***A trader's hut on SteltNektann had bartered on Stelt a time or two before. The traders were notoriously meticulous about their business, and today Nektann was not in the mood for standing around much longer while the trader inspected each robot individually."I'm not asking for very much," the Skakdi grumbled impatiently."Of course you're not. If you were, I would just deny your offer and report you to Krika for leaving your blasted island," responded the Steltian trader.It was a fair point - but an annoying one. Nektann ran his armored finger along the side of his Crescent Scythe, which emitted a shrill sound that caught the trader's attention and, perhaps, reminded him of his manners.The trader shifted. "You said the nektann can be programmed to attack intruders on sight, but not to harm those who are authorized?"We've been over this, moron. "I could demonstrate for you."A pause."Funny." The trader reached for his coins. "Alright, I'll buy. But I won't need any more, so don't bother coming back." He held out the payment.Nektann readily accepted the money, glad to be through with the trader and his attitude."'Pleasure." He had not, however, attempted to barter the price with Nektann, a quality the Skakdi preferred.And that was that - the deal was complete. Back to Zakaz.From inside the lowly lit hut, the trader eyed Nektann as the Skakdi exited the shop and boarded his ship immediately. He may have even heard Nektann humming to himself as he went.Now there was a sight.But Nektann would not have been quite so cheerful if he knew what Krika knew.The "Steltian trader" was not a trader. He was not even from Stelt.He was a Makuta.Krika shapeshifted, retaining his usual form. Where the seemingly-average inhabitant of Stelt stood a moment before, Krika now was - eyes still fixed on Nektann.Krika had read his mind. Nektann would go back to Zakaz and buy better weapons with his newly acquired money.But Krika would not give him that chance. Nektann had just become an outlaw, and punishing outlaws was one of the Makuta's favorite ways to pass the time.Krika gathered up the nektann robots he had purchased. He would make it to Zakaz long before Nektann would.
***The seaNektann could not remember being this happy in quite some time. He had needed a change of scenery, and the coins in his pouch shifting with the rocking of the boat sounded like music to his ears. He was on his way back to Zakaz, and he would return richer than before.Nektann's thoughts turned to the new weapons he would soon purchase, and he envisioned the Skakdi whose existences he would end with them.Life is good. Nektann rowed. It was easier without the weight of the machines in the boat.He thought back to killing the boat's former owner earlier that day. That was the joy of being a warlord of Zakaz - people gave you what you wanted. One way or another.One day, even Krika will die by my hand.The Skakdi quickened his pace, with the Makuta in mind. It was not long before he jumped the remaining three yards to shore, money-sack in hand. Nektann hefted up a boulder, then tossed it at the nearby boat. It shattered into driftwood. There. Nektann smiled triumphantly. 'Tracks successfully covered.It was dark. Nektann began to make his way toward a city, planning to slip in quietly.He spotted a black-armored Skakdi brawling with a blue-armored Skakdi in the distance, a Spine Slug attached to the latter. For a moment vision-powers shot back and forth, then one of the Skakdi fell to the ground, lifeless. The victor limped in the general direction of the nearest city, but died of his own wounds long before reaching it.Nektann chuckled. Home, sweet home.Nektann heard a mobile machine approaching him from the side. Turning, he saw that it was a combat nektann robot. They were both still for a moment."Don't you have a post to watch?" Growled the Skakdi. Nektann turned away from the defense-bot and began walking away.The combat nektann's answer was in the form of a charged energy bolt. It hit the Skakdi warlord in the back of the head, driving him to the ground.Pain exploded and rage boiled up in Nektann. What is this?! He rolled onto his back and put his hands to his head. Everything was blurry.Another blast sounded in the near distance. Nektann dove to one side, barely avoiding a second attack. He grunted in anger. Why is it attacking me? Rising to his knees, the Skakdi tried to examine his surroundings. More nektann had arrived. Or was that just his vision acting up?Several more shots were fired.No. There are more.Nektann summoned his concentration and threw up a reflective barrier. He heard a few robots drop, destroyed by their own reflected attacks, but was ambushed from behind.The warlord struggled to remain upright. He bumped into one of the defense-bots, grabbed it and hurled it at another, buying himself a moment."Cease fire!" Bellowed Nektann, knowing that it wouldn't work.The oncoming nektann did not falter. He was surrounded.The situation struck the Skakdi then - someone had turned the nektann against him.Another round of energy blasts. Nektann leaped into the air, and landed on a master nektann, crushing it. Sparks flew. He tried to position himself outside of the ring of robots.Reflecting energy blasts whenever he could, Nektann desperately tried to fend off his attackers. Whenever he was hit, it would take the Skakdi far too long to regain his concentration and throw up the barrier again.He managed to destroy perhaps a dozen nektann robots, but despaired as he saw more joining their formation.Nektann was shot square in the chest, and skid backward on the barren plain. Anger coursed through the Skakdi. "I will rip whoever's behind this apart!"If there were any other inhabitants of Zakaz nearby, Nektann would have bribed them for their assistance. He cursed the black and blue Skakdi, whose corpses rested nearby, for having killed each other.Nektann's body throbbed in multiple areas where he had been hit. He estimated that around twenty-five nektann were advancing on him at this point. It was late, dark, and fatigue was wearing on him.This is not good.It was time to decide what to do. Nektann made a split-second choice to flee. It wasn't like he had very many options.Die now. Die later.Nektann ran. He was faster than the robots but he constantly had to dodge energy-blasts, slowing his pace dramatically.Knowing that the robots would pursue him until they were destroyed, Nektann ripped out of the ground any tree or rock that he passed and tossed it at the nearest combat nektann. And then ran some more.When bending down to do this for the fourth time, he was blasted in the side and knocked over.Nektann screamed into the night in frustration.I can't do this!Haunted by the very robots named after himself. It was like a nightmare.The chase went long into the night. Nektann hated his very life before long. He had downed a number of the nektann, but discovered that back-up units would soon replace them or they would be fixed by repair nektann.The Skakdi warlord had reached a dead-end. He was backed up against a mountain that he did not have the energy to climb.So much for options.He had given up asking himself how this could happen to him - who had programmed the nektann to attack him... He did not care anymore. He wanted rest. Or death. Whichever came first."I will die fighting. Not running," Nektann resolved to himself.He charged the horde of robots. The front-line crumpled when their energy-blasts were reflected at them. Nektann reached a combat-bot in two long strides, and shredded it to pieces with his claws. Another he grabbed by the leg and smashed against the ground.Nektann was shot. He did not stop.The Skakdi kicked at a black nektann with all his might. It flew backward, taking out a few robots in its path.Nektann continued to fight for his life. The formations thinned as he destroyed robot after robot. Just when he began to grasp a sliver of hope, he looked up.Lines upon lines of nektann were dropping down into the battle from the nearby cliff. The Skakdi was stunned at the sight.No.His attackers wasted no time in taking advantage of the warlord's distraction, firing at him from all directions.Nektann's body was ravaged with energy blasts. He was thrown against a rock by the sheer combined force of the attack, and fell limp to the ground.Nektann did not attempt to get up.He was pummeled on the ground for a few moments, an eternity to any being experiencing such pain. Then;"Enough."The voice did not come from Nektann.Immediately, all movement ceased. There was complete and utter silence.Nektann laid still on the ground, fighting unconsciousness. The voice came from above him.Something washed over the Skakdi. Was it relief... or dread?It spoke again. "Leave us."Once more, the gathered nektann obeyed. Soon, they were alone.The Skakdi fought to raise his head. Then he saw him.Makuta Krika.Nektann's face contorted with hate at the sight of his enemy. A growl escaped his wicked grin. They held each other's gaze."Get up... warlord." Krika taunted Nektann with the word.Immediately, anything Nektann had felt before, the pain, the fatigue, was gone. It was replaced with pure, unstoppered fury.Nektann rose to his feet, gripped his Crescent Scythe - and unleashed that fury.The night was filled with the sound of duel. Krika stood tall, stark white against the black sky, and wielding a lean blade. His mastery of the weapon was clear to Nektann. Whenever the Skakdi would execute a combination, Krika's blade was there to block.Nektann did not let it unnerve him. He knew the Makuta was toying with him. But if Krika got too cocky, just once, he would find something embedded in his chest.Another block. Nektann's Crescent Scythe was jarred in his hand. Krika's blade flew out from underneath of Nektann's, then smacked the Skakdi's head with the flat side.Nektann stumbled backward."What, Nektann? Did you forget how to fight?"Nektann did not answer. He had seen what Krika could do to other Skakdi. He had lost track of the powers that Krika had demonstrated on his kind, "keeping them in line." It was only a matter of time until Krika tired of exchanging blows, then the Makuta wouldn't hold back any longer.Krika took a lazy stab at Nektann. Nektann side-stepped, but just in time. He was slowing down."You oppress my people," said Nektann."Your people?" Krika slashed with his blade, then went back to blocking every attack Nektann attempted. "You are not concerned about your people. You broke the law today for your own selfish purposes and placed them in danger." Krika sneered. "Did you honestly think that you could get away with it?"The battle wore on.Nektann swung his Crescent Scythe overhead in an attack on Krika, but the Makuta reached out blindingly fast and caught Nektann's wrist. The power in his grip amazed Nektann.Is it over?No. Krika lashed out with his foot and kicked the Skakdi into the air. Nektann landed hard, and struggled to get up."Why are you doing this to me?" Hatred dripped from Nektann's every word.Krika laughed. "Punishing you? I would think it would be obvious."Silence. Nektann met his eyes and felt as though Krika were staring into his spirit."You are wondering how I knew that you left Zakaz."It was true. Nektann had just been thinking that.Add mind-reading to his list of fancy powers."Nektann, you simply cannot escape me."Krika's form rippled before the Skakdi. In a moment, Nektann was face-to-face with what looked like the trader from Stelt that he had sold to. Krika spoke from "the trader's" mouth."You said the nektann can be programmed to attack intruders on sight, but not to harm those who are authorized?" Krika winked at him.Nektann felt like so much mindless scum. I was played like a fool...Wait. Doesn't it strain Makuta to shapeshift? Or is that just a rumor?Krika had finished mocking Nektann and began to transition back into his usual form. Nektann did not hesitate any more. If it was true that shapeshifting was difficult for Krika, Nektann was not going to miss that opening in his defense. He lunged for the Makuta.Nektann reached him and grabbed Krika's head with both hands. He pulled them together until they were at eye-level - an inch apart, and let loose with his Flash Vision power. Intense white-light surged from Nektann's eyes and seared into Krika's.The Makuta howled. For a moment, Nektann felt victorious.Then Krika's transformation was complete. "Away from me." Nektann was thrown back by the Makuta's Kanohi Crast, Mask of Repulsion.Krika took a trembling step forward. Nektann was emboldened as he saw that his attack had been effective. He charged the Makuta again, raised his Scythe, and released a war-cry, but was repulsed once more.Krika shook his head. "You're a fool, Nektann."The Skakdi warlord was on his knees."You think you have power?" Krika continued. "You're trash."Then it began.Rain. Then thunder. Within seconds, lightning crashed around the Skakdi and the Makuta, tearing the landscape apart.Nektann looked to Krika. It was the Makuta's doing.He wondered what would happen next, but found out all too soon. Heat Vision struck Nektann's armor, scorching it. Before the Skakdi could bellow in pain, he was assaulted by unbelievable Sonic force. Krika summoned numerous cyclones to surround Nektann, if only to further set him on edge.Nektann could feel the shadows gathering around him. Krika was growing closer.A powerful gust of wind knocked Nektann off his feet. He was held down by nearby plants, unable to escape their grip.The Makuta's chaos raged around him.Nektann had never been so convinced that his very life was out to get him.Krika slowly approached the Skakdi, punishing him with excruciating pain. Nektann couldn't tell the difference between the Makuta's powers anymore. They were all pain. They were all madness."Do you see, little Skakdi? You will never, ever think to cross me again."In the fraction of a second, Nektann noticed what was sure to be a devastating assault of chain-lightning gathering at Krika's fingertips."NO!" Nektann acted then. Calling on the last reserves of his strength, he triggered a reflective barrier. When the chain lightning hit it, Nektann was forced back.Krika, however, was electrocuted with the attack's full force.At once, all of the Makuta's powers were negated. Nektann stumbled onto his feet.I have to get away, now! Nektann's legs weren't moving. He was still stunned.The Skakdi panicked. Where is Krika?Suddenly, Nektann felt the cold edge of Krika's sword pressed up against his throat.Everything was still.He heard the Makuta's steady breathing behind him. It was over."Krika." Nektann broke the silence. "You've... won." They were possibly the two most difficult words Nektann had ever had to speak.There was no denying it. The Makuta had defeated him.Krika's next words surprised Nektann."You have skill, Skakdi."There was a blur, and Nektann flinched. But Krika had lowered his sword.Nektann turned to look at him."Do not waste it."Then Krika vanished. Where he had stood was left only a small bag.The money.Nektann's body ached as he bent down to pick it up.On his way back to the city, Nektann could not help but feel something he never thought he would feel for a Makuta.A bit of respect... or something close to it.