," I mused. "I don't know a lot of biomechs who would willingly step into a warzone, even if the belligerents are mere Matoran. That said, I think you and I can set up a business arrangement. I presume this security detail job will begin on Metru Nui and conclude once your mythic Kanohi is retrieved?" "That's correct," Jovan replied. "Now, how much were you hoping to receive in terms of payment?" I grinned. "Well, let's see. My team's initial hiring fee is the first number that comes to mind. Then you'll be paying for our munitions, labor costs, and there's a daily charge as well. I also need to factor in a "saving the universe fee," which, is almost too great to put a price on. Alas, the price will be tacked on to your final bill." Jovan gave me a surprised look. "You must be joking." "Mostly, yes." I chuckled. "Why don't you tell me how much you've got and we'll go from there." The Toa of magnetism reluctantly handed over a small pouch and I let it rest in the palm of my hand. It was definitely heavy for such a tiny size. I pulled the strings apart on the bag's opening and peered inside, finding a couple dozen gold coins. I shifted the bag's contents around, allowing me to see how each coin had a Kanohi Hau on one side and the number 500 on the other. I looked back up at Jovan with a smile and he politely smiled back. "My team has saved some wealthy individuals in the past and, while we try not to accept payment for our services, some biomechs won't take 'no' for an answer." "May the Great Spirit bless them," I replied sarcastically, shaking Jovan's hand. "So we've got a job from a Toa, huh?" Jovan and I whirled back to see my crewmate Hadliek staring at us from the doorway. Holding his large caliber pistol up toward the sky, he lightly clicked the activator switch back and forth. Roughly my height, Hadliek wore matte black and cerulean armor, his eyes a shade of soft teal. He was a Todrano, from the eastern chain of the Southern Islands. His weapon, on the other hand, was manufactured in Xia. A heavy pistol, the barrel could hold 10 rounds, while an activation switch on the side could give them an incendiary kick. "Yeah, we've got a job," I said. "Jovan, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Hadliek. Hadliek, this is Toa Jovan. We'll be protecting his team on a mission to Onu-Metru." "Nice to meet you, Hadliek," Jovan said cordially. "Same to you, hero; I haven't been to war in a while," Hadliek replied in his most casual tone, holstering his weapon at the hip. He possessed a natural cool that made being debonair look simple. "What kind of money is he walking around with to make you agree to that, Adrinor?" "Enough," I said slyly. "You know we could just take the money and save ourselves the trip," Hadliek suggested with a sinister grin. I watched Jovan begin to reach for his launcher before I gently put a hand to his shoulder. "That's not how we operate." "Forgive me," Jovan replied, "but you are hired guns. I've watched you steal." "Well…yeah," I said inelegantly, "but that was on assignment. We don't usually…I mean, not unless we have to." I sighed for a moment, trying to focus my thoughts. "Jovan, we have a code in this crew. Don't bite the hand that feeds you." "And yet you request payment to ultimately save the life of the Great Spirit. Ironic, wouldn't you say?" Jovan asked. I smirked. "If Mata Nui cares to notice, I still need to eat and reload my weapon from time to time. I don't exactly see him dropping any favors on me." "The ways of the Great Spirit are mysterious indeed," Jovan said assuredly. "Won't argue with that," Hadliek told him. "Let's continue this conversation down in the ground floor lounge," I proposed. "I'd like to meet the Toa I'll be protecting." "Yes, assemble your crew and I'll see you down there." Jovan lifted himself off the floor—presumably pulling himself by his magnetic parts—and smoothly descended to the ground below. Hadliek and I departed from the balcony and a quick scan of the corridor left me proud. The other three members of my team had been waiting silently, weapons loaded in case our guest was restless for battle. Elendra stood to my right, both of her revolvers ready to fire. She was an edgy sort of biomech, her ice white and violet armor never hinting at the volatile individual underneath. A Trelban from Trelbin, Elendra's frost-colored head was shaped like a Mask of Possibilities, mirroring the rest of her Toa-sized kind. On my left was Kyrhus, a platinum and black Gekalan. Kyrhus had very reptilian features (common in the Gekalan species) - a snout, scales, sharp claws, and a tail that ended in a blade. His dark forest green eyes were like staring into an alien world, but for all his formidable qualities, Kyrhus was the most kind-hearted of us. He held a sniper rifle at his side, an energy bullet-based weapon that had impeccable range with the right user. Kyrhus was certainly one of them. "Good morning," Kyrhus greeted in his usual, refined tone. "I see we have company." "Toa, of all things," Elendra said with a chuckle. "They must be desperate to have come to Stelt. I didn't quite catch your entire conversation." "They want to save the universe," I told her matter-of-factly. "I imagine they would've gone to the edge of the Southern Islands if they needed another crew like ours." Elendra raised an eyebrow. "The universe? Okay, I'm interested now." "As am I. They're waiting downstairs," Hadliek said. Our fifth member dropped down from the rafters, ducking into a roll when she hit the ground. She leapt to her feet and placed her sonic assault rifle on her back, innocently smirking at us. "Good morning, Celvey," I said, holding back a laugh. "Were you waiting for an invitation up there?" "Just waiting for the sake of it," Celvey replied sweetly. Celvey was an interesting individual, to say the least. East of Xia is a pair of islands. The north island is Nohtal, inhabited by biomechs imbued with natural darkness. These Nohtalians live in harmony with one another for the most part. South of Nohtal is an island inhabited by biomechs imbued with natural light. The island is almost constantly at war, ironically enough. This island is called Ilisi and, by extension, Celvey was an Ilisian. Her figure possessed more natural femininity than Elendra's, the contours of Celvey's form being more rounded, yet still defined. She was a lithe entity, armored in light silver and auburn, but able to hold her own in combat. Celvey favored a "civilized" alternative to a gunfight, but in our line of work, that was not always an option. The five of us marched downstairs, passing Voporak's empty office along the way. He left the coliseum from time to time to deal with personal matters among his clan, often times simple territorial disputes. A favorite—and quite clandestine—agent of Barraki Mantax during the era of the League, I could not begin to imagine what sorts of secrets he harbored from that age of the world. We met one another mere days before the League fell and I was never one to pry about the days of old. I stepped inside the lounge and quickly noticed Jovan sitting with the four Toa I had seen on the ground, his team taking up half a large booth near one of the windows. I led my crew through the lounge and we took our seats across the table from the Toa, settling in for a chat. "Good morning, everyone," I greeted the Toa. I looked to Jovan and asked, "So, should we all go around the table and introduce ourselves, or…how would you like to do this?" "I'll start," the Toa of magnetism replied. "My name is Toa Jovan and I am the leader of this team." Jovan looked to his right and nodded at a Toa of plant life. "My name is Haltryox," he said in a kind voice, "and I am the deputy leader of the team." Next down the line was an Olmak-wearing Toa of earth who introduced himself in a gruff tone as, "Argeph. I'm not a leader, more of an enforcer." "Would you mind sharing the difference with us?" Hadliek asked pleasantly. "We don't get to learn about the lifestyle of Toa very often." "Jovan here sets the rules as leader, be it for our group or criminals we've apprehended. If someone thinks about overstepping those rules, I'm more than willing to remind them of their place." "Don't worry, he's got a soft heartlight under all that talk," the next Toa down the line giggled. A Toa of water, she continued with, "My name is Valtriak, by the way." "And last, but not least, I am Ticonahk," a Toa of plasma at the end of the table said with a grin. "Nice meeting you all, my name is Adrinor and, since it's already been established that you've seen me at work, I'll let my crew get their introductions out of the way." "My name is Hadliek and my hobbies include shooting things, shooting other things, and getting paid when a job is finished." "What a well-rounded Todrano," Valtriak said facetiously. Hadliek shot her a slightly impressed smirk. "Oh, and long walks under the moonlight." Elendra gave him an annoyed look and began, "My name is Elendra and if you're pinned down under fire, I'm probably nowhere in sight." "My name is Kyrhus and…I really couldn't think of anything off the top of my head the way Hadliek and Elendra did." "You have a very polished voice, Kyrhus, if you don't mind my saying," Haltryox noted. "Forgive me, but your appearance suggested a more…feral creature." Kyrhus smiled. "No offense taken, the Gekalan are often mistaken as such." "And my name is Celvey. I am the newest member of the crew and," she paused, glancing down the table at me, "may I tell them?" I frowned and shook my head. "Not here." Her voice lowered to a whisper as she added, "Another time, I suppose." Jovan clapped his hands together. "Well, a pleasure to meet all of you. Now that we're up to speed in the personality department, I think we're going to get along on this mission just famously." I grinned. "Don't let that magnet-head of yours get too attached to us. We're still some of the finest killers you'll meet in this town." Jovan's expression suddenly turned more serious. "I can overlook that for the time being, given that you're willing to assist us in the greatest endeavor in the history of the universe. Saving the life of the Great Spirit, well…it's not the kind of work I'd expect a team of hired guns to usually sign up for. My team is ready to journey north this afternoon if yours is." "Slow down, Metru Nui wasn't built in a day," I replied. "And don't sell yourself short either, Jovan. You'll be doing the hero stuff. We'll just be watching your backs for gunfire." "At any rate, the Great Spirit cannot wait forever for his saviors," Jovan told my crew. "I'd like to be on my way to Metru Nui before sundown." "Metru Nui?" Kyrhus repeated, clearly taken aback. "That city is a warzone." "Need I remind you how this town turns into a warzone from time to time?" Elendra asked him. "Not to mention Steltians seem bred for war in a way Matoran will never be." "Well the conflicts here never last hundreds of years," Kyrhus muttered. "Even so, these are only Matoran," Elendra said, trying to reassure him. "They have powerless masks and can't aim a weapon to save their lives." Jovan went to stand up, but I quickly pulled the heavy pistol from Hadliek's hip and held it near my head, pointing the barrel square at the Toa of magnetism. "I think you'd do well to sit back down, Jovan." Argeph went to grab the pistol, but I triggered the incendiary activator and said, "Any closer and I'll light him up." "Stand down, Argeph." Jovan resumed sitting and gave me an angry look. "What do you want, Adrinor?" "The truth," I replied, slowly lowering Hadliek's gun and flipping off the activator. "You think I would readily believe anyone, even Toa, would blindly run headlong into Metru Nui on the basis of a rumor? The risk is too great for anyone to enter that city over a bit of gossip. So you're going to tell me exactly what you know, or I'm going to count to ten and drop the number of Toa on Stelt by one." Haltryox glanced at Jovan. "I don't think we need-" "No, he's right. Adrinor deserves the truth." Jovan turned his attention to me and whispered, "My team was approached by an agent that spoke on behalf of Mata Nui." "Did this agent have a name or were you able to determine his species at least?" I asked, still holding the gun ready. "Yes, he was a Dectraz by the name of Trylac." I felt my heartlight skip a beat as Jovan finished speaking. Looking down the table at Elendra, I could only imagine I was wearing the same expression of disbelief. When the League fell 900 years prior, when Makuta Teridax oversaw the defeat of the Barraki in a single day, I had not yet become a leader. That title belonged to another, to the Nohtalian who once wielded my gunblade. And it was his crew that contained a Dectraz named Trylac who was shot out of the sky, presumably murdered. "Are you all right, Adrinor?" Jovan wondered, clearly aware he said something disturbing. I lowered my head and returned the gun to Hadliek, my thoughts still racing. "I watched a Dectraz named Trylac fly off one day…right before he was shot and plummeted to his death. Only his broken rifle was recovered from the crash site and we thought his body was destroyed." "Isn't it possible that Trylac merely left the scene, perhaps limping away in his damaged condition?" Haltryox asked. I glared at him, my fury rising again. "He would've looked for me! He would've come back, okay?" "If you truly think Trylac died, we were planning to meet up with him on the Southern Continent in a matter of days. You can talk with him there and resolve your misunderstanding," Jovan replied. "It's funny, Trylac actually pointed me in your direction to begin with. He seemed to think you were very capable of protecting my team." "We should return to the coast soon," Valtriak said. "Our watercraft is decent, but it will be a long journey to Metru Nui." "Elendra," I said, turning to her, "I think it's time we put your side project to the test." She smiled at me before looking at Jovan's team. "I've been hard at work on an experimental aircraft kept beneath this coliseum. Looks like it'll finally see the light of day." I felt a sense of hope welling up in my mind. Trylac had been watching my crew for quite some time, it seemed. But why he kept up the secrecy, how he evaded our detection - it was all beyond my ability to comprehend. I knew then that I had to see him on the Southern Continent; I needed answers. Review
Rise of the Rahkshi "You don't hurt 'em if you don't hit 'em."- Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC Hafu looked down on the assembled Ta-Matoran from a rooftop. Their movement into Po-Metru had gone unchecked for days now. The mostly barren district, dotted with a few carver’s homes and sculptures, provided little in the way of natural barriers to keep out invaders or provide cover for the defenders. As a result, the 1st Po-Metru Squadron had been pushed back time after time and was in danger of being marched right into the sea.The fiery tempers of Ta-Matoran that started this civil war also made them very effective at prosecuting it. Their warriors were unafraid of collateral damage, Kanoka disks, and pretty much anything the Po-Matoran could throw at them. If there was one thing they feared, it was their commander Riami.Riami was a powerful trader before this whole mess started and was known for his hardline negotiating style and refusal to quit until his goals were met. This translated into warfare with considerable effectiveness. An old proverb went “the Great Spirit is in the heartstone of every Matoran”. That considered, Riami seemed to be on a mission to slay the Great Spirit himself judging by how many Matoran had fallen to his brutal, elite unit. Their merciless fighting style led to the nickname “Rahkshi” by both their allies and opponents.And now it was up to Hafu and his scouts to hold them off.Hafu had received word from the chain of command that their new Le-Matoran allies were cooking up a surprise for the Rahkshi. As a mere sergeant it wasn’t his place to know what this plan was, just that it was up to him to keep the Ta-Matoran occupied long enough to spring it.“Well, just me and my favorite Ta-Matoran marauders,” Hafu mumbled to himself. “I don’t care what rank Ahkmou is, he’ll get a piece of my mind after this.”Hafu grimaced as one of the wandering Ta-Matoran raiders kicked a statue over. He worked hard on that! His first reaction was to shout obscenities as he would have before the war, but then he remembered the assembled army below him. Not a good idea, Hafu.There was a tap on his shoulder that made Hafu jump up as if stung. “Mata Nui, Onewa! Announce yourself next time,” whispered Hafu. “I’m sure the Rahkshi would love that,” replied Onewa. “I have word from Ahkmou. Our spy reports that the Riami’s men plan on a rendezvous at the Archives, where they can meet up with Nuparu’s men. We don’t want them to get there. The last thing they need is that blasted Nuparu working on their weapons.” Hafu frowned. While Po-Metru was very much the manufacturing core of Metru Nui, the Onu-Matoran were mostly responsible for the design of the products produced there, including weapons. Allowing the Rahkshi to break through would practically hand them the district.“Alright, I think we should act now,” said Hafu, handing Onewa a Kanoka disk. “You run over to that other rooftop and shoot that guy in the face with this disk.” “What? What kind of plan is that?” said Onewa, flabbergasted. “Shoot that guy in the face? What guy? What disk is this anyway?” “Read the code genius, and I assumed you would realize Riami is the guy we want,” replied Hafu tersely. “Oh yeah great idea, let’s shoot a disk at the leader of a murderous band of Ta-Matoran and then walk away clean. Another Hafu original.” Their argument was interrupted by the edge of their rooftop being turned into some sort of topiary.“You Po-Matoran really need to learn some discretion,” yelled a Ta-Matoran from below. Hafu peered over the remains of the wall and saw about sixty Kanoka disk launchers pointed at him. “Oh yeah Onewa, my plan was awful. I like the “get everyone’s attention” tactic you’ve just employed, they’ll be teaching it in Ko-Metru –“ The rooftop froze. “Never mind, we can discuss this later,” said Hafu.Hafu and Onewa scampered across the rooftop, ducking all manner of Kanoka disks being lobbed at them. “You know, here’s a new plan,” panted Onewa. “We keep running around until they run out of Kanoka disks.” “I think a better plan would be to just trust my plan,” hissed Hafu. “If they run out of disks they take out their swords, and they may not have any fancy Kanoka powers but stabbing still seems pretty severe.” “Such a critic!” yelled Onewa, and threw the disk Hafu handed him into the crowd of Ta-Matoran. About forty-five of them vanished.“Wow, good deal,” said Hafu. “Glad I grabbed that high powered teleporting disk before the war broke out and the Ta-Matoran monopolized the darn things.” “I agree, this is probably one of the better results of a teleportation disk I’ve ever gotten,” said a voice behind Hafu. Hafu turned and saw Riami along with about ten other Ta-Matoran, now behind them on the rooftop. “Well that went poorly,” said Onewa.“Do you really think that we would so willingly let our Kanoka stockpile vanish?” smirked Riami. “Deceit is a funny thing, stone rat. Every Kanoka produced for export in the last three months has been mislabeled. That level eight disk was more like a level two. I’m surprised I moved as far as I did, although I can’t complain about the strategic value of ending up right behind your opponent.”Hafu grinned and held up a disk marked 421. Riami was visibly shocked. “I take it this isn’t a low powered disk?” smirked Hafu. “Wha-where did you get that?!” demanded Riami, and put a foot on Hafu’s chest, drawing his sword. “You don’t think we’re aware of your little plot? Reverse order is a terrible, terrible way to disguise something,” chided Hafu. “And judging by the look on your face I’d say this is the Great Kanoka Disk of Ko-Metru. Not something you should try to vandalize.”Riami looked like he was about to explode with anger, but his blade held fast out of fear of exploding with the most powerful freezing effect on Metru-Nui. “How do you know of the great disks, carver? That is considered a maskmaker’s secret,” growled Riami. “I personally dabble in maskmaking. It’s one of my favorite hobbies along with Akilini, Muaka wrestling, and helping Ta-Matoran with their anger issues,” joked Hafu. “Hafu, why would you view it as wise to annoy this guy?” sighed Onewa. “Well, we have the most powerful freezing disk on Metru Nui right now. If anyone tries anything, we’re all popsicles. Now I love me, but in terms of strategic value I think two carvers is a small price to pay for stopping the pride of the Ta-Matoran military,” explained Hafu.Onewa was startled. Hafu never spoke so selflessly before. His sole aim in the war had always seemed to be his own hide. Onewa remembered groaning when Hafu was promoted to sergeant and thought of entire units of Po-Matoran fleeing across the desert. What had changed? “I thought about it when I saw your man kick over that statue. I can run, I can hide, but not before you destroy everything I ever worked for and loved. I guess I’ve decided to make a stand.”The Ta-Matoran who hadn’t been teleported to the rooftop watched, transfixed by the exchange up above. One of them drew a fire staff.“Well, it’s been real Riami. You do have some anger issues to work out, so I think we should all chill out for a bit.” On that note, Hafu froze the entire rooftop.The dozen or so remaining Ta-Matoran were shocked. The majority of their chain of command was frozen on a rooftop, and there they sat almost leaderless. “Well what are you waiting for?” said the Matoran with the fire staff. “Let’s go thaw them out!” The Matoran raised his fire staff high and fired off the symbol of unity, duty, and destiny into the air. “Sergeant Vakama, with all due respect, what does that accomplish for us?” asked Nuhrii, looking up at his sergeant with a bemused expression. “This,” grinned Vakama, and a airship sped across the sky dropping several Le-Matoran in its wake. The company of Matoran levitated above the ground momentarily, and then spread out to surround the remainder of Riami’s troops.“Traitor!” gasped Nuhrii. “Am I?” asked Vakama. “I had a dream the other night; a dream of death. I’m sure you all have, but this was far darker. It was the death of the Great Spirit. If we are all part of Mata Nui, then why would we kill each other? This has to stop before everything ends.” “I knew it,” said Jaller, standing off to the side. “I say we kill him!” There were general yells of agreement from the surrounded Ta-Matoran. “Did you not hear anything I just said?” yelled Vakama. “You will kill Mata Nui, and for what? Border disputes? The price of protodermis?” “Shut your traitorous mouth!” said Kapura, drawing his sword. “Look at what you’ve become. They call you Rahkshi. Is that what you are, a beast? A monster?”“Hey, um, firespitters,” interrupted Matau, leader of the 1st Airborne Le-Matoran Squadron. “Before you kill old futurewatcher here, I’d just like to remind you that we have you surrounded. Just something to considerthink.” “You don’t think we can fight our way out? We’re Rahkshi! The most feared force on the –“ The Le-Matoran opened fire with a wide variety of disk powers. The boasts stopped, as did most other movement.“Well that should cease his bragsaying,” said Matau with a sense of finality. “You alright firespitter?” Vakama got up and pushed his way out of the circle of frozen and otherwise altered Ta-Matoran. “I think I got hit with a regeneration disk, so I feel great. By the way? Not the best disk to shoot at your opponents,” Vakama replied. Matau chuckled. “Oh firespitter. You truly are a joy to work with.” “Likewise,” said Vakama. “Maybe we’ll see each other again someday.” “Believe me, I’ll make a point of it,” said Matau and raised his hand to signal for his unit to fall in behind him. A small stasis bubble descended from the airship and picked up the Le-Matoran, returning them to the skies.Vakama now stood alone in what seemed like a vast field of icy sculptures. The Rahkshi would thaw, no doubt, but they had prevented what seemed to be inevitable defeat. Perhaps these Po-Matoran could return to their homes soon. Perhaps a settlement could be reached.But first, his friends had to be taken care of.Vakama climbed the steps of the half frozen carver’s hut and reached the roof. Taking out his fire staff, he thawed out Onewa and Hafu.“Thanks Vakama. Knew you’d come through,” said Onewa gratefully. He then turned and punched Hafu square in the jaw. “Ow! What was that for?” gasped Hafu. “For that obnoxiously corny line! Up until that point I hoped you would have been remembered in tales as a hero, but if the legends include the whole ‘chill out’ pun I think I’ll be sick.” “Yeah, you need to work on that a little. Now let’s get out of here, these guys won’t be frozen forever.” Vakama, Onewa, and Hafu turned away from the battlefield and walked off.---The trio of Matoran left just in time, as Riami was among the first to thaw. “Men! Rally around me! We will seek vengeance for this humiliation!” he yelled. Few Ta-Matoran joined him. He drew his sword. “You fight with me, or against me! Pick a side!” “Do you think the Great Spirit’s really dying?” asked Jaller, concerned. “Be concerned about your own death if you trouble me with such thoughts,” Riami replied. “Rally! We will make these stone rats pay!” “I don’t think the Great Spirit would take kindly to being killed,” said Jaller. “Have you considered that there may be some divine intervention coming our way if this continues?” “Nonsense. You make as much sense as those moronic seers on the Knowledge Towers. Fall in! We own Po-Metru tonight!”There was a horrific hiss from the direction of the Archives, and all of the remaining Rahkshi turned to see a massive horde of actual Rahkshi descending upon them. “Well, it was nice knowing you,” said Jaller, and moved in the opposite direction of the incoming horde along with a majority of Riami’s unit.Riami stood alone against the horde. “Come on, you ugly beasts! Face me! Face Riami, the true Rahkshi!” A large being appeared, grabbing Riami and disappearing.---The next thing Riami knew, he was walking with a strange giant with giant golden fangs. “I appreciate this whole ‘massacre’ thing you had going on,” said the being. “What – who are you?” gasped Riami, confused as to where he was. “I am Botar,” the being replied. “And you have given me quite the mess to clean up.”The lumbering Botar stopped short of a large imposing gate guarded by a silver giant. “Hello Hydraxon,” said Botar. “We’ve got another one.” “Great news, great news,” nodded Hydraxon. “Soon this entire ordeal will be over. Any news on the big man upstairs?” “Kind of a casual way to refer to the Great Spirit, but the news is not good. They’re dispatching a Toa team as we speak.” Riami, bold up until now, was horrified. What had he done?“And the Brotherhood?” “Oh you know Teridax,” spat Botar. “Has all the finesse of a Tahtorahk on ice. There’s roughly six hundred Rahkshi just ravaging Metru Nui right now. Because, you know, the best way to stop Matoran from killing each other is to kill them all.”“That’s a shame. At least we stopped this so-called ‘Rahkshi’,” mocked Hydraxon. Riami shook with terror. “How’s it going? That whole ‘fearless monster’ thing working out for you?” asked Hydraxon. Riami stammered but before he could answer Hydraxon aimed a sharp punch at his ribs. “You are not fearless it seems,” smirked Hydraxon. “But you are a monster. Have fun in there. Maybe you’ll make some new friends!” The jailer chuckled as he threw Riami roughly into The Pit.---As Vakama, Onewa, and Hafu continued their long foot journey back to the Po-Matoran headquarters, they found their way blocked by Jaller and a few other remnants of Riami’s Rahkshi.“Still? Have you not learned?” cried Vakama, exasperated. “No, I believe I have,” said Jaller. “Unity, duty, and destiny. It’s more important than I thought. It’s not some battle cry or anthem, it’s a way of life. Maybe I got so caught up in unity with my district that I forgot unity with my brothers.” “Agreed,” said Nuhrii. “When Riami stood there in front of that horde of Rahkshi I saw a madman. He truly is an affront to Mata Nui and I hope he gets his just desserts.”“Glad we’re in agreement then,” said Vakama. “So can we stop trying to kill each other?” Nuhrii laughed. “Of course…brother.”Hafu had to admit he was glad with how all this turned out. These ‘Rahkshi’, for all their faults, were some decent people in the end. He was glad to see them rise above the mob mentality of their leader and become something greater: Matoran, not beasts. “So Onewa,” began Hafu. “Yes, oh great one, your plan worked to perfection,” finished Onewa, rolling his eyes. “No, no. Nothing of the sort. I’d imagine that now that this whole thing is over they’ll probably get Akilini going again. Want to try out for the district team?” Onewa chuckled. “Akilini sounds like a great way to resolve our issues. Nobody gets hurt and everybody has a good time. How refreshing, actually.”“We just have to wait for those darn Rahkshi from the archives to stop their pillaging. Who thought that was a good idea, in all honesty?” frowned Hafu. “Actually,” said Onewa. “I’d prefer it if we didn’t mention Rahkshi for a while.”__________________________Well guys, there's my SSC8 entry. I'd never entered one of these before so I figured I'd give it a shot. Let me know what you think!