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Current Events

Aethion EM Multiverse Cipher Chronicles

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#1 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted May 14 2012 - 06:15 PM

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| [Episode 1] [Episode 2] [Episode 3] [Episode 4] |

| [Review Topic with Mini-Guide] [EM Discussion Topic] |

bonesiii and Swert present

An Aethion Expanded Multiverse Story Series

Cipher Chronicles Episode 5

Current Events

Guest written by TakunuvaC01

Finished and edited by Takuta-Nui

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Toa Zuruk was walking through the streets of the Promathus Forum when he noticed the smoke rising from up ahead.On industrialized Promathus, it would not have been too unusual; but here, in peaceful BZ-Koro, it was an odd sight.He quickly realized the smoke was coming from his destination. Alarmed, the white-and-sand-blue Toa of Ice broke into a run.Zuruk had been carrying on negotiations with the representatives of leaders of major Industrial companies via Gadget for a few days. They supported the Olmak Merging Plan, but were unwilling to officially endorse it at this time. Things had been going well, however, until the representative of The Guild requested his personal presence.And so he was going back to the planet he represented; to the Industrial Totem on the central island of BZ-Koro. It was located in the Promathus Forum, near the Hapori Tohu statue on the central island. All matters related to the planet Promathus were discussed in that forum.Unfortunately, in BZ-Koro there was limited ground transportation, so he had to suffice with walking. He couldn't wait to get to Industrial, where at least he could enjoy the comfort of a taxi.But it was from the Interplanetary Teleportation Hub holding that Totem where smoke was rising.Zuruk quickly reached the ITH. The building had been ripped open by high-yield explosives. A team of emergency response robots was putting out fires and clearing away debris.Before he could look around any further, he was greeted by an anxious Skrall named Ultarius, who was the commander of security at the ITH."Toa Zuruk! The Olmak Totem has been stolen!" Ultarius shouted.Zuruk sighed. I was afraid of that. Why else would anyone attack an ITH?Before he could say anything in response to Ultarius, Zuruk's Gadget beeped. He raised a hand apologetically and activated it.It was Toa Hanashi. She looked tired."Zuruk - we just received a report that the Promathus Totem has been stolen. Have you reached the ITH yet?" she asked."I have," Zuruk said. "Gadget, perform a slow spin." With that command, the Gadget began a slow rotation, allowing Hanashi to see the devastation of the ITH.When the panoramic display was complete, Hanashi frowned."The Alarist Ambassadorial Government has received a voice-only message from someone claiming to represent the Alarist Underground, claiming responsibility for this attack," she said."The local crime syndicate? Do they have the resources to pull this off?" questioned Zuruk."They do," Hanashi said. "In the last few months, there have been more and more thefts in BZ-Koro. I did a story on it when it started."Zuruk nodded. "I was on Enigma at that time, of course. But why would they want the Olmak Totem? Do they have an agenda, or are they just trying to cause trouble?" He had never thought much about the crime ring before. He remembered that Okotenga, CEO of Miscellaneous Enterprises and his boss, had once complained they were losing profits due to thefts by the crime ring on Alarist, but it hadn't been his job to worry about that.It wasn't my job to worry about anything back then, other than Gadget updates. How glad I am things have changed..."We don't know their agenda - the identity and goals of their mysterious leader are totally unknown. But in this case, they told us what they wanted," Hanashi responded.Zuruk was confused. "And? What is it?"Hanashi hesitated. "They want the AAG's money stamping secret," she responded.Zuruk's eyes widened. "They have to know the AAG would never give it up. Not even for an Olmak Totem." If he was the AAG, he would have licensed the secret out to high-paying parties long ago to maximize profit. That's what Experimental Industries had done with the Cargo Stars. And how simpler would this be if it was Promathus that had invented the secret... we would give it to them and get back the totem, problem solved.Hanashi nodded. "You're right - they won't negotiate. So, here's your first mission as second-in-command of Team Cipher. Get to the bottom of this. The AAG won't negotiate. The crime syndicate claims to have hidden the Olmak Totem where we will never find it - never even think to look. Your job is to try and prove them wrong. We need to find the Totem."Zuruk nodded. "I'll do my best," he promised. "Any other news?""Nothing really new," Hanashi responded. "Artakha and Karzahni have had no luck curing the ghosting of Bajnok and Ekinodus, and neither have any of the other scientists who've studied it. They say it is probably completely impossible, unless they can figure out what powers were used. Barrawahi is still on the brink of a civil war. Negotiations are beginning between the AAG and Tanuuk over the release of the Royal Steward and Lady Sulmiris. No new Agent sightings."Zuruk nodded again, and Hanashi closed the channel.The Toa of Ice sighed, turned and stared at the devastated ITH. How to begin...

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Edited by TakunuvaC01, May 15 2012 - 06:45 PM.

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#2 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted May 20 2012 - 10:03 AM

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The first order of business was to interview Ultarius, since the commander of Totem security probably knew what was going on."Well," said the Skrall, "I was in my office at the time, from which I can see the Totem room, and of course I have access to the security camera system - though I wasn't watching it, you see, because I was-"Zuruk sighed. "Get back to the attack, please." The security chief was evidently afraid that the attack reflected poorly on him, and he was trying to provide excuses."Right, sorry. Anyway, traffic seemed normal, no one had given security any problems at the checkpoints - and then suddenly, there was an explosion," Ultarius said."Where was it from?" asked Zuruk. His Gadget was recording this - he intended to send this part to Kyn to see if there were any incongruities. While Zuruk (and almost everyone else on Promathus) knew a bit about demolitions from constantly having to demolish glomosulfur buildings, the Matoran who had made his fortune off of it knew far more."It seemed to come from a room close to the Totem - past the security checkpoints but not in the room itself," replied Ultarius. "But - I could be wrong - I swore I saw the Totem vanish as the explosion went off. After that explosion, a second went off much closer by and shattered the protoglass windows in my office. That's when I ran out to control the situation."That surprised Zuruk. "Are you saying the crime syndicate teleported the Olmak Totem away?" he asked, appalled.Who in their right mind would try to teleport an Olmak Totem? Only a maddened criminal would risk it - even some of the crazier scientists working for Experimental Industries wouldn't dare it."I think so, but this was at the same time the windows blew out, so maybe I imagined it," answered the chief of security.Zuruk nodded, understanding. "Did you actually see any criminals?""Two, a Crushslow Troak and a Toa of Kinetics. Didn't have time to ID them, mainly because we were pushed and held down by the Crushslow power. They appeared, did some damage, and then in the confusion of the explosions escaped. I assumed they grabbed the Totem in the process... then I remembered the vanishing."Zuruk was tempted to discard the "vanishing", especially if the security chief had to "remember" it. But he needed to make sure.

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"This morning, the Alarist Underground crime syndicate launched an attack on the Promathus ITH, on the central island of BZ-Koro. In what has been their most daring theft yet, they stole the Olmak Totem that connects Alarist to Promathus. There were three deaths among security personnel and six injuries. Eleven civilians were also injured in the explosion.'Toa Zuruk of Team Cipher will be involved in the investigation, and the AAG has announced that he will be joined by a top security team. If you have any information that may be useful in their investigation, please contact him.'In the mean time, should you wish to travel to Promathus, the only route I can recommend is for you to teleport to Atohune and try to find the Promathus Totem there. Normally, I'd suggest you should teleport to the Onu-Clysmax ITH and take a spacetrain to Ga-Clysmax and then use the Promathus Totem there, but the Onu-Clysmax Totem was recently stolen by Ice Fragment forces and remains missing."Makan sighed, and turned off the Gadget display, silencing the reporterette Hanashi before she moved on to the next news item for today.The Po-Matoran had been feeling depressed ever since his Kanoka of Blue Energy was stolen.He was a merchant, and also a collector of what he liked to call "rare artifacts". He was well aware that far rarer items could be found on Atohune, which seemed littered with legends and mysteries everywhere. But Makan was content to work in BZ-Koro and collect valuable items. In fact, he had never been off-planet.The Kanoka of Blue Energy had been his latest possession. Toa, and other beings who could use Kanohi might think masks were better, but many other races preferred the Kanoka disks, as they could use their powers.Makan liked disks, especially disk collecting. His collection of rare Kanoka was valuable, and obtaining the Kanoka of Blue Energy a few weeks ago had been his crowning achievement.A Mask of Blue Energy could draw energy from nearby Bluespace, and use it for basic purposes. For instance, a user could fire a lightning bolt of Bluespace energy, or recharge their own energies or their technology, or even materialize Blue Energy directly into Blue Grime.A Kanoka of Blue Energy had similar functions.Ninety percent of the time, it was just a normal, blue-colored disk. But when fired in the presence of an Olmak Effect or other Bluespace, it would absorb a portion of Blue Energy. Then when it struck a target, that Blue Energy would be released, causing an explosion.Makan had bought it from a Vortixx merchant visiting from Promathus. He had never used it, and doubted he ever would. It had cost several Orbs; he had spend quite a lot of time getting that money.And now it's gone... stolen, while I was out debating matters in the Collecting and Collection Marketplace Forum. Makan loved to visit that forum. However, it was on the eastern shore of the northern island, known as the Island of Time. He lived on the western shore. That meant whenever he went, he was away for the entire day.All day, a quiet anxiety would flutter in his stomach despite being engrossed in discussions. It would intensify as soon as he began the journey back home, and it would get worse and worse the closer Makan got. He would practically knock down his door in his rush to check everything and make sure nothing had gone wrong. As soon as he was reassured, the anxiety would slip away like a cloud allowing the sun to shine on his mask once again.Today, the cloud had remained, and was becoming black and swollen.I doubt this Zuruk knows how bad things have gotten. My disk was under pretty tight security- how could it have been taken? Makan was not a fool. He had a security camera. He had bought the best Element-Resistant Glass from a Clysmax-based company.But nothing was broken. The glass was in one piece. No other disks were missing. The recorded footage from the camera showed a bright blue flash that Makan almost attributed to an Olmak Effect, except nothing else that had been touched by the chaotic Bluespace was broken.And what of the theft of an Olmak Totem? No - as Hanashi had said, the second theft of an Olmak Totem, both of which linked to the same planet?Makan was concerned about the Olmak Effect, yes. He was glad Team Cipher was out there, yes. But he hadn't really wanted to become involved.However, he decided, This mystery I want to get to the bottom of. I'm going to go find Toa Zuruk, and then I'm going to find my Kanoka.The Po-Matoran headed out the door of his hut.

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Artakha sighed as he studied his equipment. He pressed a few buttons and looked at the readout.Nothing.So far, all attempts to figure out what exactly Izumal had done to Bajnok and Ekinodus had completely failed.Artakha had never heard of anyone being "ghosted" before on Izumal. The worst thing that could happen to a hacker was life imprisonment. He supposed the prison technology and this ghosting technology could be similar, but couldn't work out how.And that was why, days after Avsa-Ka's death at the hands of Kyn, Bajnok and Ekinodus were still in the center of an array of machinery that the Alarist scientists had set up on Karzahni's instructions. The scientists had run their own tests and come up blank too, so far.The doors to the lab opened. Hanashi walked in."Any luck?" she asked. Artakha shook his head gloomily."Well, there's something else for you to do now, at least. Do you know what the Star Portal is?" she asked him. Artakha frowned for a second, and then he remembered."Yes, I do - an artifact found on Atohune, wasn't it? Ten years ago?" he replied. Artakha recalled that the information had come from intercepted Cargo Star radio transmissions, though he couldn't remember all of the details."Yes, that's right," replied Hanashi. "If you touch it, you are absorbed into it and are capable of teleporting anywhere - the Star Portal temporarily splits apart everything between you and your destination."Artakha nodded. Oh, that's what it was... he thought.Hanashi continued. "Well, the research team studying it has requested we send a member of Team Cipher, whenever one is available, to help work on it. Apparently, lately its behavior has changed. And I'm sure they would value your perspective on it as a former inhabitant of Izumal."Artakha nodded. "I'll be glad to help. What of Bajnok and Ekinodus, however?""For the moment," Hanashi said, "nothing. Some Experimental Industries scientists were interested in investigating the matter too - but now that the Promathus Totem has been stolen, they have to go the Atohune route- and that's gotten pretty crowded."Bajnok spoke up. "While I would very much like to be cured of this 'condition'"- he spat the word, as if the very description offended him -"I do not wish to sit around and be poked and prodded at by every scientist who wants to have a go. I would rather do something!"Hanashi nodded. "I can understand that. Maybe you can assist with Zuruk's investigation if he needs help, or maybe something else will come up that suits you... in this condition. But for now, I'm afraid, there's nothing."Bajnok nodded. Ekinodus said nothing - he had been speaking less and less since Avsa-Ka's death.Artakha grabbed a bag containing his field equipment. Maybe a new mystery will take my mind off my failure to figure out this ghosting, he hoped.

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#3 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted May 27 2012 - 04:02 PM

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Rather than walk or take a ground transport to the Museum and then use some air transport to travel to the research airship, Artakha had decided to take an Aerospace Jet R-10 directly - a small silver solar-powered craft manufactured by Lake Aerospace and used for short-distance trips.That way, he would get to see the Star Portal and have an opportunity to take some scans of it before he even reached the research ship.He had picked up the technique from Karzahni. His partner insisted that appearing to be in control of the situation was what the inhabitants of the other worlds expected from Izumali, Agents and hackers alike. And that if you didn't show it, other people would try to take advantage of you.While Artakha was sometimes uncertain of his partner's morals, he was surprised to admit that this advice had proven true so far.Anyway, he was eager to learn more about this strange artifact. There was no one else on the vehicle - it was transporting equipment to the research ship - and so no one to get in the way of his observations and research using the R-10's built-in computer system.The Star Portal had started out as a silver orb, Artakha read on the crystalline screen, that had transformed when it was exposed to Bluespace energy into its current shape.The silvery color, along with the transformation, suggested it might be an Izumal device - possibly even a nanite-based one. But I can't detect Izumal power sources.The energy source was completely unknown - although it was powerful enough to conceivably be Izumal tech."We're approaching the research vessel," called out the pilot. Artakha began packing up his equipment and told his Gadget to follow him from now on.The massive floating airship came into view. Team Star Portal (which, as the name suggested, was responsible for Star Portal research) had somehow managed to convince the AAG to pay an enormous amount for a custom-made airship from Phantoka Motors, bristling with sensors and containing many research labs and other equipment.I suppose the planet-wide earthquake when the Star Portal transformed couldn't have hurt. Most likely the AAG decided they couldn't risk letting this device remain a mystery after that, mused Artakha.The ship was based on the Wanvergerg Steam-Powered Floating Machine commonly seen in Promathus' skies. One could imagine that vehicle's size multiplied several times and they would be visualizing Team Star Portal's ship pretty well. It had some modifications, like a docking port for R- 10s, as well as one for unmanned supply craft and much smaller transport pods used for travelling from the Museum. Being so self-sustainable, this craft rarely landed.Artakha's R-10 docked flawlessly and the hatch opened to reveal a smallish room with several scientist assistants waiting to receive the cargo. Artakha grabbed the bag with his equipment, slung it over his shoulders, and began to help the pilot unload.As he handed the first box to an assistant, he spied something through a hairline seam in the floor that connected the two ships. A closer look showed it to be a part of the Wiki-Nui Museum far beneath, sprawling over the land of Wiki-Nui.Right, the Star Portal ended up floating high above the Museum for some reason. That must have alarmed more than a few.The cargo was all transferred in a few minutes and the assistants began wheeling them out of the room. Artakha followed.Time to get officially started, the Toa of Magnetism thought.

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Zuruk had a few Gadget calls to make.The first was to Kyn. Unlike many of his comrades, Zuruk had no problems with Kyn keeping his identity as Arrik Xell of Barrawahi secret. After all, Zuruk was keeping secrets too- about Enigma.And then there was his previous life. Zuruk was convinced that he was hundreds of years old, even though he had only appeared on Promathus 100 years ago - in an Olmak Anomaly, with no memory of this past life.He couldn't really keep that a secret because he didn't know anything about it, of course. But if I did something terrible in my past life too, I could be in the same boat as Kyn...As far as Zuruk was concerned, what mattered was who Kyn was now, and how he could best help the Olmak Merging Plan. Then Zuruk could retire to his Atohune hideout in peace, rich from the success of the Enigma Line."Call Kyn," Zuruk ordered his Gadget. He was currently in one of the less-damaged rooms of Totem Security at the ITH. Most of the areas furthest away from the Totem Room were intact.The Gadget beeped, and then Kyn's Kanohi Sanok appeared on the screen. He looked tired and sad, as if the events surrounding Avsa-Ka's death were still affecting him."Kyn, have you been following the situation here?" Zuruk asked. Kyn nodded."I watched Hanashi's report. And then I got a message from her detailing what she couldn't reveal publicly," Kyn said. "I can't believe the crime ring really thinks the AAG would give them the money-stamping secret..."Zuruk nodded. "I can't believe that either. Anyway, I could use your expertise here. Security at the ITH captured footage of the attack leading up to two explosions. Some things here... don't add up, and I wondered if you could look over the recordings and tell me what you think.""What are you looking for?" asked Kyn, intrigued.Zuruk hesitated. He wasn't actually sure. He just knew something was off. "Well, the commander of security, Ultarius, has the theory that the criminals had one person on the inside who smuggled explosives through security, detonated them near the Totem, and then rushed in and grabbed them. But I'm wondering if the Totem was teleported out- and the explosives were teleported in to replace it.""I'll look over it for you, sure - but wouldn't it be better to give it to an analysis team on Wiki Nui?" asked Kyn.Zuruk shook his head. "Yes, but they aren't Aethion's expert on explosives. You are. I'm hoping you can give me information they might not." What Zuruk didn't say, and he was sure Kyn knew, was that there was another reason.Zuruk didn't care what Kyn had done in his past. But what he did care about was how productive Kyn was in the future. And Zuruk felt, as second-in-command of Team Cipher, that it couldn't hurt to give the Av-Matoran something to do and take his mind off of Avsa-Ka."Anyway, if you'll do it, I'll just send the feed to you after closing this call. Okay?" Zuruk asked.Kyn nodded."End call," said Zuruk, wishing that Karzahni would hurry up and add multiple channels to his subspace communications network. Then he said, "Send Totem security footage to Kyn."Now, for call number two - to find out about teleporting Totems.Admittedly, Zuruk wasn't sure who the best person to contact about this would be. If he was on Promathus, he would call up an Experimental Industries representative and negotiate a contract for them to do some research.But the way the negotiations with the companies and unions are going right now, I doubt EI would be willing to help. Especially since it's their union - The Guild - holding things up.So he decided to contact someone at the Library, in the Wiki-Nui Museum, where they could look things up and find out if there were any recorded instances of Totem teleportation before.After explaining who he was and what he wanted to the Library's communications office, he was promptly routed to Dataguard Alpha of the Museum's main Library, who Team Cipher had worked with before during the Avsa-Ka incident."Of course, it's an honor, quite an honor, to work with Team Cipher again. What was it you needed?" asked the robot."I needed to know about the feasibility of teleporting an Olmak Totem. Is it possible? Has it ever been done?" Zuruk responded. The robot blinked. Its size appeared to grow and shrink for a few moments, an effect of the Dataguard's telescoping limbs. It was a sure sign that Zuruk's question had surprised it, which made his hopes sink slightly."Well, I - I don't believe I've ever heard of such an incident... though it's entirely possible it might be in the records somewhere. It will take some time to search them all though, and then to contact some scientists, and then to-"Zuruk interrupted. "I appreciate the work involved, and I figured that your organization would be the best to work on such a task."The robot nodded. "Well, certainly. We'll do the best we can and contact you again once we have results. Goodbye." The connection was closed.And now for the call Zuruk was most uncertain about. Just as he thought it unlikely that Experimental Industries would be willing to help out Team Cipher, he was also not sure that his next contact would be.Still, I do work for him."Call Okotenga," he told his Gadget. Seconds later, the Onu-Matoran's Mask of Conjuring appeared on the display."You're late," the CEO of Miscellaneous Enterprises said to him. "We were expecting you almost an hour ago at the latest.""I'm a bit busy here because of the Totem that goes to our planet - and to our company - being stolen," Zuruk replied, a little annoyed. "Surely you saw the broadcast by Hanashi? It's my job to get it back!"Okotenga nodded. "I can understand that, and of course I'd like matters to be resolved on Alarist involving our Totem. Did you need anything from me?"Zuruk smiled. "Actually, I did. When are you launching the Cleanbot?"The question was unexpected, and it took a few moments for his boss to reply. "Tomorrow, although we're going to release preordered versions later today. Why?"Zuruk was grinning now. "I wondered if you could ship me a hundred packaged Cleanbots via Cargo Star to me now, in BZ-Koro, so I can sell them here?""I suppose..." Okotenga said cautiously. "As long any profits you gain from this are subject to our standard sales rep policies," he hastily added. "But why do you want them?""Well... apparently, the Olmak Totem being stolen might just be the symptom of a growing problem. I don't intend to go around interviewing people door-to-door... so I wanted another way of getting in touch with them," Zuruk replied.Secretly, Zuruk wasn't trying to get just a random bunch of tech enthusiasts together to listen for clues. The initial Cleanbot launch would attract more affluent citizens. Those citizens were more likely to have other valuable possessions, and thus more likely to have been victims of recent thefts.He didn't feel like explaining this to Okotenga, though. Fortunately, from the looks of it, he wouldn't have to do further convincing.Okotenga was nodding slowly. "It's an unusual idea, but you're full of unusual ideas, Zuruk. And the other companies can't object, because officially, this has nothing to do with Team Cipher." Okotenga was now smiling. "I'll deliver them to - where on BZ-Koro?""Totem Security at the Promathus ITH, on the central island. That's where I'm based at the moment," Zuruk responded. He would set up a makeshift stage for the grand revelation."Right. And good luck with your plan," Okotenga added, and then closed the channel.Zuruk grinned. Not only is this a great way to get in touch with ordinary people who've been stolen from and aren't in a position to do anything about it - but it's also a chance for me to make a lot of money...

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#4 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jun 04 2012 - 08:50 AM

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Artakha had been led into the main research lab, which served as the hub of onboard operations. He was then introduced to the project leader, Aikla, a Vortixx."It's a pleasure to meet you," she said. "Do you have any initial thoughts about the Star Portal? I'd welcome your opinion as an inhabitant of technologically-advanced Izumal.""Well, I do not think it is Izumal technology. It's possible it could be some extremely divergent Izumal tech that doesn't use traditional Izumal power sources or nanites, but I find that unlikely," Artakha replied."As did we," she said. "But before we talk any more about that, we really should show it to you up close," Aikla added with a smile."Up close? How close?" asked Artakha."As close as this vessel can get without fear of interfering in the Star Portal's systems - only about a kio or so away. When we need to get closer, we use a travel pod.""I see," replied Artakha. "Then let's go take a look at it."They exited the office. It was a quick walk to the observation bay.Artakha was impressed. Not at the masses of equipment scattered around this adapted cargo-bay, not at the cluster of scientists prodding devices and manipulating controls - but at the Star Portal, which was visible through several wide but narrow windows that ran along one of the bay's walls.He had read of it. He had seen it from a distance... but the research vessel was very close. He stared into the depths of the Star Portal. At its center was a rippling ball of black and purple energy that reminded Artakha a bit of a Ghost Bubble and a bit of a dimensional vortex. It seemed as if any second it would begin to absorb the world around it- and yet it did not.As he watched, a bolt of lightning lanced out from the inner depths of the energy sphere and struck the side of the research vessel. Artakha braced himself, but nothing else happened that he could detect. They must have already installed absorbers or deflectors.Above it two silvery structures spun at a rate of about one rotation per second. They seemed angelic in nature, even though they looked like the wings of a Kanohi Dragon. Artakha remembered reading that they stabilized the Star Portal against gravity - but they were clearly designed to impress watchers as well.Below the Star Portal, a long spiral began; wide at the top, tapering down to a single point below. The construct served no known purpose and would have been dismissed as decorative if not for the fact that it curved upwards in a perfect Fibonacci sequence.The entire structure... all of it defied imagination, and seemed to defy reality as well.Aikla watched him, amused. "It can be like that the first time," she said.Artakha nodded, speechless. A thought occurred to him."Before we begin - tell me, what exactly has changed? I'm no expert, but it seems exactly as described," he asked."Well, first, the wings have begun spinning faster on average. Plus, they seem to fluctuate at intervals as if to keep the Star Portal in the air. Second, the orb of energy has increased slightly in diameter.""When did this first happen?" asked Artakha."We only noticed the wings this morning, a little less than six hours ago, " Aikla replied. "But the size change happened before that, a few days ago."Artakha nodded. "Next - I would like to go inside the Star Portal. Has anyone tried since the change?""No. You would be the first- no one really likes being in there, and especially not now that things have changed. Are you sure you want to be the stone rat?"Artakha laughed quietly. "I've done far more dangerous things than this in my time on Izumal. Just tell me what I need to do, and I'll do it."Aikla shrugged. "Okay. Well, you'll need to take a travel pod. We launch them from the flight bay, which is one deck above. There's a ladder over there," she said, pointing. "They're pre-programmed to approach the Star Portal and stop right before they hit the surface area of the energy sphere. Then, open the doors and reach out and touch it.""Has the programming been modified to account for the increase in diameter?""Yes, it has. The only danger would be if the diameter continues rapid fluctuations - that could cause the pod to be enveloped by the Star Portal Energy. The chances of that are very small... which is probably a good thing.""Oh? What would happen?""Well, as best we can tell, the Star Portal will dematerialize the non-living construct - that is, the pod – into its energy sphere. What we don't know is what would happen to a living organism inside. We're not too eager to find out either."Artakha frowned at that, but he wanted to see what the Star Portal was like from the inside anyway. He had come this far and it was a reasonable risk. Most likely the Star Portal, being so advanced, would recognize Artakha as living and separate him from the travel pod.He walked over to and climbed up the ladder, where he was greeted by a Toa of Iron wearing a Mask of Forcefield Control. The two Toa and the travel pods stood next to a circular opening in the wall that also showed the Star Portal. Artakha saw a ripple of air and surmised it was a forcefield instead of a window."Take the first pod," advised the Toa of Iron. "It's probably in the best shape - I just finished repairing it.""Okay... how do I control this vehicle?" asked Artakha.The Toa of Iron frowned. "You don't. You step inside, press the green button, and then it seals and I use my Kanohi to open a hole in the forcefield barrier. It calculates a course and flies there. Then you press the red button and the doors open. Got it?""Yes," the Toa of Magnetism responded. He stepped into the first pod and pressed the green button. The doors slid shut and the pod rose into the air.The Toa of Iron raised his hand and concentrated. The Mask of Forcefield Control activated, and a hole appeared in the forcefield at the end of the flight deck.The pod gathered up speed as it flew through the hole. It soon reached the Star Portal - Artakha could see this through the windows in the door.He pressed the red button. The doors opened.Artakha wasn't sure what to expect. Would the energy of the vortex tear him out of the craft, or would he have to jump forward?As it turns out, neither was the case. All he had to do was raise an arm and touch the swirling energies.He vanished.

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Kyn finished watching the recording Zuruk sent him. He sat and stared at his Gadget.To an outside observer, he might have seemed unfocused, but he was considering what he had just seen very carefully before leaping to any conclusions.Zuruk seems to be right. The first explosion almost comes from the Totem, as if someone sent the explosives from Promathus directly to Alarist via the Totem?Kyn found that unlikely - although he could check with the activity logs at Miscellaneous Enterprises' ITH on Promathus.Who would be crazy enough to detonate explosives near an Olmak Totem? Who knows what would happen?Personally, Kyn had no idea what would happen. He had never experimented with it. But he doubted Olmak Totems were explosive-proof, especially not to the yields used in these (which had been fairly easy to calculate).His conclusion, therefore, was that Zuruk was right - someone had teleported out the Olmak Totem and teleported in some explosives to replace it."Gadget, call Zuruk," Kyn ordered. Instead of the familiar loading screen, a message appeared on the screen reading "caller busy."Kyn frowned. What's he busy with?"Cancel call, hop on table and display active Alarist newsfeeds." The Gadget obeyed, and Kyn immediately saw why in the first item: "ENIGMA LINE LAUNCHED IN BZ-KORO".He read the article. Zuruk was organizing a public sale of the Cleanbot in BZ-Koro's Promathus Forum; the next product in his so-called Enigma Line. It was going to take place within the hour.This only seemed to confirm Kyn's suspicions that Zuruk was a fraud. He's taking time away from a serious investigation to make money for himself!Kyn shrugged, and instructed the Gadget to record a message for Zuruk and send as soon as Zuruk became available.What can I do now? His limited role in the investigation seemed to be over.That was when the attack siren went off.Ko-Clysmax is attacking!They hadn't launched an attack on the other shards since their theft of the Onu-Clysmax Olmak Totem (and the revelation of the Shattering's origin). Things had been quiet for a while... that was changing now.Kyn's Hut Mansion was fortified enough to protect it against accidental explosions (as he did store some explosives here), so he wasn't too concerned about heeding the siren.He quickly ran through the building to reach a part of the structure with reinforced windows pointing in the directoin of Ko-Clysmax.He watched as the attackers flew along, bombing and firing. There were three main groups. The first, Kyn could identify as a DarkFly leading five Eclipse frigates - the other two groups Kyn couldn't make out. He watched as Ta-Clysmax defenders were launched and swerved to intercept the Ko-Clysmax forces.Then he noticed with alarm that the lead group was heading straight towards his Hut Mansion, with the other two providing cover fire.Kyn quickly mulled over possible options. He could retreat - but his Hut Mansion would still take some damage, and he might also be killed while trying to leave it. He could do nothing and hope the defenders would intercept the DarkFly and the Eclipses first.Neither option appealed to him. Fortunately, there was a third.His Gadget beeped. It was a Fire Fragment defense force leader."Kyn! The attackers are heading straight for your Hut Mansion!" shouted the Toa of Fire. "Either get out or find some kind of shelter in there!"Kyn shook his head. "I have an idea - something I've been waiting to try since returning from Barrawahi! I'm not running or hiding!" he shouted.Then, he sent out an activator signal for his robots.Dozens emerged from the Hut Mansion's bomb range and rushed forward at the approaching fighters, which fired on them. Some robots were hit, but they were moving at such speeds that many were not, and survived to latch on to the ships.The lead DarkFly went down under a swarm of five robots, which began tearing into the metal hull and pulling out sparking parts. An Eclipse frigate launched two of its missiles towards the building, but two robots flew underneath, grabbed them, and dropped them onto the frigate from overhead. Even Ko-Clysmax fighters had to use a heat source of some kind for power, and the freezing technology did an excellent job of rendering that source inert. The frigate, now devoid of power, spiralled out of control and smashed into the ground.Another Eclipse opened fire on the robots, destroying most of them, but another group of robots swiftly intercepted it.When the pilots of the ships attempted to eject, robots grabbed them and flew them to the Fire Fragment HQ, where they would be imprisoned and interrogated.It was a messy battle. Robot and fighter parts were falling to the ground rapidly, and Kyn was wondering if the sacrifice in this battle - the destruction of so many of his robots - was worth it.But they're just machines, and can be replaced - unlike me.Kyn only kept up the robot attack until three Ta-Clysmax fighters arrived, and shot down the remaining attackers.He sighed in relief when the attackers were all defeated. But he felt uneasy.Why attack my Hut so specifically? I wasn't involved in the revelation of the Shattering - though I am a Team Cipher member...Kyn supposed it was possible that the Ice King wanted to wipe out all of Team Cipher for that. But he didn't think that was a likely reason - so what exactly was going on here?At least now I have something to do...

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It took about three hours instead of the usual two for Makan to arrive at the Promathus forum.He had chosen to walk through the various forums devoted to discussing the Bionicle Core Dimension, in case any new interesting thing was being discussed. Like most Matoran who lived on the Island of Time, Makan was intrigued by alternate universes- especially the Core Dimension.That's because if we're not, we move, either to the other islands or to Wiki-Nui, reflected Makan, because we can't stand some of those who are.There were some Matoran who seemed to live in the Core Dimension discussion forums...He smiled as he thought about the debate he had heard going on in the Core Dimension Storyline & Theories Forum - on the nature of elements in the Core Dimension.Apparently, unlike Aethion, in the Core Dimension there were only a handful of elements. Makan wasn't entirely sure why, but he thought it was something to do with the creativity of the Great Beings and how Matoran there weren't originally intended to be sentient. He found it bizarre.The argument was about Acid - lots of arguments were about Acid, it seemed. What was it? Merely a power? A derivative of The Green? Or an element of its own? Researchers in Wiki-Nui weren't completely certain, and so it had taken up days and days of discussion.Of course, here, it's just another element. There were a few Hy-Matoran around on BZ-Koro, even though the turquoise-colored element was usually evil.Makan's reflections stopped as he realized he had no idea where he was going - he had wandered off the path while lost in thought.He looked around in surprise and then accosted a nearby Iron Agori."Excuse me, but I appear to have gotten lost - which way to the Promathus Forum?""Ah, you're interested in buying a Cleanbot then? You'd better hurry - it's that way!" said the Iron Agori, pointing.Makan blinked, confused. "What? A Cleanbot from where? Promathus? Has the Totem been found?"The Iron Agori smiled."Ah, so you haven't heard the news? Toa Zuruk is holding a special sale in a few minutes to launch the Cleanbot, the next product in his Enigma Line. 'Never clean again!' the posters said. It's in the Promathus Forum, near the ITH - but he only has a limited number!"Makan nodded. Makes sense that Zuruk would do it there, since he's also supposed to be searching for the Totem.But the Iron Agori still hadn't answered his other question."So has the Totem been found, then?"The Iron Agori shook his head. "Nope. It's still missing. I guess he ordered them via Cargo Star. But- doesn't this seem a little suspicious? Not long ago the totem pointing here from Clysmax was stolen. Then, just now, the totem pointing to Promathus from here was stolen.""So?" asked Makan."Well," exclaimed the Iron Agori, who couldn't believe Makan hadn't gotten it, "That means there's no good way to get to Promathus from Alarist! Or Alarist to Clysmax! It's like someone is trying to cut off our allied worlds! Like Izumal!"Makan's eyes widened. He hadn't thought of that. He remembered watching the broadcast that the Onu-Clysmax Totem had been stolen, but in the same breath Hanashi announced the secret of the Shattering.But I thought that was by the Ice Fragment. And this was by the Crime Syndicate... could the Agents - or someone else - be involved with both groups?Makan shook his head, unsettled. "You should bring that up at the Promathus Forum - or at the Clysmax Forum - or at the Izumal Forum," he said. "Lots of options, I guess. If you're not sure, somebody might help move your topic.""I have," responded the Iron Agori. "I just proposed it up at the Promathus Forum, and I'm on my way to Wiki-Nui now. Good luck at the sale!"With that, the Iron Agori headed away.Still bothered by those ideas, Makan headed in the direction the Agori had indicated.

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Edited by TakunuvaC01, Jun 11 2012 - 09:58 AM.

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#5 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jun 11 2012 - 10:51 AM

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Zuruk grinned as he watched the BZ-Koro inhabitants begin to gather.It was time to begin the show.He walked forward, holding his hands behind his back. The Forum Moderator of the Promathus Forum wasn't totally happy that Zuruk was taking up so large an area of the forum for this, but had yielded when Zuruk explained how he was using this to gather intelligence."People of BZ-Koro! Welcome to the first public launch of the Cleanbot, second product of the Enigma Line!" he shouted. "As you probably know, the Enigma Line is technology inspired by my own journey to the eighth planet - Enigma! The first product, the Sonic Welder, was a massive success, and I am proud to introduce the second."He stepped aside, and pressed a button on the remote control behind his back. A Cleanbot hovered forward."This is a Cleanbot. It is equipped with a set of auto-adjusting grasping clamps for manipulating objects, and complex programming by the very best software developers of Miscellaneous Enterprises. It is very easy to get it to run at a specified time each day, and to give it a limited area of operation.'And it's highly customizable! In addition to a built-in control system, if you are a software developer you can write your own additions to its cleaning routines. But enough of that jargon," Zuruk said with a grin - and he did get a laugh - "now we'll demonstrate it in action."He pressed another button on the remote control. The Cleanbot hovered forward.At Zuruk's instructions, the plaza where he was standing had been cluttered with lots of junk (mostly debris from the Promathus ITH - Zuruk couldn't help but mentally applaud his sheer practicality). The Cleanbot began to pick it up, categorize it, and sort it into separate containers.The Toa of Ice continued his sales pitch. "But that's not all! We're also making available an exclusive, limited-edition Gadget upgrade model! We only have a few of those upgrades available today, I'm afraid, but you can always order one on our Cargo Star website."He pressed another button on his control, and this time a Gadget emerged - with the same cleaning graspers as the Cleanbot. It joined its standalone brother and began to continue cleaning up the ruins."Now," Zuruk said to the impressed audience, "this is how this is going to work. We only have one hundred models, which means that only the first one hundred people will get them! Please form a line. When I'm ready, I'll signal the next person to come forward. We'll talk briefly and then I'll arrange your purchase. Oh - one thing... I will require proof of BZ-Koro citizenship. This is a BZK Exclusive only!"There were a few groans from the crowd, and Zuruk couldn't help but chuckle at that. The people in the crowd did as well, as they began to form a queue.Zuruk sighed contentedly as he prepared to deal with the first customer in line. Time to make a lot of money... he thought.

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Makan was amazed he had made it into the first one hundred customers, let alone the first fifty or so. But he supposed he wouldn't have been averse to elbowing someone out of the way if it meant getting face-to-face time with Zuruk.And now he was at the front of the queue, watching the Toa of Ice talk with a Turaga of Crystal named Khaza, who was one of Makan's neighbors."And how are you doing today, Turaga?" asked Zuruk in a respectful tone."My name is Khaza, and very well, thank you," the elder answered. "How much is it for a stand-alone Cleanbot?""Before I tell you that - do you have proof of BZK citizenship?""I've lived on the Island of Time for nearly two hundred years. What proof am I supposed to have?" she asked, annoyed. Makan stepped forward before an argument started. Khaza was a skilled debater who could easily match Zuruk's salesmanship. A time-wasting deadlock was the last thing Makan wanted."Er, excuse me," he said. "But I can vouch for Turaga Khaza. She's one of my neighbors." A few other people in the line seconded Makan's statement.Zuruk looked at them briefly, and nodded."Very well. A Cleanbot will cost you 30 Gems. Why is it that you want a Cleanbot? Too much clutter?" Zuruk asked politely. But Makan sensed something else behind that question - as if this entire exchange was designed so that it could be asked."Yes, I'm afraid," Khaza said sighing. "And if I can at least keep my stuff organized, I'll know if something's been stolen or if it's just gone missing.""Oh?" asked Zuruk, feigning confusion. "Is crime very bad around here, then?""It has been lately, I'm afraid. I think some things have been taken, because you hear stories, you see - whereas it could just be lost in clutter. Still, coming home and seeing my alternate mask, a Mask of Speed, gone from its usual place on the table... that's why I want one of these machines."Zuruk nodded, and gave his Gadget a command. "Then if you just tell the Gadget your name, your account number, or that you'll be paying me directly, I'll set one up and order it to follow you back home!" he said with a smile.The Turaga paid, and then Zuruk opened a Cleanbot package, set Khaza as its owner, and then ordered it to follow its owner. Khaza walked off cheerily with the robot hovering along.Makan was up next. The Po-Matoran stepped forward at Zuruk's gesture."Right. Your name, please?" Zuruk asked."Makan," he answered. "And here is proof of my BZ-Koro citizenship." Makan had been foresighted enough to expect that Zuruk might ask for identification in order to protect himself as a member of Team Cipher.Though I hadn't quite expected it to happen like this..."Then hello, Makan. Why is it that you want a Cleanbot?" Zuruk asked.Makan hesitated. "Well, because I'm a Kanoka Disk collector and a merchant, and I'd like to be able to keep my collection clean. But... I'm here because I wanted to talk to you - about your investigation."Zuruk studied him curiously. "Oh? Do you know something about the crime ring, then?" There was a sharp tone to his voice that had not been there before."No, not that. What I mean is, well... I don't know if you know how bad crime is in BZ-Koro right now. It's at an all-time high."Zuruk nodded. "I'm beginning to see that," he responded. "Turaga Khaza was certainly not the first person who mentioned it today. If that's all you wanted...""No! I mean, the thieves stole... a valuable item from me. A Kanoka Disk of Blue Energy - the pride of my collection! And I have no idea how they got it! My security wasn't broken into or anything... it's like it just vanished. I thought that might be useful for you to know."Zuruk stared at him again. "This might have just paid off... and not just financially," he muttered under his breath."What?" asked Makan, curiously."Nothing," the Toa of Ice said dismissively. "Now, do you have anything else I need to know? Or shall I set you up with a Cleanbot now?"Makan shrugged. "I don't think there's anything else - wait, there was one thing. I talked to an Iron Agori a little while ago, and he expressed concern that this theft is involved in a larger plot to separate Clysmax, Promathus, and Alarist.""How so?" asked Zuruk."Well, recently the Onu-Clysmax Totem, linking Alarist and Clysmax, was stolen. Now, the Islands of Life Totem linking Alarist and Promathus was stolen. There's no easy way to get from Alarist to Clysmax or from Alarist to Promathus anymore - doesn't that seem like it would be an unlikely coincidence?"Zuruk's eyes went wide. "And you didn't get the name of this Iron Agori? I would have liked to talk to him." Makan shook his head. "Oh well. I'll definitely bear that in mind... and now, if you would give your information to this Gadget, I'll get you a Cleanbot."Makan proceeded to go through the rest of the checkout process, and then walked away from the Promathus Forum, feeling uncertain.At least he had gotten his concerns to Zuruk, and the Toa of Ice had seemed strangely affected by Makan's theft, as if there were more to this.I think I'll stick around for a while, Makan decided, and maybe debate that Iron Agori's ideas in the rest of the forum. With a Cleanbot at his back, the Po-Matoran headed to find someone he could argue with.

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The rest of the customers passed through without much incident. Zuruk was still bothered by what Makan had said - it was preventing him from experiencing the joy of making money.So, we've basically established that the Alarist Underground has some kind of teleporter. They've used it at least three times: to steal Makan's Kanoka disk, to beam explosives into the ITH, and to beam out the Olmak Totem itself.That last bit still bothered Zuruk. He hadn't gotten a response from Dataguard Alpha yet, so he still wasn't sure if an Olmak Totem even could be teleported. Yet all the evidence suggested that it had been.And could there really be a link between the Alarist Underground and the Ice Fragment?That had already occurred to Zuruk, but to hear someone else propose it worried him even more. Either the Ice Fragment was sponsoring crime on Alarist, which (assuming the Totems were found) would likely lead to war between Alarist and Ice, or a third party was organizing both groups.Like Izumal?It was easy to blame that world for everything. But who else would it be?He was interrupted in his reverie by the roar of a Aerospace Plane R-10 overhead. It circled the Promathus Forum and landed.Out of it emerged a small group of well-armed Matoran. Their leader was a yellow and light-blue colored Matoran with heavy armor, carrying a large sword that would seemingly have been far too heavy for him to carry.The others were carrying a variety of weapons. One green Matoran was carrying an Eccentric Rock and Zuruk guessed there were more in his backpack. Another held a Lightstone Rifle - Zuruk wasn't quite sure why, unless that Matoran expected the Alarist Underground to consist primarily of Shadow beings.They approached him."My name is Levitaas, Matoran of Lightning and commander of AAG Elite Security Squad 5T. We've been sent to assist you in your investigation," the leader said. Zuruk nodded."To that extent, I require that you provide me with everything you have learned thus far, and what your plan of action is for the future," continued Levitaas.Zuruk found himself disliking this Matoran. It wasn't that Levitaas was arrogant, it was just that... he seemed too cold. Too focused on completing his mission. Zuruk guessed this was one of those Matoran who wanted so desperately to become a Toa they would sacrifice everything else in pursuit of that goal.He quickly filled the Matoran commander in on everything he had learned. Levitaas frowned."But do we have any way to figure out where this teleporter is?" the Matoran asked."Not that I know of," Zuruk said with a sigh. "I was going to report in to Toa Hanashi, unless something else came up, to see if any other Team Cipher members had any suggestions. I might as well do that now."He called for his Gadget.

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Artakha felt around this new environment. He realized "look" was probably not the best way to think of what he was doing.At first, all he was conscious of was pulsing, purple energy all around him. He seemed to be moving, but he wasn't sure if that was just an illusion.Then, he felt like there were objects all around him, but he couldn't identify what they were. He tried "feeling" them, but wasn't sure what his feelings meant.Curious, he thought. This was not what he was expecting.Artakha concentrated, and felt for the "edges" of this space. At the touch of his mind - or whatever sense he was using in here - there was a reaction. Suddenly he could "see" the outside world beyond the Star Portal.There was Bluespace and... seemingly nothing else. Frowning, Artakha tried again, and now could see the eight planets, partially obscured by Bluespace. He concentrated a third time, and now beheld the Wiki-Nui Museum.It was evident to him that this was a form of interface for transit in and out of the Star Portal, and he was zooming in on his current location.Now he saw the airship. This time, Artakha thought of a person - Aikla, the lead scientist.Artakha saw her, talking with a Skakdi associate. He couldn't hear them, however.Time to test teleportation. Artakha pushed with his mind...

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Aikla looked up from her conversation with her second-in-command, as a column of purple light appeared in front of her.She hesitated for a second, then grabbed an Impact Crystal Launcher - you never quite knew what would come back from the Star Portal.However, she casually threw it aside when she saw the features of Artakha begin to take form."Welcome back," she said. "This is Yhamkut, my second-in-command on this research team. What did you observe?"Artakha shrugged. "A strange environment. It felt like at first my mind had been transformed into pure energy and sucked into an alternate dimension that went on forever. Then, I could feel other objects in there with me- lots of them floating around. And then I could feel the outside world, and I quickly deduced how to use that 'feeling' to escape."Aikla frowned. "Most of that is normal to observers... but you say you felt lots of other objects in there?" Artakha nodded. "That is unusual. In the past, there have only been a handful of other objects."Artakha nodded again. "So could the change in volume of the Star Portal have resulted from it absorbing some non-organic objects?""Possibly," replied the female Vortixx, "But I don't think there's ever been an opportunity for that to happen.""Well, in any case, I do have some ideas as to how it works, and if I'm right, it should be possible to modify your scanning equipment to see inside the Star Portal and obtain a detailed scan of its contents."Aikla noticed that Yhamkut was looking very excited when Artakha said that. Then again, so was she."How?" asked the Skakdi researcher.Artakha was about to reply when his Gadget beeped. He apologized and answered it.It was Hanashi. "Artakha! I'm sorry to interrupt your work, but we've just got reports that the Totem Machine in the Museum has stopped working. It doesn't seem to be generating any Blue Energy anymore."Artakha's eyes widened. "When did that happen?""Apparently there was a noticeable energy drain since this morning - about six hours ago, according to ITH Security- it only totally failed now. But, you need to fix it now, before the Agents show up."Artakha's mind was racing. Six hours ago, the wings of the Star Portal had begun beating faster. Six hours ago, Blue Energy had begun to drain from his Olmak Totem Machine, just in the Museum below.There was a connection, Artakha was sure of it."I believe that getting to the bottom of the Star Portal may solve the Totem Machine's problem, Hanashi. The two began behaving oddly at around the same time. I believe if I can identify why the Star Portal is behaving differently, and reverse it, the Totem Machine will begin working again.""How long do you expect that to take?" Hanashi asked. Artakha sighed."I don't know. But I doubt I could fix the Totem Machine anyway, if my theories are correct, without working on the Star Portal first.'Hanashi paused. "Alright. I'll give you six hours to work on the Star Portal. If you can't fix it after six hours... we need to do something about the Totem Machine. Good luck."She closed the line. Artakha turned back to the scientists, determined to get to the bottom of this.

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Edited by TakunuvaC01, Jun 11 2012 - 10:52 AM.

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#6 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jun 19 2012 - 01:57 PM

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The Matoran named Sorek was presently running for his life.When he had arrived on Promathus a few weeks ago, it didn’t take him long to hear the big news- that Experimental Industries and Phantoka Motors were working together on a new line of spacecraft to better compete with Lake Aerospace.The rumors were that advanced, top-secret EI inventions were being combined with standard Phantoka Motors designs in a secret, reinforced factory jointly owned by both big corporations.While even in his Aethion, other Industrial companies commonly contracted EI to do research and prototype testing for them, an alliance of this magnitude was unprecedented.But this was not his Aethion. This was one of many parallel worlds, similar yet different in a handful of ways, either smaller or larger. And investigating such parallel worlds was Sorek’s duty.The organization he worked for had sent him here for the same reason he had been sent anywhere else - to observe, to learn. To gather intelligence that they could better use in their nefarious schemes, to study technology that might be of use to them.Sorek had been given an extremely advanced piece of technology that was reputedly of Izumal origin - a dimensional beacon in the shape of a pen. As long as it was in his possession, Sorek’s handlers could lock onto his signal and move him from dimension to dimension. From alternate versions of Aethion to breathtakingly alien worlds, from cities of silver to fields of darkness, from variations on the Bionicle Core Dimension to realms where nothing seemed to make sense at all- he had seen all of these.Unfortunately, he spent less time in the truly exotic worlds than he would like, because generally they were of little interest to his handlers. He wanted to explore, while his handlers merely wanted to gain any edge over any competition. So, they had neglected to allow Sorek to control his own travel.He went where he was sent. Which was a problem when he entered dangerous situations and needed to escape.Like right now, when he was running for his life from three Rahkshi enforcers of The Guild. After he had been caught trying to access the secret research factory, Makuta Anaana had ordered his termination and sent her minions to hunt him down.Sorek’s thoughts returned to the present as a blast of energy zoomed over his shoulder and struck a nearby warehouse. It exploded.He grabbed the beacon from his backpack and shook it furiously. He knew that this probably wouldn't do anything, but he was desperate.More blasts of energy were fired, narrowly missing the running Matoran. But it seemed as though the blasts were growing less frequent - could the guards be tiring out?Then, from nowhere, a Teleportation Rahkshi faded into existence. Sorek ran straight into it.It grabbed him and restrained him as the other guards approached with their staffs raised. They hissed something at him in unison.Sorek furiously kicked at the Teleportation Rahkshi, but he wasn't strong enough to break free.Then he felt a tingling sensation. He looked down, and sure enough the beacon was glowing."Ha!" shouted Sorek. "I'm afraid I'll be on my way now. Thanks for your hospitality, but I've got my own dimension to get back to," he said with an arrogant smirk. The Rahkshi looked at each other in confusion.Then the leader shrugged, and fired.The blast, however, did not strike Sorek. Instead, it struck the pillar of purple light where Sorek had been.

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Zuruk sighed as he watched Levitaas pace around the ITH security room they were using as a command center.Finally, the Matoran stood up, exasperated."In the absence of any alternative, I'm going to order my security team to perform a sweep of the Islands of Life. If the Underground has a teleporter, I highly doubt it is a very powerful one. They must be operating somewhere on this island!""So... you're going to deploy your entire detachment of eight Matoran to search the entire area? That doesn't seem like it would be very effective, does it?" Zuruk retorted."I don't suppose you have any better ideas, do you, Toa?" fired back Levitaas, who was using the word Toa not for respect but almost as an insult.Zuruk had to admit he did not."But you could at least call in for reinforcements from the AAG if you plan to search the entire region," added the Toa of Sonics. Levitaas nodded."I think I will do that," he said, and activated his own Gadget. Levitaas barked orders at it for a minute or so while Zuruk watched and tried to think of something better than sweeping the inner islands.Levitaas returned, looking smug. "We'll have two additional teams in within the next half hour. We don't need to cover the entire region- just establish a presence to deal with any criminal activity. If it's as common as the Matoran here claim, it shouldn't be difficult."Zuruk nodded. He was less optimistic. If the Alarist Underground was using a teleporter, it wouldn't matter how many troops Levitaas had stationed.Then, a column of purple light began to appear in the room. The two of them moved cautiously away from it."What is it?" shouted Levitaas, alarmed."How should I know?" asked Zuruk. "But it looks like... a teleportation field of some sort..."As the column grew more distinct, an awful thought struck Zuruk.Kyn had reported in saying that the criminals had definitely used a teleporter of some sort to beam explosives into the ITH.Hanashi had publicly named him as the leader of this investigation, and he had just performed a rather public display. The crime ring could probably see through his sale."Get out!" shouted Zuruk. "They're teleporting in a bomb!"Levitaas, who was closer to the door, decided not to argue and rushed out.Zuruk jumped, diving through the door just as the light began to dissipate.A massive explosion erupted behind Zuruk as he hit the pavement. Just as he struck the ground, it lifted him off his feet and flung him back through the air.While in midair, Zuruk concentrated, channeling his ice power as best he could. Walls of ice began to form behind Zuruk, right in the path of the explosion.The part of the ITH that they had been using as a command center shattered, but Zuruk was able to stop debris and rubble from hitting the gathered security team or any civilians still in the area.He struck the ground a second time, and then got up.Before anyone could do anything - Levitaas looked like he was about to give his team an order - another column of purple light began to appear. Zuruk raised his two swords to channel his ice and freeze it, but stopping the first explosion had taken too much out of him.Fortunately, this was not another explosion. Instead, the teleportation beam resolved into a Matoran wearing a cloak and apparently unarmed.Levitaas barked an order, and the members of his team with projectile weapons aimed them.The Matoran looked around, sighed, and raised his hands.

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It had not taken long for them to set up yet another makeshift command center, this one some distance away from the Promathus Forum. Their Matoran prisoner was now sitting across a table from Levitaas and Sorek while a member of Levitaas's team searched the Matoran's pack."Nothing much in here... except for this," said the security officer, placing a strange cylindrical pen-shaped device on the table. It was made of silver machinery, and glowed with a blue light."What is this?" asked Levitaas. The Matoran smiled, amused."I'm impressed - your sort always asks for names first. It's a keepsake of mine, a little utilitarian gadget that I'd quite like back," he replied. "Oh, and since you haven't asked, my name is Sorek. Sorek the Observer."Levitaas snorted in disdain. "Well, Sorek, if you want this back, there's no way I'm going to let you have it right now." The Matoran of Lightning grabbed the strange device and put it aside.Zuruk, however, was deep in thought."Sorek? That name sounds familiar," he said. "Have we met before somewhere? On Promathus, possibly?"Sorek frowned. "Promathus? Promathus... haven't been there recently. Well, okay- technically I was just there, but you weren’t, and that doesn’t count anyway. Wait... what did you say your name was?"Levitaas was about to interrupt, but Zuruk waved him off, curious about this strange Matoran. Could he know something of my past?"I didn't, as a matter of fact. But my name is Zuruk. I'm a Toa of Ice, serving as second-in-command of Team Cipher. I've also been an employee of Miscellaneous Enterprises on Promathus, for a century, and I'm currently launching the Enigma Line for them."Sorek frowned again. "But I seem to remember seeing you somewhere else... your voice sounds familiar... Alarist? Couple hundred years ago?""I'm afraid I don't remember anything of my past life before the year 400- at that point, I appeared on Promathus in an Olmak Effect with no memories," Zuruk replied, excited. "You say I was on Alarist two hundred years ago?"Sorek nodded slowly. "I think so... but... wait a minute... that can't be right. I should be on the other side of the table if I'm right. Unless... oh dear... I see..." Sorek trailed off."What is it?" demanded Zuruk. "What do you know of my past life?"Sorek shook his head. "Sorry, I don't think I'm allowed to tell you. They control my teleportation, you see, so if I do something to annoy them, well... if I wasn't valuable, I'd probably look like your ITH over there," the Matoran said with a wave of his hand."So you do work for the Alarist Underground!" thundered Levitaas. "You are a self-admitted criminal, and probably a thief and killer! You are responsible for the thefts that could only have been committed by a teleporter! Admit it!"Sorek rose angrily. "I am not a killer! I am sworn never to interfere - only to watch! My job is to learn, to gather information!""For a gang of criminals?" retorted Levitaas. "What were you doing here, then?""They sent me to observe events!" Sorek shouted. "I wasn't here to kill anyone! Just to report back what I see, like always!"Zuruk took over again. "So the crime ring decided my investigation could become a problem, and so used their teleportation system to beam in a bomb, and then you to make sure it worked?"Sorek nodded cautiously. "That's the basics of it, yes.""Then tell us the rest of it, and I'll recommend the AAG treat you with leniency," Zuruk responded.Sorek shook his head. "I'll tell you what I know, but under one condition - you give me back my device. It's... it's a teleportation beacon that interfaces with the crime ring's equipment to beam me around Aethion.""Out of the question," said Levitaas coolly, turning to Zuruk. "He is a prisoner and an admitted criminal - we cannot let him go free.""For hundreds of years I've done my best to help people!" Sorek said angrily. "I was ordered to stay out of events, but I always did my best to make things better for the people of the worlds! Criminal? By association, yes. But I've never actually done anything wrong!""You have gathered intelligence that the crime ring has used to enact schemes, I'm sure," Levitaas returned. "We could charge you with aiding and abetting criminal activity."Zuruk sighed, weary of the argument between Levitaas and Sorek. "I'll accept your deal," he said. "You can have your device back, but you're going to tell us everything we want to know first."Sorek nodded. "Agreed." Levitaas glared at Zuruk and headed out of the room to organize his sweep of the island.

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Kyn waited anxiously at the Ga-Clysmax ITH.He had spoken to high-ranking Ta-Clysmax intelligence officials. While the Allied Fragments weren't certain, there was evidence to suggest that Ko-Clysmax was working with the Alarist Underground.For instance, two weeks ago in BZ-Koro, an AAG warehouse containing a new prototype engine for government vehicles had been raided. It was not a Phantoka Motors product - instead, it had been produced by a small tech company on Alarist.Two days later, Ice Fragment fighters had been observed to have improved engine designs.Kyn wasn't sure about how the two parties were transferring materials back and forth. He concluded they must have some sort of teleporter, or possibly a hack into a Cargo Star.In any event, Ta-Clysmax intelligence had concluded that if the two parties were working together, all the evidence suggested there would be an attack on one of the Totems linking Clysmax to Promathus.Kyn, accompanied by Ta-Clysmax soldiers, had quickly flown to Ga-Clysmax to bolster the defenses of the ITH.He sighed. "Any sign of Ko-Clysmax attackers?" Kyn asked the commander, a Toa of Fire.The Toa studied a monitor. "Nothing that we can see.""Then we have to consider the possibility that the attack will occur on Promathus. All the ITHs have been reinforced since Ko-Clysmax's surprise attack on the Onu-Clysmax ITH, so perhaps they'd take their chances with Phantoka Motors." Kyn responded."Possibly," began the Toa of Fire, "but I think-"What the Toa of Fire thought went unstated as alarms began to ring. The two of them looked up and saw a fleet of DarkFly fighters and Eclipse frigates on approach."Where did they come from? How could we not detect them?" shouted Kyn, over the alarms."They must have been upgraded with improved stealth technology," the Toa of Fire replied. He did not say anything else, but instead ran for the Totem room. Kyn followed him.It did not take them too long to reach the Totem room. Civilians waiting in line for the Totem had scattered and sought shelter from the attack.Kyn looked around the room. Ta-Clysmax soldiers were there, with their weapons ready.Conspicuously, ITH Security was absent. Kyn wondered why.He had no time to ask, however, as a Glatorian, consulting a Gadget display, shouted, "Brace yourselves!"The entire building shook. Kyn guessed that an Eclipse frigate was overhead dropping bombs. That worried him.The Ga-Clysmax ITH was on an island in the lake- it was not underwater. For ease of access from the depths, however, portions of the structure were underground. The Totem Room was not - but this meant that there was nothing above the Totem Room.The roof exploded, and two Toa of Ice, followed by two Ice Glatorian, dropped through. Kyn remembered they had used this tactic before to steal the Onu-Clysmax Totem."Get them!" shouted the Toa of Fire. Elemental blasts and the fire of projectile weapons erupted throughout the chamber."I'll guard the Totem!" shouted Kyn.The first of the intruders to make a move for the Totem was one of the Ice Glatorian. He charged Kyn with his sword and a sneer on his face - not expecting a mere Matoran to put up much resistance.He didn't know that this mere Matoran had once been Arrik Xell, champion of the Titanheart Clan on Barrawahi.Kyn jumped aside, and fired his Fireworks Revolver as he did so. The Ice Glatorian had not been expecting much of a fight, and certainly wasn't expecting to take fireworks at close range. Stunned, he fell backwards.Kyn glanced around. The other three commandos were being dealt with by the Ta-Clysmax soldiers. He decided a prisoner could prove useful - and so kept a watch on the knocked out Ice Glatorian.The other three were soon dealt with - they fled back to their ship, seeing that the battle was lost - and through the remains of the roof, Kyn saw Fire Fragment ships driving off the Ice attackers."Sir?" he said, "I've captured one of them."

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#7 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jun 27 2012 - 09:28 AM

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Zuruk's mind reeled with the information he had just learned from Sorek. After a few moments, he remembered the deal."Well, as promised, you may have your teleport beacon back. But you said that your handlers would know if you betrayed them by talking about my past. Won't they know what just transpired as well?"Sorek shrugged. "It's a matter of importance. As best as I can tell, this plan is only being backed by one of the major syndicate leaders - whereas all of them agree that your origins must be kept secret. Now - device, please?"Zuruk stared. That meant that his origin was more important than the theft of the Promathus Totem?Sorek prompted him again, "I'd like to get out of here, you know."Zuruk frowned. He was suddenly unwilling to let the Matoran go so easily... but... a principle sacred to Promathans was the deal. Zuruk had made one: and there were no loopholes for him to exploit."Fine," he said, and handed the strange Matoran his device. Almost instantly, he began to fade in a column of purple light. Soon, there was no sign that Sorek had ever been there.Zuruk wondered where he was off to, and wondered what he was going to do now.After a few minutes of thought, he decided that there was no good solution - at least, no solution that he could come up with on his own.So he decided to make this somebody else's problem."Call Hanashi, please," he said to his Gadget. Contact was quickly established.It took considerably longer for Zuruk to explain the current situation. Before he could fully explain all the details, Hanashi raised a hand."I think it would be better if we talked about this as a group, and you explained the situation to everyone at once," she said.Zuruk frowned. "I thought this subspace Gadget channel only allowed for one-way communications?" he asked.Hanashi nodded. "Well, that's true, but Karzahni has been working on fixing that. He's almost finished setting up a subspace network protocol that we can use to communicate as a group. There are still some problems to be worked out, though.""So, what do I need to do to connect to this network?" Zuruk asked."Nothing," Hanashi replied. "Close this call, and wait until you get a Gadget message inviting you into the network. Then accept it."Zuruk nodded, and did as instructed.A few minutes later, his Gadget beeped. Sure enough, on the screen was an invite to a secure Team Cipher Network.Group communication through Gadget was possible but slow, especially when it was routed through Cargo Star Internet. In this case, however, Karzahni was running a subspace network on Team Cipher's mobile headquarters.Zuruk suspected such a network was more vulnerable to being detected and intercepted by the Agents. But it was the best they could do.He accepted the invitation, and six windows popped up on the Gadget's screen. Hanashi's face the first one (and Zuruk guessed that Karzahni was there as well, but off-camera). The second was Kyn's - in the background, Zuruk saw a damaged building, and wondered what had happened on Clysmax since Kyn's last message. The third was Artakha, who looked to be on an airship of some sort.The fourth was Khiri, the fifth was the ghostly form of Bajnok, and the sixth was M'konglii.Hanashi began. "I'm glad to see that the network is working." Everyone nodded or made some small comment in response to demonstrate that their connection was functioning."Now, our main crisis is the theft of the Promathus Totem from BZ-Koro. Before we get to that, however, I'd like to invite other members of the team the opportunity to make reports on their current missions. Mik, you can start."The Jungle Glatorian nodded. "As ordered, I've begun trying to negotiate passage with the various tribes of Atohune, in order to allow people from Alarist, Promathus, and Clysmax to use the Totems here, as a backup in case an incident like this happens again in the future. It's been slow going, unfortunately. The tribe that holds the Clysmax Totem is currently at war with many of the other tribes around them. Both sides are willing to allow people from other worlds through- as long as they don't go to the territories of their enemies.""Do you think you can make them come to an agreement?" asked Hanashi."I'm afraid it looks unlikely," M'konglii said. "I think our best bet is to wait until the Totem has been moved to another, more peaceful tribe."Hanashi sighed. "Alright. Kyn? You look like you have something to say."Kyn nodded gravely. "A few hours ago, the forces of the Ice Fragment launched a raid on the Fire Fragment. Their target was my home. Fortunately, they were fought off by our defense force, assisted by my robots."Curious as to why they were targeting me, I consulted with the leaders of the Fire Fragment. Their intelligence suggested that the raid on my Hut Mansion would be followed with an attempt to seize the Totem leading from Ga-Clysmax to Promathus. I set off to the Ga-Clysmax ITH at once, accompanied by soldiers from the Fire Fragment."The Totem was indeed attacked, though we were able to fight the Ice Fragment off. What worries me, though, is the timing of all this. Several days ago, the Clysmax to Alarist Totem is stolen. This morning, the Alarist to Promathus Totem is stolen. And now... there was an attempt to steal the Clysmax to Promathus Totem. As if someone is trying to cut the three allied worlds off from each other.""What about Barrawahi or Atohune?" Bajnok asked. His ghostly form did not diminish the volume of his voice. "Half of the Barrawahi clans, and almost all of the Atohune tribes, are on our side. Why not steal their Totems too?"Kyn shrugged. "Those Totems could be next, for all we know."Zuruk spoke up. "Some of the inhabitants of BZ-Koro have come to the same conclusion. The most common theories are either that the crime ring has allied with the Ice Fragment, and is supplying Ice with money in exchange for weapons or soldiers or... something, or that the Agents are manipulating both groups."Karzahni's face appeared in the background of Hanashi's screen. "While normally, I'd say it's unlikely that Izumal would go to such lengths, I thought the same about the recruitment of Toa Merx as an Agent. Izumal has done things I'd have never expect them to do recently. Manipulating a crime syndicate and an evil kingdom is mundane in comparison.""So you think Izumal is behind this?" Zuruk asked.Karzahni shrugged. "Maybe. It's possible, but it's just as likely that the two groups have formed an alliance of necessity.""Whether these conspiracy theories are true or not, all the worlds must beef up security on all our remaining Totems," Kyn warned. "Detachments of Ta-Clysmax soldiers have already been dispatched to guard the remaining Totems."Hanashi nodded. "The AAG is doing the same as we speak," she said."On Barrawahi, of course, the clans controlling a Totem would fight to the death to defend it. You do not have to worry about the security of our totems." Bajnok said."The same is true on Promathus," Zuruk added. "It is a matter of business to the companies and unions controlling a Totem - they will also be well guarded. But, once this matter is cleared up and I am able to reach Promathus, I intend to bring this up in the negotiations."Khiri sighed. "On Tanuuk, I wish the Totems were less well defended. Either way, the crime syndicate and Ice are more likely to be allies with King Taa then enemies."M'konglii frowned. "That leaves Atohune... where the Totems are the least secure. It is true that if anyone made an attempt to steal one, the tribe holding the Totem would sacrifice their lives to defend it. But it would probably be much easier to defeat them than it would be to defeat, say, an army of Ta-Clysmax soldiers or AAG enforcers." Zuruk wondered if it pained the Glatorian to admit this weakness in the people of his homeworld."That is one of the reasons your negotiations must succeed, Mik," Hanashi said, nodding. "Anyway, I think we've covered that pretty thoroughly. Artakha, you had a report?"The Toa of Magnetism nodded. "Indeed. I haven't been able to discover much about the Star Portal-" Zuruk's eyes widened- "But I do have some disturbing news to report."The Portal has undergone several curious changes. The ball of purple and black energy has increased in size. The wings have begun to spin faster. Both of these changes began this morning, and baffled the research team."At exactly the same time as these changes occurred, the Totem Bulwark Machine in the Museum began to suffer from a Bluespace drain. The drain intensified, until it stopped working completely not long ago. Because none of the other Totem Machines suffered a similar drain, I can only conclude that the Star Portal is causing the drain. Two theories came to mind: either the Star Portal is using the Bluespace as a power source, causing the increased size and faster wing motion; or the Star Portal serves to dampen Blue Energy and Bluespace when under certain conditions."Fortunately, there was a Toa of Blue Energy serving on the research team. I had him attempt to summon Blue Energy on the research vessel orbiting the Star Portal. He was unable to do so. Then, we boarded an Aerospace Jet R-10 and flew away from the Star Portal. Once outside a certain distance - a couple hundred kio - he was able to.""As a result, I believe I have uncovered a, if not the, purpose of the Star Portal - to normalize Bluespace. You may have heard about the recent discovery that all space in Aethion is technically Bluespace, but when there is no air or gravity it becomes "bumpy" Bluespace? Well, I believe that the Star Portal was built to smooth out the bumps when activated. I still don't know what activates it, however."Khiri's eyes widened. "So you're saying this device is a... "spaceformer"? Meant to get rid of Bluespace in our universe?""It could very well be," replied Artakha."Then - why is there still Bluespace out there?" she asked. "If this works - which obviously it does - why not use it and get rid of the Bluespace?"Artakha shrugged. "I suspect it's because of power. We still don't know why it does what it does, and can't even begin to guess at how. It's been turned on somehow, and the radius of its effect is only about a hundred kio. Hardly enough to 'spaceform' a universe.""Or," offered Bajnok, "this could not be its intended function at all. It may be intended for travel of some kind, or possibly combat. It would not be unusual to find an advanced device and put it to an unintended purpose." Zuruk wondered if Bajnok was speaking from experience - he wondered what Bajnok's staff, with its Izumal power source, really could do.But Bajnok's comment about travel made Hanashi perk up. "Travel? Could this be used as, I don't know, a ship of some kind? To travel through the Bluespace wall to other planets? If it could maintain a bubble of normal space around itself..."Artakha raised his hands. "Quite possibly. But I think it's more important that we find out why it's doing this."Zuruk decided it was as good a time as any to speak up. "I'm afraid I may have an idea as to what's behind this power. I think now would be a good time to explain the intelligence I've gathered, for reasons you will soon understand..."

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Zuruk first briefly explained what he had been up to - the sale of the Cleanbots, the arrival of Levitaas's team, the attack on the command center, and the unexpected appearance of Sorek."I agreed to let him go free, and to let him have his strange device back, if he told me everything he knew. And he did.""Recently, members of the Crime Syndicate learned that the Star Portal could be used to store objects, and that objects could be teleported into the Star Portal from range. I'm not totally clear on how they learned all this - Sorek said that they had a scientist working on the Star Portal research team, but added that most of what they knew came from analysis of two rather strange devices, artifacts from a dig on Atohune they had obtained.""These artifacts were actually discovered around fifty years ago. After some experimentation, the syndicate realized what they were - a teleportation system of unknown origin. One was a controller, and the other was a beacon. Whoever held the controller could teleport whoever held the beacon wherever the controller wanted them to go. And they could go anywhere - through the Bluespace wall, to other universes - anywhere.""At the time, the syndicate had no idea how they worked. But they realized what an advantage they could be. With them, they could deploy an operative absolutely anywhere, and be able to bring him back.""So is this how the Underground stole the Alarist Totem? Using these devices?" interrupted Bajnok.Zuruk shook his head. "Not quite. You see, Sorek said that the ringleaders of the syndicate decided that the device would be most useful as a way of gathering information. Sorek was already working for them as one of many spies - watching events on Alarist and passing them on to his handlers. They decided he could become a 'dimensional chronicler' of sorts - watching events on the other worlds and in other universes - all to gather information that might benefit the syndicate somehow.""Sorek claimed that while his orders were to merely observe events, he often intervened on the side of good, because he is not actually an evil person. I'm not sure I believe him," Zuruk added hastily, to forestall another interruption by Bajnok, "But it doesn't matter. Let's move on.""When the Star Portal was unearthed ten years ago, the Underground's scientists who had studied their teleportation devices recognized some similarities. They concluded that all three artifacts - the Star Portal, the controller, and the beacon - were made by the same people. So, one of them was sent to infiltrate the Star Portal research team."Zuruk noticed Artakha's eyes widen when he mentioned this, and remembered that Artakha was currently with the Star Portal research team- or at least nearby them.He continued. "Recently, the Crime Syndicate came into possession of another teleportation device. This one was made for them by a group on Promathus. It used the Cargo Star network."Kyn frowned. "If they had a much more advanced teleporter, why did they need a less-advanced one that couldn't penetrate the Bluespace wall?""Good question. The problem with using Sorek's device to actually commit crimes was that it required Sorek's physical presence. Someone had to hold onto the beacon, appear, and then carry out the crime. I'll bet that the syndicate wanted something that could be used to teleport objects remotely, with no trace of the perpetrator."Zuruk was about to add something like, 'That's what I'd want to be able to do if I was them"- then wondered where that thought had come from. He wasn't a criminal."Anyway. Then, one of their ringleaders had an idea. He wondered if they could use the teleporter to beam an object into the Star Portal. It would be an ultimate hiding spot. Who would think to look there? And even if someone did - the reports from the research team suggest that while there may be objects in the Star Portal, they are indistinguishable."Hanashi figured out where he was going. "So they used the Star Portal to teleport explosives into the ITH - to make it look like an attack was going on- then teleport out the Olmak Totem... into the Star Portal!""Of course!" Artakha exclaimed. "The Star Portal must use the Olmak Totem as its energy source!"M'konglii then asked, "How can we know that this Sorek was telling the truth? He's a self-admitted criminal."Zuruk nodded. 'That's true. As I said, I made a bargain with him. He could have his teleportation beacon back if he told me everything he knew. And it's possible he's lying, but why would he?""His superiors would punish him gravely if they found out he had told you everything. Better to lie and escape than to tell the truth and escape," Bajnok said.Hanashi nodded. "It's possible he is lying. But we must consider the possibility he is not. If the Star Portal does contain the Olmak Totem, then we must find a way to get it out at once. If he is lying, and the Star Portal is irrelevant to the Olmak Totem, then all we will have done is eliminated a possible answer and solved a very interesting scientific mystery. There is no downside to following up on this."

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#8 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jul 02 2012 - 12:44 PM

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Elsewhere, Sorek was currently struggling to breathe.This was probably because one of the Syndicate's senior ringleaders had him by the throat up against a wall.After several agonizing seconds that seemed to go on for eternity, the leader threw Sorek to the ground. The impact hurt, but not nearly as much as being strangled."You told them about the Star Portal? And you dared to come back here?" roared the irate Makuta."I didn't have much of a choice!" shouted Sorek. "I was being interrogated by Zuruk... I didn't want to accidentally let slip... it, you know. And if I didn't make a deal of some sort, I'd have been thrown into a secret AAG prison and interrogated... eventually everything would come out about it."The criminal kingpin stopped dead. "Zuruk?""Well, yes," Sorek replied as he got up. "You did know that he's a member of Team Cipher and has been placed in charge of the investigation, correct?"Few would dare take that tone with a senior member of the Alarist Underground, but Sorek was one of the rare exceptions. While he might occasionally suffer physical punishment, his knowledge and experiences made him too valuable to be killed.And he knew it."Yes," the leader said. "I did... did he give any sign that he remembered?""I don't think so," Sorek replied. "I could be wrong, of course - he might be a very good actor. But I doubt it."The Makuta frowned, making his glowing red eyes sink even further into his already furrowed Mask of Calculation. "If they know about the Star Portal, then we only have one course of action left: seize it." He turned to a watching henchman. "Assemble a strike squad. I'll be leading them personally. Also, prepare a diversion in BZ-Koro to cover up our movements, and signal our inside operative to begin taking steps."After the henchmen left, the ringleader went on, apparently to himself, "And with Zuruk out of the way, we can continue to scale up our operations."Sorek frowned. He didn't particularly like this leader of the Syndicate, and he certainly didn't like the idea of the Syndicate taking criminal activity to another new level. If only he could go out there and warn Zuruk and his allies what was about to happen......yet I am relegated to the position of observer, powerless, as I have been for years.He sighed, shook his head, and headed to find out what he was to do next.

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Zuruk terminated the channel and headed to find Levitaas. This was not hard - the Matoran of Lightning was arguing with someone right outside the command center.Zuruk waited patiently until Levitaas terminated the gadget call, and walked up to him."We have a plan. We think that the Underground has hidden the Olmak Totem inside the Star Portal. However, we've also learned that there may be a traitor among the Star Portal research team. As a result, I'm going to fly over to the Wiki-Nui Museum - and I'd like you to accompany me there with your team."Levitaas frowned. "We've just located what we believe to be a meeting place for the Underground. I've been setting up a stakeout operation there. This could be a chance to crush their operations in BZ-Koro!"Zuruk frowned as well, and thought about Levitaas's character. "Then I'll go alone. You can remain here to direct operations in BZ-Koro. The Star Portal could be very dangerous, and I can't allow Matoran to place themselves at risk there."Levitaas's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying you don't think I'm qualified to defend the Star Portal because I'm a Matoran? You think I should stay here and command from behind a bunker?""Well, I just think it's smart to take precautions, you know-" Zuruk began, but the outraged Matoran cut him off."Well, you think wrong! I'm as qualified as any Toa! Forget this useless stakeout - I'm coming with you whether you like it or not!" he snapped."If you insist," Zuruk said shrugging, but when Levitaas turned away to his Gadget to make a request for air support to pick the two of them up and bring them to the Star Portal, the Toa of Ice could not resist a satisfied smirk.

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Artakha sighed as he logged off the Team Cipher network.He was still disturbed by the concept that one of the scientists whom he had been working with was a traitor. He had hoped that the scientists would be above wealth and mere physical rewards and focused on the joys of discovery.But apparently there was one member of the scientific team who did not feel that way.Artakha was not at all certain who it could be. For all he knew, it might be Aikla herself, or her second-in-command, Yhamkut.After a moment's thought, he decided it was unlikely it was Aikla. Based on what he knew from his occasional surveillance of Alarist for his true master, Revolution, he'd conclude that the leader of a research team would have to go through lots of security checks before being granted that post.That fit with what he knew of Toa Hanashi as well.He thought briefly about Yhamkut. The Skakdi was rather distant, but as far as Artakha knew, totally committed to unravelling the mysteries of the Star Portal. Yhamkut was the second-in-command, yes, but Artakha wondered if a second-in-command would be vetted nearly as much as the first-in-command.He decided his only option was to talk to Aikla.He passed Yhamkut on the way there. The Skakdi glanced at him with a curious expression, but then turned and headed for one of the laboratories. Artakha was busy deciding what he would say to Aikla and thought no more of it.Fortunately, when he got there, Aikla was alone.She looked up as he entered. "Any new discoveries to report?""In a sense," he replied. "Is this office secure?"Aikla nodded, seeming surprised. "Yes. I have to take secure transmissions from the AAG in here. It has to be."Artakha nodded, but nevertheless pulled out his Izumal scanner and looked around the room. There didn't appear to be any bugs."Okay. What I'm about to tell you I only just found out about from a Team Cipher briefing. You have a traitor in your midst. A member of the Alarist Underground, undercover as a scientist.""What?" exclaimed Aikla. "We've vetted everyone's records - I don't see how-""The people who put the traitor here are no doubt quite capable of falsifying records. They're the same people who just stole an Olmak Totem this morning. They're professionals."Aikla nodded unhappily. "Okay... and you want to know who I suspect?""Yes. I realize you trust your team implicitly, but surely someone must have been showing suspicious behavior," Artakha replied."Well, I... I wouldn't want to convict anyone simply because they like to work on their own, or..."Artakha cut her off. "Okay, let's do this in a more direct way. Yhamkut? Do you trust him?""Of course," Aikla said, even more surprised. "He's my second in command. He helped me vet the records of the others. In fact, he might be more likely to know who the traitor is."Artakha frowned, irritated. This was proving rather unproductive. While Aikla was clearly a competent scientist and capable of leading a research team, she didn't appear to be a very good judge of character.Then again, most scientists weren't.After questioning her on several other of the senior scientists, Artakha realized this was an exercise in futility. He left, and decided to seek out Yhamkut. Either Yhamkut was the traitor, and Artakha would be able to confront him and hopefully arrest him, or Yhamkut might have some clue as to who was the traitor.Artakha, entering one of the laboratories, nearly tripped over a piece of equipment strewn on the ground. This ended up saving his life, as an energy blast flew over his head.Artakha whirled around to see Yhamkut holding a Hagah Plasma Cannon.He didn't waste time talking - obviously Yhamkut was the traitor. Before the Skakdi could fire again, Artakha summoned his magnetism powers and attacked the traitor's weapon.A localized magnetic field formed around the cannon. The metals warped as parts began to attract or repel other parts randomly. Artakha maintained the field for just long enough to render the weapon useless.However, that did not seem to stop the Skakdi, who threw the cannon away and pressed a switch on the wall. A small locker was revealed, containing a pretty large collection of weaponry.Yhamkut selected a short sword made of a glistening black material and charged Artakha. He almost laughed, and summoned magnetism powers again. Instead of a field, he opted for a pulse - a lightning bolt of magnetism - aimed straight at the blade. That should have snapped the sword from the hands of its wielder.Instead, Artakha felt his magnetism powers reflected back on him. His metal armor locked together, constricting his movement, and his feet glued themselves to the floor.Yhamkut lowered the sword and grinned."A very well-designed alloy, with mixes of Element Resistant Glass and anti-elements, fresh from the factories of Promathus. It repels and amplifies the force of an elemental attack- as you've no doubt guessed," Yhamkut said smugly.Artakha didn't reply. He instead focused on breaking the magnetic bonds all around him, but he couldn't quite manage to gather the energy to do that."Your magnetic powers have been turned on you. The effect will wear off eventually, yes - about the time it will take me to repair the Hagah Plasma Cannon. In the mean time, you'll serve as an excellent hostage should Team Cipher arrive earlier than we've anticipated."Yhamkut pressed another switch, sealing the doors of the laboratory, and began working on the weapon Artakha had disabled.Artakha gave up on trying to break the magnetic fields himself, and instead activated his Kanohi Matatu. He then took a moment to consider what he could do.After a moment's thought, he decided that since he'd be unable to escape for some time, and since Yhamkut no doubt had reinforcements on the way, his priority should be to alert Team Cipher of the situation without letting Yhamkut know what he had done.But how can I do this?Artakha's equipment bag had fallen to the ground when he had dodged the plasma cannon blast. It had also opened, and Artakha could just see the contents.He was very familiar with the devices which he carried, and could run most of them blindfolded. The only thing in there that was of Izumal origin was his scanner, and one of the things the scanner could do was send a subspace distress signal.While Karzahni would almost certainly be able to pick it up, so would the City - and they might send an Agent or two to investigate.So be it.Artakha telekinetically reached into the bag and activated the distress.

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Karzahni glanced up from the controls of Team Cipher's flying Headquarters. He was feeling uneasy, and couldn't quite determine why.It was probably just the fact that they were entering an area no longer protected by a Totem Bulwark Machine. They were sitting ducks should the Agents choose to attack here.Hoping to assuage his fears, he ran a quick scan for subspace activity.And he saw the distress signal from Artakha. It was an automated signal, no doubt sent out by one of Artakha's gadgets.No! The Agents would be able to pick that up."We're in trouble," he muttered.Toa Hanashi turned to look at him. "What?" she asked."Artakha just sent out a subspace distress signal from the research ship," Karzahni reported. "And I'll bet Izumal will pick that up.""Oh no," said Hanashi. "Does he say what happened?""No, it was an automated signal," Karzahni replied. "I would surmise that he's uncovered the identity of the traitor and is either subdued or locked in battle- and this is the only way he can let us know he is in trouble without alerting the traitor."Hanashi sighed. "So we need to rescue Artakha before more members of the Underground arrive, and we need to prepare ourselves for a potential Agent incursion in response to this signal. Is that likely?""I don't know," Karzahni said, irritated. "But they may take advantage of the hole in our defenses anyway."Hanashi sighed again. "Send a message to Zuruk, letting him know of what we've learned. Also, tell him that should we be attacked by Agents, I want him and Levitaas to carry on to the Star Portal while we do our best to hold them off. Maybe we can lure them near one of the other Bulwark Machines."Karzahni knew the chances of that were slim, but he couldn't see a better option.

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Edited by TakunuvaC01, Jul 02 2012 - 01:45 PM.

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#9 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jul 10 2012 - 11:59 AM

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Zuruk waited impatiently as their transport flew through the Alarist sky. For all he knew, the Alarist Underground had beaten them there.Then his Gadget beeped. It was a short text message from Karzahni. Zuruk frowned as he read it, and then explained to Levitaas what had happened."The Alarist Underground evidently had an inside man inside the Star Portal research project. Their agent has overpowered Artakha - but he was able to send us an emergency signal telling this. The problem is... the signal was sent in such a way that risks imminent Agent attack."Levitaas nodded, seemingly not disturbed by this, but instead considering the tactical implications."So what are our orders?" he asked."We're to proceed to the Star Portal research ship and dock - we're the first wave. Hanashi and Karzahni will coordinate both a potential defense against Agent attack and further operations from our floating HQ if necessary."Levitaas nodded, and increased their craft's speed.Some time passed. Then, Zuruk's Gadget beeped again. It was another text message from Karzahni. Zuruk gulped as he read it, and then summarized the contents to Levitaas with alarm."Not only has an Agent just been spotted only a little south of the Museum, but security systems report unauthorized access to the rear of the Museum. The criminals have arrived too."Zuruk was impressed with Levitaas's lack of emotional reaction to this news."Have our orders changed?" the Matoran asked calmly."No. We're still going to make a run for the research blimp while Hanashi provides cover for us," Zuruk replied. Then he glanced at the speedometer and said, "Go at top speed. We'll apologize to the traffic monitors later."Levitaas reached over and increased the speed until a warning beep sounded. The craft shook as its thrusters fired at maximum. Everything now relied on them reaching the blimp.

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Dataguard Alpha was excited.It knew that according to the many histories of many worlds, civilians were rarely excited at the prospect of having to fight. However, it was not an ordinary civilian.It had extended itself to a very large size, hoping that this might help frighten off the enemy. It had also prepared some of its more obscure modifications for a test run.It had then accompanied the guards to the area of the security breach. When they protested that this was no place for a librarian, it had irritably explained that a: it was quite capable of fighting, b: that it could stream video from its eyes straight to the main AAG servers, thus providing a real-time camera feed, c: the goal of the Dataguards was to defend as well as to preserve, and most importantly d: it was in charge, and they couldn't order it around, ergo, it could go wherever it wanted.Other Dataguards were gathered at points of interest in the Museum - in the main hall, by major exhibits that might get attacked by thieves, by the major databases, and so on. Only this one was on the front lines.Without warning, the wall in front of it exploded. Irritated, it turned and watched as a Glatorian charged through."That really wasn't necessary, was it?" it asked peevishly as a Toa guard intercepted the criminal and the two began fighting with their swords. "I mean, that was a priceless wall, practically a historical artifact by itself..."Other members of the Alarist Underground had poured through the breach in the wall and were now engaging the guards. It noticed that one, an Agori, was moving very stealthily and quickly enough to avoid the guards.Dataguard Alpha decided to stop the Agori, and extended his airfield projector.This device, often ridiculed as being useless, was in fact extremely sophisticated. While it could just project normal, breathable air, the "hardness" of the airfield could be toggled by Dataguard Alpha.It fired an airfield forward into the Agori's path, who ran straight into it and rebounded as if he had hit a brick wall.Dataguard smiled. "And they said an airfield projector was useless," it said as it continued to help fight off the enemy. "I've shown them!"

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An alarm went off on Karzahni's control panel. He glanced at it and shuddered."Agent inbound!" he shouted, alarmed. "We've picked up an incoming blip at supersonic speeds from the southeast.""Are you sure it's an Agent?" Hanashi asked."I don't see what else it could be, and the AAG seems to agree. They're sending reinforcements; though what they'll be able to do against an Agent, I have no idea," replied Karzahni, sinking gloomily into his chair.Hanashi watched the blip grow closer on the screen."Where's Zuruk and Levitaas?" she asked.Karzahni pointed to another blip, rapidly approaching the research vessel. "There they are. They should be docking with the blimp in a couple of minutes."

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Levitaas frowned. "Picking up a general alert signal to all AAG security forces in the area. An Agent has been spotted on approach."Zuruk groaned. "It'll be here shortly, so we need to dock now."After what seemed to be an eternity but was really only a few minutes, the air vessel came up alongside the much larger research ship. A hangar opened and they entered.Just in time, too, for suddenly Levitaas warned, "Something's just come up behind us... it's firing!"The 'something' was an Agent; specifically it was Brute. A high-powered cyclone tore through the air and slammed against the open hangar.While the large research ship bore up fairly well, their small transport craft was hurtled forward by the force of the blast.Zuruk and Levitaas both scrambled for the door controls. Zuruk's groping hands found a control switch that felt like the door control: figuring it couldn't make matters worse, he pressed it.Fortunately, it was the correct button. The Matoran and the Toa rolled out of their vehicle and lay exhausted on the floor of the hangar.When they got up, Levitaas frowned and looked around."Where is everyone?" he asked. "There should be someone here, if only a maintenance technician, on duty in the hangar - especially if there's an Agent flying around outside."Zuruk frowned as well. "You're right. Could... something have happened? Could the Syndicate already be onboard?""I suspect so," replied Levitaas grimly. "We should find Artakha; then it will be three against however many they are. Do you know where he was?""In one of the labs, according to Karzahni. On the starboard side of the craft - towards the rear," Zuruk replied. "We'll have to search the area."Levitaas nodded. "Then let's go! We've got little time to lose."The Matoran rushed off, moving like a streak of lightning.

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Artakha felt the terrible magnetic pressure on his armor begin to subside. He couldn't yet move a limb, but he could speak.About the only thing he could say at this point, however, was something along the lines of "Why are you doing this?" to his captor. Which, Artakha reasoned, was obvious: for fiscal reward.It would also reveal to the Skakdi (who was still working on his Hagah Plasma Cannon) that the effect was beginning to wear off. Performing this typical behavior, therefore, would actually be a strategic blunder.Artakha kept silent: until he heard movement outside. His mind raced: either it was a scientist onboard walking by, a member of Team Cipher who had received his distress signal, or a member of the Crime Syndicate, or maybe even an Agent.If it was a member of the syndicate, calling out would be a bad idea: but the odds were that it was not."Help! Help!" shouted Artakha, before Yhamkut turned around angrily."What'd you have to go do that for?" shouted the Skakdi. But there was no time for punitive measures, as the doors burst open.Zuruk and a Matoran of Lightning whom Artakha had never seen before burst in. Zuruk had a blast of ice ready to go - Artakha could see faint ripples in the air as cold energies built around Zuruk's swords.Yhamkut raised his specialized dagger."Don't hit him with elemental blasts!" shouted Artakha. "He's got a weapon which redirects them against you and locks you up!"Zuruk lowered his swords, and instead allowed the ice energy to filter out into the room. It cooled the place down a bit, but that was all it did.The Matoran was not deterred by this warning. Nor was he deterred by the Skakdi's bulk or imposing stature.Instead, Levitaas charged Yhamkut, again blurring like a streak of lightning. Suddenly he was on top of the larger Skakdi, who could barely bring up the now-useless dagger he was left holding. Levitaas's sword, charged with electrical energy, struck Yhamkut's body numerous times before the Skakdi even started reacting.The Skakdi reeled back under the temerity and pressure of this assault. The final jolt finished him: he fell backwards into unconsciousness.Artakha was impressed. Like Kyn, Levitaas's fighting style was high adrenaline. But Levitaas put no effort at all into protecting himself. He focused everything at the enemy: Artakha suspected that the Matoran had some deep-seated psychological resentment of his status as a Matoran and not as a more powerful Toa, and was trying to make up for it with his skill in combat.Zuruk had crossed the room and was now looking at Artakha."What did he do to you?" Zuruk asked."Some kind of anti-elemental device. It pushed my magnetic field back onto myself and greatly increased its intensity. I'm still having a little trouble moving: my armor was locked together."Zuruk nodded. "Do you know what's happened to everyone else?"Artakha frowned. "Something's happened? No; the last time I saw anyone other than this Skakdi was when I was talking to Aikla. Everything seemed fine. What's going on?""Well, the Underground is making an attempt to storm the Museum. AAG security forces are pushing them back. Our assumption was they were going to try and fight their way up into this airship. But when we boarded the ship, we didn't see anyone in the hangar, or in the hallways when we were tracking you down."Artakha shrugged. "They could all be occupied with a research project," he suggested, but not in an optimistic manner."They could be; except an Agent just appeared and is attacking an AAG task force gathered outside," replied Zuruk. "The airship should be at battle stations - not that they'd be able to do much against the Agent, but I'd expect to see some security personnel around.""That is true," admitted Artakha. "I would surmise then, based on all the information, that the attack below is a diversion. More powerful Underground operatives have infiltrated the airship - and I don't just mean our friend here."Levitaas had finished tying up the Skakdi and crossed over to them. "That would make sense. If I was the commander of the enemy force, I would send a mob of weaker soldiers to attack the Museum and put together a strike force of my most powerful men to take the priority target.""So what should we do?" Artakha asked. "I can hack into the system's onboard computers and scan for life; then what? Go in weapons blazing and try to retake the ship?"Zuruk nodded slowly. "We'll try to do this a bit more intelligently than a suicide charge, but I don't see that we have any other option. We need to get the Bulwark back on line, which means we'll need this ship to get the Olmak Totem out of the Star Portal - and we can't use the ship if it's infested with enemy agents."Artakha sat down at one of the computer terminals in the lab. He entered some commands and frowned. It took a few more commands to remove the frown; then he smiled as a map of the vehicle came up.He tapped a key and a clump of red blips came up in the main observation bay."So - there are a lot of heat signatures here," Artakha said, pointing, "Specifically, in the main bay looking at the Star Portal. Apart from the four of us here," he pointed to a much smaller group of blips in a laboratory on the other side of the ship, "there's nothing else.""Okay," Zuruk said. "What are our options?""Could we flood that room with some toxic gas?" asked Levitaas."Well, yes," Artakha said. "I have root access to the entire system right now. But it would kill the prisoners as well.""Not if we applied it in non-lethal levels. We could send in just enough to knock out but not to kill," argued Levitaas."The research team aren't all members of one species. You couldn't be exact," responded Artakha."Can we at least get a live feed of what's going on?" Zuruk asked."Sure," Artakha said, and typed out a few more commands. The screen changed to show four different camera views of the observation bay.One seemed to be focused on the prisoners. They were alive and apparently awake, but Zuruk quickly noticed something odd; they weren't chained up. He wondered why.He looked at the second view. It showed several armed beings on patrol. Zuruk identified one as a Crushslow Troak and another as a Toa of Kinetics - the two Crime Syndicate members who had stolen the Olmak Totem in the first place. That confirmed without doubt the Syndicate was truly involved.The third view was of the Star Portal observation windows.The fourth showed a tall hulking figure holding a staff and glaring in the direction of the prisoners. Zuruk sagged.It was clearly a Makuta. While Makuta could take on any and all shapes and forms, the hulking giant with a staff seemed to be one of the more traditional, even for Makuta who weren't evil. Many theories had been produced to try and explain phenomena like this, but none had yet been demonstrated to actually work.But the presence of the Makuta explained why restraints were not needed. The Makuta was simply using his power of Stasis to restrain the prisoners, likely while the other members of the Crime Syndicate team made more permanent arrangements.However, the fact that the prisoners weren't restrained gave Zuruk an idea. Maybe they could find a way to use the Star Portal to evacuate the prisoners."We can control the engines, correct?" he asked Artakha. Artakha nodded."Are there any hatches in the observation room that we could open?"Artakha frowned. "Not really. That is to say, there are some, but they're scattered around the place and pretty small. The windows aren't meant to open - they're about as reinforced as possible.""Oh," Zuruk said, sighing. "Never mind that idea, then." Then his eyes brightened. "What about this: can the Star Portal be used to teleport other people?"Artakha frowned again. "Maybe. The research team never has done that, but they haven't really done a lot of work inside the Star Portal so far. They don't seem to like spending too much time in there.""Okay. Well, this is what I'm thinking: we can't fight the criminals because they have hostages. At least, I assume that's why the researchers are still alive. So if we can remove the hostages using the Star Portal, we'll then have a much better chance of being able to take them. Anyone else have a specific idea on how to do that?"Neither Artakha or Levitaas spoke up. "Then I think we have to try the Star Portal.""How are we going to get inside it without the criminals noticing, though?" Levitaas asked.Zuruk's eyes brightened again. "It won't be necessary. Let me make a few calls."

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Okotenga stared. "You want me to what?" he said disbelievingly."Send one of your employees through the Central Totem. They should come out inside of the Star Portal, and be able to exert some control over the Star Portal," Zuruk replied."First of all, what's the chance that they'll be vaporized when they emerge? How do you know that they will be absorbed into the Star Portal just like a normal entrance?" asked Okotenga.Zuruk hesitated. "To be honest, we don't. But we need to do something!"Okotenga shook his head. "I'm sorry, Zuruk. But I won't let any of my people take that chance."Zuruk hesitated again. "All right. Then let me suggest an alternative. Bajnok will travel from Alarist to Promathus via Atohune and go through. In his current state, he should be uniquely suited to surviving the experience. Agreed?""Alright. We'll allow him through once he gets here from Atohune. I'll make sure the UPW doesn't give him any trouble there, either."Okotenga disconnected, and Zuruk sighed in relief.

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"What exactly do you want me to do?" Bajnok asked, slightly confused."It's perfectly simple," responded Zuruk. "Travel to Atohune. M'konglii can guide you to the Olmak Totem leading to Promathus. Then Okotenga, my boss, will have men waiting for you to bring you to his headquarters. From there you will use the Totem that should link to Central, find yourself in the Star Portal, and assume control of it. Once you've done that, teleport all the hostages inside the research blimp somewhere else.""'Perfectly simple' indeed," snorted Bajnok. "It's complex and convoluted. But... it just might work. I see why you want me to do it."Zuruk nodded. He had considered Ekinodus as an alternative, because the Nurops would have quickly worked out how to control the Star Portal, but his slightly unstable mental state had worsened after Kyn slew Avsa-Ka."Alright," Bajnok said after a pause. "I'll do it."Zuruk smiled. "Good. Call me from Promathus before you go through."

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#10 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jul 16 2012 - 04:35 PM

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"I'm about to go, Zuruk," Bajnok said. "Is there anything else you think I need to know?"Zuruk shrugged. "You read over everything we have on the Star Portal?""Of course," growled the Skakdi. "I did that while I was lying around uselessly in a laboratory on Alarist. I know what to expect - you don't have to worry about me.""Then no, we have nothing else. Good luck," Zuruk said, and signed off.Bajnok turned to the Olmak Totem. He had never been worried about walking into one of these things before; he had always been fairly certain about where he would end up.To his surprise, he was indeed feeling nervous. He honestly didn't know what to expect in such an alien environment, despite his bluster with Zuruk.But he had a job to do.He stepped forward and touched the Totem.Hours seemed to go by before he realized where he was. It was not like a normal transit; the blue flash had appeared around him, but it didn't appear to go away. Bajnok was aware of losing himself, as if his ghostly essence was detaching from itself and dissipating among the energies around him. It was only with a great deal of effort he was preventing himself from splitting apart completely.Bajnok grunted and mustered the willpower he needed to do this. He extended his mind beyond the energy clouds into the outside world. A series of mental images flashed before him - scenes of the outside world. He focused in on the one containing the research blimp.In a series of invents that he knew would be impossible to describe later, he pushed and prodded the right places in the image with his mind until he was seeing a view of the observation bay.Bajnok looked at the prisoners, lying or leaning against the wall, suspended by a wall of shadow energy.Step one accomplished... now to see if I can get them out.He pushed them with his mind. He felt the Star Portal try to relocate him there, but with a superb effort of will he managed to stay where he was.What I need, he decided, is to bring the Star Portal to them. How would I do that?Instead of "pushing," Bajnok tried something that could only be described as "pulling."

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"Yes!" Zuruk shouted.On the video feeds, purple and black clouds were beginning to form around the prisoners."Artakha! Shake the ship, let's confuse them a little," Zuruk ordered.The Izumali hacker began typing very fast on the keyboard. He pressed a button, and the ship began to shake as power was applied to different thrusters and then abruptly cut.The sudden shaking caused the Makuta's shadow field to flicker out. The criminals stared in astonishment at the cloud of Star Portal energy that had quickly enveloped their former hostages.And behind Zuruk, several people were appearing.The first, he recognized as Aikla, the project leader. Others were security guards who had been assigned to the project."What's going on here?" demanded the Vortixx.It was Artakha who answered. "Well, your second-in-command turned out to be a bit of a traitor. He took me hostage at presumably the same time that Makuta and his henchmen took all of you hostage. But, with the aid of Zuruk and Levitaas, I was rescued. Then we set out to free you.""You've worked out how to use the Star Portal to teleport things!" she exclaimed."Well, Bajnok has," Zuruk said, "who is in the Star Portal right now. However, we have far more important matters to attend to. Artakha, knock those guys out, will you?"Artakha pressed some more keys. All the monitor screens turned white as toxic gases were emptied into the chamber.He waited a couple of seconds, and then pressed another key, draining the chamber."Alright, that should have done it for them. Let's go round them up!" exclaimed one of the security guards."No, look," Levitaas said, pointing. "Their leader will not go down so easily."The Makuta was standing in the middle of the fading gas cloud, apparently unperturbed, even though his henchmen were collapsed around him."We'll need to deal with him ourselves, I think, if we have any hope of taking him alive," Zuruk added."Let's go!" Levitaas shouted. He charged out of the room."Wait!" Zuruk shouted, and then ran after him, followed by Artakha and the security guards.

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Bajnok almost flew apart in his exertion, but somehow he was able to maintain his coherence. Once he was sure he was going to stay together for a while longer, he mentally ran through what he had just done. It had felt like the prisoners had been teleported to where Zuruk and the others were... he couldn't be sure, but he was sure enough.He was about to teleport himself there as well when he remembered the Totem.Artakha had been able to feel objects around him...The Skakdi tried to open his mind to the possibility of there being objects around him - and they appeared in his consciousness. He couldn't see any of them clearly, but when he tried to focus on one, it resolved into a Mask of Speed. He retreated from it, not too worried at the moment about how that had ended up here.The Totem has properties similar to the Star Portal... they both can teleport and they both seem to be connected to the Olmak Effect. But how am I supposed to find Bluespace within Bluespace?Then he remembered that the Star Portal would be absorbing the Bluespace emitted by the Totem. That was why its orbiting wings had begun spinning faster, leading Artakha to figure out the truth.The Totem was also made of wood. That would be simpler. He summoned to mind the properties of wood - natural, rough and soft, even its smell - and several objects came to the foreground of his consciousness.One was a basic shield, which made Bajnok wonder if the Star Portal hadn't been used once to teleport away an opponent's weapons and their mask. Another was an actual tree, seemingly still alive. Then the third -That's it.It sent rays of blue into his mind. Definitely the Totem.Bajnok was relieved to have found it so quickly. His form was already getting very shaky. Time to teleport.He tried to draw the Totem toward him first.In his hurry, he hadn't noticed a non-wooden object floating in the way of the Totem. Thinking of the Totem so intently had blinded him to anything else nearby.The Totem shot toward Bajnok and struck the object.Team Cipher would later find out that it was Makan's Kanoka of Blue Energy.The velocity the Totem hit it with was just enough to activate its power.Star Portal. Olmak Totem. Kanoka of Blue Energy.What happened next would have made Bajnok scream if he had the breath for it.

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Zuruk ran into the observation bay on Levitaas's heels. His fists were already ready to fire ice that he hoped would impede the Makuta's movements. All he could think about was the multitude of ways they could die right now - laser or heat vision, chain lightning, even simple teleportation and a swift blow.The Makuta was already raising his staff and Zuruk was already aiming above Levitaas's head and the Matoran was already zigzagging toward his target.Then half of the world fell away in a roar of crackling electricity.Zuruk felt a jolt surge through him and cried out. His ice beams shot just over the Makuta. As the Toa flew to the right, his vision registered a wall of blue to the left.Levitaas was sent sprawling as well, and even the Makuta lost his footing.Zuruk crashed into the opposite wall of the bay. The impact brought his body alongside it, so he was able to see what had caused the explosion.Only, it hadn't been an explosion. It was a vast wall of swirling Bluespace that had eaten away half of the observation bay. The door through which they had ran hung just on the edge, and electricity ran along its metal frame. Zuruk thought he saw the edge of Artakha's body in the doorway, but he wasn't sure. He hoped the Toa and the security guards hadn't been sucked in.The blue wall retreated until Zuruk could see it was part of a massive Olmak Anomaly. Not unlike the one that had caused the Shattering, he supposed, since it appeared to have sucked in and destroyed part of the blimp. Already the entire floor was tilting as the ship felt the loss of half of its thrusters.The sphere continued contracting until it was about the size of a normal one, and then Zuruk could see that at its heart was the Star Portal. The mysterious artifact appeared unaffected despite its furiously spinning wings. It was trying to get rid of the errant Bluespace, Zuruk realized, but for some reason it wasn't working.Was it just a random Olmak Effect that had managed to reach the Star Portal, and then reacted and swelled up?Somehow, Zuruk was sure that wasn't the explanation.Then he remembered Bajnok and the Totem.Oh no.He didn't have time to figure out what might have happened because a silver blur shot into the remains of the observation bay.Levitaas was just getting up, as was the Makuta, when the Agent struck the Matoran and sent him sprawling once again.The Agent landed on the deck just a few meters away from Zuruk, crouched, and launched toward the Makuta.The shadowy titan raised a hand and fired a massive blast of plasma while bending himself out of the way using elasticity. But even the powers of a Makuta could not stand up to Izumal.Brute slammed straight into his chest and drove him against the other wall. At the same time, a silver lump welled up on Brute's shoulder and formed into a gun of some kind. It fired a thin and precise laser, cutting through the Makuta's shoulder armour and creating a hole. Green gas immediately began seeping out.The Makuta roared so loudly that the dangerously tilted deck shook. In the next instant, he had vanished. Teleportation.Brute turned and flew toward Zuruk, who flinched. But no laser came - instead, the Agent stood steadily in front of the bewildered Toa and said three words clearly."Not responsible. Guild."Then he was a silver blur again, already receding past the Star Portal and the Olmak Anomaly.Zuruk stood stock-still for a few seconds before Artakha's voice cut through his stupefied state."The Star Portal! It's shrinking!"He looked outside, past the Toa's pointing finger, and saw that the silver wings of the Star Portal had stopped spinning. The purple sphere underneath had frozen into a darker, more solid state.Then it began emitting a shrill sound. The noise made everyone wince, but nobody missed the sudden cascade of random objects that poured out of the bottom of the sphere. There was even a whole tree in the mix."It must have ejected everything that was being stored in it," Artakha realized out loud. "That means the Totem is somewhere in there - and it's falling with everything else!""The Totems aren't unbreakable, are they?" Zuruk asked quickly. But they both knew the answer - nobody knew. No one had ever dared try to break a Totem.Being so high up, they had perhaps a minute before the mass of objects hit the roof of the Museum. Zuruk barely had time to think before grabbing the Gadget by Artakha's feet and dialing Dataguard Alpha's number.Torturous seconds ticked by as the connection was established, accepted, and the Dataguard's image resolved on the Gadget screen. Even as he rapidly gave instructions, Zuruk noticed a broken wall behind him and several people being kept watch over by the Museum guards.A few more seconds had passed between the beginning and end of Zuruk's message, and the Dataguard saved time by dropping the Gadget immediately.

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Dataguard Alpha dropped the Gadget and bounded over to the nearest elevator. It pressed the up button, entered, and swiftly pressed a combination of floor numbers. This secret combination put the elevator into turbo mode, used only in emergencies.The librarian braced his pneumatic legs as the elevator shot up, passing scores of floors in seconds.Then it was at the roof, and Dataguard ran out and looked up. A loose cloud of debris was indeed falling toward the roof. Even higher above was a clearly damaged and sinking airship. The Star Portal was barely visible, but clearly had returned to its normal state with silver wings rotating slowly.Dataguard Alpha walked over to a nearby rooftop generator and opened a panel. Inside were several thick cables. It neatly unscrewed one from its port and plugged it into a port on its elbow.Then it bent over backwards so that its chest was pointing toward the sky and the incoming debris.The extra power allowed it to create an airfield projection tens of metres wide and several thick.It keenly scanned the tumbling objects and let them fall into his airfield projector, not bothering to save any from either smashing on the floor or bouncing away, being either too heavy or too light.Dataguard hadn't needed to consult a database because he already knew the average weight of a Totem.When the brown wooden block distinguished itself from all the surrounding chaos by bouncing gently in the airfield, Dataguard relaxed.It let the rest of the objects fall, jumping slightly at an entire tree crashing down, before tapering down the intensity of the airfield until the Totem came to rest on the ground.Dataguard picked it up and tapped a button on his Gadget to call the most recent number.

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#11 Offline TakunuvaC01

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Posted Jul 21 2012 - 11:23 AM

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"... mission was further complicated by an Agent, presumably sent to investigate the cause of Toa Artakha's subspace distress signal."The voice of top reporter Hanashi floated from the Gadget's speakers and into the other room of Makan's hut. The Po-Matoran was sitting at his table across from where the empty stand for his Kanoka of Blue Energy was.Even as the latest story from Team Cipher unfolded through the Toa of Lightning's professional tones, Makan's attention was largely focused on that empty space.To think that the Star Portal could actually reach all the way here and take my Kanoka...A knock at his hut door made him start. He answered it without hesitation, knowing who would be standing on his porch.Toa Zuruk greeted him with a smile and offered something in his hands. It was the Kanoka of Blue Energy.Makan forgot about any courtesy and snatched it, then quickly looked it over with his eyes and fingers to check for any damage. There was none."Yes, it's the same one. Made well enough to withstand a drop from that high," the Po-Matoran said in satisfaction.He had missed the actual spectacle of numerous objects, some having spent days or centuries in the Star Portal, tumbling down to Wiki-Nui. But he was somehow glad he hadn't seen it. He preferred knowing his precious collectible as the smooth disk that rested so easily in his hands, rather than a massive destructive Olmak Anomaly."We thought we might have to keep it," Zuruk said, "but we realized we wouldn't be able to get any answers from it alone. Of course, I hope that if one day we need it again... you might be willing to consider lending it out? We would happily pay a rental fee or such."Makan shook his head. "No, if you ever need it again, just call. Anything to help you find..."He stopped and looked up at the Toa of Ice. This Zuruk, Makan realized, actually cared about the missing member of Team Cipher. Last time they'd met, the Po-Matoran had gotten the impression that Zuruk was in it just as a path to riches - after all, he'd taken the opportunity to sell his Cleanbots while investigating.Perhaps that wasn't so fair. One could balance profit with compassion. The ways of Promathus were a bit strange to Makan.He looked back at the stand that awaited its Kanoka."No," he said suddenly with certainty. "If you do end up needing it again, it might be to save the life of your friend. Keep it. It's now the property of Team Cipher."Makan handed the Kanoka of Blue Energy back to Zuruk.The Toa of Ice smiled sadly.

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Team Cipher sat in a circle in the floating headquarters. Out of respect - though was it respect for temporary or permanent absence, nobody wanted to answer yet - one seat was left empty."So here we are again," Hanashi began. Her forced professionalism brought everyone to attention. Khiri seemed the most affected, though, since she continued to hang her head.Hanashi took a little breath before continuing. "I think we can all agree the most important issue here is finding Bajnok. However, as various detectors and an already widening search have procured no results, it appears to me wise to move our focus to another pressing issue. Does anybody want to say anything?"Nobody spoke. They all were thinking the same thing.Bajnok, even if he was found, could hardly be expected to be in any good shape. Being ghosted was bad enough, but even if he somehow survived that 'Bluespace explosion' as it was being termed, he might no longer be a viable member of Team Cipher.Zuruk nodded slightly when Hanashi looked at him. She took the cue to address him."Zuruk, do you mind refreshing us on what you believe the Agent said?""I need to emphasize again that I had just been thrown against a wall and just seen a Makuta be defeated single-handedly by an Agent. So my memory may not be entirely reliable," the deputy leader cautioned."But here's what I heard. The Agent, known as Brute, stopped in front of me and said three words. 'Not responsible. Guild.' And that's it."Everybody took a few moments to consider the possibilities. The first inference was the most obvious - Izumal was claiming it had nothing to do with the theft of the Olmak Totem.That, in turn, implied Izumal had not been aiding the Underground syndicate on Alarist, and perhaps they had not been involved with the sudden and well-equipped attacks coming from Ko-Clysmax.It was the most optimistic scenario. Much easier to face Izumal by itself, rather than have to worry about two other groups lumped into the mix."We cannot count out the possibility that Izumal is attempting to mislead us," Artakha cautioned. "They are not averse to deception by a long shot.""That is true," Kyn spoke, "but then why would they attract attention to it at all? Isn't it more effective to leave us in the greater doubt we were in before?""Ultimately, we can't know the truth. We never can," Karzahni added. "To arrive closer to this truth, however, would it not make sense to investigate the other half of what the Agent said?""'Guild,'" M'konglii repeated.There were many Guilds for various things, of course. But the only one that the Agent could possibly mean, the only one that everybody knew about, was The Guild.It was the more revolutionary of the two main Union organizations on Promathus. Led by a self-reputed Makuta of Light, Anaana, The Guild had not appeared suspicious at all to Team Cipher before its mention by an Agent."Could be a false trail," Artakha remarked."Still, I was on my way to start negotiations with the companies and unions when all this happened," Zuruk pointed out. "Is that coincidence? If Anaana, or someone else in The Guild, didn't want negotiations to start yet for whatever reason - probably too much risk of losing profit - this would have been a very effective way to sidetrack everybody.""I think," Khiri said slowly and so quietly that she almost went unheard, "that we should investigate The Guild while starting negotiations like normal."The Water Agori raised her head. Everybody was startled at the fierce intensity in her normally gentle eyes."We, and those security guards that were with Artakha and Zuruk, along with Levitaas, are the only ones who know what the Agent said. Levitaas and the guards have already sworn secrecy.'We have the advantage. We must pursue this and expose the truth. I believe that by doing this, we will be able to find Bajnok."

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The biting wind tore through his body like dozens of tiny daggers. He cried out and tried to cover himself with his arms - but the wind just blew through his arms as well.He shivered violently and tried to stand up. Instead, his legs slid further into the ground and he collapsed again, barely staying afloat above the snow.A surge of willpower made him look up.There was nothing but darkness several dozen meters away. The world, as obscured as it was by the blizzard, rapidly faded into void.Yet, something stuck out of the darkness. A far away peak. It looked like a mountain. Perhaps it was an illusion.The broken warrior sighed and slipped into unconsciousness.

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