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Right of Law

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#1 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

Super Fighting Pahrak
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  • 19-August 04
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Posted Mar 23 2018 - 11:12 PM

SECTION I
 
The sun had set over the Great Desert, but one corner of it was still bathed in light.  Wedged between a large oasis and the border of Iron Canyon, the imposing city of Xia gleamed like a vast array of lightstones, visible from miles away and audible from almost as far.  The entire population buzzed—Glatorian, Agori, Matoran, Toa, Vortixx, even a few Vorox and Zesk, all clamored excitedly in the streets, most of them trying to squeeze into the main square to get a good view of the stage that had been built just for this occasion.  And then, as a Toa of Fire stepped onto that stage, the noise all suddenly ceased.
 
“Gathered friends,” said the Toa, his voice weathered yet clear.  “Listen again to the tale of the Bionicle.”
 
At the rear of the stage there was a flash of light.  A large three-dimensional image appeared, a depiction of the planet of Spherus Magna that turned slowly in place.
 
“In the time before time, Spherus Magna was without leaders.  All were lost, drowning in strife and confusion, fixated on selfishness and separateness.”
 
The Toa snapped his fingers.  A small pillar of flame appeared behind him for a moment, and when it vanished, a Glatorian wearing a purple cloak stood there.
 
“Yet out of this chaos rose those who would bring order: the Great Beings.  They took control of the lawless word, taught us the Virtues of Unity, Duty, and Destiny, and led the way to a new age of enlightenment. Under their rule, Spherus Magna prospered, and the land was at peace.”
 
Six more Glatorian walked in from the sides of the stage, each wearing a cloak of a different color.  The one in purple raised their hands.
 
“To better organize the masses, the Great Beings selected a warrior from each Tribe to serve as their appointed leaders.  Upon these six, the Great Beings bestowed the fantastic power of the Elements.”
 
A ring of light pulsed outward from the projection.  The six Glatorian raised their swords, and the light vanished as it brushed against them.
 
“For a time, the Tribes were ruled over by these Element-Lords.  But this was not to last.”
 
The image of Spherus Magna took on a silvery hue.
 
“It was discovered that a precious, mysterious resource known as protodermis lay beneath our feet.  The Element-Lords wished to control this substance, and entered into competition with one another.  Their greed overtook them.  Their lust for power drove the entire planet into war.”
 
The six Glatorian plunged their swords into the stage.  The one in purple crossed their arms.
 
“Displeased by the Element-Lords’ shameful display, the Great Beings ordered them to relinquish their commands.  The arrogant Lords saw fit to challenge the beings who made them…and were struck down.”
 
Four of the Glatorian crumpled, ending up sprawled on the floor.
 
“The brutal Skrall even sided with the Rock-Lord, thinking they could overthrow the Great Beings and seize power.  They shared in his punishment.”
 
One of the remaining Glatorian fell like the others.  He opened his cloak as he did, letting several replica skulls spill out.  The last Glatorian, however, simply knelt.
 
“Only the Sand-Lord had the wisdom to surrender to her betters.  She was allowed to live, and would rededicate her life to the serving the Great Beings.”
 
The five “fallen” Glatorian exited the stage.  The one in purple drew their arms wide, and at this signal, several Matoran and Toa came to join them.
 
“The Great Beings knew they could not trust just anyone to solve this crisis.  And so, they created the perfect servants to accomplish it.  Matoran were born to loyally bear the burdens that lay ahead, while Toa were made to enter the depths of the planet and wield its own Elements to repair the damage done to it.  It took several years, but in the end, the Great Beings’ plan was successful.  The Melding was complete.”
 
The image of Spherus Magna returned to its original shade.  The one in purple nodded, and everyone else on the stage (save the Toa of Fire) left them.
 
“With the safety of all assured, the Great Beings wished to turn again to their work.  To better guide us, they taught us the Principles of Courage, Purity, Faith, Creation, Prosperity, and Peace.  However, they knew that this would not be enough, and had learned that not just any being could be trusted to lead in their stead.  They decided that it was time for new leaders to be forged.”
 
Six new Matoran approached the swords left earlier, each wearing a white cloak and a mask of gold.
 
“And so the Great Beings crafted the perfect servants: the noble Makuta, second only to their makers in power and wisdom.  With these valiant champions carrying out their will, the Great Beings led the world to peace once more…and this time, peace has remained.”
 
The Toa drew the swords and raised them high.  The one in purple nodded, looking satisfied, and then walked off-stage.
 
“For a thousand centuries, we have been at peace, watched over by the Great Beings and the Makuta.  All of Spherus Magna has prospered from their guidance, and perhaps none so much as our own great city.  Not only is Xia home to the finest smiths, and the hardest workers, but it is also home to the noblest Makuta of all.”
 
The Toa in cloaks backed away, and the image of Spherus Magna vanished.  From behind the stage, a new figure stepped onto it.  Much of her armor was white, but at least as much was a dull, stony shade of gray.  Her hands and feet were clawed, two large, streamlined wings were attached to her shoulders, and while she wore a white and gray Kanohi Kiril, its shape had been altered just enough to give the appearance that its wearer had vicious fangs.  Attached to her waist was a sheath decorated by an ‘M’-shaped insignia, holding a blade within.  The crowd cheered at her appearance.
 
“With the leadership of Makuta Antroz, Xia has had yet another successful business year!  We thank you for all you have done for us, great Makuta, and will continue to work under your guidance for as long as you will have us.”
 
Antroz nodded and smiled.  “The pleasure is all mine, Toa Vakama.  And the success belongs to all of you!  So let us end this ceremony, and let the annual Festival of Bounty begin at last!”
 
The crowd cheered again.  Fireworks exploded overhead, and music began to play from somewhere.  Antroz said a final farewell to the Toa, and then turned, stepped off the stage, and began to wade through the masses.
 
“Spectacular as always, Makuta!” cheered a Matoran.
 
Antroz smiled at them.  “Thank you, my friend.”
 
“Makuta!” shouted an Agori.  “Good, I wanted to see you directly!  Thank you so much for all your hard work!”
 
“You are very welcome.  It is an honor to serve such fine people.”
 
“Join us, Makuta!” a Glatorian said.  “Why not take part in this glorious festival?”
 
Antroz shook her head.  “I’m afraid I can’t.  But please, enjoy yourselves, all of you.  You’ve earned this.”
 
Eventually she reached the edge of the square, and the crowd gradually began to thin.  She continued to converse with the citizens as she wove through the street she found herself on, slowly but surely making her way towards the tall tower at its end, and eventually passed a fruit stall on the side of the road attended by a Vorox and a Zesk.
 
“Oh, Makuta,” said the Vorox, quickly pulling out of his slouch.
 
“At ease,” Antroz said.  “Not many customers?”
 
The Vorox chuckled awkwardly.  “Yeah, uh, not really.  I guess most people want something tastier than a madu to celebrate the occasion.”
 
“I suppose.  Be sure to enjoy the festival yourself before it is over.”
 
The Zesk turned to the Vorox, looking a bit excited.  The Vorox’s eyes focused on the ground.  “That’s very generous of you.  But, we’re still a fair bit behind our quota for the week.  Maybe next year.”
 
Antroz hummed.  Her hand began to glow faintly with black energy, and she flexed it lightly.  “There is still time for you to prosper.”
 
The Vorox’s eyes widened.  Antroz stepped away, and an Agori came in behind her.  “Hey, how much for one madu?”
 
As the Vorox made his sale, Antroz continued on until a familiar Toa of Ice bounded up to her.  “Makuta Antroz!” Ehrye greeted.  “I guess I missed the opening ceremony, huh?”
 
“Oh?  Where were you?”
 
“I was double checking that all the cauldrons at my factory were properly cooled.  You know, just to be on the safe side.”
 
“You are very dedicated to your work, Ehrye.  Toa like you are the reason why we are able to celebrate like this.”
 
Ehrye puffed out his chest and grinned.  “Haha, thank you, Makuta!  I hope the Great Beings find my work as satisfactory.  It’s like you always say: there’s no greater reward than making the Great Beings proud, and I think I made a good impression on Lord Angonce when he visited last!  I’m going to keep working until they all see how dedicated I am!”
 
Antroz smiled a bit.  “…A noble goal, Toa.”
 
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, Makuta—I’ve got a festival to catch up on!  Catch you later!”
 
Ehrye took off the way Antroz had just come, quickly gravitating towards the now-surrounded fruit stand.  Antroz stood there for a moment before resuming her walk.
 
“Wouldn’t you like to join the celebration as well, Emsar?” she asked.
 
A Vortixx slid out from the crowd, falling into step directly behind Antroz.  “Won’t you ever let me have fun?  Honestly, I never dreamed sneaking up on someone without sight would be so difficult.”
 
“Perhaps your efforts would be put to better use on something other than sneaking.”
 
Emsar shrugged with one shoulder.  “First you say I work too much, now you’re saying I should be working, which is it dear Makuta?”
 
Antroz sighed.
 
“Come now, be a good sport.  I just want to cheer you up.  You’ve seemed a bit out of sorts lately, not really carrying yourself with the same sureness you usually do.  If something’s troubling you, why don’t you tell me?”
 
Antroz stopped at the foot of the tower, seeming to ponder this for a moment.  Turning around, she asked, “Is there something you were coming to report?”
 
Emsar rolled her eyes.  “Yes, actually.  As a Vortixx I’m still offended we aren’t included in the grand tale of the Bionicle.”
 
“And I must again reply that listing off all of the Great Beings’ creations would have the opening ceremony last for at least a full day.  But you aren’t actually angry about that.”
 
Emsar let out a small gasp.  “Makuta, did you just read my mind?  I can’t believe you’d violate my privacy so!  I demand you shut off that telepathy this second.”
 
“You know very well that all I can sense is where you stand, Emsar.  The reason I know you aren’t irate is because I know you very well.”
 
“Oh, yes.  Pity that.”
 
“You’d rather I walk around bumping into walls?”
 
“Well, only for a few minutes.  Then it’d get old.”
 
“I’m touched,” Antroz said.  She undid the door.  “Will that be all?”
 
Emsar shook her head.  “No, I’m afraid there is something serious I should be mentioning.  Lord Angonce is here.”
 
Antroz paused for a moment.  “Perhaps you should have led with that?”
 
“Oh, lighten up.  You do have power over Light, it shouldn’t be this difficult for you.”
 
“Where is he?  Why did he come here—why didn’t he inform me?”
 
“He said he’d be in the weapons district.  That’s all I’ve got for you.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I will go enjoy myself after all.”
 
She vanished into the crowd before Antroz could say anything else.  Grunting, Antroz closed the tower door and reached out with her mind, broadening the range of her telepathy to cover all of Xia.  To her dismay, she was still unable to sense the presence of Angonce.
 
Then I can assume he will be in disguise.  I suppose I should’ve expected as much.
 
Antroz walked down the street, smiling for the sake of her many citizens as she passed them.  Truthfully, she felt slightly anxious about this meeting: it was very unusual for a Great Being to show up unannounced, and there was a good chance Angonce had come with another Makuta as a bodyguard.  Many of her brothers and sisters did not approve of the Festival, and she had long since grown tired of explaining her reasoning to them.  More than that, though, she could not help but think of the last time Angonce had visited, of the criminal who had insulted the Great Beings, of Angonce vetoing her usual trial in favor of a brutal beating and execution…of how she had known it was cruel and wrong, yet done nothing to stop it.  Then again, she had already been spending a great deal of time thinking about that.
 
Antroz shook her head as she set foot in the weapons district.  She focused her mind on the area directly around her, getting an idea of how many people there were and which way they were moving.  After she had greeted a dozen or so citizens, a Matoran sitting on a nearby bench waved to her.
 
“Are you enjoying the festival?” she asked as she approached.
 
“Oh, most definitely!” the Matoran said, nodding excitedly.  “I just love the sheer frivolity of the whole thing—and they’re enjoying themselves so much!  Look at that one!  Well, not ‘look’, but…”
 
Antroz sat down.  “Is something amiss, Lord Angonce?”
 
The false Matoran sighed.  “…Yeah, I guess you could say that.  I really am sorry for interrupting, I wanted to wait until the festival was over but this is pretty urgent.”
 
“No apology is needed, my lord.”
 
Angonce looked up at the sky, lost in thought for a moment.  “So what we need is for you to go to Nynrah.”
 
Antroz tilted her head.  “…I see.  May I ask why?”
 
Angonce looked around, and then leaned in closer.  “The Makuta there has taken someone awfully dangerous into custody, and we want you to go get them, since, well…”
 
As he hesitated, Antroz finished, “The Great Beings lack confidence in Krika.”
 
“You said it, not me,” Angonce muttered.  “Thing is, we need to be very careful bringing this person to the Valley of the Maze.  And hey, the way you handled that last prisoner was great, so I thought of you immediately as the most qualified applicant.”
 
An uneasy feeling began to overtake Antroz.  “If I may, my lord, I believe it was more you and Gorast who handled that prisoner.”
 
With a shrug, Angonce said, “Well, you held him until we arrived.  That’s basically all we’re asking you to do here.”
 
“I see.  May I ask what makes this individual so dangerous?”
 
Angonce shook his head.  “Sorry, Antroz.  We’ve gotta be real tight-lipped on this one.”
 
Antroz shifted.  “…Forgive me, my lord, but I feel it is important for me to know.  Not only do I need to be prepared to deal with this person, I would feel uncomfortable delivering them to punishment when I do not know their crime.”
 
Angonce stared forward for a moment.  He turned slightly to look at Antroz, not saying anything, his mouth slightly open.  A long moment passed before he said, “That’s…really all I’m allowed to tell you, Antroz.  Sorry, but it’s just gonna have to be enough.”
 
Antroz faced forward.
 
“Believe me: this is absolutely necessary, and you need to be ready for anything.  This person…”  He stopped, looked around, and then quietly resumed, “This person could tear down Spherus Magna: all the cities we’ve built, all the people we’ve created, this whole society we’ve nurtured…it’s all at risk.  If you don’t do this, then all of this…”  He paused to gesture to their surroundings.  “…could easily go up in smoke.”
 
The Makuta turned.  “There exists an enemy that could do that?  That could challenge even the Great Beings?”
 
Angonce looked up and grimaced.  “Not quite yet.  Technically speaking.  But that’s exactly why we need to get them to the Maze ASAP, before they have the chance to become a real threat.”
 
After giving it a bit more thought, Antroz said, “I shall leave at once.  I should be able to reach Nynrah before sundown tomorrow.”
 
Angonce grinned and nodded.  “Good.  Be careful, okay?  I’ll be waiting for you at the Maze.”
 
Antroz stood, bowed, and headed off.  After a minute of walking, she said, “Emsar.”
 
The Vortixx sighed loudly.  “Really?  Again?  You just can’t let me have the satisfaction, can you?”
 
“I trust you weren’t eavesdropping?”
 
“Give me some credit, Makuta.  I kept my distance.  But if you’re offering, I am dying to know.”
 
“Unfortunately, there is little I can share.  I must depart at once, and it may be some time until I return—you will be responsible for Xia in my absence.”
 
Emsar raised her eyebrows.  “I see.  Well I suppose I can manage for a while by my lonesome—it’s not as if anything special is scheduled in the immediate future.”
 
“Have you forgotten about the conference with the Sand-Lord?”
 
“Oh, that’s not that special.  I suppose I can handle that.”
 
Antroz stopped at the edge of the city.  “I have the utmost confidence in you, Emsar.  Please take good care of our city.”
 
“Aw, how can I refuse now?” Emsar said, her teeth showing through her smirk.  “Good luck on your mysterious journey, Makuta.  We’ll be eagerly awaiting your return.”
 
The Vortixx disappeared once more, leaving Antroz alone with her thoughts.  She still wasn’t entirely satisfied—the sheer lack of information she had been given was far too unsettling to her.  It was not long ago that the Great Beings had seen fit to torture someone for a petty crime.  How could she know for sure that this was different?  But as she thought about it, her mind wandered outward, reaching into the city and brushing past several of its citizens as they celebrated.  Their joy flooded out from them, filling the crowded streets and reaching back to try to pull her into its flow.  Despite her misgivings, Antroz could only smile.
 
This peace is something I must do my best to preserve.  I still believe I can trust Lord Angonce…so I will do what I must.
 
Antroz spent the night gliding silently over the Great Desert, doing her best to keep her mind empty.  She kept close to the southern border of the wastes, noticing only the occasional creature below—though she did take care to slow down as she passed an outpost around dawn, sending a telepathic message to the Makuta who ran it so he wouldn’t shoot her out of the sky.  She felt the warmth of the sun as it rose behind her, letting it seep into her armor.  Her ability to feel had dulled when she evolved beyond her physical body, but there were still some sensations to be felt, and she was sure to appreciate each one.
 
The sun was high when she reached the shore of the Great Sea.  She landed a few miles away from Nynrah, her wings kicking up a small cloud of sand, and prepared to walk the rest of the way.  It wasn’t long after she landed that a Toa of Plasma ran out to meet her.
 
“Greetings, Makuta Antroz!” the Toa shouted.  “What brings you all the way to our humble settlement?”
 
“Greetings, Toa,” Antroz replied, nodding once.  “I am afraid I come on urgent business from the Great Beings.  May I return to Nynrah with you, so that I may speak with Makuta Krika?”
 
The Toa jumped.  “Urgent business?!  My word, that sounds dreadful!  Yes, of course—follow me!”
 
Nynrah didn’t cover as much area as Xia, and its buildings were a fraction of the size.  It had no factories, its inhabitants lived in huts, and the people all seemed to move at their own individual paces without any cohesive structure to the community.  As Antroz and her escort came through the gates, a few citizens looked up, most of them smiling, but many were too engrossed in their own projects to notice.  There were so many sounds: clinking, scraping, sloshing, clanging, none of them loud enough on their own to be a nuisance, but all of them together formed a wretched cacophony that made Antroz glad she hadn’t taken Vamprah’s suggestion of mastering echolocation.
 
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” the Toa said.  “That’s a symphony of creation!  Oh, making another attempt, Onewa?”
 
A nearby Toa of Stone waved dismissively in their direction, grumbling as he squinted at the statue before him.  He slowly raised his chisel as they walked past.
 
“It is…certainly a unique sound,” Antroz offered.
 
The Toa of Plasma chuckled.  “You don’t think much of Nynrah, do you Makuta?”
 
Antroz took a moment to construct her reply.  “It is quite different from Xia, and given that both cities share similar purposes, it is a bit jarring to see things run in such a way.”
 
“We aren’t that similar, really.  True, the Great Beings sought to foster twin cities of builders, but Xians are more focused on…the matter of fact.  You make weapons, and armor, and all sorts of things that are made a specific way for a practical purpose.”
 
He leaned over a railing.  Down next to the ocean was a Toa of Water standing before a canvas, furiously assaulting it with two brushes.  Antroz couldn’t help but notice that the sea itself was calm.
 
“In Nynrah, we use emotion to create.  Our works might not have any particular purpose, but for us, creating without needing a purpose is the noblest pursuit of all.”  Turning back to Antroz, he asked, “Who’s to say which approach is correct?”
 
Antroz said nothing for a moment.  Then, with a sigh, she said, “Those are the words of a lazy Guardian.”
 
The Toa laughed.  His body began to change suddenly, reshaping into a tall, lean figure clad in sleek black and gold armor, a Kanohi Mahiki sitting on his face.
 
“You are meant to enforce order, Krika.  Not let them simply float about in pursuit of their own selfish goals.”
 
“Thank you for the words of wisdom, great Makuta,” Krika said, giving an exaggerated bow.  “But as long as the Great Beings are not beating down my door, I’d say I haven’t exactly failed in my duties.  Wouldn’t you agree?”
 
Antroz turned and resumed walking.  “I have been sent to transport your prisoner.”
 
Krika sighed, and then teleported ahead of Antroz.  “Always business.  This is exactly what I’m talking about.  Isn’t your Festival of Bounty going on right now?  That was one idea you had that I always liked.”
 
“This matter is too urgent, it would seem.”
 
Krika frowned.  “Hm.  Indeed. Indulge me, Antroz: what did the Great Beings tell you about this prisoner?”
 
“We should not discuss this out in the open.”
 
“You just saw how focused they are.  No one will hear a word we say.”
 
Giving an unsatisfied grunt, Antroz called upon her Sonic powers.  She created a wall of random sound on either side of her and Krika, cutting them off from the din that permeated Nynrah and, more importantly, keeping their words firmly within these invisible boundaries.
 
“Lord Angonce said this was a person who could destroy everything the Great Beings had created,” Antroz said.  “I am to escort them to the Maze before they are given that chance.”
 
Krika nodded thoughtfully.  After a few more steps, he stopped, turned, and looked Antroz in the eye.  “I hear Gorast murdered the last criminal you got your hands on.”
 
Antroz stopped abruptly.  Lowering her eyebrows, she replied, “I did what Lord Angonce asked of me, nothing more, nothing less.”
 
“Yes, I know.  And you would never even think to question the Great Beings, no matter the order they gave you.”
 
“We were created to serve them, Krika.  We are required to be absolutely loyal.”
 
Krika shook his head and kept walking.  Before Antroz could say anything more, he called back, “I wonder if you recall one of our earlier assignments.  A number of the Great Beings’ experiments got loose, and we were tasked with hunting them down—do you remember?”
 
“Of course I do!” Antroz said, rushing to catch up.  “We had to scour all of Aqua Magna to find them all.  Not an exhaustion one forgets, especially considering we were still flesh back then.”
 
The streets soon gave way to sand.  A cliff face could be seen up ahead, but Krika stopped and looked out at the ocean.
 
“We had to kill each and every one,” he mused.  “Dozens of creatures, all one of a kind, all gone forever.  All because the Great Beings told us to.”
 
“Those creatures posed a danger to the citizens.”
 
“That’s what they said.”
 
“One of them had a thousand teeth, and Gorast’s temper to boot.”
 
Krika shrugged.  “Okay, fair enough, they were dangerous.  But being a Makuta of such upstanding moral character, do you really think killing them was the right thing to do?”
 
“Our first duty is to the citizens of Spherus Magna.  We had to keep them safe.  What alternative was there?”
 
With a flick of his wrist, Krika exerted his own Sonic power, shattering Antroz’s walls.  It was now that Antroz realized they were not completely alone: not far away, a lone Toa of Earth sat on a rock watching the tide go out.  They looked over their shoulder at them.  Krika smirked for a moment, and then kept walking.  “Oh, who knows?”
 
The Toa of Earth faced the sea again.  Growing frustrated, Antroz walked until she overtook Krika, and continued leading them to the cliff face.  “Enough.  If you don’t take me to the prisoner, then I’ll be forced to search your compound myself.”
 
Krika rolled his eyes, but didn’t stop walking.  “There’s no need for that.  I’ll take you to her.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
At the foot of the cliff was a large metal door, beyond which was the entryway to a small network of tunnels running through the rock, its interior coated in metal and lit by lightstones.  Krika led Antroz through a tunnel that sloped upward sharply.  As they went, Antroz noticed several doors hanging wide open.
 
“Aren’t you the least bit curious?” Krika asked eventually.
 
“About what?”
 
“You know what.”
 
“…I do find it hard to believe that anyone could pose a true threat to the Great Beings.”
 
Krika nodded.  “Right?  And how we Makuta could have the means to detain and transport someone supposedly on par with our creators?  You’re smart, Antroz—you must see that it doesn’t add up.”
 
“It doesn’t seem that you have been able to detain her,” Antroz said, pointing to the doors.
 
“Ah, yes.  She has proved quite troublesome.  I’ve been using the most advanced electronic locks you Xians have produced, but every time I leave her alone I come back to find her hacking her way through them like it’s nothing.”
 
Antroz turned.  “What?  That shouldn’t be possible.”
 
Krika glanced over his shoulder.
 
“…More importantly, if she’s capable of escaping electronic locks, perhaps you should instead use physical locks.”
 
“I tried.  As best I can tell, what she did was pull off a wall tile, rip out some of the piping, and pound the metal into crude lockpicking tools.  Just a guess, of course—I didn’t realize she was out until she was trying to sneak out one of the maintenance tunnels.”
 
Antroz’s footsteps slowed.  “She sounds quite resourceful.”
 
“That’s an understatement.”
 
“You left her with guards, I assume?”
 
Krika rubbed his neck.  “I was going to, but—“
 
He was cut off by the sound of another door sliding open just ahead.  Someone stumbled out into the hallway: a Glatorian, a relatively young-looking one, with armor that was a shade of teal rare amongst the Jungle Tribe.  The Glatorian immediately spotted the two Makuta, and her body froze.  A long moment passed before Krika sighed in exasperation.
 
“Zaekura,” he said, “I thought I already demonstrated good faith.  If you keep breaking out the situation is only going to get more difficult.”
 
The Glatorian eyed Antroz.  Resting a hand on her sword’s pommel, the Makuta asked, “Krika, I take it she is the one?  I must admit, I hardly expected a mere Glatorian.”
 
Glaring at her, Zaekura muttered, “Yeah, well you’re not much to look at either, fangs.”
 
Krika stepped between the two of them.  “Why don’t I just introduce you, and we can all sit down and discuss matters?  Zaekura, this is Makuta Antroz, Guardian of Xia.”
 
Antroz nodded.  Zaekura grimaced.
 
“Antroz, this is Zaekura, a citizen of Nynrah.  Her crime is that she possesses a talent not seen fully in hundreds of thousands of years.  This girl is a Great Being.”
 
 
ADDENDUM:
 
-This story takes place in the Melding Alternate Universe first seen in the Brothers in Arms serial, albeit with a few creative liberties taken.  Also important to note, this continues off from my story The Gargoyle Knight, which is essentially the prologue.  Reading that will give you a much better understanding of where Antroz stands right now.
 
-Kicking off with the legend of the Bionicle seemed like a good way to pile on the backstory without it sticking out like a sore thumb.  Granted, it isn’t done with rocks, but I think the theatrical telling better fits an industrialized place like Xia.  It’s also more fun to write this way.
 
-The one representing the Great Beings wears purple because the Great Beings have purple armor.  I wanted to give them one unifying color that stood out from the existing Glatorian tribes, and since purple is associated with royalty it was my first choice.  Also I like purple.  Don’t we all?
 
-Eliminating the Element-Lords and the Skrall was done mainly to cut down on the potential number of factions present on Spherus Magna, as well as to show just how strongly the Great Beings react when challenged.  I have some plans for the Vorox, though.  Also, while not explicitly mentioned, the Iron and Earth Tribes are more or less in the same state as they were in the prime reality (or possibly even worse off)—the Dreaming Plague happened pre-Core War, and the Earth Tribe was ostracized for the hand they had in its start, so that all happened before the divergence occurred.
 
-I should try not to go on too long about Antroz, but I should probably clarify a few things.  I wanted the Makuta to be more active leaders of their domains, and this presented a problem if I kept Antroz in Xia: a place known for being run by women isn’t really run by women if the appointed governor is male.  Making this Antroz female seemed the easiest fix.  She is similar to her prime counterpart in appearance because she wants to show that she has “defeated her demons”, and took their appearance to serve as a warning to anyone who might challenge her.  She also lost her sight, though this was back when the Makuta purged themselves of darkness; she opted not to have her sight restored because she thought that if her eyes were cast out alongside her darkness, it meant she didn’t need them, and instead has adapted to telepathically sense were other people and objects are.  Her sword has a sheathe to show she values restraint, because she is a beacon of righteousness, justice, and honor to the people of Spherus Magna.  This is going on too long, basically Antroz was designed to seem really pretentious!
 
-BS01 says the Great Beings used the Thornax as a base for madu.  I didn’t know that.  But then it makes sense that in this world they would introduce madu as a more edible, equally-resilient alternative for their subjects to cultivate.  The energy Antroz uses at the fruit stall is one of her Makuta powers: it’s been established that the Melding Makuta use powers tied to the Principles from MNOGII rather than the original Rahkshi powers that counter them, so in place of Hunger she has Prosperity.  Some of these Principles are really vague when you think about how to use them as powers, so here I’m presenting Prosperity as a general luck buff—the target becomes much more likely to succeed in their endeavors, at least until the effect wears off.  Think of it like a less physical variation on the Calix.
 
-Now, in the prime reality, Krika was not the Makuta of Nynrah—he was in charge of the northern part of the North Continent, which…sounds beyond vague in my opinion, so I freed him up to be put anywhere in this world.  Krika was an obvious choice to include in this story, and I thought it would make sense for Nynrah and Xia to be rivals of sorts, so the two just ended up together.  It was actually Tridax who watched Nynrah in the main universe, but don’t you worry, Melding Tridax is otherwise occupied.  And with Teridax gone, there’s no one for him to get his name confused with!
 
-A few of the Kanohi the Makuta will be wearing are going to be redundant with some of their powers, unfortunately—it would just be too difficult to pick really good Kanohi without having any overlap.  Let’s say that using the Kanohi doesn’t actually drain the Makuta’s energy, while their equivalent Rahkshi powers do.
 
-I think those are all my notes for now.  Time to get to work on Section II!
 
-Reviews to be submitted here

Edited by Black Six, Jun 07 2018 - 10:12 PM.

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#2 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted Apr 10 2018 - 01:13 PM

SECTION II

 

Antroz and Krika sat on one side of the table, while Zaekura fidgeted uncomfortably across from them.  Antroz was facing her directly, and though she knew she was blind, the Glatorian still couldn’t help but feel she was being stared at.

 

“I still do not understand,” Antroz said quietly.  “She is intelligent and inventive—and you think this alone makes her a Great Being?”

 

Krika sighed, taking a moment to shake his head.  “Seems I should go back further.  You will recall that the Great Beings are from the Glatorian species, correct?  They arose from various tribes during the dark ages, realizing they had a gift no others did, and used it to guide the world forward.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Do you know what it was that caused them to be so different from the other Glatorian?”

 

Antroz thought for a moment, but no answer sprang to mind.

 

“In the interest of time: it started with a genetic quirk.  Something in those Glatorian’s DNA altered the structure of their brains in a way no one predicted.  Of course, even that doesn’t fully explain it.  There must have been some other factor, some catalyst that caused them to develop farther and faster than was wholly natural, but I’ve no idea what that was.”

 

“You are sure about this?”

 

“Absolutely.  When this case presented itself to me, I did a little digging.  Unfortunately any information on the ‘catalyst’ must in a place one cannot dig into without being caught.”

 

Antroz turned towards him.  “It sounds as though you were already someplace you should not have been.”

 

Krika rapped his knuckles against the table.  “Now now, let’s focus on the matter at hand, shall we?”

 

Reluctantly, Antroz followed the change in subject.  “Then why has this quirk resurfaced in her?  Why now, all of the sudden, after so many millennia?”

 

The other Makuta smirked.  “Now you’re asking the right questions.  The answer is that this isn’t sudden at all.  The potential for that quirk still exists in the Glatorian genome, and my working theory is that every generation or so, one or two Glatorian with this mutation will pop up again.”

 

“What?  Impossible—we would have known of such a thing.”

 

“Would we?  You hadn’t the faintest knowledge of this quirk until I just told you.  Yet here you are, trudging out to Nynrah to escort an individual who possesses it to the Maze.  We’ve all delivered plenty of prisoners to our leaders over the years.  How many times have any of us questioned why?”

 

A sick feeling started to form within Antroz.  Hoping to combat it, she said, “That sounds like conjecture.  Can anyone corroborate your claim?”

 

Krika gestured to Zaekura.  The Glatorian looked away, but after a few moments, she closed her eyes and sighed.

 

“I’m…not the first one in my family to have the mutation,” she muttered.  “My grandfather was a brilliant man.  He was always working on some invention none of the rest of us could understand, usually saying it would help out someone who was having a problem.  And it usually worked, even if we couldn’t understand how.  It was like he was just exploding with creativity.  Like he had some kind of magic.”

 

She glared at Krika.

 

“But one day, he was taken away.  I never saw him again.”

 

Krika nodded.  “I was told to discourage anyone who asked questions about that Glatorian.  Of course, I myself didn’t feel particularly discouraged by that.”

 

“Should go without saying, my family’s become a bit skeptical of the Makuta and the Great Beings.  I’ve been trying to lay low…but I guess someone still found me out.”

 

“It wasn’t me,” Krika said, raising his hands.  “The Great Beings don’t want to hear from me these days.”

 

“So,” Antroz interrupted, “you claim that this mutation was the reason your grandfather was taken away?  And that it then skipped a generation to appear again in you?”

 

Zaekura looked down again.  “Something like that, I guess.”

 

“I have copies of the records I…perused,” Krika offered.  “I’d be happy to share them with you.”

 

After a short pause, Antroz said, “Krika…if what you are saying is true, then what do you theorize becomes of the mutant Glatorian taken to the Maze?”

 

Krika got a grim look.  “Again, it would be impossible to dig that up without getting caught.  But I think it’s worth noting that even though they had the potential to become Great Beings, our leaders’ ranks have never grown.”

 

Zaekura wrung her hands.  Antroz could sense her fear, her anxiety…and the fact that she wasn’t lying.

 

But, this could merely be her perception.  This is not conclusive proof that the Great Beings…that we have led innocent Glatorian to…

 

Antroz stood.  “Krika.  I must speak with the Great Beings.”

 

Zaekura flinched.  Krika rose slowly, saying, “I, uh, would advise against that, Antroz.  Even supposing they’re honest with us, they’re not going to like us questioning our orders.”

 

“If what you say is true, then we cannot simply hand her over.”

 

“Of course not.  I was never going to.  But if we confront the Great Beings, we lose any opportunity for her to sneak away.”

 

“But if you are wrong, Krika, and there is some other reason the Great Beings have condemned this girl, then we cannot allow her to escape.  I must know.”

 

“Seriously?!” Zaekura said, leaping to her feet.  “What is it going to take to convince you?  They just want you to bring me in so they can kill me!  There’s no way I’m…going to…”

 

Suddenly, Zaekura sank back into her chair and slumped against the table.  Antroz released her Sleep power and turned back to Krika.  The Makuta of Nynrah stared at her for a moment before shrugging.

 

“I know that there’s no easy way for me to stop you, and that even if I did put in the effort it wouldn’t really achieve much,” Krika said.  “The communications chamber is on the level below this one.  Third door to the left of the stairwell.”

 

As Antroz walked out, Krika added, “I’ll be listening, of course.  And you should know that no matter what you end up deciding, I have no intentions of letting you take her.”

 

Antroz stopped.  “I’ve never known you to be all that protective.”

 

“She’s a citizen of Nynrah.  I’m not a completely worthless Guardian.”

 

Antroz offered a nod, and then left the room.  The chamber Krika had indicated was a small box lined with numerous control panels, and one wall was taken up by an enormous screen.  Antroz reached for one of the panels, typed into the keyboard, and then patiently waited until the screen flared to life.  A Glatorian clad in purple armor was there to greet her.

 

“Ah, Antroz!  Wonderful to hear from you—and I see you’ve safely made it to Nynrah!  Good, good.”

 

Antroz bowed.  “Lord Angonce.  Pardon the intrusion, but it is urgent that I speak with you.”

 

Angonce raised an eyebrow.  “Oh, is that so?  Well, alright, what is it that you want to talk about?”

 

The Makuta hesitated, but eventually, she said, “I have met the prisoner.  Krika has explained her crime to me—at least, his understanding of it.”

 

“Ah.  And Krika’s understanding is…?”

 

“He claims that she possesses a mutation seen very rarely in Glatorian.  A mutation that would allow her to become like you, Lord Angonce.”

 

Angonce nodded slowly.  “I see.”

 

“He believes that, over the years, we may have delivered many such Glatorian to you without even knowing it.  I must say, my Lord…that possibility frightens me terribly.”

 

“Really?  Why’s that?”

 

Antroz clenched her fists.  “If I have captured someone for committing no crime…if any have been condemned simply because of the way they were born, then I would be deeply ashamed to be a part of it.  I am sorry, Lord Angonce, but…please, tell me.  Is Krika right?”

 

Angonce stared at her for a very long time.  At last, he sighed, leaned back in his chair, and, just as casually as ever, said, “Antroz, I really don’t see what the problem is.”

 

It felt to Antroz as if her armor had gone hollow.  “W…what?”

 

“You have your orders, so follow them.  You’ve always been really great about that, I’m not sure why you’re messing up all of a sudden.”

 

Taking a step forward, Antroz said, “Lord Angonce, are you really telling me to bring this girl to be killed?!  Simply for one strand of DNA?  How can such a thing be right?!”

 

“Because we’ve ordered it,” Angonce said, spreading his arms and looking upward.  “Antroz, we’re the Great Beings.  Our word is law—we’re the ones who decide what right and wrong is.  So if we say something is right, then, I mean, it is.  It’s not that complicated, really.”

 

Antroz gaped.  Her thoughts were racing, but they felt a million miles away, separated from her by a river of shock and horror.

 

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Antroz,” Angonce said.  “Look, just bring the girl to the Maze, alright?  We can’t have someone like her running loose.”

 

Angonce reached for the button to end the call.

 

“…This…is not right…”

 

The Great Being leaned forward.  “Hm?  What was that?”

 

She waded through the river, letting her emotions wash over her, filling her to the brim until she overflowed.  Facing the screen, Antroz said, “This is not right, Lord Angonce.  This girl has done nothing wrong, and I will not have innocent blood on my hands.”

 

Now it was Angonce’s turn to be shocked.  He watched Antroz with wide eyes, speechless for perhaps the first time.

 

“Just because she has the potential to rival you does not give you the right to execute her.  So I am sorry, Lord Angonce, but I must refuse the orders you have given me.  Zaekura will remain in Nynrah.”

 

The silence stretched on and on.  It seemed like an eternity before Angonce sighed, his expression drooping into one of frustration and disappointment.

 

“Then we’ll have to come to her, I suppose,” he muttered.  “For shame, Antroz.  I really expected better of you.”

 

The communication was terminated.  Antroz turned on her heel and stalked back out into the hall.

 

“Some comments,” Krika said, appearing as she rounded a corner.  “Lovely conscience, was hoping that would make an appearance.  Not sure you’ll take this as a compliment, but I was really very impressed to see you, of all people, standing up to the Great Beings.  But, there is one major criticism I have.  You see…”

 

He grabbed Antroz by the shoulder.  Using his Elasticity powers, he extended his arm rapidly, slamming her into the far wall and pinning her there.  His eyes narrowed until they were almost shut.

 

“You just brought the wrath of the Great Beings down upon my city.  You’ll understand if I’m a small bit livid, yes?”

 

Antroz batted his hand away.  Despite the assault, her fury was actually beginning to abate.  “…I acted impulsively, I admit.”

 

“Impulsively, yes, of course,” Krika said, retracting his arm.  “Impulsivity is exactly what we need right now.  Why tread carefully when trying to have a polite disagreement with those capable of bending the fabric of reality itself?”

 

Antroz said nothing.

 

“…Well, there’s no way to undo it now.  I suppose we’ll just have to fight back when the time comes.”

 

“I have no intention of fighting,” Antroz said calmly.

 

Krika scratched his head.  “…Did I say ‘a small bit’?  I think my initial estimate was off.”

 

“We cannot fight the Great Beings, Krika.  All we can do is hope to reason with them.”

 

“Reason?  You think they’ll be willing to listen to reason, after all that?  My word, Antroz, you really are deluded.”

 

Antroz walked towards him.  “The Great Beings have made a mistake.  But, I still believe their intentions are good.  I will not turn Zaekura over, but I will not turn against the Great Beings either.”

 

They’re mutually exclusive!” Krika screamed.  The entire hallway shuddered.  He took a moment to regain his composure before continuing, “More importantly, you just put all the citizens of Nynrah in danger.  And you aren’t going to lift a finger to defend them?”

 

“We have no reason to think the Great Beings will use lethal force.”

 

“And is that what you thought when Gorast killed Krekka?”

 

Antroz turned and continued down the hall.

 

“…So what do you propose we do?” Krika asked.

 

“We wait,” Antroz said.  “When the Great Beings arrive, we will speak with them, and hopefully come to an understanding.  I imagine we will need to keep Zaekura here until then, but she should be returned home shortly.”

 

Krika laughed.  “Well, you try telling her that.  If it’s all the same to you, I’m going to round up some forces to protect my citizens as they evacuate.”

 

When Antroz returned to where Zaekura was, she sat and waited for the Glatorian to awaken.  The moment she did, she jumped backward, knocking over her chair.

 

“What was that?” she asked, rubbing her head.

 

“I apologize, Zaekura.  It seems you were right all along.”

 

Zaekura grimaced.  “Please tell me you didn’t talk to them.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Oh for the love of…that’s just great.  When do I die?”

 

“You aren’t going to die, Zaekura.  I will not be turning you over to the Great Beings.  When they arrive, I will—“

 

“They’re coming here?!” Zaekura interrupted.  “Oh no no no no no, this is bad, this is really, really bad.”

 

She began to pace.  Holding out a hand, Antroz said, “Please, settle down.”

 

“Put that away!” Zaekura shouted, pointing at Antroz’s hand.  “I don’t want you throwing any more of those rotten powers at me!”

 

With a sigh, Antroz lowered her hand.  “Listen to me, Zaekura: I will do everything within my power to sway the Great Beings, and I am convinced that they will come to understand our point of view.  You have nothing to fear.”

 

Zaekura put both hands over her mouth.  She stared at Antroz for a minute, and then turned around and pinched the bridge of her nose.

 

“Is this real?” she wondered aloud.  “I mean, you go from stage one, perfectly willing to take me to be killed, to stage two, thinking that maybe that’s a tiny bit rash, to stage three, ‘trust me to protect you’.  Can you understand why I might have trouble buying that?”

 

Antroz paused.  “I have acknowledged my mistake, and I wish to take steps to fix it.  Is this not enough to prove myself?”

 

Zaekura stared at Antroz again.  “You…you’re not kidding, are you?  What is that, is that ego, or do you just not have social skills?”

 

The Glatorian leaned against the wall and slowly slid down to the floor.  Antroz sat still for a moment, and then rose and took a few steps forward.  Zaekura tensed up immediately.

 

“If I have to earn your trust, then so be it,” Antroz said.  “But for the time being, I think it best you remain here, so that Krika and I can keep you safe.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Zaekura said, “Well if the alternative is being out in the open while the Great Beings are on a hunting trip, I guess that actually is the better option.”

 

Antroz nodded.  “Thank you.  I will go see Krika, then.  Please be here when we return.”

 

Zaekura didn’t say anything as she ran her hands over her face.  When Antroz made it outside, she found Krika standing not far away talking to a small group of his citizens, while various types of Rahkshi could be seen approaching their location from every direction.  She got just close enough to be able to listen.

 

“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you,” Krika was saying.  “I know that’s a miserable excuse, but if you knew exactly what was coming for us, it could ruin your chances to escape it.  Please, just do as I ask.  And if anyone asks you why you fled Nynrah, say that it was because I forced you out.”

 

A very concerned-looking Agori stepped forward.  “But, Makuta Krika, this is our home!  Shouldn’t we stay to defend it?”

 

With a sad smile, Krika reached out and set his hand on the Agori’s head.  “I’m sorry, Kirbold…but there’s no defense against what’s coming.  Anyone who stays behind to fight it would only get killed.”

 

A Matoran asked, “But then, what about you?”

 

“Don’t worry about me.  Just get to Ga-Koro as quickly as you can, and I’ll meet up with you soon.”

 

Hesitantly, the citizens departed.  Krika eyed the Rahkshi as they lined up, and his gaze eventually reached Antroz.

 

“I find this all rather unnecessary,” Antroz said.

 

“You would,” Krika sneered.

 

Antroz walked closer, continuing, “It sounds as though you agree with me, that fighting the Great Beings is impossible.  I do not understand why you think escaping them will work any better.”

 

Krika counted the Rahkshi in front of him.  “All accounted for.  Though, suddenly this feels like a much smaller number.  Anyway, Antroz, I’ve deceived them before, so please butt out and allow me to work.”

 

He got a few steps before Antroz said, “I beg your pardon?  What are you referring to?”

 

Krika stopped in his tracks.  Looking towards the ocean, he muttered, “I’m not sure I should trust you with this, but…”

 

The Toa of Earth from before was still there, sitting on the same rock.  They looked over their shoulder again, and this time Krika beckoned to them; with quite a bit of reluctance, they complied.

 

“Ga-Koro, then?” the Toa asked, their voice slow and quiet.  “I think I’ll take my chances in the depths.”

 

“That’s quite alright, Mavrah, but please help me prove a point first,” Krika said.  “Antroz, about those experiments we hunted down?”

 

Not having the faintest idea where he was going, Antroz said, “Yes…?”

 

“Oh,” Mavrah said, “are we doing this now?”

 

“Do you mind?” Krika asked.

 

“I suppose not.  I hope she doesn’t damage my lure, though.”

 

“Krika,” Antroz said, “please, elaborate.”

 

“It’s really quite simple, Antroz,” Krika said.  “While you slaughtered indiscriminately, I decided to push my luck just a bit.  I let one of our targets live—a small feat, to be sure, but I thought it the only realistic approach.  I wanted to see if they were really as dangerous as we were told, if it was completely impossible for them to be tamed.  If I was wrong, then I could just kill it anyway, and if I was right then I knew how guilty I needed to feel.”

 

Antroz’s jaw dropped.  “You let one of those things loose?!”

 

“Not loose, no.  I brought it back here.  And over these millennia I’ve cared for it, taught it not to endanger any of my citizens, and of course, kept it a secret from every other living being until now.  It was really an ingenious concept the Great Beings were pursuing—Mavrah, if you would be so kind?”

 

The Toa of Earth nodded, and then they were gone.  In the blink of an eye their body vanished, and in its place, a roughly-spherical device twice as large as Antroz’s fist floated, bobbing slowly but maintaining a height of a about a foot off the ground.  Antroz stepped back in surprise.

 

“It’s sort of like an anglerfish.  Except the lure can be operated remotely over a distance of several miles, controlled via a telepathic link to the main body; it can project a hologram of whatever the creature envisions, whatever they think is most likely to draw in their prey.  Of course, I may have tinkered with it a bit over the years—I thought making the hologram solid would allow Mavrah to take a more active role in the community.”

 

The “Toa” reappeared.  Antroz heard a bellow in the distance, and sensed something breaking the surface of the ocean: a massive, hideous creature the likes of which she’d never sensed before.  It submerged just as quickly as it had appeared.

 

“I’ve learned a lot in my time,” Mavrah said.  “Speech was probably the trickiest, but I think I’ve become rather good at it.  I should probably mention that I never really had any desire to harm the citizens, and I’ve actually grown quite fond of them.  It’s saddening to see them leave.  When will they be back, Krika?”

 

Krika shook his head.  “I don’t know, Mavrah.  It might be some time before you hear from me.”

 

“Oh, that’s a pity.  But I don’t think even Ga-Koro would welcome someone like me.”

 

Antroz stood perfectly still as she tried to process this information.  Krika dismissed Mavrah, and then said, “Turns out there was another way.  I’ve been feeling quite guilty for some time now.”

 

He took a few more steps before Antroz called, “Krika.”

 

“Hm?”

 

“What exactly is your plan?”

 

“Cover the citizens as they escape, by any means necessary.  Once they’re safely on their way to Ga-Koro, I aim to fake my death and let the story spread that I went mad out of the blue, and the Great Beings had no choice but to put me down.  They’ll like that.  It lets them stay the heroes.”

 

“And Zaekura?”

 

“Get her to the most secluded spot I can find, and keep her out of the Great Beings sight just like I’ve been doing with Mavrah.  It won’t be a great life, but at least she’ll be alive.  It’s the best I can do on such short notice.”

 

Antroz walked forward, saying, “If this course of action is so unappealing, then why have you already committed to it?  We may yet be able to salvage this situation!”

 

They both heard it at the same time.  It was far away still, but footsteps were undeniably getting closer to Nynrah, and they were not the steps of a Great Being.  They were the steps of many marching in unison, an entire battalion that moved with an eerily methodical focus.

 

“Blast it,” Krika said.  “I figured they had something nearby as insurance, but I thought I had a least a little more time!”

 

Antroz broadened the range of her telepathy, sending her mind out over the approaching mass.  While there was definitely something on the move, whatever they were, they did not possess minds of their own, so she gleaned very little.  All that was truly clear was that they greatly outnumbered Krika’s Rahkshi.

 

“How bad is it?” Krika asked.

 

Antroz hesitated.  “They are soulless, and there are enough to storm this entire city…supposing that is their goal.”

 

“I think I’ll make that supposition,” Krika grumbled.  “Let’s see now, I should be able to spare enough power to spawn another handful of Rahkshi…Antroz, if you’re not going to fight, then I recommend you leave this place.”

 

“I have no reason to flee.  I shall continue to watch Zaekura until the Great Beings arrive.”

 

Krika gritted his teeth.  “Fine.  But when your delusions end and you realize what’s actually happening…get her out of here.  In case I don’t get the chance myself.”

 

Antroz turned in the direction of the army.  “If that were to happen, where would you have me take her?”

 

“Hard to say.  Taking her to Ga-Koro would endanger the rest of my citizens, but there aren’t any other settlements within reasonable walking distance.  I’ll leave that up to you.”

 

Antroz nodded, and then she headed back towards the cliff.  She paused when she noticed Mavrah nearby, though the illusory Toa quickly vanished, and the remote lure descended into the ocean.

 

…I must believe that the Great Beings are reasonable.  We must not resort to senseless violence.

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Originally I planned for this Section to include more, but the complete rough draft ended up being 7000 words and I felt that was a bit too long.  This seemed like the best point to divide them up, and it might actually improve the pacing a bit.  Best of all, this means Section III should be up very soon!

 

-I know that the Great Beings being Glatorian is a contentious bit of trivia, but I thought it held the potential to be an interesting plot, so I decided to go ahead with it.  If you remember the serials you might know what the ‘catalyst’ was, but if not don’t worry: the complete picture will be explained soon enough.

 

-The later serials were setting Angonce up to be the Great Being our heroes could turn to, saying that he was always curious about the other species and showing him express concern over the release of Marendar.  For this iteration, I thought that would translate to a “man of the people” image, though with the small twist that, in curiously observing these species, he’s looking down on them.  He considers them pets at best.  These people fascinate him, sure, but it’s not like they actually matter in his eyes—he could replace them in an afternoon.  And if he’s the nicest Great Being…

 

-I felt a more gradual shift in Antroz’s view of the Great Beings would be more realistic.  It’s hard to learn that there are huge flaws in something you’ve believed or followed your entire life—that you’ve been complicit in terrible things without realizing it, or that you’ve held a viewpoint that’s actually pretty awful when you take a different look at it.  Antroz doesn’t want to admit that to herself.  So for now, she’s going to hold out hope that she can still reason with the Great Beings, and that everything will go back to normal.  Cognitive dissonance is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

 

-Kirbold was chosen more or less at random.  Not many Agori stand out in my mind, and none of them seem like they would have much inclination towards Nynrah’s idea of art.  This kind of decision-making will probably come up again.

 

-Ga-Koro was one of the few places in the Melding Universe actually visited in Brothers in Arms, though not many details were given about it.  Since I had already said Nynrah was along the coast of Aqua Magna and Ga-Koro must be in a similar location, it made sense that they’d be near each other and would make a good default evacuation route, which led me to craft a more specific purpose for the city as a sort of sanctuary.  More details on that should come in a few chapters.  And, yes, it has a Makuta, though I won’t spoil who.

 

-If I recall my thought process correctly, I wanted there to be some early event that sparked Krika’s distrust of the Great Beings, and thinking about what could have happened so long ago reminded me of the ancient aquatic Rahi from Voyage of Fear.  The anglerfish is one of the weirder real-life creatures I know about, and I thought the projection lure would be a neat idea—at that point it was obvious said lure would be named Mavrah.  Also I just realized that I messed up in Section I: the Toa of Earth is referred to as “he”, but Mavrah actually uses “they” pronouns.  I’m going to edit that, and I’ll be more consistent going forward.

 

-Like I was saying earlier, Section II was originally going to include the upcoming battle, but it looks like the nature of this army is going to remain a mystery for now.  Antroz’s telepathy doesn’t work very well on non-living things when they’re very far away.  You may be surprised to see what’s coming, though it’s not impossible to guess either. (Gosh I’ve missed making pointless, cryptic remarks.) I do want to finish work on something else before I finish editing Section III, but I’m going to be optimistic and say it won’t be all that long.  Stay tuned!

 

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#3 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

Super Fighting Pahrak
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Posted Apr 16 2018 - 09:53 PM

SECTION III

 

Antroz stepped just inside the compound, closing the doors as a precaution; she remained standing in the entryway, using her telepathy to sense what was going on outside.  Krika had centered the majority of his forces at Nynrah’s gate, with a few smaller pockets taking cover in more strategic locations and a single Chameleon Rahkshi stationed next to the line of fleeing citizens.

 

He thinks that if they don’t see anyone guarding the escapees, they won’t suspect their target is among them.

 

The army was closing in now.  At this range, Antroz could sense them better, and found that there was something familiar about them, though she could not place what exactly.  They halted their march, and Krika walked out to meet them.

 

“My, more visitors already?” the Makuta said.  “We’re becoming quite the hotspot.  Tell me, what brings you all to Nynrah?”

 

The forces remained silent for a time.  Eventually, one stepped forward, and in a harsh, metallic voice, it barked, “Identified: Makuta Krika.  Command: Release prisoner ‘Zaekura’ into our custody.  Failure to comply will not be tolerated.”

 

Krika rubbed his chin.  “Zaekura?  Hm, Zaekura…apologies, friend, but I haven’t the foggiest who you’re referring to.”

 

“Failure to comply will not be tolerated.  Final warning has been issued.”

 

“Oh come now, don’t be like that,” Krika said.  Turning slightly in the direction of the compound, he half-heartedly added, “Can’t we just talk this out like reasonable beings?”

 

Antroz grunted to herself, thinking, This is hardly the time for mockery, you oaf.

 

“Compliance absent.  Directive: Seize prisoner by force.”

 

Krika raised a hand over his mouth and gasped.  “Oh my!  What a surprising turn of events!”

 

The army began to march forward again.

 

“Are you certain you don’t simply want to talk?  I think you look quite reasonable.”

 

Krika pointed at one of the soldiers, but it didn’t react.

 

“No?  Pity.”

 

In an instant, a long, thin spike extended from Krika’s fingertip, reaching over the few dozen unoccupied yards to impale the attacker.

 

“I know some consider fighting an art form, but to be honest it doesn’t really suit my preferences.”

 

The army raised their weapons and began to fire.  As they charged forward, Krika retracted his spike, and the soldiers finally came close enough that Antroz could sense them in greater detail: they were machines of roughly humanoid design, with long, spindly limbs and small torsos, their hands fused with tube-like cannons, and aerodynamic heads with vaguely insectoid faces.  They were a new type of security drone, Antroz recognized, designed by Velika and tested extensively over the past several months.  She hadn’t realized that he was so far along, or that so many models had already been made.

 

So then…Velika is simply eager to test his new inventions.  Yes, that’s all.  And I know that these machines possess non-lethal weaponry, and will only strike to kill if absolutely necessary.  Krika’s worry was unfounded.

 

The main Rahkshi force scattered as energy shots came in fast.  Rahkshi of Heat and Laser Vision unleashed the first counter, making sweeping attacks with their powers that toppled huge swaths of the enemy forces.  However, when the machines fell down, their limbs twisted and swiveled, instantly putting them upright again, and they continued their march as if nothing had happened.  Krika snapped his fingers—a cyclone kicked up amidst the drones, yanking many off the ground and tossing them about the sky, and when Krika pointed down they were all flung directly into the ground and pinned there by intense gravity.  Rahkshi of Electricity made the next attempt to thin the enemy lines.  The drones were stunned by the electric blasts, but they recovered quickly and managed to land a few hits of their own in return.  The Rahkshi in question stumbled a bit, but then resumed their offensive.

 

I remember hearing that the drones use some sort of stun weapon, Antroz thought.  Whatever the specifics, it seems they are not properly calibrated to be used against Rahkshi.

 

Drones and Rahkshi were trading blows now.  The machines had an edge in agility, allowing them to outmaneuver most of the Rahkshi’s attacks and slowly batter away at them; the lone Rahkshi of Accuracy present seemed to be doing the best, although their attacks did not cause much apparent damage to their targets.  A Rahkshi of Density Control lunged at a stumbling drone, making their staff a hundred times heavier in mid-swing.  The drone’s torso shattered on impact.  This first casualty drew the drones attention, and while they were all looking at the same spot, Krika hurled a blinding orb of light, though it didn’t seem to hinder the advanced machines much at all.  At this signal, however, a Power Scream Rahkshi leapt out from behind a nearby crag, unleashing their shriek from the drones’ left flank and catching them by surprise.  The Rahkshi with vision powers took advantage of the confusion and were able to sear the limbs off several drones.

 

“I’m almost insulted,” Krika declared, standing tall so the drones could see him.  “The Great Beings believe a few inept robots can overrun Nynrah?  I knew they thought little of me, but this is truly absurd!”

 

Suddenly, the drones all froze.  Feeling nervous, Krika commanded his Rahkshi not to exploit the opening.

 

“Threat assessed as ‘severe’.  Releasing weapon locks.”

 

Krika’s eyes widened.  He threw a massive blast of light, incinerating several of the drones, meanwhile his Rahkshi all joined in the attack with renewed vigor.  Despite all this, they only took down an infinitesimal percentage of the overall force, and the rest soon raised their weapons and returned fire.  The next blast that hit a Rahkshi punched a hole clean through it.  Krika shouted.

 

This is less than ideal…but, they are only doing this in response to his attack.

 

Some of the drones were within range of Krika now.  He was sure to keep his Dodge power active, expertly dancing around each blast.  When he saw a chance, he threw a punch with his Elasticity powers, though his foes easily avoided the blow.  What they could not avoid, however, were the twenty spikes that spontaneously grew from Krika’s long arm, severing their cranial units before retreating back into the Makuta’s limb.  Krika reeled his arm in and then slashed the air with it: a repulsive magnetic force flung the decapitated drones backwards into their comrades, sending many stumbling back into the ongoing power scream from the flank.  They tried their best to destroy that Rahkshi, but the oppressive sound waves were just enough to deflect their blasts by a few degrees and leave it unscathed.  Unfortunately, many of the other Rahkshi were not faring as well.  Krika teleported into the mass of enemies with his arms out—nearly a hundred spikes lashed out from his arms and back, each slaying a different foe, but a hundred more stepped into their place.  Narrowly escaping, Krika took to the skies and reduced the density of his body to stay there a moment while a Rahkshi of Plant Control made itself known by commanding vines to rise from beneath the sands to entangle the invaders.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

Antroz jumped.  She had been so focused on the battle that she hadn’t even sensed Zaekura’s approach.  Facing the Glatorian, she said, “I was under the impression you would remain in that room?”

 

Zaekura scowled.  “I can hear something going on, so I came to see just how bad it is.  Can you blame me for being curious who they sent to kill me?”

 

“There’s no need to overreact.  I’m sure that once Krika stops being aggressive, they will stand down and resume their search peacefully.”

 

“Yeah, happy thought there.  Again: what did they send?”

 

Antroz briefly relayed what she knew about the drones, as well as how the Rahkshi were faring against them.  As she talked, she could sense that a great many drones were being destroyed, but at the rate the Rahkshi were falling it was still just a matter of time until they overwhelmed Krika.  Antroz thought it best not to mention that part to Zaekura.

 

“Drones, huh?” Zaekura said.  “Well that’s better than what I was expecting.  Should be easier to sneak around those…”

 

“We are staying right here,” Antroz said.  “When this skirmish is over, we can negotiate properly.”

 

Zaekura didn’t say anything.  Antroz turned her mind back to the battle, though she was sure to keep a few thoughts on Zaekura lest she try to escape.  She came back at about the same time a drone finally managed to get behind the Power Scream Rahkshi, disintegrating its head and neck in a single shot.

 

“Wretched machines!” Krika yelled as he loosed another light blast.  “You’re proving quite the inconvenience, you know!”

 

He quickly activated his Invulnerability power to defend against an oncoming blast.  When that was done, he extended both hands and triggered his Slow power, the effect gradually spreading over more and more drones the longer he focused.  The remaining Rahkshi were quick to press their advantage and began mowing down row after row of machines, though they still had to deal with a few blasts from the drones that remained outside the range of Krika’s power.

 

“I think we might’ve finally made it through a third of them,” Krika mumbled.  “Good grief, this is really trying my patience.”

 

“Makuta Krika!”

 

He looked over his shoulder to see almost a dozen of his citizens running towards him.  Each was holding some kind of weapon, though most could be best described as makeshift.  Krika’s focus was gone.

 

“What are you doing?!” he cried.  “I told you to get out of here!”

 

“We’re not going to abandon you!” Kirbold said, hefting a length of pipe.  “You’re our Guardian—if anything happens to you, who would protect us?”

 

“I can’t protect you in this fight!  That’s why I told you to—“

 

He was cut off as he heard a Rahkshi die.  One had tried to reduce their density to survive a blast, but the energy was so intense it was still enough to vaporize the nearly-intangible armor it struck.

 

“Darn,” Krika said, trying to refocus his power.  “Please, I’m begging you: get out of here!  You see what these things can do, don’t you?”

 

“It’ll take more than some fancy ray guns to scare us off!” said a Glatorian.  “We’ve got something to protect, so we aren’t backing down!”

 

They let out a battle cry and charged to meet the enemy.  Krika quickly tried to adjust the energy he was projecting so that it would move around them, but that caused the entire energy field to waver to the point where it was useless.  The Makuta teleported in front of the group and grabbed as many as he could.

 

“I said get back!” he shouted.  “This isn’t your fight!”

 

The Glatorian was upon the drones now.  “I beg to differ!”

 

Raising his axe, he bellowed and lunged at the nearest target.  It tumbled back to avoid his swing.  He moved to follow up, but the next thing he knew, the barrel of its cannon was right in his face.

 

Krika’s scream could be heard all the way at the compound.  Zaekura took a step back, saying, “That…doesn’t sound good…”

 

Antroz didn’t respond.  She couldn’t.  Her mind was lost in the mix of confusion, fear, and failure that had been the Glatorian’s last thoughts.

 

Krika teleported with the citizens he had stopped over to his Chameleon Rahkshi, who took custody of them as he returned to the fight.  Kirbold, a Toa of Fire, and a De-Matoran were still following through with their attack, either unaware of what had just befallen their friend or worse, emboldened by it.  The De-Matoran was closest, so Krika went to them first.  He commanded his Rahkshi to defend the others, but they were too busy dealing with their own opponents, and Kirbold was soon sent flying back into Nynrah’s wall.  Thankfully the Toa of Fire seemed to be alright at the moment, smothering a drone with a flamethrower, so Krika teleported to Kribold’s side and gently picked him up.

 

“Urgh…I’m sorry…Makuta,” the Agori croaked.

 

“Stop talking,” Krika said.  He turned to the De-Matoran.  “Take him and get out of here—and don’t you dare come back!  Use whatever medical supplies you have, but don’t stop moving unless you absolutely have to!”

 

The Matoran was stunned for a moment, but then nodded and took the Agori.  Krika turned around, trying desperately to spot the Toa, but he was the shortest combatant on the field by far, and there were fires burning everywhere.  The Makuta ran forward blindly, shooting light at every drone he saw.

 

“Jaller!” he called.  “Jaller, where are you?”

 

A jolt of pain brought him to his knees.  One of the drones advanced upon him, cannon still smoking.  Krika put a hand over the new hole in his armor, but antidermis continued to pour out of it.  Before the drone could attack again, however, a fireball struck it in the head, and then the Toa sprang up onto its back and set the entire machine ablaze.

 

“You worry too much, Makuta,” Jaller said, walking forward.  “I’ve got this area covered, so why don’t you—“

 

He stopped mid-sentence as a blast tore open his stomach.  Krika roared, starting forward to catch the falling Toa while also obliterating the drone that hit him with a plasma bolt.  He set his citizen down and tried to examine his wound, but more drones were moving in, and they demanded his attention.  Krika dispatched them as quickly as he could, but they just kept coming.

 

“Y-You…can’t stay here,” Jaller groaned.

 

“Well I can’t exactly move you in your condition!” Krika said.  “I’m going to put you in a stasis field for now, and then—“  He yelled as a drone destroyed a piece of his essence.

 

“No...you can’t afford…to waste that much…”

 

Krika turned and hurled an endless stream of chain lightning, carving a line straight through the enemy ranks.  “Excuse me?  I’m a Makuta!  I’ve got energy to spare, dear Toa!  Now save your strength, so I…”

 

He released his power and looked back at Jaller.  Though he was trying to keep a straight face, the small being was weeping uncontrollably.

 

“M-Makuta…please,” he whispered.  “It’s too late…for me…you must know it…too…”

 

Another drone fired.  Krika bent over the Toa to shield him, barely able to make himself Invulnerable in time.

 

“Don’t talk like that,” Krika said as he destroyed the drone.  “I can still save you!  You’ve much more to do, don’t you, Toa Jaller?”

 

“Makuta,” Jaller said.  “I know…I know…I’m going to die…I don’t want to…but there’s no way to stop it…now…”

 

Krika just kept attacking.

 

“I don’t want you…to waste power…trying to save me…b-but…if it isn’t too much to ask…”  He sobbed.  “I’m afraid…I’m so afraid to die…can you…”

 

As he blasted away another line of enemies, Krika grunted, and knew he had to admit defeat.  His hand shone with red light as he waved it over Jaller.

 

“It’s alright, Jaller,” he whispered.  “You can face your death with Courage.”

 

In seconds, Jaller grew calm, his expression turning into one of acceptance.  He looked up at Krika and said, “Thank you.  Even if it’s borrowed bravery, it’s better than nothing.”

 

Krika smirked.  “That’s not how our powers work, Toa.  We just bring out what’s already there, and you’ve given me more than enough to work with.”

 

“Heh…thanks…for saying so…”

 

Krika turned around to blow away an attacker.  By the time he turned back, Jaller had stopped breathing.  He stared at the Toa for a moment, and then surveyed the battle, realizing that he had only four Rahkshi remaining.  The drones kept coming.  Krika chuckled to himself.

 

“So I am a completely worthless Guardian.”

 

He threw back his head and laughed.  Several drones began to circle him, but spikes shot out from his body before they could aim their weapons.  Krika faced the oncoming horde and slowly walked towards them.

 

Antroz could take no more.  She reached out to Krika’s mind, taken aback for a moment by the rage swelling within it.  She righted herself quickly, and said, Krika, do not be foolish.  You must not give into this anger.

 

“You’re one to talk,” Krika laughed, stirring up another cyclone.

 

There is no strategic advantage to charging them head-on.  These are foes that can kill you, and should that happen—

 

“Stop it, Antroz.  I can feel you trying to use your Peace powers, but I’m not going to let you sway me.”

 

Krika!  This violence is unlike you.  A victorious battle is meaningless if you lose yourself in the process—you are a Guardian, a thinker, a builder!  You are a Makuta!

 

“I know exactly what I am, Antroz, and I’m not about to betray it,” Krika said.  He opened his palms, and they began to shine with blinding white light.  “After all…a builder still has the power to destroy.”

 

In the next moment, Antroz could sense nothing else through the rage.  Reluctantly, she pulled away, and hung her head.

 

“Hey,” Zaekura said.  “Are you going to give me an update or what?”

 

“…It would seem things have taken a dire turn.”

 

She turned and headed down the hallway.  Zaekura said, “Not all that helpful.  Where are you going?”

 

“They will spot us if we leave via the main door.  We’ll make our own exit and slip away while we can.”

 

Zaekura blinked.  Taking off after Antroz, she called, “Wait, are you serious?  You’re actually going to help me escape?”

 

Antroz nodded.  “I…I was wrong.  Again, I was wrong.  These creatures have no qualms killing the innocent.  Any attempts to negotiate would only meet with disaster.”

 

Zaekura tripped.  “Someone died?”

 

Antroz didn’t answer.

 

“…Anyway, where are we going?  The official evacuation plan is to head to Ga-Koro, but to head there we’d have to cross the warzone.”

 

Antroz came to a wall and set her hand on it.  Exerting her Plasma powers, she started to melt the rock away, carving the beginnings of a tunnel that would fit both of them.  She didn’t say a word.

 

“…Hello?  Makuta?  Where are we going?”

 

“There is no truly safe place we can get to, if Ga-Koro is out of the question,” Antroz mused.  “There is only one chance…one place we can escape to where we may be able to find temporary safety.”

 

Zaekura rubbed her neck.  “Well this is sounding better and better.  Can’t wait.”

 

Antroz stopped what she was doing and turned to face her.  “Zaekura…I know you do not trust me, but at least believe me when I saw you must tread very lightly where we are going.  This is the last place I would want to take you, but if we are careful, we will be safe enough.”

 

Zaekura narrowed her eyes.  “…Hm.  Might be easier to go along with if I had some more details.”

 

“We will have to manipulate our host—appeal to his ego.  He is far from an understanding being, but if you claim to understand him, he will typically give you what you want.”

 

Zaekura barked a short laugh.  “Sounds like a real winner.”

 

Antroz sighed, resuming work on the tunnel.  “I will admit…I do find him to be a rather disgraceful Makuta.”

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Told you it wouldn’t be long!

 

-My first thought when picking a look for Melding Krika was something spiky—he’s lined with spikes in his Mistika set, and even the Toa Empire Krika seen in Dark Mirror is said to have many small blades on his armor.  Still, I wanted to do something unusual with it if I could, so my solution was for Krika to normally look very sleek, but to fight mainly by instantly growing spikes from his body as he attacks.  I’ll probably have him explain the minute details in the near future.

 

-The drones are a Melding equivalent of Vahki, with some small differences.  They may appear later and may change in future appearances, but for now, this simplistic interpretation will get the job done.  Side note, if you remember Gargoyle Knight it was mentioned that Krekka was named a criminal because he destroyed a drone Velika had made.  It was a prototype of this drone.  A criticism I received was that said crime had little to do with the rest of Gargoyle Knight, so I thought bringing the drone back in somehow might help tie it together more nicely.

 

-I really, really wish we had proper names for more than just six Rahkshi.  I foresee this desire intensifying as we progress.

 

-To paraphrase Prime Antroz, the challenge of writing a Makuta battle is choosing which of their many powers to use.

 

-I wonder if using Jaller as the victim is a bit cheap, but it’s only part three, I haven’t had time to build the emotional tension that this death needed.  Borrowing a beloved favorite from the prime universe seemed like my best bet.  I’ll try not to do this too much, of course—I don’t want to run out of characters to use!

 

-To be honest, I was going to save that MNOG reference until later, where one of the Great Beings would say it.  However, as I was going back over this chapter, I thought using it now might better punctuate this moment for Krika: saying one of our most beloved villainous lines makes him more morally ambiguous, and that ambiguity has always been one of our favorite things about Krika.  Plus, it’s just more fitting for that line to be said by a Makuta.  Also don’t worry about him, he’s going to survive this fight, I promise.

 

-I can’t guarantee when Section IV will be done, but I’m hoping it won’t be too long—I can’t wait for you to get a look at what the next Makuta can do.  I think he’s going to be a lot of fun to write.

 

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#4 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

Super Fighting Pahrak
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Posted Apr 26 2018 - 11:14 PM

SECTION IV

 

After making it out of the compound, Antroz led Zaekura north until she believed they were out of the drones’ range, and then headed east before eventually turning to the south once more.  Antroz used her powers of Weather Control to make the conditions of the Great Desert easier for Zaekura, but she could only go so far without creating a suspicious event someone would surely take notice of.  They managed to circumvent the enemy forces and make it safely to the outpost that lay between Nynrah and Xia, but as they approached it, Zaekura’s steps began to slow, so Antroz stopped and turned to her.

 

“We have no other options,” the Makuta said.

 

“Yeah, you said that,” Zaekura said.  “Still, my survival instinct can’t quite understand why I’m letting one Makuta lead me to another, and it just got a whole lot louder.”  She paused to look over her shoulder.

 

“You sense it too, then?  We are being watched.”

 

Zaekura groaned.  “I really should’ve spoken up sooner, huh.”

 

Antroz turned sharply, making Zaekura jump.  The Glatorian looked where she was facing to see a lone Rahkshi coming across the sand.  That didn’t surprise her all that much, but she did find it a bit curious that the creature wasn’t carrying a staff.  She heard Antroz make a guttural sound just before it came into earshot.  The Rahkshi strolled up to where they stood and stopped a few paces away, looking them up and down in a way Zaekura had never seen a Rahkshi do before.

 

“Greetings, Makuta Antroz.  I must admit, it’s quite a surprise to see you…and your guest.”

 

Zaekura blinked.  She could hear the voice clearly, but she wasn’t sure who was speaking—it wasn’t Antroz, but no one else was around.

 

“I apologize for arriving unannounced,” Antroz said, bowing slightly in the Rahkshi’s direction after a momentary pause.  “Circumstances are rather extreme, and I am afraid Bitil is the only one I can ask for help.  It is most urgent that I speak with him.”

 

Squinting, Zaekura thought, Is she talking to…the Rahkshi?

 

The Rahkshi nodded, turning slightly towards Zaekura and giving her another once-over.  “I see.  May I ask who this is?  I will need to tell Lord Bitil something before he agrees to an audience.”

 

“This is a Glatorian named Zaekura,” Antroz said, gesturing in her direction.  “I am afraid anything I could say about why she is here is very sensitive information, and I must insist on sharing it with Bitil alone.”

 

The Rahkshi inclined their head.  “Hm…and that is why you’re interfering with my telepathy?”

 

“Yes.  As I said, the matter is highly sensitive.”

 

She began to feel a dull pain in her head, but Zaekura did her best to ignore that for the time being.  Finally, she was starting to realize what was going on, and desperate situation or not, she had to know.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, pointing to the Rahkshi.  “Is that you talking?”

 

The Rahkshi stared at her for a moment in silence.  Then, they gave a peculiar noise, and the voice took on a tone of amusement.  “Of course, you came here without receiving a proper explanation.  Perhaps I should have given you a more formal greeting—my apologies.  My name is Charla, and I am a Rahkshi of Telepathy.”

 

Zaekura stepped forward, eyes wide with awe.  “You have a name?  I didn’t know Rahkshi had names, or that even telepathic ones could, well…talk.”

 

Charla waved her hand.  “Well no, most don’t, and most can’t.  But Makuta Bitil has refined the Rahkshi spawning process to a degree no other Makuta has, granting us all…’specialties’, as he typically calls them.  And as an added effect of the process, we tend to possess higher sapience than your average, run-of-the-mill Rahkshi.”

 

“That’s incredible!” Zaekura said.  “And you don’t need a staff?”

 

“I possess an internal focal point for my power, so there was no need for me to possess a weapon.”

 

“Really?  Is that the case with all Bitil’s Rahkshi, or—“

 

“Zaekura,” Antroz interrupted.  Her tone was a bit blunt, making the Glatorian recoil a bit.

 

“What?  I’m just curious, or is that…”  She trailed off, putting a hand to her head.

 

“Oh, are you in pain?” Charla asked.

 

“Likely from travelling through the desert,” Antroz said.

 

The Rahkshi glanced at her.  “In that case, we’d best get her inside, I suppose.  Please follow me.”

 

She turned and headed towards the wall of the outpost, Antroz and Zaekura right on her heels.  As the pain faded, Zaekura looked up at the imposing barrier, forming a perfect square around a patch of desert that looked large enough to house a small town.  She craned her neck as they approached a gate: two Rahkshi stood guard there, both head and shoulders above Antroz and bearing heavy armor, a massive sword strapped to the back of one while the other leaned against a great hammer.

 

“Charla,” she asked, “I’m guessing those weapons replace their staffs?”

 

“That’s correct,” Charla said.  “Most Rahkshi here do still use weapons to focus their energy, but Lord Bitil thought it would be repetitive if they all carried simple staffs.”

 

The sword-wielding Rahkshi eyed Zaekura as they closed in.  She said, “Have to agree.  Though, isn’t it tough to use such a huge weapon?”

 

The Rahkshi blinked, and then turned to Charla and made a series of garbled, hissing grunts.  She made one such noise herself before saying, “Regrettably, most types of Rahkshi still have not found ways to communicate with other species; as a telepath I spend a good deal of time playing translator.  Virban here says no weapon is too great to handle if you’re determined enough.”

 

Virban beat his fist against his chest.

 

“Courage Rahkshi, they’re of simpler stock,” Charla added.

 

As Virban hissed furiously in protest, Zaekura turned to the Rahkshi with the hammer, who had an odd look—like he would be smiling if he could.  He stepped back and lifted his hammer off the ground.  The weapon floated up like a feather, rotating up to balance gingerly on his fingertip.

 

“Oh, you’re a Rahkshi of Gravity!” she said.  “Right, so you can manipulate the weight of that hammer to make it easier to swing.”  She smirked. “But I bet it gets a lot heavier right before it hits them, eh?”

 

The Rahkshi nodded, setting his weapon back down.

 

“That’s enough showing off, Neton,” Charla said.  “If you two will please allow us inside, Makuta Antroz wishes to speak with Lord Bitil.”

 

Virban and Neton each knocked on the wall behind them, and soon the massive gate swung inward.  Charla brought the visitors inside, and as the door closed behind them, Zaekura let out a low whistle.  Dozens of Rahkshi were going about inside the perimeter, and each one looked even more unique than the last.  She saw one that carried eight small firearms on a belt worn across their chest, another that had two heads that seemed to be arguing with each other, and one that looked more like a special breed of ussal than a Rahkshi.

 

“Wow,” she said.  “How many Rahkshi live here?”

 

“Over 200, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more are on the way,” Charla answered.  “Lord Bitil is always thinking of new specialties to try out.  This also allows the outpost to run far more efficiently: Rahkshi need very little, so even the standard fare of other Makuta can be more useful workers than Matoran and Agori at times.  And, given our loyalty to our creator, the risk of a security breech is non-existent.”

 

Zaekura stopped to examine a Rahkshi with four arms.  Antroz called back, “Zaekura!  Keep moving.”

 

Groaning, Zaekura caught up and said, “Fine, fine.  You’re so on edge.”

 

“As were you, a minute ago.”

 

“…Yeah, well…”

 

At the dead center of the outpost was a stout tower with several spotlights fixed to its balcony.  A figure could be seen moving about behind them, but it was impossible to get a good look at them from this distance.

 

“Lord Bitil!” Charla called.  “You have visitors!”

 

The figure leaned over the railing.  Bitil’s armor was completely gold from head to foot, sporting massive shoulder spikes, numerous decorative chains and gems, and banners of white cloth (with gold embroidery), topped by a glimmering Kanohi Faxon.  He gave a smug grin when he recognized Antroz.

 

“Well well, look who it is!” he shouted down.  “I didn’t expect you’d cross our way again so soon, Antroz.  Needed to stop for something on your way back to Xia?”

 

“I have something I must discuss with you, Bitil,” Antroz replied.  “Privately.”

 

Bitil glanced at Zaekura.  “Privately, you say?  I get the feeling you want your companion present as well.”

 

“Yes, but just the three of us.  No need to trouble any of your Rahkshi.”

 

“What trouble?” Bitil replied.  “Anything you have to say to me, you can say before them.”

 

Antroz said nothing.

 

“…Well, far be it from me to order around the Great Antroz.  Charla, please show them in.”

 

Bitil vanished, and Charla opened the doors to the tower.  Zaekura thanked her.  Once they were inside, the Rahkshi closed the doors behind them, and Bitil soon emerged from the central stairwell.

 

“Why don’t you introduce us, Antroz?” Bitil said.

 

“Bitil, this is Zaekura,” Antroz said shortly.  “Zaekura, Makuta Bitil.  Now then—“

 

“That was awfully brief!  Where are the manners you’re renowned far and wide for?  Or is your business here really just that pressing?”

 

“I’m afraid it is.”

 

Bitil rolled his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sure.”

 

Zaekura waved.  “Hey, nice to meet you.  Love what you’ve done with your Rahkshi.”

 

This surprised Bitil.  After gawking at the girl for a moment, he said, “Really?”

 

“Yeah.  I mean, I didn’t get a good look at too many of them, but I think it’s a really neat concept that you’re messing around with.  Hopefully I’ll get to meet a few more while I’m here.”

 

Bitil beamed.  “Why thank you!  Oh, that is such a nice change of pace—the only ones who normally come by here are other Makuta, and they’re always repulsed by my offspring.”

 

Zaekura turned to Antroz and raised an eyebrow.  “What?  Is that why you’re being so uptight?  What do you have against these Rahkshi, is it just that they’re not yours?”

 

Antroz adjusted her mask.  “No, it is the enhanced sapience that we find disagreeable.  Rahkshi are like an extension of the Makuta who made them, so to see one with its own identity…well, imagine if your hand developed a mind of its own.”

 

Zaekura stared at her palm.

 

“But we have far more pressing matters to attend to,” Antroz said.  “Bitil…we have come to request temporary asylum.”

 

Bitil crossed his arms, giving one slow nod.  “I see.  What a very unusual thing to ask, especially considering you came in from the west.  Was Ga-Koro booked full?”

 

“Our route to Ga-Koro was cut off.  You are the only one who can help us now.”

 

“Hm.  You come here and insult my Rahkshi, yet you expect me to help you?”

 

“…I…apologize.”

 

“That sounds convincing.  Am I supposed to accept it?”

 

“Surely, someone as intelligent as you would not let a simple, regrettable insult affect his judgment?”

 

Bitil smirked.  “Well when you put it like that…combined with the refreshing enthusiasm of Lady Zaekura, I suppose I can forgive and forget.”

 

Lady Zaekura?” the Glatorian repeated, the words bursting out like laughter.  “Pal, do you have me pegged wrong!”

 

Antroz bowed and said, “Thank you, my friend.  Your compassion serves as inspiration even to me.”

 

Bitil leaned to the side.  “Never turn down a title, Zaekura, even if it is given to you by mistake.  You never know how many people will believe that you deserve it.”

 

“Uh…thanks for the tip,” Zaekura said.

 

“So Antroz,” Bitil said, “you said you need asylum, but from what, exactly?”

 

“You may recall that Lord Velika has begun work on a new breed of drone,” Antroz said.  “A battalion of them has malfunctioned and gone rogue, and attacked us as we were leaving Nynrah.  We managed to give them the slip, but thought it best to wait here a day or so, just to be safe.  Afterwards we will return to Xia, where I can contact the Great Beings about the incident.”

 

“You don’t say?  Shame my outpost is not equipped with a direct line to our lords, not like the grand cities you Guardians watch over.”

 

“Indeed, it is quite unfortunate.  I will be sure to mention this in my report—I may be able to convince them to grant you one.”

 

“Oh I don’t think that will be necessary.  I am still sent messages when something is required of me.  Why, just today, an automated courier flew here to deliver a message to me…word that one or two Makuta were staging a coup, alongside a certain fugitive.”

 

Zaekura tensed.  Antroz hoped it wasn’t obvious on her face.

 

“Let’s see, who was it again?  I know they gave me names, but I’ve been so busy since then, I just can’t seem to recall.”  Bitil shrugged.  “Anyway, they said to detain them by any means necessary, and to either take them to the Maze myself or send for someone to pick them up.  I do hope I get the chance.  Such a thing would surely curry the Great Beings’ favor.”

 

Antroz inclined her head.  “…You should play the fool more often, Bitil.  It suits you.”

 

“Ordinarily I’d be upset, but I’m just so glad you’re here, Antroz, that I’m willing to let it slide.  Now, you understand that I have you vastly outnumbered, yes?  It would be much easier on us all if you just cooperated.”

 

“Wonderful,” Zaekura grumbled.  “Absolutely downright wonderful.  I’m so glad I followed the Makuta’s plan, it’s working out tremendously.”

 

“Bitil,” Antroz said, “you do not understand the situation.  There is no coup, and this girl is not dangerous.”

 

Bitil turned around and took a few slow steps.  “Sure, Antroz, sure.  Whatever you say.”

 

“She possesses a special talent, and that is all.”

 

“A talent for crime?  Odd to hear you put it that way, but—“

 

“They wish to execute her simply to protect their own authority, Bitil!”

 

Bitil looked over his shoulder.

 

“Zaekura has done nothing wrong.  But the Great Beings have deemed that because of something she was born with, she is to be killed.  Krika and I agree that such a thing must not be allowed to happen.  So, we refused to turn her over…and Lord Velika sent his drones to attack Nynrah.”  Antroz hung her head.  “Two of its citizens…two innocent people died, trying to defend their home, while their neighbors fled to the safety of Ga-Koro.  Krika flew into a rage…I know not what has become of him.  These drones are equipped with weapons capable of killing even us.”

 

Bitil stared at her for a long time.  Then, he closed his eyes, smiled, and turned away, giving a forced laugh.  “An excellent try, Antroz.  But it will take more than that to turn me against the Great Beings.  My loyalty will earn me a place in history, remembered forever as our lords’ most trusted servant and confident, standing by them when even the noble paragon Antroz turned to dark deeds.  Your lies have no merit here.  Now, surrender.”

 

Antroz gritted her teeth.  “…That’s all you care about, isn’t it?  Yourself, your own glory.  Haven’t you yet realized that’s precisely why the Great Beings stuck you out in the middle of nowhere without a city to call your own?”

 

Bitil faced her and said, “I am trusted with a very important outpost, and am grateful that the Great Beings have deemed me worthy of its ownership!  The trade route between Nynrah and Xia is the backbone of Spherus Magna’s economy, and it is I who have the privilege of keeping it safe.”

 

“Krika and I could easily keep a small stretch of desert safe, and you know that!  But no, you’ve spent so many years lying to yourself, deluding yourself into thinking you’re the most essential of us all, trying to console yourself in this earned loneliness, that you’ve actually begun to believe it!  Open your eyes, Bitil: you are so insufferably arrogant that the Great Beings dare not sentence anyone to tolerate you, and so you have been left with nothing but your precious Rahkshi, offshoots of your own being!  At the end of it all, you still have only yourself for company!”

 

Bitil glared at her for a long moment.  “…And what, exactly, is the point of this slander?”

 

Antroz stepped forward.  “The Great Beings have gone too far this time.  They have endangered and ended innocent lives out of nothing but frightened vanity.  If you truly cared for the people of this world, as we Makuta are meant to do, you would take a stand against this injustice, and not seek to profit from it!”

 

Bitil looked at Zaekura, then back to Antroz.  “I still have no reason to believe you.  It’s unthinkable, what you claim—the Great Beings are benevolent by nature!  Even you have always said as much.”

 

“And doesn’t the fact that I’m not saying so now mean anything to you?”

 

He had no answer for that.

 

“Bitil…I do not ask you for much.  All I want is for Zaekura’s safety to be guaranteed until she can be moved somewhere else.”

 

The glittering Makuta crossed his arms and paced across the room, appearing to think the matter over quite thoroughly.  Zaekura sweated as she watched, and when the door opened behind her, she nearly leapt out of her armor.

 

“Lord Bitil,” Charla said, taking a hesitant step inside.  “Forgive the intrusion, but…Makuta Antroz is not lying.”

 

Bitil’s eyes widened.  Antroz muttered, “I should have expected.”

 

Zaekura retorted, “Hey, if it helps, don’t complain.”

 

Bitil walked forward swiftly, saying, “Charla, what are you saying?  Tell me exactly.”

 

Charla gave a wary glance in Antroz’s direction.  “I was monitoring the conversation, and when she explained what happened at Nynrah…the emotions she’s feeling are very powerful, and memories came up with them.  Reading them without drawing her attention was easy.”

 

Bitil took a step back.  “…Then…”

 

“I’m afraid so, my lord.”

 

He stood perfectly still for a moment, and then put a hand over his mask.  “…Thank you, Charla.  Please, if you could step back outside, I would appreciate it.”

 

The Rahkshi nodded and ducked out.  A thick silence filled the chamber in her wake.

 

“It really is unthinkable,” Bitil mused.  “I need to know more, Antroz.”

 

Antroz nodded.  “Of course.”

 

As Bitil turned, he caught sight of Zaekura.  “You will not be harmed here.  You have my word, and Charla will personally see that it is carried out.”

 

Zaekura let out a long breath.  “Thanks, that’s, uh…that’s really nice to finally hear.  Is there someplace I can lie down?”

 

Bitil opened the door, ushering her out.  Facing Antroz once again, he said, “Alright, Antroz, I want all of it.  Down to the last detail.  I need to know just what you’ve dragged me into.”

 

***

 

The wind blew through Antroz’s wings.  She stood with Bitil at the top of his watchtower, and while it wasn’t exactly the same, it did remind her of her own tower in Xia.  The nostalgic feeling eased her, if only a little.  Across the balcony, Bitil was gripping the railing tightly, leaning forward like he was about to be sick; he knew everything now, and it didn’t sit well with him at all.

 

“This is…terrible,” he said.  “How could the Great Beings do such a thing?  And to think, that we may have been…complicit in this, this…”

 

Antroz said nothing.  She too lacked the words they both needed.

 

“What are you going to do?” Bitil asked, turning around.  “There’s no way you can keep her safe from the Great Beings!  They’ll find her eventually!”

 

“Krika has shown me it may be possible, but I am still hoping for a more ideal resolution.  Once I am certain none of the drones have picked up our trail, I will return to Xia, and I will arrange to meet with the Great Beings to negotiate with them.”

 

Bitil shook his head.  “It doesn’t sound like that approach has been working.”

 

Antroz shifted.  “…The Great Beings have fallen into an irrational, reprehensible course of action—that I cannot deny.  But I also cannot deny that they are more intelligent than anyone else on this planet.  It may take time, but I am sure I can help them to look beyond their fear, to see the error of their ways and resolve to make amends.  When that happens, Zaekura can return safely to Nynrah.”

 

“Hmm.  Well, I suppose I can keep her here for a while, as long as the Great Beings don’t know that she’s here.  It may be nice to have a house guest.”

 

“Yes, especially one that’s taken an interest in your…hobby.”

 

Bitil threw up one arm as he turned back around.  “Why must you be like that?  The point is, she will be cared for, so you can focus on your negotiations.  I dearly hope they go well.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“But, what about Krika?  Assuming he survived fighting these drones, will he know that you’ve brought Zaekura here?”

 

“I burned an image of a Faxon into the rock around our tunnel’s exit.  He’ll understand my meaning.”

 

Bitil smirked.  “So, you really felt you could trust me?”

 

“I felt we could trick you, Bitil.”

 

He scowled.

 

“But I will admit, I do now find myself feeling a modicum of trust.”

 

“How touching.  Though perhaps I should simply take what I can get…”

 

The two Makuta moved towards the stairwell.  Antroz stopped suddenly, sensing a new source of movement above them.  She told Bitil, “Something’s coming.”

 

He went back to the railing while she ducked inside.  It was another courier, a small, flimsy-looking sheet of metal with two propellers and a clamp that held a wrapped tablet.  It flew away as soon as Bitil took the message from it; he quickly removed the covering and read over the message, while Antroz cautiously poked her head up from the stairs.

 

“Seems we’ve hit a bit of a snag,” Bitil said.  He held the tablet out in Antroz’s direction so she could read it too.  When he eventually remembered she couldn’t, he pulled it back and said, “It’s an update from the Great Beings on your situation.  They want to make it easier for us to turn you in, so Lord Angonce is heading back to Xia to wait for you there.  Returning home no longer seems advisable.”

 

Antroz stepped back onto the balcony.  “No, this is good.  It means I can negotiate with Lord Angonce directly.”

 

“You can’t be serious,” Bitil said.  “He’ll reduce you to dust the moment he sees you—Zaekura too.  And if not him…”  He looked back at the tablet.  “It may not specify, but it’s hard to imagine he left without any of the Guards…”

 

“I will still go.  I trust that the Great Beings will listen to me.”

 

Bitil sighed.  “If you want to walk right into your death, then fine, but I insist you leave Zaekura here.  She has no means of protecting herself in a worst-case scenario.”

 

Antroz reached out with her mind.  She could sense Zaekura down at one of the outpost’s storehouses, conversing excitedly with a group of Rahkshi thanks to Charla’s assistance.  The fear that had constantly exuded from the girl was still there, but it was now much harder to sense, buried in the back of her mind to allow her a moment of relaxation.

 

“…Very well, Bitil.  I can agree to that.”

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Since Bitil’s best known for surrounding himself with his time duplicates, I thought giving him a large horde of Rahkshi would be a reasonable equivalent since, as Antroz says, Rahkshi are also extensions of the Makuta who made them.  But having them all just be plain old Rahkshi would be boring!   I’ve got a handful of ideas for Rahkshi variants that I’m really looking forward to testing out.

 

-I worry that the names of Bitil’s Rahkshi might grow a bit silly, but I’ll do my best to keep them respectable.  “Charla” was originally “Charlotte”, but I thought that would be too mundane—I wanted a name similar to “Charles” in reference to Professor X.  “Virban” was derived from “viking” and “barbarian”.  And of course, “Neton” is based on “Newton.”

 

-In the Prime Universe, Bitil controlled a group of Southern Islands, so he was free to be anywhere in this world.  I don’t want all the Makuta to use the exact same color scheme, and with Bitil being so utterly obnoxious and self-important, I felt the only thing he would accept was armor that was pure gold.  The ornamental design and spiked shoulders were loosely inspired by Exdeath from Final Fantasy V.  The Kanohi Faxon is meant to be a bit ironic, a being who repulses everyone possessing the Mask of Kindred.  I was also considering giving him a Sanok, but I couldn’t think of a particularly good reason why, so the Faxon won in the end.

 

-A bit of quiet chapter, admittedly, but this seemed the best place to stop for now.  Section V is shaping up to be quite the turning point.

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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#5 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted May 09 2018 - 06:07 PM

SECTION V

 

Krika kept his senses sharp as he approached the outpost.  With the last of the drones gone and his people’s safety secured, he had been able to take a moment to repair the damage done to his armor, but it was very much a rush job and he knew he needed to be careful.  Knowing where he was going only made him all the more paranoid.

 

What was I thinking, telling her to decide? he silently bemoaned.  She took her to Bitil?  Of all Makuta, Bitil?  Storming this den of freaks is going to be far trickier than smashing a few puppets, that much is certain…

 

He stopped as he saw movement.  From a few dozen yards away, Charla waved to him, calling, “Makuta Krika!  I am most glad to see you unharmed!”

 

Krika raised an eyebrow.  “…Beg pardon?”

 

Charla came closer at a slow, steady pace.  “Makuta Antroz and Lady Zaekura have already arrived—the situation has been explained to Lord Bitil, and he has agreed to grant them asylum.  We were waiting anxiously to see how you fared against your opponents.”

 

Lady Zaekura?” he chuckled.  “My word, she’s ingratiated herself with Bitil somehow, hasn’t she?  Oh, if she wasn’t already troublesome, now she’s got that encouragement…”

 

“Please, this way.”

 

Krika hesitated.  Eventually, he let Charla lead him inside the outpost, though he didn’t relax even when he saw Antroz and Zaekura standing next to Bitil unharmed.

 

“There you are, Krika,” Antroz said.  “I am relieved to know you survived.”

 

“I’m glad one of us is happy,” Krika grumbled.

 

“Yes, yes, I know you can’t be pleased to be here, old friend,” Bitil said.  “But look, I’ve been nothing but helpful to your little band of fugitives—you can stop boiling your antidermis any time now.”

 

“Yeah,” Zaekura said, “we’ve got a new problem.  Fangs here thinks it’s a good idea to turn herself in.”

 

“Of course she does, I expected nothing less,” Krika said.  “Though to be honest, ‘Fangs’, I’m feeling rather inclined to let you do it.  Why don’t you help me decide?”

 

“I am going,” Antroz said.  “Lord Angonce is in Xia, and if I speak with him I can—“

 

“Make the exact same mistake you made in Nynrah!” Zaekura interrupted.

 

“Please, listen to me,” Antroz said.  She waited a moment to be sure she had their attention.  “I recognize the mistakes that I’ve made in handling this situation thus far.  I offer my sincerest apologies for them.  Rest assured I have every intention of helping, and my goal is simply to negotiate.”

 

“But that still brings up the question of why you expect that to work, Antroz,” Bitil said.  “The rest of us all seem to have about the same idea of what’ll happen if you go.”

 

Using his Mahiki, Krika took on Angonce’s appearance, and reached out his arms while donning an incredibly fake smile.  “Oh, Antroz, there you are my beloved pet!  Wonderful to see you again, really—now I get to kill you with my own hands for betraying me.  Well, I say my own hands, but I still mean someone else’s of course, I just had my gauntlets polished and you know how long that lasts if you don’t keep an eye on it.  Anyway, enjoy oblivion, I’ll be sure to make the others’ deaths extra painful just for you!”  He returned to normal, snapped his fingers, and shouted, “BANG!”

 

“Spot on,” Bitil said as he clapped his hands.  “Really, it’s like I was there.”

 

Zaekura snickered.  “Is that what this guy’s like?  Yikes, and I already thought the Great Beings were full of it…”

 

Antroz shook her head.  “I predict things going very differently.  Lord Angonce has always been the most approachable of the Great Beings—I am sure that he will be willing to have a civil conversation about this, now that we’ve both had time to cool down.”

 

“Just for clarity, this is the same guy who ordered the attack on Nynrah, right?” Zaekura asked.

 

“Right you are, Lady Zaekura,” Krika said.

 

“Ah, you heard.  I’m nobility suddenly.”

 

“Yes, we really must catch up once we get the chance.”

 

“Once again,” Antroz said, “I am going.  And I will go alone.  If I am wrong, then only I will suffer the consequences for it.  Surely, none of you have any objections to that?”

 

Krika rubbed his chin.  “Well, you have become quite a nuisance quite quickly.  I certainly wouldn’t shed any tears over your ashes.”

 

“You’ll do what you want, as always,” Bitil said.  “I won’t strain myself holding you here.”

 

“Excellent,” Antroz said.  “Now if you will excuse me, I—“

 

“Hang on!” Zaekura said.  “I’m still not convinced here.”

 

Antroz turned towards her.  “…I apologize.  You were the last one I expected to show concern for my safety.”

 

“Don’t go getting a swelled head about it.  I’m just thinking that if a couple of Makuta are the only things standing between me and the Great Beings, I can’t afford to lose even one.  Seriously though, how do you see this as anything other than a bad idea?”

 

“Zaekura, if I do not go, the fighting will only continue.  And it will escalate.  Given the chance, this will become a war fought over custody of you, and that is something that we must do our best to avoid.”  Antroz shivered.  “War with the Great Beings…it is impossible to know what horror and bloodshed that would entail.  Are you prepared to follow such a path?”

 

Zaekura bit her lip, staring hard at Antroz.  It wasn’t long before her eyes fell.

 

***

 

The air of Xia was not as welcoming as Antroz remembered it.  Most of its citizens were indoors, and those that did see her ran the moment they did.  She had an idea of why, but it still pained her: these were people she had nurtured and protected for as long as she had existed, and now, after mere days, they regarded her as a thing of fear.  However, she knew she could not allow herself to remain distracted.

 

“Welcome back, Makuta.”

 

Antroz stopped in her tracks.  “Hello, Emsar.  I appreciate the greeting.”

 

The Vortixx casually crossed the street behind her, barely concealing her protosteel dagger.  “I must admit, Makuta, I’m quite confused as to what’s going on.  The things I’ve been hearing don’t sound like you at all.  But, loyalty to the Great Beings must come first.  You used to say something to that effect, didn’t you?”

 

“I did.”

 

Emsar twirled the blade around her fingers.  “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Lord Angonce is back yet again.”

 

“I have, actually.”

 

“Good.  He wishes to see you.”

 

“That is why I’m here.”

 

“Well then, don’t let me keep you.”

 

Antroz resumed walking, now with Emsar only a short distance behind her.  Eventually she reached the tower she called home, finding the doors unlocked and ajar—and beyond that, Angonce stood in the center of the chamber, with none other than Gorast positioned between him and the entrance.  The other Makuta sneered at Antroz as she entered, one of her four arms reaching for the cache of weapons on her back.

 

“Lord Angonce,” Antroz said.

 

Angonce sighed heavily.  “Great, I guess I have to do this now…”  He spun around, arms outstretched.  “What are you doing, Antroz?  Really, what—this is such a simple thing, and you…my gosh, where do I even begin?”

 

Antroz knelt and bowed her head.  “It is most regrettable that we should meet again like this, my lord.  I have come to discuss our dispute in greater detail.  It is my dearest hope that we can resolve this in a way that is acceptable to all parties, and avoid anyone else coming to harm.”

 

Gorast unlimbered a sickle.  Angonce waved her off, saying, “No, no Gorast, just give me a moment.  Antroz, I’ve already told you our stance on this.  Why didn’t you just bring the girl with you?  It would’ve been so much simpler that way, I can’t tell you how utterly simple that would’ve made it.”

 

“Lord Angonce…I do wish to apologize for my previous rudeness, but nevertheless, my feelings on the matter remain the same.  I do not feel that killing Zaekura is right.”

 

“And I told you, right and wrong are what we say they are!  This shouldn’t be news to you!”

 

“Forgive me, Lord Angonce, but I believe the issue to be more complex than that.”

 

Angonce ran a hand over his face, taking a few wandering steps to the side.  He pulled his hand down over his mouth and stared at the ceiling for a moment.  Then, he turned back, pointed at Antroz, and said, “This is about our visitor, isn’t it?”

 

Antroz inclined her head.  “…I’m sorry?”

 

“You know, ‘the visitor’, that person from the other world where Makuta are evil, Vulture or whatever his name is.  I know how shaken up you are about that—so now you’re clinging harder than ever to this whole bit about righteousness and justice, to prove to yourself that you’re different from Otherworldly Evil Antroz.  That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

 

She thought back to her meeting with the visitor, and suppressed a shudder.  “I…I admit to be disturbed by the revelations the visitor brought.  But my lord, this matter is not about another world: it is about our own.  You are asking me to knowingly take part in the execution of an innocent—“

 

She is not innocent!” Angonce shouted, stalking a few steps forward.  “Get with the program, Antroz: I am a Great Being!  I am right!  I declare her guilty, so that’s what she is!  Now do!  Your!  Job!”

 

A stunned silence was all that came from Antroz.  Even Gorast turned a nervous glance in Angonce’s direction.  He spun in place, muttering mostly to himself.

 

“Honestly, you’re the last one I thought I would ever have to explain this to!  Maybe we should’ve just had Krika do it, I don’t know, I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone well but this is just so unbelievably taxing…”

 

Taking a deep breath, he faced Antroz again.

 

“Now please, Antroz.  I won’t give you another chance.  Tell me where Zaekura is, and just maybe, we’ll be able to put this whole nasty incident behind us some way or another.  Doesn’t that sound great?”

 

The silence dragged on.  Eventually, Antroz hung her head again, but she now rose to her feet.  “Lord Angonce…I cannot do that.  Please, let us have a reasonable conversation.  There is no need for more of this—“

 

Angonce slashed his hand through the air.  A second later, Antroz crumpled in a heap.

 

“…Lord…Angonce…?”

 

“You really were my favorite,” Angonce said.  “I guess all that’s left now is to hope you take to recalibration.  Ugh, how did it come to this?”

 

“No…” Antroz groaned.  “No…this can’t be…they were…right…?”

 

Gorast’s eyes widened.  “Recalibration?  She should face death!”

 

Angonce rubbed his neck.  “Yeah, but…she’s still got some key information in that mind of hers, and we can’t let an opportunity to get it slip us by.  We’ll try a partial overwrite, hopefully she’ll come back more dedicated and tell us where the girl is hiding.  If that doesn’t work…”

 

Gorast reluctantly put away her weapon.  “We could always break her down and extract the memory data.”

 

“Yeah, but this is a really good model we have here, I’d hate to scrap it like that unless we absolutely have to.  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

 

Angonce walked out of the tower, not giving another look to Antroz.  He stopped next to Emsar, who still waited in the doorway, and said, “Emsar, was it?  You’re being named Temporary Guardian of Xia.  With luck Antroz will be back to her usual self…someday…or we might just make a new Makuta to take over, I don’t really know right now, just continue holding down the fort if you would.”

 

“Of course, Lord Angonce,” Emsar said with a bow.

 

Taking another step, Angonce called, “Gorast, collect her and let’s go.  Sooner we start on this thing the sooner I’ll know how many centuries of my life are going down the drain here.”

 

Emsar watched as Gorast knelt to scoop up the disabled Antroz.  However, she found that her hands passed right through her.

 

“Huh?”

 

“You were right,” Antroz murmured.  “You were all right…”

 

Driving her fist through Antroz’s arm, Gorast said, “No, he disarmed you—you can’t be phasing…what is this?!”

 

Angonce turned, giving the Makuta a curious look.  To his surprise, Antroz began to move, and was soon back on her feet and facing him.  Gorast and Emsar leapt away with their weapons drawn.

 

“Lord Angonce…really will not listen to me,” Antroz said.  “And if not him…then there is no way to resolve this peacefully…”

 

Angonce walked forward.  He waved one hand through the immaterial Antroz, saying, “What is this, some kind of illusion?  But that can’t be right.  Antroz, explain.”

 

“I had hoped this was an unnecessary precaution,” Antroz said.  “I had hoped we could avoid any more violence…but, if that is what it will take to end this…then I suppose I don’t have any choice, do I?”

 

Angonce narrowed his eyes.  “Oh, I don’t think I like the sound of that.”

 

“…Good bye, Lord Angonce.”

 

With that, she vanished.  A small, roughly-spherical device floated about a foot off the ground where she had been, bobbing slowly for a few more seconds before falling to the ground and emitting one loud clicking sound.  Angonce gently picked it up and furrowed his brow.

 

“Huh.  I swear I’ve seen this somewhere before, but…”

 

“Lord Angonce,” Gorast said.

 

He looked up.  “Hm?  Oh, right, right I, uh…hoo, how am I going to explain this one to Heremus…”

 

***

 

At the same time, in Bitil’s outpost, Antroz lifted a helmet-like device off of her head, setting it down in her lap and sitting in silence for a moment.  Around her stood Bitil, Krika, Zaekura, and one of Bitil’s Rahkshi, one with blue and yellow armor that looked no different from a normal Rahkshi.  When Zaekura had insisted on finding a way to carry out the meeting without Antroz physically being there, Krika had mentioned the possibility of recreating the lure that Mavrah used and finding a way for Antroz to link herself to it.  Antroz had been concerned about how long it would take, but that was when Bitil called in Kameter, a Rahkshi of Slow who he had created with a total absence of Slow power, a process which actually inverted his ability into the power to speed up time in a limited area.  With help from him, Zaekura and Krika had completed the device in minutes, and Antroz had been forced to relent.

 

“Sounds like you made the right call, Lady Zaekura,” Bitil said.  “We narrowly dodged a deathblow.”

 

Zaekura massaged her temples, sitting down at a nearby table.  “Yeah, go me.  I feel great about how this turned out.”

 

Bitil turned to Krika.  “And you are sure there’s no way for them to trace the psychic link back here?”

 

Krika nodded.  “I must’ve disassembled and reassembled Mavrah’s lure a thousand times over the years—I perfectly replicated the dampening module, and Zaekura did a flawless job wiring it into the mechanism.”

 

With a grin and a nod, Bitil turned to Kameter and set a hand on his shoulder.  “Well done, Kameter!  It was your help that made all this possible.”

 

Kameter gave a few excited hisses in reply.  That was when Antroz finally stood, and everyone went silent.  She stepped forward and deposited the transmitter helmet on the chair she had just been sitting in.  Then, she made her way towards the room’s exit.

 

“Where are you going?” Krika asked.  “I think it’s only appropriate we begin formulating our strategy.”

 

Antroz stopped with one hand on the door.  “I am sorry…I require a moment to myself right now.”

 

She left the room, and Krika rolled his eyes.  “Well, here’s hoping we have a moment.  Once Angonce gets back to the Maze, I’m sure the Great Beings will waste no time scouring the area for any trace of us.”

 

Bitil crossed his arms.  “…I shall ready my Rahkshi for battle.  If more of those drones arrive, we will need to be prepared.  They shall not breach my walls!”

 

“Good,” Krika said.  He tapped his fingers for a moment.  “Well then…if you’ve got that under control, then I suppose that frees me up to take care of a personal matter.”

 

“Personal matter?”

 

“If Antroz gets a moment to herself, so should I, don’t you think?  I need to pay a visit to Ga-Koro, make sure Kojol is taking good care of my citizens.  And, of course, if I should happen to convince her to join our cause while I’m there, that’s just fine with me.”

 

Bitil thought for a moment.  “Having Ga-Koro’s army as reinforcements does sound appealing.  But, the Great Beings will likely start their search in Nynrah and the surrounding areas—you could very easily be captured.”

 

Krika’s mask shone as he shook his head.  He seemed to disappear in the next second, but then Bitil saw movement: an extraordinarily tiny insect was buzzing about in the air before his face.

 

“Alright, that could work.  Just don’t dawdle, Krika.  We won’t know for sure when Angonce will make it back to the Maze, or if they could already be searching.”

 

Krika returned to his normal self.  “Really?  Here I was planning to go sightseeing.  But alas, if you insist, I suppose I mustn’t drag my feet.”

 

Bitil grumbled to himself as Krika left the room next.  Zaekura looked up and asked, “So, uh…what should I do?”

 

The Makuta shrugged.  “You look like you could use some more rest.  Other than that, I can’t say I have a task in mind for you.  We’ll need more information, not to mention our allies, before we can cook up a war plan.”

 

Zaekura set her face down on the table’s surface.  “…Is it really…going to be a war?”

 

Bitil closed his eyes.  “I’m afraid it looks that way.”

 

After a moment, Zaekura quietly said, “Bitil, I…I barely know how to throw a punch.  I never wanted to actually get into a fight.  And, if this does become a full-on war, then it really is all because of me.  People are going to get hurt, and even die…because of me.  I don’t…”

 

She trailed off.  Bitil turned and looked at her for a moment.  Then, he sat down across from her and said, “You are not the aggressor, Lady Zaekura.  It is the Great Beings who are spurring on this conflict.”

 

“Not sure that makes me feel better about it,” came Zaekura’s muffled reply as she pressed her face harder against the table.

 

Bitil sighed.  “Then I don’t know what to say.  But there’s no way we can stop it now.  The best we can hope to do is to reduce the intensity of the fighting, or search for a quick route to victory—something to lessen the inevitable damage.  Rest assured that the three of us have that goal in mind as we proceed.”  As he got up, he added, “Four, if we can sway Kojol.”

 

He left next, followed by Kameter, and Zaekura was left to sit in solitude.  She remained that way for she knew not how long before finally deciding to get on her feet.  She stepped outside and looked around, wandering aimlessly through the moonlit outpost until she spotted Charla.  The Rahkshi pointed to one of the walls—following, Zaekura saw a figure standing atop the barrier, and then she turned and nodded her thanks to Charla.  It was a bit of a climb to reach the top of the wall, but she didn’t stop until she was standing right next to Antroz.

 

“I suppose I should apologize again,” Antroz said.  “I am in your debt, Zaekura.  If you had not insisted I take precaution, then right now I would be…”

 

Zaekura crossed her arms, turning to look at the stars.

 

“It’s still so hard to believe that all this is happening.  For the first time, I…I’m not sure what I should do.  My path always seemed so clear to me.  I could always act decisively, single out my goals and bring them to fruition, and know exactly who I was making myself out to be.”  She raised and clenched her fist, but then slowly relaxed her fingers.  “But now, all that is gone.  And I can’t help but wonder who I am without it.”

 

“At least you had something,” Zaekura mumbled.  “My whole life, I’ve never had a clue who I was or what I was doing.  Gotta tell ya, it’s…a bit hard to feel like I’m really worth all the trouble I’m causing.”

 

Antroz turned her head.

 

“I mean really, I’m nobody.  And people are going to die just so my worthless life can continue?  Doesn’t seem entirely fair, when you think about it.”  She sighed.  “Maybe you should’ve just taken me in after all.”

 

“Don’t say that, Zaekura.  Just because you don’t yet know the meaning of your life does not mean that it has none.”

 

“Sure, whatever.”

 

The conversation lulled briefly.

 

“If I want to stay alive, then I guess I’m stuck with you Makuta, whether I like it or not,” Zaekura said.  “So tell me.  Are we gonna fight back, or are we just going to run?”

 

Antroz shook her head.  “I think our chances are slim either way.”

 

“Okay, well…suppose we run.  If we can get away, what do you think the Great Beings would do?”

 

“Their search efforts would persist.  It’s also possible that they could put several cities on lockdown, or even send for the Odinans.”  After a pause, she finished, “And when another generation goes by, and someone else like you is born…they would call them in to die.  And then again, with the next generation.  And on, and on, and on.”

 

Zaekura threw her head back.  “…Yeah, guess there wouldn’t be anything we could do to stop that.  And if we fight?”

 

“Even if we did our best to restrain ourselves, it is still possible some combatants would die.  We cannot risk thinking the Great Beings would not send Toa and Glatorian to fight us, and to defend ourselves, we may be left with little choice.”

 

“Isn’t that also possible if we run, though?”

 

“…I suppose so.”

 

“Either way people are probably going to get hurt.  And, not much of a chance, but if we were to fight and come out on top, then we could put an end to it—no more fighting, no more hunting, and no more offing innocent freaks like me.”

 

Antroz said nothing.

 

“I don’t know, I’m still not convinced.  I’m just trying to work this out somehow.”

 

Antroz sighed.  “I don’t know either, Zaekura.  When the time comes, I will make a choice…but, I don’t think that I can right now.”

 

Zaekura stared at her for a few moments.  Eventually, she turned back towards the stairs, saying, “I’m going to bed.”

 

Antroz didn’t reply.

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Between skimping on the description of Gorast and calling back to Vultraz, this Section is fairly reliant on The Gargoyle Knight, but hopefully it’s clear enough that things still make sense.

 

-Also seen in The Gargoyle Knight, I thought it would make sense for the Great Beings to have some device that “disarms” Makuta, as a failsafe in case of…well, something like this.  Now that I’m trying to think ahead, though, I am feeling I might’ve made this a bit more difficult than it needs to be…our heroes have their work cut out for them.

 

-The original plan was to have Zaekura quickly whip up a countermeasure for the disarmament, but upon further reflection I thought that would be a bit too sudden.  Bringing some more relevance to Mavrah seemed to make more sense given Zaekura’s current resources and experience.

 

-Not every Rahkshi has an inverted power, but Slow to Speed seemed reasonable enough so I wanted to try it out.  I was going to give Kameter some gear designs and maybe a pendulum-like weapon, but then I thought that Bitil couldn’t have been sure this process would even work, so it would make sense that he just created a normal-looking Rahkshi and directed all his focus on messing with the power.  Also, “Kameter” comes from “Kakama” and “kilometer”.

 

-A bit of an early reveal, but the dialogue would have awkwardly danced around the point otherwise: Ga-Koro is watched over by Kojol, who in this universe is female for the same reasons as Antroz.  Kojol was actually a last-minute addition, after I had found places for all but two or three of the Makuta we knew and figured I may as well put in the effort to place the rest, but I think it worked out well.  Prime Kojol watched Artakha, spoken of in legend as a paradise, and now Melding Kojol is watching over this world’s renowned sanctuary.

 

-The ending does feel a tiny bit…unfinished.  I opted to leave it that way because I thought it would help reflect the way Antroz and Zaekura are feeling right now, and because I thought moving onto another scene (such as Ga-Koro) would be bad for pacing.  I will try to get Section VI out soon so that feeling doesn’t drag on too long.

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


Edited by Pahrak #0579, May 10 2018 - 11:44 AM.

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#6 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted May 22 2018 - 02:42 PM

SECTION VI

 

“Ga-Koro is right this way,” Toa Macku said.  “So, are you another refugee from Nynrah?”

 

The Toa of Gravity behind her shook his head.  “No, I came from the south, actually.  Did something happen in Nynrah?”

 

“We aren’t sure what exactly, but apparently the Makuta there drove out all his citizens.  One of the Agori who showed up here was in bad shape…makes you wonder.”

 

“My word.  And that’s so close…”

 

Macku waved her hand dismissively.  “Not to worry…um…”

 

The Toa of Gravity smiled.  “Call me Arik.”

 

“Not to worry, Arik: Makuta Kojol has never failed to defend Ga-Koro in the past, and she’s certainly up to the challenge of one rogue Makuta if that is what we’re dealing with.  You’ll be safe here.”

 

Arik sighed.  “I certainly hope so.”

 

Ga-Koro itself was a small distance from the shoreline, built upon a massive metal platform just above the ocean’s surface.  A long bridge was the only path in or out of the city, and scattered about the surrounding water upon giant lily pads were a few dozen Rahkshi, most of them being of the six Principle varieties, all of them constantly surveying the area with deadly focus.  Several Lerahk were spaced evenly around Ga-Koro in a rather tight ring—each sat in a meditative pose with their staffs in the water, using their powers of Purity to turn the area of ocean within their perimeter from salt water to fresh, never budging an inch as they concentrated solely on their vital duty.  Arik casually glanced over the lot of them as Macku led him across the bridge.

 

“Makuta Kojol should be right this way,” Macku said, gesturing to a steepled building that rose well above the domed huts that surrounded it.  “Hopefully she’s free to speak with you now.”

 

Arik turned towards her.  “Hm?  What do you mean?”

 

“She had an unexpected visitor earlier, and it seemed like…”

 

Macku trailed off, and her steps slowed a bit.  Arik looked up to see two figures coming down the street in their general direction.  One was a tall Makuta clad in intricately-carved gold and green armor, a golden cape hanging from her shoulders; she wore a Kanohi Rode on her face, and in one hand she carried a long golden scepter topped with the symbol of the Three Virtues, a set of three concentric circles.  The other was curiously similar to the drones recently unleashed upon Spherus Magna, but its body looked fuller and sturdier, and its limbs looked much more powerful, ending in hands rather than weaponry.  The two were in the middle of a conversation, and Arik listened carefully as they came closer.

 

“…therefore I must demand extradition,” the drone said.  “Trust me when I say this matter is of the utmost importance, Kojol.”

 

The Makuta just stared straight ahead.  “Preserving the sanctity of Ga-Koro is my only priority—it is the reason I was created, after all.  I cannot simply send off those who come looking for my protection.  Without knowing anything about this mysterious threat you speak of, it is hard for me to justify sending Nynrah’s citizens for questioning.”

 

The drone clenched its fists.  “But they could be hiding information vital to our search!”

 

“I assure you they are not.  As I already said, I have spoken with each of them, and not one has lied to me.  Unless of course you believe I am lying to you, Lord Velika?”

 

Arik froze in his tracks.

 

“Are you?” the drone asked.

 

Kojol turned, eyes wide and mouth agape.  “Am I…Lord Velika, with all due respect, I am insulted!  I cannot believe you would even entertain the idea that I would lie to you!”

 

“I think it’s understandable given your lack of cooperation.”

 

“I am cooperating, but I must also operate within the limits of the position which you imposed on me!  Is it not enough that I let this weaponized avatar of yours walk my streets?  Should I question your deservingness of my trust?  Honestly, the nerve…”

 

As Velika grumbled to himself, Kojol caught sight of Macku and Arik.  She stared hard at the Toa of Gravity for a moment, and then closed her eyes, sighed, and faced Velika again.

 

“Apologies, my lord, but it would appear I have someone new to welcome.  Please excuse me.”

 

She came forward, Velika saying, “This conversation is not over, Kojol.  I will be waiting.”

 

Velika headed back towards the steepled building, and Kojol stopped in front of the two Toa.  Macku bowed and said, “Makuta Kojol, I present to you Toa Arik.  He came here from the south, hoping to take refuge here.”

 

Kojol looked down her nose at the Toa of Gravity.  “Toa Arik?  Hm.  Where exactly is it that you come from?”

 

“I come from a small village just outside of Artidax, Makuta,” Arik said.  “I was out scouting when something attacked me.  I was able to get away, but I did not think it safe to return home—I came here because I thought it would be better to send word to Artidax from here, so that their Toa can handle the problem before someone else gets hurt.”

 

“I see,” Kojol mumbled.  “Well, thank you for bringing him in, Captain Macku.  I shall take over now.”

 

Macku bowed again before departing, and then Kojol led Arik down a side street.

 

“Honestly, was ‘Arik’ the most creative name you could think of?”

 

Arik smirked.  “What’s more curious, dear Kojol, is that you didn’t tell Velika who I really am.  For a moment I thought perhaps your mask had stopped working.”

 

“Hmph!  If I did tell Lord Velika, he surely would have threatened you, and that would have been unacceptable.  Once you tell me more of what’s going on, I have every intention of turning you away and letting him take care of you elsewhere.”

 

“Ah yes, that does sound like you.  Nevermind then.”

 

Kojol took another glance around.  “What have you done now, Krika?  You overstuff my city with your citizens, then drones begin scouring the desert, and now Lord Velika appears at my door.  I am due a proper explanation.”

 

“Believe it or not, I agree, and I will give you one…as soon as I am satisfied with the care you are giving my citizens.”

 

“Bah!  Of course I have treated them as well as any others!  I take my job very seriously, unlike you.  See for yourself!”

 

She stopped and pointed with her scepter.  On the other side of the street, a bandaged Kirbold sat conversing with a number of Matoran whom Krika recognized.  Krika smiled, but then turned and resumed walking, Kojol quickly catching up to him.

 

“I had a prisoner,” Krika said.  “I was ordered to hold her until Antroz arrived, and then turn her over to be taken to the Maze.”

 

Kojol’s grip on her scepter tightened.  “And you did not?”

 

“It’s a bit more complicated than that.”

 

“Is this fugitive here?”

 

“No, she is not.”

 

“Then where is she?”

 

“I’m going to hold onto that for now.”

 

“Hmph.  Will you at least tell me her crime?”

 

“I most certainly will, Kojol.  But is there some place less public where we can speak?”

 

With a frustrated sigh, Kojol ushered Krika into a small, empty hut, shutting the door behind them.  Krika then explained to her what Zaekura was and why the Great Beings wished her gone, and of the attack they had launched on Nynrah in an attempt to retrieve her.  He also mentioned Antroz’s last bid to negotiate and how poorly it had gone, but by that point, Kojol already looked sufficiently horrified.

 

“…Perhaps my mask really has stopped working,” she said at the end.  “These things cannot possibly be true!  How could the Great Beings do such terrible things?!”

 

She paced across the hut, Krika watching in silence.

 

“The girl, Zaekura: she is safe?”

 

“For the moment.  I’d like to keep it that way.”

 

“Indeed.  Though I am loathe to take part in any deception, speaking of this to Lord Velika would bring about only needless death, and that is not something I shall enable.  Tell her and whoever else aides you that you may consider yourselves under the protection of Ga-Koro.”

 

Krika rolled his eyes.  “What a privilege.”

 

Kojol turned towards the door.  “With that settled, I think it best you leave.  I shall return to Lord Velika and dissuade him of his intent to question your citizens.”

 

“One moment.  Just for clarification, do we have your support in our stand against the Great Beings?”

 

“You should listen.  I just said you would be safe in Ga-Koro.”

 

“Yes, but if we were to end up doing battle, could we—“

 

Kojol whirled and interrupted, “Battle?  Do you really intend to wage war against the Great Beings?!  My, what a fool you are!”

 

“Nothing’s decided.  I simply want to know that if it should come to that, would you offer us aid?”

 

“Of course not.”

 

Krika blinked.  “…Excuse me?”

 

“Ga-Koro is a place of peace.  We shall not take part in any war.”

 

“You have a legion of Rahkshi, and quite the militia of sentient beings—they would be of great use.”

 

“My army exists to defend Ga-Koro.  Were I to send my troops into battle, that would leave my city unprotected, and I cannot abide by that!  My only priority is the sanctity of—“

 

“But that task was given to you by the Great Beings, who you now know—“

 

Kojol jabbed her scepter in Krika’s face.  “Do not interrupt me!  Regardless of this task’s origins, it is still a noble one, and I refuse to give it anything less than my all!  Should war break out, I will not fight for either side, and instead provide a neutral ground where the wounded can gather for protection.  If it is soldiers you desire, Krika, you will have to look elsewhere.”

 

Krika gently pushed the scepter away.  “…Well, that’s a bit disappointing.  But so long as you aren’t our enemy, I suppose I don’t have excess reason to complain.”

 

Planting her scepter and standing tall, Kojol said, “Quite.  Now I suggest you leave this place, before Lord Velika has a chance to uncover your identity.”

 

The two Makuta stepped out and quickly returned to the main street of Ga-Koro.  When they arrived, however, they spotted Velika talking to a Glatorian, one that had come from Nynrah.

 

“I grow tired of asking you,” Velika said.  “Where is Makuta Krika?”

 

“I told you, I don’t know,” the Glatorian said.  “He barely said anything at all, just insisted we leave.  The last I saw of him, he was fighting those robots.”

 

Velika grunted.  “Those robots are my property.  Krika must face accountability for his deeds, and it is you people who know him best.  Surely you must know where he would run to?”

 

“I’m sorry, Lord Velika, but there really isn’t—“

 

Velika clamped a hand onto the Glatorian’s shoulder, leaning in to look them dead in the eye.  “I detest it when people hide things from me, you know.  And I am not one to let such things go unpunished.”

 

“Lord Velika!” Kojol shouted, striding over to where they stood.  “Unhand him at once!  This is a violation of our peace, which you agreed to uphold!”

 

Velika half-turned in her direction.  “Remember who you are speaking to, Kojol!  We may tolerate your disobedience for the most part, but this situation is far too dire for such games!”

 

“Disobedience?  I am only performing the duties—“

 

“Duties that we assigned you, yes!  And as the one who assigned them to you, I now order you to make an exception and allow me to extradite these citizens of Nynrah.”

 

Kojol slammed her scepter against the ground.  “I will not!  Even if you are a Great Being, my lord, that does not give you the right to violate this sanctuary!  Now I say again: unhand him!”

 

Velika stared at Kojol for a few seconds.  He kept one hand on the Glatorian, but raised the other, made a fist, and pointed it at Kojol.  As it began to glow with energy, he said, “For far too long, you have considered yourself exempt from our rule.  I believe it is time to put an end to that.”

 

Kojol narrowed her eyes.  “Do you forget why it is you tolerate my perceived ‘disobedience’?  The sanctuary of Ga-Koro is a symbol to the people of Spherus Magna, and it is I who am responsible for maintaining that symbol.  Should you harm me, Lord Velika, I assure you that you will lose the support of a great many of your people.”

 

Velika took a step forward, dragging the Glatorian with them.  “Somehow, I believe we will manage.”

 

Kojol tightened her grip on her scepter.  Before anything else could be said, Krika approached them, saying, “Stop this, Lord Velika.  There is no need to threaten anyone to get what you want.”

 

Glancing at him, Velika said, “And who are you?”

 

“Stay out of this!” Kojol demanded.  “I am more than capable of handling this situation!”

 

Krika deactivated his mask, returning to his usual appearance.  He took another step and said, “Apologies, Kojol, but I believe it’s time that I had my chance in the spotlight.”

 

Velika gave a short laugh as he lowered his arm.  “Well, what a surprise this is!  It appears the time I’ve spent arguing was not a waste after all: now the one I’m looking for has come straight to me.”

 

“Yes, but may we do this outside?  I don’t want both you and Kojol displeased with me.  Oh and, I will insist that you unhand my citizen, of course.  You understand.”

 

Velika shook his head.  “You are in no position to be making demands, traitor.  Amends must be made for the crime of destroying my work.  I will take great pleasure in obliterating you before this entire city, but before that, there is something I am required to ask of you.”

 

Krika tried to discreetly move towards the bridge.  Velika cut him off.  Breathing deep, Krika said, “Seems I don’t have much choice.  Alright then, what can I help you with, my lord?”

 

“Don’t feign ignorance.  Where is Zaekura?”

 

“Oh, is that all?  You don’t want to know why I’m doing what I’m doing, or what my grand scheme might be?”

 

“Why should I care why you’re doing this?  The fact that you’ve done it makes you a traitor, and all that matters is rectifying this unfortunate turn of events.”

 

“Even if it means threatening the weak to get what you want?” Kojol asked.  “Is it wise to let your people know you care not for them?”

 

“Not that this concerns you further, Kojol, but you are incorrect,” Velika said.  “I care a great deal for the weak—they are, after all, our most precious resource.”

 

Kojol’s brow furrowed.  “Resource?!”

 

Velika gestured casually to the confused Glatorian.  “Without the weak, how would the strong know that they are strong?  It is their feebleness that proves our superiority, so of course they must be cherished.  I have no intention of destroying this resource.  I do, however, intend to make full use of it.”

 

The Great Being raised his mechanical body’s fist and pointed it at the Glatorian.  The two Makuta started, but then grew deathly still.

 

“Back to the topic at hand,” Velika said.  “Krika.  Where is Zaekura?”

 

Krika locked his eyes on Velika, slowly saying, “I will take you to her.  Please, just let my citizen go.”

 

“He will come with us.  So long as you uphold our agreement, no harm will come to him.”

 

“…Very well.”

 

Krika walked forward, and Velika pushed the Glatorian next to him, while he followed a step behind them both.  The Makuta glanced at the Glatorian briefly.

 

“I must say, Lord Velika, I find it curious you haven’t simply disarmed me.”

 

“You think I would equip this body with such a function?” Velika said.  “That technology is old—it holds no interest for me.  I much prefer displaying the genius of my newest creations, and how they outdo ancient models such as yourself.”

 

“Ah, I see.  It is a rather ingenious design, my lord.  I had quite a bit of difficulty when you sent them against me.”

 

Velika chuckled.  “Thank you, Krika.  I have put a great deal of work into them.”

 

“Another curiosity, if you will indulge me…do these automata have any means of flight?”

 

“Flight?  Not yet.  I plan to add it soon, but for the time being it seemed unnecess—“

 

Krika moved faster than he ever had in his life.  While Velika was talking, the Makuta extended four spikes from his back, puncturing and pushing back the drone’s arms, and then he activated his teleportation powers to remove them both from Ga-Koro.  When they rematerialized, it was a hundred yards in the air above what appeared to be a shimmering lake.

 

“Wh—“

 

Krika unleashed his powers of magnetism, repelling Velika’s drone towards the water at top speed.  The water moved, but in a very unnatural way, almost as if it were aware of the thing headed straight towards it.  In a second, the drone made contact with the surface, and in a fraction of that time, its metal body was transformed into a bright silhouette made only of energy, which slowly faded into nothing.

 

Hovering there, Krika let out a long sigh.  “I’m certain I’ve only dug my grave deeper…but then, I suppose I could use the elbow room.”

 

He transported himself back to Ga-Koro, surprising Kojol and the Glatorian.  The other Makuta asked, “What happened?  Where is Lord Velika?”

 

“Still at the Maze, of course,” Krika answered.  “If you’re referring to the drone, I fed that to the crystal slime you have guarding your southern border.”  He paused to turn to the Glatorian.  “Are you alright?”

 

“Um…y-yes, Makuta,” the Glatorian replied, shaking slightly.

 

“Good.  Why don’t you go get some rest?”

 

Nodding, the Glatorian headed off.  Kojol said, “I suppose that’s one way to solve this problem.”

 

“A bit of gratitude for preserving your precious sanctuary would be appreciated, you know.”

 

After a long moment, Kojol nodded.  “Thank you, Krika.”

 

Krika looked at her in surprise.  Choosing to let the moment pass, he said, “Well, my questions have been answered, so I really should take my leave.  Don’t be surprised if we pass by again, though.”

 

“Are you sure you do not require rest?” Kojol asked.  “You’ve earned one, foiling a Great Being the way you did.”

 

Krika shrugged.  “It really wasn’t that impressive.  Truly, I’m convinced that’s the single easiest victory we’re going to get.”

 

***

 

“So in summation,” Krika said, “Kojol is not our ally, but she is not our enemy either.  Drones are patrolling the southwestern area of the Great Desert, but none are especially close to this outpost yet.  And, unfortunately, we’ve now managed to personally agitate two Great Beings.”

 

Zaekura put her head in her hands.  “Krika, none of that sounds good.  At all.”

 

“Better to know of our displeasure than to be taken by surprise.”

 

“Oh, shut up.”

 

Bitil hummed.  “If Kojol is expecting another visit…then it might be possible to catch her off-guard and seize control of Ga-Koro.”

 

Krika, Zaekura, and Antroz all turned towards him in incredulous silence.

 

“…I was merely voicing our options.”

 

“That’s messed up,” Zaekura said.

 

“Indeed,” Krika said.  “Admittedly I might’ve entertained the thought if my citizens weren’t there to be swept up in it…”

 

Zaekura squinted at him.

 

“But, more importantly, Kojol was right: both she and Ga-Koro are important symbols to the people, meaning such an attack would cast us in quite the unfavorable light.”

 

“Sorry, I thought that was the only light we had,” Bitil mumbled.  “Once word gets out about our disobedience, people are going to take the Great Being’s side without even thinking about it.  We are traitors.”

 

“But again, Velika threatened Ga-Koro,” Krika said.  “That word will get out as well.  In addition, if we can get the truth about Zaekura into the conversation, I’m certain some will believe us.  At the very least, it is bound to give many pause.  I suspect we still stand a chance in the war of public opinion.”

 

“Yeah, this is all fascinating stuff,” Zaekura said, rubbing her temple.  “What’s more concerning is that flock of drones—they’re going to be here sooner or later.”

 

Krika nodded.  “An excellent point.  Defending this outpost demands our immediate attention, and then we can work out what we’re doing next.”

 

“The matter is already taken care of,” Bitil said.  “My Rahkshi and I are ready for battle.”

 

Krika cocked his head.  “…Is that all?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well I just assumed you were going to give specifics, not just say you’ve got fighting gloves on and expect that alone to reassure us.”

 

“What would you have me say?  When we see the drones, my forces will march.”

 

“Oh Bitil, we really do need to introduce you to the concept of ‘tactics’ sometime soon…”

 

Bitil growled, but before he could say anything, Zaekura held a hand out.  “Can’t we avoid a fight?  If Antroz, Krika, and I just stay hidden when the drones come here, then they’ll have no reason to attack.”

 

“And should they search and discover us,” Krika said, “we would have them surrounded.”

 

“What, let them inside?” Bitil said.  “That would put my Rahkshi at far greater risk!  I have a hard time thinking that’s the better idea.”

 

Zaekura looked up and thought for a moment.  “Bitil, do you have some kind of list?  Of all your Rahkshi, what each of their specialties are?”

 

“Not written down, but I know every one by heart.”

 

“Okay, I’m going to need to write it down, but start talking.”

 

“Lady Zaekura, I remain thrilled by your interest in my work, but now is not the time to—“

 

“I need to know what they can do so I can help you with a plan of attack!  Some of them might have abilities that will make this a lot easier, I want to know what they are.”

 

Krika stepped forward, saying, “Zaekura, you don’t have to concern yourself with this.  We’re the ones responsible for your safety.”

 

Zaekura scowled and pointed to her head.  “Well what’s the point of this dangerous fancy brain if I don’t put it to use?  Besides…I don’t want anyone else dying for me.  If there’s something I can do to prevent that, I’m going to do it.”

 

Krika stared at her for a moment, but then nodded.  Bitil led Zaekura out of the room, already listing off Rahkshi, and Krika then turned to the corner of the room where Antroz sat.

 

“…What does she know, exactly?” Krika asked.

 

“I told her there were two casualties at Nynrah,” Antroz said.  “I did not say who.”

 

Krika nodded.  “Do you suppose we should tell her?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“My word, you’ve really become useless.”

 

He received no response.

 

“…Have you made your decision yet?”

 

Antroz shook her head.  “Everything has changed, Krika.  I’m in a place I have no knowledge of, one I’ve never given any thought to.  Even when I lost my sight, I still knew that I wanted to carry on without it.  But what I want now, I have no idea…because I’m beyond the horizon of what I never, ever wanted to happen.”

 

Krika crossed his arms and took a seat.  “Do you expect sympathy from me?  What I see, Antroz, is someone who thrives on attention moping about for having her personal spotlight shut off.”

 

Antroz turned sharply, but said nothing at first.  After a moment, she said, “Perhaps I deserve that.  Perhaps I enjoyed the praise of the people too much.  But that was never my only motivation: I have always done my best to do what I thought was right.”

 

“And if keeping Zaekura alive is right, then you are willing to fight for it?”

 

She hesitated.

 

“Hm.”

 

“It is not…”  Antroz paused to reorganize her thoughts.  “Have you ever spoken with the visitor from the other world?”

 

“No, I haven’t.  I am vaguely aware of what he’s said, however.  You’re still upset to know there are evil Makuta in existence?”

 

“In that reality, the Makuta were consumed with vanity, and so sought to seize control of an entire universe.  If we rebel against the Great Beings…are we not doing the exact same thing?  Now that we know Makuta are not innately good, who is to say that we are not innately evil?”

 

“Oh for goodness sake,” Krika groaned.  “Your pride is astounding, Antroz.  I wonder if this ever occurred to you: if the existence of an evil Antroz proves that whatever makes ‘an Antroz’ is not innately good, then does not your existence also prove it is not innately evil?”

 

Antroz inclined her head.

 

“All that aside, the idea of people being inherently good or evil is such an archaic concept that it’s frankly embarrassing that this affects you so deeply.  Everyone has the capacity for good and evil within them.  It should be enough to know that you prefer to indulge the good.”

 

“But this was brought about by circumstance.  Were circumstances different, I could have turned out just the same as my doppelganger.”

 

Krika looked at her sideways.  “Are you truly about to let that stop you from making a decision?”

 

Antroz paused for a long moment.  Finally giving a sigh, she said, “I wasn’t going to.  Truth be told…it was this distraction that led to me turning Krekka over to Gorast.  When I realized my mistake, I was ashamed, and I vowed I would never let such a thing happen again.  Yet here I am, still so distracted I am willing to give up another important decision.”

 

Krika leaned back.  “…In all fairness, a massive change in perspective is quite difficult to enact, even if you know it must be done.  I’d recommend trying again.”

 

Antroz thought about this for a time.  Eventually, she stood and took a few steps, but then stopped and turned to Krika.  “Thank you, Krika.”

 

“What, for saying what I think of your nonsense?  It was my pleasure, Antroz—I’ll happily repeat the service any time.”

 

Antroz opened her mind as she left the room, trying to find which direction Zaekura and Bitil had gone in.  She caught up with them in an empty warehouse near the perimeter of the outpost, and as she slowly approached it, she realized there was music coming from within.  Bitil and Zaekura stood at the open door; inside were five black and yellow Rahkshi of standard design but varying sizes, each playing a different instrument as Bitil nodded along gleefully.

 

When the song was over, Zaekura said, “Nice.  Didn’t realize how much I missed music since coming out here.”

 

“We take requests,” said a Rahkshi holding a guitar.  “Not like there’s anything else to do around here!”

 

As the other Rahkshi snickered, Bitil said, “Natan, I know we don’t get guests often, but you should know better than to give that sort of impression of our outpost!”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Zaekura chuckled.  “So what inspired you to make them this way?  Picked up a good album off a caravan from Nynrah?”

 

“No, I was just considering what weapons and tools might work best with specific powers.  By giving my Sonic Rahkshi instruments, it provides them an alternate method of creating sound for them to utilize, making the process much more efficient by reducing the need to use up energy reserves to create the sound.  In addition, through developing their musical skills they’ve gained a much finer control over their Sonic powers—hence how they can now manipulate sound to produce speech.”

 

Zaekura rubbed her chin.  “Cool, cool.  Well we’ve got a lot more to cover, but I’m definitely going to be back soon.”

 

“We’ll be ready for you!” Natan said.  “Closest thing we’ve ever had to a concert, eh gang?  Better brush up before she gets back.”

 

They resumed playing, and Bitil and Zaekura started walking.  Antroz came up behind them, saying, “Zaekura.  Can I speak with you?”

 

The Glatorian looked over her shoulder.  “What is it?  I’m gonna lose track of what everyone can do if I don’t stay on it.”  A second later, she grumbled, “Actually, I think I already have.”

 

Bitil glanced at Antroz, and then said, “Why don’t I just go make that list, and give you two a moment to talk?  If you still want to meet the others face-to-face, there will be time later, I’m sure.”

 

As he walked away, Zaekura turned to face Antroz.  She waited to see if the blind Makuta was going to speak first, but eventually, she gave up and asked, “So is it time now?”

 

“I think it is,” Antroz said.  “But…I do not think it is a decision that I should make alone.  This is about your future, Zaekura, and I think it only fair you deserve a say in it.”

 

Zaekura nodded.  “Okay, strong opening.  What’ve you got for me?”

 

“I’m afraid my assessment hasn’t changed much.  Whether we run or fight, there exists so much risk, and our chances are not especially appealing.  But, what I wanted to tell you is this.”

 

She inclined her head and stood tall.

 

“Whatever you decide to do, I am with you.  And I will give my all to protect you.  I understand if you may not entirely trust me yet, but I am determined to prove myself.  Difficult as it may be…I am certain that this is the right thing to do.”

 

Zaekura stared at her.  “…You’re pretty much just dropping the decision on me, then?”

 

Antroz drooped slightly.  “…I’m sorry?”

 

“I mean I’m touched, but it sounds like all you’re really doing is avoiding making the decision yourself, saying you’ll just follow my lead, so now I have to make it for you.”

 

“That’s not…I didn’t intend for…”  Antroz stopped and shook her head, starting to feel terribly frustrated.

 

Zaekura shrugged.  “If you want to help, I’ll take you up on that.  But I’m still not entirely sure what to do either.”

 

She turned and began to walk away.  Taking an angry step forward, Antroz said, “What more do you want of me?!”

 

Zaekura whirled.  “Make your own decision!  Would you rather fight, or would you rather run?”

 

“I…”  Antroz ground her teeth.  “It isn’t…wise…to fight.”

 

“So you want to fight?”

 

“I can’t let my emotions get the better of—“

 

“Your emotions are gonna tell you what you want!  Try listening to them!”

 

“I must temper my emotions with reason!  Charging in without thinking is what leads fools to their death.”

 

“Yeah, like you were just about to reasonably charge to yours?”

 

“I know I’ve made mistakes!”

 

“Then try a different approach!  Stop being so darn hesitant and just pick one, Antroz: run or fight?”

 

Antroz’s frustration boiled over.  She snatched up her sword and beat it, still sheathed, against the ground, at the same time baring her fangs and unfurling her wings.  “I want to fight!”

 

Zaekura stumbled backwards.

 

Settling down, Antroz said, “And that’s exactly why I’m hesitant.  Maybe I have put our lives in danger already, but it would only be more dangerous to let myself be carried away by some violent urge.  So perhaps I’m hoping you can give me something noble to fight for instead.”

 

It took a few seconds for her to react, but in the end, Zaekura laughed.  “Yikes, you sure got me!”

 

Antroz sighed, putting away her sword as she waited for Zaekura’s laughing to stop.

 

“Haha…ah,” the Glatorian chuckled.  “Look, Fangs: despite what Bitil likes to say, I’m not noble.  You’re probably fishing in the wrong pond.  Still…I guess I kind of get what you mean.”

 

“You do?” Antroz asked.

 

“I want to fight, too.  Maybe I’m just getting stir-crazy, or maybe it’s just me wanting revenge, I don’t really know—I’ve just kind of got an itch to strike back.  But despite that…I still don’t really want anyone getting hurt.  Well, not permanently hurt, you know what I mean.”

 

Antroz nodded.  “…Yes, I think I do.”

 

“Maybe it’s not time after all.  Let’s just focus on defending this outpost for now, I’m sure it won’t be much longer before those things show up for round 2.  If we survive that, then we’ll talk.”

 

“I’ve never been a fan of doing things last-minute.”

 

“It works out more often than you’d think.  Anyway, that’s what I’m doing, if you’ve got a problem I don’t know what to tell you.”

 

Zaekura sat down to wait for Bitil.  Antroz stood there a moment, but then, to Zaekura’s surprise, she chuckled.

 

“Not what I was expecting.”

 

“Pardon me,” Antroz said.  “I was just thinking…in spite of this indecision, you still seem more sure of yourself in a way.  I suppose it’s comforting.”

 

Zaekura scoffed.  “Another first: me, comforting.”

 

Antroz turned, saying, “I suppose some more time to consider might be advantageous.  If you require my assistance in your defense planning, I imagine I’ll remain somewhere near the watchtower.”

 

Zaekura didn’t say anything as she left, simply leaning back and looking up at the sky.

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-As mentioned before, Ga-Koro is considered a sanctuary, as well as a very spiritual place, which is why Kojol mainly employs the Principle Rahkshi to keep it safe as they embody ideals Ga-Koro’s citizens strive for.  I also decided to change the Three Virtues symbol: since it was originally intended to be a map of the shattered Spherus Magna, but Spherus Magna never shattered in this universe, it would have felt a little inconsistent to use the original symbol.

 

-Kojol does have some similarities to Antroz, but while Antroz is definitely pretentious, Kojol has an overbearing “holier than thou” air, not to mention she is far more stubborn in her disagreements with the Great Beings in contrast to Antroz’s history of subservience.  Despite how abrasive she is, however, she does truly care about her job and the people of Spherus Magna.  I was going to go with white and gold for her armor, but then I thought using green might go well with the Lerahk surrounding the city, as well as serve as a subtle nod to Artakha’s armor color since that’s the island Prime Kojol watched over.  She holds a scepter to make her seem more regal, and the Kanohi Rode seemed like the best fit for a heavily spiritual Guardian of a sacred city.  I was thinking of showing her in battle at some point, and probably being a specialist in long-range Light attacks, but with how things played out her fighting style is relegated to trivia for the time being.

 

-Velika being Velika, it only makes sense he’d be using decoy bodies.  I envisioned the special drone used here as something like a cross between a Vahki and a Matoran (Melding Matoran, so the tall ones); it can fire the same types of blasts as regular drones from its fists, but we were able to avoid seeing those this time.

 

-While technically under the Great Beings’ rule, Ga-Koro’s status as a sanctuary means that not even they can just stroll in and drag off whoever they want: they need to explain the situation to Kojol, and if she feels the suspect in question needs to face judgment, she will cast them out of Ga-Koro and let the Great Beings take them.  This isn’t exactly what the Great Beings had in mind when they originally conceived of Ga-Koro, but they decided to just go along with it rather than deal with the hassle of convincing Kojol otherwise.  In order to keep the city defended, Kojol has a large army of Rahkshi, and quite a few citizens of Ga-Koro serve in a militia ready to be called upon when needed.  Aside from a small handful of incidents, she has not had much need for these forces as of yet.

 

-Rereading the last few chapters of Brothers in Arms, I felt I should do something with the strange creature seen briefly outside Ga-Koro, and it ended up proving quite handy for Krika.  Of course, it had no name in the serial, so I had to come up with one.  I worry that “crystal slime” doesn’t quite sound…Bionicle enough, maybe a bit too JRPG, but it’s functional.

 

-I also worry that this is retreading The Gargoyle Knight a bit too much, but as Krika says, major changes happen slowly—just because you know something shouldn’t bother you doesn’t always mean that it stops doing so.  In a similar vein, the ending feels a bit similar to the end of the last chapter; originally I did plan to end with Antroz’s statement of allegiance to Zaekura, but then I felt Zaekura wouldn’t be so easily moved, so they ended up arguing.  Gradual, gradual shifts.

 

-In recent years I’ve really become enamored with the idea of music-based fighting abilities, and of course I simply can’t have an army of specialized Rahkshi and not include a Rahkshi Rock reference.  It’s iconic.  “Natan” is a Hebrew verb from which t

Edited by Pahrak #0579, Jun 06 2018 - 11:15 PM.

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#7 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted Jun 15 2018 - 10:58 PM

SECTION VII

 

The drones trudged onward, sand whipping violently around them.  One of many squads currently searching the areas around Nynrah, this particular unit had already combed over several sectors without finding a single sign of their targets, and so were expanding their search eastward while their allies had gone either up or down the coastline.  It would take more than a sudden sandstorm to turn them away, but the automata had engaged a somewhat cautious protocol.  While such storms certainly weren’t uncommon in the Great Desert, the data provided on their targets made note of weather-altering abilities, meaning there was at least a chance that they were closing in on their mark.

 

One drone looked up.  Several of the others turned as it transmitted its observation to them: for a moment, it had seemed that something was going against the wind just above the squad, but it had been quick enough that none of the units could fully register what it was.  This was taken as an increase in the probability of battle, prompting the drones to pre-emptively arm their weaponry.  One drone pulled ahead of the rest—according to their navigational data, a settlement was just ahead, and it would need to deliver a statement of intention upon arrival.  The statement was compiled in a matter of seconds.  An instant afterward, the leader went offline and collapsed.

 

The army stopped in their tracks.  Analysis of the slain leader revealed a protosteel-tipped arrow lodged in its cranial unit, having fatally punctured the drone’s processor.  The threat was deemed severe, and as the drones took another step forward, their weapon locks were disabled.

 

A signal from the back caused them to halt again: something had attacked several of the rear units from behind before retreating, though drones in visual range had not registered anything visible.  Before sense could be made of the event, a loud thunderclap came from nearby, and a bolt of lightning struck one of the forward units, frying it and those closest to it.  Another drone was struck down with an arrow.  It was apparent that combat had begun, and so one of the remaining drones assumed command.

 

The horde was split into two groups, one of which continued to march forward as the other made an about-face and opened fire.  The sandstorm quieted with unnatural swiftness, and a large wall came into view not far ahead: dozens of Rahkshi could be seen perched atop it, and roughly a hundred stood before its sealed gate.  Aiming at the nearest guards, many of the drones fired.  One Rahkshi stepped forward, hands outstretched—a distortion filled the air in front of her, and the blasts suddenly froze as they entered it, being sealed in stasis until the Rahkshi reached up to redirect them into the sky.  A large Rahkshi with an even larger shield came next.  Not a single blast could get through his guard, and several actually ricocheted and struck down drones instead.  The lead drone moved to rush at him.  Another arrow smote it before it had the chance.  The stasis Rahkshi moved to catch more blasts, but more curious to the drones, they registered a steep increase in temperature in their immediate vicinity.  The wave of heat quickly focused upon three drones in particular, causing them to burst into flames.  Four Rahkshi were coming out to meet them now, each carrying different weapons but all with aquamarine coloration in their armor; the drones readied to engage, just as the heat began to rise again.

 

The rear squad was not faring much better.  Their blind shots had yet to strike their imperceptible foe, yet their forces continued to be picked off one or two at a time by their devastating blows.  As they looked about for any indication of where the next attack might come from, two Rahkshi suddenly appeared at their flank: one with blue and green armor, the other clad in red and orange.  The latter had four long eyestalks that each twitched in different directions, and a moment later, each spawned a laser beam that carved deeply into the drones’ ranks, and they were gone before a counterattack could be made.  Another physical blow demolished drones not far away—but at the same time, a drone in the back had its head sliced clean off.  The Laser Vision Rahkshi reappeared in the space between the two squads, attacking both, while at the rear of the invading force there now appeared a Cyclone Rahkshi with a second Rahkshi of Teleportation.  A large chunk of the squad was soon scattered through the air.

 

Up front, the drones had managed to beat back the few melee fighters who had approached them, but as they retreated a new presence made itself known.  As arrows and lightning continued to fly and more drones succumbed to the heat, a massive Rahkshi the size of a small building could be seen moving through the gate of the outpost, the treads on its feet groaning as they pulled the behemoth forward.  Many of the drones focused their fire on this newcomer.  The Rahkshi with the shield got in front of him, keeping careful watch so he could move and jump to block all shots aimed at his brother.  The armored giant, a Rahkshi of Plasma from the look of it, sluggishly raised his arms—they ended in cannons the size of an average Rahkshi, and a faint orange glow soon came from their barrels.  A deep hiss came from his mouth.  The shield-bearer signaled when it was safe to reach forward, and then two intense blasts of raw energy collided with the enemy ranks, annihilating all caught in their wake and kicking up a huge cloud of sand afterward.  One shot grazed the Plasma Rahkshi’s cannon.  He recoiled, hugging the injured limb close, but was relieved to see the wound was not severe.  Energy started to build up again, and he prepared himself to make another shot as soon as he could.

 

Antroz stood in a small guardhouse just above the gate, mere steps away from the Accuracy Rahkshi firing arrows.  She turned to the others and said, “Their forces are in disarray.  We have yet to suffer any casualties.”

 

Bitil nodded, though he continued to grind his fingers into his palm.

 

“As expected, the attack from the rear has led to the drones separating into two forces.  The teleporters and chameleons are carrying out things on their end.”

 

Zaekura hummed.  She glanced down the wall at a Rahkshi of Heat Vision with a rounded protrusion atop their head that glowed bright orange.  “Should we have Serk quit so we can send in more melee fighters than just the Heat Resistance Rahkshi?”

 

“I think it’s too soon for that,” Antroz said.  “While things are going smoothly at the moment, we are still outnumbered.  We should have the main forces wait until their numbers have been reduced further.”

 

A bright flash signaled another attack from the giant Plasma Rahkshi.  Krika rubbed his chin, saying, “Shouldn’t be too much longer with Artil tearing them apart like that.  I must say, Bitil, it’s scary to think you’ve had such a destructive creature so close this whole time.”

 

“Have some respect,” Bitil snapped.  “Artil’s down there risking his life while you sit safely up here!  You don’t exactly have good standing to jest, Krika.”

 

“I meant it as a compliment.  Besides, I’ve done my part: the effects of my Prosperity powers are holding strong, and I’m alert and ready to top off any who need it.”

 

Bitil grunted.  Stepping forward, Charla said, “Please, Lord Bitil, we must remain calm.  The others will be fine.  You did your best to equip us for the day we would march in battle, and I am certain it will be enough.”

 

Antroz turned sharply.  Bitil asked, “What is it?”

 

“It would seem one of them has injured Azin.”

 

“What?  How?!”

 

“It was a lucky shot.  He’s being brought in now.”

 

A Rahkshi of Teleportation appeared just long enough to deposit a cloaked red and gold Rahkshi, two daggers at his belt as he clutched a wound on his arm.  Bitil knelt and grabbed him by the shoulder, saying, “Azin!  Are you alright?”

 

The Rahkshi turned his head, making a short hiss.

 

“This doesn’t look like something you should brush off so casually!  Where’s Surja?”

 

A black and brown Rahkshi came rushing over.  Once she was at Azin’s side, she gripped his arm with both hands and stared at the wound intently, and slowly it began to mend.  She hissed something, and Bitil stood and sighed.

 

“She says he’ll be fine,” he muttered.  “He’ll be fine…”

 

Krika glanced at Zaekura.  The Glatorian had her arms crossed, one finger tapping incessantly.  Looking back at the battle, he commented, “It’s really going quite well.”

 

Zaekura’s finger froze.  Turning her back, she grumbled, “Don’t patronize me.”

 

“No, I’m being genuine.  I’d already lost several Rahkshi this far into the battle when I went against these machines.  You’ve put together an excellent strategy, Zaekura—it’s only a matter of time until victory is ours.”

 

Zaekura turned around, but stopped when she saw Charla.  The Rahkshi was staring forward blankly in a way that seemed vaguely nervous, and that made her nervous too.  “What’s up?”

 

Charla jumped a bit.  “Oh, forgive me, I was just…”  She hesitated.

 

“Is something wrong, Charla?” Bitil asked.

 

“I don’t know that I’d say that.  I’m just sensing something unusual.”

 

Antroz cocked her head.  “What do you mean?”

 

It took a few moments for Charla to reply.  “The drones are emitting some type of energy.  It’s not psychic energy, but it’s…similar, somehow.  Makuta Antroz, do you sense it as well?”

 

Reaching out again, Antroz picked one specific drone to focus on as she tried to feel what Charla was describing.  Slowly, she became aware of a very strange feeling that spawned from the being every few seconds, always passing very quickly but continually returning without fail.

 

“…Curious,” Antroz said.  “It’s so faint I hadn’t noticed it at first.  I’m afraid I can’t identify it—I’ve never encountered this particular sort of energy before.”

 

“Is it dangerous?” Bitil asked.

 

“Calm down,” Krika said.  “If this energy becomes a concern, we shall deal with it then.  Right now we’ve nothing to worry about.”

 

“Easy for you to say…”

 

Zaekura walked up next to the archer, peeking over the wall at the forces below.  “Maybe…we should speed things up, just to be safe.”

 

“Acting with haste can often make things more dangerous,” Antroz advised.

 

“I’m not saying we get sloppy.  I just think we can send the heavy hitters without it causing any problems.”  She turned to Bitil.  “Yes?  No?  What do you think?”

 

Bitil surveyed the battle himself, looking very uncertain.  “…Perhaps sending one to the rear would be beneficial…I just don’t like the idea of sending them out front right now.  The ranged assault is working, and it’s far safer for them all—let’s keep that going as long as we possibly can.”

 

“Alright, who do we send?”

 

Suddenly, a look of shock swept over Antroz’s face.  Charla shivered as well, saying, “What is that…?”

 

Bitil whirled.  “What?  What is what?”

 

“Oh no,” Antroz said.

 

“What do you mean?  What’s going on, Antroz?!”

 

Charla closed her eyes.  “I’ve never felt a mind like this…where did it come from?  It’s so foreign, it’s…indescribable…”

 

Bitil’s eyes widened.  He slowly turned to Antroz.  She nodded once, and he felt his antidermis thin.

 

“That,” Antroz said solemnly, “is the mind of a Great Being.”

 

Krika was on his feet.  “Where?”

 

“Somewhere down there,” Antroz said, making a sweeping gesture.  “I can’t determine exactly, but it’s somewhere in that flock of drones; it just appeared a second ago.”

 

Thinking quickly, Krika said, “That energy you were sensing…it must be some kind of beacon, linked back to the Maze.  And Velika, I’m sure he’s keeping a close eye on those signals: if many of them start dropping at once, he can guess that we’re demolishing more of his prized inventions.  Of course that slippery eel would outfit them all to receive a remote consciousness upload.  After I broke the first batch, he wanted to be able to see my demise personally.”

 

Zaekura looked about frantically.  “Not to complain, but uh, why isn’t he just blasting down the doors already?”

 

“These are all just standard drone bodies,” Krika said as he gently pulled her back from the wall, “probably not as strong as the special one I found in Ga-Koro.  He’s just as vulnerable as any of them right now…but knowing Velika, it won’t stay that way for long.”

 

Antroz leapt onto the side of the wall.  “We must act.  Eradicating all drones before Velika can make a plan to turn this in his favor is our only hope.”

 

“I’m afraid I agree,” Krika said.  He waved one hand out.  “After you.”

 

Antroz grunted as she took off, shooting through the air over the assembled drones.  Bitil turned and shouted, “Charla, find Kameter and call him back—our snipers here are going to need all the advantages they can get!  Advise everyone to be extremely careful, and to see if they can break up the forces any further!  If any drone is acting unusual, it becomes top priority to dismantle it immediately!”

 

Charla went to work at once.  Zaekura watched as Antroz reached out both hands, sending beams of white light down to pulverize the unfortunate drones below.  Krika jumped over the wall and landed on Artil’s back.  He glared at the approaching drones, exerting his gravity powers to slow them down, and with a laugh, Artil destroyed them easily.  The Rahkshi all seemed to double their efforts, and the number of drones only continued to dwindle.  For some reason, despite all of this, the sense of dread Zaekura was feeling just kept growing.

 

“So…those heavy hitters…”

 

Bitil nodded.  “I’ll have them form up at once.  Serk, focus your power on the south flank!  We’re about to fully engage!”

 

Serk hissed in affirmation.  Bitil used his powers of teleportation to make a quick exit, and Zaekura turned back to the fight, hoping there was a way they could still win this battle.

 

Krika turned his fingers on one hand into spikes, extending them and impaling a line of drones from the safety of his perch.  He pulled them to the side, sweeping several still-functioning units off by themselves, and then used his Stasis powers to keep them isolated as he shook his hand clean.  Artil spared one blast to eradicate them.  With that done, Krika leapt forward and activated his Chameleon powers, becoming undetectable as he rushed into the enemy ranks.  He looked up: Antroz was still mowing them down with her light powers.  However, in a few seconds a number of drones suddenly looked up and began firing straight at her, only a quick application of her Dodge ability allowing her to evade.  The blasts all seemed to come from the same area, so Krika headed there as Antroz continued maneuver.  He took a moment to just observe when he was close enough.  Aside from changing their targets, nothing seemed particularly out of place about these drones, so he lunged past them and swept both hands, rending them into shreds with his claw spikes.

 

Above him, Antroz leveled out and scanned the area with her mind.  Krika had yet to receive any retaliation for his interference, so she guessed Velika wasn’t actually in proximity to the drones he had sent after her—turning sharply, she made for the opposite flank, using only a spray of light bolts as she went to make it easier to sense incoming attacks.  She reached her destination with no further trouble, but still, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

 

“Where are you…?” she mumbled.

 

Her mind swept over the battlefield once again.  This time, as she passed over a particularly dense cluster of drones, she realized that they weren’t firing wildly like the others were.  Rather, they would wait until one of Bitil’s Rahkshi appeared and then react to it.  Antroz focused upon them and discovered why: one drone was in the middle of the unit, hunched over a deactivated automaton and busily working on something with a set of spindly, claw-like arms that had extended from openings in its torso.

 

“There!”

 

Antroz created a ball of dense light energy in her hand, taking aim at the cluster of drones.  She threw the attack with all her might, and it soared through the air like a bullet—the drones took notice and raised their arms to block, while the one in the center grabbed something and scuttled away.  The blast detonated, wiping out those that blocked it and producing a shockwave that reached out to the one that fled.  While its limbs twisted to prevent in from falling down, it slowed enough that Antroz could teleport directly to its side, and she reached out to try to grab hold of her target.  Her claws just nicked its armor.

 

“Lord Velika!” she said.  “Stand down at once!”

 

A scoff came from the drone.  Adjusting the bundle of parts it carried in its hands, it said, “You’ve no right to order me, Makuta.  I remember your place even if you no longer do.”

 

Antroz grabbed the hilt of her sword.  “I shall give you one last chance.  Call off your army, and leave this place.  Otherwise, I will be forced to defend myself.”

 

“Leave?  I only just arrived.  And it is here I plan to stay, until I’ve eradicated you traitors and seized that wretched girl!  It is you who should stand aside, ignorant fool…or shall I show you the level of intellect you are dealing with?”

 

Antroz shook her head.  She slowly drew her sword from its sheath, the pure white blade gleaming in the sunlight, shining as brightly as if it were brand new.  Antroz gripped the weapon with both hands, held it in front of herself, and bared her fangs.  “You were warned.”

 

The drone tumbled to the side.  Antroz had teleported behind it before she was even finished speaking, swinging the blade and just narrowly missing.  She teleported again before it completed its arc.  The drone hopped back to avoid a cut and pointed one cannon, firing a counter blast, but Antroz was gone before it hit.  She came from above next, forcing the drone to roll away on its cannons—as soon as it was upright, it was immediately manipulating the mess of parts in its hands.

 

“Come now,” Velika laughed, “you really think you can best a Great Being?  And here I had hoped the Makuta had rid themselves of their arrogance.”

 

Antroz rapidly teleported in a circle around the drone, executing seven feints before thrusting her sword at its torso.  It crouched and prepared to fire, but then realized the blade was glowing orange, and scampered away as plasma burst outward from it.  The attack singed the machine, missing all vital components.

 

As he continued to work, Velika said, “We are inherently your betters!  No matter what competition you engage us in, you are bound by fact to fail every time!  Yet you think you can challenge a device of my own making, one that I have assumed direct control over, and somehow overcome this total manifestation of my brilliance?”

 

Not saying a word, Antroz simply exerted her powers of magnetism.  The drone was pulled through the air towards her, pushing off the ground just as she swung to tumble over her head; she flexed her wing, sending it spinning, and then whirled to make another slash.  Her sword was blocked by a well-placed cannon.  She opened her mouth and let out a power scream, flinging the machine away, and then teleported forward.  Unfortunately, Velika had anticipated where she would reappear, and a blast grazed her leg, disrupting her balance.  He laughed as the drone readied another attack.  That was when Krika, in the shape of a giant snake, leapt up and wrapped himself around the drone, restraining its movements and slowly crushing it.

 

“Pardon me,” Krika said.  “It dawned on me that I’d yet to properly greet you, my lord.  Allow me to rectify that offense.”

 

The drone turned, Velika murmuring, “You insolent…”

 

As its body began to break, the drone held forth the device it was working on.  Antroz moved to claim it, but withdrew immediately—a blast came from behind her, and before she could move to counter, another drone rushed forward, snatched the device, and hurled it through the air.

 

“You truly don’t comprehend, do you?” Velika said as Krika tackled this new drone to the ground, overloading its circuits with electricity.

 

Antroz teleported in an attempt to intercept the device.  Searing pain was all that met her, as yet another drone blasted her away to catch the small machine.

 

All of these drones are equipped to receive me!” Velika said, ripping a few extra pieces out of a fallen drone.  “I am here, and it here I shall stay.  For here…I can be everywhere!”

 

Krika threw a punch, implementing his Elasticity and Accuracy powers—his fist chased Velika’s drone as it danced away, and though Antroz tried to aid him, another blast was soon sent towards her.  She pressed herself against the ground and cursed silently.  When she looked up, she saw that Krika had grabbed the drone by the neck, and hoped for one moment…but then another drone shot Krika’s arm, forcing him to retract it on reflex.  The new drone approached the old and gave the device a once-over.

 

“Yes, flawless at last,” Velika mused.  “This is the end of your little rebellion, Makuta.  But not your lives—no, net yet.  I’ll be taking you to Karzahni myself, so that I can personally oversee your suffering…though I’m afraid I don’t know how many eons it will take to accumulate all that you have earned.”

 

The drone squeezed the device, and it lit up with bright light.  A familiar, terrible feeling washed over Antroz and Krika, and they both sank into the sand.  Velika laughed as his drone approached Krika.

 

“I may not have had time to install flight capabilities, but your suggestion of disarmament was easy to take into consideration.  It’s really a very simple mechanism, if you have the parts…and I thought incorporating suitable components into my drones would be a reasonable back-up plan.  One can never be too careful.  Now then…”

 

The drone turned to face the walls of the outpost.  As it walked forward, the other drones parted to make way for it, save those that threw themselves forward to block any attacks aimed at Velika.  He looked up at the wall and spotted Zaekura standing there.  Handing the device off to another drone, he switched his weapon to stun and raised the barrel.  Zaekura just stared down at him, an uneasy defiance in her eyes.

 

“Heremus was insistent I show mercy,” Velika muttered.  “Although…I wonder if his definition is accurate?”

 

A loud roar was all he heard in the next second.  A massive wave of plasma washed over him and many of the other drones, severing his link to his current body.  When he arrived in another, he looked to see the source: it was Antroz, on her feet with her blade in one hand, while Krika was just starting to unleash a volley of light blasts on the rear unit.  Velika ran a quick check to ensure the drone’s sensors were functioning properly.

 

“How…can they be standing?” he asked.  “The disarmament mechanism worked perfectly—I built it!  And it can’t be the same as when they fooled Angonce, otherwise…”

 

It struck him then.  Glaring back at the wall, he continued, “The lure…transmitted back the data it received…and that vile Glatorian…!”

 

His current body suddenly went stiff.  Antroz appeared behind it to run it through, and as Krika released his magnetic hold he said, “If it’s any consolation, the experience is still nauseating.  I’d be quite ill right now if I had a stomach.”

 

Jumping to another body, Velika whirled back and fired at Zaekura.  Unfortunately, she was gone by the time he turned around, and Velika groaned as he was forced to switch bodies once again.

 

“So what now, milord?” Krika said, readying more light blasts.  “Your current body isn’t quite up to the task of taking on two Makuta.  And we’re not the only things you need to worry about.”

 

He allowed Velika to look to the outpost gate.  Emerging through it were a line of figures almost as large as Artil, each armored in a rainbow of hues and looking unusual even by Bitil’s standards.  Velika growled in anger.  Deformed as they were, he still knew how to recognize a Rahkshi Kaita.

 

“We shall give you one last chance to surrender,” Antroz said.

 

“Normally I’d disagree, but I suppose we can’t stop your mind from fleeing as easily as we could your body,” Krika said.  “You should take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

 

The drone just stood there, watching the Kaita as they advanced on the drones.  One of them transformed into a living cyclone, blasts bouncing off its form like they were pebbles as it ravaged the invaders; another simply stared down a group of enemies, and when they tried to fire their weapons, the mechanisms locked and backfired, destroying their wielders.  Velika watched this unfold…and began to laugh.

 

“You are due some credit, I suppose,” Velika said as his drone turned back to the Makuta.  “You cretins have managed to outdo my expectations.  But do you think that’s all it will take for you to claim victory?”

 

Antroz pointed her sword.  “Whatever else you plan to do, we will stop you.”

 

“Let us see if you can, Makuta.  I’m almost grateful: for the first time in quite a while…I’m actually curious.”

 

The drone raised both weapons.  Krika froze it in stasis before it could fire, and then Antroz sliced it in two.  They both looked around to see which drone Velika had taken now, but no other machines were particularly close to them, and even the closest seemed occupied with other matters.

 

“I suppose we’ll have to hunt him down again,” Krika sighed.

 

“I believe we should stick together,” Antroz said.  “We must make it as difficult as possible for him to surprise us.”

 

Krika shook his head and began to walk away.  “Just call if you need me.  I’m a bit too impatient to do this your way.”

 

With a huff, Antroz took to the skies again.  Bitil could see her from the wall, but he quickly returned to the crowd below, searching frantically for Zaekura.

 

“Can’t you sense her?” he asked.

 

“I am trying, my lord,” Charla said, hands to the sides of her head.  “The thoughts have become extremely chaotic down there, and the minds of the Kaita are the only ones that manage to stand out.”

 

Bitil glanced at the fusions as she said this.  Then he stopped suddenly, looking back and gripping the wall: one Kaita in particular stood in the scorched wake of Antroz’s surprise plasma attack, resembling a very large humanoid with six arms clad in blue, black, green, and gray armor.  A shimmering veil surrounded them, but now that Bitil took a closer look, he could make out another form next to him.

 

“Lady Zaekura!” he said, teleporting down next to the barrier.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

 

Zaekura leapt to her feet.  “Yeesh, don’t scare me like that!  I was just checking something out is all.”

 

She raised her hand: in it was the disarmament device Velika had constructed.  Bitil paused a moment, and then asked, “Why do you want that thing?”

 

Before she could answer, the Rahkshi Kaita moved their hand suddenly.  The veil slid open and they took a lumbering step towards Bitil; immediately, the veil closed, now around all three of them, and Bitil heard a blast fizzle against it.

 

“Thank you, Ramier,” he said, glancing back over his shoulder.

 

“Look, I’ve got an idea,” Zaekura said.  “Charla told me what’s going on with Velika, and—“

 

“Then you should know it isn’t safe to simply rush out onto the battlefield!” Bitil interrupted.  “Ramier, take us back at once!”

 

They nodded, and in the blink of an eye the three of them were back on the wall.  Ramier departed immediately, leaving Zaekura to look around in bewilderment, before sighing and turning back to Bitil.

 

“Was that entirely necessary?” she asked.  “Because my best guess would put it at about 10% necessary.”

 

Bitil locked eyes with her.  “You are their target.  If any one of them catch you, this battle is lost!  How can you chide Antroz for her impulsivity only to make the same mistakes yourself?!”

 

“I didn’t just charge out there on my own!  Some Rahkshi helped me get over to Ramier, and then I asked him to get me over to where this thing was!”

 

“But putting yourself in such great risk—“

 

“You were just talking about how your Rahkshi are risking their lives for us!  I decide to do the same to help them, and you’re still complaining?”

 

Bitil clenched his teeth, unsure what to say.  He averted his gaze, but before he could think of a retort, something caught his eye.  Several drones appeared to be running away from the fight.  There were at least a dozen of them, all by themselves, all headed in different directions.

 

“What is Velika doing now?” he said as he stepped forward.  “Concentrate fire on those runners!”

 

As the Rahkshi adjusted targets, Zaekura said, “Don’t suppose there’s much chance he’s actually taking the opportunity to surrender, do you?”

 

Bitil turned back to Zaekura.  He stared hard at her for a long moment, before finally closing his eyes and crossing his arms.  “…Tell me.  What is this idea of yours?”

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Sorry to split this battle.  I’ll do my best to get Section VIII out before too long.

 

-“Serk” is a corruption of “circle”.  The protrusion on his head is actually his eye, and it gives him a 360 degree field of vision that allows him to set anything around him on fire without moving.  He does have to narrow his focus quite a bit to cause real damage, however.  But, just in case, Bitil thought it seemed like a good idea to send only Heat Resistance Rahkshi out to meet the drones while he was focusing on their front line.

 

 -“Artil” is derived from “artillery”.  I don’t know that there was a specific thought process for this guy, I’m pretty sure I just thought “A Rahkshi that’s basically a giant living tank would be super cool” and then went through with it.  I’m quite satisfied with the results.

 

-Krika implies this, but to clarify: there are certain powers that a Makuta cannot use on themselves, and this extends to their Rahkshi (they can’t use them on Rahkshi they’ve made, their Rahkshi can’t use them on them, and their Rahkshi can’t use them on each other).  Prosperity is the big one, since it has the potential to be a bit broken if a Makuta were to spawn ten Vorahk and have them all stack major luck buffs on them, and the Great Beings thought it best to avoid that.  So here, Krika has used his Prosperity to boost Bitil’s Rahkshi, and Antroz may have given them a second application as well.  Courage, Creation, Faith, and Peace also have this stipulation, but for now I think that’s all.  The Great Beings probably would have limited Kameter’s time-quickening powers as well, but Bitil discovered those through his Slow powers, and the GBs didn’t see a reason to prevent a Makuta from using Slow on themselves.  Why would they do that in the first place?

 

-“Azin” is derived from “assassin”.  I figured it would make sense for someone as stealthy as a Chameleon Rahkshi to try to emulate the classic rogue look.

 

-“Surja” comes from “surgeon”; she’s a Rahkshi of Quick Healing with an internal focal point for her power, making it strong enough that if she focuses she can actually share it with someone she’s in physical contact with.  While she can use this on anyone, it is most effective on Bitil and her siblings due to them all being offshoots of the same being.

 

-Velika is incredibly vain, proud of anything and everything he does, content to believe himself better than all others, and cruel in his petty revenge on those he believes have wronged him.  Sure would suck to be led by a tyrant like that, right?

 

-Since the projection lure has such a strong link to the headset used to control it, I figured it made sense that it had registered some data on the disarmament device Angonce had used and transmitted it back, and that by analyzing those recordings, Zaekura could find a way to jam the signal and keep the Makuta on their feet.  It still requires some fine-tuning, but this will prevent the GBs from being able to keep Makuta out of every fight.

 

-The Rahkshi Kaita are a bit of a tease here due to where the chapter ends, sorry about that.  I’m sure you recognize the Kaita Za and its random living tornado powers—I don’t know where those come from, but I figured I might as well leave them intact.  I did, however, change up the Kaita Vo: it’s the one that causes drones’ weapons to misfire.  When I was coming up with the effects of Prosperity, it occurred to me that the Mask of Possibilities’ powers were somewhat close (Prosperity is a luck buff, but the Mask of Possibilities lets the wearer alter probability to cause one very specific thing to happen), and since Kaita Vo’s original energy ray power was an extension of Vorahk’s Hunger abilities, I thought this would make a suitable replacement.  And rounding out the Kaita we see here, “Ramier” is a mix of “rampart” and “barrier”; they are made of Rahkshi of Invincibility, Teleportation, and Stasis Field.  Their gestalt ability allows them to create an impervious shield in a small radius around themselves, one that cannot be teleported through.

 

-That about rounds out this Section.  Next time we’ll find out what Velika’s up to, and bring this fight to a close one way or another!

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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#8 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted Jul 26 2018 - 09:39 PM

SECTION VIII

 

Bitil walked into the guardhouse with a bundle of parts in his arms, depositing them on the table and then taking a step back.  Zaekura sat hunched over the disarmament device, busily working on it while Charla and a Guurahk stood to either side of her.  She only looked up for a moment at his arrival.

 

“She really did a number on this,” Zaekura murmured as she picked out a component that had melted.  “Then again, I guess it’s hard to aim a tidal wave of plasma.”

 

“Will your plan still work?” Charla asked.

 

Zaekura gave a thumbs-up.  “You bet!  It’s intact enough I can see how it works, and it looks like Bitil found all the parts I need.  The modifications should work just fine.”

 

Bitil walked over to the edge of the wall, glancing quickly over the battlefield.  The drones’ forces continued to dwindle, and were now looking quite sparse indeed, meanwhile the runners were nowhere to be seen.  He turned and spotted the archer Rahkshi.

 

“Viq,” he called, “were all the drones that broke formation destroyed?”

 

Viq gave him an uneasy glance, hissing quietly.  Bitil started forward.

 

“What do you mean you lost sight of one?  Where did it go?”

 

Viq pointed: nearly half a mile out was a large rock formation, and apparently the drone had managed to make its way inside before anyone could stop it.

 

“…I suppose it would be unwise to pursue it in there,” Bitil admitted.  “Velika could attack us from any angle.”

 

Viq hissed his apologies, but Bitil shook his head.

 

“I’ll take care of it.  You just focus on what’s left down there.”

 

He teleported near the base of the formation, checking quickly for any signs of the drone.  Bright light shone from his palms, and after building for a few seconds, it was released in a wide burst that pulverized the foundation of the rock, causing the entire formation to come tumbling down in a heap.  Bitil turned back towards the battle and reached out with his mind.

 

Antroz, are you there?

 

The other Makuta cut down a drone and leapt into the sky, saying, “Bitil?  What is it?”

 

A few of the drones were retreating, but we’ve managed to stop all of them.  I thought perhaps I should warn you to be prepared for Velika’s next tactic.

 

“Retreat?  Why would he do that?”

 

It was certainly curious.  All were headed in different directions, but there isn’t anything out here for miles around.  One of them did manage to make it to an outcropping—maybe he intended to lure some fighters over there so he’d have an advantage.

 

Antroz floated there for a moment, and then slowly turned in Bitil’s direction.  “Bitil…what do you know of this outcropping?”

 

Hm?  It’s a simple pile of rocks.  Well, rubble now.  The drone is most certainly buried beneath it.

 

“You don’t have proof?”

 

Bitil sighed.  What is it you’re getting at, Antroz?

 

“Think, Bitil!  Velika sent one of his drones directly to that pile of rocks—don’t you think there might be a reason for that?”

 

As the other Makuta turned to consider this, he noticed that the mound of debris was starting to shake.  He backed away slowly, saying, “Curses, I’m certainly going to hear about this one later…”

 

The rocks shifted one by one, and then in unison, they all rose several feet into the air.  A large hole in the ground could be seen beneath it all, containing a staircase down into the earth that something was currently climbing.  Bitil lobbed a ball of plasma at the opening.  One of the levitating rocks suddenly darted forth to intercept the attack, while another made for Bitil; he turned intangible to avoid damage, kicking off the ground as he did, and hung in the air as he got a good look at what was emerging from the hidden stairs.  It appeared to be the missing drone, but it was a good bit larger now: its body was encased in a massive shell of black stone, with clawed hands that the machine’s cannons just barely peeked out from above, and great spiked shoulder plates that dwarfed the tiny eyes blazing between them.  Bitil shuddered.  He had never paid a great deal of attention to history, but something about this form struck him as eerily similar to an entity predating all Makuta.

 

“It can’t be…an Element Lord?” he muttered.

 

Velika’s laugh echoed from within the stone carapace.  Raising his claws, the Great Being said, “Quite a crude form, but with the power it contains, it is a worthwhile trade!  The Rock Lord squandered this wondrous gift we gave him…but I shall make no such mistake.”

 

With a flick of his wrist, several tons of rocks went flying at Bitil.  The Makuta remained intangible and passed through them, but emerged from one to see an energy blast mere inches away.  There was no time to activate his Dodge powers, so he swerved as best he could, and suffered only a grazing blow that shocked him back into a solid state.

 

“How is this possible?!” Bitil asked as he dropped to the ground.  “You can imbue a body with the power of an Element so easily?”

 

“Not quite, no,” Velika said.  “But you see, there is a reason we stationed you here, Bitil, and it was not to keep Antroz and Krika company.  It was here, at the edge of the Sea of Liquid Sand, that we created the first Element Lords so very long ago; the laboratory still exists beneath our feet, with all the data necessary to repeat the process, and we thought it prudent to have someone guard it.  Modifying the process to work on a purely mechanical being was quite difficult…but then, it was a simple challenge for me.”

 

A massive shadow was suddenly cast over Bitil.  He teleported to the side quickly, and only then looked up to process what was going on: a chunk of rock roughly five times his size had abruptly materialized over his head, and if he had not evaded, he would most certainly have been crushed beneath it.  The tremors produced by the impact reached all the way back to where the main battle was going on, and several of his forces were turning to take note.

 

“Yes, a crude solution to a problem orchestrated by crude minds,” Velika mused, taking a few slow steps forward.  “I think this is quite a fitting end for you and your hideous offspring.”

 

Bitil twitched.  “Excuse me?  Are you saying you have a problem with my Rahkshi?”

 

Velika continued walking towards him.  “Of course I do.  You’ve perverted our glorious design, turning the simple servants you needed into chaotic little monsters who serve no purpose whatsoever.  Heremus decreed we hold our tongues, let you entertain yourself off in isolation, and so we simply sat in disgust from a distance.  Yes, while much good will come of this, particular notice is still due the erasure of this particular stain on—“

 

Bitil slashed his arm out.  A blade of light extended from it as he did, cutting a deep gash in Velika’s rock armor.

 

“You offend me, Lord Velika.  As I’m sure you can understand, I have no inclination to tolerate insults aimed at my creations!”

 

Velika had already recovered from the surprise attack, the gap in his hide mending on its own.  Bitil leapt forward, lightning crackling around his palms, but Velika darted forward with surprising speed, bashing one of his massive shoulders into Bitil and sending him flying backwards.  Another blast was aimed at the fallen Makuta, but he quickly sprang to his feet and activated his Invulnerability, blocking it on his forearm.  Velika beat both hands against the ground, and a line of stone crags suddenly reached from him all the way to the edge of the battlefield.  Bitil was nowhere to be seen after that.  He advanced, but by the time he was halfway to the outpost, Bitil emerged from behind one of the spikes, shooting a powerful laser squarely at the drones’ eyes.  Unfortunately, it had little effect.

 

“It seems you don’t comprehend, simple Makuta,” Velika said, swatting Bitil against the crags.  “I have become an embodiment of the Element of Rock, and Rock endures all.  It is an unyielding, immovable object that now stands in your path, and you have not a single hope of defeating it.”

 

Bitil squirmed, trying to pry himself free from the monster’s hold, but to no avail.  Velika raised his other hand and pointed its cannon in Bitil’s face.  The Makuta looked frightened for a moment, but then smiled.  Six arms suddenly wrapped around Velika’s, and with a mighty heave, Ramier flipped the Rock elemental over their head and into the ground.  Bitil quickly leapt to the Rahkshi Kaita’s side as they raised their barrier.

 

“What was that you were saying, Velika?” he taunted.  “Something about being immovable, if I recall?”

 

Velika got to his feet, feeling light blasts from Bitil peppering his back.  He whirled and swung his claw through the air, willing a long rock spike to erupt from the crags in an attempt to spear them, but it shattered against Ramier’s shield.  With a scoff, Velika pulled his hand in front of himself and created a shield of his own made out of rock.  The reprieve from damage lasted only a moment: a surprise blow came from his side, and when he turned to see who it was, he saw no one.  That changed soon, as Artil was now rolling in from behind him, and Velika had to pull his shield around to defend against one of the massive Rahkshi’s blasts.  Bitil and the invisible assailant took advantage of the opening this created.

 

“Excellent work, all of you!” Bitil shouted.  “Come, and let us show our foe that a simple suit of armor is not enough to make us cower!”

 

Velika turned to face him, shuddering slightly as his shield endured another of Artil’s blasts.  “You truly are a fool, Bitil.  How one of our most ingenious designs for a species could spawn such fools is beyond even my intellect.”

 

He pointed one claw towards Bitil and Ramier.  Just as Bitil was about to ask what he was doing, a small stone sphere appeared in the space between the two of them.  His eyes shot wide.  Ramier saw it as well and deactivated his shield, allowing them both to teleport away—and not a second later, the stone expanded, instantly growing to a size beyond what the shield could have contained.  Velika reached out and grabbed the stone, lifting it with ease, and then hurled it in Artil’s direction.  The projectile was blasted apart just before it made impact.

 

“Lord Velika!”

 

Velika looked up, seeing Antroz diving towards him.  He flexed his shoulders, and a few dozen fist-sized rocks shot out at Antroz, forcing her to weave through them and bringing her almost directly into a blast from the drone’s cannon.  With a scowl, Antroz teleported directly in front of Velika’s face and thrust her sword at it.  Velika ducked, narrowly avoiding the blade, and then willed more stone shrapnel to erupt from his shoulders, knocking Antroz away.  He prepared to knock her from the sky, but he felt a strong blow at his ankle that disrupted his balance.  A quick survey showed no one there, though Bitil was on his way back with light, plasma, and electrical energy all swirling around him.  Artil blasted his shield again.  Velika gave a loud groan.

 

“What’s the matter, Velika?” Bitil called, unleashing the violent torrent he had been building up.  “Perhaps our might is so great you’ve already been overwhelmed?”

 

Velika caught the attack on his shoulder—chunks of stone were blown away, but the damage was undone in seconds.  Antroz and Ramier were poised on opposite sides of him, and he felt another attack from his unseen opponent.

 

“You overestimate yourselves,” Velika said as Antroz and Ramier moved in.  “This is merely an annoyance.”

 

He threw his arms wide.  A thousand stone spikes erupted from his body, pushing away all those within his range and leaving deep puncture wounds in each of them.  Artil managed to just narrowly avoid them, for once glad that he was so slow.  Antroz, Ramier, and Bitil all soon materialized at his side.

 

“Are you alright?” Bitil asked Ramier, simultaneously trying to patch the holes in his armor.  “If you need to separate, then fall back!  We’ll hold him here until we can muster reinforcements!”

 

Ramier began to reply, but then they stopped, staring back at where Velika had stood.  Bitil followed his gaze, spotting a Chameleon Rahkshi holding a long chain flying in their direction.

 

“Chloae?  Wasn’t she partnered with…”

 

A laugh came from the erratic crags that now lay before them.  The stone slowly peeled away, and Velika’s rocky form walked out of it, clutching something in one hand.  It was Virban.

 

“Rahkshi with sapience,” Velika said as he examined his captive, “if not intelligence, per se.  Your offense is unjustified when the ambitions of your design remain unattained, Bitil.”

 

Velika tightened his grip.  Virban screeched horribly, and Bitil took a few running steps before freezing under Velika’s gaze.  He locked eyes with the Great Being, staring at him for what felt like minutes, before turning back to Virban.  The Rahkshi of Courage’s breathing was ragged now, but he continued to struggle against his captor’s hold.  Bitil lowered his arms.

 

“…Let him go,” Bitil said.  “I’ll take him back to receive medical attention—he won’t be a threat to you any longer.”

 

“Hah!  This thing was no threat to begin with!”

 

“Then you’ve no reason to object?”

 

Velika stared at him a moment longer, and then chuckled to himself.  “Oh, so be it.  If this thing truly sparks such sentiment within you, I suppose I shall be gracious and postpone its death until after yours.”

 

He released his grip.  Virban fell to the ground, his sword clattering beside him, and groaned as he pushed himself up.  Bitil beckoned to him.  Virban’s eyes narrowed into a glare.  What happened next felt strange, Bitil thought, as if time had slowed down around him, yet he also felt it happened all too quickly.  Virban’s fingers tightened around the hilt of his weapon.  Bitil prepared to teleport to his side, but he wasn’t fast enough.  The Rahkshi sprang upwards and swung his sword at Velika’s chest, managing to cut a shallow gash into the rock armor protecting him.  A bright flash of light came from one of Velika’s cannons.  Bitil watched as Virban’s body was ripped apart by the energy blast, and in that moment it felt like his essence had also been vaporized, leaving him totally numb.

 

Velika just laughed.  “Thus my point is proved!  What stupidity, its only chance thrown away—and for what?  It seems foolishness is written into your every gene, Bitil, for it pervades every one of your abominable offspring.”

 

Bitil began to shake.  He was beginning to regain feeling, but all he felt was a terrible anger.

 

“But enough of that diversion.  Time to eradicate the rest of you, I think.”

 

Velika waved his hand, and the miniature mountain range he had previously created suddenly burst in a violent explosion.  Ramier shielded whoever they could, but several of the Rahkshi just coming to join the fight were blown away by the sudden blast.  Velika advanced into the cloud of dust with his cannons armed.  Bitil soon came into view, stopping after a few steps and appearing to turn intangible; paying him little mind, Velika shot a blast straight through him and continued walking.  Surprisingly, however, Bitil did not react when the blast pierced him.  Velika paused mid-step.

 

“Curious…”

 

At that moment, something latched onto his back.  He spun, trying to grab it, but his shoulders were too large, preventing him from reaching.  An immense source of heat soon made itself known, and Velika saw a large ball of magma taking shape above his head.  He extended a spike from where he detected contact, but it apparently didn’t connect with the attacker, who just smashed the molten sphere down on top of him.  The intense heat seeped through the shell of rock, and the systems of the drone within began to suffer.

 

“Clever,” Velika said, “but insufficient.”

 

He created new rock between the magma and his mechanical core, slowly pushing out the damaging substance and keeping the drone safe.  It began to cool quickly.  Far, far too quickly, in fact.  Velika was now registering an intense cold swing, and gradually worked out what the source of it was.

 

“I recognize these abilities…ah, so it is you, Bitil.”

 

The Makuta leaned forward far enough that Velika could see him, his Faxon glowing brightly.  “You’re a monster.  You yourself said he was no threat, said that you were going to let him go.  You didn’t have any reason to kill him!”

 

A loud crack was all he heard in reply.  The rock surrounding the drone’s arm split open, allowing it to reach up and aim its cannon directly at Bitil.  Too stunned to properly evade, Bitil took a bolt in the side and was sent flying away.

 

“Death is a kindness,” Velika said, “to those who did not have reason to be born.”

 

Antroz came flying out of the dust then, coating her sword in plasma as she swung it at the exposed arm.  She managed to sever its cannon, but before she could escape, the stone shell reached up, pulling her in as the rock closed and reformed around her, trapping her in a vice-like grip.  Velika nodded and a tall pillar of stone appeared in front of him.  Rearing back, he smashed Antroz into it with enough force that both the pillar and his construct’s arm were obliterated, leaving the Makuta stunned as she rolled out across the sand.  Velika’s arm regenerated instantly.

 

“Indeed, death is all that awaits for those arrogant enough to subvert our design, whether in ways great or small.  This pitiful struggle is only delaying the inevitable.”

 

Something pierced him.  Whatever it was, it managed to cut straight through the rock all the way to the drone.  Not wasting any time reacting, Velika swiped his claw, knocking Krika aside and deactivating his Chameleon powers in the process.  The Makuta tried to keep his spikes in his foe, but Velika snapped them with a blast from his remaining cannon.

 

“Rats!” Krika shouted, reeling in what was left of his hand.  “Do forgive me if this is a bit out of line, milord, but I find myself growing exceptionally frustrated with entertaining you!”

 

Velika laughed, but said nothing more.  He took a step forward and prepared his next attack.

 

Back on the wall, Zaekura snatched up a screwdriver and fastened one last bolt into place, using every finger on her other hand to keep the parts aligned well enough that it would fit.  When she could tighten it no more, she released her hold and watched it for a moment: every piece remained where she wanted it to be.

 

“Yes!” she exclaimed.  She dropped her tools, grabbed the modified device, and leapt to her feet, rushing over to the edge before Charla could say a single word.  “Okay, where is he?  I’m ready to let him have it now!”

 

She scanned the battlefield and frowned.  As best she could tell, there were only a few drones left, and the Rahkshi were quickly cleaning them up.

 

“Excuse me, Lady Zaekura,” Charla said, “over that way.”

 

Zaekura turned, stopping as soon as she caught glimpse of Velika’s elemental form emerging from the dust.  After staring at it for a few seconds, Zaekura rubbed her temple and grumbled, “…Huh…”

 

Charla asked, “Will the device still work despite his new protection?”

 

Zaekura glanced at the device and thought for a moment.  “Yeah, it should.  The problem is, it has a limited range, so either I need to get over there, or—“

 

“I’ll tell the Makuta to lead him this way at once, milady,” Charla interrupted.

 

She closed her eyes, and Zaekura stood and waited for her to relay the message.  However, almost immediately, Charla opened her eyes, clamped a hand over her mouth, and took a step back.

 

“W-What is it?!” Zaekura asked.

 

“Oh no…” Charla said.  “Oh no…”

 

A strange sound came from the Rahkshi, one Zaekura hadn’t heard before.  It sounded like a continuous series of soft, very short hisses, interrupted only by Charla taking fast, deep breaths.  Zaekura gawked until she finally realized what was going on.  Charla was sobbing.

 

“…Charla?” she said, tentatively reaching out.  “What is it?”

 

Doing her best to think of a composed voice, Charla said, “Virban…is dead.  Velika was going to let him go, but he turned and tried to continue fighting.  So, he…Velika…”

 

Zaekura’s eyes widened.  She turned back towards Velika: more and more Rahkshi were headed towards him, each launching their own attacks but none seeming to do much damage against his rock armor.  Krika and Antroz could be seen holding their distance, trying to find an opening.  Bitil, on the other hand, was in constant movement, his body crackling with so much lightning he almost looked made out of it, darting about erratically and ramming into Velika over and over and over.  He seemed able to keep Velika off-balance, but that was all he could do.  The Rahkshi Kaita Za was closing in as well, forming themselves into a living tornado as they did, but Velika had just enough time to launch a boulder at them, temporarily stunning the fusion.  Zaekura swallowed hard.

 

Gently grabbing Charla’s shoulder, she said, “I’m sorry, Charla.  I know this is hard, but…we still need to finish this fight.  Velika’s still here, and if we don’t get him in range fast…”  She bit her lip, unable to finish her sentence.  “…I’m sorry…”

 

Charla gave one short nod.  Breathing deeply, she said, “You’re right…I apologize, it was just such a shock—“

 

“Don’t apologize!  You don’t have anything to apologize for.”

 

After taking a few moments more to collect herself, Charla closed her eyes again.  A few seconds later, Krika and Antroz could be seen pulling back and gesturing to the Rahkshi to do the same—Bitil was even changing his attack pattern, if only slightly, trying to goad Velika into approaching the outpost.

 

“Thank you,” Zaekura said.  “I’ll win this in a flash, just wait!  Nobody else is going to get hurt!”

 

Charla just stared forward, nervously watching the battle unfold.  To both her and Zaekura’s dismay, Velika did not appear to be taking the bait, opting instead to unleash wide ranged attacks on the retreating forces.  It didn’t seem anyone was taking serious harm, but Zaekura could feel Charla’s anxiety radiating off of her unconsciously.

 

“…I’m heading out there,” Zaekura said, making towards the nearest staircase.  She only got one step before Charla grabbed her arm.

 

“You can’t!” she said.  “There’s no way you’ll be able to get close enough the way things are!  We…we need to find some other way of luring Velika in.”

 

“Unless we can think of something fast, I’m going to have to give it a try.  At this point I’m thinking that I’m really the only thing that can get his attention.”

 

Before Charla could think of an alternative, the sound of footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs.  They both turned to see five Rahkshi of Sonics headed their way, Natan in the lead with his guitar resting on his shoulder.

 

“Don’t flatter yourself too much, Lady Zaekura,” he said as he stepped onto the top level.  “I think we’ve got quite a stage presence too.”

 

He lowered his guitar as the others joined him, each quickly preparing their own instruments without waiting for any reply.  Zaekura couldn’t help but smirk as she said, “Not entirely sure Velika’s a music-lover, guys.  Plus, you’re probably going to need some powerful speakers to blast through that rock covering his ears.”

 

Natan turned to a Rahkshi holding a standing microphone, saying, “Speakers, eh?  What do you think, Rentzen?”

 

She laughed.  “Speakers?  Nah, we just gotta hit him with something harder than rock.  That’s why we stopped to get Desi.”

 

Zaekura then realized another Rahkshi was coming to join them, this one having purple armor and a fairly humanoid form, with her unusually small spines sitting atop her head rather than along her back.  She nodded at Zaekura as she approached the microphone, an excited glint in her eye.

 

“I can’t remember all the color-coding,” Zaekura whispered to Charla, “what kind of Rahkshi is she?”

 

Charla didn’t even try to answer as the band began to play.  An explosion of sound washed over the wall and across the battlefield as they beat an intense onslaught of notes from their instruments, while Desi leaned straight into the microphone and unleashed a vicious Power Scream.  Zaekura’s first reaction was to stumble back in shock.  Once it sank in, however, she grinned broadly.

 

Every head down below was turning as the music reached out over the combatants.  The Makuta and Rahkshi quickly resumed their slow retreat, but Velika only stood there looking annoyed at first.  However, after pausing to take a breath, Desi began to scream lyrics at him, with Rentzen echoing her words.

 

“THEY TOLD ME THAT A GREAT BEING WAS KNOCKING AT OUR DOOR,

BUT YOU’RE A JOKE—YOU’RE NOT AT ALL WHAT I WAS HOPING FOR!

YOU SAY YOU CAME HERE CUZ YOU WANNA PUT US IN OUR PLACE?

WELL WHY DON’T YOU COME OVER HERE AND SAY IT TO MY FACE?”

 

Velika stared for a moment as Desi paused.  Then, he finally began to march forward, apparently taking offense at her unkind words.  The others continued to pepper him with shots to keep up the act, and he seemed none the wiser.

 

“He’s coming!” Charla said.  “Lady Zaekura, when will he be in range?”

 

Readying the device, Zaekura said, “Er, hard to say exactly, but I’ll work out a guess…”

 

Velika raised his cannon and prepared to fire, but the Kaita Za swept in and tackled him, whirling him around in place before they retreated.  Desi smiled and leaned forward again.

 

“COME AND TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT YOU SHODDY HUNK OF ROCK!

COME AND PROVE TO ME THAT YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING MORE THAN TALK!

I BET THAT EVEN POINT BLANK YOU’LL MISS ME BY A MILE,

AND I’LL JUST STAND HERE ROLLING BACK AND LAUGHING ALL THE WHILE!”

 

Velika sent out a storm of stones, forcing his opponents back even further.  Bitil hovered above him long enough to spit a glob of acid, and then quickly used his Dodge powers to avoid a claw swipe, backing away to regroup with the others.

 

“THE MORE I HEAR ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PLANS IT MAKES ME SICK!

SO NOW I’M HERE TO SUM IT UP AND GIVE IT TO YOU QUICK:

WE’RE GONNA STOMP YOU HERE AND THEN IT’S GONNA BE THE TREND,

CUZ WE’RE NOT GONNA STOP UNTIL YOUR REGIME MEETS ITS END!”

 

Desi let out a long, wordless scream as Velika broke into a run, the other forces scattering out of necessity more than planning.  The Great Being hurled a boulder at the outpost—Ramier appeared at the edge of the wall just in time to intercept it.  Zaekura adjusted her grip on the device.  Turning to Desi and Rentzen, she extended her free hand, and they gladly pushed the mic into it.  As Velika raised his hands to unleash another assault, Zaekura stepped out from behind Ramier, glared straight at the Great Being, and shouted, “Enjoy being outsmarted by some lowly Glatorian, you glorified stalagmite!”

 

She squeezed the device, and it instantly hummed to life.  Velika was half-way through swinging his arms when its effects reached his body, and the monster of stone suddenly jolted to a halt.

 

“Take it out!”

 

Two of Krika’s spikes shot through the monster’s skull, crackling with enough electricity to short-circuit the drone within.  The rock body collapsed on the sand with a tremendous thud, and after a moment, it crumbled into a loose pile of pebbles, the remaining components of the drone strewn about.  As the forces below regrouped to finish off the last few drones, Zaekura tossed the device up and down and admired her work.

 

“Serves you right, idiot,” she said.  “Letting go of a jamming device when you’re relying on a remote link?  How dumb can you be?”

 

She returned Rentzen’s microphone, and then put a hand to her head.

 

“Though, I guess he’ll be prepared for that next time…I’ll have to keep working on it.  Hey, Charla, do we…”

 

Charla was still standing at the edge of the wall, staring silently at the remains of Velika’s vessel.  Zaekura paused a moment, and then slowly approached her.

 

“…Sorry,” she said.  “If I’d have finished it sooner, then—“

 

“No,” Charla interrupted, shaking her head.  “No, it isn’t your fault, Lady Zaekura.  Please don’t think any of us blame you.”

 

Zaekura fidgeted with the device.

 

“Virban always wanted to see battle.  I suppose I should be glad he got his wish…”  Charla tapped her finger.  “…But…it’s a curious feeling.  I can’t help but think…he must have known it would happen this way…he should have known that we were working on alternatives, he should have trusted us to win some other way.”

 

“Charla…”

 

Turning to face Zaekura, she went on, “Was…was his death…pointless?  Did he just throw his life away on some stupid mistake—or am I terrible for even considering that?  What is…how do I…”

 

Charla covered her face with her hands.  Hesitantly, Zaekura reached out and touched her shoulder.

 

“…I’m sorry, Charla,” was all she could think to say.

 

With Velika’s remote link severed, it did not take long at all for the remaining drones to be defeated.  Once that was dealt with, several Rahkshi immediately set about cleaning up the battlefield, seeing what they could salvage, meanwhile Zaekura, Charla, and the Makuta all converged on the hidden entrance Velika had made use of.  Descending the staircase, they found an immense underground cavern that housed six chambers, each glowing with vibrant light of different colors.  One was filled with fire, another with ice, a third with plant life—the keys to six Elements were stored here, and at the center of it all was a tall terminal currently streaming data across its screen.

 

“So this is where the Element Lords were made,” Krika said.  “You were sitting on a real treasure, Bitil.”

 

The other Makuta didn’t respond, glancing sullenly around the cave.

 

“I think this has the potential to be quite useful to our cause.  What do you think, Zaekura?”

 

The Glatorian held her head as she watched the flying information.  “Er…I dunno, this is all beyond me.  Maybe after taking some time to analyze it…”

 

“We can address that later,” Antroz said.  “The battle may be won, but we have no time to waste.  We need to decide what we’re going to do next.”

 

Zaekura sighed.  “Right.”  She turned to face the others.  “So.  Either we fight a doomed battle against the Great Beings and see how far we can get before meeting a gruesome end, or we spend the rest of our sorry lives on the run and hope they don’t manage to catch us.  Discuss.”

 

Before anyone else could say a single word, Bitil stated, “I’m fighting.  I don’t care what the rest of you decide: I won’t rest until I make Velika pay for what he did to Virban.”

 

Charla went to Bitil’s side.  She seemed about to say something, but no words came.

 

“Well,” Krika said, “in spite of Desi’s moving speech, I still think it’s a better idea to go on the run.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll simply abandon you all if you agree with Bitil.”

 

Zaekura nodded, and then turned to Antroz.  The blind Makuta stood perfectly still for a very long time.

 

“My priority is keeping Zaekura safe, and so I will go along with whatever decision we arrive at,” she began.  “However…I would rather we fight.  The actions of the Great Beings are reprehensible, and they stubbornly refuse to believe that there could be fault in anything that they do.  They treat the people of this world as possessions, mere trinkets they can use as they please, without giving thought to their own needs and wants.”  She faced Zaekura.  “The people deserve to be led by someone who respects them.  I want to fight for that.”

 

Zaekura scratched her head.  “…Hm.  Thing is, I don’t really have much justification for what I want to do.  It’s just that today…coming up with the battle plan, working on that device, being able to actually do something for the first time in forever…it felt pretty good.  Like I finally didn’t need to hide, and I could actually stretch my legs and…be myself.  I want more of that.”  She shrugged.  “Anyway, yeah.  I guess I’m gonna fight.”

 

Krika sighed, and then said, “Seems I’ve been outvoted.  Very well, to war it is.  We’d best get to work.”

 

Zaekura turned back to the terminal, but Antroz stepped in front of her.  “After the events of today, I believe you require rest, Zaekura.  We shall get to work on potential plans and then consult you in the morning.”

 

Pausing to think about it, Zaekura suddenly realized just how tired she felt.  “Alright.  I’ll sleep on a couple possibilities too, hopefully we’ll be able to put together something good.  Night.”

 

“With your permission, milady,” Krika said, “I was hoping to get a jump on the game and travel to Civitas Magna.  As I said before, if we get the truth of the matter into the conversation before the Great Beings have time to drag your name through too much mud, it could be an indispensable boon.”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Zaekura said, trying and failing to stifle a yawn.  “That should give us plenty of time to work on a plan of action.”

 

Krika gave a half-hearted bow and took his leave.  Bitil and Charla departed without a word, and Zaekura mumbled an extra farewell to Antroz before she too left the cavern.  Antroz chose to remain.

 

This must be the right thing to do, she thought.  We cannot continue to follow the Great Beings, that much has been made abundantly clear.  And if they will not negotiate peacefully, then we must fight to settle this.  This must be the right thing to do…even if it may lead our makers to set even more terrifying plans in motion to counter us.

 

Antroz faced one of the elemental chambers, the one filled to the brim with jagged rocks.

 

…Though, upon reflection…today’s events do give me an idea…

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Sorry for the long wait on this one, I’ll try not to drop the ball like that again.

 

-Also, since the posting of the last chapter, I’ve started using Twitter for updates on my writing (and what’s distracting me from it)!  It’s ExoPahrak if you’re interested.

 

-On to the story now, I only just remembered that Guurahk would actually be the Rahkshi of Creation, not Panrahk.  Only half of the Principle/Rahkshi pairings are properly color-coordinated so sometimes I forget.  I think the only scene I messed up on this with is when Gorast uses her Creation powers in The Gargoyle Knight—the energy should be blue, not brown—but I think I’m just going to leave the error in this time since it’s probably not a huge deal.

 

-“Viq” is spelled with a “q” so I can say it’s derived from “quiver.”  “Chloae” is spelled that way so that it resembles “cloak”, and she can extend her Chameleon powers to anyone holding onto her chain, which is what Virban has been doing throughout this battle.

 

-Since I just introduced the Rahkshi of Sonics band (they haven’t agreed on a name yet), I felt compelled to involve them in this fight, even if they unfortunately don’t all get named here.  The names of all five are derived from various people involved in the music of Bionicle: “Natan” from Nathan Furst (composer of the first three movies), “Rentzen” from Christine Lorentzen (Cryoshell), “Tyri” from Tyson Ritter (All-American Rejects), “Briels” from Niels Brinck (Face Me and Gravity Hurts), and “Basaik” from Christian Bastian of AIK (Hero and Caught in a Dream).  Very soon after conceptualizing this group, I got the idea of a Power Scream Rahkshi guest starring with them for some more intense songs, and that’s how we ended up with Desi, whose name is derived from “decibel”—she possesses and internal focal point for her power and can speak, though only through screaming.  However, any of the Rahkshi of Sonics can use their power to turn down her volume (so to speak) if she wants to converse normally.  Also her spines are meant to resemble a mohawk.  Mohawks are still cool, right?

 

-Putting Bitil’s outpost between Xia and Nynrah would put it right around where Tajun was in the Prime Reality, and upon realizing that I thought I should make use of the Cavern of the Elements in some way.  Velika’s form is mainly based on what the original Rock Lord looked like, but in making it a bit more monstrous, I think the image ended up taking some inspiration from Yu Yu Hakusho’s Toguro.  As Zaekura says, the process is too complicated for her to make use of right now, so don’t get worried thinking this will heavily tilt the balance in her favor.

 

-Bitil using a Faxon is turning out to be a bit more troublesome than I was expecting.  I’m so glad BS01 has a handy list of Rahi I can peruse, though picking just the right one still takes a while.  Still, I’d rather use established Rahi powers, just inventing one for the given situation could feel like cheating.  Rahi copied in this Section include the Fader Bull, Catapult Scorpion, Frost Leech, Avohkah, and Air Serpent.

 

-At some point I need to sit down and determine just what species have tear ducts.

 

-Civitas Magna is an immense, densely-populated area comprising much of Spherus Magna’s southern hemisphere.  Most of the planet’s citizens live here since it offers a much more agreeable climate than the harshness of Bara Magna, which features only a few cities that almost all serve a very specific purpose in the grand scheme of things.  I’m envisioning something like Metru-Nui on a far larger scale, and with the divisions of districts not being tied to Elements.

 

-That’s more or less the opening act of this story, and soon the war will be in full swing.  And it only took, what, four months to get here?

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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#9 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted Aug 11 2018 - 06:36 PM

SECTION IX

 

Zaekura glanced about, trying not to look as nervous as she felt.  She could feel at least a hundred pairs of eyes on her, and she could swear there were more with every step.  She stumbled; righting herself very quickly, she mumbled an apology to their escorts, but none of the nine Vorox circled around them said a word.

 

Antroz faced forward as they were led deeper into the cavern.  She could sense that it extended quite a bit farther, but to her surprise the lead Vorox ordered a halt.  Zaekura peered over Antroz’s shoulder.  The tunnel ahead looked no different from what lay behind them: rock walls lined with lightstones and many curious Vorox, an unobstructed sandy path laid out ahead.  She was about to speak when the sand began to shift.  Slowly, the sediment twisted together into a solid form, rising gradually until it towered above them.  The mountain of grains formed into a lean, muscular-looking body, its head a smoothed out helmet outlined in tiny spikes and broken only by two glowing yellow eyes that regarded the visitors with unclear intent.  Antroz and the Vorox bowed immediately, Zaekura catching on a second later.  They received no response.

 

“It has been some time, Sand Lord,” Antroz greeted.  “I hope you are doing well.”

 

The Sand Lord spoke, her voice sounding like a harsh desert wind: “I fail to see why you maintain such hollow niceties, Makuta.  You shall find no loving audience here.”

 

Straightening herself, Antroz replied, “My respect is genuine.  I apologize if I’ve given you reason to doubt that.”

 

The Sand Lord’s gaze focused on Zaekura.  “I find it most curious you came here.  Most curious that you brought this girl with you.  Is she not the one the Great Beings are searching for?  They may reward even those lowly as us were we to turn her over.”

 

“Uh, hello, Sand Lord,” Zaekura said.  “Honor to meet you.”

 

“We wish to negotiate with you, Sand Lord,” Antroz said.  “We wish to offer you a chance to join in our battle against the rule of the Great Beings.”

 

The hushed chatter of a hundred Vorox filled the chamber, swiftly becoming deafening.  The Sand Lord turned to look at Antroz for a few moments, eventually raising a hand to silence her followers, and then took a few slow steps forward, her feet melding into the sand beneath them at each footfall.

 

“Then the tales are true,” she said.  “The noble Antroz has truly turned against the Great Beings.  I wonder, what could bring about such a complete change in one as…committed as you?”

 

“I have learned that the Great Beings are not as benevolent as I once believed,” Antroz replied.

 

A chuckle like shifting sand interrupted her.  “Oh.  Now you’ve learned that?”

 

Unsure how to respond, Antroz went on, “This girl is innocent, yet they wish to see her dead.  Such rulers are unfit to rule, and I would see them removed, if it is possible.  I thought that perhaps we could convince you to join our cause.”

 

The Sand Lord stared at her in silence at first.  Leaning down until she was mere inches from Antroz’s mask, she said, “And why did you think that?”

 

“You and the Vorox must tire of your servitude to the Great Beings.  We are offering you an opportunity to be free of that.”

 

An angry growl came from the Sand Lord.  “Is that so?  Then tell me this, Makuta: why should we believe you?”

 

Antroz’s response was delayed.  “We have long worked together, you and I.  I have done what I could to assist the Vorox in meeting their work quotas, and arranging additional freedoms for them.  Have I not proven myself your ally?”

 

At her words, sand began to whip violently all through the cavern.  The Sand Lord stood tall, roaring, “Loathsome creature!  Done all you could, have you?  Then why is it we are still in chains?”

 

A puzzled look came across Antroz’s face.  “…Sand Lord, I—“

 

“You think inconsequential gestures are enough for us to sing your praises?” the Sand Lord said, jabbing a finger at Antroz.  “What difference should it make that you tried to make our slavery more comfortable for us?  You still chose to condone it!  Never once did you think twice about it!  You accepted that we were beneath you, that this way was natural, and only now that you see us as convenient to your own ends do you say you will change it?  I ask you once more, Makuta: why should we believe your words?  Why should we believe that one who never truly cared for us will grant us freedom, rather than simply chaining us to a new master?”

 

As Antroz fumbled with her words, Zaekura slowly stepped forward.  “Um, excuse me, Sand Lord?”

 

“What?!” the elemental replied, turning her fierce glare upon the Glatorian.

 

Swallowing hard, Zaekura stepped in front of Antroz.  “I-I just…I wanted to…”

 

The Sand Lord leaned towards her.  “I suppose you’re going to tell me that you are different.  That you have always loved the Vorox, and are far more deserving of our trust.”

 

Zaekura met her gaze for a few moments, but ultimately looked down.  “…No.  Honestly, I never really gave much thought to the Vorox’s situation.  I get why you don’t feel you can trust us.”

 

The Sand Lord tilted her head at this.  Soon, Zaekura looked up again.

 

“It was wrong—I won’t ask you to forgive me or anything.  But, I do want to ask you to give us a chance to earn your trust.  This is an opportunity for things to change for the better: we’ll learn to respect the Vorox, and if we actually manage to overthrow the Great Beings, we’ll reshape the world so you can all be free, so that future generations won’t think twice about respecting you.  Please, give us an opportunity to prove our commitment to making that change.”

 

Slowly, the winds died down, leaving only silence in their wake.  The Vorox all stared intently at the Sand Lord, who in turn gazed at Zaekura.  Eventually, she quietly asked, “What is your name?”

 

“Zaekura.”

 

Standing tall, the Sand Lord said, “Zaekura…your offer is intriguing.  But there are two issues that need resolved before I can entertain it: the matter of trust, of course, but also the matter of success.  The two of you seem quite unconvinced of your chances of victory, thus you stand no chance of convincing me.”

 

Antroz started to speak, but Zaekura put a hand on her arm to stop her.  With a sigh, the Glatorian said, “That’s fair.  It is still kind of hard to wrap our heads around the idea of actually winning a fight with the Great Beings—maybe it was too soon to approach you like this.  Sorry, I’m figuring this out as I go.”

 

The Sand Lord hummed to herself, a sound like a gentle breeze.  When she turned back to Zaekura, she said, “You ask for a chance.  Such a future for my people is too tempting to simply ignore, thus I will give you what you seek.”

 

Zaekura grinned.  “Great!  I mean, thank you, Sand Lord, for, um…”

 

Before she could figure out what an eloquent response might sound like, the Sand Lord continued, “I require proof that you stand a chance in this war you seek to start, as well as proof that you will learn to value the lives of the Vorox as equal to that of your own peoples.  I will ask one thing of you, and if you succeed, then we can negotiate.”  She paused, glancing to Antroz.  “I ask that you conquer Xia.”

 

The Makuta inclined her head, her wings twitching.  “What…?  You are asking us to attack them unprovoked?”

 

“If you are here, then I imagine your base of operations is not far away, correct?” the Sand Lord said.  “Close as we are to Xia, you must be within its grasp as well—if you do not attack them, they will most certainly attack you.  Be the defender, and they will only attack again, and again if necessary.  But if you can claim the city for your cause, then it would provide the perfect foothold to begin your climb.”

 

Antroz bristled.  “…There is truth in what you speak…but what of the citizens?  Surely—“

 

“I do not expect you to harm them?  No, Makuta, I do not.  I am sure you have already elected to favor non-lethal means of combat in any encounter with your precious Matoran and Agori and whatnot.  And that is precisely why this task will provide all the proof I need.”  She leaned forward again.  “Conquer Xia…without killing a single Vorox.”

 

“The Vorox will be fighting for Xia?” Zaekura asked.

 

The Sand Lord nodded.  “We have no choice.  Though I am forbidden from using my power within express permission from the Great Beings, the Vorox are required to fight and die should any city they inhabit come under attack.  And, being the main source of industry and demand for disposable labor in the Great Desert…quite a few Vorox inhabit Xia.”

 

Zaekura turned to Antroz.  The Makuta hesitated, so Zaekura lightly elbowed her and jerked her head in the direction of the Sand Lord.  Taking a deep breath, Antroz said, “It will be done, Sand Lord.  Xia shall soon be ours, and we swear to you, not a single Vorox shall be lost in the process.”

 

The Sand Lord’s body began to shrink away, vanishing back into the blanket of grains she came from.  “I await it eagerly.  And though I still harbor doubts…it is my dearest wish that your promises shall not be empty ones.”

 

She was gone, then, the sand mere sand once more.  The Vorox parted.  Zaekura and Antroz made their way out of the cave, the former blinking as she emerged into the desert sun, and then they started their walk back towards the outpost.

 

“You knew we were gonna have to deal with Xia sooner or later, Fangs,” Zaekura said after they had walked some distance.

 

“Forgive me for preferring it to be later,” Antroz muttered.  “This is quite an adjustment—I was hoping to settle into our situation more before launching an attack upon my home.”

 

“She’s right, though, about everything.  If we control Xia, we’ll be able to mass produce weapons and armor for our troops, not to mention stop our enemy from making more of their own.”

 

“I’m certain Atero would convert its factories to fill the vacuum…though, they would be far less suited to the task.”

 

Zaekura’s pace quickened unconsciously as she thought this over, leaving Antroz behind.  The Makuta found her feet felt heavy, weighed down by the thought of having to storm the gates she once defended, of how she would inevitably have to meet friends she’d known for millennia on the field of battle.

 

To herself, she said, “Difficult as it may be, this is the right thing to do.”

 

“Are you really so sure about that?”

 

Shock instantly filled her.  Whirling, Antroz focused her thoughts upon her immediate surroundings, trying to determine the source of the voice she had heard, but she sensed nothing there.  Up ahead, Zaekura turned back and raised an eyebrow.

 

“…What are you doing?” she called.

 

Antroz did her best to recompose herself.  “Ah, nothing.  I thought that I heard a voice.”

 

Zaekura glanced left and right.  “I don’t see anyone.  Must’ve imagined it.”

 

“…Perhaps I did.”

 

She focused one more time, trying to pick up any entity or object that was close enough she could hear it.  But again, she found nothing.  She did her best to shrug it off, moving to catch up to Zaekura, but the unsettling feeling left from the experience followed her without missing a step.

 

***

 

Charla slowed down as she approached the watchtower.  Gazing up, she thought she could see the glint of Bitil’s armor, but he remained largely hidden from view.  She looked to her side as several other Rahkshi walked past.  A shudder ran through her.  Charla stopped at the tower door and took a deep breath, rubbing her neck as she prepared to enter.

 

Once she made her way to the top floor, she found Bitil standing near the railing with his arms crossed.  With a bow, she said, “Pardon the intrusion, Lord Bitil, but I have the updates you requested.”

 

Bitil didn’t respond.

 

“Surja tells me that all the Rahkshi’s wounds have been fully healed—she will however require some time to rest and regain the energy she expended accomplishing this, therefore I have been recommending additional caution to those still engaged in heavy work.”

 

Still, Bitil said nothing.  Charla fidgeted.

 

“Cleanup squads have finished removing the debris between here and the newly-discovered lab, and are very nearly done sorting and disposing of the drones’ waste.  We’ve yet to see to the minor damage the walls sustained, but I have received assurances that once the remaining scrap is dealt with, the patchwork will take mere hours to complete.”

 

Charla dragged the pause out, but to no avail.

 

“…And, I have compiled several reports from our reconnaissance teams.  No other drone squadrons have been sighted within considerable distance of here.  One team also spotted Lady Zaekura and Makuta Antroz returning, saying that they should be arriving shortly.  We’ve yet to receive word from Makuta Krika, however, though I doubt we will until he is on his way back as well.”

 

The silence held for about a minute.  Finally, Charla decided it was enough.

 

“Lord Bitil…please, say something.”

 

Bitil turned slowly.  “What would you have me say?  Things are going smoothly, that’s excellent.  Maybe we’ll have just enough borrowed time to get back in fighting shape before the next skirmish.  Wonderful.  We don’t have any new information to work with, not until Zaekura and Antroz return at least.  Come get me then.”

 

Charla was about to leave, but she hesitated.  “Lord Bitil, you know that I can sense your pain.  Why do you seek to hide it from me?”

 

“Because there’s nothing to be done with it, Charla,” Bitil hissed.  “There’s no way to change what’s happened, and we don’t have the time to dwell on it.  All we can do is push forward.”

 

Charla shook her head.  “Forgive me…but it was recklessly charging forward that brought about this tragedy.”

 

Bitil’s eyes widened.  “What did you say?”

 

“Lord Bitil—“

 

“How dare you!  Perhaps I haven’t had opportunity to teach it to you, but you should still know better than to speak ill of the dead!  Aren’t you at all upset about what happened to Virban?”

 

“Of course I am!” Charla said.  “We all are, my lord!  But when you insist on carrying on without acknowledging it, the rest of us follow that example, and now this entire outpost is filled to the brim with nothing but pent-up grief!”  She wrapped her arms around herself.  “No matter where I go, it’s all I can feel.  It’s enough to make me sick.  If this wound isn’t treated, then the infection will cripple everyone here, and rob us of any chance of a second victory!  Can’t you see that?”

 

Bitil turned away, clenching his fists.

 

“…I’m sorry, my lord, but I can bear this no longer.  Something must be done.  We may not have as much time as we’d like, but we need to make use of the time we do have.”

 

After a very, very long wait, Bitil quietly asked, “What would you suggest?”

 

Charla walked up next to him.  “You may not agree, but…I think you should visit Ga-Koro.”

 

Bitil squinted.  “Ga-Koro?  Why would I go there?”

 

“Makuta Kojol may be the only one with the answers to the questions plaguing you.  At the very least, I think her expertise in these matters means she has the best chance of soothing you.  I wish I could be of greater help, my lord, but…”  She sighed.  “…I…don’t know the answers either…”

 

Bitil glanced over the outpost.  “I can’t just leave you all.  What if there’s some kind of surprise attack—who will be here to defend you?”

 

“As I said, Lady Zaekura and Makuta Antroz will be returning shortly.  And even that aside, we are somewhat capable of defending ourselves, miserable though we may be at present.  We will remain safe until you return.”

 

A grunt was all she got at first.  However, as Bitil mulled it over, she could sense him slowly coming about, albeit only due to the loss of having any alternative to propose.

 

“Fine,” Bitil said.  “I shall see what Kojol has to say, and then I will return immediately.”  He waited a moment before asking, “Would it be a burden if I put you in command during my absence?”

 

“One that I will gladly bear, Lord Bitil.”

 

Bitil turned towards her.  Gently setting a hand on her shoulder, he silently nodded.  Charla nodded in return.

 

“I hope you find peace,” she said.  “…Enough for all of us.”

 

***

 

“This has already gone much too far, Heremus,” Velika said.  “We must kill the girl the next time we see her.”

 

Angonce crossed the chamber, arguing, “Velika, that’s absurdly rash.  You know we always learn more from these cases when they’re brought in alive—would you really want to sacrifice that knowledge?”

 

“The choice is not ours any longer!  Her mind has begun to develop, and if she is not stopped then she will become exactly what we have always feared these recurrences could be!  Preserving our rule must take priority over some superfluous data!”

 

“What do you mean ‘superfluous’?”

 

“We’ve examined dozens of these cases over the years, Angonce, surely you don’t think we’ll stumble across some grand new secret with this one in particular!”

 

They both turned as another Great Being, one wearing a golden cloak, slowly stepped towards them.  In a subdued tone, he said, “I believe we will, Velika.  Assuming your assertion that she has begun to develop is true, that is.  We have never had opportunity to study someone at this stage before.  Thus, studying Zaekura will without a doubt provide us with information we currently lack.”

 

Velika huffed.  “Heremus…all due respect, but I think you are underestimating the danger she poses.”

 

“She has foiled us once.  Twice, if we count Nynrah.  I believe you to be overestimating her.”

 

“Besides, isn’t it kind of fun in a way?” Angonce said.  “There’s an element of risk involved that we haven’t had in so long—why not indulge a little?  I heard you saying you were glad to be curious again, Velika.”

 

“Yes, but not…”  Velika turned away, pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

“Your emotions cloud your judgment, friend,” Heremus said.  “So attached are you to these drones you have created, that you have leapt at the chance to smite those few who have bested them.  It would behoove you to take a more rational approach.”

 

“As I said, my true concern lies in the threat posed to our rule,” Velika said.  “How can we be complacent in the face of our first true danger?”

 

“You worry too much, Velika,” Angonce said.  “We’ve spent plenty of time preparing for cases like this.  It may take a while, but all it requires is a bit of patience, and things will inevitably return to normal.”

 

“Yes, patience,” Velika said, “you’re simply a beacon of that particular virtue, Angonce.”

 

Angonce rolled his eyes and took a few steps away.  Heremus faced Velika and said, “He is right.  While Zaekura does have the potential to threaten us, this is a threat we are ready to deal with.  In fact, its resolution may already be in motion.”

 

Velika eyed him warily.  “…What do you mean by that?”

 

“I have sent word to the Odinans.  Two of them are currently en route to the mainland to find and apprehend Zaekura.”

 

Velika’s eyes widened.  Angonce looked over his shoulder.  Before either could say anything, a new voice called, “Is that truly the best we can do, Heremus?  I’m positive there’s a quicker way to get results.”

 

The three turned to see another Great Being enter the room.  Her cloak was a dark shade of gray and trailed across the floor behind her, and lacked sleeves for the simple reason that its wearer did not have arms.  Angonce grimaced as she came up to them.

 

“Your ‘quick solutions’ always make me nervous, Seldoa,” he muttered.  “I’m afraid to ask, but if you prove me right it’ll be worth it, so go on, tell us.”

 

“She is at the outpost, is she not?” Seldoa said.  “Simply annihilate the outpost.”

 

“What do you think it is I was trying to accomplish?” Velika asked.  “She fought back, and through some fluke managed to—“

 

“Not attack it with drones, Velika.  I mean annihilate it.  Wipe it off the face of the planet.  A weapon capable of that should be a simple task to create.”

 

Angonce laughed.  “And there it is!  I always love talking to you Seldoa, really a treat.  ‘Let’s make something capable of atomizing cities, the masses are sure to celebrate us for it and not cower in fear.’  Such wondrous humor.”

 

Seldoa scoffed.  “What of it?  Those mites could always use a reminder of just where it is they stand.”

 

“I must say I agree,” Velika said.  “Unrefined as it may be, I offer my support for Seldoa’s proposal.”

 

Heremus shook his head.  “No.”

 

“And why not?” Seldoa asked.

 

“It would seem Zaekura has already found some support.  If we eradicate her so hastily, then the public would indeed come to fear us, and the next time someone with the gift appears, they will likely find much more support, and far more easily.  We would solve our current problem only to make the next impossible.”

 

“Then just wipe them all out.  Or at least the Glatorian, then we won’t have to worry about recurrences ever again.”

 

“…Perhaps that is a bit much,” Velika said.

 

“It is most certainly too much,” Angonce said.  “Honestly Seldoa, after so many failed petitions for extinction a logical being would’ve learned by now.”

 

Seldoa closed her eyes and thought a moment.  Looking then to Heremus, she said, “Very well.  But I still lack confidence in the Odinans’ ability to handle this crisis.  Allow me to make some preparations, arrange some fallbacks for if they should fail.”

 

Heremus rubbed his chin.  Leaning towards him, Angonce said, “Would it be wise to leave her in charge of a war effort?  I mean, that’s basically what we’re talking about here.”

 

Seldoa glared at him, but Heremus nodded.  “Quite right.  Therefore, should the Odinans fail, I will entrust the bulk of these affairs to both Seldoa and Velika.”

 

Angonce scratched the side of his face.  “…That’s, er, not what I had in mind, Heremus…”

 

Raising an eyebrow, Velika said, “She and I?  Truly?”

 

“Yes.  You care for the citizens enough that you should be able to keep Seldoa’s zealousness in check, whilst still ensuring that our goals will be achieved.”

 

Velika glanced at Seldoa.  Both of them smirked.

 

“I will of course remain informed,” Heremus said, “and have the ability to reject your plans or even remove you from this position should I feel your personal feelings are obstructing your performance.”

 

“I can abide by that,” Seldoa said.  “Thank you, Heremus.  We shall not disappoint you.”

 

“Indeed, Heremus,” Velika said.  “You will not regret this decision.  Come with me, Seldoa: let us begin work immediately.”

 

Seldoa nodded, and the two of them exited the chamber.  Angonce sighed.

 

“You doubt my choice, Angonce?” Heremus said.

 

“Frankly, Heremus, yes.  But for now it’s sort of a moot point, I suppose.  I’ll wait quietly and see how the Odinans perform for now.”

 

Heremus nodded and headed back across the chamber.

 

“It’s sort of interesting, though,” Angonce mumbled.

 

Heremus turned.  “Beg pardon?”

 

“Oh, nothing, just…the Odinans.  Already.  You were telling Velika he’s overestimating her, but the Odinans are usually sort of a last resort, so to go straight to them just seems…”  Angonce gestured vaguely.

 

“The Odinans are to be called upon when the Makuta fail,” Heremus said.  “Three Makuta have failed to deal with Zaekura.  I feel turning now to the Odinans is entirely logical.”

 

“…Alright, I suppose that makes sense.  Pretend I never said anything.”

 

Heremus resumed walking.  Angonce crossed his arms and stared at the floor, humming to himself as he thought.  A new set of footsteps soon reached his ears, and when he looked up, he saw a white and gold-clad Makuta wearing a Mask of Sensory Aptitude walk into the room.

 

“Is the meeting over, Lord Angonce?” he asked.

 

“Oh, yes, come on in, Chirox.  What have you got for me?”

 

The Makuta held out a tablet as he came closer.  “Results on that experiment you asked me to run.  I’m afraid there’s not much to report, but I also included some proposals to how the parameters could be altered to achieve more desirable results.  We may need to request some more materials from Xia, however.”

 

“Right, Xia, I’ll send you that way…”

 

Angonce glanced over the tablet, and then settled his gaze on Chirox.  “Say, Chirox…these experiments should be compatible with other life forms aside from the Rahi we’ve been using, shouldn’t they?”

 

Humming thoughtfully, Chirox said, “I don’t see why not.  Did you have something in mind?”

 

“If you’re going to be visiting Xia, then I can’t help but wonder: how do you suppose this process might affect a Vorox?”

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-I think the scene in the Vorox den would’ve been more effective if I’d shown more of how the Vorox live/are treated over the course of the past eight chapters—I don’t think that one scene in Section I is really enough.  Unfortunately, the plot pushed things along without giving me the chance, since most of our time has been spent at Bitil’s outpost which is specifically only inhabited by Rahkshi…maybe I could have made time when Krika was in Ga-Koro?  Regardless, I’m hoping to better utilize the Vorox going forward.

 

-After mentioning Heremus a few times now, I figured it was time he actually made an appearance.  In order to keep the personalities of the other Great Beings in check, Heremus needed to be an extremely logical individual, someone who exemplifies the scientific nature of his kind by approaching everything with absolute objectivity.

 

-The thing is, I’ve now exhausted all the Great Beings we know the names of (all three of them), so this means I have to start bringing in original ones to fill out the roster.  Hence, Seldoa.  I figured whoever would step forward to lead the war effort would be someone rather nasty, and giving her a disdain for the people allows me to play her off of Angonce easily and I think a crutch like that is useful for the first of this type of character to be built wholly from scratch.  Her arms were lost in an experiment a very long time ago, and so she has a device that grants her very precise telekinetic abilities to compensate.  I haven’t settled on how many Great Beings we’ll see (Greg says fewer than 20 exist, and tbh even making 20 sounds daunting), or when more will be introduced—it’s something that’ll just come up as needed.  I don’t want to plan them all out at once, I might get a really good idea later on that I can work in at the last minute!

 

-I also wanted to return to the passing mention of the Odinans from a few chapters ago.  I figured “Dark Hunters” wouldn’t really suit an organization called upon by the Great Beings, plus this group also takes inspiration from elsewhere, and approaching things the way their leader would I figured something simple and straight-forward would work.  After that long arc of coming into direct conflict with the Great Beings and facing down hordes of drones, I thought it might be nice to shift focus to just two minor antagonists as a sort of breather.  Well, I say breather, but…

 

-In Brothers in Arms, Melding Chirox did make a brief appearance inside the Valley of the Maze, so I figured it was best to have him officially stationed there.  But, since it’s Chirox, he’s a lab assistant rather than a guard.  The Mask of Sensory Aptitude is one of those fanmade Kanohi that are canon but weren’t seen in action: it greatly increases the user’s five senses, so I thought it would make a good antithesis to the Shelek (which robs the target of a sense), plus I kind of dig its simplistic design aesthetic.

 

-This chapter is a bit on the short side, and for that I apologize, but I wanted to give myself a bit of extra time to prepare Krika’s next scene so I decided to bump it to Section X.  I can tell you that I’ve found some extra potential in it already, so hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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#10 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

Super Fighting Pahrak
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Posted Aug 25 2018 - 11:49 AM

SECTION X

 

Krika, under the guise of a Toa of Sonics, strolled merrily down the busy streets of Civitas Magna’s 1389th District.  Many of the passers-by smiled and nodded to him, and he waved in return.  It was nice to feel appreciated again, he thought, even if it was just a part of the act.  Though it would still be a while before the sun would set, the city was already taking on the appearance of night, the towering buildings and the large transport chutes woven between them blocking out so much natural light that lightstones mounted on posts were now flicking on to compensate.  The crowd in the streets was thickening, though Krika expected this wouldn’t last long.

 

I’m sure our weary workers will be making a few stops on their way home.  Let’s see if I can’t find someone willing to strike up a friendly conversation.

 

Slipping out of the crowd, Krika stepped into a busy-looking establishment and took a quick look around, spotting an empty seat at the bar.  As he hopped up on the stool, a worker came to greet him, but he smiled and politely waved them off; gratefully, Toa coming in simply to socialize seemed to be the norm, for the worker moved on without any incident.  A second later, a stray elbow knocked into Krika’s side.

 

“Oh, sorry about that!” the Agori next to him said, spinning around just slow enough he didn’t spill the contents of his mug.  “I didn’t see you there, Toa.”

 

“No harm done,” Krika said.

 

“Feels like I should apologize still—can I buy you a drink?”

 

“I appreciate the offer, but I think I’ll pass.  I’ve still got an appointment to get to after this.”

 

On the other side of the Agori, a Matoran leaned back to examine Krika, saying, “Don’t think I’ve seen you around here before.  Did you transfer in from another District?”

 

“From Mahri-Nui, actually,” Krika said.

 

“Woah, that far?” the Agori asked.  “What brings you here?”

 

“Some of the officials in this District wanted a consultant for a project they’re hoping to get off the ground, some sort of aquarium attraction.  Between you and me, I jumped at the chance—that salty sea breeze isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.”

 

“Tell me about it,” the Matoran laughed.  “I used to live in District 8533.  Couldn’t get inland fast enough.”

 

Krika laughed.  “Yes, it’s really quite nice here.  Mahri-Nui’s so out of the way I rarely catch wind of current events, but here in the big city I imagine I’ll stay quite informed.”

 

“Ah, good timing on that,” the Agori said.  “Did you hear about Nynrah?”

 

“Hm?  That artsy city along the coast?  Did something happen?”

 

Exchanging a glance with his Matoran friend, the Agori went on, “Yeah, something big.  I hear the Makuta there went nuts, and his people just barely escaped to Ga-Koro.”

 

“My word!  How could something like that happen?”

 

“I heard it was because of some criminal he captured,” the Matoran said.  “A Glatorian who wants to take power away from the Great Beings; she must’ve promised him some of it if he’d help her.”

 

“Worse than that, they say she even swayed Makuta Antroz,” the Agori said.

 

Tapping his arm, the Matoran said, “Now, I don’t believe that part.  No way would Makuta Antroz want to overthrow the Great Beings—she’s not flaky like Krika.”

 

“This sounds like a serious development,” Krika said.  “Have the Great Beings said anything on the matter?”

 

“Yeah, they released a statement earlier today,” the Agori said.  “Said we shouldn’t worry, and that they were gonna have the situation dealt with soon enough.  Still, some folks are a bit nervous about the whole thing.”

 

Krika nodded, thinking, Hm…does that mean they’re enacting a new plan already, or are they just talking big?

 

“Kinda makes you wonder, though.”

 

Looking up, Krika said, “Wonder what?”

 

The Agori shrugged.  “Well, it’s just weird that a Makuta would suddenly go rogue like that.”

 

“Not if it’s Krika,” the Matoran muttered.

 

“Hey, sure he’s a lame Makuta, but if he wanted to turn against the Great Beings, why would one Glatorian make him think they could do that?  And why would he send everyone in Nynrah running, or let them get away?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“I’m just saying it’s confusing.  We need some more information, if you ask me.”

 

Oh, a little healthy skepticism.  I do hope that’s the norm.

 

The Agori checked the clock on the wall, and then said, “Anyway, I’ve gotta get going.  I need to swing by District 1402 on my way home: a friend’s up for a promotion and I promised him I’d offer up a prayer of Prosperity for him.”

 

As the Agori downed the rest of his drink, Krika asked, “Wasn’t there a Suva in this District?”

 

“There is, but the keepers are super Lerist.”

 

“You can still offer other prayers,” the Matoran said, sounding like he’d said it many times before.

 

“Yeah, but good luck trying to get out without one of them making you feel like dirt if you don’t buy a Purity Charm.  I’ve got seven lying in a drawer at home.  Whatever, I’ve got a chute to catch, I’ll see you later.”

 

“Mind if I come with you?” Krika asked.  “I wasn’t entirely sure where the chute station was.”

 

“Sure thing!  It’s not far from here.”

 

Krika bade the Matoran farewell and followed the Agori outside and down the street.  Turning to his guide, he said, “A criminal capable of swaying the Makuta…it’s unthinkable, really.”

 

“I sure never expected it.  Especially not Antroz.”

 

“Indeed.  She always strives to do what is right, so the only way she would…”

 

After the pause dragged a bit, the Agori asked, “Wait, what?”

 

“Well, supposing she’s the moral character we always thought she was…the only reason I can think of that she would turn against the Great Beings would be if she thought that was the right thing to do.”

 

The Agori slowed down as he considered this.  “…But…that wouldn’t make any sense either…”

 

Krika shrugged.  “Just thinking out loud.  Until we know the whole story, all we can do is speculate.”

 

The Agori nodded, though still looked puzzled by the suggestion.  It wasn’t much longer before they reached the station, so the two exchanged goodbyes, and then the Agori was off to catch his transport while Krika hung around pretending to examine the schedule.

 

So the Great Beings are keeping the populace in the dark as much as possible.  I believe that’s just the advantage I need.  I’ll whisper the truth about Zaekura into a few ears here and there, make Antroz’s brilliant image serve my point, and it shouldn’t be too long before the Great Beings feel the need to say more in response.  It’s so much easier when you have the first move.

 

A small commotion broke him out of his plotting.  Walking down the platform, he saw a group of Toa with silver finish on the edges of their masks surrounding someone, a few of them waving the crowd along while their comrades tried to detain whoever was shouting obscenities at them.  A flash of green and white armor was all he saw through the crowd.  As he came closer, however, Krika got a better look at the Glatorian, yelling at a Toa as they tried to grab one of the many paintings she had piled at her feet, and he immediately pushed his way through to her side.

 

“Excuse me, pardon me, fellows!” he said, holding his arms out to keep them away from the Glatorian.  “What seems to be the problem here?”

 

The Glatorian gave him a confused look.  Luckily, the Toa paused in what they were doing, one of them saying, “And who’re you supposed to be?”

 

“My name is Arik—I’m a Toa from Mahri-Nui, just arrived today.  I’d like to know why you appear to be harassing this vendor.”

 

“Arik?” the Glatorian repeated.  “Are you kiddi…ugh…”

 

“It’s not really your place, newbie,” the Toa replied, “but if you must know we have orders to apprehend her.”

 

“And for what reason?” Krika asked.

 

The Toa shook his head.  “Orders are orders—now step aside.”

 

“Hold on, hold on!  Perhaps I’m not entirely familiar with the way you do things here, but what self-respecting Toa gang up on a single, defenseless artist trying to turn a small profit on her craft?  I think such a thing requires a better justification than mere ‘orders’, don’t you?”

 

The Toa sighed, “Look, pal—“

 

“Captain!” cried a voice.  “What is taking so long?”

 

Each of the Toa backed away, straightening their spines to salute the newcomer.  Slowly making his way across the platform was a Toa of Earth, his mask a purple Pakari trimmed in gold, and everything from the bored yet content look in his eye to the casual sureness of his step told Krika that he was going to be a nightmare to deal with.

 

“Sir!” the Toa Krika had been talking to said.  “I was just—“

 

“Who’s this?” the Toa of Earth asked, lazily gesturing to Krika.  “Have you really let some interloper get in your way, captain?  I should think you’re more than capable of dealing with that.”

 

“Toa Arik of Mahri-Nui, sir,” Krika said.  “And who might I have the pleasure of speaking to?”

 

The Toa scoffed.  Coming to a stop a few paces away, he closed his eyes, grinned, and placed one hand on his chest, saying, “Aha, Mahri-Nui, I suppose that’s a decent excuse for not knowing.  I am none other than the Turaga of Civitas Magna’s 1389th District, Upholder of Order in this little piece of our wondrous city, appointed by the wisdom of the Great Makuta Yarion themself!”  He opened his eyes and slowly swung his hand out to one side.  “I am Toa Onepu, newcomer.  And I suggest you remember that.”

 

Why, I’m completely positive that I’d be sick to my stomach if I had one, Krika thought.  Electing to choose his spoken words more carefully, he said, “Apologies, Great Onepu.  I shall indeed commit your name to memory.”

 

Onepu nodded, an infuriating look of satisfaction on his face.  “Well done.  Now, back to the matter at hand…”

 

“Yes, about that.  I came across your underlings harassing this poor Glatorian—“

 

“These brakas ambushed me!” the Glatorian broke in.  “Started confiscating my work, telling me I had to come with them, and I can’t get a straight answer to a single question from them!”

 

“And it was upon that I stumbled,” Krika resumed, stepping in front of the Glatorian, “and I could not help but think that was a bit…unfair.  I’m sure you have a perfectly good reason, Great Onepu, I would simply like to know what that reason is.”

 

Onepu rolled his eyes, and Krika found himself thinking of plucking them out.  The Toa said, “Well if you must know, we have standing orders to detain anyone from Nynrah, and this Glatorian is a…mildly well-known painter from that city.”

 

“Oh, I see.  But why would you detain an artist from Nynrah, if I may be so bold as to ask?”

 

“Surely even you have heard that the Makuta of Nynrah has gone rogue, yes?  We’ve reason to believe some of his citizens may be sympathetic to the cause he has declared allegiance to.  People such as those would serve only to subvert order in our city, and so they are being deprived of the opportunity to do so.  Quite simple, you see?”

 

“Believe me,” the Glatorian grumbled, “I’ve got nothing to do with Krika.”

 

“Yes, I’m quite sure,” Onepu chuckled.  “All the same, we have our orders.  Now, Toa…Eric, was it?  I trust your curiosity is satisfied?”

 

“Yes,” Krika said, “I would say so.”

 

“Then you have no further objections if we carry on here?”

 

“Ah…that’s not exactly the case, actually.”

 

Onepu frowned.  “Oh?”

 

“Well, you see, I did read up a bit on what duties I may be expected to perform once I arrived here in Civitas Magna.”

 

“And yet you were still unable to recognize the Turaga of the District you arrived in?”

 

“Perhaps ‘skim’ is a more accurate term.  Regardless, I do recall one particular bit of text…something about how anyone detained by the authorities has the option to appeal their case, and is entitled to representation by a Toa in that event.  Or, is my recollection inaccurate?”

 

After a long pause, Onepu said, “It is correct.”

 

“I see.  Well, I believe it’s safe to say that Miss…”

 

The Glatorian glared at him for a moment, then grumbled, “Carna.”

 

“I believe it safe to say Miss Carna objects to her detainment, so I believe the proper procedure would be to place her in custody of the Toa representing her interests until an audience with Makuta Yarion can be arranged to settle the dispute.  Again, my memory could be a bit foggy, have I gotten something wrong, Great Onepu?”

 

Onepu crossed his arms.  “No, you have not.  Miss Carna, do you wish for an appeal on the matter of your incarceration?”

 

“Well I sure don’t want to go to jail, kikanalo-skull,” she replied.

 

“Hmph.  And, are you satisfied with this Toa being the one to represent your interests in this process?”

 

Krika could feel Carna’s eyes boring into the back of his head.  It took her quite a while, but eventually, she quietly said, “Somehow, I get the feeling he’s my best option, so I guess so.”

 

Onepu let out a heavy sigh.  “Very well.  Toa, you are hereby charged with custody of the criminal Carna.  You are expected to keep her out of trouble, and you are ordered to report to the District Office tomorrow at midday.  I shall contact Makuta Yarion, and when we meet next, I will inform of you of the time they have chosen for the hearing.”

 

Krika nodded.  “Excellent.  I shall see you tomorrow, Great Onepu.”

 

Onepu signaled to his men, and they reluctantly withdrew.  As he turned to leave himself, he said, “And I would recommend against trying to sell any of your work, miss.  If more officers come across you we’ll simply have to repeat this entire process.”

 

Krika shook his head, silently cutting Carna off before she could say anything.  Once Onepu was gone, he sighed, turned to face Carna, and grinned.  “Well then, Miss—“

 

“Drop the act, Krika,” Carna said, slumping against a pillar.  “Honestly, ‘Arik’?  Here you’re supposed to be some patron of creativity and you think that’s clever?”

 

Krika sighed.  He discreetly waved his hand, creating an invisible dome of sound around them so they could talk in private, and said, “Yes, yes, I’ll devote more brainpower to devising a better pseudonym the next chance I get.  I hardly think that’s the issue here.  Why did you come to Civitas Magna?  You must’ve known that something like this could happen.”

 

Carna looked up at him, daggers in her eyes.  “I had to know what happened to Zaekura.  This seemed like a good place to find out.”

 

“She’s safe.”

 

“Where?”

 

“For now I think it’s best I keep that information to—“

 

Carna was on her feet in a flash, looming over the Toa-sized Makuta with a palpable aura of malice.  “Tell me where you took my daughter.”

 

Despite himself, Krika shrunk just the tiniest bit under that gaze.  “…Strictly speaking, I didn’t take her anywhere.  She escaped with Antroz.”

 

Carna’s eyes widened.  “Antroz…?”

 

“She is safe.  I know what you’re thinking, but let me say again: Zaekura.  Is.  Safe.  Antroz, Bitil, and I just fought off an army of Velika’s making to keep her that way, per chance you’ve heard of such a skirmish?”

 

Carna leaned back against the pillar, running her hands over her face.  “Makuta…she’s surrounded by Makuta and Bitil’s freak Rahkshi…how in Karzahni is that safe?”

 

“They’re not so bad once you get to know them,” Krika offered.  “In fact Zaekura’s getting along with them quite famously—Bitil’s so thrilled with her fascination that I daresay she’s got a lifelong friend.”

 

Carna slid her hands down to cover only her mouth and nose, staring blankly at Krika.  He met her gaze at first, but it wasn’t long before he found himself looking at the ground, and a very complicated emotion began to well up within him unbidden.

 

“…I apologize,” he said at last.

 

Lowering her arms, Carna asked, “For what, exactly?”

 

“Everything.  For not having better news for you, for not having the tact to deliver it properly, for detaining Zaekura and taking her away from you without letting you know…for what happened to Phindel…”

 

Carna looked off into the distance.  “And where is he?”

 

“I buried him.  It’s not an elaborate grave, but I did the best I could.  I had to go after Antroz, help her keep Zaekura safe.”

 

Carna breathed deeply.  “…At least he got a choice in all this.  First one in my family to get that.”

 

“And I apologize for what happened…for what I did to your father.  I reported to the Great Beings without thinking, and they asked for him to be brought in, and I…”

 

Carna looked straight at him.

 

“…I…was too much of a coward to say no.  What happened to him was entirely my fault.  I apologize…that all I can do is apologize.  I know that it will never be enough.”

 

“Darn right,” Carna murmured.  “And even after all that, you still told them about Zaekura too?”

 

Krika shook his head.  “That wasn’t me.”

 

“Oh, it wasn’t?”

 

“Carna, I swear to you: I did not breathe a single word about Zaekura to the Great Beings.  I don’t know who told them about her, but it was not me this time.  I’d hardly have any reason to lie to you about that now.”

 

Carna ground her teeth.  “…Fine.  Supposing that’s true, then who did it?  It must’ve been someone in Nynrah, and you being our mighty Guardian and all, you’ve got to have an idea of who would want to give valuable information like that to the Great Beings.”

 

“I doubt it was someone from Nynrah.  My people are not so—“

 

My people too, sand stalker.”

 

“Our people, then…are not the type to sell each other out.  The strength of our community has always been one of our virtues, wouldn’t you agree?”

 

“Pff.  Okay, then who else could it have been?”

 

Krika shrugged.  “Many people pass through searching for inspiration or treasure.  It could be any number of people…”

 

“You sound real concerned.”

 

“We can discuss that later.  I’d say we have more pressing issues, don’t you agree?”

 

Carna sighed.  “Fine.  Now that you’re here, you can take me to see Zaekura.”

 

Krika glanced over his shoulder.  “I’m not sure that’s the best course of action at the moment.”

 

“What?!”

 

“Listen!  We’ve gotten into something serious here, Carna.  Fleeing Civitas Magna without settling your case is a drastic decision that we can’t go back on!”

 

“Like I care about that—I want to see my daughter!”

 

“This is about your daughter!  Please, hear me out.”

 

Reluctantly, Carna sat down.

 

“Thank you.  Now…Zaekura has decided that, rather than living the rest of her life simply hounded by the Great Beings, she wishes to fight back against them.  We’re going to be fighting a war for control of this planet.”  Carna started to say something, but Krika went on, “I assure you, it was her decision.  I was against it, in fact, but if that’s what she wants then I’ll do whatever I can to help her.  And that is why I’m here.  War is more than swords and soldiers, Carna—especially when you’re playing the part of the conqueror.  If Zaekura is to have any chance of successfully taking leadership of Spherus Magna, then she needs to begin garnering support amongst those she will be leading.  I came to assess public opinion, devise a way to inform the masses of Zaekura’s intentions, and frame her sympathetically to begin the push towards them accepting her.  I think we have an opportunity, but…and please, listen very closely.”

 

He leaned in and added, “If we run now, you, her mother, will be branded a petty criminal.  And then that is all Zaekura will be known as, simply by association, and that will immensely hamper any attempt to win hearts and minds to her cause.  I cannot take you to your daughter yet, Carna.  If I do, then scant few will ever believe in her.”

 

Carna stared at him as she absorbed what he was saying.  Then, she hung her head, spreading one palm over her face to hide her expression.

 

“I apologize, Carna.  But we must do what is best for Zaekura now.”

 

He received no response.

 

“I will find a way to free you.  I will learn all there is to know about the law here, all there is to know about Makuta Yarion, and find a way to convince them to drop all charges against you.  You need only wait a short time longer, Carna, and then you can see your daughter again.”

 

Still, he received no response.  He stepped back then, turning and letting Carna react in peace, and pushed back with all his might against that well of wretched emotion.

 

***

 

Antroz stepped onto the bottom floor of the watchtower, sensing Zaekura sitting next to a window on the far side.  As she crossed the room, she asked, “Is something on your mind, Zaekura?”

 

The Glatorian continued to stare out the window, quietly answering, “Charla told me that Bitil went to Ga-Koro.  She thinks Kojol can help him cope with Virban’s death.”

 

“Yes, she informed me as well.”

 

Zaekura tapped her fingers.  “…I guess, for a minute there, I forgot that we’re probably going to see a lot more of that.  Death, I mean.  Whether we do well or not.  Even if we do all we can to avoid it, it seems kina unrealistic to think nobody else is going to die before this is over.”

 

“Are you having doubts?”

 

After a pause, Zaekura shook her head.  “Not doubts, no.  I want to do this.  But, maybe I need to be more mindful of what all it means.  I’ll see what Bitil wants to do about Virban when he gets back, but…”

 

Antroz knew what was coming next.  Though she dreaded it, she knew she could avoid it no longer.

 

Zaekura faced her and said, “Two people died escaping Nynrah.  Who were they?  What exactly happened?”

 

The Makuta took a deep breath.  “Very well.  The drones reached Nynrah while the citizens were in the process of fleeing.  Krika and his Rahkshi drew their attention, and it seemed to be an effective diversion.  However, a small group of villagers came to join in the battle, against Krika’s warnings.”

 

Zaekura hung her head.

 

“Krika did his best to get them away from the fight.  He managed to save most of them, and afterwards continued to occupy the drones so that they could not attack the rest of the citizens.  However, one was seriously injured before Krika could get to them, and two were killed by the drones.”

 

Antroz paused.  Zaekura looked up and said, “I need to know who.”

 

“One was a Toa named Jaller.  He fought bravely, but a drone took him by surprise.  All Krika could do was ease his passing.”

 

Zaekura nodded.  Antroz let the silence drag on.  Eventually, Zaekura said, “And?  The other one?”

 

“…A Glatorian.  He misjudged his swing, and a drone took advantage of the opening.”

 

“Do you know what his name was?”

 

Antroz hesitated.

 

“It might be someone I knew.  I gotta be sure.”

 

Another few seconds passed before Antroz finally relented.  “Phindel.”

 

Zaekura was slow to absorb this.  When she did, her eyes widened in horror, and she clamped a hand over her mouth.

 

“I’m sorry, Zaekura.  He did his best, thinking he could help keep you safe, but—“

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” Zaekura shouted, leaping to her feet.  “Those things killed my father and you didn’t think I ought to know that?  Why would you keep that from me?!”

 

“You were already in distress—I thought it might not have been wise to add to your pain.”

 

“Seriously?!  What, did you think waiting a while would make me care less?  He was my father, you…”  She grunted.  “Right.  Makuta don’t have families, so of course you don’t understand.  The Great Beings just fished you out of a soup and slopped you in a tin can!  Let me educate you, Fangs: if someone’s family dies, you tell them about it!  They have a right to know that it happened!  You’re not helping anything by keeping that from me!”

 

“I apologize,” Antroz said.  “I did not know how best to tell you.”

 

“Well this sure as karz ain’t it!”

 

Zaekura put a hand to her head, pacing across the room in frustration.  Without saying another word, she stormed out of the watchtower, slamming the door behind her, and Antroz stood there, all alone.

 

“You’re a monster.”

 

She spun, hand immediately going to the hilt of her sword.  Scanning the room closely, she asked, “Who’s there?”

 

Try as she might, she sensed nothing in the room but furniture.  But the voice continued, “All you do is make things worse.  You only add to her suffering.  You’ll destroy her before the Great Beings have a chance to.”

 

Antroz gritted her teeth.  “…There’s no one here.  This is only my imagination.”

 

“You’re a failure, Antroz.  You abandoned your city.  You brought ruin to Nynrah.  You’ve dragged this outpost into your conflict.  You destroy every life you come into contact with.  Is this the justice you sought?”

 

Antroz climbed the stairs, shaking her head in an attempt to clear it.  “It’s not real.”

 

“Where are you going?  Do you think you can escape the truth?”

 

She stopped and turned.  “It is not the…”  Sighing, she resumed climbing.

 

“What have you accomplished since leaving Xia?  What have you caused other than suffering?  Are you sure that you made the right choice?”

 

Antroz said nothing, grinding her claws into her palms.

 

“You gave up everything because you thought you’d be saving one life.  All you’ve done is ruin that life.  That one, and others.  People are dying because of the choice you made.  You chose wrong, and now people are dead.  More will die.  All because of you.”

 

Antroz shook her head.  “No…”

 

“You’re a monster.”

 

“No.”

 

“A complete monster.”

 

With a shout, Antroz drew her sword and swung it, getting it stuck in the wall of the stairwell.  She stood there stunned for a moment.

 

“You’re a monster.”

 

“I’m not…”  Refusing to finish the thought, she tried to wrench her sword free.

 

“Monster.”

 

Antroz sighed, letting go of the weapon and slumping against the opposite wall.  “What’s happening…?”

 

“Monster.”

 

“No, I’m not…I…I…”

 

“Monster.”

 

Antroz held her head in her hands.  No matter what she did, she realized, it was futile.  There was no way to stop the voice from tormenting her.

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Since Civitas Magna covers such a huge portion of the planet it’s got a loooot of Districts.  Makuta Yarion oversees the entire city, but each District has a Toa appointed to govern it specifically, given the title of Turaga since the Turaga species from the main universe doesn’t exist in this timeline. (The Great Beings didn’t see a need at the time, and now they have the Makuta to lead so another species with the some role still doesn’t seem necessary.) Since I’ve already found homes for all the canon Makuta it’s time to start bringing in new ones, though I’ll try not to do too many and I probably won’t focus on them as much—more on Yarion shortly.

 

-Mahri-Nui here is a research island out in Aqua Magna, possibly the only major island unless you count Odina…I haven’t 100% decided the layout of the ocean, I might think of something interesting later.  We may see Mahri-Nui, we may not.  It’s up in the air at this point.

 

-For reasons that will be apparent soon, I’ve been thinking a bit more about the details of spirituality in this world, and since Toa probably have less need for Kanohi-switching I figured there was no harm in focusing on the shrine aspect of Suvas a bit more.  People can visit them to offer prayers, and the keepers also sell charms like the ones seen in MNOGII, giving them some money to help with the shrine’s upkeep and helping the buyer feel a little more at ease.  Though, some keepers will tend more towards one particular Principle than the rest: Purity is one you see pretty frequently, and since Lerahk here is the Rahkshi of Purity, keepers who insist Purity as the most important Principle have come to known as “Lerists”.

 

-The silvery designs from the 04 Matoran’s Kanohi seemed like a good substitute for a uniform or badge for the authorities here, and gold was the next logical step for a command position.  Onepu was the very first Bionicle set I ever got my hands on, so once it occurred to me that I could make him fit here, I became dead-set on it.  Not sure exactly how much he’ll appear…but he’s here!

 

-“Carna” comes from “carnation”, which symbolizes pride, beauty, and love, specifically including the love of a mother.  “Phindel” comes from “delphinium”, symbolizing one with a large heart and intense attachment.  And since I didn’t say earlier, “Zaekura” is mainly derived from “sakura”, which symbolizes a ton of stuff including the transiency of life, death, and rebirth—and Zaekura is someone capable of killing the current order and giving birth to a new one.  The “zae” was chosen to sound like “azalea”, which honestly was just a random choice, but now that I’ve looked up what azalea symbolizes it turns out it can represent temperance, home sickness, passion, and a death threat.  So, it actually jives pretty well.  Anyway, since thinking about family isn’t usually relevant in Bionicle, I didn’t think to include Zaekura’s parents until just before I posted Section III—at which point I decided to slip in a subtle hint to the Glatorian’s connection to Zaekura, and leave it for later.  There was also a scene where Antroz and Krika talk about being unsure if they should tell Zaekura who died at Nynrah, but that’s all the hints that were given.

 

-I opted to not have a scene with Bitil here to give him some travel time.  We’ll catch up with him in Section XI, and see what consolation Kojol can offer him.

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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#11 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted Sep 18 2018 - 11:06 PM

SECTION XI

 

Bitil closed the door of Ga-Koro’s cathedral behind him.  The first floor was a single room centered around a Suva; at two of the six indentations in the domed shrine, Matoran knelt on one knee, their heads bowed, each firmly keeping one hand on the Kanohi they had placed on it.  One finished their prayer and returned the mask to their face.  They stood, saw Bitil, and nodded once before leaving.  Bitil didn’t respond at all.

 

“Now this is a surprise,” said a quiet voice.

 

Bitil looked over his shoulder to see Kojol coming across the room.  Turning back to the shrine, he said, “According to Krika, you said we’d be welcome here.  You didn’t change your mind, did you?”

 

“Of course not.  My dedication to the sanctity of Ga-Koro is unflinching.  What I mean, Bitil, is that I never expected you to visit a Suva in your life.  You are aware you can’t offer prayers to yourself, correct?”

 

Bitil said nothing.  Kojol raised an eyebrow, but stayed silent until the other Matoran left the cathedral.

 

“I do wonder, have you come seeking asylum?  Krika’s schemes becoming too much for you?  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear your war has gone wrong already.”

 

“Velika attacked the outpost,” Bitil said.  “We managed to win.”

 

Kojol blinked.  “Truly?  My, perhaps I underestimated you.”

 

“It came at a cost.  If we don’t bolster our forces, I don’t know that we can win again.”

 

“Well, you are uniquely qualified to accomplish that task.  I’m sure you’re already crafting concepts for the most outlandish Rahkshi we’ve ever seen.”

 

Bitil took a few slow steps forward.  “…I have been considering some new ideas.  Powerful, devastating ideas that I’m sure would throw our enemies off-balance.”

 

Kojol sighed, her disinterest thinly veiled.

 

“Something I discovered…with certain Rahkshi, if you create an ‘absence’ where their power should be, their abilities are inverted and a completely new power is born.  A Rahkshi of Slow becomes a Rahkshi of Speed, a Rahkshi of Regeneration becomes a Rahkshi of Molecular Disruption.”  He paused.  “And now I have a hypothesis.  One that I am all too eager to test.”

 

Bitil looked around.  Banners were hung above the chapel’s windows, lined with symbols represented Virtues and Principles and all manner of devout ideals.

 

“Must I really ask?” Kojol said.  “You’ve been hanging around Krika too long, judging by this dramatic lead-in.”

 

Fixing his eyes on the banners, Bitil slowly, quietly, said, “A Rahkshi of Courage…to a Rahkshi of Fear…”

 

His words didn’t register at first.

 

“The Rahkshi representing the Six Principles…if I created one of each with an ‘absence’, that would surely invert their powers.  Purity becomes Poison, Peace becomes Anger, Creation becomes Disintegration…”

 

When it finally sank in, Kojol went stiff.  But only for a moment.  Striding forward, she shouted, “Wretch!  You would blaspheme here of all places?  I should cast you out for speaking so!”

 

“We can’t defeat the Great Beings as we are,” Bitil said, finally turning to look at Kojol.  “Inverted Principle Rahkshi—those are powers that could tear asunder anything they throw our way.”

 

“And you would sacrifice your morals to obtain that power?  You do not deserve to call yourself a Makuta.  The path you speak of will do nothing but taint your soul!”

 

A harsh laugh came in reply.  “Do we even have souls?”

 

“What?!”

 

“I’ve never been spiritual, but I know that some of the Glatorian and Agori think that we don’t have souls.  They think that since the Great Beings created us, since we’re not natural, we can’t have souls—that we just blink out when we die.  If that’s the case, then what good do these ‘morals’ and ‘Principles’ do us?  If it’s all futile, then why not do whatever it takes to accomplish my goals before my fleeting life is snuffed out of existence?”

 

Kojol glared at him silently.  Eventually, she said, “So that was the cost.  Who died in Velika’s attack, Bitil?”

 

Bitil held her gaze for a moment, but turned away before answering.  “One of my Rahkshi.  Virban.  He was…one of the first specialized Rahkshi I ever created—nothing especially fancy, just larger, increased physical strength, something other than a staff to swing around.”

 

Kojol sighed.  “And that’s what this is about.”

 

Bitil’s eyes wandered across the banners again, settling on the symbol for Courage.  He began to shake.  “...He was taken from me…and I know not where he’s gone…”

 

“Bitil,” Kojol said, “you must face your grief.”

 

“How?  How do you face your grief when you don’t even know how to fathom it?”  He turned back to her; his eyes were scared, and beyond them were a thousand other violent emotions just barely held together.  “What becomes of a Rahkshi when they die?  Have I merely been separated from Virban, or has he stopped to exist entirely?  They’re considered artificial even by us artificial life.  They’re pieces of us, and were never meant to be anything more than mindless servants.  If even we blink out…then did I…what was the point of creating more life just to see it get snuffed out?  Was what I did…was Virban’s existence…futile?  I can’t…”

 

Bitil sat down on the floor, putting his head in his hands and sobbing.  Kojol stared at him for a moment.  Then, she came forward, crouched next to him, and said, “It was most certainly not futile.”

 

She received no response.

 

“I will admit, I’ve never given any thought to this subject: there is no one else who thinks of Rahkshi the way you do.  You loved Virban.  You love all your Rahkshi, as if they were your children.  Anyone can see how happy and proud you are when you speak of them—and, true, we may not react well to that, but those reactions are our own.”

 

“Just get to the point,” Bitil grumbled.

 

“That is the point!” Kojol said, grabbing his shoulder.  “Your Rahkshi make you proud.  They bring joy to your life.  Don’t you see?”

 

She stood, looking up at the banners.

 

“Even I don’t know for sure what happens when we die.  When any species dies.  Some say our souls will wander this world forever, others say we pass into a new plane of existence…and yes, some think we cease to exist entirely.  It is something that is impossible to know with objectivity.  But I say that is irrelevant.  We are subjective beings: our emotions guide us whether we want them to or not, driving our actions and shaping our very perception of reality.  And so I say, in the absence of objectivity, one must trust what they feel to be true.”

 

Bitil looked up at her.  She locked eyes with him.

 

“I refuse to believe that any life is futile.  I do not believe that Virban has been snuffed out.  Bringing joy to others is perhaps the most profound thing a life can accomplish—the universe, whatever forces govern it, would most certainly not let something so wondrous go to waste.  That is what I feel is true.  That is what I believe.  So remember the joy, Bitil, and embrace it.  You will prove that Virban’s existence was beautiful, that it had meaning.”  She used her scepter to point to the symbol of Duty.  “That is your Duty now.  And once you accept that, I believe it is one you shall never fail to uphold.”

 

For a time Bitil remained sitting there.  Eventually, he got back on his feet, and gave Kojol a small nod.

 

“You should return to your children, Bitil,” she said as she walked towards the Suva.  “Should it help you to know, I will offer up a prayer of Peace for Virban’s soul, and for those who grieve him.”

 

Bitil looked over his shoulder at the shrine.  He came to join her, starting, “…Can I…?”

 

“By all means.  Ordinarily I’d tell you to place your mask on the altar, but as that would be a bit dangerous for us—“

 

She stopped abruptly as Bitil pulled off his Kanohi Faxon.  As antidermis slowly poured out of the opening atop his armor, Bitil knelt and placed his mask in the nearest indentation; Kojol nearly objected, but she thought better of it.  When Bitil had finished his prayer, he stood and reattached his Kanohi, leaving his hand open as he pulled in the antidermis now floating about the room.

 

“…Thank you,” Bitil said.

 

Kojol nodded.  “You are most welcome.”

 

His essence retrieved, Bitil headed for the door.  It felt a bit easier to open than when he had come in.

 

***

 

Zaekura trudged across the perimeter wall, using a murderous glare to scan ahead for where her next step would land.  As she rounded a corner and glanced farther down, however, she spotted Charla sitting inside the guardhouse, and she froze immediately.  She took a moment to turn aside and wipe her face.  Her expression was a bit softer as she proceeded, but she was positive she still didn’t look anywhere near friendly.

 

Charla looked up as she came closer.  They nodded to each other awkwardly, and Zaekura went to move on.

 

“Wait.”

 

Reluctantly, she stopped.

 

“You’re so angry…and sad…what happened?”

 

Zaekura shrugged.  “It’s not…you’ve got enough to think about, I don’t want to bother you.”

 

Charla stood up, coming just a little closer.  “It feels like…you’re grieving as well.”  She took a very long pause.  “May I ask what happened?”

 

Zaekura looked down the wall again.

 

“…I’m sorry.”

 

Looking back, she said, “For what?”

 

“For bothering you.  For not being able to help.  It’s part of my job to help everyone work through their emotions, but I have no experience with grief.  I don’t know how to…”  She shook her head.  “No, I’m sorry.  I won’t bother you any further.”

 

Charla turned and sat down on the edge of the wall.  After a moment, Zaekura sighed, walked over, and sat down next to her.

 

“I guess,” Zaekura grumbled, “sometimes it can help just to have someone to commiserate with.”

 

Quietly, Charla said, “Thank you.  I’m so—“

 

“You need to stop apologizing, though.”

 

“I’m…er, well…I just don’t want to make anything worse.”

 

“Things are already terrible for everyone.  Not much you can do to make it worse.”

 

“…I suppose so.  Um, should I—“

 

“Charla…take a break.  I didn’t come here to get a professional opinion or anything, and it’s not like I’ll be able to help with your stuff.  Treating this like your job isn’t going to do either of us any favors.”

 

Charla stared at her a moment, and then looked forward and sighed.  “Maybe you’re right.”

 

Zaekura glanced at the watchtower, but quickly looked away.  After taking a moment to prepare herself, she said, “I just found out that my dad died trying to escape Nynrah.  Nobody told me until now.”

 

Charla turned to her.  “Oh.  No wonder you’re angry.”

 

“Hah, thanks.  I’m glad someone gets it.”  She scratched her head.  “…I can almost understand why they waited.  But, I just…I would have liked to know!  Thinking that I’ve just been screwing around without even knowing and this whole time he’s been dead, I…”  She threw her hands up.

 

“You feel almost…guilty,” Charla said.  “But it isn’t your fault.  The Makuta should have told you.”

 

Zaekura clasped her hands together and rested her chin on them.  “…Yeah.  But, the whole reason the drones attacked Nynrah…”  She closed her eyes, running her hands up over her face.  “Here I was thinking I should face the fact that people are dying for me.  I must be terrible…because it was so much easier to think that before I knew one of them was my dad.”

 

Charla placed a hand over her chest.  “Then I must be terrible too.  It’s upsetting to hear about death, but for some reason thinking about Virban’s hurts far more.”

 

They were both silent for a moment.

 

“What are you going to do?” Charla asked.

 

Zaekura lifted her head.  “I don’t know.  I’m still processing it.  But I don’t know how much time we have, and it took me forever to get over losing my grandpa…”

 

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you cope with it then?”

 

She thought, and then shook her head.  “Really, I don’t know if I ever did.  Mom used her painting to deal with it.  I just kind of stayed angry.  Angry at the Makuta...so now that’s all being dug up again.  Maybe I’ll stay angry this time too.”  After a pause, she added, “Not that I would recommend that.”

 

“Yes, it…doesn’t sound…”  Charla fidgeted.  “But then, I don’t know what else to suggest.”

 

“Is that why you sent Bitil to Ga-Koro?  Because Kojol has more experience helping people through grief?”

 

“That’s part of it,” Charla said, her gaze dropping.  “But more than grief…I could sense Lord Bitil dealing with far greater, darker issues that I knew even less about.  Even if I could ease his mind, I could never ease his spirit.  And…”  She trailed off.

 

“And what?”

 

Charla looked out over the outpost.  “Lord Bitil…was only making matters worse for all of us.”

 

Zaekura shifted, but said nothing.

 

“He was affected deeply by Virban’s death, yet refused to show it.  He worried that the other Makuta would chide him for caring so much about one Rahkshi, and that their derision would only make him feel worse than he already did.  So, he acted the way they would if they lost a Rahkshi…he acted like he didn’t care.”

 

Charla shut her eyes tight.

 

“…I understand why he’s acting that way.  But he does not understand what that does to us.  He is the only one who has ever cared for us.  Perhaps he is ridiculed for bringing us into being, but we are ridiculed simply for being.  And now, the first time one of our number is killed, he chooses to behave as if nothing is wrong…as if, in the end, our lives held no meaning even to him.  I know that’s not true…but that’s the way it feels to all of us.  Even to me.  I know better, but I still…”

 

She pulled her arms around herself.  Zaekura inclined her head, feeling her grip on her emotions starting to loosen.

 

“Lord Bitil needed to leave, just for a time.  We all needed a moment without him, to process not just our grief, but that deeper fear his reaction has uncovered.  I only hope that Makuta Kojol can truly aid him.  If not, then…”  She shuddered.  “I honestly don’t know what I’ll do.”

 

Zaekura stared at her for a moment, the emotion swelling enough that it began to spill over.  She reached out and hugged Charla.

 

“Huh?!”

 

“I care,” Zaekura said.  “Just, for whatever it’s worth, I care about all of you.  Okay?  And if Bitil’s still being a jerk when he gets back, I’ll snap him out of it myself.  Just…don’t feel like nobody cares.  Please.  Don’t ever feel that way.  It sucks, and you shouldn’t have to feel it, because it isn’t true.  I care.”

 

It took a few more seconds, but Charla returned the embrace.  And when she did, Zaekura felt her last grip on her emotions give way, and she began to cry into Charla’s shoulder.  Charla started to sob as well.  The feeling that came next was a curious one: with her emotions running high, Charla was transmitting them unintentionally, allowing Zaekura to feel the mix of sadness and confusion and anger and relief she was experiencing.  It was uncannily close to what she was already feeling.  Their emotions resonated in a way, linking them together for that brief moment, and a new feeling arose in both at the same instant, something that felt all-important yet long-absent.

 

They both felt understood.

 

***

 

Krika, his disguise still holding, glanced casually at the display on the elevator as it counted up the floors passing by.  To one side stood Onepu, somehow managing to look greatly annoyed and pleasantly smug at the same time, and behind them was Carna, who was finding it extremely difficult to stand still.  Soon the lift came to a halt.  Onepu strode through the doors the moment they slid open, the other passengers following a second later; the room beyond was a void of silver, the floor and walls bare save for the reflections of those who walked past them, all except for one large window behind a massive desk at the side opposite the elevator.  There sat a tall Makuta wearing silver and white armor, their eyes focused on a stack of paper they were quickly flipping through while their other hand absent-mindedly twirled a quill.  The trio of visitors stopped a few paces from the desk and waited quietly.

 

Eventually, the Makuta looked up.  They examined Carna for a moment, then glanced at Krika, before setting down their quill, standing, and folding their hands behind their back as they faced Onepu.  “Thank you all for coming on such short notice.  I apologize if this created any conflicts in your duties, Turaga Onepu.”

 

“Think nothing of it, Great Makuta Yarion,” Onepu said, bowing low.  “It is an honor to know you have taken such a strong, personal interest in my humble district.”

 

Yarion slowly rounded their desk, spotting their reflection on the wall as they did.  They paused to produce a small cloth, rubbing away a smudge from their silver Kanohi Kakama, and then returned their attention to their guests.  “Well, this case relates to quite a serious matter.  I thought it prudent to deal with immediately.”

 

Krika bowed.  “Thank you for hearing our appeal, Great Makuta.”

 

Yarion grabbed a paper off their desk.  “Your name is Arik, correct?  I don’t have any official records of your transfer to this city.”

 

Krika looked confused for a moment before sighing.  “Oh, I see.  Forgive me, Makuta Yarion: some of the higher-ups in Mahri-Nui are infamous for their trouble with simple paperwork.  I should have known better than to leave it to those…”  He cleared his throat.  “Well, it was my mistake, and I do apologize.  I shall contact my former superior as soon as I leave here today.”

 

“Hm.  I suppose there’s little to be done about that right this second.”  Yarion put the paper down and faced them, folding their hands once again.  “Why don’t we start from the beginning?  Turaga?”

 

“Yes, Great Makuta,” Onepu said.  “Yesterday I received word that a known citizen of Nynrah was selling paintings at a chute station in my district.  Recalling the order that Nynrah’s citizens were to be detained, I dispatched a unit to bring her in immediately, and left to oversee things myself.  When I arrived, however, I came upon this unfamiliar Toa interfering with my officers.”

 

Yarion turned to Krika, who said, “I merely saw an innocent vendor being harassed, and felt duty-bound to step in.”

 

“Yes, so you say,” Onepu said.  “I thus informed him of the situation, but he still refused to back down.”

 

“Miss Carna clearly objected to her detainment,” Krika said.  “As she does have the right to appeal her case, I thought it was only fair she pursue that avenue, especially since the officers did not appear ready to inform her of it.”

 

Yarion inclined their head.  “Interesting.  You are claiming that the arresting officers did not properly inform Miss Carna of her rights?  Is this true?”

 

Carna nodded.  “They hardly said a word.”

 

“If I may, Great Makuta,” Onepu broke in, “the arrest was interrupted.  I am positive my officers would have gone through the proper procedures if simply given enough time.”

 

“I would think it vital they lead with that,” Krika said, “especially when dealing with an individual who they knew was not native to Civitas Magna and thus likely knew little about its legal system.”

 

“A valid argument,” Yarion said.  “Turaga, I would advise your officers to be a bit more mindful of such things in the future.”

 

Onepu hung his head.  “Y-Yes…Great Makuta…”

 

“However.  Seeing as the arrest was indeed interrupted, and considering other relevant events, I do not feel this is enough for the case to simply be thrown out.”

 

Onepu brightened instantly.  Carna gritted her teeth.

 

“I understand completely,” Krika said.  “I merely wished to be thorough, Makuta Yarion.”

 

“And I appreciate it,” Yarion said.  “Moving on, then.  Toa Arik, are you aware of what has recently transpired in Nynrah?”

 

“I have been informed that Makuta Krika has gone rogue, yes.”

 

“As a result, the Great Beings themselves have asked us to detain any citizens of Nynrah, so that it can be determined how many of them are sympathetic to their Guardian’s cause.”

 

“Oh, the Great Beings?  I had no idea.”

 

“Then it seems the issue was not communicated to you properly—I apologize.”

 

Onepu shuffled his feet.

 

“Well, regardless,” Krika said, “I believe that matter can be solved immediately.  Miss Carna, do you—“

 

“I’m not spying for Krika or anything stupid like that,” Carna interrupted, her frustration starting to get the better of her.  “I was just selling paintings!”

 

Yarion fixed their eyes on her.  “I ask that you please have patience, Miss Carna.  Your anger is understandable, but given the circumstances we must be sure.”

 

“I would say that we already are,” Krika said.  “What more would you do, Makuta Yarion?”

 

“Once the appeal is settled, I plan to contact the Great Beings,” Yarion answered.  “I imagine they will want to take her to the Maze.”

 

Carna tried to look more angry than nervous, something that thankfully came very easily to her.  Krika said, “With respect, Makuta Yarion, I must say that seems a bit extreme.  We’ve little if any reason to think this individual knows anything of use in the hunt for Krika—it would be a waste of the Great Beings’ time to bring this before them.”

 

“I think it best to allow them to decide that.”

 

Krika sighed.  “I see.  I’m sorry, Makuta, but this whole thing just feels…rather troubling.”

 

Yarion cocked their head.  “Hm?  How so?”

 

“An innocent artist, arrested solely for hailing from a certain town?  Word will undoubtedly spread, and I must say, that would be a very frightful thing to hear.  I daresay it would make people rather cautious of the law here…perhaps even distrustful.”

 

Onepu’s jaw dropped.  “Watch your tongue!  How could you even imply such a thing—we are to uphold the orders of the Great Beings, no matter what they are!  Any who would distrust us for adhering to that duty are nothing short of traitors!”

 

Krika looked taken aback.  “That’s quite an accusation.”  Turning to Yarion, he added, “Do you see the potential for escalation this issue possesses?”

 

Yarion rubbed their chin.  “…I think, perhaps, you are making some assumptions.”

 

“Great Makuta, put yourself in this woman’s shoes.  You have been forced from your home, fearful that a raving Makuta may be at your heels, and when you finally reach safety you realize you must then rebuild your life.  So you throw yourself into your craft, set out to make some money to begin your daunting task…and then you are imprisoned, accused, and interrogated for things beyond your control, which you have no knowledge of.  Can you imagine that agony?  Don’t you think other Glatorian who hear this story will also imagine it?  And that they might then worry, ‘what if I am next’?”

 

“Your arguments are based on fear,” Onepu said.

 

“This incident will spark fear whether I point it out to you or not.  And fear is almost impossible to stop, once it begins to spread.  The people will fear for their safety and well-being, fear the law, fear the Makuta…with this, they could even come to fear the Great Beings.  And should that happen, our whole planet could become frozen in fear.”  Krika looked Yarion in the eye.  “I beg of you, Great Makuta.  Think very carefully before you set this precedent.  So very much weighs upon it.”

 

Yarion stared hard at him.  They walked over to the side of the room, gazing thoughtfully at their reflection, and then ended up back at the window.  Slowly, they said, “What is the alternative?  To defy the Great Beings?”

 

“You would not be defying them,” Krika said.  “You detained Miss Carna.  You questioned her, and were able to ascertain that she does not sympathize with Krika.  The matter is thus settled.”

 

Yarion turned around, saying, “I am unsure they would see it that way.  And given Krika’s stunt, I doubt they have much patience for disobedient Makuta at the moment.  I would rather not test the waters.”

 

Krika backed up a half-step.  “Wh…Makuta Yarion!  Do you care more for how the Great Beings see you than about the people’s rights?!”

 

Yarion scowled.  “Beg pardon?”

 

“You are so afraid that the Great Beings may punish you, that you would allow further misfortune to befall this poor woman?  To ensure your own safety, you would let the people see you condemn someone doing everything she could to start anew?  Let them see the law strike down an artist only for selling her art?  Do you know how people remember those who silence artists, Makuta?  Those who silence those whose only crime is speaking their mind?”  Krika walked forward, setting his hands on Yarion’s desk.  “They are remembered as cowards.  As the most spineless of all villains.  If the people see you silence this woman, then I promise, that is how they will start to look at you.”

 

Onepu was too stunned to even speak.  Yarion stepped forward, glaring down at Krika, but Krika did not flinch.

 

“You are a Makuta,” Krika said.  “You are meant to care for the people.  Do not worry so much about how the Great Beings may view you—worry about how the people view you!  They are terrified to hear that Makuta are going rogue, and any action you take will be put against that context.  This is your chance to restore their faith.  You can show that there are still Makuta who stand for the people, who defend the helpless against forces beyond their control.  You have the chance to save Miss Carna from being a casualty of Krika’s mistakes.  You are the only one who can do that now.  Please, Makuta Yarion…help her.”

 

Yarion looked at Carna.  The Glatorian watched the floor at first, but eventually met their gaze, her eyes now beginning to show the desperation she truly felt.  Yarion breathed deeply.

 

“Great Makuta,” Onepu said, “you cannot seriously consider doing as this deranged Toa says!  The Great Beings—“

 

“You are dismissed, Turaga,” Yarion interrupted.  “Please return to your usual duties.”

 

Onepu stared at them for a moment, but then bowed and made his way back to the elevator.  Once he was gone, Yarion sat down at their desk, sifted through some paper, and picked up their quill.

 

“You have an interesting perspective on things, Toa Arik,” they said.  “I think you are right, at least in that I have underestimated the gravity of this situation.  I do not wholly agree with you…however…”  They looked down to sign the paper.  “It is true that I have no reason to believe Miss Carna has anything further to add to the investigation of Makuta Krika.  Therefore, her charges will be dropped, and she will be released from custody.”

 

Krika smiled.  “Thank you, Great Makuta.  Thank you.”

 

“I shall see to the rest,” Yarion said.  “You are both free to go.”

 

Krika turned and led Carna back to the elevator, neither of them saying anything until they were back on the street.  As soon as they came to a bench, they stopped, and Carna let out an incredibly deep sigh.

 

“My gosh,” she groaned.  “What was all that fancy garbage about?  Did we really need to stay here just for that?”

 

“I assure you, Miss Carna, it was all very essential,” Krika said.  “Makuta Yarion has been swayed, and I believe this gesture on their part will serve to embolden the people of Civitas Magna in, shall we say…taking a less strict approach to following the Great Beings’ orders.  Knowing that the closest Makuta cares more about them than their overlords’ wrath will make them far more comfortable with openly discussing Zaekura’s cause.”

 

Carna grumbled something, turning to look down the street.

 

“Which reminds me, I still need to plant that idea around the city.  Though, I suppose I could come back and do it another time, however.”

 

After a small delay, Carna said, “Just get on it.  It’d probably look bad if I fled first chance I got anyway.”

 

Krika walked around to look Carna in the eye.  “You will see Zaekura, and very soon.  Thank you for being patient for her sake.”

 

Carna immediately looked away.  “Hurry up already.”

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Though I chose to repurpose the Suva and focus on the shrine aspect, I still wanted to leave the association with Kanohi intact somehow.  Removing one’s mask and placing it on the altar to pray seemed like a good way to do so, and I liked the idea of intentionally making oneself vulnerable to offer up prayer.

 

-The idea of inverting Rahkshi powers initially came about from wondering if there was a way to turn the Principle Rahkshi back into their Prime Universe counterparts.  While I don’t think I can properly justify having Bitil actually do so, I still wanted to bring up the subject, and thought this was a good opportunity to do so.  I also thought Molecular Disruption might be one to avoid (since it was one I specifically changed in the first place), but upon further reflection a Rahkshi with that power could very easily disarm opponents, making them ideal for non-lethally dealing with foes.  Perhaps I was a bit hasty in replacing the power in the first place…

 

-When planning Virban’s death, I began to wonder what happened to Rahkshi when they die.  In the end, rather than come up with an answer, I thought it would be more interesting to see Bitil grapple with that question himself.  It ended up feeling a bit personal: I thought of times when my pets had died, and how some people say animals have no souls, and Kojol’s assertion that lives that bring joy are too wonderful to go to waste is something I arrived at to cope with those feelings.  Not to say that Bitil considers his Rahkshi pets, of course, it’s just a similar question.

 

-Originally I thought it best to hold off on the appeal scene until the next chapter for pacing’s sake, but I overestimated how long the other scenes would run and didn’t really like the other ideas I was considering.  In case it isn’t clear: when Krika went to meet with Onepu the day after the arrest, they were told to immediately depart for Makuta Yarion’s office, as opposed to being scheduled weeks or months out as would usually be the case.  Krika was expecting this, however.

 

-I’m a bit unsure what exactly is going to happen in Section XII, so I wouldn’t expect a quick update.  Sorry, I’ll do my best, but I want to be honest.

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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#12 Offline Super Fighting Pahrak

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Posted Oct 17 2018 - 10:09 PM

SECTION XII

 

Bitil silently nodded to the Rahkshi who opened the gate for him, and then headed straight for his watchtower.  He stopped as soon as he opened the door: Antroz was inside, but her sword was drawn for some reason, and she was moving about in an odd, abrupt fashion.

 

“Antroz?” he asked.

 

She jumped, turning to face him.  “B-Bitil?  Is that you?”

 

He closed the door behind him.  “Yes…what are you doing?”

 

“Nothing,” Antroz said, quickly sheathing her sword.  “It’s nothing.”

 

Bitil nodded slowly.  “Alright.  I see you made it back from your visit to the Sand Lord.  Was it a fruitful encounter?”

 

Antroz shifted her weight.  “…Somewhat.  The Sand Lord wishes us to prove that we are worth allying with; specifically, she asked that we conquer Xia without killing any Vorox.”

 

“Xia?  That’s not going to be easy…well, when Krika gets back, I suppose we’ll have to start planning that assault.”

 

Bitil walked towards the stairs.  Antroz asked, “Where are you going?”

 

“To make an announcement.”

 

He continued without offering anything more, so Antroz ended up following him.  When they came to the top of the tower, Bitil used his Sonic powers to generate a sound like loud bells, and hearing this, the Rahkshi all stopped what they were doing and gathered together at the tower’s base.  Bitil took a deep breath.

 

“My children…I wish to apologize to you all.”

 

A ripple of soft, confused hissing moved through the crowd below.

 

“We have suffered a great loss, and I have made incredibly poor decisions in dealing with it.  There is no excuse for this.  But, I am now ready to make amends.”

 

The Rahkshi fell deathly quiet.

 

“In two days’ time, at midday, we will hold a proper burial for your brother Virban, to honor his life so that he may rest in peace.  It was a mistake not to do this sooner—I see that now.  I ask that you all be there, and as details are decided I may ask some of you to help in the arrangements.  I hope that this is acceptable.”

 

The Rahkshi all hissed loudly.  Hearing their agreement, Bitil smiled.

 

“Thank you all.  If you wish to speak with me about the ceremony, please feel free.  That is all for now.”

 

His eyes combed through the crowd as it began to break apart.  Turning to Antroz, he said, “I don’t see Charla or Lady Zaekura anywhere.  Do you know where they are?”

 

“Ah…I believe they went to investigate the lab Lord Velika uncovered,” Antroz said.

 

Bitil nodded and took a step towards the stairs.  “…You are welcome to attend the ceremony if you wish, Antroz.”

 

She inclined her head.  “Thank you, Bitil.  Perhaps I will.”

 

As he descended the stairs, he thought he noticed Antroz turn sharply, but he paid it no mind.  He made his way down and out of the tower, back out the gate, and over to where the lab entrance was, informing the guards there of his decision before heading down into the earth to the massive hidden cavern.  Zaekura stood over at the central terminal, with Charla sitting on a chair not far away.

 

“Pardon me,” Bitil said.

 

Zaekura looked over her shoulder.  Charla leapt to her feet, greeting, “Oh, Lord Bitil!  Welcome back!  Did…did you speak with Makuta Kojol?  Was she of any help?”

 

“She was,” Bitil said as he came closer.  “Thank you for sending me, Charla.  I am in your debt.”

 

Zaekura turned fully, leaning back against the console and crossing her arms.  “So, what’s up?  You must have something to say if you came out to find us.”

 

“Indeed.  Two days from now, we will be giving Virban a proper burial.  If it is not too much to ask, Charla, I would appreciate your assistance in organizing it.”

 

Charla was stunned for a moment.  Then, nodding a bit, she said, “Yes, Lord Bitil.  It would be an honor.  Thank you.”

 

“I also wanted to say I’m sorry.  I now realize I’ve been acting a fool, and that it…may have given off the wrong impression.  If that was the case, then I am truly, truly sorry.”

 

“I know.  Thank you, Lord Bitil.  I think this is exactly what we all need.”

 

Charla turned to Zaekura, who smiled at her.  When she looked back to Bitil, he said, “And, Lady Zaekura…well, I am not sure how well you knew Virban, but…the Rahkshi all think very highly of you, and it would mean a lot to them…and to me, as well, if you were to be there.”

 

“…Sure,” Zaekura said.  “I’ll be there.”

 

“Thank you,” Bitil said, relief evident in his features.  “So…what have you been doing down here?”

 

Zaekura grimaced, lightly striking the console with her knuckles.  “Just messing around with this thing.  Felt like I could use a distraction, but it still makes no sense; at this rate I’m only getting more frustrated.”

 

“More?  Did something happen?”

 

“Oh, right.”  She shifted a bit, averting her eyes.  “Turns out my dad died when Nynrah was attacked.  Fangs knew the whole time, but she only just told me.  I’m pretty annoyed by that.”

 

Bitil’s eyes widened as he soaked in the information.  “She…she what?!”

 

Zaekura managed a smirk.  “Gotta say, getting reasonable reactions is honestly helping.”

 

“Why that…!  I’m so terribly sorry, Lady Zaekura.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

 

“Thanks, but no.  I’ll work it out on my own.”

 

Bitil turned towards the stairs.  “I can’t believe she would keep that from you!  I should shove her essence in a vial for something like this!”

 

“No, that’s okay.  I already gave her a piece of my mind, and I’m sure I’ll have more for her later.”

 

“Is that why she was acting so jumpy?” Bitil asked as he turned back.

 

Zaekura raised an eyebrow.  “Huh?  Jumpy?”

 

“I encountered her in the tower when I returned.  She seemed flustered somehow, and even had her sword drawn when I found her.”

 

“Her sword?  What was she expecting to do with that?  I haven’t seen her since she told me the news, so I don’t know what her problem is.”

 

“If I may say so, having a ‘jumpy’ Makuta around sounds a bit…dangerous,” Charla said.  “Should something be done?”

 

Bitil thought for a moment.  “Let’s just keep an eye out.  Unless she loses her mind completely, I doubt we have much to fear from Antroz.  Leave her to face whatever unsettles her.”

 

“No complaints here,” Zaekura grumbled.

 

“Oh, that’s right.  She told me what the Sand Lord requested.”

 

“You mean about Xia?  Yeah, that’s on the agenda.”  She paused a moment, then said, “But, don’t worry about it right now: you focus on Virban’s burial.  After that, we’ll start on an attack strategy.  I, uh, could use a little breather as well.”

 

“I’m sure.”  Bitil took a brief look around.  “I think I’ll be heading back, then.  There’s much for me to do.”

 

He departed, and Zaekura turned to Charla once he was gone.  “…You sure you’re up to organizing this thing?”

 

Charla nodded.  “Yes.  I want to do what I can to honor my brother.”

 

“I get that, but…weren’t you feeling sorta conflicted?  Have you worked through that?”

 

The Rahkshi looked down at her hands as she wrung them together.  “…Not entirely, I suppose.”

 

Zaekura stepped towards her.

 

“But, I want to do this!  I won’t get another chance—I can’t lose it to hesitation.”

 

“It seemed worse than hesitation.”

 

Charla paused.  “Well...either way.  I want Virban to be honored, but depending on how that is done…it could only inspire more Rahkshi to sacrifice themselves.  I don’t want that to happen.  So…if I am involved in organizing the ceremony, I can take precaution against it.  Perhaps finding balance there will help me to settle my own conflict.”

 

“…Alright,” Zaekura said.  “Good luck.  And, you know…I’m here if you need me.”

 

Charla nodded.  “Thank you, Lady Zaekura.  It eases my mind knowing I have your support.”

 

***

 

Toa Kodan rushed across the street, shouting, “Makuta Yarion!”

 

The Makuta stopped on the sidewalk and waited for the Toa to catch up.  “Apologies, Toa, but I don’t have anything for you today.”

 

“But Makuta, what about the artist that was arrested yesterday?” Kodan said, pulling a blank tablet from his satchel.  “I saw the record update: you dropped the charges!  Does that have anything to do with the rumors circulating about the criminal assisting Makuta Krika?”

 

“I do not know of any rumors.  I simply judged the case to the best of my ability.”

 

Kodan waved his hand over the tablet, willing those words to appear on its surface.  “And is that your official statement?”

 

Yarion sighed.  “Good evening, Toa.”

 

The Makuta walked away before Kodan could say anything else.  The Toa grumbled to himself, shoved the tablet away, and headed in the opposite direction.  It was a short walk to his workplace, the Civitas Chronicle, and he was barely inside before a group of his employees swarmed him.

 

“Did you get a statement?” a Matoran asked.  “You’ve gotta have something we can print, right?”

 

“Not exactly,” Kodan said.  “Makuta Yarion wasn’t in the mood to talk.”

 

He could feel them all deflate.  An Agori asked, “What if we all meet up at Yarion’s office tomorrow?  They’ll have to talk to us then, right?”

 

“It isn’t that simple, Tarduk.  If Yarion doesn’t want to comment on a case, they don’t comment on a case.  Pestering them isn’t going to change anything.”

 

“But what are we going to do?” another Agori asked.  “This whole Nynrah thing is blowing up bigger than any story I’ve ever seen, but no one has any clue what’s actually happening!  We have to tell the people something!”

 

Kodan shrugged.  “Look, if we don’t have the information, there’s nothing we can say!  We’re not just going to toss out a column of rumors like those idiots at Voriki Post—admitting we have nothing to say is still better than that trash.”

 

“Boss,” said the Matoran, “the trash will outsell us if we don’t have any way of competing with it.  People are expecting us to tackle the Nynrah issue!  We need an article about it, even if it’s just an editorial.”

 

Kodan rubbed his neck.  “…Tomorrow’s edition is already finalized anyway.  Let me sleep on it, alright?  I’ll have a plan in the morning.”

 

Dissatisfied murmurings came from all around as the crowd began to break.  Kodan went to his office, shut the door behind him, and flicked on the lightstone perched on the corner of his desk.  Setting down his satchel, he flopped into his chair and sighed loudly as he began to wrack his brain over what to do.

 

“Quite the conundrum.”

 

The Toa nearly fell out of his chair.  He became aware of someone standing by the far wall, a Toa of Sonics by the looks of it, watching him with an amused smirk.

 

“W-Who are you?” Kodan asked as he stood up.  “How did you get in here?”

 

“Not important,” the stranger said.

 

“I beg to differ,” Kodan mumbled.

 

The stranger slowly paced across the office.  “No, Toa Kodan, what’s important is what I can do for you.  I have a once in a lifetime opportunity for you, one that will bring the Civitas Chronicle notoriety the likes of which you could only dream of.”

 

Kodan didn’t say a word.

 

“What if I told you…that I could arrange an exclusive interview that would give insight into the truth about what happened in Nynrah?”

 

Sitting back down, Kodan said, “Oh I don’t know.  ‘You must’ve heard us talking,’ or ‘Have you been pitching this to every news outlet in the region,’ or ‘I’ll do whatever you want!’  You’re hoping for something like that, I’m guessing?”

 

The stranger chuckled.  He came to a stop, staring at the wall for a few seconds before going on, “You’ve heard the rumors, yes?”

 

“I hear all the rumors.  But I work in facts.”

 

“I admire that.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did investigate several other outlets before deciding on this one, but you are the first one I’ve actually approached.  That dedication to printing only the verified is exactly why.  You seek to keep the public informed, and take every step to avoid misinforming them.  The Chronicle has been running for centuries, and not a single retraction!  People trust you, Toa Kodan.  They know that you would never invent a story to sell an issue, that even if the knowledge contained sounds farfetched, you would not be sharing it with them were it not true.”  The stranger faced him.  “I’m the one who’s been spreading rumors about Nynrah, about Krika, about Zaekura.  And I’ve been doing that because they are true.  The girl has been condemned for no crime, and Nynrah was razed because she would not turn herself in.”

 

Kodan tapped a finger against his desk.  “Am I to take your word for that?”

 

“No, of course not.  Hence the interview.  It mayn’t be immediate, but if you are patient for, let us say, 1 to 2 weeks, I can arrange a meeting between you and Zaekura herself.”

 

A long silence passed.  Kodan’s chair creaked as he leaned forward, setting his elbows on his desk and folding his hands before his face as he eyed the stranger carefully. The stranger chuckled.

 

“I wonder,” he said, “do you not trust me, or are you concerned about the backlash interviewing such a high-profile criminal could bring?”

 

“Both,” Kodan said.  “Even if you’re telling the truth, there would be a lot of questions about how I met Zaekura, and if I might be in league with her.  If I’m not careful, that could ruin my entire business.”

 

“It won’t be that difficult, Kodan.  You were already considering visiting Ga-Koro, were you not?”

 

“…What makes you say that?”

 

“You did say you hear all the rumors—of course you know that the citizens of Nynrah fled there.  So, if you wish to learn more about the situation, it would make sense to at least consider trekking out there and seeing who you could interview.  And what if, by sheer coincidence, Zaekura herself happens to be there, ready to answer a few questions?”

 

Kodan grunted.

 

The stranger approached the desk and looked him in the eye, saying, “Ga-Koro is neutral ground—you will have every justification you need to avoid suspicion.  Well, save a few raving lunatics, but surely you’re accustomed to dealing with those?  This is your chance to shed light on the most dire issue of our millennium, perhaps our entire history.  This is the only way the people will know the truth.”

 

Kodan stared hard at him.  With a sigh, he said, “I have to admit, you’re making an attractive offer…but you still haven’t proved that I can believe you.  As far as we know, the only one working with Zaekura is Makuta Krika, maybe Makuta Antroz—I haven’t heard anything about a Toa on her side.  Who are you?”

 

The stranger grinned.  Holding up one hand, he opened his palm, and the light from the lightstone suddenly shot over to it.  This time, Kodan hit the floor.

 

“I’ll contact you once Zaekura agrees to the interview,” Krika said, closing his fingers around the ball of light.  “Thank you for your consideration, Toa Kodan.”

 

He clenched his fist, and the room was pitch-black.  Kodan scrambled up, hitting the lightstone again, but when it illuminated the room once more Krika was gone.  The Toa took a moment to catch his breath before he sat back down.

 

“Boss?” a Matoran said as she cracked the door.  “You alright?”

 

“Uh, yeah,” Kodan said.  “Just, uh…lost my balance.”

 

The Matoran snickered.  “Hey, get your head on straight.  We’ve got an important job to do!”

 

She was gone then, leaving Kodan alone with his thoughts.  For a time he just sat there.

 

“Hey, Gaaki,” he called as he walked out into the hallway.  “How much money do we have set aside for travel?”

 

***

 

Antroz sat on the ground floor of Bitil’s watchtower, her body still and her mind reaching just outside the walls that surrounded her.  She could sense the Rahkshi going by, some working, some wandering, but nearly all of them thinking of Virban so strongly that she could read bits of it without even trying.  One Rahkshi was recalling the battle, and how it had shocked them to see their brother slain so easily.  A handful were standing around practicing with their weapons, talking of how they hoped to avenge him in the next battle.  Many passers-by were simply excited or anxious about the upcoming funeral.

 

“And you, Antroz, are the reason he died,” said the voice.

 

Antroz twitched, but then grew still once more.  She reduced the range of her telepathy by only a little.

 

“Over two hundred sheltered minds, never knowing grief before now.  But when you showed up, one of them died.  Surely they blame you for it.”

 

Her leg began to bounce.  She continued to reel in her mind slowly, focusing more and more on the details of her surroundings and attempting to notice anything out of the ordinary.

 

“How many more are going to die?  And not just Rahkshi.  Toa, Glatorian, Agori, Matoran—so very, very many are going to die because you refused to follow your orders.  All because you had to do ‘the right thing’.  Will they feel that gives their death meaning?”

 

Antroz’s wings spread for a moment, closing in a few short motions.  She could only sense her immediate area now, and though the range grew more and more narrow, still there was nothing of note.

 

“How wretched you are, Antroz.  You’ve regressed to your most basic state of primal vanity.  You don’t even care about all the blood that will be spilled as a result.”

 

Her mind was withdrawn now.  She knew not what was around her, but still she could hear the voice, a voice without a body, a voice that could be anywhere, could be everywhere around her.

 

“I wonder what the visitor would say if he heard about what you were doing?  This sounds an awful lot like what his Antroz would do.”

 

Shooting to her feet, Antroz drew her sword and swung it in a circle around herself.  She shuffled about, keeping her blade extended to try to ward off whoever was there, but knew she could do nothing more.

 

“Yes, that’s all you are—that’s the truth at the core of who you are, Antroz.  You are evil.  Nothing but pure evil.  And nothing can ever change that.”

 

Antroz put a hand to her head.  “No!  No, I am not!  I am not!”

 

She swung her sword again.  A moment later, she heard the door open, and she reached out with her mind as she whirled.

 

“What the karzahni?!”

 

Zaekura stopped where she stood.  Antroz was on the other side of the room, but her sword was still pointed right at her, and the look on her face was unnerving.

 

“…Zaekura…?” Antroz asked.

 

Leaning back, Zaekura asked, “Who were you expecting?”

 

Antroz lowered her sword at once, turning away to cover her face.  “I-I’m sorry.  I thought…no, never mind.”

 

“So this is what Bitil meant,” Zaekura mumbled, tentatively moving inside.  “Can’t you find something better to do than stand around waving your sword?”  She walked towards the stairs.

 

“I’m sorry,” Antroz said quietly.

 

“Yeah, whatever.”

 

Antroz turned and approached her.  “Please, Zaekura!  I’m sorry I hid the truth from you—it was a mistake!  I didn’t know what to do, especially with so much happening at once!  What can I do to show you that I’m sorry?”

 

“I don’t know!” Zaekura said, throwing her arms out.  “I don’t know what to do with this whole situation, and I don’t know if I’m even going to figure anything out!  If I do, I’ll let you know, but for now just…”  She sighed.  “I don’t know, just stop whatever this is!  You’re making everyone nervous!”

 

As Antroz prepared her response, she heard a noise and spun to face it.

 

“My gosh…”

 

Zaekura moved to climb the stairs.  Antroz turned back and said, “W-Wait, Zaekura!  I think there’s someone here!”

 

“What, like you can sense someone?”

 

“…No, I can’t sense them, but I hear someone speaking.”

 

“Right now?”

 

“Not right now, no, only when I’m…”  She hesitated, but nonetheless finished, “Alone.”

 

Zaekura leaned against the handrail, staring at Antroz with a mix of frustration and disbelief.  “So when you’re alone…you’re hearing voices?  That’s what you’re telling me?”

 

“I realize how it sounds.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“I am being serious, Zaekura!  We must be vigilant until we understand what is going on!”

 

“What’s going on is that you’re losing your darn mind when we’ve only just—“ Zaekura pulled back and cut herself off, grabbing her head as it throbbed.  “…Look, if you’re getting cold feet then just get lost.  You’ve done nothing but make things worse anyway.  No one here will miss you.”

 

And then Antroz was alone again.  She turned nervously, alert and ready for the next time the voice would appear, because she was sure that it would.

 

***

 

Over a kio away from the outpost, a lone figure ascended a dune and paused to admire the night sky.  The Le-Matoran decided to sit down for a moment, unlimbering the scythe he carried as he did, and produced a cloth with which to clean the weapon.

 

“Nidhiki.”

 

The Matoran swung his blade.  It only passed through air.

 

“Calm down.”

 

Nidhiki sighed, setting the scythe across his lap.  He looked up to see his partner not far away, and said, “Will you stop sneaking up on me like that?”

 

“I did not sneak up.  I merely came to where you are.”

 

“Oh, shut up.  Would it kill you to give a little more warning?”  Receiving no response, he went on, “So, what is it?  Got something good for me?”

 

“Antroz has been suitably affected.  Her allies are beginning to grow wary of her, and she grows ever more erratic.  The time approaches when we will be able to subdue her.”

 

Nidhiki raised his scythe, letting the moonlight glint off its edge.  “Yep, that sounds pretty good.  Tell you what, why don’t I sneak in tonight, take her by surprise while you distract her?”

 

“We would then be swarmed by Bitil’s entire army.  We are ill-equipped for such a task.”

 

“Eh, I dunno, I might not be as quick as you but I think I could get in and get out before they have a chance to gang up on me.”

 

“Do not ruin our mission with your foolishness.”

 

Nidhiki sighed, setting his scythe back down.  “Come on.  The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go report back to the Keeper.  Aren’t you eager to tell him about a successful mission?”

 

“I am eager to tell him of a mission correctly executed.  In order to do that, we must not rush things.”

 

Grunting, Nidhiki got to his feet and started walking.

 

“Close in and wait for my signal.  I will find the most opportune time to extract Antroz, and hopefully Zaekura as well.  We may tread slowly for now…but our destination grows closer just the same.”

 

Nidhiki waved half-heartedly and kept walking.  Shortly, he stopped and looked back, seeing that his partner had already vanished.  He gave a sigh and continued on his way.

 

ADDENDUM:

 

-Hm, still a little short.  Sorry about that.

 

-I do my best to be serious about it but even I crack up whenever we get into a conversation with Rahkshi and I have to throw adverbs at “hissing” to simulate variety.  I apologize for this design flaw.

 

-While trying to find the best way to fill this chapter while maintaining the pace I have in mind, having a scene showing Krika work on Zaekura’s PR was the only sensible option, but I wasn’t sure how best to do that.  As I thought more about it, I realized rumors will only get so far and that proper news outlets are something one would definitely want on their side.  Hence, the Civitas Chronicle.  It seemed only appropriate for a Chronicler to be our point of view here, but Takua, Hahli, and Kopeke all have other avenues open to them, whereas Kodan…well, this is really all he has, so he got first dibs.  Really, the guy’s a blank slate.  I’m not sure exactly how far he’ll go, but I think he’ll prove a worthwhile addition even if he ends up being a brief one.

 

-Let me tell you, I’m proud of myself for coming up with Voriki Post.  I was wondering how Voriki could fit into this world or if I should even try, and then this hit me, and, yeah, perfect fit.  For those who don’t know: Voriki (Toa of Energy) was one of the very first prominent fake leaks that occurred throughout Bionicle’s run, nothing more than a rumor and a photoshopped image that was pretty obviously fake…unless you were 9.  He’s sort of become the mascot of such lies, hence why he’s associated with unreliable news here.

 

-Tarduk was more or less a random pick honestly.  Gaaki has some experience with translation, which I felt was a skill that would be valued in this line of work.

 

-For the first appearance of the Odinans, it only seemed right to have Nidhiki, though since I already killed off Krekka in Gargoyle Knight I had to get creative with his partner.  I won’t reveal who the voice is just yet, but there’s a hint or two hidden in there to point you in the right direction.

 

-I have a good idea of how the next few chapters are going to go, so hopefully they won’t take too long?  Yeah, I am currently sidetracked by The World Ends With You: Final Remix, but I have made good progress—won’t be long before that distraction is done!  Maybe.  Here’s hoping.

 

-Reviews to be submitted here


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