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Rock Bottom

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The first story set in my Shattered Alternate Universe, It is set in Mahri Nui, some time after the Great Cataclysm. Chapters will be uploaded on a weekly basis.

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Rock Bottom

 

Chapter 1

The navy blue waters of the Voya Nui Bay swirled aimlessly around Kyrehx’s still form as the her keen eyes scanned the muddy sea floor that surrounded the sunken village of Mahri Nui. Despite the fact that she had been trapped down here for years, the lack of marine life in the Fields of Air, and in turn, Mahri Nui, still unnerved the Ga-Matoran. It was not right for a sea to be empty; even the canals of Ga-Metru were home to a multitude of creatures despite the ‘purified’ state of the liquid protodermis that filled them. And yet here she was, standing at the bottom of a vast sea of water, real water - not that repulsive manufactured stuff that the Great Beings had had the nerve to call water - and there was not a marine rahi in sight.

Kyrehx sighed before she could stop herself, using up a sizeable chunk of the air remaining in her rapidly shrinking bubble. She cursed silently herself, irritated that she still forgot how precious the air bubbles were to her and her fellow Matoran.

It had been sheer luck that Mahri Nui had landed beside the Fields of Air in the first place. Without the precious air bubbles that now sustained them, the Matoran that inhabited the sunken village would have drowned mere minutes after the abrupt end to their descent, or worse, mutated into unspeakable water-breathing horror by the mutagen that leaked up from the massive deep sea trench known on as the Black Water. But instead the impact unleashed a massive burst of oxygen from the airweed, creating a series of giant air domes around Mahri Nui and effectively saving the lives of the Matoran within.

It was not long before they discovered another useful feature of the massive air bubbles that protected their village. Whenever a Matoran left one of the domes they took with them a small amount of air, conveniently located in a bubble that inexplicably remained attached to their mouths. A few attempts to experiment with these 'personal air bubbles' had been made, though all had ended in disaster. Now tampering with anyone's personal air supply was outlawed, and the experimenters were forced to find something else to mess around with.

The Ga-Matoran glanced over her shoulder for what felt like the millionth time, wondering when her replacement would arrive. Her shift had ended hours ago, but Lemiddus had an obnoxious habit of sleeping in late. Whoever had decided to give the Fa-Matoran a morning shift had obviously never met him, which was rather ironic considering the fact that only a hundred or so Matoran had actually survived the plunge to the bottom of the Voya Nui Bay.

As Kyrehx turned her gaze back to the vast expanse of water that lay outside the borders of the Fields of Air, something flashed in her peripheral vision. It moved so fast that for a second she thought she had imagined it. But the pain that followed was most certainly not a figment of her imagination.

The squid’s teeth tore through Kyrehx’s armor like knives through bread, digging deep into her flesh. The sentry screamed in agony, suddenly not caring about her dwindling supply of air. The squid had latched onto her neck, its mouth squeezing tighter and tighter with every passing second. Kyrehx felt herself getting weaker and weaker, as if her strength was being drained from her.

As if her strength was being drained from her…

Kyrehx’s eyes flashed open, her hands flying towards the squid on her neck. This was one of those Vampire Squids, the ones that lived in the Black Water and lived off the life force of others. The Matoran often came across the corpses of their victims, gray and lifeless with ghastly black circles all over their body. It was a truly disturbing site, and she usually went the other direction whenever the scouts brought back a corpse that had drifted up from below. As far as they knew, nothing had ever survived a Vampire Squid attack.

Kyrehx grabbed frantically at the cephalopod at her throat, pulling on whatever she could grasp. Her vision began to fog over, and the blackness of unconsciousness began to creep past her eyelids. She did not have much time.

Her flailing and futile attempts to remove the parasite from her neck grew rapidly weaker as the life continued to drain out of her. She could no longer see clearly, her air bubble was good as gone. The Ga-Matoran made one final tug at the squid then collapsed onto the sea floor, eyes rolling back into her head as her world faded into nothing.
 

***


A hundred pairs of eyes watched with an anxious intensity as the lone squid brought down the Matoran sentry. A silent cry of triumph echoed through a hundred minds as she fell, one final scream exploding from her mouth before her air bubble vanished completely. A hundred bodies moved forward in unison to secure their prize.

The squad of Vampire Squid approached the fallen Kyrehx with an expression on their twisted, malevolent faces that could only be described as excitement. They had brought down their first prey in weeks, ever since they had been driven out of the shadowy abyss where they had lived before it came. The monster that used them for food.

The living mass of orange converged on the Ga-Matoran, her light blue armor already losing its vibrancy in favor of the dull gray of their victims. The single squid that had brought the sentry down had detached itself from its prey, leaving an ugly black scar where its tiny needle like suckers had punctured her organic tissue. He would not take part in the next few hunts, having drained more life force from Kyrehx than all of the rest would combined. That was the price for a filling meal amongst the Vampire Squid.

The squad surrounded the felled Ga-Matoran, waiting for their leader’s signal to begin their feast. Anticipation gleamed in the squids’ beady white eyes as they hovered over the prone form below them. Then a single cry broke the silence, and the squid descended upon their prey.
 

***


Lemiddus silently cursed himself for what had to be the dozenth time since he had awoken that morning. The Fa-Matoran had slept in. Again. And not just a few minutes. No, his chronometer told him he was a few hours behind. Kyrehx was going to be furious. If only he could find that blasted alarm feature that Fe-Matoran fellow had told him about.

The Fa-Matoran ran about the corner, mentally composing his apology to the undoubtedly irritated Kyrehx as he went. Hey Kyrehx, sorry I slept in late. I’d tell you it won’t happen again, but…

Lemiddus’ trail of thought ended abruptly as he rounded the bend just in time to see a mass of squid envelop Kyrehx, her pale blue armored body disappearing beneath the cloud of orange. For a second the Fa-Matoran froze, stunned by the sight he had just witnessed. Then his instincts kicked in, and he threw himself at the squad of squid.

His first strike was met with a satisfying squash as his blade bisected one of the small orange monsters, sending it spiralling down to the sea floor. Lemiddus let out a triumphant shout as he watched the corpse’s descent.

Then he looked up.

A hundred pairs of beady white eyes were locked on him, eyeing his glowing heartlight with unequaled eagerness. The young Fa-Matoran was untouched by the forces of nature that had wearied most of the other Matoran inhabitants of Mahri Nui, still full of life energies. He was a feast, and he had just walked right into their midst.

Lemiddus unleashed a colorful string of words too vulgar to repeat then darted forward, snatching Kyrehx’s rapidly discoloring body and launching himself back towards the safety of the closest air dome, the squid not far behind. He was kicking as fast as his legs would carry him, focusing only on the wall of air in front of him and trying not to look back at the nightmare biting at his heels. He could not afford to slow down, not even for the half a second it would take to glance over his shoulder; carrying Kyrehx on his back slowed him down enough as it was.

He felt something small and sharp penetrate the armor on his foot, sending a wave of pain up his body. He winced, but did not slow, hoping the squid would be shaken off by his frantic kicking. He had no such luck. The vampiric cephalopod held on, latching into his foot with more of its tiny teeth. The creature was soon joined by another, then another. Lemiddus felt the life began to drain from him. His movement became more and more sluggish with every kick, and the dome seemed to be growing farther and farther away.

The Fa-Matoran’s body was jolted by the impact as he suddenly crashed through the barrier that separated Mahri Nui from the watery world that surrounded it. He and Kyrehx were thrown forward onto the sandy ground, sending the black particles flying in every direction. Lemiddus pushed weakly against the ground with his armored hands, lifting his face out of the sand just in time to vomit up a mouthful of water. He looked weakly down at the unpleasant pool of salt water mixed with sand and who knows what before remembering the squids latched onto his feet.

Lemiddus quickly glanced over his shoulder, expecting the demonic creatures to still be attached and sucking away. But to his eternal astonishment, the three vampire squid were writhing in pain in the sand, their orange flesh turning black and dissolving before his eyes. In mere seconds they were gone, vanished without a trace. Lemiddus stared stupidly at the spot for almost a minute before cautiously crawling forward to examine it.

The air, he realized. The air killed them.

The Fa-Matoran had just begun to wrap his mind around the implications of what he had just discovered when he heard a moan to his left. Kyrehx. Lemiddus wrenched his gaze away from the spot where the squids had been just moments before, crawling over to the weakened Ga-Matoran to assess her condition.

One look was enough to tell him that Kyrehx was far beyond his abilities to heal. Her breath came in ragged, wheezing gasps that seemed to grow weaker with every inhalation of air. Her armor was pale, almost colorless, devoid of the life that was present in every healthy Matoran. Her eyes were bloodshot and stared blankly ahead as if she were blind.

Lemiddus had to get her to the village Healer, a cranky old Ce-Matoran by the name of Kaira. That was her only chance; she’d die within the hour without treatment. But the Fa-Matoran was uncertain that he could even walk, much less carry an incapacitated Matoran across the village. But he had to try.

He wedged his hands beneath Kyrehx’s body, lifting her off of the sandy ground and into his arms. His legs buckled under the weight, but by some miracle did not collapse beneath him. He took a tentative step forward. Then another, and another. He felt his strength return to his body with every move, his muscles reviving. He quickened his pace. If there was any chance of saving the Ga-Matoran’s life, he would do everything in his power to do so.

Kyrehx would not die on his watch.
 

***


In all his travels across the known universe, Gar had never met a being so vain and so despicable as Kyros. The Ko-Matoran was the prime example of a narcissist, in Gar’s opinion, and any Matoran unfortunate enough to meet him tended to wish they had not later. And yet there he was, standing behind the podium in the massive domed council chamber of Mahri Nui with complete control over the people of the sunken village due to the miracle of democracy.

“Let this meeting of the Matoran populace of Mahri Nui commence.”

Gar groaned inwardly as Kyros spoke. This was why he had been against the cycling of control of the council from the beginning, to keep prideful mahi such as the Ko-Matoran out of positions of power. The last thing he wanted was for the entire village to fall into ruin because some incompetent fool was misusing his powers to further his own selfish desires. He had hoped that others would come to see things his way when Kyros got into office, seeing as nobody liked the obnoxious Ko-Matoran in the first place.

Kyros seemed to believe that he was the Mata Nui’s gift to the world and that his past in Metru Nui placed his at a higher status than the other Matoran. He spoke like a king and treated everyone else as if they were dirt. No, less that dirt. He did not have the spine to back it up, though. He was a coward, running into battle only when he was certain no harm would come to him. And he fought like a half-dead Burnak. Suffice it to say he was disliked by most of the villagers for a multitude of reasons.

He never shut up, either.

The Ko-Matoran had begun to read off a list of something or other that may or may not have been important when a dark green figure burst in through the arched entryway of the council chamber. The Le-Matoran skidded to a stop just inside the room, placing his hands on his knees as he gasped for air.

“Ever-sorry for the interruption,” Defilak panted, waving wearily at the crowd. His eyes quickly scanned the crowd, locking onto Gar when they found him. He appeared to be visibly relieved when he saw his friend. He began to pick his way through the mass of villagers, earning a fair share of angry glares as he jostled his way over to the Onu-Matoran.

“Thank Mata Nui you’re here,” Defilak whispered as he sat down beside his friend.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Gar hissed back.

“Well, since you’ve been against the system from the beginning-start and you despise Kyros with every fiber of your being…”

Gar’s only response was an agitated glare. Defilak quickly moved to revise his statement. “But of course it was incredibly foolish-stupid of me to assume that you would let your personal feelings-emotions get in the way of the greater good.”

The glare did not leave the Onu-Matoran’s Kanohi. Defilak may not have had a way with words, but he was brilliant, in his own way. Perhaps that was why Gar had been drawn to him in the first place. The Le-Matoran had to work to gain respect and honor, he could not simply talk his way there like so many other Matoran Gar had come to despise.

“Anyways,” Defilak continued in a hushed tone, “you’ll never believe what I found while scavenging around the mouth of the Abyss.”

It took all of Gar’s willpower to keep from slapping his friend for his stupidity. The Le-Matoran was an inventor, and as such tended to spend his free time looking for scraps and spare parts wherever he could find them. It just so happened that down in the bay the best place to find such items was near the Abyss, the gaping hole in the Sea floor that was dark as night, earning itself the name ‘Black Water’. No Matoran had ever returned from down there, and it was believed to be the home of unspeakable monsters that ate whatever they could get their hands on. Most Matoran tended to stay away from the edge, but Defilak had long been known to lack common sense, and he spent as much time as he possibly could out there.

His potentially fatal little hobby was more trouble than it was worth, in Gar’s opinion. Defilak was always late to council meetings, if he came at all, and there was always the risk of something dragging him off and eating him for lunch. But still Defilak continued, despite his friend’s warnings.

“Was it a new thingamajig for that blasted submersible of yours?”

The Le-Matoran shot him a dirty look, but before he could say anything in response another figure burst through the arched entryway, breathing heavier than Defilak had been just moments before. Kyros turned in frustration, clearly intending to reprimand the newcomer for his untimely introduction. Fortunately the Su-Matoran was able to catch his breath before the Ko-Matoran could being, sparing the crowd from his rant.

“Kyrehx’s been...attacked,” he gasped between breaths, “...attacked by...Vampire Squid.”

The silence that fell over the council chamber was absolute. Had the messenger really just said that Kyrehx had been attacked? That had never happened before. The squid had never come out of the Black Water before, let alone this close to the village.

Gar glanced over at Defilak. The Le-Matoran had a stricken look on his Kanohi Kualsi, and suddenly seemed to be very aware of the contents of his pack. Before he could inquire to the strange behaviour of his friend the Matoran continued.

“She’s in Kaira’s hut now,” he breathed, slower and more steady than before. He was beginning to recover from his frantic rush across the village.

A yellow armored Po-Matoran by the name of Dekar jumped from his seat, pushing his way through the mass of confused Matoran over to the messenger. He was the Captain of the Mahri Nui Sentinels, and as such Kyrehx’s commanding officer. She was his responsibility, and he took his responsibility very seriously.

“Take me to her,” he said worriedly, his voice lacking it’s usually commanding tone.

The Su-Matoran nodded slowly, then walked out of the council chamber with Dekar close behind. Defilak took off after them, offering no explanation of his strange behaviour to Gar. The Onu-Matoran began to push his way through the crowd after his friend, determined not let him get away without talking to him first.

“Defilak!” he called, his irritation obvious from his tone.

The Le-Matoran turned around and called back, “Sorry, I have to go!” he called cryptically before disappearing into the tunnel, leaving Gar alone in the confused mob.

Then the reality of the news he just heard suddenly sunk in, and Gar froze amidst the chaotic mass of Matoran. He suddenly found himself just as confused as the Matoran around him, questions swimming through his mind like a school of Makuta fish.

What could have caused the squid to leave the Black Water? he thought worriedly. And what does it mean for Mahri Nui?

Edited by DeltaStriker

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Sorry for the wait, I forgot I meant to post this Saturday. It won't effect future postings.

 

Chapter 2

Kaira's hut was a small, odorous thatched hut that had landed on the outskirts of the village during its descent. It was generally avoided by the other Matoran unless absolutely necessary, which was perfectly fine with the hut’s sole inhabitant. Kaira was a grumpy old Ce-Matoran who had lived on Voya Nui longer than anyone could remember. Some would describe her as anti-social, a recluse, while others simply claimed she was socially impaired. Either way, she had the absolute worst bedside manner in the entire universe, and was about as friendly as a starved Rahkshi. Had she not been the only Matoran with advanced healing capabilities to survive village’s plunge she would have been left alone entirely, but circumstance had made the occasional visit to her hermitage unavoidable; otherwise the village would be short a few more Matoran than it was now.

 

Defilak had never had the misfortune to have to come to Kaira’s hut before, or else he may have thought twice about following Dekar and Gemini their on his own free will. As soon as he crossed the threshold he regretted his choice, and half hoped that Dekar would send him away. But the Po-Matoran only acknowledged his presence with a nod before walking over to the pair of cots laid haphazardly across the sandy floor. Two Matoran lay atop the makeshift beds, one barely conscious while the other appeared to be in some sort of a heated debate with a Ce-Matoran he assumed to be Kaira. Defilak recognized him as Lemiddus, a normally silent Fa-Matoran guard who never seemed to want to be noticed. He must have been the one to save Kyrehx from the squid.

 

Lemiddus broke off the conversation when he saw his commander approach, instinctively jumping up to attention only to be pushed back down onto the cot by Kaira. The Fa-Matoran scowled, but obediently lay back down as Kaira approached Dekar.

 

“How is she?” the Po-Matoran asked.

 

“Not good,” Kaira grumbled. “We’ve never had a survivor for this long before, they’ve all died before they got to me. All I’ve ever been able to do is pick through dead bodies, and I’ve learned more from sticks than those.”

 

“Can you save her?”

 

“That remains to be seen. If I knew what I was doing she’d have a much better chance, but my lack of knowledge in this area makes everything an unknown. For all I know she could keel over dead in seconds or make a miraculous recovery tomorrow morning. She might even remain in this vegetative state forever, I really don’t know.”

 

Dekar nodded grimly, and Defilak wondered if the Ce-Matoran’s diagnosis had shattered his hope of a recovery. It certainly had his, not that anyone cared.

 

“If I had a specimen to study I could try and discern how they feed, that’d at least give us a place to start…” Her voice trailed off into silence, clearly dismissing the idea as wishful thinking.

 

“Actually, I might be able to assist-help in that regard.”

 

The two Matoran turned to face Defilak in confusion, his statement clearly surprising them. Suddenly nervous, the Le-Matoran reached back into his pack and pulled out a jar full of murky, navy blue water. Floating inside was the unmoving form of a dead Vampire Squid, frozen in rigor mortis. He held the jar out at arm’s length, a repulsed look on his Kanohi Kualsi.

 

Dekar and Kaira leaned in close to the glass, staring with sick fascination at the dead cephalopod. “Where did you find this?” Dekar asked, his voice suddenly firm again as he returned to his full height.

 

Defilak shrugged as he handed the container over to Kaira, who eagerly began to examine it at a closer range. “It floated up from the Black Water while I was hunt-scavenging,” he replied. “It drifted past me so I decided to grab-snatch it just in case. It’s in the jar because I didn’t want to touch-feel it.” He wrinkled his nose in disgust for emphasis.

 

“The Black Water?” the Po-Matoran exclaimed. “What in Mata Nui’s name were out doing that close to the Abyss?”

 

Defilak flinched, wondering if revealing where he found the squid was a bad idea. “As I said before, I was hunt-scavenging,” he replied coolly. “It’s not my fault that the best spots to find scrap-junk is by the Abyss.”

 

Dekar shot a glance over at the almost colorless Kyrehx, then back at the Le-Matoran. “I’m going to have to ask you to stay away from their from now on,” he said formally, clearly trying to make his request sound as official as possible. “Until we know what caused the squid to leave their home, we can’t afford to take the risk of more Matoran being attacked. At that distance we wouldn’t be able to save you if the squid did make an unexpected appearance.”

 

Defilak nodded reluctantly. He understood, but that did not mean he had to like it. It could be years before they discovered the reason for the squid’s behavior, and there was no way he would be able to keeping inventing that long with the measly supply of parts he had stashed away in his home. He needed a solution sooner than that.

 

“You know,” he began cautiously. “I may be able to assist-help with that…”

 

***

The two Matoran stood side by side in Defilak’s ‘hut’. A more accurate word for the massive structure would probably have been warehouse, which was what it had been before the eccentric Le-Matoran inventor had taken the place over has his home and workshop. The place was a pigsty, with parts, tools and grease littering the floor and several creations in various stages of completeness lying around in no apparent order. The structure was one of the sturdiest in town, but its worn protodermis frame lead many to believe it was structurally unsound, and thus Defilak was permitted to keep it.

 

The invention in question was a rather large submersible, resting about a bio away from the edge of a small pool that lead out into the open sea. The vehicle was shaped like Takea Shark, with three sleek fins welded to the sides and top of the smooth and agile sub’s body. A shark-like tail was attached to the back with a series of gears, chords and joints, presumably to allow for steering.

 

“Care to look-see inside?”

 

Defilak’s call interrupted Dekar’s silent examination of the craft. The Po-Matoran rose to his feet, having been just about to examine the belly of the submersible, and walked around it in the direction of the inventor’s voice. The Le-Matoran was standing in the hatch, beckoning with his hand for Dekar to follow him before he disappeared inside.

 

He ducked inside, stepping into a technical wonderland. Gears, levers, lights and buttons littered the front of the craft while empty canisters of air and a small pile of makeshift weapons dominated the back. Four metal chairs were fused to the floor, the first two facing the front while the other two faced their respective sides. The entire inside appeared sleek and relatively flawless, not counting the the missing metal plate on the roof with the tangled mess of wires hanging from the roof.

 

“So what do you think-find?” Defilak asked.

 

“Does it float?” Dekar replied, poking a finger at the wires that hung out of the hole in the ceiling.

 

“Well, um...I’ve never actually tried-tested it yet. I’ve been seek-looking for a rather rare part to finish off the steering mechanism.”

 

“Oh. Do you happen to know if there's a place where you could get this part?”

 

Defilak gulped, clearly uncertain if he liked the direction in which this conversation was headed. "One was included in last month's pack of gift-supplies from the surface."

 

Dekar turned to face the Le-Matoran inventor, his Kanohi Kiril bearing an expression of dead seriousness. "And you're sure it'll work?"

 

“Eighty-five percent sure.”

 

“Not good enough.”

 

“It’s the best I can do. Take-accept it or leave it.”

 

The Commander sighed, then nodded grimly. “Fine. I’ll get you the part, then you get me into the Abyss.”

 

Defilak cocked his head in confusion as the Po-Matoran turned to leave. “Don’t you need the council’s permission to remove an item-object from the hall of gifts?”

 

Dekar never even bothered to stop walking. “We don’t have time to run it past the bureaucracy. We’re going in, and we’re going in now.”

 

***

Sarda stared in disbelief at the contraption before him. “You want us to travel down into the Black Water in that?” he asked incredulously, the doubt evident in his voice.

 

Dekar shrugged the question off. “We’ve got nothing left to lose,” he answered simply, “so why not?”

 

This did little to assure the Ta-Matoran; not that Sarda had ever been one to be easily reassured. But what could he do besides climb through the hatch? Dekar’s words had a ring of truth about them, they were at their rock bottom. Sure, they could survive down here just fine, but was it really worth it? It was only a matter of time until the predators found a way to get at them through the air domes, and then they would all be picked off one by one. And even if they could fend them off, would living their days in fear truly be living? They needed a way out, and maybe, just maybe there was a clue in the Black Water.

 

He took the seat closest to the hatch, his trust in the vehicle still rather lacking. If the trip took a turn for the worst he wanted a way out. Granted, a turn for the worst down in the Black Water would probably be a death sentence, but it never hurt to be prepared.

 

He shifted his position to face the rest of the crew, silently taking stock of his companions with whom he would be spending the next, and possibly last, few hours of his life with trapped inside this tin can. Only two of the four were trained for combat, himself and Dekar. The other two were inventors, tinkerers. It was bad enough that they needed Defilak to pilot the ###### thing into the depths, but Dekar had insisted they bring the Fe-Matoran along too.

 

Feton was an introvert, and by all accounts rather impossible. He rarely spoke, and when he did it was short and to the point. He also happened to be a bitter rival of their pilot, making Sarda doubt the Commander’s decision even more. But he was not one to question the weathered Po-Matoran, so he kept his jaw shut.

 

Defilak appeared to be having similar doubts, constantly shooting irritated glances back at the orange-clad inventor. It was evident that he would have swapped Feton out for someone else in a heartlight-beat if given the chance. The Fe-Matoran pretended not to notice, but Sarda was almost positive he could feel the enmity radiating off him like the scent of death. He hoped that Dekar would not live to regret his decision to bring him.

 

The two rather worn looking lightstones on the ceiling cast an ominous yellow glow down onto the cabin’s inhabitants, something that only served to agitate Sarda’s nerves even more. It was bad enough that he was locked up in this tin can, why did the method of lighting have to be so ominously despondent?

 

“Diving in three… two… one…” Defilak’s voice trailed off as he pushed the stick in his right hand forward, sending the vehicle into a nosedive down into the pool. Sarda clutched his blade apprehensively, expecting the Le-Matoran to crash them into the the rock below.

 

His worries were ill founded. Defilak pulled the lever back to its upright position, the craft leveling out as he did so. The massive electronic lights that had been fixed to the front of the submersible flickered on, then the Le-Matoran opened up the throttle and they entered the tunnel.

 

The naturally formed stone walls encompassed the vehicle as it sped away from the pool, heading for the open ocean. The dark waters streamed past them as the agile craft accelerated, putting more and more distance between them and the village.

 

Defilak suddenly pulled back on the throttle and depth control. The submersible shot upwards, practically flying up into the bay. Sarda peered through the viewport as Defilak temporarily switched off the lights.

 

Rays of sunlight filtered down through the seawater, illuminating the black seabed below them. The discolored seawater was empty, void of life in a way that could only be described as sickeningly wrong. It was not natural for such as place to be so empty, and it sent chills up the Ta-Matoran’s spine.

 

“We’re about a minute out from the edge-drop of the abyss,” Defilak announced as they began to pick up speed again. “I’ll take any thought-questions you may have now.”

 

It was all Sarda could do to keep from snorting in amusement. What did this inventor know about the Black Water? From what Sarda knew he spent all his free time in his warehouse, messing around with scraps that no one else wanted. Sarda would sooner take advice from one of the Hydruka than from the Le-Matoran.

 

“No?” Defilak asked after a few tense seconds of silence. “Fine. It’s your funeral.”

 

Dekar shot a hostile glance at the Matoran beside him. “You’re not here to offer advice,” he said firmly, ending the conversation.

 

Sarda was certain that the Le-Matoran rolled his eyes at that comment, but from his position behind the pilot he could not be sure. Dekar opened his mouth as if to continue, then closed it as if he had had second thoughts.

 

The next minute or so passed in silence, which was fine by Sarda. He had always felt that if nothing needed to be said then nothing should be, and there was most certainly nothing to say here.

 

Then the Abyss appeared in front of them.

 

The flat seabed was suddenly broken by a rift of darkness. The giant crater that was the Abyss loomed in front of them, its jet black waters swirling menacingly up into their level. To Sarda they looked almost like the long, wispy fingers of a ghost. Then he realized for all he knew they could be.

 

“We’re here,” Defilak said, his voice lacking its usual cheery nature.

 

Sarda’s eyes were locked on the viewport as they approached the Abyss. He was not sure if he was awed or horrified by the size of it. Nothing he had ever seen could compare to what he was witnessing at that moment.

 

The lights flickered back on as they began their descent. Sarda heard Feton breath a quiet prayer under his breath as the darkness grew closer, like the maw of some gigantic beast.

 

Then the submersible vanished into the Abyss.

 

***

Kaira examined the dead squid with the eyes of a scientist, carefully taking in every detail, observing every aspect of the creature she could before removing it from the container. This would likely be her only chance to observe a specimen of the dreadful creatures, so she figured she might as well take her time.

 

Lemiddus lay on the closest cot to her examination table, head propped up with one arm as he watched her progress with interest. He had insisted that she let him watch, saying that he was perfectly healthy and did not need to be confined to his cot anymore. After several heated minutes of discussion she had relented, allowing him to move closer. Why he would be so obsessed with the creatures that nearly killed him was beyond her, but the minds of others were not exactly Kaira’s forte. If he had a desire to see her gut the monstrosity on her desk then so be it.

 

She scribbled a few final notes down on her tablet, then picked the glass container and moved her hand to it’s lid. Her fingers closed around the lid, and she quickly tisted it open. Tossing the lid to the side she stuck her hand in to extract the specimen from the water.

 

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Lemiddus commented idly.

 

“It’s dead,” she shot back as her fingers closed around it. “Last I checked, dead things aren’t particularly dangerous to the living.”

 

“But you’re going to take it out of the water” the Fa-Matoran answered in an offhand manner. “And if you do that you won’t have a specimen to study.”

 

Kaira released the squid and spun to face her patient. “How so?” she asked suspiciously, wondering what Lemiddus knew that she did not.

 

“The air, it’s toxic to them. I don’t know how it would affect a dead one, but the ones that attacked me dissolved on contact.”

 

Kaira pondered this for a moment. Lemiddus could have been delusional when he saw this, it would not surprise her if the squid’s vicious method of attack had such side effects. But on the other hand, could she afford to take the risk that he was right? Lemiddus had certainly sounded sane when he had arrived at her door with an unconscious Kyrehx in his arms. This would likely be the only specimen she ever got a chance to study. If it dissolved on her, any insight it could offer would be lost.

 

“So how do propose I dissect it then?” she asked irritably, frustrated by her newly discovered handicap.

 

Lemiddus shrugged. “You’re the resident expert, you figure something out.”

 

The Fa-Matoran rolled onto his back, placing his hands behind his head as he stared at the ceiling. He had said his piece, and now it was Kaira’s turn. With an exasperated sigh the old Ce-Matoran medicine matoran turned back to the jar on the table, staring longingly at the specimen inside. This was certainly a rather tall hurdle she had to jump, and she had never been good at athletics.

 

As she stared at the floating cephalopod, her eyes were drawn to its tail. Strange indentations covered it, marks she had originally written off as natural structures whose use she would determine during the dissection process. But when she looked carefully, she could see the frayed flesh sticking out in jagged tufts, as if a sharp object had cut into it.

 

Kaira snatched a small wooden bowl off her shelf and swiftly poured the jar’s contents into it. Without hesitation she thrust her hands into the murky waters and leaned in close to the specimen. With a start she realised that her theory was correct. The squid had been bitten, and by an unnaturally large predator. Somehow it had escaped, only to die of blood loss later on.

 

Kaira cursed under her breath. If there was something down in the Black Water that could make a vampire squid flee, then Dekar and his crew were headed right into its clutches. The clutches of a monster.

 

She walked swiftly over to her closest window, gazing off into the darkness with an expression she had not used in centuries. An expression of fear. Her voice was barely audible as she spoke, her voice shaking as she did so.

 

“Mata Nui protect them.”

Edited by DeltaStriker

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Chapter 3

No one had spoken a word since they had entered the Black Water. Defilak piloted the craft with a grim focus, navigation being even more of a challenge as the darkness around them only let the light illuminate about a half a bio ahead of them. It unnerved Dekar like nothing else, as he prefered to know what he was getting himself into.

They had been in a constant descent for what had to be at least an hour but had found nothing but jagged walls and sickly black water. He was on the verge of calling off the mission, he felt closed in, claustrophobic in the cramped interior of the submersible. He wanted out.

Sarda’s words cut him off before he could give the order. “What are we supposed to be seeing?”

Defilak did not bother to look back at him to answer. “How am I supposed to know?” he snapped back irritably. “I’ve never been down here before either.”

“I thought you were supposed to be our tour guide.”

“No. I’m here to pilot-drive my ship. No more, no less.”

Sarda’s mouth opened, and Dekar knew he had to intervene. Being cooped up in this submersible for so long, with absolutely nothing to show for it had taken a toll on them all. He should’ve known Sarda would crack first, the Ta-Matoran had always been impatient and bad at handling stress.

“Shut it, both of you,” he ordered, wincing at his own tone. By intervening he was more likely to worsen the situation, but he had to try before Sarda murdered the only one who could pilot them home. “There’s no call for this kind of petty arguing. I’m just as frustrated as you are, but yelling at each other won’t do anything to help.”

He quickly shot a glance at Feton, looking for some form of support from the Fe-Matoran. But he remained silent, watching the scene indifferently for his side of the craft. “We need to stay focused on our objective. The fate of our world could be at stake right now, and no matter how bad it is, it’s all we’ve got.”

He stared intensely at the pair of them, hoping they would get the message. They could not afford to be fighting amongst themselves down here.

Sarda simply scowled in response, but sat back in his seat obediently. Defilak simply shut up, wise enough to know when silence was necessary, a trait that Dekar had found most Le-Matoran lacked.

He turned back to the viewport, staring out at the inky blackness, wishing for what had to be the upteenth time that it was clearer. He hated going in blind, and this mission was blind enough as it was. If he was honest with himself, he was waiting for something to happen, waiting for a squid to dare and attack them so he could vent his frustrations on it.

“There’s something out there,” said a voice from behind him.

Dekar jumped to his feet, hitting his head on the low roof. Wincing in pain, his hand went to the electro-blade on his belt. The Fe-Matoran had not spoken the entire trip; he had assumed it had something to do with nerves. But their was no fear in Feton's voice as he announced the presence of something else in the water. No, the Matoran’s Kanohi Ruru was pressed against the small, circular viewport without any indication of fear.

Dekar walked over to the orange-clad inventor, who moved over to make room for him. The Po-Matoran squinted as he peered through the glass, seeking to reaffirm what he was seeing. How could it be, this deep and far away from air? It just wasn’t possible.

He muttered a colorful vulgarity under his breath as he realized it was indeed possible, and that his mission had just become a heck of a lot harder.

There was a Toa floating out in the depths of the Black Water.
 

***


Lemiddus stared blankly out at the vast expanse of water that was the Voya Nui bay. He had just been released from Kaira’s hut by its owner an hour ago, after he woke the irritable Ce-Matoran from her slumber with his restless pacing. He was glad to be free of the rank structure, though it had required an excessive amount of persuasion to convince Idris, Dekar’s second in command, that he was fit for duty. Once he had done so, she had placed him out here on the very edge of what little civilization they had, though he suspected that she had done it simply to get him out of the way.

In reality he felt Hydruka scat. His limbs were weak, his balance off-kilter and vision fuzzy. But he was not in the mood to sit around and wait for himself to heal. He had spent all of yesterday blaming himself for what had happened to Kyrehx, and he had resolved that he would do everything in his power to keep it from happening to anyone else. And so here he was, just inside the airdome as he kept watch over the village of Mahri Nui.

He wasn’t sure if Kyrehx would find it ironic or sickening that he was early for duty instead of late the morning after the attack. It had been his tardiness for duty that had sent her into her comatose state, and he knew he would never forgive himself if she never recovered, or worse, died. But he had no idea if she would forgive him for it, if and when she woke. He clung to the hope that he would be able to redeem himself, if not to Kyrehx then at least to himself.

Out here on the fringes of Mahri Nui he wasn’t doing much in that respect. But it still felt good to be up and doing something after spending all of yesterday cooped up in Kaira’s hut. He had never felt more useless in his life then he had there.

The ocean in front of him was dead, as it always was. Nothing stirred, the airweed the only sign of life and movement. Out of his peripheral vision he noticed a Onu-Matoran leading the Hydruka out to the fields to begin their daily harvest. Lemiddus waved to the Matoran, most likely the usual keeper Reysa, the resident rahi expert in Mahri Nui. He appeared to nod back in Lemiddus’ direction, a tad unusual as Reysa had always been a light hearted and friendly fellow. But the entire village had been in a rather gloomy state since Kyrehx had fallen, so Lemiddus paid the lack of enthusiasm no mind.

No sooner had he returned his gaze to the sea something else caught his eye, a yellow-gold colored object floating down from the surface. He cocked his head in confusion, staring at the rapidly sinking object as he tried to discern its shape. The monthly gifts from the surface had already been received, the next ones weren’t due for weeks. So why was there something floating down towards the Black Water?

Then the object passed through a sunbeam, and Lemiddus finally determined what it was: a Kanohi mask.

If Lemiddus had been wondering if he should retrieve the object, all doubts were now gone from his head. Kanohi were more valuable than gold in Mahri Nui. If a Matoran’s mask cracked, they had no ready way to construct a replacement in time. Raw materials such as protodermis were in short supply and used for other things, and the few Kanoka disks they had were used to arm the Guard. Any spare Kanohi could be a lifesaver for a Matoran, and Lemiddus intended to be sure that this one would be put to good use.

He threw himself out into the water for the second time in two days. The cold closed around him, but he forged ahead. Cutting through the dank waters, he kept his eyes focused on the mask. It had nearly reached the edge now, dangerously close to vanishing into the darkness. Lemiddus strained, kicking fiercely in an attempt to reach it.

The mask disappeared into the darkness. A second later Lemiddus’ hand followed it in.

The Fa-Matoran’s hand closed around something cold, like metal. He pulled. It wouldn’t come free.

He rooted himself on the edge of the abyss, planting his feet firmly on the sea floor. The object in his hand refused to come free, and he continued to pull at it. He felt his arms begin to tire, already weakened from his mad dash through the depths of the bay. Then what he prayed was the mask came loose.

Lemiddus fell backwards, the mask slipping out of his hands and flying back behind him, where it floated onto the sea floor behind him.

He scrambled to his feet and over to the mask. One look was enough to tell him that this was no ordinary Kanohi. The material from which it was made let off a faint golden glow, and he could feel it’s power in the water around him. Tentatively, he reached down and touched it. Nothing happened.

He smiled and plucked the mask from the sand. He’d keep it in his pack for the rest of his watch, then turn it over to Idris to take care of. She’d put it in the right place until it was ready for use.

Turning, he swam gently back towards the dome, his thoughts considerably brighter. The Fa-Matoran had finally done something right.

So absorbed was he in his optimism that he didn’t notice the strange, blue and yellow lights flashing from where the mask had just been. Nor did he notice the monster that emerged from them.
 

***


“What in Karzahni is he doing out there?” Sarda asked.

Defilak shrugged. He had been on the verge of asking the same question himself. What was this white-armored warrior doing down in the Black Water. Nothing was down there but monsters, nothing that would pose a threat to any village besides Mahri Nui, and everyone thought they were dead. There was no reason for a Toa to be here.

Right?

“Defilak,” Dekar called from the viewport, never taking his eyes of the Toa, “is there an airlock on this thing?”

The Le-Matoran winced. “Not quite-exactly,” he answered. “But the floor hatch-door will work just as fine, as long as the ship-craft remains stable. Water won’t move up through it, because the air has nowhere else to go. Like the pool in my workshop.”

Dekar nodded. “Good. Even if he’s dead, it would be disrespectful to leave his corpse floating out there. Let’s get him.”

Defilak leveled the submersible and activated his automatic stabilizers. Dekar and Sarda had already opened the hatch and were staring into the black water. It sloshed around, retaining its color even when it splashed onto the silver floor.

Sarda uttered a colorful oath under his breath. “That stuff is nasty.”

Dekar shrugged, then prepared to dive in.

“Hey,” Defilak interrupted, stopping Dekar just before he dived. The Le-Matoran held out a pair of small air canisters with a breather connected by a cord. “The pressure's probably too strong-heavy for our air bubbles. These’ll help.”

Dekar nodded, taking the two devices and passing one to Sarda before realizing that Defilak has a third strapped to his back and was placing the breather over his mouth. “No, you can’t come,” he said. “You need to be in here to keep the ship steady.”

Defilak pulled the breather away from his face so his words could be understood. “No, I’m coming,” he said flatly. “Feton can handle things if the craft-ship destabilizes. This is my mission-quest as much as yours, and it looks like it’ll take more than two to haul that Toa-Hero in.”

The Po-Matoran scowled but made no further protest. “At the first sign of trouble I want you back inside the sub, understood?”

Defilak nodded. He knew better than to push his luck any farther. Dekar fixed the canister of air onto his back and dove into the murky blackness. Sarda followed.

The Le-Matoran stood alone in the belly of the submersible, staring at the water where the two Matoran had just vanished. It felt like the Black Water had just swallowed them whole, without a trace.

“Having second thoughts?” Feton called from the front.

“No,” Defilak said, “I had those before we left.”

He replaced the breather in his mouth and dove in after the others.

The cold water wrapped around him like a blanket of snow, sending shivers all along his body. The water was just as dark out here as it was through the viewports, and the small lightstone he drew from his pack did little to illuminate his surroundings. He suddenly felt lonely, cut off from the world. Like he would never see light again.

Then two little tiny spots of light caught in his peripheral vision. Sarda and Dekar, over to his right. Obviously with lightstones of their own. He began to swim towards them, focusing on the two spots of light. For a few tense seconds it looked like he wasn’t making any progress. Then his two companions suddenly materialized beside him.

They were treading water on either side of the Toa, each holding an arm and trying to drag him back towards the sub, which Feton had turned so that the lights were directed towards them. Dekar made a frantic gesture towards the Toa’s legs, and Defilak nodded his understanding. He grabbed the massive warrior’s legs and began to help drag him through the water.

Now that the Le-Matoran had arrived progress seemed to come more quickly. The lights of the sub grew steadily closer and brighter, enough so that Defilak could see the Toa more clearly. He gasped. The Toa was changing, mutating in their hands. His organic tissue fluctuated, growing, his mechanical components rusting and falling away. He must have swallowed some of the mutagenic water.

Defilak waved frantically at Dekar and Sarda, hoping to catch their attention. When the two Matoran cast him odd looks, he pointed at the Toa’s rapidly altering body. Dekar’s eyes grew wide, and he looked back at Defilak for help. The Le-Matoran tapped his breather, and pointed at the Toa’s half-open mouth. Dekar nodded, gingerly removing his own breather and slipping it into the Toa’s. The convulsing slowed, but did not stop. There was still water in the Toa’s system.

They were under the sub now, the cockpit’s light shining down on them through the hatch. Defilak swam underneath the Toa and began to push him up into the craft. Dekar and Sarda lifted from their end, and he thought he could see Feton pulling from within. With great effort the four got the Toa inside, then climbed wearily onto the deck.

Dekar took in a long breath and pulled the breather from the Toa’s mouth. The white-clad figure barely fit inside the craft, and his bulk forced Sarda to slip his legs back into the water while they examine him.

“Mata Nui, he’s still breathing,” the Ta-Matoran muttered under his breath.

Dekar placed his hands on the Toa’s stomach and began to pump the water out of his system. The warrior coughed, spewing black water all over his saviors. Then the convulsions stopped. The cabin went silent.

Feton was the first to speak. “What now?”

He had point. They had just saved the life of a being twice their size and brought him into their craft. Their oxygen would deplete itself considerably faster with him onboard, and he took up a large amount of the space in the cabin. The time they could spend down here had been cut in half, and their options down to a third.

“We head back,” Dekar replied, his tone defeated. “We can’t stay down here much longer with him onboard, and we can’t just leave him down here to whatever fate awaits him. We take the Toa back and proceed from there.”

Defilak nodded his agreement, happy to be done with the dark murky waters of the Abyss. It was eerie, unnatural down here; it set him on edge. The Black Water made the lifeless waters of the bay look cozy.

The Le-Matoran pulled the air canister from his back and tossed it to the side then turned towards the front of the cabin. “Sarda, close the-”

A scream of terror slammed into Defilak’s eardrums, interrupting him mid-sentence. He spun, just in time to see the Ta-Matoran disappear into the water. As soon as his face submerged the scream cut off abruptly, leaving a strong ringing in the other three’s ears.

“SARDA!” Dekar yelled, throwing his arms into the blackness, fishing for the Matoran’s body. Defilak vaulted over the Toa’s unconscious form and grabbed Dekar, pulling him away from the hatch. The Po-Matoran strained against him, trying to dive into the water after Sarda.

“What the heck is wrong with you?” Dekar growled.

“I’m saving your life,” Defilak replied. “Something grab-snatched Sarda; diving in will likely result in your own demise.”

“But he could still be alive!”

“Or he could be half way inside of a Takea Shark.”

Silence. Then bubbles in the water. Sarda’s scarlet Kanohi Huna appeared in the jet-black water. There was no face beneath it.

Dekar surged against Defilak’s hold, and this time the Le-Matoran obliged him. Dekar fell to his knees beside the hatch, lifting the Huna from the water. He stared at it, not saying anything. Defilak worried he might stay there forever if nobody did anything.

“We have to leave-go,” he said.

Dekar nodded, closing the hatch and holding the Huna close to his chest. “Fine. Let’s get out of this madhouse.”

As soon as the words left his mouth the entire submersible shook. Defilak was thrown to the floor as they began to roll onto their side. “Feton! What in blazes was that?”

The Fe-Matoran had somehow managed to stay in his seat and was now struggling with the controls, trying to stabilize them. “My best guess would be that whatever got Sarda decided it liked the taste of Matoran,” he said bluntly.

Defilak grunted in response as he lifted himself to his feet. Feton’s reasoning was sound, though that didn’t make the situation any less grim. “Take the other chair-seat,” he said as he reached the front of the cabin. “I’ll pilot-drive us out.”

For once Feton did not reply with a snide remark or sarcastic insult, simply moving out of the chair into the one next to it. Defilak dropped onto the cold steel and found in was nice to be sitting normally again.

“Strap in,” he called back. “This could be a rough ride.”

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Chapter 4

Lemiddus found that he rather liked having the glowing Kanohi around. Its aura of power made him feel better, stronger. He felt on top of the world, like he could take anything on. Nothing could get him down, he would always be positive about everything. He could look death in the face and not be afraid. Negativity was not possible, not when he had the mask by his side.

If he had stopped to consider this sudden change he would have been rather unnerved. Before he had grabbed it out of the sea he had been miserable, worrying about Kyrehx, the village, the squid, everything. Now he could care less if they were all smited from existence.

But the mask wouldn’t let him consider that. He was happy now, and nothing could take his happiness away.

So when his replacement arrived he didn’t resist like he had planned. Quite the contrary. He greeted the Matoran with a cheerful “hello!” and asked where Idris was. The Bo-Matoran told him she was meeting with Kyros. Lemiddus thanked him excessively and marched off to Kyros’ hut, leaving behind a very confused Matoran.

When Lemiddus arrived at the hut the two Matoran were engaged in a heated discussion. Rather than interrupt, the Fa-Matoran slipped in the door and placed himself just inside, waiting patiently beside the door frame.

“What will it take to convince you that I don’t know?” Idris was saying, clearly on the verge of losing her temper. The Ga-Matoran was usually very reserved, calm and understanding like the majority of her fellow Matoran of Water. But years spent at the bottom of the sea had changed her like it had everyone else. She had become less patient with others, more hurried. And she had begun to lose her temper in displays like this one.

Kyros, on the other hand, barely seemed to be affected, unless you count his opinion of the other Matoran worsening, his arrogance increasing and him becoming twice as insufferable as an effect of isolation depression.

“You’re his second in command,” the Ko-Matoran complained. “Of course you know.”

“Well I don’t. So you’re gonna have to wait for him to get back.”

The two stared angrily at each other for a full minute before Lemiddus dared to speak. “I know where he is,” he said cheerily.

The two Matoran spun to face him, their surprise evident from the looks on their faces. They both waited expectantly, as if they thought he was going to tell them.

“What are you looking at me like that for?” he asked, looking at them oddly. “I’m not going to tell you, I don’t think he’d appreciate it very much if I did. Take your own advice and wait for him to get back.”

Kyros’ anxious expression turned to a sneer. “Then why bother to tell us?” he snapped.

Lemiddus shrugged, his lopsided smile never leaving his face. “Who knows?”

He saw Idris take a deep breath, calming herself. “What do you want, Lemiddus?”

“This,” he said, reaching into his pack and pulling the mask out, “sank down from the surface while I was on guard. I figured you would know if anyone needed one, or where it should go.”

As soon as the mask was uncovered his ecstasy increased tenfold. Lemiddus suddenly found himself wondering why he had brought the mask to Idris in the first place. He should keep it for himself, there’d be no harm in that. It made him stronger, why should he let her have it.

Both Matoran’s eyes widened as he showed them the Kanohi. Its energy filled the room, an intoxicating sensation of power that filled all three. Idris reached out to touch it, causing Lemiddus to snatch it away. “NO!” he snarled with a viciousness that surprised him.

Idris backed away, holding his hands out in front of her. “Lemiddus, are you alright?” she asked. There was fear in her voice.

All traces of anger disappeared from the Fa-Matoran. Another impossible mood swing. Again, Lemiddus paid it no mind, having almost forgotten about the outburst he had just made. “Of course I am, what made you think otherwise?”

Idris and Kyros exchanged a glance. Something was wrong with Lemiddus, wrong enough that even Kyros noticed.

“Lemiddus,” the Ga-Matoran said slowly, “can I see the mask? Please?”

The Fa-Matoran cocked his head to the side as if he were deep in thought, considering her proposal. Then he righted himself and shook his head. “No. It’s my mask, I found it. Finders keepers.”

“Lemiddus, you’re not well,” Idris pleaded. “Let me see the mask, I promise I’ll keep it safe for you.”

“NO!!” Lemiddus jerked the mask away and turned to face the door. He was making a run for it.

“Kyros,” Idris yelled, “stop him!”

For once in his whole miserable existence since the accident the Ko-Matoran did what he was told without hesitation.
He lunged at the fleeing sentry, his fingers closing around the arm the held the mask.

As soon as his fingers made contact with Lemiddus’ arm a blast of pure, unrefined energy coursed up his arm and to the rest of his body, throwing him across the hut and into the opposite wall. He collapsed to a sitting position, staring emptily at his hands, dazed.

Lemiddus barely glanced back at what he had inadvertently done before he fled the hut. He couldn’t let them take the mask from him, not even Idris. For a moment he hesitated, wondering why he couldn't trust Idris to take care of the mask for him. She had never done him wrong, never given him any reason not to trust her. So why was it so different now?

Because the mask gives me power.

The thought appeared in his mind unbidden, surprising him. Since when had he cared so strongly about power? He was just a simple Matoran, trying to make a life for himself in the world.

How ridiculous. Everyone wants power, why shouldn’t I?

At this Lemiddus stopped running. These were not his thoughts. Why were they in his head? He looked warily down at the mask in his hands. It couldn’t be, how could a mask be alive? It was absurdity. He was going crazy. Maybe Idris was right, and he should give her the mask. Maybe he hadn’t fully recovered yet and he needed to go back to Kaira’s hut.

NO! I’m fine. Idris just wants to keep the power for herself. She doesn’t care about me.

Now he was afraid. The mask was doing something to him, changing him. He didn’t want power, he trusted Idris. Why had he ever thought otherwise? Why had he hurt Kyros like that?

Kyros. The Ko-Matoran had never been particularly likeable, but he didn’t deserve what had happened to him. That was Lemiddus’ fault, whatever happened to him. Two Matoran almost killed because of him in two days. He had sworn never to cause harm to another being again. And he had broken that promise. Why?

The mask was why. The mask was evil, and needed to be destroyed before it made him doing anything worse. He would take it to Defilak’s workshop, the Le-Matoran would have to have something there he could use to break it. It was only a Kanohi, right?

Somehow Lemiddus doubted there was anything ordinary about the mask in his hands.

Somewhere behind him he heard Idris call after him. For a second he debating going back, then decided against it. If what happened to Kyros happened to anyone who touched him he couldn’t go near anyone. Not until the mask was destroyed.

He took off running.

***


Kyros stared into space, lightning bolts arcing across his vision. The blast had been a massive shock to his system, literally shutting down and restarting several vital organs. Through the veil of blue energy he saw his heartlight flicker out. He felt fried, burned out. Was this how it felt to be burned alive? He didn’t recommend it if it was.

He saw Idris lean over him, coming as close to touching him as she dared. Blue energy still flickered all over his body, threatening to fry anything that came to close. The Ga-Matoran looked sadly at his emotionless, empty face, then shifted her gaze to his dead heartlight. The expression on her face told him everything. She though he was gone.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “This was my fault.”

She rose to her full height and turned, pausing to look back only once before vanishing out the door. She was going after Lemiddus. Mata Nui help her if she found him.

Then his entire body convulsed, and the room glowed blue. His heartlight flashed once, then glowed a vibrant electric blue. The curtain of energy lifted from his vision, his mind refocused. He could feel himself regaining control of his voluntary muscle, and the feeling of being fried began to dissipate.

Kyros lifted his hand, the one he had grabbed Lemiddus with. Blue energy arced between his fingers, flowing up and down his arm to his heartlight. From there more threads extended to every part of his body, warping and changing shape at random.

Then he felt it. The power that now flowed through him. Power he could use to finally control his own destiny, to affirm his position. He was truly superior to his fellow Matoran now.

He reached up to grab the table beside him, intending to use it to pull him to his feet. Instead the table shattered into a thousand woodchips, each flying at impossible velocities. But any that came near him were vaporized.

He stared at his hands in amazement. Had he really just done that?

The Ko-Matoran jumped to his feet with agility far beyond that of a normal Matoran. He pointed at a vase across the room, silently willing the energy to obey him. His heartlight flashed and a strange tingling crept up his arm. Then a bolt of energy jumped from his fingertips to the vase, causing the ceramic to explode, just as the table had.

Kyros let out a maniacal laugh. He was invincible. Nothing could touch him, and he could destroy anything with a flick of his hand, with a mere thought. Now it was time to show the others who ruled Mahri Nui. They would have no choice but to obey him. He was more powerful than a Toa.

He blasted a chair, completely annihilating it. It was intoxicating, all this power. How he had ever managed to survive without it was beyond him.

Pointing his finger at the ceiling he unleashed another blast, tearing a hole in the patchwork. He paid it no mind.

I always wanted a skylight.

Suddenly he froze. A new sensation was creeping over him, a very different one from his power high. Like his power was draining out of him with every use.

No. It couldn’t be. Not even fate could be so cruel, not to him. He snarled with raged and aimed the glowstone holder on the wall, blasting it into oblivion. There. He felt a little of his power dissipation.

So his supply was finite. There had to be a way to get more. His eyes locked on the lightstone, and he grabbed for it, sweeping it up into his grasp. Focusing, he began to draw it’s power into him. The lightstone went dark. A tiny bit of energy flowed into his system. Nothing close to the surge he had gotten when he had touched the mask.

The mask.

It had given him his first dose, why couldn’t it give him a second? Or a third? If he had it his power would be infinite. He would be unstoppable, his destiny his to control. The universe would bow before him. He would become a god. But only if he had the mask.

Kyros smiled as energy sparked all over him. He needed more power, and the mask could give it to him. The the mask currently belong to Lemiddus. If he found the Fa-Matoran, he found the mask.

The hunt was on.

***


Defilak had had better days.

The fact that he was currently piloting a previously-untested submersible built out of various scraps from the bottom of the ocean through pitch black water while being chased by a Matoran-eating deep-sea monster was only half of it. He also had to worry about a distraught Po-Matoran who had finally cracked under the stress of his job and an arrogant rival inventor who seemed to think he could pilot the craft better than the person who had built it. And to top it all off, he had a sneaking suspicion that the Toa they had just rescued wasn’t going to be much help. He was still comatose, and the bit of drool that was trailing down his battered white Kaukau indicated he was going to stay that way until someone did something about it.

All in all, he personally couldn’t think of a way things could get any worse, which he knew from experience meant that that would be exactly what would happen next. With his luck, in the next few minutes he would be eaten alive and his insides would be strewn about the abyss as a warning to anyone else stupid enough to come down here.

“We’re losing structural integrity!” Feton shouted over the creaking of the craft. “The hull can’t take much more this!”

“Take more of what?” Defilak called back sarcastically. “The stress of going these speeds at this depth, or the pound-beating the monster-thing out there is giving us?”

Feton chose not to reply. They both knew that either was enough to damage them beyond on the spot repairs, and if the hull gave out there’d be no way they’d be able to escape. Not if they tried to save the Toa too. And who knew how Dekar would act in his current state.

The craft rocked violently again as the creature hit them again. A slimy orange tentacle slammed across the main viewport, slathering globs oh who knows what across it. Defilak jerked back on the control sticks, sending them spinning. He heard the sound of armor hitting metal somewhere behind him.

“Sorry,” he muttered under his breath, struggling to right the craft.

Suddenly the tentacle snapped loose, unable to hold onto to spinning ship. It flew downwards, or whatever way the bottom of the craft was facing, smashing through the two electronic lights fixed to the front of the craft. What little light they had had outside vanished.

Everyone inside the submersible froze. For a second it felt like time had stopped. They floated there, unsure of what to do next.

Then the creature struck again, swinging it’s tentacles at the front of the craft with renewed vigor, seemingly encouraged by the destruction of the headlights. Defilak wrestled with the controls, trying to get them away. Then a spark flew from the ruins of the lamps, and an idea flashed through the Le-Matoran’s head. It was crazy, but he had no better options.

“Hold on!” he called back to whoever could hear him.

Defilak slammed the left control stick forward, causing the craft to shoot forward. The submersible rammed straight into the monster, jabbing sharp bits of glass and electrified wire into it’s soft flesh. Outside the craft the world was filled with light as the electricity coursed all over their attacker’s body. For the first time, Defilak got a good look at the creature. He gasped.

The thing was humanoid, or at least close to it. It had what appeared to be arms and legs, but tentacles sprouted from where the feet and hands should be. It’s entire body was scarred and battered, no doubt from battles with other nightmarish monsters. But the disturbingness of it’s body was nothing compared to the horror that was it’s face.

Three empty blue eyes were arranged in a triangular fashion, staring at their submersible with an unblinking, unnatural gaze. Tentacles sprouted from the back of its head, feeling the water like they were looking for something. But it’s mouth was by far the worst. A circular hole of teeth, spirally down to the back of the throat, yellowed and covered in some sort of green substance Defilak thought might be blood. Tiny bits of flesh and red metal were littered between the teeth. Sarda, or what was left of him.

Defilak wretched, nearly losing control of the craft as he did so. It was sick, so very sick. They had come down here to find what had driven the Squid up out of the Black Water. He had a sneaking suspicion they had found it. And now they were paying for it.

He pulled them away from the stunned creature, plunging the sea back into darkness. Going on gut instinct, he aimed for what he hoped was up and opened up the throttle. They shot through the water, their craft creaking and clunking all the way.

“Defilak, the gages are all going crazy,” Feton announced, reaffirming what the Le-Matoran already knew. The submersible was breaking up. They’d be lucky if it got them up to the edge of the drop off, let alone back to the warehouse. He could only hope that the monster wouldn’t follow them out.

“Just shut up and look-see what you can do,” he called back.

Something slammed into their rear. The monster had caught back up to them. Fortunately, the force from the impact only added to their momentum. What it did to the hull was a less pleasant thought, but Defilak chose not to dwell on that.

Then suddenly light flooded in through the front viewport. Defilak was forced to take his hands off the controls to keep it out of his eyes. For a second he wondered what had happened. Where was all this light coming from?

“Are we out?” Dekar said from the seat behind him.

Defilak lowered his arms to be greeted by the sight of the sun high in the heavens, its shape distorted by the waves that roamed the sea’s surface. Mata Nui, he was right. They were out of the Black Water.

Before the Le-Matoran could answer, something hit them from behind again. The monster. They might have escaped the Black Water, but they were not out of trouble. Not yet.

“We can’t risk lead-guiding it back to Mahri Nui,” Defilak stated. “I’ll try and lose it in Echo Canyon.”

Feton looked at him in disbelief. “Are you crazy? The kind of maneuvering you’d need to make it through there would tear the sub apart!”

“That creature-thing back there would tear the village apart if we let it,” he snapped back. “I certainly don’t want-need that on my conscience, do you?”

He wrenched the right control stick to the right and he shoved the other forwards. They shot away from the Black Water like a bullet from a gun, heading for the crack in the ground that was Echo Canyon. Defilak watched the sea floor carefully, waiting for the canyon to come into sight. As soon as he saw a crevice large enough to pilot through he would dive. Any minute now...

The craft rocked again. The monster was still on them, still trying to get them. So much for it staying in the Black Water. Now he’d have to hope he could lose it in the canyon.

There. The sandy floor split in a jagged line, expanding as it went. Soon it would be large enough for the submersible to fit. Then it all came down to him.

Echo Canyon was less of a canyon then it was a tunnel system. A single large cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites and giant pillars of stone, it was named for the echoes it made at points where the water could not reach. Smaller side tunnels sprouted off from the main one, dead ending or merging back into the main one at times. The only points of access were randomly placed crevices in the mail tunnel’s ceiling, like the one they were above now. For this reason, the Matoran generally avoided the place to keep from getting lost and trapped in the maze of stone.

What Defilak was planning to attempt was, by most standards, madness at best. Some would even go as far as to call it suicide. Not that the Le-Matoran have never cared much for the opinions of others; he generally tried to block them out.

So as he drove them through the crack into the main tunnel of the canyon it could be said he did not fully understand the implications of what he was doing. But such a statement would not take into account the irrational nature of his race as a whole; as much as Defilak would deny sharing such tendencies, he was still a Le-Matoran. And what he was about to do was just about the most Le-Matoran thing he could possibly do at the present moment.

They dove into the crevice.

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Chapter 5

On the outskirts of Mahri Nui a creature waited. It did not know why it was there, it did not even know what it was. It was just there, and it was content to stay there.

Except...except it wasn’t. There was something it needed to do, something it needed to find. A glowy thing. Yes, that was it. The glowy thing.

The creature brightened, happy with itself. It needed to find the glowy thing.

But what was the glowy thing?

This puzzled the creature for a moment. What was the glowy thing? And why did it need it?

The glowy thing had...it had...it had made him. But how? How could a glowy thing make him? It didn’t make sense. But he still needed the glowy thing.

The creature concentrated, thinking really, really hard. Where had the glowy thing gone? The silly little silver thing had taken it. Where had it taken the glowy thing? The creature concentrated more. The domes. The big, see-through domes with all the little lights inside. That’s where the glowy thing was.

The creature set off for the domes thinking happy thoughts. He’d find the glowy thing there, he was certain of it.
 

***


Idris was starting to worry about Lemiddus.

Apart from the fact that she had no idea what effect his unintentional murder of Kyros had done to him mentally, the mask had clearly had a negative effect on him. Combined with the fact that she still hadn’t found him yet after fifteen minutes of search, she had a right to be worried. And not just for the Fa-Matoran.

She quickened her pace now, images of blazing huts and screaming Matoran flitting through her mind. She knew Lemiddus would never do something like that in his right mind, but she had serious doubts he was still in control of himself. Better to get to him before he went and did something he would regret.

Then the earth beneath her feet shook.

For a second the Ga-Matoran froze, unsure of what the sudden quake meant. Had Lemiddus done something to the tectonic plates? Somehow, she doubted that was the case. A feeling made even stronger when it happened again, within seconds of the first.

Then another. And another. And another.

Now she could hear something, too. The sound of thunder, echoing through the bay. The earth continued to shake in it’s eerie, rhythmic pattern, in sync with the thunderous sounds the resounded through the salty water. Like the footsteps of some unspeakable giant.

Mata Nui. Footsteps.

Idris spun, Lemiddus no longer the worst of her problems. Not when she had to deal with the monster lumbering towards Mahri Nui.

The massive creature was the size of a small airship, its body covered in a natural blue exoskeleton like that of a crab's. It stood on two disproportionate, muscular legs that looked as if they could crush a Toa with ease. Two thinner appendages, probably arms, jutted out from what appeared to be shoulders and ended in three-clawed hands big enough to encase a Matoran in its fist. Its head was massive, a third of the size of the rest of it put together. The nasty-looking mouthful of needle-like teeth that looked sharp enough to shred through almost anything was particularly unsettling. This was a creature that could eat Rahkshi for lunch.

To make matters worse, it looked hungry.

Idris pulled a Kanoka Disk from her pack and loaded it into her launcher, quickly checking the code to see what it was. A level six weaken disk. Convenient. The Ga-Matoran lined up her shot and fired.

The disk cut through the air like a circular saw before crashing through the wall of water created by the bubble, taking with it a small bubble of its own that allowed it to maintain its momentum. The disk soared towards the massive creature, heading straight for its chest.

The monster barely flinched as the projectile made contact.

Idris strapped her launcher to her back and ran. Whatever this thing was, she wasn’t going to stop it alone. She could only hope the combined might of the Mahri Nui Sentinels could.
 

***


The stories of Echo Canyon had done great injustice to the actual formation. It was supposed to be impossible to navigate. Defilak disagreed. Impossible was an understatement. He could handle impossible. But what he was attempting right now was simply undoable.

The Le-Matoran rolled them between two more pillars, wincing as he heard metal scrap against the stone on both sides. This was killing the submersible. They’d already lost the dorsal and left fins. If he lost the right they’d lose stability entirely and he doubted he’d be able to get them out alive.

As far as he knew the creature was still somewhere behind them. He didn’t expect the stone columns to stop the creature, not when he could fit the sub through. But he didn’t need it to be stopped, he just needed to slow it down long enough to get away. Assuming he didn’t wreck them first.

Feton was clinging tightly to his seat, mouth tightly sealed with an expression on his face that indicated he was struggling to not vomit. Dekar was somewhere behind him, hopefully still in his own seat. Otherwise he was in for a really nasty ride. And it was bad enough already without being tossed wildly around the cabin.

Another column rose up in front of them, forcing him to swerve to the right. He felt his arms tiring, he had no idea how much more of this he could take. He needed to lose the thing behind them and get out, fast.

Feton seemed to have come to a similar conclusion. “We can’t stay down here!” he announced.

“Quick-tell me something I don’t already know,” the Le-Matoran snarled back. He had half a mind to dump the Fe-Matoran out the hatch and use the time it took the creature to devour him to make his escape. The fact that they’d never gotten along in the first place only served to fuel this idea.

“Ok, fine” Feton said, “This was a stupid plan.”

“It was a smart-plan until Dekar brought you into it,” Defilak retorted. “Now please quick-stop your loud-talk and let me concentrate! Do you want us to crash-wreck?”

That seemed to shut the other inventor up. Silently thanking the Great Spirit for small favors, Defilak returned his complete attention to the task at hand. He had no idea when the next break in the ceiling would be, but he intended to make use of it. The sooner he got out into open water the sooner he could figure out where in Karzahni they were. And the sooner he did that, the sooner they could make a run for home.

As if on cue, a crack started to form in the rock about him. His eyes followed it excitedly, praying it opened enough to let the submersible through. It did. Several dozen bio past where the break began, it split wide enough to let them out. It would be tight, the hotel wasn’t there for long. If he didn’t hit it with exact timing they’d be dashed to pieces on the ceiling.

Feton saw the opening too. “You can’t be serious.”

The Le-Matoran’s eyes narrowed. “You wanted out, so out we go.”

He pulled back on the control stick, using what was left of his directional mechanisms to angle them upwards. They curved upwards, heading roughly towards the opening as their speed started to pick up.

“Son of a-” Feton was cut off as metal scraped against jagged rock, filling the cabin with a deafening screech.

Then they were out.

Defilak let out a triumphant whoop, throwing his fists in the air. Feton let out a breath and slowly loosened his grip on his seat. They’d escaped the canyon more or less intact. Now all that stood in their way was the open sea.

They leveled out about a bio above the sea floor, taking in their new surroundings. All around them was desolate, uninhabited ocean. But about a kio ahead of them rose a massive stone column, one that made the ones in Echo Canyon look small. The cord. And at it’s base, Mahri Nui. They couldn’t see it from their position, but it was there. They were almost home.

Defilak slammed the throttle as far forward as it would go.
 

***


I’m being unreasonable. I don’t want to destroy the mask!

“Shut up,” Lemiddus growled, tossing what had to be the hundredth wrench over his shoulder. Who could possibly need all these wrenches?

Defilak, obviously.

But despite the abundance of tools in the warehouse, he had yet to find anything that he could use to destroy the mask he carried. No hammers, no blades, nothing. He had dropped his Electro-Blades back in Kyros’ hut, so that ruled them out. He was on the verge of grabbing the largest piece of debris and trying to smash the mask to pieces, which, in theory, should work.

Then again, ‘in theory’ a mask shouldn’t be putting thought in his head.

Don’t be ridiculous, a mask can’t put ideas into my head!

But it was, there was no doubt. If not the mask exactly then something the mask carried with it. Some sort of toxin, a chemical that caused delusions? No way to tell. But the mask was clearly too dangerous to risk someone else finding it. He needed to destroy it. Now.

He cleared the table in front of his with one arm, sweeping a pile of spare parts and loose tools noisily onto the floor. He placed the mask down gently, staring at it all the way. Suddenly he was overtaken by a strong urge to just take the mask and leave, run off where no one could take it from him. But he couldn’t. This needed to be done.

Lemiddus plucked a jagged piece of scrap metal from the floor and lifted it above his head. With any luck, the force of the blow would shatter the Kanohi and end this madness for good.

“Put it down Lemiddus,” called a voice from behind him, “and step away from the mask.”

No. It couldn’t be. He was dead. Lemiddus had watched him die.

“I’m warning you, step away.”

Lemiddus lowered his arms but didn’t let the scrap metal drop. Slowly he turned around to look at Kyros, but what he saw barely resembled the Ko-Matoran.

Kyros’ body was webbed in white-blue lines of energy, criss-crossing up and down his arms, legs and torso. His eyes and heartlight glowed with the same color, and seemed to be the source of the web. His armor had been scorched to an ashy gray, most likely the result of his electrocution not half an hour earlier.

“Kyros,” Lemiddus called across the warehouse, “weren’t you…?”

“Dead? I think so. But my body absorbed the energy, used it to reboot itself.” He indicate towards the mask sitting on the table beside the Fa-Matoran. “That is no ordinary mask. It has power. Power I now need to live.” He stepped through the doorway, slowly making his way over towards Lemiddus, his hand outstretched expectantly. “Give it to me Lemiddus. I need it.”

“No,” Lemiddus said. “I’m going to destroy it. It’s too dangerous.”

Kyros’ eyes widened in fear. “You wouldn’t.”

“Watch me.”

Driven by a conviction unlike anything he had ever felt before, Lemiddus lifted the scrap metal once again. His eyes fell on the mask, but this time he did not hesitate. He slammed the piece of scrap down towards the table.

“NO!” Kyros’ hands suddenly crackled with energy, and he threw an arc of energy wildly at the Fa-Matoran. His aim was off, but the bolt slammed into the table an exploded forcefully. Lemiddus and the mask went flying in opposite directions, thrown backwards by the force of the blast.

Lemiddus crashed painfully into a pile of junk Defilak had gathered, knocking the wind out of him. Wincing, he climbed to his feet, then reached back to pull a small, sharp object from his back. The tip of a non-functional Electro-Blade. Figured. Now he found one.

Kyros had already started after the mask when Lemiddus found it with his eyes. It was sitting by the side of a pool near the back of the warehouse. Kyros was closer, he’d reach it first. He had to distract the Ko-Matoran.

Praying for his Sentinel training to finally paid off, Lemiddus drew back his arm and sent the Electro-Blade spinning through the air. The weapon crashed into Kyros’ back, knocking him flat on his face.

Thank Mata Nui, the Fa-Matoran thought, pleasantly revelling in the fact that it was his own as he took off towards the mask.

He reached it just before Kyros did. He lashed out with a kick to the Ko-Matoran’s abdomen, stopping Kyros’ momentum and sent the Ko-Matoran reeling. The barest hint of a victorious smile began to form on his Kanohi as he reached for the, just in time for Kyros’ energy-enhanced fist to slam into the side of his face.

This time it was Lemiddus that went stumbling backwards. The punch would normally have simply knocked his head to the side, but with the energy enhanced strength granted to the Ko-Matoran it forced him to step back or risk losing his head. Literally.

Having regained his footing, Lemiddus saw Kyros plucking the mask from the ground. As soon as he touched it his energy seemed to replenish itself, brightening to new levels. A faint humming filled the air, growing in volume every second Kyros held the mask. He was siphoning energy for the mask, like the vampire squid sucked the life out of living things. The look of bliss on the Ko-Matoran’s mask mirrored that of the squid’s perfectly, completing the effect.

“The power,” he breathed, his tone ecstatic, mystical, “it’s amazing. spectacular. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

“Put the mask down Kyros,” Lemiddus ordered, leveling an ancient looking projectile launcher at the Ko-Matoran. “That mask is evil. I don’t know how, but it puts thoughts in your head. It needs to be destroyed.”

“Destroyed?” Kyros laughed. “You’ll have to go through me first. It’s mine now.”

“It was an accident when you died last time. Don’t make me kill you on purpose.”

Kyros turned his gaze from the mask, his glowing eyes meeting Lemiddus’. For a second time seemed to freeze as the pair regarded each other, looking past the masks that hid their faces and into something deeper. Something neither of them were certain they could describe. It was as if they were staring into each other's souls. Then Kyros spoke.

“Could you really kill another Matoran in cold blood?”

Lemiddus didn’t know. Another minute passed. Neither of them moved.

“Didn’t think so.”

As Kyros returned his gaze to the Kanohi in his hand three things happened in rapid succession. The pool beside the pair began to bubble, then exploded as a large metal object surfaced far too quickly. Water rained down on Lemiddus, who instinctively threw up his arms to protect himself. Taking the brunt of the wave on his arms and hands, his weapon was knocked out of his hands and dropped to the ground beside him.

Kyros saw an opening. As the last of the water splashed down on the stone floor he let energy surge down his arm and out his fingers, blasting a bright bolt at Lemiddus. It hit the Fa-Matoran in the chest, throwing him to the ground.

Lemiddus writhed in pain as residue energy trickled across his body and into the air around him. His whole body felt roasted, burnt. Like he’d been near the Cord too long. Far too long.

He tried to stand. Every movement sent waves of pain up his body, but he somehow found the strength to bear it. Kyros needed to be stopped. And right now, it seemed as though he was the only Matoran in the city with the chance to do so.

Grasping the edge of a nearby workbench, Lemiddus agonizingly hauled himself to his feet. For a second he wasn’t sure if his legs could hold his weight, but by using the table to support himself he stayed upright. He lifted his head, staring Kyros in the face.

“I may not be capable of taking another Matoran’s life,” he said. “But I don’t think you are either.”

For a second Kyros’ neon gaze seemed to flicker, a millisecond of doubt. A flash of...was it regret? Fear? Whatever it was, it didn’t stay long. Replaced by a cold, unreadable stare. The face of a killer.

The Ko-Matoran jumped forward, blasting the ground beneath him for a little extra boost. He landed just in front of Lemiddus, shoving his mask right up in front of the Fa-Matoran’s. “I’m not the Matoran you think I am. Not anymore.”

He unleashed a blast from his hand, blasting the table supporting Lemiddus to atoms. The Fa-Matoran collapsed, sprawling out across the floor in front of Kyros. The Ko-Matoran stared down at him in disgust. “I’m different now. I’m no longer weak, like you. I’m not afraid to fight, to kill.”

Another bolt slammed into Lemiddus’ limp body, sending convulsions up and down his prone form. Kyros smiled wickedly, then began to spew energy from his fingertips. Lemiddus shook violently, curling into a fetal position and screaming in pain. Armor charred, tissue burnt, filling the warehouse with the smell of smoke and burnt organic material.

“Step away from him Kyros,” a voice called from somewhere behind the Ko-Matoran. Dekar’s voice.

The stream of energy cut off, giving Lemiddus a momentary respite from the pain. He clawed weakly at the ground, trying to pull himself to his feet. But suddenly he felt himself being yanked into the air, held up but his scruff by an unnaturally vibrating hand. He could practically hear it buzzing behind him.

“One step out of that vehicle and he dies,” Kyros spat.

Lemiddus gathered his strength and lifted his head, peering through squinted eyes at the scene in front of him. Dekar was standing in the hatch of an odd looking vehicle, staring angrily just over the Fa-Matoran’s shoulder. A dark green Kualsi peered out from behind him, the expression on it unreadable.

“Be reasonable,” Dekar said. “You need help.”

“Help?” Kyros responded. “I don’t need your help. Now get back in that ship and let me leave in peace.”

“What have you done to Lemiddus?”

“Get back in the ship!”

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM?”

“Only this.”

Kyros pointed his free index finger at Lemiddus’ heartlight, the barest hint of a spark forming on it’s tip. Dekar’s eyes went wide. Kyros unleashed a quick, powerful blast of pure energy at the heartlight. For a second the Fa-Matoran’s body glowed a brilliant light blue and then collapsed, falling limp in Kyro’s grip.

Lemiddus felt the strength begin to drain from his body. Kyros released him, and he fell to the ground into a crumpled heap. His breathing came in ragged, rasping gasps. His armor was charred to an unrecognizable black, his heartlight flickered sporadically.

Through his weary haze he saw Dekar freeze, saw Defilak burst out from behind the Po-Matoran and charge Kyros, spewing all manner of foul curses at the Ko-Matoran. Kyros walked away from Lemiddus, moving to meet the Le-Matoran. Dekar just stood there, frozen in shock.

Lemiddus reeled as another wave of pain swept over his body. He felt himself slipping from the realm of the living, slipping into unconsciousness. He had no idea if he would wake up. But he could see the darkness coming for him from the edges of his vision. And he could do nothing. Nothing but lie there as the cold embrace of death came to him.

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Chapter 6

A small force of twenty Matoran had gathered at the edge of the city, staring out into the depths. All were silent, clutching their weapons nervously as they waited. The mood was dismal, ominous. Idris doubted anything could improve morale at this point.

The primal screams of the monster outside didn’t help.

Idris stood at the front of the formation, armed with her Disk Launcher and Electro-Blades. Her gaze swept back and forth across the ocean floor, searching for any sign of the blue monster she had seen earlier. In the short time it had taken her to rally the Sentinels it had vanished into the sands, hidden in some crevice or cave. It was raising karzahni, wherever it was. It was driving the Sentinels crazy, not being able to see it while it was roaring it’s head off. And they were on edge enough as it was.

“Where’s Kaira,” she muttered to herself. The old Ce-Matoran had said she had had an idea on how to fight the creature and had waddled off towards the Hall of Gifts. No one had seen her since.

“I’m here.”

Idris turned towards the voice to find Kaira standing right beside her, holding a strange looking device in one hand and a translucent sphere in the other.

“What took you so long?” Idris demanded, snatching the items out of Kaira’s hands and examining them skeptically.

“Those were not where they belonged,” the Ce-Matoran said, indicating to the items she had delivered. “It seems our resident archivist is not as infallible as he would like us to believe.”

“Navek’s organizational abilities are a matter to be discussed another time. What am I holding?”

“A projectile weapon, used to launch spheres like that one,” Kaira explained. “They seem to be able to pass through their target, allowing them to deposit whatever they’re carrying directly inside their target.”

“What do they carry?”

“Without the benefit of a thorough examination, I’d have to assume some sort of venom or similar substance was the intended cargo. During the short time I had to test them, I discovered that once a sphere’s contents have been released into the target it creates a vacuum that will absorb the first substance it comes into contact with. In most cases, this would be air. Unless intentionally filled with another substance, it will stay in this ‘empty’ state.”

“And this helps us how?”

“When Lemiddus saved Kyrehx, he pulled a few squid into the air dome with him. They dissolved in seconds. I tested this on bits of the specimen Defilak brought me and got similar results.”

“So the air is toxic to ocean-dwellers?”

“Fatally so.”

“How many of these launchers do we have?”

“I’m not sure. Navek was looking for more when I left. We had at least five already, including this one.”

“Take two Sentinels back and bring us everything and bring us everything you can carry.”

Kaira muttered something irritably under her breath as the Ga-Matoran waved two of the Sentinels from the back of the formation. “Accompany this Matoran to the Hall of Gifts. Do exactly as she says, and return as soon as possible.”

We’re going to need as much help as we can get.
 

***


Dekar watched in horror as Lemiddus went down. The Fa-Matoran’s body was charred and blackened, fried by the energy blast Kyros had inexplicably fired from his fingers. His heartlight flickered sporadically as he collapsed, his eyes staring blankly ahead of him.

The Po-Matoran was vaguely aware of Defilak rushing past him, shouting all manner of obscenities at Kyros. Behind him he could hear Feton shutting down the submersible’s surviving systems, seemingly oblivious to what was happening outside. But Dekar paid no attention to this. His eyes were locked on Lemiddus’ body.

Sarda’s Kanohi Huna dropped to the floor as Dekar rushed forward, catching Lemiddus just before he hit the ground. To his surprise the Fa-Matoran’s body was warm. He was alive, for now.

“Lemiddus,” he asked softly as he could manage. “Lemiddus, can you hear me?”

For a second there was silence. “Y...ye...y...yes…” the half-dead Matoran rasped.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get you help.”

“Geh...get the m...mask. Destroy...it.”

“What mask?”

“Kyros h..has it. Can...can’t let him...keep it.””

“I...I think I understand,” Dekar replied.

Lemiddus smiled weakly. “Tell…tell Kyrehx...what happened...to...to me.”

“I will. You’ve done good soldier.”

Lemiddus’ eyes rolled back into his head as his body went limp in Dekar’s arms. His heartlight flickered one last time, then blinked out forever. He was dead.

Dekar knelt beside the corpse, staring emptily at it. Another Sentinel fallen, another disaster he could not have predicted. Kyrehx attacked. Sarda devoured. And now Lemiddus, murdered in cold blood by the leader of Mahri Nui. Three good Matoran selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way for the good of the city. All fallen in the line of duty. The duty he had given them.

He knew he shouldn't, couldn't blame himself for their deaths. But it was so easy to. So simple to say it was his fault.

But Lemiddus’ death wasn’t his fault, was it? Kyros had killed him. It was his fault, not Dekar’s.

Kyros.

Dekar lay Lemiddus down gently on the ground, then rose to his feet, grabbing Lemiddus’ odd looking projectile weapon as he did so. He spun in the direction he had last scene the Ko-Matoran. There he was, glowing mask in hand, backing a furious Defilak into a corner. Dekar moved in.

Aiming the launcher at the back of Kyros’ head he approached the Ko-Matoran slowly. “Don’t move,” he growled, “or I’ll shoot your head off your shoulders.”

Kyros froze where he stood.

“Turn around and put your hands above your head.”

Slowly, the Ko-Matoran obeyed, affording Dekar his first clear view of Kyros’ condition. For a second it was Dekar’s turn to freeze as his blood ran cold at the site before him, shocked by the eerie appearance of the Matoran who stood before him. He shook it off.

“Now drop the mask and step away.”

“Ok.” Kyros complied. The Kanohi fell to the floor with an ominous clatter. As soon as it was on the ground, energy blasted from Kyros’ fingertips, flying towards Dekar almost too quickly for the Po-Matoran to react. But centuries of life on the edge had sharpened his reflexes. As soon as his brain registered the threat he threw himself to the side, barely evading the blast. He used his momentum to roll into a crouch, bringing his weapon up to bear as he did so.

But Kyros was already on the move. He scooped up the strange mask and bolted for the door. Dekar quickly readjusted his aim and squeezed off a shot. A strange, spiked sphere detached itself from the front of the launcher and flew after the Ko-Matoran.

The projectile missed it’s mark by a hair, crashing instead into a pile of junk just ahead of Kyros. It exploded on contact.

That was unexpected, Dekar thought just before the shockwave threw him off his feet. He lay there unmoving, listening to the whistle of the shrapnel flying through the air around him. He felt one piece dig into his thigh.

Silence fell.

Winicing, Dekar rose to his feet, clutching his injured leg. The smoke was dissipating, and surveyed the scene. The warehouse was intact, but the interior was a mess. Smouldering chunks of metal were scattered among toppled piles of scrap and tools. Several workbenches had toppled over, spilling their contents across the floor. In the midst of this stood Kyros, the air around him crackling with blue light. A force field, vaporizing anything that touched it. As Dekar watched he let the barrier disperse.

The two stared at each other across the room. For a second, neither moved. Then Kyros turned to leave.

“You’re a murderer Kyros!” Dekar called after him. “A cold-blooded murderer!”

Kyros walked on.

“I’ll find you! And I’ll finish what Lemiddus started! You have my word!”

Kyros walked out of the warehouse.

Dekar stared after him, seething. He knew he had to let him go, but he’d promised Lemiddus he’d destroy the mask. He would hunt Kyros down and make sure that the Fa-Matoran’s final wish was carried out. He swore it.

“Sorry about the mess,” he said, turning back to face Defilak.

The Le-Matoran scowled. “I can clean it up later. I just wish you’d given Kyros what he deserved in the process.”

“Trust me, when I find him, I’ll make sure he gets exactly what he deserves.”

“Only if you quick-beat me to him.”

Dekar shook his head. “No. I’m declaring a state of emergency. You’re in charge of the city now.”

“Me?” Defilak gaped.

“Yes. I watched you in the submersible. What you did was crazy. Some might have called it suicidal. But you did it, and you got us out of there.”

“Not all of us.”

“That’s not the point. We need someone like that to take charge, someone who not afraid to do what others would call mad. Someone crazy enough to ram a sea monster with a battered submersible.”

“I’ll think about it.”

A rusty orange face poked out of the submersible. “Hey, I- What in blazes happened out here?”

“Kyros happened,” Dekar said.

“Mata Nui…” Feton replied. “But there’s something you need to see. Our Toa is awake.”
 

***


Kaira had only been able to find five more launchers, bringing them to a grand total of ten. To be honest, Idris had expected there to be less. Why so many had been discarded by the residents of Voya Nui was beyond her, but she wasn’t complaining. The Ga-Matoran had already armed her best marksmen with them, complete with a set of five spheres apiece. They would have to make every shot count.

The new weapons had done little for moral, however. Not with the monster still roaring out amongst the subaquatic dunes.

The outer limits of the city had already been evacuated. This confrontation was bound to get messy, and Idris didn’t want anyone getting caught in the crossfire. There were barely a hundred Matoran left in Mahri Nui. Lives were precious. She didn’t want to lose any more than absolutely necessary.

She turned to the assembled Sentinels, taking a moment to look them over. A mosaic of expressions met her gaze. Some were determined, ready to fight for their home. Others appeared grim, accepting their fate as they saw it. A few were unreadable, their masks giving no hint as to what they were feeling. But there was one thing true for every Matoran present. None looked afraid.

That wasn’t to say they weren’t. Anyone who wasn’t afraid in such a situation was either a fool or a madman. But the Sentinels hid it well. They boldly went to face the dangers that awaited them. They would not cower in the face of death.

“Sentinels!” she called. “The time of battle is almost upon us. Wwe will enter the ocean and surround the target, then open fire with our new weapons. Anyone not armed with a launcher will pair up with someone who does and keep the creature away from them at all costs. Once we have exhausted our ammunition, we will move in and finish it at close range. Understood?”

The answer came in the form of several grunted “yes”es and a lot of nodding.

“Good,” Idris paused for a moment, uncertain of what to say next. “I… I would like to say it’s been an honor serving with every one of you. -”

“Idris!” a voice called from somewhere in the formation. “The roaring. It’s stopped.”

Idris froze. The ocean was indeed silent.

“Nobody move! And not a sound out of any of you!”

Slowly, she turned to face the ocean. Peering through the bubble’s membrane, she scanned the sea floor for any sign of it. Not only was the bay silent, it was empty. Nothing moved.

Then the sand exploded in front of her.

The creature suddenly loomed in front of them, sand sliding off its scales and dispersing into the water as it regarded the Matoran. Its claws clacked together slowly as it flexed its fingers menacingly. Idris could’ve sworn she saw a forked tongue dart out between its teeth and slash across its upper jaw. Like it was licking its lips.

“Out of the dome!” Idris ordered. “Lead it away from the city!”

Twenty-one Matoran dove into the water. Idris led the charge, curving around the creature and reforming their formation behind it. Four rows of five, those with Air Launchers in the back, the other up front. Just to the right of the phalanx Idris tread water. Lifting her hand above her head, she signalled the marksmen to load. A moment massed. The creature had turned around to face them again and was charging. She swung her hand forward.

A volley of ten spheres converged on the creature. Two missed, passing through the gaps between appendages and crashing harmlessly into the sand. The rest crashed into the creature, depositing their deadly load of oxygen inside its body.

The monster froze as the spheres passed through it. For a fraction of a second nothing happened. Then the points of impact began to darken to a crisp black and crumbled into dust. The holes began to grow, rapidly devouring the creature’s body. The Matoran watching expectantly, daring to hope that the battle might be won so easily.

Then it stopped.

The edges of the holes sparked with blue and yellow energy, then they started to shrink. New flesh began to grow where seconds before it had been disintegrated. The creature was being healed.

Idris has seen that energy before, back in Kyros’ hut. She had watched it dance across the Ko-Matoran’s body. It had come the mask Lemiddus found. The mask that had killed Kyros had made this monster.

Before she could fully comprehend the implications of this line of thought the creature charged again. It would be on top of their position in seconds.

She signaled frantically for them to scatter, her hands cutting through the water with swift precision. The marksmen rearranged themselves into a rough semicircle around the creature and opened fire. For the next minute spheres of air rained on the creature in four haphazard waves of nine, most making their mark and depositing their toxic cargo within. The idea was that all forty spheres would do too much damage too be repaired and they could finish the beast with their blades.

Wait.

Forty spheres should’ve been fired. She had counted four waves of nine. That made thirty six. Four were missing. One of the Sentinels hadn’t fired.

Idris spun, looking for the missing Matoran. She found them a ways to her left, the Le-Matoran marksman struggling with his launcher as his Po-Matoran companion held her weapons in a ready position, ready to ward of the monster if it came near. They appeared to be fine, for the moment. Just a launcher malfunction.

The last of the spheres cut through through the creature, leaving it looking somewhat akin to the exotic holed cheeses of Stelt. For a moment all was silent, or at least as silent as it could be with the waters so disturbed. Idris found herself daring to hope that they might have mortally wounded the beast, a hope ripped to shreds as neon blue sparks crackled along the edges of the wounds.

The monster let out a feral roar, a sound eerily distorted by the water. Then it charged, its eyes ablaze with anger. There was no time to signal a retreat. The beast was too close. She had no choice but to watch as the Sentinels tossed the launchers aside and readied their Electro-Blades for combat.

It reached them in seconds. Sparks flew as the Matoran fell upon the beast, cutting and slashing wherever they found an opening. But the wounds caused by the last volley of spheres had healed. There was no piercing its hard exoskeleton now.

Idris swam in their direction kicking frantically through the water, knowing that she would make no difference. They were doomed. Already, three Sentinels had fallen at the creature’s hands. She couldn't tell if they were still alive.

Mata Nui have mercy on our souls, she thought grimly. Let us die quickly and honorably.

Just as she was about to join the fray a sphere shot through the water and carved a tunnel through the beast’s forehead. It screeched in pain and lashed out wildly, felling another Sentinel. For a second it looked as if the wound would miraculously do what the others had failed to do, but in seconds the healing energies were crackling around the edges.

Taking advantage of the momentary blindness of the creature, Idris signalled for the Sentinels to withdraw. They saw and obeyed, swimming away as fast as they good. All but one made it out unscathed. The poor soul was smashed down to the ground by the beast’s flailing arm. He lay motionless in the sand.

Idris turned in the direction the sphere had come from just in time to see two Matoran swimming towards the creature. Paka and Aescela, the pair whose launcher had malfunctioned. They must’ve gotten it working, and just in the nick of time.

But why were they swimming towards the monster? It was distracted, they needed to use this time to regroup. She waved in their direction, hoping they would get her message. Aescela turned to look at Idris, a determined look on her Kanohi. She shook her head and swam onwards.

Then Idris understood. They were going to keep the creature occupied for as long as they could, giving the rest of the Sentinels time to regroup and plan a second attack. Idris began to back away, signalling the rest of the group to retreat to the relative safety of the air dome. Paka and Aescela had made their choice, and there was nothing in Mahri Nui that could stop them.

With grim anticipation she watched from the air dome as they engaged the creature. Paka launched another sphere, this one through it’s leg. As the beast yowled Aescela darted in, jamming one of her Electro-Blades into the rapidly closing hole. It continued to heal around the weapon, leaving the blade embedded in the limb. Aescela flicked the weapon’s power setting up to maximum and propelled herself back towards Paka. But the creature was quicker than she anticipated. Its hand slashed through the water, one its clawed fingers impaling her leg and dragging her down.

Shaking the injured Po-Matoran from its hand, the creature glanced down at it’s leg, an expression reminiscent of a grimace on its face. An extremely pained grimace. The looks on its face could only been described as pitiful. Sad.

Idris felt sick. This was just an innocent creature, unwilling transformed by Lemiddus’ mask into a regenerating monster. That was why it had come to the city. It was after the mask. And they had tried to kill it.

She dove back into the ocean, taking a fresh air bubble with her. She had to find a way to get the creature to leave, or somehow understand they were just defending themselves. Maybe, just maybe, no one else had to die today.

The creature was moving towards Paka now. In the absence of Aescela to distract it flew straight at its chest. But the creature intercepted it with its wrist, taking the toxic dose of air there and allowing the projectile to pass harmlessly through its torso.

The hand floated to the ground, severed from the wrist by the sphere. Sand exploded upwards, creating a veil around the two combatants. Idris kicked harder, trying to reach the battle in time. She peered through the curtain, trying to make out what was happening.

As the sand slowly began to settle back onto the ground, two silhouettes became visible through the veil. The massive shadow of the creature loomed over the Le-Matoran, who was backing away in a panic. But Paka wasn’t fast enough. The creature snatched him up in its good hand, staring intently at him.

Paka appeared to stop struggling as the creature lifted him up to eye level. The two stared each other down, neither wavering. Paka did not cower under the enormity of the beast, he looked it in the face without fear.

Then it bit his head off.

Idris bit back a scream. It had bitten his head off. As if he were simply prey, food to be consumed.

All thoughts of making peace with the creature vanished from her mind. It had just eaten a Matoran while she watched. Bitten the head off one of her fellow Sentinels. She was no longer on a mission of peace, she was going to send the monster to blazes. No holds barred.

In that moment she had an epiphany. Here, at the bottom of the sea, cut off from civilization, the Matoran were nothing more than prey. The larger, more vicious creatures could hunt them whenever they pleased, kill them at their leisure. But it didn’t have to be that way. The Matoran didn’t have to just lie down and wait for the predators of the depths to kill them. They could choose not to be the prey, to fight back. They could become the predator.

Drawing her weapons from their sheaths, she charged the creature as it discarded Paka’s decapitated corpse to the side. Her first objective was to draw the beast away from the city, get it somewhere where she could engage it without having to worry about endangering the city and anyone attempting to retrieve the fallen and any loose equipment.

Quick as a Takea Shark she darted past the creature and scooped up Paka’s launcher and last remaining sphere from the sand. One shot left. She’d have to make it count, though she had no idea how. Glancing over her shoulder she confirmed the beast was on her tail. Mission accomplished. Now it was just it and her, alone at the bottom of the sea.

Then the water grew cold and thick, making her movements slow and sluggish. She looked around in confusion, looking for an explanation for the sudden change of temperature.

She soon found it. A towering figure, clad in white, standing between her and the creature. The water around him shimmered with thousands of tiny shards of ice, sparkling in the few rays of sunlight that had managed to filter down to this depth. He was unarmed, yet power seemed to radiate from him.

It was a Toa. An honest-to-Mata Nui Toa. And he was in Mahri Nui.

The creature skidded to a halt in front of the Toa, looking him up and down, sizing him up. The Toa simply watched it, arms hanging loosely at his sides, waiting.

The beast took a step forwards. Instantly, the Toa lunged, a spike ice ice forming around his forearm and fist as he threw a vicious uppercut at the creature’s chin. The spike slammed into the creature’s shell with enough force to drive right through the exoskeleton, impaling the beast’s head. The Toa snapped the spike at the base and jumped back, leaving it imbedded in the creature.

The creature thrashed wildly, clawing at its chin as it tried to pull the weapon out. As Idris watched, it slowly dragged the spike out, discarding it to the side and shaking itself like a Hydruka would shake the water from it’s body after returning to an Air Dome. Energy crackled around the wound, closing it in seconds.

Scowling, the Toa created two short, sharp blades of ice in his hands and charged the creature. They clashed in a flurry of strikes, too fast for Idris’ eyes to follow. Ice glinted and energy crackled as the two Titans clashed beneath the waves.

Idris stood rooted to the spot, her eyes seeing nothing but the fight. In comparison to other battles history had seen this one was nothing spectacular, but to a Matoran who has been cut off from society for centuries it was truly a sight to behold.

As she watched, the Toa thrust his blade into the creature's chest and slashed his arm down, cutting a gaping hole across its torso. For a second Idris caught a glimpse of a small, fist-sized organ pulsing repeatedly, every pulse sending tiny sparks of energy across a web of dark lines to different parts of the body. The healing energy. Earlier the beast had sacrificed its hand to keep Paka’s sphere from going through its chest. Perhaps there was some importance to that small, insignificant looking muscle?

Suddenly an idea popped into Idris’ head. One of those odd, very out there ideas when you have no other options. It was crazy, but if her theory was correct it would work. Now all she had to do was attract the Toa’s attention.

As if to grant Idris’ request the creature’s fist slammed into the Toa’s abdomen, sending him flying backwards, landing roughly in the sand just to Idris’ right. The Ga-Matoran quickly propelled herself in his direction, waving her arms frantically to get his attention. He looked at her in confusion, uncertain of what she wanted. She began to tell him her plan, using large, exaggerated gestures to be certain he saw.

Comprehension dawned on the Toa’s Mask of Intangibility. Rising to his feet he charged back towards the creature, this time a single razor sharp ice dagger in his hand. He fell upon the monster in seconds, and the titanic battle resumed.

Idris scrambled as close as she dared to the fight, trying not to be noticed. Taking a second to make sure the sphere was properly loaded, she prepared to take the shot. She would only get one chance at this, she had to make it count.

Then the Toa saw an opening. With a quick flick of his wrist he jabbed the dagger at the creature’s chest, somehow slicing through the exoskeleton like it wasn’t there. As he jumped out of the way Idris brought her launcher up to eye level, locking the pulsing organ in her sights.

Her finger rested on the trigger, ready to fire the sphere and end it once and for all. But she found herself hesitating. This was just an innocent creature, twisted by that awful mask into a monster. Could she really end its life? Yes, it had killed Paka, but that had been in self-defense. Just like the Sentinels had defended themselves.

Revenge was wrong, but she had a duty to protect Mahri Nui. But did that duty require cold-blooded murder on her part?

Before she could make up her mind she felt her finger contract, pulling back on the trigger. Time seemed to slow as the sphere cut through the seawater towards the creature. Idris watched as it passed through the exposed tissue and muscle, carving a tunnel through the monster’s chest. The pulsing organ disintegrated in a puff of black dust.

The creature froze, as if it were uncertain of what had just happened. Energy crackled along the edges of the wound, but noticeably less than before. It grew dimmer and dimmer, the healing slowing as it did so. Then it stopped, winking out for the last time. The creature wavered, then collapsed face first into the sand.

Idris spun, finding the Toa just in time to see his Mask of Intangibility reappear on his face. She couldn’t be sure what he had just done, but she had her suspicions. She charged furiously in his direction, anger building inside her. She didn’t know what she would do when she reached him. Fortunately she didn't have to. Her next breath filled her mouth with seawater. Her air was gone.

She grasped at her neck reflexively, reality crashing down on her like a tidal wave. She was still too far away from the city. She wouldn’t be able to swim there in time. She was dead.

Black spots speckled her vision. Pain racked her body, as if every bit of her being was dying. She had inhaled some of the seawater, and now it was mutating her. Changing her into who knew what.

She collapsed onto the seafloor, her thoughts a jumbled mess. It was hopeless. She had seen what happened to Matoran that had been mutated by the water. They lost themselves, became monsters, cannibalistic animals, to the extent that Dekar had been forced to order that any Matoran who started to mutate without a solid chance of finding air needed to be put down on the spot.

Her hands grasped wildly around for her Electro-Blades. She refused to become a monster, she wouldn’t allow it. Lifting the weapon to her chest, she prepared to save herself from a fate worse than death.

Something knocked the blade from her hands and grabbed her up off the sea floor. Idris felt herself being carried by two huge hands, hanging limply in her rescuers arms. Through her clouded vision she saw the Toa’s face, staring ahead with a grim look on his face. She tried to scowl at him, but she was too weak.

Suddenly she was inside an Air Dome. She felt herself being laid down on a cot, felt the water being forced from her lungs. She coughed once, then twice. Water trickled down her cheek, and the pain seemed to recede. She gasped as air found its way back into her and she felt herself returning to normal.

The back spots had vanished from her eyes, clearing her vision. She looked up to see two faces looking down at her. The Toa and Kaira. Kaira was busying herself looking Idris over, making sure she was fine. The Toa was just looking down at her, speaking softly.

“My name is Glace. I’m from Metru Nui. I’m here to help.”

Idris felt unconsciousness closing in. She didn’t care, she could use a nap. Looking up at the Toa, her eyes meet his. With her last waking breath she gave him the message she had wanted to back out in the ocean.

“Curse you.”

Sleep had never felt so good. Edited by DeltaStriker

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Epilogue

Kyros has always fancied himself a loner. He had never needed the company of his inferiors, never desired friendship. He had been content to live in isolation. But in the shadows of his new home he had discovered the true meaning of loneliness.

The Ko-Matoran stared emptily at the wall of the cave opposite him, trying to make sense of the last few hours. He had just killed a Matoran over a mask. An innocent Matoran who had done nothing to deserve it. Sure, he had known he would have to eliminate some people during his rise for power, but this was something else.

He was a murderer. Mata Nui, he was a murderer.

He reached into his pack and pulled out the strange, glowing Kanohi that was the source of all his troubles. Just by holding it he could feel its power, power enough to dwarf that of a Makuta. It called to him, inviting him to wield it. If he absorbed the mask’s power he would be unstoppable.

Unstoppable. Think of what I could do with that power.

But how would he ever use his newfound abilities? He was a murderer. If he ever set foot in Mahri Nui again they would lock him up, never to see the light of day again. And that was if he was lucky.

They couldn’t stop me if they tried, though. I have the power now.

Now there was an idea. Nobody could stop him while he had the mask. He could force them into submission. Mahri Nui would be his. Then he would move on to Voya Nui, and from there who knew? The world was his to take.

The mask was the answer to everything. Its power was infinite. And it was his. He deserved it, didn’t he? After all he had done to get it, he had to deserve it. An unlimited supply of power with which he could do anything.

I would be like a god!

He focused on the mask, drawing its power into him. The mask flashed, the energy pulsed up his arms and into his heartlight. The Ko-Matoran sighed with ecstasy as power filled him again. That was better.

But at the rate his powers depleted themselves would he be able to engage in combat? If he were to run out in the middle of a fight with a Makuta he would be destroyed on the spot. Perhaps if he put it on? Then he could draw on its power whenever he needed.

He lifted the Kanohi to his face.

NO!

Kyros froze. Why had he just thought that? He wanted, no, he needed to wear the mask.

Not yet. I must be patient. the time is not right.

The Ko-Matoran frowned. There were most certainly not his thoughts. So what were they doing in his head?

With that thought hanging ominously in the air silence fell. The only sound in the cave was the dripping water droplets splashing onto the stone.

It’s always the smart ones, isn’t it? Why can’t I get a gullible person for once?

Kyros started. The voice again, the thoughts in his head that were not his own. But something was different this time. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

Pity you aren’t a stupid person. They’re so much easier to manipulate.

Yes, that was it. The voice now had a feminine tone to it. It was no longer his own voice, but someone else’s.

That Toa of Sonics on the surface was smart, too. He figured me out. That’s why I’m down here, you see? That rotten do-gooder threw me- But I digress. You don’t care about that, do you?

Kyros’ voice shook as he spoke. “Who are you? Why are you in my head?”

The voice laughed. It was an unnerving, coolly confident and omniscient sounding laugh. The kind of laugh that made you feel like you were back in school in Ga-Metru and had just answered a question wrong in front of the entire class. Like the laugher knew everything and you knew nothing.

Kyros hated that kind of laugh.

I’m not in your head. Why would anyone want to be in anyone else’s head? It would be so cramped and uncomfortable.

The Ko-Matoran scowled indignantly for a few seconds before realizing the voice probably couldn’t see his face. But if she wasn’t in his head, where was she? Outside, in the ocean? Was she communicating with him telepathically?

The Fa-Matoran figured it out less than a minute after he started thinking about. You’ve have five. He was just a simple guard, you’re an educated scholar! Think, before I grow bored of you.

Lemiddus. What did she know about Lemiddus? The mask. That had to be it. The mask was alive.

Well, sort of. It’s more like my current place of residence.

Mata Nui. He was talking to a Kanohi. And inanimate object.

Ok, that was uncall-

The voice cut off abruptly as Kyros hurled the mask across the cave. As soon as it left his hands her voice disappeared. For a moment he sat there, basking in the silence. In the short time he had spent ‘talking’ to her he had forgotten what it was like to have his own thoughts. His own ideas. It was amazing how just a few minutes of having something inside your head made you value your privacy that much more.

He stared at the glowing mask warily, as if expecting it to grow arms and try to strangle him. When it did nothing he frowned, then slowly crawled over to the Kanohi. Tentatively, he touched it.

As soon as his fingers made contact a fury of harsh insults suddenly exploded inside his head. He yanked his hand away on instinct, abruptly cutting off the shouting. Obviously throwing the mask across the room had insulted it in some way, and it either didn’t know he couldn’t hear it or didn’t care. Cautiously, he picked it up off the cave floor, bracing himself for the tirade to come.

-as if calling “inanimate” wasn’t enough, you had to THROW ME across the cave! Are all you Ko-Matoran so inconsiderate or is it just you. I swear, if I had a physical form I-

“SHUT UP!” Kyros yelled. The voice fell silent. “Thank you. Now that I have your attention, I’d like you to tell me who you are and why I can hear you in my head.”

The voice laughed again. Kyros flinched.

Perhaps you aren’t as much like the Fa-Matoran as I thought. The second he found out he wanted to destroy the mask. But you don’t want that, do you? You want the power it can give you. The power I can give you.

Kyros scowled again. It’d done some digging, hadn’t it. What else had it found?

Don’t worry, I only skimmed your memories. It’s my standard procedure for new mask bearers. Besides, your secrets are safe with me.

“What if I don’t believe you? What if I decided Lemiddus was right and that you need to be destroyed?”

You won’t destroy the mask. Even if you knew how. You need it. Without its power you’re a dead Matoran.

“What do you mean?” he asked, something twisting ominously in his gut. A bad feeling that he wouldn’t like what he was about to hear.

The mask cursed Lemiddus. While it was in his possession, anyone who touched him would have had their internal organs fried to a crisp. But I saved you. I sent extra energy to reboot you, keep you alive. But if you ever run out of energy all that will be left is a lifeless husk.

“Assuming I believe you, I can get energy from anything. I don’t need the mask or you. Sure, I won’t be as powerful, but it’s better than having to trust you.”

Oh please. You saw how much energy you got from a single lightstone. You’d have to drain an entire city to live a month. Face it Kyros, you’re living on borrowed time. Time you borrowed from me. It’s time to pay up.

Kyris felt a sinking feeling overcome him. Somehow he knew she was telling the truth. The mask was his only option. Without it he could neither rule nor remain alive for long. Yes, if he didn’t use his powers he might be able to last a while. But he would inevitably have to fight. And the mask would be his only chance then.

The voice and and the mask were a package deal. He could not have one without the other. He needed the mask to survive, so by extension he needed her.

“What do you suggest?” he asked begrudgingly.

I’m stuck in this mask, and you need it to stay alive. Why not work together? Help me get a body, then we’ll part ways. You with the mask, and me with a body. Deal?

Kyros considered her offer. On one hand, it would be nice to have someone to talk to. On the other, however, he knew nothing about her while she could peek into his mind whenever she pleased. That would make it hard to keep secrets, which he would undoubtedly need to do at some point.

But he needed the mask more than secrets. Granted, he could keep her hidden away, keep the mask in his pack, not touching him so she couldn’t say anything to him. But he’d have to talk to her eventually.

He sighed. Logically, he had no choice. That didn’t mean he had to like it, but it was his only reasonable course of action.

“Fine,” he said aloud. “ We’ll stick together.”

Took you long enough.

Either she hadn’t been listening in or she pretending that she hadn’t. Whatever the case, it wasn’t important. She would’ve already known everything he had took into consideration anyways. She’d had plenty of time to look it up before.

“But,” he added firmly, “I don’t want you looking through my thoughts and memories without permission. I get the slightest hint that you’ve been reading my mind without permission and I’ll toss you off the first cliff I find. Do I make myself clear?”

Transparently.

“Good,” Kyros said. He paused for a moment, then remember something. “You never told me your name.”

My apologies. I had to be certain you weren't going to try and kill me or anything. Call me Iiliara.

“Very well, Iiliara,” the Ko-Matoran said. “Where to first?”

We require transport. The most readily available form would be in Mahri Nui.

Kyros shook his head. “We can’t go there,” he said. “They’d kill me on sight and destroy you. The sub looked ruined when I saw it earlier anyways.”

Then we wait. We’ll need to sneak back in after a week or so. Let them think everything’s fine so they'll let down their guard. You need practice with your powers anyways. I know a few tricks you could use. Learned them from a friend ages ago.

Somehow he doubted Iiliara had ever had any friends, but he let the comment lie. His mind was elsewhere. Soon he would be able to return to Metru Nui. Only this time he would not be a lowly scholar. He would be a king. An emperor.

A god.

“Fine,” he said, dragging himself back to the present. “I’ve waited centuries for this chance. A week more won't make a difference.”
 

***


Defilak knew something was wrong. The Hydruka weren’t back yet. They should’ve been back ages ago. So why weren’t they?

He had already checked with Reysa. The Onu-Matoran had been ill all day. Gar had apparently volunteered to stand in for him during the hour-long harvest. Gar, the most rational, level-headed and punctual Matoran Defilak knew. Gar, who had once boasted that “only death could keep me from being on time.”

Defilak feared that was the case.
 
He was at the edge of the city now, looking out across the Fields of Air. There was definately movement; the Hydruka were still at work. Defilak’s eyes narrowed. He stepped out of the Dome and into the water. From his waterproof satchel he pulled the odd looking three-pronged metal for Reysa had given him. He gingerly plucked each of the thin, spindly prongs, in order. Each sent a specifically tuned vibration through the water, a message to the Hydruka that it was time to return to the city.

That matter settled, Defilak began his search. He swam quickly over the field towards the Keeper’s customary place on the opposite side, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of his friend. There was nothing.

Defilak descended to the sea floor, looking for a clue to Gar’s whereabouts. For a second he saw nothing. Then he noticed tracks in the mud, as if someone had been dragged away.

The Le-Matoran followed the tracks away from the airweed and out into the vast emptiness of the sea, a feeling of despair growing in his gut. He knew what this meant. As far as the Matoran knew nothing lived in the open ocean, so there was only one thing that could’ve happened to his friend.

His worst fears were confirmed as he reached the end of the tracks. He gazed down into the inky blackness that filled the massive u-shaped crafter that surrounded Mahri Nui.

Gar had been taken into the Black Water.

Defilak fell to his knees, staring blankly into the depths. If Gar had been taken down there then there was no hope for him. Between the Vampire Squid, the red monster and who knew what other monstrosities he would’ve been dead in minutes. And even if he managed to evade the predators, he would’ve drowned before he found his way out. Gar was gone.

Something flashed on a ledge just a few bio below him. A dull, muted metallic flash. His gut clenching, Defilak slowly climbed down the inside of the crater, feeling uneasy as tendrils of murky darkness snaked around him.

He reached the ledge. His breath caught in his throat as he identified the object. It was a familiar black Komau, scratched, battered, and covered in tooth marks. The red monster had gotten him. Devoured him like it had devoured Sarda.

Defilak picked the mask up and stared into its empty eyeholes. It felt wrong not to see his friend’s eyes through them, not to hear him making some obnoxiously sarcastic comment about whatever his current pet peeve was. It was disconcerting to see a mask once so full of life so silent and empty. It felt wrong, unnatural.

His fists clenched involuntarily. Dozens of pent up emotions pressed against their mental dams, against the chains that bound them and kept them locked away. The anger, the frustration, the loss. Fate had already stolen one life away from him, could it truly be so cruel as to destroy another?

He slipped the Komau into his satchel and turned to climb his way out of the crater. In the corner of his eye he saw something, a faint glow. He threw a glance over his shoulder. Three luminous blue orbs floated in the darkness behind him, arranged in the shape of a triangle.

The monster was watching him.

Defilak stared back at the beast, hate filling every inch of his being. In this moment he made a decision. He would accept the position Dekar had offered him. He would lead Mahri Nui to victory over the evils that menaced it. He would save them. He would hunt this monster, and Kyros, to the ends of the world.

For Sarda.

For Lemiddus.

For Gar.

He knew the creature wouldn't be able to hear him. He didn’t care. “You can hide down there in your shadows. You can try and pick us off one by one. But you killed my best friend, and for that you will pay. Even if it takes me a lifetime, I’ll see you burn.”

The eyes blinked. The Le-Matoran began his ascent

But he had been wrong. The creature had adapted to live in the depths, and its ears were attuned to the vibrations speech made underwater. It understood every word he said, and it was amused.

Defilak’s ears were not so attuned. So he did not understand the monster’s reply, if he even heard it at all.

“I’d like to see you try, little meal.”

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