This idea’s been floating around in my head for a while now, ever since I had the thought, “Hey, what if I wrote a little vignette for every Dark Hunter who didn’t get adequate coverage in the main story?”
That project might be a little too ambitious, but while I was brainstorming ideas, this one sprang into my head and wouldn’t go away. I wrote half of it immediately, but only now did I have the time and the drive to actually finish it.
Hopefully, I’ve been able to communicate the sort of pathos I was trying to get at with this story. If I haven’t, it might just seem really weird.
Anyway, read and enjoy, and please review!
The ominous sound rumbled through the corridors as Makuta Teridax strode through the dark, echoing from above, below, and all sides in-between. An eerie green glow hovered at the edge of the shadows, just enough to light the path for a being of daytime. Makuta Teridax, however, was not such a being. His vision pierced the utter black shroud and saw what surrounded him in full menacing splendor.
In truth, he was awed.
Cells. Thousands upon thousands of cells, uncountable in their numbers, nested as far as his shadowed eyes could see, in every direction. In each of them, a dark shape hung, all but motionless, twitching maybe once in a century.
Bohrok, Makuta murmured, captivated by the majesty and horror that surrounded him. If I could only capture the secrets of this slumbering army…
It had not been too long ago that he had discovered their Queens, hovering in suspended animation. The Bohrok at large had no minds to speak of, but a telepathic scan yielded much information from the Bahrag.
They lie in wait for an island that should not be, Makuta recalled. When awakened -- I suspect the signal is sonic in nature -- they will rise and clear every obstacle from the island face. Then they will retire to their nests, never knowing the true purpose for their actions.
He had been walking for a long while now. Fewer and fewer cells loomed above him as he descended another corridor, crossed another threshold. His sight told him this was the edge of the nests, but his instinct told him there was more yet to be found.
A carving caught his gaze. Makuta examined it; the style was unlike anything Matoran society had ever seen. Depicted were the Bahrag, exposing one of their krana to a mysterious substance. Once immersed, it emerged as something far more than what it was.
It was not long before he reached the end of the tunnel. A circular gate of a strange metal blocked the passage, but it could not block his magnetic power. Makuta proceeded into an orange-lit, six-sided chamber, and looked around.
Oh, he muttered. Oh, now this is very, very interesting.
Mounted on the walls was a plethora of krana, but not of any color or shade he had seen before. Each was metallic in color and regal in shape, and he could feel their power echoing at the back of his mind. Furthermore, six cells were arrayed in the center floor. Inside each hung a Bohrok, but like the strange krana surrounding them, they were unlike those in the rest of the nests. Their armor was colored in glorious chrome shades, and the shields they carried were strong and deadly-looking.
On an impulse, Makuta scanned the suspended Bohrok, expecting to find only emptiness. Instead, he found cunning and intelligence beyond anything he had thought. It was simple and narrow-minded intelligence, but intelligence nonetheless. Incredible.
A circular door stood discreetly beyond the crimson Bohrok’s cell. Makuta threw it open and advanced.
A smaller chamber greeted him. Carvings of the Bahrag and the island above lined the walls, but what was most striking was the pool in the center of the chamber. Inside frothed a mysterious substance -- Makuta’s first thought was energized protodermis, but he soon realized this was anything but. Like liquid lightning, the substance flickered and leapt about in the pool. It was mostly silver in color, but flashes of bronze, gold, emerald, and other shades occasionally joined the fray.
Kal, Makuta realized. This was the substance he had seen in the carvings and in the minds of the six Bohrok. No, not Bohrok; Bohrok-Kal. They were transformed by this substance into an elite breed for a specialized purpose.
He scanned the substance and found the vast majority of it was raw elemental energy. For brief moments, one element would become dominant over all others -- sonics one moment, plasma the next. He could sense every element churning within this mix, ready to be bestowed.
This kal substance was meant for Bohrok, Makuta mused. But what effect would it have, perhaps… on a kraata?
“Come, child,” he commanded. From the shadows crawled a purple kraata, oozing a trail of antidermic slime across the floor. It paused, regarding the pool with what could best be described as wariness.
Makuta, too, paused, considering all the myriad ways this experiment could go wrong. Abruptly, he dismissed them, and plucked the kraata from the ground. “I didn’t become leader of the Brotherhood for my cautious ways,” he muttered, more to himself than to the writhing thing in his claws. With a bold, fluid movement, he raised the kraata in the air and plunged it into the kal.
The kraata writhed and shrieked as the substance flared and flickered. Red-orange sparks flew from the mixture, and Makuta could see a silver sheen beginning to form over the slug. He sensed that the kal had done its work, but on a whim, he did not draw the kraata out of the mixture. Each of the Bohrok-Kal was immersed once, and came out with control over one element. What were to happen, however, if I submerged this kraata for longer?
A calming blue glow subsumed the kraata, bathing it in azure energies. It screamed and tried to wriggle free, but Makuta’s grip was firm. He held it in, even as deepest black and darkest red washed over the kraata, seeping around and into the wriggling thing. Finally, Makuta could hold the creature no further -- it had grown too strong -- and quickly, he yanked the creature from the mixture.
The creature was not a kraata, not any longer. It had grown triple its size, and silver spines extended from its segmented shape. Down its back ran a silver stripe; beneath that, red, blue, and black colored its slimy form. Most striking, though, were its eyes. Within their orange glow, intelligence gleamed.
“Fascinating,” said Makuta. “The first Kraata-Kal in recorded history.”
Kraata-Kal looked on him with an uncertain gaze. The mind of the slug was a mixture of fear, awe, and excitement. It -- no, he -- could feel the energies roiling within his body. Fire, water, and shadow… all three would bend to his will. He knew himself to be the most powerful kraata ever to be created, born from the most powerful Makuta ever to rule, and he exulted in it.
Of course, even a Kraata-Kal is weak without its armor. Accompanied by his new creation, Makuta returned to his laboratory and began work on a mechanical monster, a sturdy construction of claws, fangs, and dangerous weaponry. Kraata-Kal looked on with glee as his armor took shape, and when it was done, he slithered in and felt raw power coursing through his newfound limbs.
To walk… to run… this is simply excellent, Kraata-Kal hissed. He raised his blade and willed his energies into it. Fiery embers sprang from the weapon, even as flame itself erupted at its edge. With one swing, he carved a burning gouge out of the tunnel wall, leaving nothing but scorched rock behind. Another swing set a raging fire burning in the earth before his feet.
“Your command of fire is impressive,” Makuta said, nodding. “But what of the others?”
Kraata-Kal raised his other claw. A stream of water bubbled forth from thin air, moving to encircle his talons in a graceful dance. Then, with the tempestuous fury of the storm, he blasted forth the water and doused the flame he had set. Steam seethed and rose through the chamber.
Then it was time for shadow. Kraata-Kal paused, concentrating on the darkness within his spirit. He awakened the latent power of antidermis and willed it forth in a deluge.
All light vanished from the chamber, replaced by utter black. Dark fire burst forth and clung to the walls, the scattered machinery, racing along the ground with tendrils reaching.
Suddenly, it was gone, and light returned in full force. Kraata-Kal recoiled, hissing in discomfort, and cleared his eyes to see dark energies emanating from Makuta’s fist. “You produce shadow in great quantities. But never forget the value of absorbing your element. For all darkness to vanish from a room leaves most any opponent startled, at best.”
Kraata-Kal nodded. He understood the lecture… and would be sure to put this knowledge to good use.
“There is more training yet to come,” Makuta continued, turning and moving from the room. Kraata-Kal followed. “Your control is shaky at times, as is to be expected of a youth. Though I do not control fire and water myself, I have read tomes on the subject. What’s more, I will procure some captured Toa, who can serve as both teachers and target practice for you and your coming brothers.”
Kraata-Kal paused abruptly. Makuta sensed his shock and bewilderment, and gave a laugh. “What, did you think me satisfied with just one of your kind? Oh, no. The kal substance has energy yet for a thousand more Kraata-Kal, all masters of their respective elements. With such as these in the hands of the Brotherhood, the Plan must succeed.”
Makuta gestured, and a rock wall vanished to reveal the Silver Sea, with Metru Nui shining on the horizon. “I must depart now, to meet with the Turaga. There is some argument over whether to allow Vortixx and others permanent residence in the city, or some other silly dispute. But when I return, my experiments can begin in earnest.”
Kraata-Kal’s spirit churned with outrage. Below the ledge, the Silver Sea began to tremble, but Makuta took no heed of it. “I wonder, what effect would the kal have on a functioning Rahkshi?” he murmured to himself -- and then he was gone, vanished from view as he willed himself from the lair.
Kraata-Kal’s gaze remained fixed on where Makuta had stood. As the sea began to boil, flames spouted from his armor, and darkness shrouded the lair. Finally, when he could restrain himself no longer, he let out a furious howl that echoed across the sea, through the tunnels, and into every corner of the world he knew.
As the echoes began to die down some while later, they were joined by the screams of Rahi, of kidnapped Vahki, and anything else Kraata-Kal could find and kill in Makuta’s lair. A dark inferno blasted a rock lion’s limbs from its torso, a deluge left drowned Vahki parts sparking and squeaking, and pure heat boiled a dozen water wraiths in their tank. Fire, water, and shadow carved their way through the maze of tunnels as he moved, mind ablaze with indignant fury.
I am Kraata-Kal, he growled to himself. Only I command three elements, only I wear armor capable of containing my power, only I have a mind as brilliant as Makuta. I am smarter than any kraata, more powerful than any Toa. There can be no other!
After hours of wanton murder and destruction, he had smashed everything he could within the laboratories. Slowing down, faltering, he threw a bolt of shadow and brought down a wall, and staggered into a dark corridor filled with glowing, spherical cells.
Kraata-Kal stopped dead. Above him hung thousands upon thousands of Bohrok, sleeping the slumber of ages, waiting for a summons that had not been called in some thousands of years. Look at them -- all like the rest, all devoted to a single cause… all bland, all dull, and all fools.
A thought occurred to him, and he began to wander through the Bohrok nests. Yes… near the Bahrag, that is where it is. Where I was born, he recalled.
He could not let Makuta make more of his brothers. He was unique, a higher form of life, and he was happy to let it stay that way.
After some hours of travel and countless wrong turns, his combined elemental energies blasted open the door and brought him into the room of the Bohrok-Kal. Kraata-Kal ignored them -- though the same substance had birthed them as it had him, they were lesser, for they were only conformist Bohrok like the rest. He was made of something stronger.
Another door blasted apart, and now the seething energies of the kal were revealed to him. Kraata-Kal stared with a mixture of awe and revulsion. This and Makuta were what had given him life. This and Makuta were what he must be rid of.
Kraata-Kal willed forth three streams of elemental energy, crackling in shades of black, red, and blue. With a roar, he thrust them into the kal, willing it to be overwhelmed, to fold in on itself, to explode -- anything, so long as it would be gone.
Yet the kal was resilient. Even after Kraata-Kal had halfway exhausted his reserve of energy, it continued to glow as brightly as ever, possibly more so. He howled in anger and frustration. I cannot have -- strengthened it! The kal must be destroyed!
On a whim, his gaze fell on the Kanoka launcher he carried, and the pack of disks hanging on his armor. He selected one in particular, surveyed its code -- 618 -- and thought it good. If this cannot destroy the kal, it is simply invulnerable… and I will have to destroy Makuta instead.
Kraata-Kal loaded the disk and flung it into the seething pool of kal. He saw the Kanoka vanish into the multi-colored sheen of the substance and disappear as it released its power to reconstitute at random. Then, wisely, he stepped back as he watched it do its work.
The kal sputtered. Then it splashed. Suddenly, a low thrumming began to echo through the air, even as the chamber began to shake. Countless colors began to flash from the pool, building in intensity, along with the tremors and the growing noise. Kraata-Kal felt his armor weakened by the vibrations, and decided to leave. He had made it just past the Bohrok-Kal’s chamber when the kal exploded.
As the dust settled and silence rang in the air, Kraata-Kal hoisted himself to his feet and staggered back to the chamber. Makuta’s curiosity had taken root in him, and he was eager to know just what he had done to the kal chamber.
The Bohrok-Kal and their Krana-Kal hung untouched... but the adjacent chamber had been wiped from existence. Kraata-Kal stared and took in the sight. The kal was gone -- simply gone. There was no sign it, or its chamber, had ever existed. All that was left was a vast crater, a void, where once a most powerful substance had resided.
Realization struck Kraata-Kal like a blast of his elemental energy. Makuta will never tolerate this. His Rahi, his Vahki, his experiments, those he can live without… but the kal’s destruction will drive him to maddened rage. I cannot remain here.
He had ensured he would have no brothers. No rivals. But in doing so, he had also ensured no more training. No more lectures. And if his armor were ever to break, he could certainly not come to Makuta for repairs. Makuta did not see him as a special being -- he was another tool to be used, and now he was a tool that had gone haywire.
Kraata-Kal staggered from the chamber, leaving the Bohrok-Kal slumbering quietly. As the humming of the sleeping Bohrok echoed through the halls, he broke into an aimless run, headed nowhere, everywhere -- anywhere but here.
Darkness hung above the planet of Spherus Magna. Few stars shone in the sky here, in this place of shadow. Here, where mangled metal still formed the semblance of a downed skull, had Makuta Teridax, greatest of the Brotherhood, ruler of the universe, fallen to his enemy.
Toa avoided this place. Matoran, too, as well as the Agori and all their creatures. The only movement Kraata-Kal saw from his perch atop a rocky ledge was that of the odd Rahkshi. There were always some gathered here, from all the corners of the planet. It had become something of a pilgrimage to them.
Had there been any starlight, it would have shone on armor that had seen years of wear and tear. Dents, scrapes, and missing pieces formed his badges of honor as a mercenary and Dark Hunter. A scar on his upper torso was from a Toa of Plasma; a crumpled dent in his gut was from Vezok; and a missing fang was his souvenir from Makuta’s reign, among others.
Kraata-Kal looked down on the smashed skull of the Makuta robot, where deepest darkness held council. Though he knew Makuta could no longer hear his thoughts, he could not help but dwell on them.
You once said that a being could be measured by how much others thought of him and his accomplishments. Not that you said it for my benefit; I doubt you realized I was listening. But I heard much of your thoughts as you built my armor and honed my skills, and I have thought on them many times since then.
I dismissed the thought, at first. I knew I was strong, intelligent, and unique, and that, I thought, would be enough to secure my place in history. But I may as well have been just another Dark Hunter who dabbled in cheap cons and thievery. You, on the other hand, came to rule a universe, and even in death, you haunt the memories of all who knew you.
Many thought you dead when the Matoran returned to Metru Nui. Lurker reported finding only scraps of armor, with no signs of life, and your mask stolen. But I knew you could not be slain so easily. And when I traveled to Voya Nui, I felt your presence slipping down into the depths. Amphibax thought there could be nothing of importance down there, but I knew. I knew that if Makuta had traveled there, then that place was, no doubt, the most important place in the universe.
When you reigned, I embraced it. I saw you repay the traitor Ahkmou, and knew I deserved as much. I left the Hunters and traveled to Daxia, ready to lord my authority over your Rahkshi, but they left me scarred and wounded on the beach. I tore at the earth, raged at the heavens, and boiled the seas, but still I received no answer. I didn’t know if you had chosen to ignore me, or had failed to notice me entirely, or which was worse.
A burst of fire curled from Kraata-Kal’s blade and ignited a scraggly bush, but it gave no light or warmth to the surrounding area. And now you lie dead in the desert, finally slain, by none less than the Great Spirit himself, and I still do not know what to think of you. You gave me life, and power, and purpose. You treated me like a promising apprentice, but in the end, you saw me as a prototype for an army of my brothers. What, then, am I to think of the being that began my life and ruined it? How can I honor you for everything you gave, and despise you for everything you took away?
With a whirring of age-old pistons and gears, Kraata-Kal slumped to his knees, leaning on his blade and gazing out at the shattered skull of Makuta.
The truth of it is that… I am not so unlike you, he admitted. I was born from your essence. When the kal granted me higher thought, is it any surprise that my thoughts were similar to yours? Like you, I knew I could have no rivals, no equals, no brothers. I knew I was destined for greatness. Our only difference is that you achieved your ends, but my destiny is as vague as the shadows I call forth.
And as thoughts ran wild in his mind, as Rahkshi stalked the darkness of the place of shadow, Kraata-Kal’s mourning gave meaning to a word not used by any being of the Matoran world before: