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Reborn

G1 Bionicle Inferna Firesword

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#1 Offline Inferna Firesword

Inferna Firesword
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Posted Oct 17 2015 - 02:22 AM

Prologue


Makuta Volterix’s forte was not mutation or fighting, though he wasn’t incompetent at either of those things. Rather, he was a coordinator; he managed the Brotherhood’s assets and made sure everything was ready for warfare and to his leaders’ specifications. It was a wide category of things to be responsible for, and that included taking care of the handful of Toa Hagah his kind had retained control of after the Cataclysm. Most were broken by years of no hope, and were little more than shells of what they had been.

His prisoner, however, was not one of these.

The Toa was thrashing in her bindings on the floor, muffled snarls of anger coming from behind her gag as she tried to break free. Elemental nullifiers were in short supply these days, as the Makuta were more than capable of keeping a prisoner subdued in Destral, but fortunately the Brotherhood had retained a Psionic Toa well-versed in scrambling the minds of their prisoners. Asha was sullen, as ever, but was following his orders obediently, keeping her thoughts scattered enough to not use her powers, and in any case he had taken away the captive’s mask to make it harder.

“Master, her team is searching the caves,” Asha said, her voice dull. “They will be here in about ten minutes.”

“More than enough time to finish,” Volterix replied, pulling a sealed pair of vials. One contained a long, serpentine organic creature, while the other was a pale blue and significantly squatter. The former he passed to his companion, along with her mask. “You are wearing your heavy gloves?”

“Yes, Master.”

“Good. Let the kraata infect the mask, but make sure it doesn’t touch your own.” Volterix knew that his Psionic Toa wondered why he was taking care to make her wear protective gear, or why he hadn’t infected her mask beforehand. But she had been in their service long enough to know that she could not escape them; time and despair had broken her into a willing servant.

As Asha unscrewed the cap on her container, the Makuta opened his own, and coaxed the creature into his gauntleted hand. The Shadow Leech fell into his hand, trying to attach to him and drain the Light that had been long exiled from his being. Mutran had warned him that they could only survive a short time out of their virus baths, but this one had only been out for five minutes. It would survive long enough to do its task.

The captive Toa, lying on the cave floor, saw the Shadow Leech in his gauntlet and her eyes widened. Even if she didn’t know what it was, the fact it was held by a Makuta was enough to target it as a threat to her. She redoubled her attempts to squirm out of her bonds, but they were good and tight around her body. Leaning downwards, he stretched his arm longer than it could normally reach, and placed the Leech on her bare face, not releasing it from his grasp until he was sure that the creation had a firm grip on her forehead.

The Toa tried to scream, but her voice faltered as its jaws gripped her tighter, and an application of Volterix’s power of silence kept the sound from escaping the room they were in. Turning away from the prisoner, the Makuta looked to Asha, who had a death grip on the black-and-red kraata as its touch turned the Kanohi Pakari black and pitted. At the end of the process, she let go of the mask and let it float in the air with her telekinesis, using both hands to put the kraata back inside of its jar.

“Master,” she said simply, passing both the mask and the jar to him. The jar went back into the folds of his cape, while he held the mask in his hand.

“What is the status of her team?” he asked. The Toa closed her eyes in momentary concentration, then reopened them. “Far enough away that they cannot interfere with the process. Seven minutes at the earliest.”

“Good. Make sure they take a while.” He was confident that they would be done before they came close enough to find them, but he wanted to make sure the Shadow Leech would finish its job. Mutran had given a time of about three minutes, but there hadn’t been a lot of data for him to be confident.

However, it turned out the mad scientist had been correct, because a couple minutes later the Shadow Leech fell off the Toa’s forehead and flopped into the floor, feebly squealing in satisfaction at the feast of Light it had gorged itself on. As Volterix stooped to collect the creature, he took notice of how nothing really seemed to have changed with her – her armor and eye color remained the same – but her gaze had become far sharper than a Toa’s should be; he felt that any lesser being would feel like they were being burned into.

He carefully put the bloated Shadow Leech back in the jar and sealed it. Tests had shown that it would disintegrate soon after digesting the Light, but he wanted to leave no signs of the creature behind to be found. Better to let the Toa panic and worry about a plague of some kind than for them to get any hint of the Brotherhood’s secret weapon.

Turning back to the Toa, he noticed that she was still thrashing in her bonds, and the demands to be released had resumed. Odd, but not surprising: being drained of her Light would not make her more likely to be his servant, just more violent and amoral.

That was why he’d infected her Pakari.

Smiling a bit, he fit the mask onto her face, pulling the gag away to make sure it fit properly. The curses became audible for a moment, then faded as the kraata’s influence settled in her mind and held steady, the natural color of her eyes being swallowed up by bright red and neon yellow pupils. The thrashing stilled, and stopped altogether, the Toa’s eyes on him and waiting patiently.

“Do you know who I am?” Volterix asked the new Toa of Shadow.

“You are my Master,” she replied without hesitation. A soft sound came from behind him, and he knew Asha was afraid. Good.

“You will not flee when I release you?”

“Why would I?”

“Good answer.” His hands gripped the rope and undid the knots, and they fell away. The Toa stood up, no longer a prisoner as she dusted herself off. There were still improvements that could be made to her, but they were for later, in his fortress. Now they had to clean up the evidence: the Toa team would be suspicious if they found no trace of their teammate in the caves.

“Asha,” he said, “where are the Toa now?”

“Three minutes away, Master.”

The Shadow Toa tilted her head in curiosity at the Psionics Toa, like she hadn’t noticed her presence until her statement. “What Toa?” she asked.

“Inconvenient Toa. As all non-Shadow Toa are,” the Makuta replied with distain.

“Oh.” A pause as she digested this. “Can I kill them?”

The Makuta hid his smile: this was just what he wanted to hear. “Yes, you can. We’ll let you have your fun and keep ourselves hidden away. They’ll think it’s just you.”

“Anything in particular that I should do?” she asked, twirling her fingers and conjuring a spear of darkness between them.

“Wait in here for them to find you, and extinguish the lights when you do.” There hadn’t been much light – Makuta could see in the dark, after all – but Asha had needed light to see what she was doing with the kraata. One lightstone illuminated the room, easily destroyed.

Grinning, the Toa took a position in the center of the room, her feet finding their stance easily. Smirking, he pulled the reluctant Asha to his side as they moved into the furthest corner of the room, drawing an illusion around them to make them look like the wall. He wanted to see what the Brotherhood’s newest weapon was capable of, fresh from her creation and practically frothing at the mouth to get to work. He noticed Asha looking away from the room’s entrance, and used one hand to force her to look.

The sound of footsteps grew louder, along with the sounds of talking amongst the group of Toa. From his observations beforehand, including the new Toa of Shadow, they had numbered five, meaning four were on their way. All males, one was the leader: seemed he’d picked the right target to claim.

The talking abruptly fell away as they beheld their former teammate, now with glowing red eyes, a shadowy spear in one hand and a sphere of darkness in the other, and a vicious Muaka-smile on her face. Their expressions of horror and shocked exclamations were a joy to behold, and Volterix committed them to memory so he might appreciate them forever.

The Toa of Shadow, for her part, merely grinned at her former teammates before the orb of darkness rushed in a wave around her, destroying the lightstone and plunging the room into pitch black.

The screaming that followed didn’t last long.

XxX

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Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 17 2015 - 02:27 AM.

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#2 Offline Inferna Firesword

Inferna Firesword
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Posted Nov 01 2015 - 11:08 PM

Chapter 1

Night was slowly falling on the city of Aonui. The suns – always seeming a little dimmer each day – were casting deep orange light in the sky, soon to fade into blues, purples, and finally star-studded black. Activity was winding down within its walls, the civilians returning to their homes for the night. Atop the walls, however, guards remained on patrol; members of many species keeping watch over the land outside the city.

Toa of Lightning Voriki was a regular sight on the wall, serving as the commander of the wall, and tonight was no exception. His companion was a less-common sight, causing the guards to turn in interest as they walked by. Voriki was animated as usual, gesturing, eyes bright behind his Hau, but his enthusiasm did not seem to be extending to the Toa of Psionics who walked beside him.

Her armor colors were cobalt blue and a dark, stained bronze, and her mask was the sleek, trimmed features of the Mask of Biomechanics. Her green eyes held no warmth, however, contrasting to the bright amber eyes of her deputy, who stood a head taller than her.

“…everything’s clean and prepared, after that salvo of Brotherhood minions chasing the Pareo refugees tried to follow them in a couple days after we got the last of them inside the city. All of the recruits that we’ve picked up from the refugees are almost finished with their training, and will be integrated into the duty roster as they graduate.”

“Yet you have not ascertained that there are no traitors amongst the recruits?” the Psionics Toa asked, thin lips pursed in disapproval. “How can you be certain, then, that you will not be betrayed as Pareo was?”

Voriki stopped in his tracks and turned to glare at his leader. The on-duty guards within earshot turned unobtrusively from their posts to better hear what their commander and the leader of Aonui’s Toa were about to argue about. There had been rumors amongst the ranks of how the city’s leadership had been clashing, but until now there had been nothing to confirm them. There would be grist for the gossip mill tonight.

“The Brotherhood went after Pareo because two of its Toa were Iron and Magnetism Toa; we’ve been over this, Rhonwen –”

“And how did the Brotherhood find them, hmm? Every member of those tribes has been in hiding for millennia since they found out they were being hunted, and they are very good at covering their tracks.”

“I know where you’re going with that, Rhonwen,” Voriki warned, “and Cailean had nothing to do with the attack. By all accounts, his ascension and actions during the fight are the main reason that most of the village escaped.”

The female Toa opened her mouth to continue arguing, but paused mid-action. Green eyes glowed brightly, and the Toa of Lightning unconsciously took a step back, fearing that she would turn her powers on him. By contrast, the audience of guards took a step forward, their hands by their weapons.

The glow faded without incident, though, and Rhonwen’s features returned the normal, save for her frown. “I have business elsewhere tonight, it seems. We will pick this up later, Voriki. Do not doubt it.”

With that, she turned and walked towards the closest staircase, the guards parting to make room for her.

As her deputy watched her leave, a frown creased his features. The guards all noticed, but only one chose to question it. “Has Toa Rhonwen always been this way?” a Ga-Matoran officer asked as the crowd slowly dispersed and returned to their duties.

The Toa of Lightning blinked in surprise as the question registered, then shook his head. “No … well, she was always prickly. But her paranoia wasn’t nearly as bad before the War started … before Toa started dropping like flies. Before anyone could be a spy for the Brotherhood or the Hunters.”

“She thinks Toa Cailean is a spy, then?”

“That’s what she’d say. Personally, I think its prejudice; her thinking he’s not as valuable as the rest of his team would have been, if they’d lived through the evacuation.” Voriki shook his head. “Apparently she’s forgotten that she was just as much of a novice as he was, once upon a time.”

“What about the villagers, then?”

“Most of them want to join the guard, or the Militia. I said, let ‘em – if there’s a spy amongst them, and they sold out the village, it’ll be easier to weed ‘em out. Be welcoming, be accommodating – but keep an eye on them.”

The Toa started walking again, and gestured for the Ga-Matoran to walk with him. She obeyed, and for a few minutes they walked in silence before she spoke again. “I suppose Toa Rhonwen didn’t like that?”

“Oh, she hated the whole idea, Rasha. Had one Karzahni of a fight with her about it, too. Not sure if that story made it into the gossip mill yet, but Fallon had to pull rank on her and force her to back down.” The commander exhaled loudly, and the cool air made his breath fog up. “Of course, all of her paranoia about the village could’ve been easily dealt with if she just read their minds, like they offered.”

“Why didn’t she?”

“Some nonsense about not wanting to intrude. Whatever her reasons were, though, if she’s that paranoid about it letting the opportunity pass was stupid. Either do it and put your fears at ease, or don’t do it and keep your mouth shut about your paranoia afterwards.”

Commander and officer walked in silence for some time, not speaking except to communicate with the other guards. They discussed movements outside the walls, communications Aonui had with other cities, evaluations on the influx of recruits, but it wasn’t until the pair were on a quiet part of the wall, where there was no one else in earshot, that Rasha spoke to Voriki again. “Sir … there’s rumors floating around, with the guard, the militia, and the citizens … they say that Fallon’s planning on stripping Toa Rhonwen of her rank, and making you the new team leader.”

“If she is planning to do that, she’s left me in the dark and is only talking to Sindri about it. I hope it’s not true … Rhonwen’s hardly a stable leader, but the way she is right now, she’d probably interpret being removed from command as a personal attack, and think we’re all Brotherhood agents. I’ve seen beings fall from grace on lesser delusions.”

“Would you take the position if offered, though? You’d probably be a better leader than her.”

“Don’t think that too loudly around her, Rasha. Fallon’s the boss; if she tells me to step up and lead the team, I’ll lead. Though I’ll have to pick a new commander if that happens … maybe I’ll give Cailean a shot at it. If he can lead a village out of the Brotherhood’s reach with only a few casualties, I think he can lead the Wall.”

The officer gasped in mock-offense. “And are we not capable of defending and leading ourselves?”

“Harsh of you! I thought you liked my command! You don’t like having a Toa up here?”

“You’re a fine commander, sir, and no one can really replace you. But we can lead the Guard ourselves, the same way Sindri leads the Militia.”

Voriki melodramatically clutched at his heartlight, eyes growing wide behind his Hau. “So it is true! The Guard only likes me for my powers!”

Their laughter echoed over the walls, and through the streets below.

XxX

The barracks of the Matoran Militia were spread all over Aonui, with one placed in every district of the city. Each was equipped with armories, communication centers, and training rooms, where new recruits were taught how to fight and had their physical capabilities built up. Since the recent influx of refugees from Pareo, all the training rooms had been filled with new recruits, undergoing their work to become protectors of their new home.

Sindri, the Militia’s commander, was pleased by the status of many of these recruits. Spending weeks on the run from the Brotherhood had given many of the civilians of Pareo a crash course in protecting themselves, and vast majority of the volunteers were taking to their training easily as a result.

Dealing with Aonui’s Toa, well, he wished it was as easy as overseeing his recruits. From where he stood on a balcony above the central barrack’s training room, he watched several of his senior officers running groups of six through their paces, and wished that working with them was as easy as dealing with Toa Rhonwen.

Heavy footsteps sounded behind him, and for a moment the Po-Matoran wondered if she had appeared in response to his thoughts. Looking over his shoulder dismissed that idea as nonsense. “Toa Cailean,” he said, nodding to him before returning his gaze to the floor.

The Toa of Air nodded back to Sindri as he took up a position on the commander’s left. For a young Toa, Cailean was surprisingly mature (though the commander was the first to admit that his experience with novice Toa began and ended with Undine’s ascendance, one hundred years ago). He supposed that having his team die around him, and having to lead the population of Matoran out of the reach of an army of Visorak more or less on his own would cause a rookie to grow into their powers and responsibilities in a hurry, though he’d heard through his subordinates that a few villagers claimed that he’d been using his mask power minutes after being transformed.

Sindri frowned at this thought. Yes, there were places where Toa and Turaga trained the Matoran they cared for in the art of using their masks – not how to actually use them, but reaching the state of mind that was required to find the reflex for using Kanohi, in hopes of making an abrupt transformation into a Toa easier if one of their students were chosen. Aleris was one of those places, and part of the training for the Guard or Militia had elements of meditation and inner focus that was similar to Kanohi training. But he hadn’t thought that Pareo, being such a small village, would’ve had such a regime. If there had been, why would have the villagers made a fuss over Cailean figuring it out so fast?

Sindri put the thought to the side as he noticed one of the recruits below flagging. The Ko-Matoran was supposed to be striking a boxing bag in the order his instructor had given (Sindri’s mind helpfully noted that the order was jab, cross, hook, hook), and while the white-armored student had preforming admirably, his punches weren’t as strong or as swift as they had been, and he’d fallen behind the others in the group.

“Taiki!” he called, and down below the Vo-Matoran stopped her rounds and looked up at the balcony; he pointed in response. “Help this one out.”

“Aeron,” Cailean said quietly, as the female Matoran moved across the floor.

“Say again?”

“His name is Aeron.”

The commander blinked as he turned to look at the Toa of Air. “You know all their names?”

“Most of them. Many were my friends before the evacuation. I learned the rest while we were on the run.”

Sindri wondered if Rhonwen could claim the same about half of the Guard or Militia, let alone the civilians.

Like the Po-Matoran calling out was a cue to talk, the Toa of Air glanced down to meet the commander’s blue eyes with his red ones. “Are my people doing well, commander?”

“All of those who joined the Militia are progressing well. Some of the first volunteers are almost ready to graduate from training and take to patrolling the city. Has Voriki been keeping you posted on the ones with the Guard?”

“Yes. I also heard the fight that he had with Rhonwen over admitting them.” A frown crossed the Air Toa’s Kakama. “What exactly has my presence done to agitate her, Sindri?”

“Hard to say. Voriki and Fallon say its’ because of the war on the Brotherhood and the Dark Hunters; she thinks there’s spies everywhere, even though she’s in the best position to sniff them out if they exist. I think stress is part of it, but she’s never been one to deal with new Toa gracefully. Might just be simple jealousy.”

Cailean snorted. “Simple. Nothing’s ever simple with a Toa of Psionics.”

“Ah, right, I forgot – Pareo had a Psionic Toa as well, right?”

“Anima. She was the one who ascended me.”

“Judging from your attitude, I imagine she wasn’t easy to work with, either?”

“She wasn’t as difficult as Rhonwen, at least.”

Sindri made an attempt to clap the young Toa on the shoulder, but his hand only made it halfway up Cailean’s back. “Welcome to Aonui, kid. A city with a Matoran police force, an elected leader, a Water Toa with her head in her books, and a paranoiac Psionics Toa.”

“How about Voriki?”

“Doesn’t count; he’s too normal.”

Above the noise of sandbags being struck and the breathing of the recruits, their laughter floated up to the ceiling.

XxX

Rhonwen’s thoughts swirled through her mind like a hurricane spinning towards shore as she walked down the streets that led away from the Wall and towards the center of Aonui. The few citizens she met greeted her with the proper reverence, and while she responded and returned their greetings, her mind was elsewhere.

Everything was falling apart.

Everything had been falling apart, ever since the war began. It was a slow, inexorable slide downwards, gaining speed as the years had gone on, and she was the only one who had noticed or seemed to care.

The beginning had been alright. She and Voriki had been the sole protectors of Aonui for decades, working with Sindri and Fallon’s predecessors to build the city up, turning it from a simple mining settlement into what it was now. Fallon’s arrival, and her establishing Spearhead Industries, had caused a feedback loop of prosperity, advancing their technology and their standing amongst the Nothern Continent. The standard of living had changed and improved, and it felt like a golden age had begun for the place she called home.

It hadn’t been perfect, but it had been … better.

Then everything began collapsing. The Great Cataclysm had destroyed much, and they were still working past the damage it had done to the universe. The War between the Brotherhood and the Dark Hunters had begun soon afterwards, and both sides would kill Toa and enslave Matoran if they got in their way. Old grudges, thought forgotten, had bubbled up between species, and allies became enemies.

She had watched, wishing for a way to make the universe see reason that didn’t involve telepathy. Wished for a way to turn the universe’s ire back towards the Brotherhood, the ones that had caused the Cataclysm, and make them pay.

But nothing had come, and she was forced to fight against monsters and hunt for spies within their walls, looking for any glimmer of hope that the universe would heal.

And now … now Pareo, one of Aonui’s closest neighbors, had burned, and forced its inhabitants to flee to the city. Now three Toa she had called friends were dead.

And now she had to deal with a rookie Toa, whom she did not fully trust.

Rhonwen groused as Fallon’s voice floated through her mind. [It confuses me, dear Rhonwen, how one that rejects telepathy is so reluctant to use technology instead.]

[Communicators can be hacked or broken, Administrator. Telepathy cannot.]


She could hear Fallon sigh. [A strange argument to hear from you, considering your mask power, but very well. Voriki has passed along his reports on what is going on outside; the lack of excitement since the refugees made it inside the city has made him request that he mix his new recruits into the squads currently operating on the Wall. Sindri has reported that his first group trainees are almost ready to graduate to active duty, and has made a similar request. I have green-lit both of their requests.]

[Why are you telling me of things I have no choice in, Administrator?]

[You wished to be kept informed, dear Rhonwen, of changes and updates to the city’s safety, did you not?]
Fallon’s ‘voice’ softened. [What troubles you, my friend? Tell me so I might try and alleviate them.]

[I fear for the city’s safety, Fallon.]

[How so?]

[Pareo was one of the best-hidden settlements on the Northern Continent, and Toa Anima was one of the best illusion-casters I’ve ever met. I’ve seen it get passed over by Brotherhood patrols dozens of times due to her skill. Something about the attack doesn’t sit right.]

[You are certain that Pareo was betrayed and we have a traitor in our midst, then?]

[Yes, Administrator.]

[What is your evidence, Rhonwen?]


She’d known it was coming and it still threw her for a loop. The Psionic Toa struggled for a few precious seconds to find a way to explain her reasoning to those who weren’t enlightened, keenly aware that her floundering was being observed telepathically by the Administrator.

[Not much,] she grudgingly admitted, [but they mainly revolve around Cailean. Voriki and I were trained by our predecessors, and the two of us trained Undine when she ascended. It still took us the better part of three months for us to command our powers as easily as we do now. I’m not buying the claims that Cailean was able to do so minutes after he transformed.]

[Anima might have created a memory crystal for him.]

[Where on the battlefield would she have had the time to make one? Or for Cailean to find time to use it?]

[A fair point. But if you are so certain he’s a traitor, why have you not read his mind to be sure?]

[You know why I swore to restrict my telepathy, Fallon. I will not go down the path that so many of my tribe have followed. And even if I did, I would still need physical evidence to prove my claim wasn’t something I invented to discredit him.]

[I see.]
A moment of silence dragged on between them as the Administrator digested this. [I will take your concerns under advisement, but until there is proof to go on, I will not act against him or the people of Pareo. However, until you are certain of your trust in young Cailean, I will not assign you to patrol with him. Note that this will not be taken into account during an emergency.]

[That is all I can ask for, Fallon. Thank you.]


XxX

“Record this, Asha. This is Makuta Volterix, sending a report on the progress of Subject Beacon. Her re-education is proceeding on-schedule, and should be completed as predicted. Once the process is complete, she will be ready to be leased to other Brotherhood ventures on an as-needed basis.

“In addition, a copy of her progress report and test results on the Shadow Leech’s lasting effects is enclosed, along with memory crystal recordings of her training. Should any more Shadow Toa be created, they should be useful in preparing them for our service.”

Volterix paused significantly to indicate that he was finished. Asha, busy scribbling the last letters onto a tablet, eventually paused and looked up at him, green eyes dim behind her Volitak. “Will that be all, Master?” she asked, her voice lacking emotion as usual.

“For that message, yes. Have it and the mentioned documents posted as a general notice; Hecate’s Visotoran will make the arrangements from there.”

As the Hagah floated the tablets away from them with her telekinesis, the Makuta’s eyes sharpened behind his Tryna. “Brief me on the status of Pareo.”

“Toa Anima, Aris, and Amund are all dead, as instructed. Reports from Brotherhood agents indicate that Anima was able to transform at least one Matoran before the Visorak killed her,” she reported, being careful to keep her voice blank. “The village was destroyed, and all resources are being transported back to Destral, including the bodies of the Toa. The platoon sent to hunt the refugees were killed at the gates of Aonui, where the survivors have settled.”

Volterix was quiet for a moment. “Beacon is still with Rarin, correct?”

“At last report, Master. He should be almost done with this latest check on her systems.”

“Remind me to thank Hecate for loaning me her assistant, and place her at the top of the list of requisitions for Beacon’s usage. For the subject’s first unobserved assignment, I’ve been dispatching her to Aonui for the last three weeks – there’s rumors that one of the Toa is doing research on a subject that has interested the Brotherhood for some time.”

He didn’t explain further, just swept off at a brisk pace and signaled for Asha to follow him, causing her to scurry to keep up. Volterix valued her, if only for the time and effort he’d taken to make her into what she was now, but not everything on Destral had the same opinion, and she wasn’t keen on dying before she finished her self-imposed mission.

The lab Rarin had been given wasn’t as large as his master’s, but it was large enough to suit his purposes, and clean except for a purple kraata sitting placidly on a separate table. At the moment, the Steltian was finishing with his work, cleaning his lab as Subject Beacon sat up on the medical table, starting to climb down and stand on her own two feet. As they approached, both straightened up, folding a fist over their heartlights in a show of reverence to their Makuta overseer.

Asha forced back a hard swallow as she looked at the Toa of Shadow. Her old colors had been hidden away under a layer of matte-black and crimson paint, the symbol of the Brotherhood embossed in silver on her right shoulder-plate. Behind the patina of her mask’s corruption, Beacon’s eyes still burned red.

The Psionics Toa turned her head to avoid the stare, not wanting to listen to the screams of the Toa she was formerly in her head.

“Rarin,” she heard the Volterix say, “are Subject Beacon’s tests complete?”

“Yes, my lord,” the uplifted Steltian replied.

The Makuta smiled as he turned to the look at the Toa. “Beacon, you remember your mission, yes?”

“Of course, my Master.”

“Then go and accomplish it. Scout the buildings and look for what we need.”

A toothy smile broke the blackness of Beacon’s face as the shadows around her grew deeper. Shadow energy whirled around Volterix’s gauntleted hand, and a door seemed to open in the wall, swinging lazily in invitation. Beacon snatched up her weapons and departed through it, taking the kraata and placing it on her shoulders as she walked.

The door closed, and it vanished behind her.

XxX

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Edited by Inferna Firesword, Nov 01 2015 - 11:38 PM.

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#3 Offline Inferna Firesword

Inferna Firesword
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Posted Feb 28 2016 - 03:30 AM

Chapter 2


The suns had vanished, and darkness had fallen upon the city of Aonui. The only light that truly illuminated the streets were the harsh white of streetlights, granting sight to patrols of the Militia and the occasional civilian, out late visiting friends or entertaining themselves.

After the city center, the barracks, and the Wall, the best-protected location in the city was the laboratory. It had originally been conceived in imitation of the Knowledge Towers of Metru Nui, but a lack of materials and information on how they were built had caused it to be constructed from stone, which was probably sturdier than the crystal towers anyway.

Here floodlights covered the campus, leaving little room for shadows to form. Several members of the Militia were assigned to the location, and patrolled the grounds and hallways, but not as many as the city center. One of the Toa, after all, practically lived in her laboratory, and was on standby to assist if a crisis struck.

Said Toa was lightly walking down the last few steps to the bottom floor, heading into a locker room where she had stored her weapons. Undine wore light blue armor with cobalt accents, shaped to look like rocks and glass that had been tumbled by the motion of waves until all sharp edges had been worn away. Green eyes, the color of young leaves, shone out from behind her Mask of Conjuration.

Hands unlocked the metal door and pulled it wide, revealing the container to be almost empty, save for one thing. Smiling a bit, Undine reached her right arm into the locker and withdrew her weapon: a thick staff, as tall as she was, with a long curved blade on the top, thankfully sheathed while she was indoors.

“Off for the night, Undine?” the guard manning the front desk asked, a grin showing behind his green Huna as he reached out for her identification card.

The Toa smiled, but it was mechanical in its delivery: a smile delivered by societal norms, and not out of a desire to. Most chalked it up to the Water Toa’s erratic sleeping schedule.

“Yes, though I wish I did not need to patrol tonight. I was making significant progress with my current project,” she said simply, passing the card over to him and letting him run it through the system.

“Still not telling anyone about that?”

“Administrator Fallon knows, of course. And Toa Cailean provided valuable material for my research.”

The guard grinned, shrugged, and waved her on out after passing the card back. Undine silently tucked it away into a pouch on her belt and exited, removing the sheath on her weapon’s blade as the doors swung shut.

Neither saw the shadow flit from the front door to the staircase.

XxX

Tirin knew his patrol route like clockwork: the central part of the second floor, with particular emphasis on area around Toa Undine’s laboratory. He knew there were ten different stations on his route where he could raise the alarm, and the locations where he would intersect with the paths of the three other on-duty guards. He knew he was armed with a Kanoka launcher, a dozen slow and freeze disks, and a sword for close-combat. And he knew that there a dozen other guards inside the building now, and a dozen more outside on the grounds.

By all accounts, this night should feel like any other night: where the only danger that he would face was boredom.

But for him, tonight felt different.

He knew there was no reason for him to feel afraid. There hadn’t been any action outside the Wall ever since the refugees from Pareo had made it inside, and the refugees had swelled the number of those patrolling the Wall and the streets. The Toa now numbered four, and the Spearhead Industries factory was still churning out weapons and technology to defend themselves with.

But for Tirin it felt like the night itself had come to life; and was even now trailing his footsteps like the world’s scariest trainee.

He wanted to turn around, and prove to himself that it was just fear. But the idea that it wasn’t, that turning around would make him lock eyes with a monster, kept his feet rooted and facing forwards.

Something felt like it was crawling up the back of his spine; ice-cold fingers digging between every vertebrae. It was slipping up, further up, faster. Soon it would reach his shoulders, and then his head.

He was standing right outside Toa Undine’s lab, the door locked as usual. The nearest alarm station was three paces in front of him; he could make it at a run.

The sensation was almost to his neck. Taking a breath for reassurance, he spun on his heel, raising his loaded disk launcher at the back wall.

Nothing. There had been nothing there behind him; no long arms reaching out to claw him. Relieved, he turned forward and resumed his patrol.

But Tirin couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d seen something move from the corner of his eye.

XxX

As the guard made his way to the end of the hall, his shadow stretched, like there was a light shining in front of him instead of overhead. It remained even as he turned the corner, only to snap back to normal as a figure rose up from it. Stepping up and out, it turned away and walked towards the door to Undine’s lab.

Beacon exhaled slowly and quietly in the comforting dimness, relieved that nothing had impeded her. It was surprising that it had gone so well. While the guards all cast shadows that she could travel through and hide in, the large number of them meant there were more eyes looking around and possibly spotting her as she moved around. She was pretty sure that she wasn’t spotted as she moved, and it had taken her a long time noticing patrol patterns to take advantage of.

But here she was, undetected and just steps away from her goal. She wasn’t afraid of the guard; it would take him about three minutes to get back to this hallway.

Beacon tried the door, fingers gripping the knob. Locked, as she expected. She had a set of lockpicks, but those left evidence behind: tiny scrapes in the lock, jamming from any broken picks if she lost one.

This required a different touch. She glanced around and listened: no approaching footsteps.

She stepped back from the door and concentrated on two focuses: first to crush the sound of her host’s thoughts, trying to distract her, and the second on her power.

Beacon called on her power, and directed it into her own shadow. It began to move on its own, stretching away from her and starting to stand. It was still two-dimensional, but it would suit her purposes.

She directed the shadow under the door to the Water Toa’ lab, and once inside had it creep up the door to examine the lock. As expected, it was an easy lock: meant to keep people out, and not in. There wasn’t even a proper keyhole; just a button that was pressed down.

Beacon directed the shadow to disengage the lock; a gratifying click was her answer. She rushed inside, closing and locking behind her as quietly as possible. Her shadow, purpose fulfilled, returned to its unstretched position by her feet as it lost its infused power.

The power over shadow gave its bearer the ability to see in perfect darkness, so she felt no need to turn on the lights. The corrupted Toa could see the layout of the room: several tables of neatly-organized lab equipment, ranging from a clean set of dissection tools to a microscope to a compact adding machine. Another table had a set of tablets, all organized as well, though when she walked over to look at them it was clear they weren’t as orderly as the equipment.

They were three sets of ten, and a quick skim of their contents confirmed that they were what she had been dispatched to find. It would be easy to take them right now … but her instructions had been clear. She was meant to find the tablets, but not take them yet. A theft this blatant would alert the city in a way that would not be conducive to her Master’s plan.

Beacon carefully rearranged the tablets so they were back in their original positions, then stepped away. In the darkness of the room, thrown into contrast with the dim light seeping under the door, it was easy for her to fall backwards into a door through shadow.

It was time to head home.

XxX

Beacon wasn’t sure where she went when she passed through the shadows. Master Volterix called it the Field of Shadows, but that didn’t answer the question of where the Field lay in the universe. It had a name, at least.

At times, she could feel things moving around in the darkness with her, that she could never quite see despite being able to see in the dark. Giant things, looking for an exit that was big enough to squeeze through, watching her hungrily and hoping she’d give them the way out.

She hurried through pitch blackness, towards the place that felt Safe, making a solid ground beneath her with every footstep. The door for her appeared ahead, and she gratefully grasped its handle.

XxX

Asha stood obediently just behind and to the left of Makuta Volterix as he waited for his pet Subject Beacon to return.

She scowled as she felt the invading comforting presence of the geas in her mind, correcting her thoughts to something that her slave-master her Master. As a Psionics Toa, she was built to repel any psychic attack, but try as she might she could not didn’t want to remove it.

It was an offense towards all she stood for the pinnacle of what she could accomplish.

But she would not run from it. Not yet.

The door in the shadows opening broke the Hagah from her thoughts, and she stood at attention behind Volterix. Rarin, who was in the laboratory as well, remained silent, focused on cleaning his workstation.

Beacon emerged from the door, and it vanished behind the Toa of Shadow. The red eyes flicked to her for a moment before focusing on the Makuta’s Tryna.

“You have been gone for several days, Beacon,” Volterix stated, voice echoing inside his armor.

“It took me several days to properly stake out the research facility, Master,” came the reply.

“And what have you found?”

“Security is high, but predicable in their patterns. Now that I’ve seen the inside and the darkness, I can find a place to teleport inside easily.”

“And what of the research?”

“Out in the open, in the Water Toa’s lab. You ordered that I not steal them yet, so I left them alone.”

“Good. A theft so blatant would arouse their suspicion. For us to claim the tablets, we will need to keep their attention diverted elsewhere?”

“And how would that be done, Master?” Asha asked, bowing her head in supplication when he looked at her.

“They are already on edge about the sacking of Pareo, if Beacon’s reports are anything to go by. It would be best if we capitalized on their fear. Make them feel as though Aonui is the next city for the Brotherhood to conquer. In such fear a simple theft, even from an important building, will go relatively unnoticed.”

Volterix waved his hand dismissively, his attention diverted. “I will plan this out. Asha, escort Subject Beacon to her quarters, and then retire to your own.”

Beacon immediately moved closer to the Toa of Psionics as Volterix moved away from them. Asha recoiled from the Brotherhood’s newest toy weapon who, like a baby Rahi, was oblivious to her discomfort and tried to move closer.

She knew why Beacon tried to cling to her, and it wasn’t just because its infection forced it to obey Volterix. Early after the infection and infestation, Volterix had put the Toa of Shadow through a series of tests to discover any new traits that had manifested. One of those tests had revealed that Beacon had minor empathic abilities, the likes that even the Makuta did not have.

Volterix had subsequently exposed Beacon to Brotherhood prisoners, some of which had been trapped for centuries. He had learned that his Toa of Shadow could feed off the emotions of those embroiled in despair, and its powers grew stronger for it.

Naturally, the Makuta had assigned it to Asha’s care, reasoning that her nature as a broken Toa would make for an easy-to-handle source of fuel for Beacon. As such, the corrupted Toa tried to latch on to her whenever it wasn’t ordered not to, trying to leach off of her by proximity.

She loathed loved the Toa of Shadow: not for its element, but because its creation necessitated that an innocent Toa be trapped in her own mind, trying to hobble her former body in any way she could.

Asha endured the contact with Beacon and let her cling as they walked. She had vowed long ago that she would see the Brotherhood’s end help them rise to total power, and she would not go to Death’s embrace until she had at least saved the Toa whose body Beacon had stolen.

XxX

Volterix watched the Toa leave, and then turned to Rarin, already cleaning his lab table and preparing for whatever was asked of him.

“Has Beacon satisfied your expectations, lord Volterix?” the Steltian asked, polite and respectful as always.

“It has, but there’s one flaw that needs to be addressed. Having her Light drained gave the power of Shadow, but the infection of the Kanohi is what binds the Subject to the Brotherhood’s will. The weapon could go rogue if a combatant managed to get its mask off. Until Mutran corrects this flaw in the Shadow Leeches, we’ll need to solve this ourselves.”

“Should we fuse the mask to the Subject’s face, sir? It would make it impossible to take off.”

“Too obvious; anyone could see the marks of that. Knowing a being can’t be saved from infection would make Beacon’s enemies go for the kill instead of trying to capture and restrain. As long as they think there’s a chance to save a Toa, they hold back on their efforts.”

“Then what would you like me to create, my lord?”

“Create a virus blend, Rarin. When the next step is complete, I’ll add a command to their mind that will tie into the blend’s effects. If the mask is removed, the blend should tap into Beacon’s systems, and preform an override on their powers.”

“What sort of override, lord Volterix?” the Steltian asked, already starting to retrieve components. “A berserker charge, without regard for safety?”

“Stronger than that. I think the Subject going nova would be a suitable punishment for an enemy removing their mask, wouldn't you say?”

Rarin smiled, enjoying the challenge placed before him. “Indeed it would, lord Volterix. I will get started on this right away.”
Pleased, the Makuta left the Steltian to his work, and headed to his own workshop.

He would need to finish his own device by the time Beacon had finished resting, after all.

XxX

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