Masses of forgotten, derelict masks piled high into the sky of Ta-Metru, into a sky still laden with the barest wisps of smoke. Seeing the city dead was a hard fact to face, even after facing it was something that was, had been, and still would continue to be necessary. But there was no time to feel the emotions of loss and sadness for their former native land – not now. The only mourning that would come would come later, while building anew on a new land.On any other day of his life, Vakama would have contemplated all of this. On any other day, he would have been overwhelmed and devastated over the sheer magnitude of their Armageddon – but not today.Today, he was running for his life.He swerved, darting between mask piles and pushing them over where he could. He melted a few into molten slag, in a fruitless attempt to slow down his pursuer.Fence. Dead end.In his path lay a halted conveyor belt of powerless masks, then an unscalable fence beyond. Sure, there was something that he could possibly do, something that he might be able to accomplish with the powers that he had. But what could a mere Toa – without even the ounce of help a Toa tool would bring – do against the might of Makuta?An alleyway.Without much thought, Vakama darted into the dark alley, peering out to see where Makuta was. He was not disappointed, for the Master of Shadows emerged from underground, looking confidently about the Protodermis Reclamation Yard. He was visibly weakened; antidermis leaked from his thick armor – though he was not weakened enough to be defeated.“Show yourself, Toa! Give me the Mask, and I’ll let you on your way. I’m sure your fellow so-called ‘heroes’ are missing you.”Vakama was enraged. Here was the being who imprisoned the population of a great city and hijacked an entire universe for his own amusement. No life in the universe was left unchanged by his despicable deeds.Yet he still found the innate willpower in the deepest sanctum of his core to repress his words, words that were bubbling within him, so anxious to be released.“Why do you even bother? It’s not like you’ll gain anything here, in this ruin. No one’s going to mourn you – in fact, no one’s even going to care! You’re not going to die a hero, Vakama, like your hero Lhikan. You’re just a pathetic excuse for a Matoran playing a role never meant for you in the first place. Why do you insist on this useless charade?”Now was the time to move. Vakama strode boldly out into the yard, one arm behind him. “You’re a monster. I fight monsters.”Makuta sauntered in, smirking evilly. “I’m not a monster, Vakama. I gave my brother a much-needed nap, after all. I ran the city, and saved it from Nidhiki and Krekka.” He began to lazily circle Vakama, acting as nonchalant as possible. Vakama still had control of the Vahi, and as long as he did, he would take no chances.“Sure,” Vakama spat back. “You brought those two here only to absorb them. You murdered Lhikan. You put everyone who lived here to sleep. Calling you a monster might very well be the best compliment I can muster.”Makuta repressed a startled gasp. He noticed the Mask of Time trying to hide amongst the powerless masks upon the conveyor belt. What, then, was Vakama hiding behind his back? Did he really believe that such a puerile ruse could fool him? “You amuse me, Vakama, but your words are meaningless, like the power you hold. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll take that mask.”“Not yet.” Vakama whirled his hand around, crushing a useless noble Ruru to smithereens with a maskmaker’s hammer. Makuta eyed him, startled enough to stop in his tracks. “How much do you really know about the Vahi?” He obliterated a Kaukau with a brisk and powerful stroke. “I found out that it even works when damaged, unlike normal masks. It was just laying there, on the ocean floor, the barest of cracks visible. The power of Time leaked out, though, and everything was affected. Fascinating.”He smashed yet another mask, not ever moving his gaze from Makuta.Makuta regained some confidence. “No maskmaker would dare destroy their greatest creation.”“It might be hard to live with, Makuta,” Vakama conceded. “But if I destroy the Vahi, neither of us would even be alive.”Makuta took one step. Vakama flinched, though nearly imperceptibly. “Care to explain?”The Toa of Fire adopted an air of condescension. “It’s all very basic,” he began. “Time is contained within the mask. Should the Vahi ever be broken, all of that power will be released, and then the very laws holding Time in check are let loose like a Kane-Ra in a Kanoka shop. Anything and everything will exist, all at once. Everything will be discord and chaos.”“That sounds … wonderful.”“Oh, really, now?” Another mask flew off the conveyor belt in a mass of shards. “Your body could age and regress simultaneously, trapped in every time and in none at all. Your beloved schemes and plans would come to a grinding halt.”Now his hammer was over the Vahi itself, poised to crush it like so much useless junk.Makuta did not have to be trapped in a state of eternal agonizing temporal limbo to be torn over the complexities of this situation. Vakama could just as easily be lying as telling the truth. There was no way to know …“Believe me, Makuta,” Vakama uttered gravely, as if he knew Makuta’s very cogitations. “If the only way to save those I have sworn to protect is to destroy everything, I will do it.”Makuta stared deeply into the eyes of the Toa. Neither of them moved, for a long and tense moment.“Alright. What do you want?”“Safety, for myself, the mask, and the rest of my team. I also want no harm to befall Keetongu, Dume, the Rahaga, or the Matoran.”Makuta could not believe that Vakama was manipulating him so. In anger, he propelled himself forward, stopping after two steps when he saw Vakama swinging his hammer. “You can’t ask me to do nothing, to sit idly by. I refuse to be sentenced – especially by you – to a living death! Destroy the mask, Vakama, if you so dare – and we will watch time end together!”He had given this possibility enough thought in the moments that he had had to work it out. He believed what he had said to the Master of Shadows, down to every last word – and he was truly prepared to obliterate the entirety of temporal normalcy if it meant saving all that he cared about from this evil, evil being. With only the barest hint of hesitation, his hammer descended.“W-” Makuta began. But he had not time to finish his word, or even his thought, for he had begun both past the point of no return.In the last few milliseconds of normality, all Makuta could do was watch, his mind steeped in the throes of utter horror.The hammer made contact with the Vahi, a Visorak’s web of cracks appearing across the face. Orange and white and gold and red and yellow light burst forth from its fractured face, pure liquid ribbons of Time streaming out of the cracks, obliterating and reshaping the function of Time in an eternal instant.This beautiful, horrible, contained mosaic of Time could not last for more than the brief moment that it had appeared. The last moment of the old was the beginning of the new, if the beginning of the new could ever be pinpointed. As the Vahi shattered into bits, a wave of pure Time pulsed out of its remains.Everything changed.Vakama still retained a modicum of his consciousness, though it was awash with bits of his own life story melding into one. How long he could retain the memories of the old Time, he could not say. How long had he even been here … a second, or a millennium?Cautiously, he glanced down at his hands. One was old and decrepit, while the other was shiny, polished and new. Looking back up, he saw a Matoran, frozen in time, delivering a bag of old masks that he’d slung over his shoulder to the furnaces of the Reclamation Yard. I wore that mask as a Matoran, something in Vakama’s deep consciousness echoed. Funny how the mind and soul focused on tiny idiosyncrasies when there was nothing else to do, when all hope was lost forever …Then, he realized, he was not looking at a mere coincidence that the Vahi’s unleashed energies had so released onto the new reality a Matoran who wore a powerless Huna. He was, in fact, looking at himself, when he was an amateur maskmaker – and as soon as he realized that he was gazing upon the visage of himself, he was overcome with an eternity of new and yet old memories, staring up as a Matoran to a motionless and unrecognized Toa.His Matoran form would be standing there forever, and after forever. After that, who could say?Walking away, into another time, he was surprised to find Makuta standing there, motionless. Vakama wondered briefly if Makuta was trapped in the folds and creases of the unpredictable flow and ebb of Time, but that thought was dispelled, for Makuta turned towards him.“You fool,” the Master of Shadows uttered. He raised his arm and blasted pure shadow energy towards the Toa, unheeding of Vakama’s prior warnings … then again, his warnings of what would happen might come to pass a century from now.The shadows never reached him, flowing away and around the Toa – through the ages into oblivion. Vakama could see the delineations and ripples of Time as the shadows roiled around him, him protected in his sphere, composed of the random fluctuations in temporal energy.Presently, his own body was changing. Phantom memories hounded his head, gnawing voraciously at his painfully retained consciousness and his very sense of self. Was this bubble speeding him up, or regressing him? Or both?He was acutely aware at that very moment of a simple and undeniable fact – that what he was experiencing was what is was like to die, and to die a hundred thousand million ways at once, all at once, and at the same time not to ever die at all. His own head screamed of nothing and everything, as his thoughts over his entire life merged into a cacophony of sensation and utter silence, beyond the true domains of feeling into the realm of the purely impossible.For the rest of the pathetic and horrible sentence of life and death that he had been forced to judge upon him and the rest of his beloved world, he alone would carry the feeling of doubt, a feeling so powerful as to transcend whatever state he was in.Now and never, he would have both all and none, in a future that was in the past and a present that would never again exist.He never got a chance to mourn the end of his world, and now he didn’t even have to.
--I've had the idea for this story pretty much ever since I read Time Trap, but only a few days ago did I decide to write it out. As per my usual writing style, I stayed up until 1:00 in the morning finishing it off, using the dialogue from the book as a base. Comments, as always, are appreciated.
Edited by Sumiki, Feb 10 2012 - 07:32 PM.