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Red Sky at Morning

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This epic is dedicated to Toa Jaxus as fulfillment of the 2018 Fan Fic Exchange.

The requests were to read something interesting that did not contain powerless protagonists.

Specifically, it was suggested that I continue the plight of Pohatu and Kopaka on the Red Star. So that's what I ran with.

 

Hope you like it! Chapters will be posted as I finalize their edits.

-T

 

Be sure to read The Powers that Be if you have not recently. This epic is a continuation of that serial.

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Chapter 5

 

 

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With the noises outside the room getting louder, Toa Kopaka knew they didn’t have much time. Glancing around the room, he saw piles of scraps, tables covered in bent metal, and jars containing substances he thought better than to ask about. Mavrah had locked the door, but Kopaka wasn’t convinced it would be enough to keep those horrid creatures out.

 

“How long have you been here, Mavrah? What’s going on in this place?” Toa Pohatu asked. The Onu-Matoran moved over to a chair near a table and sat down. He motioned to the two Toa to come over. Kopaka didn’t budge.

 

“How long, I’m not sure,” said Mavrah. “But I’ve been here long enough to have gathered some information from the Kestora.” Kopaka thought back to the three he had frozen moments ago. Mavrah continued, ignoring the scraping and plodding of heavy metal against metal outside. “It turns out the Red Star, which is where we are in case you wondered, is not a Star at all. While it does orbit the planet, it is used by the Kestora as a place to heal those who are wounded in our universe.”

 

“Heal? What do you mean heal?” Kopaka asked. Mavrah shuffled a little.

 

“In truth,” he started, “I’m… well, I’m actually dead.” Kopaka shot Pohatu a concerned glance. Pohatu simply slapped the Matoran on the shoulder.

 

“Little one, you’re as dead as that Toa of Ice,” he said, pointing at Kopaka with a smile. “And I know his heart beats stronger than most in our universe.” Mavrah shuddered at the touch, unused to physical contact, but collected himself.

 

“I mean, I died, back home, in Metru Nui.” Kopaka was glad for a piece of information he understood. “I was washed out to sea after a battle. I remember the earthquake, the destruction, the chaos… I remember Toa Onewa, and the Vahki, and then… nothing.”

 

“Onua? Vahki?” Pohatu said. He couldn’t remember ever facing any Vahki, only hearing about them in stories from the Turaga. “Are you sure you remember correctly?” Mavrah nodded.

 

“Toa Onewa was with the rest of the Toa, and I didn’t understand why they had come,” Mavrah said. “But when Toa Whenua was hurt in the fight –”

 

“Did you say Toa Whenua?” Pohatu asked Mavrah nodded again. He turned to Kopaka. “You don’t think…”

 

“…That this Matoran has been here for more than 1000 years?” Kopaka finished. “We need to find a way out of here.” Pohatu’s eyes betrayed his regular joviality.

 

“I knew I should have changed my mind about coming here back when we had the chance.”

 

 

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Mavrah finished telling the Toa about the Red Star. It was designed to be a booster for the Great Spirit to visit other planets while looking for a cure for Spherus Magna, but it also served as a sort of repair station for beings from within the Great Spirit who were injured beyond regular repairs. Beings that required extensive repairs – those who seemingly had died, as Mavrah had – would be teleported up to the Red Star, fixed by the Kestora, and then sent back.

 

“But the return mechanism has been broken for so long, according to the Kestora,” Mavrah said. “They blame someone they managed to send back, since it all failed shortly after he left.” Kopaka and Pohatu looked at each other. They knew Mavrah was talking about Gaardus.

 

“What about energy? How have you stayed alive up here for so long?” Kopaka asked. Mavrah pointed to a vent in the center of the ceiling.

 

“These vents are dotted all over the Red Star,” he said. “They give energy to the beings who reside here. Not having to stop and recharge has been very handy for getting more research accomplished!”

 

“I imagine with all your time researching, you’ve seen the teleportation device that they use to send beings back?” Pohatu asked.

 

“Oh yes,” Mavrah said. “I even tried fixing it at one point. Thankfully my mask allows me to blend in with the Kestora well enough, so anytime they might see me at a glance, I look like them. Plus, it helps that I can see well enough in the dark – I don’t have to keep the lights on.” He tapped his purple Pakari.

 

“Can you get us to the teleporter?” Pohatu asked. Mavrah shook his head.

 

“No point,” he said. “It really doesn’t work. We’ll have to find some other way to get you home. Besides, it’s probably crawling with those monsters outside. They’re all over the Star.”

 

“What are those creatures, anyways?” Kopaka asked. “It was dark, but with my Akaku I could see they were… beyond words.”

 

“Those are the remnants of a vast number of beings the Kestora tried to repair,” Mavrah said. “When they could no longer teleport anyone, some of them began experimenting on the new arrivals. I can’t say it necessarily ended well. Kestora weren’t made to create, only to fix.” A sudden slam against the door made Pohatu jump. Mavrah remained calm. “Don’t worry, nothing will get through that door.” The Toa of Stone turned his attention again to the Matoran.

 

“How do you manage to roam around with all of them out there?” Pohatu asked. Mavrah motioned to the other side of the room.

 

“My room is connected to service tunnels,” he said. “The door you came through can’t be opened from the other side anyways. I use the tunnels to get around, retrieve supplies, whatever I need to continue my research in this place.”

 

“We came here looking for answers, not about this place – although it certainly is yet another mystery to ponder,” Kopaka said. “There have been some murders recently back home, and I saw a vision of the Red Star before getting here. If this place really is what you say it is, maybe the beings who were murdered are here. How could we find them?”

 

“If you’re saying you want to find someone that someone else took the efforts to kill, I can’t say you’ll want to find them up here,” Mavrah said. “When the Kestora do their work, beings who arrive here tend to have their circuits a little… scrambled upon arrival.” Pohatu laughed, catching on to Kopaka’s train of thought.

 

“Mavrah, if you knew who we’re looking for, you’d know he couldn’t get more scrambled than he already was.” The Matoran looked curiously at the Toa of Stone, who continued. “Have you heard the legends of Karzahni?”

 

 

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Chapter 6

 

 

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The two Toa made their way through the tunnels with Mavrah at the lead. They had told him about Karzahni, and though the Matoran was in no hurry to find out if the legends held any truth, he was also too much a scientist to allow such a mystery to go unanswered. Now the challenge was finding such a being in this place.

 

“How big is the Red Star?” Pohatu whispered as they made their way through its inner workings.

 

“Not as big as you might think,” Mavrah said. “It only had to be big enough to provide extra boost to the Great Spirit, but obviously not so big that it cancelled out its own power. Plus, it didn’t need to have much space for repair bays, since no one was supposed to stay here for long. The biggest area is the Kestora living quarters, and even that’s not too extensive.”

 

The trio shimmied through the tunnels, twisting and turning within the belly of the machine. Mavrah paused only a few times to listen, and finally spoke the words Kopaka and Pohatu were waiting for.

 

“Here. We get out here.” Mavrah pushed on a panel and it fell away, and the Matoran crawled out. Pohatu and Kopaka inched forward and pulled themselves out of the service tunnel. The room they found themselves in seemed to be a surveillance room. Screens lined the walls, and panels of buttons and knobs could be seen between the screens. The room was empty of life.

 

“Where are the Kestora?” Kopaka asked.

 

“It’s unusual for this room to be so empty, you’re right,” Mavrah said. “There’s supposed to be at least one Kestora in here at all times for security. It seems this room was built after they realized the teleporter was broken – otherwise they wouldn’t need to watch where everyone was.” The Toa walked to the screens, taking in what they could to try to make sense of the place. Pohatu quickly called the Toa of Ice and the Onu-Matoran over to a certain screen.

 

“I think I found out why there aren’t any Kestora around,” he said, pointing to the screen. On it, the three could see Kestora running down corridors, blasts of energy firing from their weapons as they ran. On another screen, an eerie glow emitted from the end of a corridor, and a shadow loomed from around the corner. In a moment, a massive beast turned the corner and appeared on the surveillance screen. Kopaka grimaced.

 

“It appears that it won’t be such a challenge to find Karzahni after all.”

 

“If that’s him,” Mavrah said, his voice quivering, “Then it’s going to be even easier than you might hope.” There was shouting and banging from outside the doors of the room. Mavrah scurried back to the service tunnels, half-shouting over his shoulder, “I know the corridor on that screen. It leads directly to this room!” And then the Onu-Matoran was gone.

 

 

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Pohatu and Kopaka quickly hid themselves across the room from the entrance. They crouched behind one of the control panels.

 

“If that hall connects here,” Pohatu said, “Then a flood of Kestora and Karzahni himself are on their way.” Kopaka tightened his grip on his ice blade.

 

“Yes, but we’ve dealt with Kestora already. And if Karzahni was defeated once before, we can only hope to do it again now.” He thought a moment. “I have an idea.” The two Toa conferred, and then split up. Kopaka iced the floor near the door, along with the walls nearby. Pohatu located the power switch to one of the screen banks on the control panel, and then yanked cables from the screens, bundling them up and storing them by the panel. When the two had finished, they had ample length of cable and the room was noticeably chillier.

 

“Now we wait,” Pohatu said cheerfully, his breath coming out in warm clouds. “Hopefully, not long!” He was right. In a matter of moments, the Kestora broke into the room. They were not prepared for the ice and their vision was blurred from the change in lighting, and at the speed they were moving they slipped and crashed into the wall opposite the door, heaping up in a daze. Their confusion and fervent evasion from Karzahni only helped the Toa’s plan work all the more.

 

Then Karzahni himself stormed the room. Being bigger than the Kestora, he too slipped on the ice but fell with a thud where he was, cursing as he did. Pohatu activated his Kakama Nuva and sped unseen toward their enemy. Using the cables he’d gathered, he ran circles around Karzahni, tightly weaving the cables over one another back and forth until they created a tangled net. Then he sprinted back to the power switch, ready to jolt the mad tyrant with waves of energy. Kopaka finished icing the Kestora and turned to Karzahni.

 

“Try anything and you’ll be in for a shock,” Kopaka said coolly.

 

“Who are you to threaten me?” Karzahni spat. “You know nothing of power!” Kopaka nodded at Pohatu, who jolted the monster.

 

“We have some questions for you,” Kopaka started again. “We’ll lay out the facts to you. First, you’re dead. Second, the person who killed you is running around killing others. We need to know who murdered you.” Kopaka didn’t think he’d ever say things like that before, but with the turn of events in recent weeks, he guessed anything was possible by now.

 

Karzahni stared at him blankly. Then he started to laugh. “You fool!” Karzahni said. “I can see through your deception – I’m the master of illusions. I’m here just as much as you.”

 

“We didn’t get here the regular way,” Pohatu interjected. “I’d listen to the Ice Toa. He’s not the type to wait patiently.” Karzahni shuffled in the bindings, and Pohatu flicked the switch quickly up and back down, not wanting to torture their captive, but not taking a risk with him either.

 

Karzahni let out a shout. “You call yourselves Toa and yet you interrogate like Makuta.”

 

“I’d like fight like a Toa of Stone, trust me. But given our current environment, I’m making do,” Pohatu said, cracking a smile despite the situation. Kopaka leaned in closer, touching his ice blade to Karzahni’s armor. The armor began to frost.

 

“Say, Pohatu,” he said calmly, letting the elemental power seep down his tool. “If he’s already dead, is there anything in the Toa Code that stops me from freezing him solid here and now?” Karzahni stopped struggling. Pohatu shot Kopaka a nervous glance.

 

“Brother,” he started.

 

“All I’m suggesting,” Kopaka said, touching another part of Karzahni’s armor, “is that if he’s here like the rest of these twisted creatures, maybe he should fit in a bit more. You know, a little frostbite, a cracked plate here and there… And between my ice and the electricity of the cables…” The icy cold penetrated a spot in Karzahni’s armor. He screamed in pain.

 

“All right all right,” he said. “It was a Matoran.” Kopaka drew back his blade. Pohatu stepped closer.

 

“A Matoran killed the mighty Karzahni?” Kopaka scoffed. Karzahni glared at him and snarled.

 

“Yes, but not just any Matoran,” the twisted tyrant said. “He was quick. He was powerful. I was caught up in a wind, surrounded by screaming beads of hot sand. I shielded my eyes and that’s when I felt it. When I opened them again, I saw a blade buried deep in my armor.” Karzahni winced at the memory as though the pain was fresh. “I looked and saw the Matoran standing in front of me in the whirlwind, as though the very element obeyed him. He was diminished, horribly disfigured. But then I recognized him. I’d seen him before. He’d been to my realm once, and I rebuilt him and sent him away. I was surprised to see him, and then suddenly I was falling. Then I woke up here.”

 

Pohatu whispered to Kopaka, “Can we trust him?”

 

“Can’t say we have much choice,” he replied. Kopaka turned back to Karzahni, but he was gone. The bindings lay spread out on the floor. Kopaka turned again to Pohatu, and with a start realized they were still in the woods of Spherus Magna. He shook his head.

 

“Something wrong, brother?” Pohatu asked.

 

“I thought,” Kopaka started. “I thought we… did you see that too?” Pohatu looked quizzical.

 

“Maybe the heat of the day is getting to you. Come on, we’d best hurry – the others are waiting for us at the tunnels.” Pohatu started into the woods.

 

“Tunnels?” Kopaka asked. “Who’s waiting? Where are we going?”

 

“Underground of course!” Pohatu replied. “The Turaga told us the Bahrag would be in the hive.” Kopaka stopped. Bahrag? Hive? That didn’t make sense. The Bahrag were probably somewhere on Spherus Magna by now, but that was hardly their concern right now. Wait a minute.

 

Kopaka shook his head. “This is an illusion. This isn’t real.” Pohatu stop and turned around. As he did, he seemed to melt away, swirling into a mess of colour with the rest of the woods. Kopaka watched it all fade as he returned to the Red Star with Karzahni still bound in front of him.

 

“What?” Karzahni was aghast. “How?!”

 

“Seems your mask took some damage when you died,” Kopaka said, seeing now for the first time the cracks running across Karzahni’s Kanohi. “Your illusions aren’t powerful anymore. So I’ll ask you this, and you’d better not play any games. Do you remember the Matoran’s name?”

 

Karzahni hung his head, dejected. He sighed, then looked thoughtful, a feeling Kopaka doubted Karzahni often felt. After a few seconds, he spoke again, and despite being a Toa of Ice, a chill ran down Kopaka’s spine.

 

“Yes, I remember his name,” Karzahni said. “His name is Velika.”

 

 

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Chapter 7

 

 

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Toa Kopaka iced Karzahni where he lay. He didn’t freeze him solid, like he had threatened – despite the greyness of morality in a place where he was surrounded by dead beings, he couldn’t bring himself to potentially break the Toa Code and smear his honour. He'd thaw out soon enough. Still, Toa Pohatu was glad they’d have one less thing to worry about. But with Karzahni’s revelation, the pair had more than enough to occupy their concern.

 

“Velika?” Pohatu stood dumbfounded. “Isn’t he one of those Voya Nui Matoran? The riddler? He was that Po-Matoran who saved us from the Piraka months ago.” Kopaka thought quietly to himself. Pohatu thought out loud for all to hear. “Why would Velika kill Karzahni? And, if Karzahni was telling the truth, how did Velika go about killing Tren Krom? Should we trust his word? What if we confront Velika and we’re wrong?” Then, “…What if we’re right?” Kopaka put up a hand to quiet his brother.

 

“We need to find a way to get off this Star and inform the others,” he said. “Now that the Kestora are dealt with and Karzahni is on ice, let’s see if we can’t find someone to help us.” The Toa returned their attention to the screens in the room. Things were quiet now again outside on the Star. Grotesque creatures roamed the levels, sparring with others who got too close. Then Pohatu saw something that made him squint closer.

 

“Brother,” he said, motioning to the screen. “I could be mistaken in a place like this, but doesn’t that group look like Turaga?” Kopaka looked and sure enough, there were beings of slightly smaller stature than themselves, pressed into a darker corner of the Star. They seemed to have found a place the monsters were not roaming.

 

“Yes, I think you’re right. But how can we know where that is?” Kopaka wondered.

 

“Oh that’s easy!” came a voice from behind them. The Toa spun around with tools drawn. Mavrah raised his hands in surprise. “Sorry! Just me again.” Kopaka breathed a sigh of relief. “You two did great against Karzahni,” he said. “Hopefully he won’t mind some study later on.”

 

“Mavrah, do you know where that is?” Pohatu said, pointing at the Turaga.

 

“Sure, and better yet I know who that is,” Mavrah said. “I’ll get you right to them. Let’s head back into the service tunnels.”

 

The three climbed into the vent again and were off. Mavrah scuttled quickly, while the other two followed clumsily behind. They dipped down in the tunnels and abruptly slid some distance. Kopaka had the feeling they wouldn’t be coming back this way. Suddenly the ground beneath him gave way and they were falling into a room. When he looked up, Kopaka was staring directly into the frightened faces of the Turaga they were looking for.

 

 

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The arrival of the Toa and Mavrah startled the gathered Turaga. Seeing Mavrah with them made them curious. Once Mavrah told them who these Toa were, the Turaga were astounded.

 

“We’ve heard the legends!” said one.

 

“The Mighty Toa arrived? It’s true?” said another.

 

“If they’re here, then Mata Nui must be in danger!” said a third. A buzz of anxious chatter rattled through the Turaga, until one of them pounded the ground with his firestaff. The Turaga parted and allowed this Turaga to approach the Toa, his golden Hau bobbing like a crown as he walked. He inspected Kopaka and Pohatu and then stepped back.

 

“You’re real. You didn’t die to get here,” he said. Pohatu nodded. The Turaga around them let out a gasp.

 

“If they didn’t die, then there must be another way off this Star!” said one Turaga. The Turaga of Fire held up a hand and the murmuring died down.

 

“We were hoping you would know the answer to that question,” Kopaka said. “We’ve always found the Turaga back home to be filled with wisdom and knowledge. If anyone would have an idea about this place, it would be you.” The Turaga sighed.

 

“And who are your Turaga back home?” he asked.

 

“They used to be the Toa of Metru Nui,” Kopaka said. “Vakama continues to lead them as Turaga now.” At this, the Turaga of Fire perked up.

 

“Vakama?” He said, chuckling. “So, he’s joined our ranks after all.”

 

“Did you know him when you were alive?” Pohatu asked. The Turaga smiled.

 

“Know him? I was a Toa of Metru Nui before him! Welcome friends. My name is Lhikan.”

 

 

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There weren’t as many Turaga as Kopaka originally thought. Lhikan introduced them to Jovan, a Turaga of the Southern Continent prior to the Great Cataclysm, as well as Otuko and Tamua, both hailing from the Northern Continent. Pohatu filled them in about Karzahni’s murder and arrival on the Red Star, as well as their encounter with him. The Turaga were impressed but not surprised at the prowess of the Toa Nuva.

 

“Why are there not more of you?” Kopaka asked. “With all due respect, I’m surprised more didn’t die through the years.”

 

“Oh, there are more Turaga on this Star,” Lhikan said. “Just like there are more Matoran, and more Toa. The trouble is, none of them resemble the honourable beings they once were. The Kestora saw to that.”

 

“You mean to say those creatures out there used to be our brothers and sisters?” Pohatu asked. Lhikan nodded.

 

“Some of them were doomed the minute they arrived on the Star. The Kestora made quick work of their minds and now all that’s left is a hollow husk of a being. Some of them, though, have been here longer than us and have simply gone mad in this prison.” Lhikan shook his head. “It’s a shame, really. Such beauty and power, reduced to shambling shells of their former self.”

 

“How is it that you avoided experimentation, or insanity?” Pohatu asked.

 

“When we arrived,” Jovan said, “Mavrah found us the same way he found you. We are fortunate that he was scouring around when we died. As to keeping our wits, we set our minds to remain focused on the Universe below – for such a time as this.” While Pohatu spoke with the Turaga, Kopaka thought. He turned words in his mind, processing all the things they had seen so far, catching up with the reality of their situation. Then a new thought entered his mind, and he returned to the group.

 

“Turaga,” he said. “Surely if there are other Toa and Turaga, perhaps one of them might have a mask or power that could transport us away from this place? We noticed Karzahni’s mask didn’t work well, but he did still have it.” The Turaga considered his words.

 

“My team was decimated by a Dark Hunter with electrifying power,” Lhikan said. “None of them made it up here.”

 

“The Toa I knew did not have any teleportation abilities,” Otuko said. “Tamua and I were on the same team, and we knew a good number of other Toa around the universe.” They turned to Jovan who sat pensively.

 

“…No… no I don’t… well… hmm,” he rubbed his mask. Then he bolted up. “Wait! There is someone!” The others got closer. Jovan clasped his hands together. Kopaka was impatient. “I know someone on the Star that might be able to take us home. He’s no Toa or Turaga, but he might just be someone even better for this occasion.”

 

“Turaga,” Kopaka said urgently. “Tell us who you’re talking about.”

 

Jovan smiled again. “Botar!”

 

 

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Chapter 8

 

 

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Turaga Jovan informed the Toa of where they should go and how to find Botar.  He had heard through the whispers of the Kestora that Botar spent most of his time on the upper decks of the Red Star. The Kestora left Botar alone for the most part, for they did not want to suffer a fate worse than being trapped eternally on the Star.

 

Unfortunately for Toa Pohatu and Toa Kopaka, between them and the upper decks were corridors filled with ghouls and things of nightmares.

 

“Can’t we use the service tunnels to get to the upper decks?” Kopaka asked.

 

“Unfortunately an accident sealed the upper level tunnels weeks ago,” Mavrah said. “At least, I think it was only weeks ago. Months? Maybe it was years…” Mavrah shook his head. “You’ll have to use to main corridors.”

 

“Why Botar, anyways?” Pohatu asked Jovan.

 

“He belonged to the Order of Mata Nui,” Jovan said. “If anyone knows anything about this Star, it’s him. Well, either him or the Kestora, but it seems they’ve chosen not to help. Botar may at least contain within him some shred of loyalty to Mata Nui and see fit to get two of his greatest defenders back home.”

 

“Will you be safe here?” Kopaka directed the question to Lhikan.

 

“We’ve made it this long, we’ll make it another night or two. Come back to us when you have talked with Botar.” Kopaka gave a quick nod and the two Toa turned to depart.

 

They slid out through the door of the room where the Turaga had managed to hide from the horde. Tamua warned that some of the creatures could sense the use of Kanohi – a fact Mavrah confirmed by mention of his own Rahi who now belonged to the horde. They’d have to be careful not to reveal themselves. Kopaka was wondering how they would hide in the narrow corridors. They weren’t as small as Turaga and didn’t have the know how of the tunnels like Mavrah. With the lights flickering as power surged through the Star, they might be able to rely on some shadows for cover. Their mindpower was also an advantage over the creatures, as was their control of the elements. Unfortunately for Pohatu, there wasn’t much in the way of stone inside the Red Star, but he was handy with his Kakama Nuva when needed – though if any of the creatures could sense Kanohi like Tamua cautioned, then neither Pohatu’s speed nor Kopaka’s own vision were at their disposal.

 

So although he would have liked to hurry along, Kopaka reasoned it would be better to stick together and go slow. After some progress, Pohatu quietly asked, “If Botar can teleport anywhere, why hasn’t he already come back to the Universe?”

 

Though he wished to remain silent, Kopaka answered his brother. “Perhaps there was something stopping him,” he replied. “Maybe a shield in the Great Spirit kept him from returning. Maybe some aspect of the Red Star restricts his abilities.”

 

“You’d think that someone as powerful as Botar would find a way to return,” Pohatu mused. “Then again, he hasn’t been here for very long compared to the other inhabitants so maybe he doesn’t know that he can get back.”

 

“All we know at this point is that he’s our best shot at getting home,” Kopaka whispered back. They had met Botar a few times before, and neither Toa had enjoyed the encounters. Botar was a being of mystery, legend, and horror, all wrapped up in one. He didn’t need to be experimented on by the Kestora to look like he belonged to the horde. They were not looking forward to this encounter either.

 

 

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Down one hall, up a flight of stairs, the pair stalked. As they came around the bend of the staircase, they froze, and not because of Kopaka’s ice. There in the shadows of the room in front of them was a hulking creature, facing opposite the Toa, tearing into what might have been one of its kind moments before. Unfortunately, Kopaka could see that the stairs continued through the other side of the room – they’d have to cross.

 

In a flash, the Toa darted behind a few shelves near the stairs they’d just come from, directly inside the room. The creature didn’t take note.

 

“We could just skirt the edge of the room,” Pohatu said. “Freeze that light up there and it’ll go out. I bet the monster won’t even notice.” Kopaka considered this, then slowly aimed his blade at the light. Tendrils of frost snaked through the air, hardly noticeable if someone wasn’t looking for it. The light froze and cracked, plunging the room into darkness. Sure enough, the creature didn’t move from its spot in the center of the room.

 

“Okay, good,” Kopaka said. “You can let go of my hand now.”

 

I’m not touching you,” Pohatu said after a second of hesitation. For the second time in the same day, Kopaka’s spine tingled. If Pohatu wasn’t touching him…

 

Suddenly the emergency lights blinked on, bathing the room in dark red light. When his eyes adjusted slightly, Kopaka saw that a tentacle was wrapped around his wrist! He jerked away, punching the shelf accidentally in the process. Much to the dismay of the Toa, eyes began to open on the shelf – it was covered in creatures waking from their slumber. Pohatu saw with horror that the creature in the middle of the room had thrown its head up at the sudden noise, and now snarled at the shelf.

 

“Kopaka, let’s go – we have no time to get friendly with these creatures now!” Pohatu shoved Kopaka hard, and the tentacle slipped off. The two Toa bumped out from behind the shelf and scurried for the stairs across the wall. The creature in the middle of the room let out a screech, and slammed itself into the wall where moments ago the Toa had been hiding. The shelves fell over, and creatures now scurried like Archive Moles toward any exit. The ground beneath the Toa became dark with bodies. Kopaka urged Pohatu ahead.

 

“Can we use our Kanohi yet?” Pohatu asked.

 

“You go ahead and find a safe path,” Kopaka replied. “I’ll try to slow it down so it doesn’t find us later!” With that, Pohatu blinked out of view, and Kopaka flew up the stairs, rounding the first bend as the creature leapt and crashed into the bottom steps with a heavy thud. It screeched up the staircase, then sunk its claws into the walls and began its climb.

 

We might outthink it, but I don’t think I can outrun it, Kopaka thought, hearing it a few steps behind him. He sprinted up two more flights and down the connected corridor. The beast skittered to its feet on the landing and bounded after the Toa. Kopaka shot ice behind him, to no avail – the beast hurled itself over the frozen patches and kept coming. Once it slipped, giving the Toa a mild advance, but hardly enough to regain ground.

 

Pohatu returned beside him. “This way!” he said. The two turned a corner, then another, breathlessly trying to think of how to get rid of this creature. Pohatu spun around and shot an energy blast at the thing with his launcher, which knocked it to its back. The Toa sprinted on.

 

Coming to a fork, Kopaka followed Pohatu as he tore off down the left hallway and up more stairs. They climbed what felt like ten or fifteen floors, all the while hearing the monster crashing behind them and screeching all the way. Pohatu zipped away again and back, confirming that their path was still clear ahead.

 

They dove into the room at the top of their staircase and slammed the door. It was dark in here too, but the place seemed still. They could hear the monster somewhere outside, howling like an Iron Wolf who lost track of its prey. They breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“We might have faced Makuta,” Pohatu said, “but I’m not ready to fight a thing like that just yet. Good thing the rest of the horde didn’t find us.”

 

Kopaka nodded. That thing’s movement, its claws and lunge and screech – it was all too much to take it, too fast. Thankfully, they had gotten away.

 

But all was not quiet. Slowly at first, as if far away, Kopaka could hear the scrape of metal against the floor and the ticking of claws on the walls. The squeaking of rusted joints and lumbering, uneven footsteps echoed down the halls, signaling the horde’s arrival.

 

“We have to keep moving,” Kopaka whispered to Pohatu. “Maybe they really can feel the use of Kanohi.”

 

“We need to find Botar before they find us,” Pohatu replied. Then without warning, a monster materialized right in front of them. The darkness and flickering of light didn’t help ease the Toa at all, who stumbled back at the creature’s sudden appearance. Then it spoke, its voice raw and cracking as though it hadn’t spoken in a long time.

 

“Be careful what you wish for,” Botar said.

 

 

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Chapter 9

 

 

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Between Karzahni’s insanity and Botar’s hideousness, Toa Pohatu had had enough of this place. He was ready to go home. But when the Toa told Botar of their mission, he hardly seemed moved.

 

“Death comes to all,” he said. “We cannot will ourselves back to the other side of the grave.”

 

“That’s the difference between us,” Pohatu said. “You died. We didn’t. We were teleported here.” Botar looked confused. “Don’t worry,” Pohatu continued. “Let’s just say you aren’t quite dead yet.”

 

“That does not make sense,” Botar said. “I was there when I died. You were not. How do say I am not dead?”

 

“Oh, no, you died down on our universe,” Pohatu said. “But we’re still in our universe. This body you have was teleported here and the Kestora may have done some work fixing your armor. They were supposed to send you back but the return teleporter is broken.” Botar ran a hand along his torso. Refinished dents could be seen buffed out and straightened. Crinkled armor was patched and retouched, almost invisible in the light of the Star.

 

“I have… memories,” Botar started. “Memories both of the time before this time, and the arrival. Pain, and darkness. Then light – but not warmth. Cold, bitter hearts. Dead eyes in bodies of life. Creatures all around. Confusion.”

 

“Sounds a little like when we arrived,” Pohatu said. “But you got away. And you’re a member of the Order of Mata Nui. You must have at least heard something about this Star.”

 

“Yes,” Botar replied. “Heard something is the best way to put it. There was not much knowledge of the world past our world. It was the Order of Mata Nui, after all, not the Order of the Great Beings.” Toa Kopaka scoffed.

 

“Do you or do you not know anything about the Red Star?” he demanded. Botar fixed him with a stare that even Kopaka couldn’t keep – though he of all inhabitants of Mata Nui stared back the longest before turning away.

 

“I do, and do not,” said Botar. “I know my teleportation works to an extent, though I cannot say it would take you back to the surface. But we cannot undo the balance. The dead here are dead. We must not allow any to return with you – if we even find a way for you to return.” Pohatu turned to him.

 

“Botar, you would have to stay behind. Don’t you want to return to our people and help them settle in their new land?”

 

“My destiny is complete,” Botar stated. “I have fulfilled my duties and have come to my conclusion. Every life begins and ends. Every story climaxes and resolves. My resolution may have been untimely in our eyes, but we cannot argue with our destinies.”

 

“If the teleporter still worked, your destiny would have landed you back in the universe somewhere,” Pohatu replied.

 

“Yet it does not, and so I was not,” Botar said. “There is no changing destiny.”

 

“Who’s to say?” Pohatu said. “All we can do is carry on forward and see where destiny takes us. And our destiny at this juncture is leading us into that control room.” Botar snorted.

 

“I will help you search for a way off this Star, but I will not help you take anyone with you,” Botar said with finality. Pohatu knew better than to argue with the agent when he’d made up his mind, though he hoped for Botar’s sake that he would change it by the time they found a way home.

 

 

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The trio now made quick motion through the Star. Botar teleported the Toa with himself as far as he could see, then made the jump again and again, covering ground ten times as quickly as the Toa had on their own. Any time a creature sprung from the shadows – and they did often enough with a brute like Botar making as much noise as he was – Kopaka would ice it, or Pohatu would punch it, or Botar would simply look at it and it would run.

 

Soon, they found themselves in a central hall in the upper decks, and to their great surprise there was a map on one of the walls. It appeared weathered and dirty, as though someone had been rushing around with it and put it up in just as much of a hurry. Crude lines and crosses were marked all over it.

 

“Seems someone was trying to keep tabs on where it was safe to go. I know for a fact that these rooms are filled with beasts,” Botar said, pointing at areas marked with a cross. Pohatu looked over the map.

 

“Aha!” He said, perhaps a little more loudly than necessary. “This room sounds useful.” He jabbed a finger at a spot on the map, aptly named “Control Room”. With a sigh of relief, Pohatu noted that it did not have a cross on it.

 

The three of them teleported again to just outside the Control Room. There were no sounds coming from the other side of the door, so Kopaka cracked the door and poked his head in. “It’s empty,” he said to the other two. He pushed the door wide open and walked in. Botar and Pohatu followed.

 

The room they found themselves in was like the surveillance room. However, this one seemed more planned, and featured less screens. On the screens were numbers and charts and graphs, percentages and trajectories, diagrams of orbits and pinpoints of information. There were a few standing panels with levers and dials, and several seats on the walls to each side of the room. Above the seats, stairways on either side lead to a raised viewing deck which ran the circumference of the room, save for in front of the screen displays. It was a sight to behold.

 

Pohatu immediately went to investigate the control panels. Botar looked at some of the information on the screens. Kopaka stood at the door as it closed behind him, taking it in.

 

“It’s sort of similar to the Codrex,” Pohatu said after a few minutes of poking around. “At least, the design is similar. No giant flying vehicles anywhere yet – but I guess we’re inside one already.” Kopaka ran a hand on the wall. There were a lot more gadgets and panels and screen here than in the room where they had first arrived hours ago. Hours? Or days? Kopaka shook the thought from his mind.

 

“Here,” Botar said. “This screen.” The Toa went over to him. The screen Botar was at had flashing red indicators all over it – both Toa knew immediately it wasn’t a good sign. Thankfully, as a gift from Mata Nui, they were now able to speak Agori, like the rest of the universe.

 

“Here’s a warning about the teleporter,” Pohatu said. “And here’s one stating the Mata Nui robot is offline.”

 

“It looks like this place is still running alright, despite the severed link to Mata Nui and the power surges we’ve noticed so far,” Kopaka said. “Let’s see if we can’t make sense of its controls.”

 

“I can help with that,” said a voice from behind the three. They turned back to the door – but no one was there. Glancing around, Kopaka saw no shift or movement, but readied his blade.

 

“Who’s there?” Pohatu asked.

 

“Look around,” the voice said. The Toa had confusion written on their masks. Botar… well, it was hard to say what Botar looked like.

 

“Come out from wherever you’re hiding,” Botar demanded.

 

“It is hard to hide when I am in plain sight,” the voice said. “I cannot hide behind myself. Welcome. I am the Red Star.”

 

 

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Chapter 10

 

 

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Toa Kopaka and Toa Pohatu groaned almost in unison. Back inside another sentient machine. The Great Beings really were playing around with their creations whenever they created the Great Spirit robot.

 

“Are you like Mata Nui?” Pohatu asked. The Red Star laughed – if the cold, tinny shrill could be called a laugh.

 

“No, not like Mata Nui,” it replied. “He was a true being. A thing of essence and character, a Spirit in all accounts of the word. He inhabited a machine. I am a machine through and through.”

 

“You must know what happened to him,” Kopaka said.

 

“Yes, I saw it happen. But for all that came his way, he was very resourceful on Bara Magna.” The walls of the Control Room started lighting up. “A shame, though – I was hoping to see more now that he was standing again. But, such is destiny.”

 

“We need your help,” Pohatu said. “We’re stuck here and we need to get back to the surface world.”

 

“Mm, yes, I felt your arrival and have been monitoring you since then,” the Star replied. “Quite unique, given that you have not died and yet here you stand.”

 

“We are not some experiment to be monitored,” Kopaka shot. “We have our own destinies to fulfill, and there must be a way for us to get back. You’re aware that your teleportation function is broken?”

 

“Yes,” the Star replied. “But broken is not quite the word for it. It is functional, but offline. As per the directive of the Great Beings.”

 

“Wait, you turned off the return function?” Pohatu said.

 

“It is as you say,” the Star replied. “I receive instruction, I follow. You do similar, though you served a lesser master than I do.”

 

“Why?” Pohatu asked.

 

“It is not my place to ask questions. My program parameters do not allow for interrogation. I simply execute the orders I receive,” the Star replied.

 

“My brother,” Pohatu said to Kopaka. “We may not be dead in this place, but I get the feeling we might as well be.” Kopaka looked grim. Then an idea turned up in his mind.

 

“You of all beings must understand the importance of duty,” Kopaka began. “Surely you would not stand in the way of us accomplishing ours. If the Great Beings created us just like they created you, then we must work together to accomplish their will.” Kopaka wasn’t sure exactly which Great Beings he was referring to, and for all he knew the ones that made him and Pohatu may not have laid a finger on the Red Star. Still, it was worth a chance.

 

The Star buzzed around them. “Analyzing… you raise a valid point, perplexing as it is,” the Star said after a few moments. “I will help you get home. I cannot turn on the teleporter. But there is another way. And who is to say you would not find it without my help regardless”

 

Pohatu pumped the air with his fists. “Yes! Closer to the way out of here! What do we have to do?”

 

The Red Star’s screen blinked off and back on, now displaying a map of the Star. “There is a workshop down in the lower decks. You will have to pass through a number of hordes and cross the Kestora laboratories to get there.”

 

“Botar, you can get us there quickly,” Pohatu said. But Botar shook his head.

 

“There’s a strange field that cuts off my teleportation closer to the lower decks,” he said. “I can’t go much further than the middle of the Star.”

 

“That would be due to my core processor,” the Star said. “The engines used to boost the Great Spirit are powerful and probably conflict with your power. It seems you will have to get there on foot.”

 

“Is there anything you can do about the creatures?” Pohatu asked the Star.

 

“Unfortunately not,” it replied. “Their consciences were supposed to be uploaded to me so that I could transfer them into new units and send them back. The Kestora stopped uploading them when they found out the teleporter was no longer online.”

 

“So we’ll have to bash and dash,” Pohatu said. “Alright. Now that we’ve had a good look at them, I think I could throw a couple punches their way. Even that big nasty one can’t block what he can’t see!” Pohatu activated his mask and swatted the air in front of him, his arms becoming a blur. The Star continued its instructions.

 

“When you get to the workshop, you will find –” The Star paused. Then it spoke again, and even though it was a program, for the briefest moment it sounded concerned. “You had best be on your way,” the Star said. “There is a horde headed this way and they are not far. You will know what to do when you get there. Best of luck – if luck had any bearing here.” And then the Star was silent again. The Toa and Botar could hear the scraping of the creatures beyond the door.

Kopaka turned to Pohatu. “We need to inform the others,” he said.

 

 

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The Toa implored Botar to bring them to the Turaga. Botar had no idea how this was beneficial to the Toa, but he respected the relationship a Toa and a Turaga shared, though he himself did not understand it. Not to mention, they would be cornered in the Control Room with the horde outside. When the brute appeared out of thin air with the Toa amid the Turaga, they almost died again of shock.

 

“Well,” Lhikan said when he regained his composure, “I did tell you to return when you had spoken with Botar.”

 

“We spoke with more than him,” Pohatu said. “Turns out the Red Star is alive. Well, not alive like you. Or, like me. But it’s aware of everything and it told us how we might get back to the surface.”

 

“What did it say?” Tamua asked. The eyes of all the Turaga lit up as Pohatu spoke. He quickly filled them in with everything that had happened in the Control Room, from the Star’s appearance to its message about something down in the workshop that would get them off the Star.

 

“If what it says is true,” Pohatu said joyfully, “then we may finally be headed home.”

 

 

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Chapter 11

 

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It was decided. The pack would follow Mavrah in the service tunnels down to the workshop. Unfortunately, the tunnels let out just before the laboratory, so they’d have to cross that themselves, but at least it would save them the trouble of fighting the horde the whole way down. There was just one problem.

 

“I won’t fit,” Botar said. “There is no way for me to follow you. If I am to accompany you, I will have to go from the outside.”

 

“Do you think you can find us down there?” Toa Kopaka asked.

 

“If I can’t, I’m sure the Star will be able to direct me,” Botar said. “I’ll get going – it may take me longer than you to arrive.” Kopaka nodded, and the Order of Mata Nui agent teleported away.

 

“He is a different sort of being,” Turaga Lhikan said. Then they were on their way. Mavrah knew roughly how to get where they had to go, and so with slow pace they crawled. It seemed a long while before he found a grate that suited him. He popped it open, checked around for any creatures, and beckoned the rest to follow.

 

“Botar will have to be coming on foot by this level,” Mavrah said. “The engines are above us a number of decks, so it may be a while before we see him again.” Kopaka activated his Akaku Nuva. No sign of movement ahead. Above, creatures crawled or slithered or plodded along. Further up, Kopaka could make out a blip appearing and disappearing, over and over again.

 

“Looks like he’s on his way down,” Kopaka said. “But we’d better not waste any time.”

 

Toa Pohatu zipped out of sight and was back in a flash. “The door to the laboratory ahead is locked,” he said. “We could break in but I feel there is probably a safer way about it.” Kopaka nodded, and Pohatu took his place protecting the group from behind. When they arrived at the large doors to the lab, Kopaka iced the lock and shattered it with a tap. Then he opened the door slowly and stepped inside.

 

The group entered the laboratory with caution. The emergency lights here did not flicker, as though powered by something other than the rest of the Star. Kopaka assumed it was to keep the machines here running no matter what, as the Kestora did their experiments. Still, in the moody black-red light it was hard to make out exactly what was in front of them. Activating his mask again, he checked the room. There were walls of tools and some creatures lying on tables, but nothing seemed alive. Granted, he thought to himself, does anything here count as life anymore?

 

The group came to the middle of the room when a door from somewhere beside them slid open, and a handful of Kestora came in. They chattered to themselves, oblivious to the group of intruders. Kopaka motioned for the group to hide, and Pohatu whisked each Turaga away behind some of the machines. Mavrah slid down behind a shelf. Kopaka stayed closer to the Kestora, but likewise hid himself from view.

 

“And they were all just frozen in a big heap!” said one of the Kestora. “I don’t know what could have caused it.”

 

“Maybe a leak in the Star? The pressure outside might have done something with the molecules around them,” said another.

 

“Perhaps,” said a third. “But there weren’t signs of any structural compromise. And they were still alive, though frozen in place.” The first shrugged.

 

“Who knows,” he said. “Still, we need to be careful. With the creatures roaming around upstairs, we have to guard ourselves.” He pulled out a ring of keys. “That’s why I want to show you what I’ve been working on!”

 

The three Kestora walked over to the workshop door and undid the latch. They stepped inside and the door swung shut. Kopaka almost smiled. Too simple.

 

He motioned to the group to come to the door. The Turaga sat low behind a machine nearby, ready to move once the Toa had cleared out the Kestora. Pohatu was about to burst through the door when Mavrah shouted from behind them.

 

“Toa, help!” Kopaka and Pohatu whirled around, and in the dim light they could see Mavrah being dragged away from the Turaga into the darkness by a silvery tentacle. Kopaka didn’t have to activate his mask to see the monster pulling Mavrah away – its armor glowed white-blue in the shadows. Then it stepped forward into the light through the doors of the workshop and Kopaka could make out its horrid features and each of its bladed arms.

 

In a rough voice and words that were hardly Matoran, the creature shouted, “Looks like I eat well tonight!”

 

 

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Nocturn was not the prettiest of beings, even when he was alive. Now that the Kestora had their go at him, he was horror. The Kestora had brought him down here to be tested, but had left when they heard of the commotion the Toa had caused in the surveillance room. Now, Nocturn had woken and intended to satiate his immense hunger.

 

The Toa Nuva had not encountered Nocturn themselves, but the Toa Mahri had shared stories of the creature from their time in the Pit. It appeared he hadn’t made it out down there after all. Kopaka wished that he had survived, because they’d have one less problem up here. The beast looked held together with sinews and rusted plates; one eye dangled precariously from its socket, though it still blinked. Gashes in Nocturn’s armor remained open, and the muscular tendons below bulged as he moved.

 

“Come to me little Matoran,” Nocturn growled. “I’ll be nice and eat you quick!”

 

“Any help is appreciated!” Mavrah shouted frantically. Kopaka blasted ice toward Nocturn but to his surprise, the monster batted them away with his blades.

 

“Ah ah,” Nocturn said with a sly smile. “You’re next!” He lifted Mavrah above his head and came charging at the Toa, blades ready. Pohatu triggered his mask and ran behind Nocturn, punching his tentacled limb and causing him to drop Mavrah. Pohatu caught him and sped him over to the Turaga.

 

“You’ll have to do better than that!” Pohatu shouted back at Nocturn.

 

“Not fair!” Nocturn screamed. “You’re not playing fair!” He twisted and shot his tentacle out toward Pohatu, wrapping it around the Toa’s ankle. Pohatu let him pull, but kicked Nocturn across the skull on the way over. The beast tumbled back from the powerful blow, his skull plate dented and cracked. Pohatu zipped over to Kopaka.

 

“This one shouldn’t be too tough,” he said to the Toa of Ice. And at that moment, other creatures began to stir on the tables. “Whoops, spoke too soon!”

 

“We need to get in there and get out of here,” Kopaka said. As he did, the entrance of the lab burst open and Botar came into the room. He saw the creatures and the Toa, and made a dash for the Toa. He didn’t see Nocturn get up and prepare to whip his tentacle right toward him.

 

 

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Chapter 12

 

 

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“Botar look out!” Toa Pohatu shouted, but it was too late. Nocturn’s tentacle wrapped around the titan and started dragging him toward Nocturn’s blades. The other creatures were diverted to Botar and Nocturn’s fight, although they were not picky in who they attacked. Soon, both Botar and Nocturn were not only fighting one another, but the horde as well.

 

It was at this time that the Kestora came barging out of the workshop. They had heard the commotion in the laboratory and now one of them held a nasty looking energy blaster. The other two held smaller blasters similar to the ones Toa Kopaka and Pohatu had seen when they first arrived on the Red Star.

 

“Kopaka, the Kestora!” Pohatu shouted. They dove away as the Kestora shot a blast from the weapon at them. The energy ripped through the room, throwing tables into the air and blasting a hole in one of the walls. The fight between Botar and Nocturn halted briefly as they all scrambled for cover from the blast. In unison, Pohatu sped up and knocked the weapons from the Kestora, and then Kopaka froze them where they stood.

 

Just before their masks were covered, one of them said, “Ah, so that explains what happened back in the surveillance room!” Then, nothing.

 

“Pohatu, we have to go, now!” Kopaka shouted. The Toa of Stone had run over to help Botar, punching creatures as they attacked. He returned to the Turaga and helped them into the workshop. The heavy doors swung shut behind them and Kopaka clicked the lock closed. Botar is strong enough, he can manage for now, he thought.

 

When their eyes adjusted to the room’s light, the group looked around. Shelves upon shelves of parts, pieces, armor, tools, and masks littered the long, wide workshop. This must be where the Kestora fashioned new bodies, Kopaka thought.

 

“How are we supposed to know what we’re looking for?” Turaga Lhikan asked. Then Turaga Jovan perked up.

 

“Wait, I know what the Red Star meant!” The other Turaga and Toa looked at him. “There was a Toa on my team who was killed years ago. When he arrived I recognized him, but unfortunately the Kestora scrambled his mind.”

 

“How does that help us now?” Pohatu asked.

 

“His mask,” Jovan said. “If the Kestora were to restore him, they’d have to rebuild his mask too. He wore an Olmak – the Mask of Dimensional Gates!” Mavrah oohed at the revelation.

 

“Alright, we've all seen an Olmak before?” Pohatu asked. Everyone nodded. “Great. Let’s get hunting.” They shuffled through piles, scanned the walls, opened crates and drawers. Anywhere that a mask could hide, they checked. At one point a creature slammed into the door of the workshop, making everyone jump. But they kept looking.

 

“Here!” Mavrah said after an agonizing few minutes. “It’s here!” He held up a Great Olmak, gleaming grey in the light of the workshop. The noise of the battle raged on outside. Pohatu glanced through the window to check on Botar, who seemed to have the upper hand on Nocturn, though not by much with the other creatures attacking him.

 

Kopaka took the mask from Mavrah and switched out his own Akaku Nuva. He staggered back a moment from the change in power but retained his bearings. Pausing briefly, he thought of the land back home, the surface of Spherus Magna. He thought of the dwelling where the other Toa were at work. He imagined the Great Spirit robot towering above them, fallen in the sand.

 

It took all his might, but Kopaka managed to conjure a portal in front of himself, and the Turaga gasped in amazement at what they saw across the void. Hot air streamed into the workshop, grains of sand bunched on the floor, and the blue sky stretched across the horizon. For the beings who had been dead for so long, this sight was too beautiful to behold, especially for the promise it held.

 

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Pohatu said as a smile cracked across his mask. “Let’s go!” One by one, the Turaga stepped across the portal. Lhikan, Jovan, Otuko, Tamua. Mavrah seemed unsure.

 

“What about my research?” he said, realizing for the first time what it would mean if he left. “I can’t go without all that.” Pohatu placed a strong hand on his shoulder.

 

“Mavrah, everything you’ve researched, it’s all right here,” he tapped the Matoran’s Kanohi. “And there’s so much more to learn down there. You have to trust us.”

 

Mavrah looked frightened but took a breath. “Okay. Okay, on to new studies!” The Onu-Matoran jumped across to the Turaga. Pohatu turned to Kopaka who was straining to keep the portal open.

 

“Brother, it’s time for us to go,” he said.

 

“What about Botar?” Kopaka said. “We cannot leave him behind.” Pohatu thought for a second.

 

“Let’s help him and give him the mask. He can send us back, and then he’ll have a way off this place if he ever decides to join us.” Kopaka agreed. Pohatu spoke quickly to the Turaga. “We’ll be right back – stay right there!” And the portal blinked shut.

 

 

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Kopaka placed the mask on the shelf and put his own mask back on. The Toa rushed out to the battle in the laboratory. More creatures had streamed into the room, but Botar was holding his ground. One of his arm blades had been knocked loose, but Nocturn’s tentacle and a bladed arm also lay on the ground. The glowing monster was badly losing but wasn’t giving up the fight.

 

“It’s over,” Botar said. “Quit now before I teleport you outside this Star.” Nocturn hesitated just a moment to consider Botar’s threat – it was long enough for Botar to slam the brute unconscious with the blunt edge of his double-bladed axe. Then he turned to the Toa as other creatures poured in. “Good to have you join me. Let’s finish these beasts.”

 

The three of them worked together, icing or punching or blasting or cutting away at the grotesque monsters that lunged at them. Half-living creatures sought to sink their broken fangs into the Toa, but as a team they managed to defend themselves. Twice Pohatu had two or three of the creatures swarm him, threatening to tear him apart. Thankfully with his Kakama Nuva and Kopaka’s ice, the creatures slowly dwindled. One monster found its way up Botar’s back and clawed at his face, leaving deep gashes. Botar swung the creature off and impaled it on his blade.

 

When it was all said and done, the Toa were badly winded, Botar suffered some lacerations, and bodies were strewn about the entire lab. Pohatu said to Kopaka, “Maybe it’s best we don’t mention this to the others when we get back.” Kopaka simply nodded.

 

 

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Botar wasn’t very happy about the fact that the Toa had allowed others off the Star. “They should not have left,” he said. “They will tip the balance.”

 

“At least they weren’t evil beings,” Pohatu pointed out. “Besides, like I said, they’re where they should have gone all along.”

 

“Now we need you to send us back too. You've used an Olmak before?" Botar nodded. "We’ll leave it here so you have a way to escape this place, if you ever choose to do so.”

 

“Although I disagree with the actions you have taken,” Botar said, “I know I have to send you back to Spherus Magna. If everything you’d told me so far is true, perhaps your destiny does not end here. But I will not be coming with you.” Kopaka nodded.

 

Botar placed the Olmak on his face and summoned the image of the Turaga. They peered through the portal and saw Kopaka and Pohatu with Botar. As though waking from a dream, the Toa stepped over the threshold of the portal, from the cold metal grating of the Red Star to the hot sand of Spherus Magna’s desert. In the distance they could see the lush plant life Mata Nui had grown before his robot collapsed, and smoke rose on the horizon, signaling the temporary shelters of the Matoran. Botar wasted no time, closing the portal quickly behind the Toa and sealing the Red Star once again.

 

 

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Edited by Torran

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Chapter 13 - Epilogue

 

 

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The journey back to the shelters took the rest of the day. As Toa Kopaka and Toa Pohatu led the Turaga and Matoran into the camp, the workers looked up and grinned. Toa Tahu looked over and, seeing his brothers, rushed through the square to meet them.

 

“Brothers!” he shouted. “Where have you been? It’s been more than a week since you left. There’s terrible news. Karzahni – his body is gone!”

 

“We know where he is,” Kopaka said. “We have much to tell. Gather the other Toa and Turaga. We’ll fill you all in at the same time.”

Tahu went to gathered everyone who was nearby – all the Turaga of Mata Nui, Raanu, Ackar, and Toa Gali. The other Toa and Glatorian were busy with their jobs and seeing to the continued care of the Matoran and Agori. It took some time, but within the hour they were huddled near a fire burning in one of the larger dwellings.

 

“What happened?” Tahu asked impatiently. “What took so long?”

 

“Before we tell you what happened, we’ll introduce these Turaga and Matoran with us. This,” Pohatu said, motioning to the Onu-Matoran, “is Mavrah.” Turaga Whenua sat up.

 

“Mavrah?” he exclaimed. “The Mavrah?” Pohatu nodded with a grin. Turaga Whenua hopped down and approached the Matoran. Turaga Onewa was quickly beside him. “Do you know who we are?” he asked. Mavrah shook his head no. Whenua thudded him lightly with his hammer. “He tries to kill us with his Rahi and doesn’t even have the decency to remember us!” Onewa laughed. Mavrah’s eyes widened in realization.

 

“Toa – I mean, Turaga Whenua? You’re alive? Well, of course you’re alive – otherwise I would have seen you earlier than now, but that didn’t happen so you’re still here! And a Turaga!” Whenua looked confused.

 

“Eh, still just as nuts as I remember,” he said. “I have no idea what he just said!” Mavrah took his seat again.

 

“And these are Otuko and Tamua, Turaga from the Northern Continent.” The others greeted them. “This is Jovan – his team used the Mask of Life long before Toa Matoro did.” Whispers rattled through the crowd who knew of Matoro’s sacrifice. Pohatu brought forward the last Turaga. “And this, my friends, is none other than Lhii himself – oops, sorry, the legend still gets me. This is Turaga Lhikan.”

 

“Lhikan?” Vakama nearly fell from his seat. “Lhikan?”

 

“Vakama!” Lhikan said. “I heard you’d gotten old. It suits you!” The two Turaga of Fire met and embraced, as old friends made older by time. Ackar and Raanu looked confused by the whole assembly united in front of them, but they chose to hold their tongues, assuming it had something to do with Mata Nui and that someone would explain eventually. Tahu looked back to his own brothers.

 

“None of this makes sense. Where did they come from? Lhikan died a long time ago, how is it that he’s here now?” Pohatu sighed.

 

“That’s a long story. But I’ll try to summarize.” Pohatu went on to tell of how they had gone looking for Karzahni’s murderer, and been teleported to the Red Star after a vision from Tren Krom. He skipped some details about the creatures they encountered, but told of Botar and the Star’s intelligence, the way every being from the universe that died was teleported there, and how there was no way back. He mentioned the Olmak and the final confrontation with Nocturn, and that Botar chose to remain behind with the mask to guard the Star. It took some time, but with a few questions from the audience and a couple of quips from Kopaka, the story was told.

 

“That explains why Karzahni’s body disappeared through the night while you were gone,” Tahu said afterward. “But did you find out who killed him?”

 

“Oh!” Pohatu said. “Of course, when we talked with him. You might not believe this, but Karzahni was killed by a Matoran. His name is Velika. I’m sure you remember him from Voya Nui.” Jovan looked concerned at the mention of Velika’s name – the Toa Nuva had not mentioned this while they were on the Star together.

 

“One of my Matoran?” he said. “No, no, it couldn’t have been. Those Matoran were weak and frail. I can understand them holding a grudge against Karzahni, but none of them could have killed him.”

 

“Nevertheless, we need to find him,” Kopaka said. “We need to get some answers.”

 

“Come to think of it,” Turaga Nokama said, “I haven’t seen Velika for some time now. We must send search parties for him as soon as day breaks in the morning.”

 

 

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The Toa rallied the Matoran who knew Velika best – the old Resistance Team of Voya Nui. Each Toa went with one of the Matoran, and a Glatorian or Agori along with them, to find Velika. Pohatu and Kopaka were urged to remain, but they knew their place was out there, getting to the bottom of this mystery. The most recent news suggested Velika had wandered toward the sight of Bota Magna’s reunification with Spherus Magna, but that was days ago. Now it was anyone’s guess as to where that little riddler had gone.

 

Tahu frowned as he watched the search parties depart. Gali noticed and turned to him. “Brother, what’s the matter? These Toa know what they’re doing, and the Glatorian know the land far better than anyone.”

 

“I’m not afraid for them as they search the land,” Tahu said. “I fear for them if they ever do find Velika. For someone so small to take on and murder someone like Karzahni… something’s not right.”

 

“We don’t know for certain that is really was Velika that killed Karzahni,” she reminded Tahu. “After all, it was Karzahni that gave our brothers that information.” Tahu nodded grimly.

 

“Still, I’ll have more peace when this is all sorted and wrapped up,” Tahu replied. The two Toa watched as the search teams set out, only returning to their work once each team had ridden past the horizon.

 

 

FIN

 

 

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Edited by Torran

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