End of YrentaChapter Forty-one==Northeastern Part of the Southern Continent, Matoran Universe==~802 AGC~“Wow! Where did you get all these?” exclaimed Imlen.“I told you, I haven't spent the last few centuries waiting for people to sign up,” said Iskanemo. “My allies and I have been scavenging, making deals with designers... even reproducing some of this tech for ourselves – and improving upon it, even.”The Toa were speaking of the impressive fleet of aerial vehicles Iskanemo's forces had assembled. Hidden under a cover of foliage at the bottom of the valley, waiting to be ridden into battle: craft ranging in size from skyfighters suitable for use by one Toa-sized being to a trio of Metru Nui airships that could carry most of the army between them. The variety of sources from which Iskanemo had obtained these vehicles was clear: some were cutting-edge technology, others relics from a more glorious age, and others were scavenged, rusted machines that looked like they were barely functional. Most of the aircraft appeared to have been modified or built from scratch in an approximation of the original.“Most of the Toa will be in these smaller aircraft. Some will travel by jetpack, and a few will be in the command ship over there,” said Iskanemo, pointing to one of the great airships. “Velitel, Waskita, and I will be in there. I'd like to say you're welcome to join us, but we might need you elsewhere.”“I'm curious as to how you obtained three Metru Nui airships,” said Vilam. “But a more important concern is the issue Imlen brought up. These aren't known for being fast, and they're as big a target as any sea vessel.”“Ah, but we've made some modifications,” said Iskanemo proudly. “You know how these airships are powered by Kanoka? Well, we've hoarded disks, and figured out a way to bolster the system of Levitation and Increase Weight disks with Speed, Flight, and – here's something impressive – Concealment disks. So our ships will not only be faster, they will hopefully be able to turn invisible on command!”“That must take a lot of disks,” said Imlen.“It will, which is why we must only use such systems in emergencies. In fact, until we come up with a different means of propulsion and levitation, we must only use the airships when we have no other method of deploying the army,” said Iskanemo.“But if the speed of these craft can be increased in such a way, why did the Matoran of Metru Nui not design them that way?” asked Mozmana.“Well, they used jets of magnetized Protodermis, the same technology as their chute system uses. It's reliable and efficient, but slow. Our method is faster, but, well... the propulsion system is very complex and delicately balanced, you see, so... our modifications might not prove stable in the long term,” admitted Iskanemo. “Don't worry – we've tested it, and we've made sure it's safe enough for our purposes. It also drains power from more Kanoka, of course. For hauling cargo, you'd want something more reliable and less expensive, even if it was slower. We tried adding propellers and our own jet thrusters, but they were too heavy, so we're going with the disks. If something does go wrong, or if they are shot down without being torn apart, the airships can also float on water by their own buoyancy. Again, not very reliably, but it's better than sinking right away.”“Seems risky, but you've prepared much for this day, so I will trust you know what you're doing,” said Mozmana.“Thank you, sister,” said Iskanemo, smiling under his Kanohi Crast. “Now, let's find you a tent. It's getting dark, and we'll be rising early tomorrow.”The Toa trekked back to the army camp headquarters, where they had met Velitel and Waskita, and there they slept. A horn woke them, and they got up to see the sky was just barely beginning to brighten. As all the Toa gathered around a campfire, Iskanemo came forth to address them. He had just been in Waskita's tent, and Mozmana noticed he seemed worried about something, but was doing his best not to show it. She didn't need to speak to Imlen and Vilam to know that they had also noticed Iskanemo's concern. A meaningful glance from Imlen told her that though he too had misgivings, he was still determined to go through with this. The three Toa Muktirhith had formed a bond over the centuries, and so such slight gestures were often all they needed to communicate. In turn, Mozmana looked him in the eyes and gave a subtle nod that said she was with him to the end. Vilam, too, nodded to her companions: if they were in, so was she. In less than half an hour, all of Iskanemo's Toa had assembled, along with non-Toa commanders and other important beings. Beyond the circle of tents, the rest of the army had gathered, each warrior endeavoring to get a spot at the front.“Heroes of the universe, fellow enemies of tyranny!” Iskanemo addressed the crowd, with the Toa of Sonics at his side amplifying his voice. “It has been eight hundred years since our rightful master, our protector, the Great Spirit Mata Nui, was forced into sleep by the treacherous Makuta. I think most of you, if not all of you, remember that day. When the entirety of our universe trembled, and lights that once shone bright went dim, and fresh winds turned stale. And without Mata Nui protecting us, the Brotherhood has been free to conquer and murder, and to ravage our world in their battles against the Dark Hunters. I do not know how to awaken Mata Nui – they say that is a job other heroes are destined to do – but I do know that since we are on our own, and we have allowed the Makuta to get this far in their evil schemes, and the Dark Hunters to spread their corruption across all lands, it is our duty to put an end to it. We will overthrow the Brotherhood of Makuta, and then we will eradicate the Dark Hunters, and then the two most vile factions to still plague our universe will have been ended. Are you ready to bring these villains to justice?”There were cries of 'yes' and other excited affirmations.“Are you willing and able to liberate the oppressed?”The word 'yes' was cheered yet again.“When Mata Nui awakens, he will look upon the universe and see that we have righted the wrongs that have troubled his sleep. Am I right?”Iskanemo's voice had reached a climax, and, knowing that this was the end of his rallying speech, the Toa and other warriors all cheered the loudest this time.“And now, our commander Velitel will go over the battle plan,” finished Iskanemo, and he stepped aside to let the Toa of Fire take his place beside the Toa of Sonics.“Right. The target island is approximately one hundred and twenty kio from the coast,” said Velitel. “We estimate the journey will take two to two and a half hours. All of you that are flying on your own, remember: stay with the airships until the designated time. I know the airships are much slower than some of the aircraft, but we can't get too spread out. Let's keep those airships intact. I want us to get our whole army to the landing zone and be able to use the ships later. You know where you're meant to be – which of you are boarding the airships and which are taking smaller craft or jetpacks. Mata Nui's Gaze will be the command ship, piloted and captained by Iskanemo and I. Krasati will be telepathically relaying orders, so if you hear her voice in your head, obey it. The Dragon will be piloted by Ebanus* and captained by Launeta. Geistig will also be aboard to provide backup telepathic communications. Finally, Meyit's Legacy will be piloted by Jufeng, captained by Brulado, and telepathically linked by Tsushin.”There was a definite pattern here: all three airships were piloted by Toa of Air and captained by Toa of Fire. Of course, all three of the Toa in charge of telepathic communications either wore Kanohi Suletu or were Toa of Psionics. Mozmana had offered to fulfill that role on one of the ships, but Iskanemo had insisted that she and the others stay by his side. Still, in the unlikely event Krasati was incapacitated without the whole ship going down, Mozmana could take over from her. Velitel continued his briefing, going on to assign each commander's division into one of the three airships.“And lastly, Talapati's soldiers will also board the Dragon. The rest of you will be in the smaller craft or flying jetpacks. You know who you are and what equipment has been reserved just for you,” the Toa of Fire went on. “Now, as I said, the island is about one hundred and twenty kio offshore. The coastline is almost entirely steep, rocky slopes topped by a wall that circles the island. We know little of the layout of the fortress, but we know that there is a central keep surrounded by a fortified ring in the middle of the island. If all goes well, they will be unprepared for our assault, but expect to face strong defenses. If our timing is correct, many enemies will be gathered there for an operation on Stelt. That is why we are bringing the entire army – the island is small, but we wish to catch as many of their warriors in this attack as possible. The fortifications are also considerable. Of course, with the equipment we have, the walls aren't a problem, but their weaponry will be. That's why I want some of the more nimble aircraft to fly ahead to destroy any anti-air emplacements that threaten the airships. I'll give further orders once we're all aboard, and once we've reached the island we'll see where to go from there. I'm confident we have the firepower to reduce their keep to rubble. Now, let's head out. I want us in the air in an hour.”With that, the briefing was over, and the warriors began to head down to the bottom of the valley where the aerial vehicles waited. A pile of weapons, jetpacks, and other special equipment was unveiled, and Toa and other elite fighters took what had been set aside for them. The Toa Muktirhith were about to follow the rest of the army straight to the aircraft when they spotted Iskanemo beckoning to them by the stockpile.“I want all Toa to have a projectile weapon,” he said, pressing a Zamor launcher into Mozmana's arms. “I also reserved a couple of protosteel weapons for you. Imlen, I know you won't want to put your staff aside, but at least take this dagger just in case.”“Thank you, Iskanemo,” said Imlen, taking the dagger and storing it at his hip as Mozmana discarded her sword for a protosteel one. “What sort of weapon is that?”“Ah, this, this is something special,” said Iskanemo, patting the cannon resting on his shoulder. “It's a prototype light launcher – based on Artakha technology, in fact. But the Nynrah Ghosts haven't worked out all the problems – it'll be years until they can perfectly replicate the tech. It has the side effect of dimming the area around you with each shot, and it doesn't always work, but when it does go off... it's amazing. Spheres of concentrated light that can blow a hole in just about anything – and they're especially strong against creatures of Shadow.”“Sounds like something we could really use,” said Vilam. “How many more of these are there?”“They didn't say, but I got the impression there were no more than a handful in existence. The Ghosts were very kind to let me purchase this from them, though the price was high. In fact, much of our success obtaining all these vehicles and weapons is thanks to our covert dealings with the crafters and technicians of Nynrah,” said Iskanemo, and then he saw Velitel striding over to the pile of weapons. “Ah, Velitel! Here's your Blaster.”“Thank you, Iskanemo,” said Velitel, bowing slightly as he took the offered Cordak Blaster. “And congratulations on your speech. I think you really inspired them.”“But such fervor would be of little effect without a strategy to guide it,” said Iskanemo. “Very good briefing, but... a whole hour to take the skies? Surely we could be ready in nearly half that time.”“Only if we run. And we'd best save our energy for the battle, right?” said Velitel.“Good point,” said Iskanemo. “I suppose just itching to finally get to it. Centuries of dreaming and planning, and now, the day has come. Today, we'll make history!”“May future historical records tell of a great victory for our side,” said Imlen.“Indeed! Now, let's get going – it won't do to have the glorious leaders of this army be the last ones to go forth,” said Velitel.The five Toa chuckled as Waskita joined them, and together they made for the launch site at the bottom of the valley. Despite the merry banter, Mozmana could still sense underlying anxiety without needing to call upon her element. But no one said anything about it, and she convinced herself it was merely the apprehension anyone would feel before a battle. She had surely had her concerns even before noticing the hidden worries of others. And so she said nothing of the matter on the short trek to the airships. If the other Toa Muktirhith noticed, they did not mention it either. Regardless, their spirits were soon lifted when they came to the liftoff zone. The collection of vehicles had been impressive the first time they had seen it, but the sight of over a thousand armed beings scrambling into the three colossal vessels and scores of smaller craft was no less than breathtaking. While nearly a third of the army marched into the cargo hold of the Mata Nui's Gaze, Iskanemo ushered the Toa Muktirhith into the cockpit at the front of the vessel.Two other Toa of Psionics were already aboard: Waskita, who seemed to be meditating in a storage closet at the back of the cabin, and Krasati, who was standing alert a few paces behind the pilot's station. Iskanemo got into position at these controls and privately reviewed each lever and gage. The complexity of the system boggled Imlen, but Iskanemo seemed confident and comfortable as he placed his mismatched hands on a pair of large, brightly marked levers at the center of the apparatus. It took years of training and practice to attain a functional proficiency with the controls, and more to master them. Clearly, Iskanemo had had the time to teach himself the basics, but the Toa Muktirhith could only hope he and the others were capable of maneuvering the lumbering craft through a battle. As he turned away from the controls to instruct the others to take their seats, Velitel reached over and activated the communications link to the cargo hold. It was a device the Toa Muktirhith rarely saw – one that could record a voice and play it back at a connected location. The intercom did not allow communication between ships, however, which was why they were relying on telepathy for that.“I can hear you lot getting restless in there,” he said into the intercom, speaking over a lot of chatter coming from the hold's end of the communicator. “Settle down and get into position. You'll want to be holding on tight when we're in the air. I don't want you bouncing around in there like Kharakhara nuts.”“My warriors are ready, General Velitel,” Brenkonin's voice came from the device only a moment later.“Excellent discipline as always, Commander Brenkonin. We're starting up the launch systems now,” said Velitel as Iskanemo began manipulating the controls in a complex series of motions. “I want the rest of you to be ready when we are.”Prepare for takeoff, a telepathic message sounded in the heads of the Toa Muktirhith.The message had come from Krasati, broadcast indiscriminately to every mind in the location. The Toa looked out through the windshield and saw vehicles on all sides starting their engines. In the airships and several smaller craft, Levitation disks were moved into position, readied for discharging their power into the vehicles' hulls. The roar of turbines, buzz of propellers, and several other sounds from different forms of propulsion melded into a deep rumble that could be felt in the cockpit of the Mata Nui's Gaze as a tingling vibration in the floor and walls. Iskanemo took a few minutes to test the control surfaces while the other pilots did the same for their craft, then he gestured to Velitel and the Toa General activated the intercom again.“Sounds much better now,” he said, and indeed there was no background noise competing with his voice this time. “Commanders, report in.”“Brenkonin report – ”“Dhiokitis re – um...”“One at a time,” said Velitel firmly. “You know the drill.”“Brenkonin reporting. My warriors are still ready and waiting.”“Dhiokitis reporting. My division is ready.”“Ceanassi reporting. We are ready, General.”“Shireikan reporting. My soldiers are ready.”Several other commanders reported in this manner, with only one discipline problem in the ranks that was rectified by the death of the soldier. The Toa did not approve of such harsh punishment, but their allies came from many cultures, and they all needed to overlook their differences to work together. That warrior had come from a strict martial society in which disobedience was punished by death, and the Toa would not risk alienating his kinsfolk by denouncing their tenets. The diversity of the warriors also resulted in a disparity in the number each commander led – for instance, Brenkonin led about a hundred, while Shireikan had over twice that amount. Velitel and Iskanemo would have liked to have organized the divisions more evenly, but each commander's unit was mostly comprised of members of their own species or culture that they had brought into the service of the Toa. It would not do to redistribute these warriors and separate them from the fellow fighters they had experience fighting alongside, and commanders that represented one culture were loath to be made subordinate to another. And so, each airship carried up to a dozen or so culturally distinct divisions, though there were also many freelance warriors that had joined on their own and been distributed evenly.“Well, Krasati?” Velitel turned to ask a few minutes after the last of the commanders on the Mata Nui's Gaze reported in. “Is everyone else ready?”“No,” responded the telepathic communications officer, a concerned and somewhat annoyed expression noticeable through her Mask of Emulation. “No, one of the smaller craft is having problems. It's that four-seater craft over there – the blue one. I'm not very familiar with that type of vehicle, and didn't understand the technical details they told me. Should I relay them to you?”“No, you know I'm no engineer,” said the Toa of Fire. “Have Velvirki take a look at it. This had better not take long, or we'll need to leave without them.”Krasati nodded and closed her eyes as she resumed her telepathic communication. A moment later, a Toa of Earth with a custom eyepiece in his mask and a toolbox – Velvirki – got down from his skyfighter and went to repair the defecting aircraft. The hour of preparation time Velitel had designated in his briefing was nearly up when Velvirki diagnosed the problem as something that could not be easily repaired. With an exasperated sigh, Velitel ordered the vehicle's crew to abandon it and board the Meyit's Legacy. When that was done, everyone was finally ready. Engines that had been turned off or left idling powered up again, and the cockpit of the command ship trembled from the resulting throb. After Krasati performed one last check on Velitel's behalf, the time for launch was signaled. Had the Toa been standing when the Mata Nui's Gaze shot into the sky, they would have been knocked off their feet. The Meyit's Legacy had a frightening moment of instability, but Toa Jufeng managed to regain control. When he was satisfied all was going smoothly, Velitel ordered the aircraft to form up, and then they began their cruise.Imlen had sailed from island to island several times in his life, but he had never flown hundreds of bio over it. The view of the silver ocean below was astounding, but the wonder it filled him with was compounded by anxiety. He wasn't sure he was suited to flying. Again, he hoped the airships were safe, and that Iskanemo knew what he was doing. In the midst of the voyage, there was a sudden lurch that made Imlen shout in surprise and nearly knocked him over. Iskanemo apologized and assured him everything was alright, but the vessel continued to rock and vibrate for what felt like hours. Imlen tried closing his eyes, but he found that made his discomfort even worse. He considered starting a conversation to pass the time, but he could not think of anything to say to his teammates, and the other Toa were all busy. In their centuries of traveling together, the Toa Muktirhith had shared all their stories with each other, and now there was little more to tell.It had been years since Mozmana had told Imlen that she had come from a reclusive, almost monastic community of Ce-Matoran in a remote corner of the Southern Continent. Imlen still remembered the story of how she had become a Toa: a few decades after the Great Cataclysm, a mortally injured Toa of Stone had taken refuge in her homeland. She and her people had been unable to save the Toa, but he had recognized Mozmana's potential and transferred his Toa energy to her before he died. Her home was in a place threatened by many natural dangers, but her people had learned to defend themselves, and it was decided that Mozmana was meant to be their gift to the rest of the universe. And so Mozmana had been exiled in a sense – not as punishment, but because she was needed more elsewhere. After wandering alone for a few years, she had saved Vayrag from villagers that had thought he was a dangerous beast. That was not far from the truth, but she realized that her power could prevent his savage side from overcoming him completely, and so they had begun to travel together.About a year after that, they had met Iskanemo a little north of the Tren Krom Peninsula when – a sudden jolt interrupted Imlen's thoughts of Mozmana's tales.“What the – ” he exclaimed as he stumbled across the shifting floor and tripped over an unoccupied seat.“A storm. Look up ahead,” explained Iskanemo, pointing to a mass of swirling black clouds dead ahead. “Better strap yourselves in.”“We're not flying through that, are we?” said Mozmana as Velitel and Krasati sent out the order for the soldiers to strap themselves down or hold on tight.“Well, not as much as we can help, but these airships can't exactly turn on a widget,” said Iskanemo, and Velitel and Krasati also gave the order to follow the Mata Nui's Gaze as it turned to avoid the storm. “And this storm... it's... well, you saw – it seemed to come out of nowhere. I mean, the skies weren't perfectly clear, but... well, I'm a Toa of Air, and I know when there's something... something unnatural about the weather.”“What? You think someone's manipulating it?” asked Vilam. “Makuta? Rahkshi?”“I'll send a couple of skyfighters down to take a look at the surface, but I doubt they'll find anything – nothing but water for kio around here,” said Velitel, and he nodded to Krasati in confirmation. “Well, Iskanemo? I know these things are lumbering, but they don't turn this slowly.”“I'm trying!” said the Toa of Air, straining to pull the controls as far as they would go in one direction, then another. “Have the more... maneuverable craft get out of here! We'll get... through this, don't worry.”Imlen had been dizzy and unhappy while the cruise was going smoothly, and now his experience was nearly torturous. Warning signals flashed and beeped, frantic messages flooded in, both from over the intercom and telepathic reports that Krasati dictated, and all the while the airship rocked and tumbled as Iskanemo struggled to regain control. The hull creaked as the flying vessel was forced into maneuvers it surely was not meant to perform, and the seat straps did nothing to prevent the limbs and heads of the Toa from flailing and bobbing from the inertia. After a length of time that could not have been an hour, yet felt like half the day to Imlen, the sky calmed and the aircraft leveled out. The Toa righted their loose Kanohi, took a deep breath, and checked what damage had been done. The reports were surprisingly good: though everyone was shaken, and many of the warriors suffered minor injuries, no one had been killed or even badly injured. One aircraft's magazine had come open and its ammunition had spilled into the sea, but all craft appeared to still be in decent condition after all that turbulence.Imlen took another deep breath, and felt he had to stand up, so he unstrapped himself and got to his feet. Walking up against the canopy, he saw the dark clouds parting, and the bright sky reflected off the open sea in a thousand dazzling sparkles below. A gap in the glimmer, barely noticeable at first, grew as they continued their voyage. Soon it was certain: there was an island down there, straight ahead.“That's not the island, is it?” he asked Iskanemo, pointing the little landmass out. “The target island?”“I... I don't think so,” said Iskanemo hesitantly. “But it's not any other place I recognize, either.”“It's too large to be the target island,” said Velitel. “But after that storm, I think we had better make an unscheduled stop to make sure everything is still in good shape. That place will do.”“And if it's inhabited by hostiles?” postulated Mozmana.“Well, we do have an army traveling with us,” said Velitel, smiling mischievously.The aerial fleet continued their journey to the island. The trip took longer than the Toa Muktirhith had expected, for it turned out the island was farther away than they had thought. It was also proportionately larger – perhaps even rivaling Stelt in size, they could see as they came closer. It was soon clear that this was no little uncharted island. And upon seeing the great walls and towering fortress, Mozmana had no doubt about the location's identity.“That's no empty island nor Brotherhood outpost,” she said with fear in her voice. “That... that must be Destral!”*Ebanus is rahkshi guurahk's character. Credit for the character and thanks for permission to use him goes to him.Review
Edited by The Iron Toa, Sep 21 2012 - 03:06 PM.