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The Perfect Cage

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Welcome to The Perfect Cage, the second epic in the second Saga of the Bionicle Paracosmos, an Adventure Mystery series that mirrors official story but is often different, for reason that are central to the plot. :) As always, feel free to jump right in without reading past story; if you would like a brief summary see the review topic. My collection topic is here: Tapestry of Time.This story centers on Toa Onua, during early 2003 story, as well as a Ko-Matoran fisherwoman named Nijire, and Toa Kopaka. It has 48 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. The beginning takes place just after the defeat of the Bahrag, before the Kal attack. To followers of my blog, it should be no surprise that the shaky alliance the Paracosmos Toa and Kal have may be challenged -- expect to see winners of the Bohrok Kool contest here. :biggrin:Enjoy! ^_^


PrologueOnua walked alone through the savannah land of Kini-Wahi. His eyes were barely focused on what was in front of him.All he could think about was how unfair all this was, that this burden was on him.Onua only.Those were the words that had appeared on a mysterious tablet moments ago, as the Turaga concluded their meeting with the Toa and others who were helping them. The tablet had been found the day before, and it was blank. But then messages kept appearing... and changing...The Turaga believed the messages came from the mysterious people who called themselves the 'Unknown.'Along with these words were a map to a spot deep in the Fau swamp, and three more words.Claw of Strength.What did that mean? The right-hand one of his glovelike Toa Tools was missing. Maybe this would replace it? But why couldn't he bring help?Onua was nearly where he wanted to enter the jungle, when he heard loud sounds to his right.Looked.Saw nothing.More. It sounded like huge stones crumbling.Looked up.Saw nothing on the slopes of the volcano to the north. Higher still, at the very top.Huge orange threadlike tendrils were cutting into the rocky ring of the Mangai’s caldera. Pulling the rock inward.Sewing.From the caldera, a constant river of lava flowed into a lava tube, to the east. Ta-Koro sat on an island inside the tube, and the river parted around it, though from here all you could see was the glowing orange hole in the roof of the tube over Ta-Koro. Several other holes along the path hinted at the river, and at the ocean, a constant cloud of steam rose, and faded into the sky.Now, Onua could see hole after hole going dark.Something’s choking the flow off.Ta-Koro's hole went dark.The sounds stopped. The tendrils disappeared, but something that looked like a huge orange-glowing spiderweb now held the rock dome in place where the caldera should be.Something that’s inside the volcano.A twig snapped in the jungle.He whirled.Eyes.Eyes everywhere.Pairs of eyes. Watching him.He looked left, to the east. Eyes dotted the front of the forest for as far as he could see.Looked right. The same.He knew who those eyes belonged to, though nobody had managed to see – or remember – their actual forms. For they had arrived on the island a few days ago and attacked mysteriously from the shadows, kidnapping some. But one thing they did not keep secret. Their name.Kuambu.


A few hours ago...Onua sat heavily down at the table in Kini-Nui Hall.The Turaga and others had gathered here to discuss recent events and plans for the immediate future. Most importantly, proof had been found that Makuta Teridax had been captured alive by a mysterious villain named Vaurukan. A team of loyal servants of Makuta were planning to free him.The Toa could not let that happen. They had to find that villain's prison and stop the servants. But so much had gone wrong lately, and they'd put off dealing with things that normally would be emergencies. Could they put it all off any longer?The others in the room discussed this vigorously.But Onua couldn’t focus.All their words sounded like background noise to him. Occasionally he managed to listen long enough that he could add a tidbit to the discussion, but not much.Onua had been singled out by the cryptic shapeshifter named Surkahi twice with prophetic statements. The first time, Surkahi said Onua would have to leave the island soon.And then Surkahi – along with all the Unknown – had disappeared, saying they would not be seen again for a long time.Except possibly by Onua, he’d added.He hoped he would see the shapeshifter soon. He had a thousand questions.He felt off-balance. Not only because just after the defeat of the Bahrag, the Toa’s bodies had been changed in mysterious ways, but literally off-balance due to his missing glove-Tool.And maybe for a reason more psychological, but he wasn’t sure. He had a quiet wisdom, or so he thought of himself, but the great mystery to him had always been himself. Why he chose to keep quiet when a word of advice could have helped, why he was more interested in the scenery than the endless debates of his fellows.Why he was different.He had started to gain some confidence as the Toa defeated Makuta and then the Bahrag. But then the Kuambu had swept through in a raid too one-sided to really call a battle. They had knocked everyone unconscious. The Toa fell first, and others saw blue sparkling light from strange lanterns be shone upon them.They had changed form. The rules were different now. Onua still wasn't sure he knew what those rules were. And Lewa kept muttering that this wasn't how it was supposed to be.“Onua, are you ready, then?” Turaga Vakama asked.Onua looked up. He remembered the deal he and Rathoa – a villain they were in a temporary alliance with – had made, and assumed that was what they meant.Nodded.“Good. Let’s get going, then.”Everybody stood up, and walked out, as if they all had a purpose and a clear plan. He wished he’d paid attention.Rathoa walked up to him. He was huge, colored black – he was, in fact, a Makuta, though not naturally. Once he had been a mere Matoran. “I’ll meet you at the Seahopper when you’ve got it.” Then he nodded in farewell and walked out. Five of the Turaga left too.Whenua lingered, as did Onua. “What island are you on right now?” the elder asked.Onua shrugged. “Sorry. Just… all of this is too much to absorb so fast.”“Did you even hear, about the tablet?”He frowned. “The what?”Whenua held up the gray rectangular stone. The last contact with the Unknown. It was apparently able to change the message inscribed on it, though he had no idea how.Now, it displayed only five words. Onua slowly absorbed what it said. Only he could come? What was this 'Claw of Strength'? And shouldn't Lewa and Gali come along if he had to go to the horrid Fau swamp?But he had already agreed, hadn't he?


Kopaka ran out of Kini-Nui.Pohatu came with him. Kopaka thought the Toa of Stone looked very strange now. The transformation had made him much bulkier than before, and even changed his secondary color to yellow. His main Tools were still attached to his feet and now were silver. His hands each had two silver claws, plus he carried a long brown sword, currently stored on his back.Of course, Kopaka looked strange himself now, he realized. He wasn't much bulkier, but he was more heavily armored, his shield was larger, and he now had two silver skate-tools in addition to his sword.The first thing the Toa had discovered about their changed bodies, besides the different shapes, was that all the other masks they had previously collected were gone, except one per Toa.Each Toa was left with only the one mask they originally had, and one other. Their other powers had previously been fused into one gold-rimmed mask, but now they had two distinct masks only. And the shape of their main mask was changed slightly.On the plus side, they could now share the powers of their main masks with others. That could come in handy, but they all commented that it was disappointing to work so hard to collect so many only to have them disappear.Kopaka especially missed having his own Mask of Speed. He’d learned his lesson about the value of Unity, but he still preferred to work alone.Especially for this trip.Instead he was stuck with the 'Kanohi Nuva', as Rathoa called it, of Vision... and a normal mask of Translation.Not a problem, they had thought.Easily fixed.For recently they had collected many extra masks from a ghostly enemy, including Great Masks, and stored them in Kini-Nui Hall. They walked down the stairs, went to the storeroom...And found it empty.Someone had stolen the extra masks.But they had reason to believe something far more important had been stolen. Really, not things... but people.Now Kopaka and Pohatu arrived at the gates of Ko-Koro.It was deserted.This morning, when the Toa had awoken from being knocked unconscious and changed by the Kuambu – they’d discovered that all the Ko-Matoran who had joined the battle against the Bahrag were gone.Tahu retained perhaps the most valuable mask of all – the one remaining Mask of Telecommunication. He’d tried to contact Ko-Koro, but nobody answered.Gukko scouts had already flown near and confirmed no sign of an enemy, nor of inhabitants.Kopaka turned to the Toa of Stone. “If you don’t mind… I want to go in alone.”Pohatu had an especially serious look on his face, for him anyways. “Understood.”The Toa of Ice tried to ready himself... but there was no readying for this. His own people...So he just took a breath, gripped his sword and his shield firmly, and walked in.The first thing he wanted to see was someone – anyone – perhaps cowering in a corner, perhaps running out to report who had taken the others, or which direction they had gone.This turned out to be a vain hope.The second thing was footprints.The Kuambu’s appearances were kept carefully secret. They’d swept over all their footprints in sand, and tried to walk on plants wherever they went so far. It didn’t surprise him now that he saw no footprints.But he was surprised to not even see any hint that footprints had been erased.And there were little pockets of ice here and there in the snow, where ice shouldn’t be. Looking closer, he saw they were tiny holes that had melted snow, which had later refrozen.In the center of the village, there was a single larger hole, large enough for a Matoran to fit inside. He looked down.Strange threads of glowing orange seemed to be worked into the ice and rock walls of the hole. Down about fifty feet the sides of the hole had collapsed in, sealing it.So... the Kuambu's one rule – no killing – seemed to have held. His people were not dead. He could not be sure, though, so he didn't allow himself to relax. And being captured was nothing to brush aside.“What could do this?” he whispered to himself.“Vaurukan’s creatures,” a voice answered.Kopaka whirled, lifting his sword and shield defensively.There was a small dark red being with wings hovering there.Next to him stood a tall blue and white titan with goat-like hooves, and carrying a sword that looked like Kopaka’s.“Sairiph!” Kopaka exclaimed to the small being, who had spoken. “And Toggler. What are you doing here?”“We heard what happened,” Toggler said. “Sairiph said he had a hunch what did it. He was right.”“What hunch?”Pohatu walked up. “What do you guys want?” He looked on the defensive too.There was something about these two, especially Sairiph, that was disturbing, though they claimed to be on the side of good. They had come to the island as crewmembers of the ship named the Seahopper, and friends of its Captain, the reptilian Bhukasa, on his voyage to investigate the Kuambu, which ended last night.“This orange, this hole,” Sairiph said. “It’s a trademark of Vaurukan’s creatures.”“Who’s Vaurukan?” Kopaka asked.“Weren’t you listening in the meeting?” Pohatu scolded him. “The ruler of the island where Makuta is being held.” Kopaka had meant the question to be more about the person, not the name, but Sairiph's eyes flashed at the word 'Makuta' and he spoke before Kopaka could.“Makuta Teridax, yes. Vaurukan is… a collector.”“But the Kuambu did this!” Kopaka exclaimed. “We have several witnesses who saw Kuambu take Ko-Matoran away at the northwest prison island, and on the Bahrag battlefield.”“Oh, Vaurukan wouldn’t be involved here unless the Kuambu had hired him,” Sairiph said. “The Kuambu are to blame, but surely by now you realize they prefer to work through others?”That made sense. They wanted to keep as much about themselves secret as they could, except that they were the rulers of the surface ocean.The Seahopper crew had dealt with mercenaries already. And when the Kuambu did let you see them, they hit you with energy spheres that blurred your memory of their appearance. Kopaka had such a blurred memory himself from the battlefield.“So, the Ko-Matoran were taken to Vaurukan’s island?”“I’m afraid so,” Sairiph said, though his tone was off – he almost seemed happy about it. “They won’t be easy to free.”“But we will try,” Toggler assured him. For these two, as well as Onua and Rathoa, were all going to try to go there on the Seahopper, though only Sairiph knew the way, to make sure Teridax stayed contained.“If you fear that the Rahunga,” Pohatu said, referring to the Matoran servants of Makuta who used a black mutagen called rahudermis to become powerful, “can free Makuta, then that means it’s possible to free the Matoran too. And you’ll need all the help you can get, so—”“You mustn’t come,” Sairiph said. “One Toa Mata… or Nuva, or whatever you’re calling yourselves now, leaving this island is risky enough.”“Rathoa said it’s a volcanic island,” Kopaka said. “My power will be a great help.”“I have every ounce of your power,” Toggler said, holding up the sword.Just like Kopaka’s sword, it was fused with a Btou staff, which granted the user the elemental power of whatever Toa normally used a Toa Tool. Such Tools looked fancier than their unmerged versions. Toggler's was strangely identical to Kopaka's.“How did you get it?” Kopaka asked, unable to hold back the question any longer.“I found it. At home. In the mountains.”Not helpful. “But it’s just the sword for you. The power is in me, even if I lose the sword, as I have before. You might lose it.”“It shall not happen,” Sairiph insisted.Kopaka stepped forward three times, getting in Sairiph’s face. “Who are you to deny me this? They’re MY people!”Sairiph’s red eyes flashed. The little winged being hovered a little higher. “I have the authority, Toa. There was once a time when I said go, and you went. You may have forgotten, and Teridax may have corrupted it, but the title of Makuta still means ‘you obey me, by the will of Mata Nui.’”As he said it, a crackling sphere of blue electricity appeared in one hand.Kopaka couldn’t help himself – he stepped back in surprise and more than a little fear. “You’re a… you’re…”“My name is Spiriah – I go by Sairiph, for I was exiled from Teridax’s corrupted Brotherhood and to use my real name is more dangerous. But I am true to what we were. Loyal to the Great Spirit, the one you serve.”He was so little, though! How could someone so—Sairiph’s face curled up in anger. “You think size defines strength. I could destroy everyone on this island if I wanted to.”Did he just read my mind?“You said creatures,” Pohatu said, as if this little… disagreement wasn’t happening. “What kind of creatures?”“Creatures that eat molten rock for breakfast, that shimmer with the heat of a thousand suns, that reek of sulfur, that clothe themselves in smoke, before whom the very ground trembles in terror. Creatures neither of you would stand a chance against.”“I’ve heard tales,” Toggler put in. “If the rumors are right, your Matoran friends are lucky the creatures were in obedient moods, to kidnap instead of kill.”Kopaka turned and started marching out. “That’s it. I’m going. I will NOT leave them to the likes of you as saviors.”“Stop!” Sairiph barked. “That’s a direct order.”He kept going, shouting over his shoulder, “Come on, Pohatu! I don’t remember any rank system that says I have to obey a Makuta!”“Uh, maybe we should…”Light and pain.Blue crackling electricity.All over his body.“Wait!” Pohatu objected.Kopaka’s vision faded.Faded back in, to see snow obscuring his vision – he must have fallen on his face.Heard more crackling, but didn’t feel it. Heard someone else – Pohatu, he realized – fall to the ground.He tried to get back up.But more lightning wracked his body.This time, his vision faded to black.


Nijire awoke.Ow…There were pains all over the Ko-Matoran's body, as if she’d been burned and dragged through a long, narrow tunnel.Which she had, she remembered, grimacing. Thankfully the burns weren’t bad, though she’d seen the glowing orange tendrils melt ice before capturing her. Whatever had grabbed her had been holding back its heat.The room she was in shook.She jerked to her feet, looked around.Heard a terrifying roar, so deep it shook her bones.She was in a room made of metal, protobronze by the look of it, but with corners made of cool gray stone. A strange green crystal at the top apparently was recycling the air, as she felt a fresh breeze wafting off of it – instantly telling her the room was airtight.Roar again. The room shook so violently she fell on her side.She rolled off of whatever she’d fallen on – the floor was littered with tons of objects of all types. Gearwork clocks, fishing nets, shovels, lightstones, torches with proto-flint lighters, candles, and unlit proto-oil lanterns, and just about anything else you could imagine, if it was small enough to hold with one hand. She recognized all of it from Ko-Koro.A rapid, repeated scraping sound on the other side of the wall in front her.A powerful thump, rocking the room again. In the exact moment the sound rang out, a part of the wall bent inward.Again, and bent in more.The metal started to glow.Orange.She felt heat radiating from it. The chilly room warmed quickly.The fisherwoman turned around, looking at the walls. No sign of a door. The metal portions strongly braced around the rock portions.Trapped.Why am I always getting trapped?Now the monster moved to the left.Pounded now on the stone instead of metal.A piece broke, fell on the floor. She heard more breaking off on the other side.The creature sped up the attacks then, roaring louder. Eager.She looked around frantically. She’d been trapped by enemies before. Twice – and she'd found a way out both times. She was confident she could again, especially with so many tools here of various uses.Shovel?Too slow compared to that. But she grabbed it anyways and slammed it into the opposite rock corner.It bounced off and slipped from her grasp.Not a dent in the rock, but the shovel was badly bent.She picked it up, tried again.This time the scoop bounced right into her face. “Ow!” she cried aloud.ROAR in response, and the creature rammed harder and faster still.No! No!Tried the shovel on metal. It didn’t give.Tried a miner’s pick. Nothing!Tried object after object. Threw a clock with all her might at the metal, smashing the clock, and leaving the metal smooth as a puddle in Ko-Wahi.Nijire turned and stared at the breaking wall, horror frozen on her face, crouched defensively, clutching a proto-iron rod the wall had just snapped in two.There was nothing she could do.Review here

Edited by bonesiii
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Chapter 1Nijire stared as the stone wall broke more and more.It was thick, but not to whatever was out there.THINK!There were three options when you were attacked.Run.She couldn’t escape the little room. Not an option.Fight.This thing easily dented metal she couldn’t scratch, and shattered stone likewise. Not gonna happen.Hide.Her only chance.It was burrowing through the left rock side of the wall in front of her.She ran to the other side of the same wall, where it would be hardest to see her, and started throwing objects there, piling them high.Then she got down on all fours and burrowed under the – rather painful – pile.Held her mouth open wide, breathing through it instead of her nose, and closed her eyes. Took long, deep, slooooow breaths.Quiet breaths.Held a hand over her flashing heartlight.The sound of the rock shattering changed. More was landing in here now, and it sounded more open. The room heated much faster now.It had a hole.But it wasn’t coming through – from the sound of it, it was too big to come in until it made a sizeable hole.All went silent.It was listening.She slowed her breath even more, trying to calm her pounding heart, but the fear only made it beat faster, and her breathing quickened. No, no. Calm… calm…She heard the ticking of a gearwork clock she must have managed not to destroy.She heard her own Thump Thump. Thump Thump.A rasping, gurgling breath outside the hole.Silence. Tick. Tick.The faint sound of pebbles crunching under a shifting weight. She imagined if she could see it now, she’d see a single giant eye, and the hint of a nose on one side, perhaps.More crunching and shifting. Probably moving its other eye into position. But then who knew what this creature was like? She had a feeling it wasn’t the same as whatever had been on the other end of those glowing orange tendrils when she was kidnapped.Deep, quick huff-huff-huff-huff sounds. Sniffing?Silence.Pebbles crunching. A sound like a wet cloth sliding along stone.Silence.Silence.More.…Silence.Was…Was it…Safe?Was…Was it gone?


Mere minutes ago...Onua walked through the savannah of Kini-Wahi.Claw of Strength.He didn’t know what it meant, but his primary Kanohi was the Mask of Strength, and he needed a claw. Perhaps a poetic label.He remembered that Toggler owned a sword mysteriously identical to Kopaka’s.Were there duplicates of all the Toa Mata’s tools hidden in various places?If he was on the right track… he’d be glad to find it. But he knew it probably wouldn’t be simple or safe. What was these days?Tools merged with Btou staffs, he corrected himself a moment later.That was one of the changes the Kuambu had made. He remembered the account an Onu-Matoran had told him of the attack.The Kuambu swept through the celebrating troops, shooting them with dim white Kuamor spheres, which knocked them out, and then shooting them with clear spheres, which blurred their memories.The Toa had fallen.Then the Kuambu had walked up, carrying hanging lamps that were opaque on all sides except for a little round open hatch. A beam of sparkling blue light had come out. As it cast upon the Toa, their bodies changed shape.Chronoserum, Onua had concluded. Kopaka, Bhukasa, and others had encountered the strange substance before, and learned that it could change reality.Onua's changes had mainly been to become much bulkier, with longer arms, and his black claws turned into longer silver claws, each finger like a slightly curved blade. Now he could dig faster than ever. He also received a black cape of slightly metallic cloth that helped protect his back.Then the Kuambu had brought Btou staffs, short tools with a distinctive teardrop shape at the base, and merged them with the Toa's main Tools.Kopaka’s sword – like Toggler’s – was already merged with such a staff. Onua thought this merging a very strange power. The resulting tool looked fancier, like a mix of both the original style and the style of the Btou staff.Level one staffs enabled anyone, even Matoran, to use mask powers. He didn’t need that.Level two, when merged with Toa Tools, allowed anyone to use the elemental power of the Toa who had owned the Tool, plus activated a special power related to that element. Onua hoped he had at least a level two, like Kopaka's, and wondered what his extra power would be.Level three allowed you to merge in multiple Toa Tools and mix their powers in new and powerful ways.Lewa possessed the only known level three staff, merged with his axe, and Onua’s missing claw. The Toa apologized over and over again for stealing Onua's Tool, but the Toa of Earth understood it had really been the Krana that was to blame.So okay, that should have been fine. Battle over, Kuambu gone, Toa wake up – right, so now we just pull out the claw…But it didn’t work.The Onu-Matoran had continued the account, saying he’d seen Stones of Permanence in the Kuambu’s hands.After merging the Toa Tools, they’d been tapped with these stones, and the stones taken away. Now the only way to unmerge Lewa’s tool – or the others for that matter – would be to find the corresponding stone and destroy it.It was out of the question.The Kuambu were a sea empire ranging across countless islands. Their fleet was still anchored off the south of Le-Wahi, but somehow he doubted the stones were still anywhere near here. Even if they were, there was no way they could take on the entire fleet.That was another disturbing thought – the big attack had come to the east, in Le-Wahi. The fleet was by Le-Wahi. The army was probably still there too.Onua walked around one of the shorter trees of Kini-Wahi and gazed upon the towering jungle of... Le-Wahi.What do they want?He knew they kidnapped people and took them to other islands. Until the kidnapping of the Ko-Matoran, though, the fleet had only done that with eight Matoran from this island. Everybody else's memories had been blurred and they were left here. And the Kuambu had left everybody else on the battlefield. If they wanted to capture Onua, they would have done it then.Right?He hated, Hated, HATED not being sure. But he had to believe it.Otherwise, he would have turned around and run away right now.Instead, he walked towards the trees.Stopped.He was quite a ways east of the Fau Swamp. He didn’t have to actually enter the jungle until he was due north of it, did he? Surely not.So he turned right, and walked along the grassy plain to the west, between the jungle and the Mangai volcano.


Nijire listened.She heard noises, but all faint, all seemingly far away.Her heart finally slowed. Her right hand, which she was holding over her heartlight, was rapidly tiring, but if she moved it, the pile of stuff above her would shift and probably make a loud noise.If the… thing had moved away, it might still be near enough to hear.So she held it still.Her right leg started to cramp.Hold still!Ow….HOLD!Her elbow tingled, as if hundreds of tiny needles stabbed it. The armor there was pinching the muscle.She started to lose the feeling in her right hand – and yet paradoxically felt shooting pains on its back, in the muscles that controlled her fingers.Nijire gritted her teeth.For a thousand years, she had used a technique to capture ice-fish that required this much – and more – endurance. She would find an air pocket, brace her feet and hands against the sides, and hold a net ready to drop. For hours at a time she waited like that, pushing through the pain, holding steady.Then when the fish would come, she and the net would drop. She’d slam her limbs all together, ‘hugging’ the net around the fish.But at least then she would wiggle a little, shift positions if absolutely necessary.Really, though, with experience she had learned that the real trick was to shift positions as little as possible. The pain was deceptive. ‘Just move a little, just this once,’ it told you, and then you move, and then the pain starts again, and says, ‘Move just one more time,’ and on and on. Pretty soon, your muscles are tired out from all that moving.But if you refuse, from the very first moment, to move, the pain would fade, shrouded by blissful numbness.She embraced the numbness now.And held.But I really wish I’d chosen a slightly different starting position this time.Just this once. Just this once.’Breathing. Breathing.Just this one time. It would be alright.Hold!Seriously, I won’t ask again. Just this once – for real. Don’t move again after that. Correct the bad starting position. Once you’ve got a good starting position, hold.’She must be insane, because she was considering it.Her arm was gone, as far as she could feel. Now it was her legs and her other arm screaming at her to move.NO! I refuse!


Onua backed away from the eye-filled jungle.“Onua?” Tahu’s voice asked. Onua looked around. No sign of the Toa of Fire – he was using the Mask of Telecommunication. “Are you near the Mangai?”“I am… you see it?”“Yes, I’m still getting ready, at Ta-Koro.” He didn’t mention what he was getting ready for – another reminder that Onua should have paid attention. “The lava’s stopped flowing here. What can you see from there?”Onua summed it up, all the while backing away from the vast array of eyes. What did they want?He almost told Tahu about them.Almost begged the Toa to come, help. Gather the others. Rathoa, hey, the entire population of the island, plus the Kriitunga of Bhukasa’s crew.Onua only.He found himself barely able to breathe, and couldn’t finish his description.“You alright?” Tahu asked.Onua only.“Fine,” he lied.“Well, Lewa and I are going to check it out. Unseal it. Vakama says if the pressure builds too high, it could erupt explosively. I’d recommend getting into the jungle fast… just in case.”“Uh-huh…”“Hurry – remember Rathoa thinks the Brotherhood will come here to try to kill him. You have to take off as soon as possible.”He noticed I wasn’t paying attention too, Onua thought, annoyed at the tone, as if Tahu was explaining basics to a novice.Onua didn’t need to have paid attention to know that. If Tahu knew him as well as he should, he’d know the concerns of others were his expertise. He simply never bothered to say so. He remembered Rathoa making the deal quite well.For the first time, Onua realized his almost constant silence had given the others the complete wrong impression of him.Where he thought of himself as wise, they must think of him as a simpleton, just the sixth Toa of the team who went where ordered, did what he was told without asking questions, and never thought of anything to say differently because practically nothing ever occurred to him.Is that how he sees me?He was tempted to ask. Or at least comment that he was well aware of it. That was what Lewa would do.Instead, he just said, “I’ll hurry.”“Good luck.” The background sounds near Tahu disappeared, meaning the call was ended.The eyes did not move through all of this. He tried to make out some shape, some hint of a silhouette, around those eyes, but they were all carefully concealed by the dense foliage.There must be thousands of them.That was how it was after the battle. Countless numbers of Kuambu marching out. Now in his memory he saw all of them as mere blurs. One thing he remembered – they were each colored either red, blue, or green, no other colors.“What do you want?” he shouted at them.They did not move. Most did not blink – those that did, blinked only at the same rate the whole army had been blinking the whole time.Eyes in pairs of green, red, blue.“Will you let me pass?” he asked, his voice cracking. He grimaced. Way to show them no fear.Eyes staring.“I know you can talk!” The Lone Ship Captain, the one Bhukasa had defeated last night, had spoken. Another had spoken in rhyme to a Ga-Matoran who’d been captured and later freed during those adventures.Slowly, the eyes turned away from him.Looking up.Onua heard sounds behind him again.He was afraid to turn and look.The sounds got louder. Violent, even.Finally, he glanced back, then forward again.Eyes widening, he whirled back. Had he seen right?Orange tendrils poking out of the rock on the side of the volcano. Tearing it apart.Not high up – very close.BOOM.The rock exploded. Lava gushed out behind it.A wave of heated air hit him. Rocks rained all around him.And the lava raced down the mountain.Right at Onua.Review here

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Chapter 2Indecision.Panic.Onua turned to run towards the trees. Stopped, turned again.Turned left.Kuambu.They were standing there, blocking him off from running east. He was so afraid that their strange appearance barely even registered.One fired a clear Kuamor.His memory of that appearance already started to blur.Turned west.More, blocking the westward path.Lava neared, hissing, broiling. Rocks rained.Onua ran into the jungle, surrounded by eyes.Lava smashed into trees.He heard explosive hisses, felt sparks flying, as wood caught flame – after the intense rain of yesterday, it was amazing it could ignite. Suffice to say, Onua learned quick appreciation for how hot lava is.Tripped.Tried to steady himself with his right claw, forgetting it was gone, fell on his face.Pushed up with his long arms. Got his short legs under him.Now he called on his only other mask – the Kanohi Togau, Mask of Passage – which let him pass intangibly through thin barriers. Like roots and ground foliage – normally an annoyance, but one more fall like that and they’d be deadly. It appeared on his face.The foliage was no longer a barrier.The heat behind him was tremendous. He felt like his armor was melting and his muscles baking.Ran. And ran. And ran.Eyes.The Kuambu did not seem concerned by the lava. The eyes were all high up in the trees here, he noticed. For a short time, they’d be above the danger, but as the fires spread upwards they would need to flee.For now, they did not flinch.They simply watched.


Nijire was entirely numb.She’d felt this way plenty of times ice-fishing. She could take this.The trouble was, it was so easy to think about moving, and move because she couldn’t feel her limbs.Fish. She visualized an ice-fish, peeking at her in a stream flowing through an ice-cave. Unconvinced she was just a strange icicle with glowing eyes and flashing heartlight. But as the fish watched, as the numb Matoran stayed completely still, the fish crept forward, concerned, but feeling safer by the moment.She was the fish now. That was the real problem. She wanted to move…So bad.Had it been long enough?She must have heard a thousand ticks and then some on that clock. Should have counted them.Well, it wasn’t like she had to stand up so fast the pile would seem to explode. If she got up slowly, the sounds would be quieter.Slowly, she moved her hand off her heartlight.Clinks and clunks.Something rolled off the pile.Tilted her head forward. More sounds. She saw blinking blue light now reflecting off many objects, through a silhouetted web of things on her face.Something crashed off the pile now.The sound echoed rapidly in the small room.Nijire froze. Listened.She still heard sounds far away, but no difference from what they’d been.Now she realized one of those sounds was clearly running water. That was soft, but she thought it sounded close. It was like a stream, gurgling around small chunks of ice, or more likely rocks. Earlier she must have thought she was imagining it with all that visualizing of ice-fishing.When no giant carnivorous lava-fish leaped out of the stream and into the room, she quickly sat up – her neck was having trouble holding her head still, so it was shaking, and the rat-a-tat-tat sounds it caused made holding still futile now.Stuff clattered away, and she stood.Picked up a lightstone.Walked to the hole.It plenty big enough to poke her head out.She saw water.It was flowing over dark, curvy shapes of various sizes. There were some deep-looking black gashes, and some shallower parts that reflected points of light from the lightstone like glazed rocks under moonlight.A huge stone column rose out of the stream. Beyond it, more water and more such columns. Above, a ceiling about fifty feet up, reflecting the same way.The scene of this cave, or cave system, did not make sense to her. Hadn’t she been captured and imprisoned? She’d expected to see something like a row of cellblocks, geometric hallways, nothing natural.A distant roar.She looked right.Orange glow.Moving this way.The creature, no doubt. She didn’t want to be stuck here when it arrived. Mobility was survival – hence the nets in ice-fishing.She sized up the hole at a glance. She’d squeezed through narrower ice caves.Turned around.Grabbed a wooden crate to stand on.Put her right hand out, holding the lightstone.At that moment, an eerie sound like a slow, mystical chime echoed through the cave outside, and she heard it echoing far beyond it.She tried to get her right foot through.Stuck.The orange glow rounded a stone column far away, and faced her. Roared loudly, opening a mouth full of teeth wide.She saw that it was shaped like a fat worm, but with gray armor concealing most of its magma-like interior. The air rippled around its obese body.The jaws were mandibles, each with three teeth aimed inward like knives, but when these mandibles spread wide, glowing orange lava widened to form a big round shape, and thousands of smaller gray metal teeth around a circle pointed inward towards the throat, from which bright light, smoke, and rippling air issued.Slithered. Close.When it wasn’t roaring, two eyes were visible near the top of the head. Pinpoints of light, expressionless. But the jaw was expression enough, as it roared again.Nijire was pushing on the outside rock with her right hand as hard as she could. Rocking, back and forth.She felt herself inching forward. Pain, again.The monster was seventy feet away.Harder!Fifty.The room she was in suddenly shifted.Slid backward.Water splashed, gurgled. Metallic shrieks, stone grinding.Water rose. The room was sinking! It must have been perched on one of the largest of the dark, deep chasms.Fifteen.Water rose to her foot, which she’d just gotten through. She gasped a deep breath.Teeth reached outward. A thousand knives, ready for a meal. Fury as it approached.Water rushed up past her. She hoped it would help her slip out, but the pressure pushed her firmly into place, unable to move back, unable to get out. She pounded with all her might, dropped the lightstone,The monster dove into the water, feet from her.She heard the chime again, distorted through the churning, steaming water.Water boiled around the creature. It swam past her, and her muscles crackled with pain. She cried out. Air escaped.Water in the lungs.Wanted to cough, but couldn’t. The pain was unimaginable, and she panicked, knowing it was the end.Pounding.Such a thick fog of boiling bubbles around the monster it couldn’t see – swam away, then circled back, pounding its head onto the outer surface of the room, trying to feel for her. Close now.Pounding. Drowning.But water was getting past her body, inside. Bubbles were escaping. Slowly.The pressure slowly relented.Her vision faded.She felt nothing on her limbs. Flailed them all wildly. Apparently she was free.A single bubble fell down away from her.No, she was upside-down!Swam around, trying to hold what little air she had left in her lungs.Breached the surface, into a cloud of hot steam.Coughed water out explosively. Swam until her feet found purchase, and she walked, unable to see. Then ran, but stumbled, and fell. Tried to breathe – air was there, but there was still water in her lungs.Orange glow and heat. The world spinning, spinning, tilting, the smell of smoke, her heart drumming her chest armor, the eerie chime, urgency flooding her mind.Up.Coughing, gasping.Running.The thing right behind her.


“The creatures come in different types, each a different size,” a voice said. “One of the most common is about the size of a fat Toa. Wormlike things. Deadly but slow. The ones people have been lucky enough to see and tell the tale.”A pause.“Some are so tiny, you never see those coming until it’s too late. Or so the stories go.”The voice belonged to Sairiph.The listener did not know his own identity was for a while.“Some are huge. You don’t want to know about them.”The listener finally remembered he was Kopaka, Toa of Ice, protector of the village of Ko-Koro, silent, coldly calculating, a loner.He couldn’t see. His mask was gone. His eyes felt open, but something soft was covering them. Blindfold.Couldn’t move.Tied up?How dare they!“Big enough to redirect a volcano?” the voice of Toggler asked.“Plenty. I hope Onua finishes fast. I can’t wait to be safely on top of miles of water.”“You can fly away, though. What do you have to fear?”“Just hope you never find out.”“Why would the Kuambu work with someone with such dangerous servants? I thought they didn’t kill. That’s why they let the Lone Captain stay in his protocage – he alone killed.”“There’s an answer to that, but it’s one I’d really rather not talk about casually. It’s complicated.”“How do you know all this?”“The Brotherhood is knowledge. You surface-dwellers think of us Makuta as some far-off menace, but I tell you once we were the greatest scientists the world had ever known. Did you know we created the Rahi?”“You’re kidding.”“We were never appreciated… and some of us were so upset about it they rebelled, but whether given or not, we do deserve more recognition than anyone. We know many things because we invented them, after all.”“So, on my home island, when I get attacked by wild Muaka, I’m supposed to thank you?”Sairiph laughed. “I’m not saying all our creations behave the way Mata Nui intended…”Kopaka tried to make a little knife of ice to cut his bonds.But no ice responded to his call.He tried again. Nothing. They must have used a Togaffo fruit on him – they drained elemental energy.But he didn’t see any blue light. If one of the fruit broke, anyone touching it would be covered with glowing energy. He should still be able to see that even blindfolded.A fear rose in him he couldn’t explain.“Shouldn’t we get back?” Toggler asked nervously. “Those creatures attacked here.”“Which is why we have to stay for now, and defend our prisoners.”“Why can’t they go, if they wanna go so bad? And don’t zap me for asking. I get where he’s coming from.”“I only ‘zapped’ him because he was being irrational. He was about to do something stupid.”“Just saying, friend, it’s not the best way to convince him you’re on his side.”“How about what you did?” Sairiph asked quietly.“What did I—”“To the Ukyabha.” Kopaka didn't know that word.Silence.Then, quietly, “You know about that? Bhukasa said he wouldn’t tell anyone. They wouldn’t understand.”“We Makuta know everything, shapeswitcher.”Kopaka tried again. Nothing! How was this possible? Could something else drain elemental energy?“What’s that?”Kopaka heard shouts of alarm, very faint, as if distant.“Tahu and Lewa,” Sairiph said grimly. “Looks like they were foolish enough to take on the creature at the Mangai.”“Whoa!” Toggler said. A few seconds later, a loud CRACK hit the room.“We have to help!” Sairiph said. “Come on!”A door opened. Closed. He heard Sairiph’s wings speed up, and Toggler’s feet crunching the snow fast as he ran.Kopaka realized he was sitting on a chair, his hands tied behind the chair, and arms tied to the back. He tried to stand up.Fell on his side.Kicked at the chair’s leg, trying to slide the ropes away. His feet couldn’t get purchase.He wasn’t gagged. “Pohatu!” he said. “You there?”No answer.More distant shouts, and crashing sounds.Ice!He kicked harder. Harder.Shook his whole body. He felt the chair moving.The back bumped something. Kopaka heard a sliding sound. Then something long and narrow landed on his feet.He felt the power of ice return.Ice-blade.Ropes cut.He stood, ripping off the blindfold. As he did, the power of ice left.The thing that had touched his feet was his sword.Touched it.Returned.Let go.Gone.Kopaka stepped back, putting a hand over his mouth.Then he looked down at his changed body. This was a side effect none of them had noticed till now.The power was NOT in him any longer.It was ONLY in the sword.He lunged forward, snatching the sword up and holding it like he’d never let go again.His Akaku lay on a shelf, and Pohatu sat in another chair, bound the same way, his head hanging to one side. Still unconscious.Slapped mask onto his face. Looked beyond the room – far beyond.At the top of the Mangai, Tahu and Lewa were engaged in battle with long orange energy tendrils. They were both trying to unstopper the volcano, but a creature wouldn’t let them. Lewa’s second mask was speed, thankfully, so he was running around like a throwing disk, blowing rocks away, and Tahu was looking around rapidly so nothing could take his shield by surprise, and melting rock. But more and more tendrils were appearing, sewing it back up and slapping at them.Sairiph was there now. Toggler soon behind.“Wake up!” Kopaka said. “We have to help!”He shook Pohatu’s shoulder. The Toa wouldn’t move. His heartlight was fine. He just must have been zapped worse.Should Kopaka leave him here?Just then, he heard a shout. “Help!”A female voice. Nearby. In the Koro? A Ko-Matoran? They were sometimes female, like Nijire.That changed everything, he thought rapidly. Enemies or not, Sairiph and Toggler were going to help the other two Toa. Only he could help whoever this was.The voice called again.He tried again to awaken the Toa of Stone, but he wouldn't move.Kopaka made his decision. Walked out of the hut, following the cry for help.


The lava slowed the farther it went into the jungle, thankfully.Onua kept running, but every time he glanced behind, it was harder to see.Now he couldn’t see or hear it at all, but he knew it was there.The ground was quickly turning to swamp. He saw a giant pink flower reaching out of the ground. The mud gave way to water.A few more steps, and he saw a green pod, hanging from a vine. A doorway carved into it.Le-Koro.He hadn’t realized how close it was to the mountain. It was in the path of the lava flow.And he wasn't at all sure there was time to save them.


Nijire ran, and ran, and ran.The rest of the cave system was pitch black. The creature cast a shaky orange light. She could tell by its dimming that she was outrunning it. As she ran, her feet splashed constellations of orange droplets.Every few minutes her feet slipped into a dark chasm – the whole streambed was dark now.Actually, it was a riverbed, apparently. The stone columns went on and on.But eventually, she found an edge to a cavern wall.Paused there, turning to watch the creature, and catch her breath. She’d coughed up all the water – her lungs still hurt, but she was okay. Exhaustion was the enemy now.She was glad this creature was essentially a worm. Hungry, furious, clearly deadly, but she could outrun it. She saw the orange light wandering far away now, behind black columns.As her heart calmed, and she continued watching, she realized this cave system wasn’t as big as she’d thought. Must have run in circles for a while, she realized, feeling foolish.Then the monster disappeared.The light was gone.Heart rate increasing. Limbs tensed.Had it gone in the water? She heard no hiss of steam. Put out its heat? Was that possible without death?No – there had to be an exit to this cave system. In this dark, she couldn’t tell. But the water was flowing. It had to come in and exit somewhere.In the distance, she could still see part of the big cube of the room she’d awoken in, lit by the lightstone. The crystal was under the water at a shallow portion. The water’s ripples shook the light around as it came up from below, making the whole scene difficult to understand, but what mattered to her was that the lightstone wasn’t smashed. She’d need it.Slowly, quietly, carefully, she made her way back, and retrieved the lightstone.The cubical room was resting so that one of its corners pointed directly up. It was almost totally submerged. No hope of getting anything else from inside.Now she explored the cave with the lightstone again, quickly. It was actually a single cavern, though some of the stone columns were irregularly shaped so they seemed to almost form other rooms. But the whole floor was filled with water, and nothing obstructed the flow.Something is strange about this place. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but she felt like it wasn’t what it seemed.Eventually, she found a rock tube, big enough for the worm to have disappeared down, at a raised part by one wall. Won’t be going that way.There were two other ways out. Downstream, the roof curved down, and almost touched the water’s surface.Eerie chime again.At the other end, the stream narrowed, but deepened, coming in through a dark tunnel.There was a slight chance the low-ceiling way was the way out, but water flowed down, so unless there was some type of cliff that way, it was probably heading deeper underground. But this way, she’d have to swim upriver – and the current was much stronger in the narrow tunnel than in the wide cavern.Her foot slipped as she approached this tunnel.Hit something that gave way underwater.She jerked her foot away, afraid it was something living.The room shook. Eerie chime.Nijire waved the lightstone around, trying to find the source of the shaking.Rocks fell from the ceiling. The cube room shifted, slid entirely under the water. Ripples went every which-way across the whole floor.Something bumped her left hand, rising from a section of rock that was out of the water there.Nijire leaped away, slipping again and falling on her back in a deeper part of the water.The something was shaped like a fat cylinder, rounded outwards nears its middle so that it looked almost spherical. Sparkling crystal reflected her lightstone’s dim rays.Colored orange.As big as a hut.Then, with a metallic CRACK so loud her ears popped, a light flared out of it, blinding her. “Agh!” she cried, holding up her hands.In the same moment, a deafening HWAAAAAAAAAAA sound exploded from the brilliant crystal. It started spinning, shaking the ground almost as much as before.Rock rained.She dove into the deeper water and swam.Review here

Edited by bonesiii

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Chapter 3Channeling all her experience from swimming through long ice-cave tunnels in Ko-Wahi, Nijire swam against the swift current, making decent time.

If this had been mere ice-fishing.

This was a swim for her life. The quake caused by the spinning, brilliant crystal was enough to alert that creature that something was going on here if it was a mile away – the noise and maybe the light too even further.


If it was rational, it would want to get as far away from that thing as possible, but she had a sneaking suspicion that if they could sit down and debate what reason was, it would have a different view.


And what if that wasn’t the only one? What if others came come from the direction she was heading?


The one she’d met already had obvious problems in water, but it wasn’t otherwise affected. It was hungry, and nothing would stand – or flow – in its way. And such a creature would have no trouble knowing which way to swim towards that crystal even in the thickest bubble-fog.


A spiral staircase.


It hung, as if totally randomly, from the ceiling just ahead. She could see it clearly in the bright orange light, a silhouette against the brightened stone tunnel. It hung down around a metal pole from a hole in the ceiling. Down to the water.


At that moment, the light went black. The siren cut off, leaving her ears ringing. The massive waves from the quake faded.


She couldn’t see anything. Lifted the lightstone.


Had the current taken her backwards? She could see very faint reflections of the lightstone off the water, but nothing else, not even the tunnel walls.


Kept swimming, hard.Where was it?


Orange light. A roar. Ahead.




Two distinct shapes. More worms.


Held up the light. Waved it around. The staircase looked to have been painted pitch-black. Apparently, not a reflective paint either.


She closed her eyes tight, still swimming, trying to adjust.


How close to the water had it reached? It hadn’t looked wet – if it was, even non-reflective paint should reflect.


Opened her eyes. The two orange glows moved closer. Ahead she could now see that the tunnel curved to the right and upward. A third worm was moving into view around that corner.


Their combined light and that of the lightstone reached the ceiling now, but she couldn’t see a silhouette of the staircase as she’d expected.


Had it retracted on a motor or something? She hadn’t heard anything, but the sound of her swimming could obscure it.


The worms came on. Steam rose above them. They had slowed, now that the crystal’s light and siren were gone, and maybe couldn’t hear her over the boiling water they caused, but they were still coming.


She slowed, allowing the current to take her backwards. That way wouldn’t work now.




But two more glows came from that end. She was surprised to see how far away the wider cavern was – she’d felt like the current had kept her mostly in the same spot.


Above her, the staircase hung.




She understood now. In her desperation to reach it, she’d swam too far.


Now she floated under it, and started swimming again.


Reached for it.


Too high!


She dove, and swam up. Reached higher. Still not enough!

Again, as the orange light grew stronger all around.


Higher – her fingers scraped the underside of the lowest step.




Got it!


With her left hand only.


She dropped the lightstone. Grabbed the stairs with both hands. Lifted with all her might, grimacing. Wow am I tired…


The worms came on. Her feet lifted out of the water. Her chin was over the stair.


Moved her left hand left, grabbing a vertical bar between the back of the lower stair on the outer edge, and the front of the next step up. Pulled.


Right hand on top of next step. Left hand on bar of third step.


Faster, now, she pulled herself like this up to the fifth step. Laid there for a second, shivering and panting.


Stupidly she welcomed the intensifying heat. But the increasing light scared her into motion.


Shakily stood and climbed.


A worm appeared below her feet.




Chomped down on the lower three stairs.


Shook violently.


Nijire slipped.




Onua found Turaga Matau in his hut, and told him of the lava.


“Slimegook darktime,” Matau exclaimed, running out, shouting orders to the villagers.


Onua knew what he meant – Le-Koro had been presumed the target of the Kuambu army when they first came to the island a few days ago, but then they’d all been attacked by Bohrok and controlled by Krana. Now this.


One Le-Matoran swooped down on a Gukko, shouting the same news.


Onua ran to the suspended platform closest to the lava flow. He could see flickering orange light, as the jungle fire spread, but not the lava yet.


With his single claw, he aimed a beam of purple energy down into the swampy ground.Created a mound of earth. Widened it.


Moved the beam left, spreading a hill around the village. Moved right, growing the hill, now passing the startpoint and spreading the hill right. Moved back, growing that side.


Now plowed energy through the startpoint, growing the whole U-shaped structure.


With any luck, this would channel the lava around Le-Koro.

But he kept it going for several minutes, unsure how earth would handle the intense heat of lava.


Now he could see the lava through the oncoming flames.


A group of Gukko flew away, carrying Matoran and supplies.


They’re evacuating.


As he lowered his eyes to look at the lava again, he saw them.


To the right and left of the lava.


The eyes.


Still watching.




Nijire slipped down two stairs, to the fourth stair – one above the lava worm’s countless teeth.


Her feet felt like they were in an oven.


There was no handrail, so she hugged the thick central column to steady herself and ran sideways up.


Up. Up. Up.


Rocks rained down around her.


Then she – and the whole structure – fell.


As composed as she insisted on remaining in the face of the most terrible danger, she couldn’t help it.


She screamed.




The forest fire was the big danger for now, Onua realized.


He worried the villagers wouldn’t escape in time. Even if they did, this was their home. The Toa couldn’t leave until he’d done everything in his power to defend it.


He ran back to the elevator.


Once down, slushed through swamp water to his hill. Climbed.


There was the lava.


Onua clenched his teeth. The flames were almost here. Time to act now, or not at all.


Ran down the hill, to the nearest tree.


Called on the Pakari.

Sliced at the tree with his single claw, wishing he had two. Again, and again, until it started to lean.


Then he ran back, and leaped at it, throwing all his weight into it.


As it fell, snapping off, he planted his feet on the ground and pushed, with the power of strength, speeding its fall.


Before it even crashed, he ran to the next tree and repeated the process.


Ran back to the first and with all his might, pushed it towards the lava. Repeated on the second, and moved onto a third.


All the while, he churned the earth around him with his elemental power, dragging flammable ground foliage deep underground and leaving a wide swath of barren land in front of the hill.


Now several Gukko Force members were flying around, bombing trees, to speed his work up.


The flames reached the first toppled trees.


The fire could not leap over his hill, but it could still spread sideways.


“You work on that side!” he shouted to the Gukko Force, pointing left, and running right.


He cleared a good distance on the right, and then ran left to push away the trees they had toppled.


Back here, the ground was all swamp, but he was under no illusions that the water would stick around when the lava got here. It would quickly vaporize, leaving flammable ground foliage, so he continued to churn the earth even here.


He’d spent almost half an hour on this, with only a quarter of it done, when the lava arrived.


I need help. Why doesn’t Tahu check in?




Kopaka kept glancing back at the Mangai as he followed the cry for help.


Stopped, staring up.


Between the last time he’d glanced and this time, Tahu had fallen.


Toggler was now carrying the Toa of Fire, who looked unconscious. Lewa was defending against the orange tendrils with wind, and Sairiph was blasting countless powers at it, all to no avail.


They were retreating now.


Kopaka wanted to run to them and help, but with Pohatu unconscious and unable to share the Kakama’s power, it would take too long.


Something indefinite, blurry and translucent, appeared in the sky over them, flying out of the jungle. It hovered over them for a moment, then plunged out of view behind the volcano.


What was that?


“Help!” came the female voice again. She sounded more distant this time, moving west towards the lowlands.


Kopaka turned back towards the voice and ran.




Nijire’s scream was cut off by water entering her mouth.


The spiral staircase, with the worm’s jaws latched onto its base, had fallen to the ground, pinning the worm to the streambed – it roared furiously.


The two others were circling.


Nijire grabbed the pole and climbed again. Ran up the stairs.


Both worms leaped.


Chomped onto the stairs, just below her feet. Shook the structure.


She had run so fast she was already up to the part that was still in the cylindrical hole in the ceiling. She fell sideways, knocking her shoulder against the stone, but let it slide across the stone as she kept running. Got her balance a moment later, climbed on.


The orange light from below cast enough light to see the stairs continued for a while, but she saw a doorway a few steps up.


Ran into it.


Orange light showed a maze of hallways carved into the stone – no light sources beyond.


Her heart pounded fast now, and she breathed fast. She felt very dizzy from running around the spiral.


Nijire stumbled towards one hallway, but lost her balance and fell on her side. Managed to keep from crying out in pain, as she fell on the same shoulder. It hurt, and continued to hurt as she rolled away from it, but not as bad.


She lay on her back, watching the world spin, feeling sick.


The Ko-Matoran managed a thought, as the dizziness and panic faded.


Maybe she’d escaped. She was always escaping cages – she’d just escaped one – and now, maybe she’d gotten away from the territory of the worm things.


But where was she? And how could she get back home?


The orange light was gone. Apparently the worms had given up on her and left.Now everything was blackness.


She stood up, testing her feet. The left shoulder still hurt, but otherwise she was fine.




Cold, stale air.






Eerie echoing chime.




She wished she hadn’t dropped the lightstone, but her own eyes and heartlight were casting a light her eyes slowly adjusted to.


Nijire sighed, cherishing the moment of safety.


But I should assume the danger’s only begun.


With her attitude where her heart told her it needed to be, she walked forward, arms out, feeling her way through the maze.


It was only then, finally, that the real problem dawned on her. She remembered what until now she’d been too terrified to bring to mind. Other shouts of alarm, screams of terror, calls for help she had heard as she was being kidnapped from Ko-Koro.


Others were taken too.


Where are they?




Onua worked harder, faster, racing the fire and its cause.


Now he had a ring of earthen hill and churned land around the entire village, but there were still more trees to fell near the back.


He worked so fast, you might think he had a Kakama, or at least half its power. But this was tiring him out quickly. He wished he also had a Mask of Stamina. But the Pakari was definitely helping.


Finally, the last tree fell, even as its higher branches caught fire, and he pushed it away.


“You should fly-go!” Matau shouted at him, from above. Onua looked up to see him swooping down through the smoke on one Gukko, a second with no rider following.


Onua leaped on the bird. Without any direction from him, it flew up and away from the smoke.


He took the reigns, and turned it once, to survey his work.


The scene was striking, even if he hadn’t been involved with it.


The only trees not aflame by the village were its own trees. Around it, a ring of barren earth and open air – but clouds of smoke billowed through it. Le-Koro looked like an island of green, visible through black occasionally, in a sea of shining orange.


In the green ahead of the flames, he saw eyes.


Onua only. The Kuambu should not be allowed to know where he was headed, or so he believed.


He turned the bird, swooping close to Matau. The Turaga was flying east, towards many other dots on the horizon – the others – all heading towards Kewonga’s tree on that side of the jungle.


“Matau,” Onua called through the whipping wind. “I need your illusion power.”http://www.bzpower.com/board/index.php?showtopic=7551"]Review here[/url]

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Chapter 4


Four hundred images of Toa Onua riding Gukko split away from him.


As he took one random direction, they all took others, and now a massive cloud of Gukko radiated away, like a spreading beam of light.


As one, every Onua turned his head back to watch the eyes.


From this height, amongst the complexity of the jungle canopy, it was hard to tell, but he thought he saw occasional pinpricks of light leaping from tree to tree towards him. Kuambu.


The cloud of illusions, Onua, and his pursuers all headed south now.


Those of this southward group on Gukko, real or imaginary, went much faster than the Kuambu.


I must remember they have teleportation Kuamor, and who knows what else.


But he had no way to prevent that power from being used, or to adapt to it. He had to just go for the ‘Claw of Strength’ and accept whatever risks it involved.


So when he was close to the part of the island he thought the dot indicated on the map, he flew down into the jungle.


The whole army of illusions did the same thing, heading into the trees at four hundred random points.


“Land here,” he told the Gukko.


It obeyed.


He got off. “Onua only,” he said. “Only I can go on. Go back to Kewonga’s tree.”


The bird tilted its head. He felt silly talking to an animal, but every Gukko of Le-Koro had been mysteriously ‘Awakened’ yesterday. Apparently, they were fully sapient now, almost as intelligent, if not so, as Onua.


“Go on.”


It squawked.




Flapped its wings, as if frustrated, but did not leave.


“Come on. I mean it.”


It shook its head no.


Onua stared at it in amazement. “I’m serious. I have a feeling what I need will not be accessible unless I’m alone.”


Shook its head.


“All the illusion-Gukko will be taking off without the illusions of me, and heading back to Kewonga’s tree. You need to go there, so the illusions can converge with you. If you don’t, the Kuambu will know where I am. Go.”


It hissed, as if in disgust that this was a good point.


Spread its wings, and flew away.


Onua smiled sadly. He wished the bird could stay, now that it had demonstrated its eagerness to help. It hadn’t occurred to him that with the awakened intelligence came emotions like what he would feel. Any normal Rahi bird, if it understood the danger it might be putting itself in by coming, as this one must, would flee as fast as it could.


He wondered if the awakened birds would have distinct personalities now. Of course, the Ussal crab owners at Onu-Koro had told him every animal already had its own personality. He wondered what the range of personalities might be like in their new form.


Onua turned and leaped from tree to tree towards the spot of the dot.


He glanced at the tablet again.

It had changed now. When he held it level, an arrow appeared, and if he turned it, the arrow turned, to face the same direction. This deep down, away from the sunlight, he was no longer sure which way was which, so even though now he could find the destination, he wasn’t sure he could find it again on his own.


Finally, he reached an area of dry ground.


Beyond it…




White fog, smelling of clean water.


He walked on. As he entered the fog, it seemed to turn light gray, then dark gray, as the sunlight was further blocked.


Now he was barely able to make out the arrow on the tablet by vision, but he could put a finger to it, and feel the way the groove was aimed. It was a strange experience; it felt identical to a carved inscription, but it was moving.


After several minutes moving through uniformly dark gray fog, the groove suddenly disappeared. The tablet was smooth.


In the dark, just ahead, he saw a building looming.

Made of tan stone.


It was shaped like a cube.


Unknown seemed to like simple shapes like cubes and spheres, Onua thought.


As he walked closer, he saw a tiny circle inscribed in the wall.


Onua had been holding the tablet so that his thumb was on the back and his other fingers covered the front – now he felt inscriptions appear. Looked.


“Whisper your name into the circle,” it read.


Onua leaned close and did as it said.


To the circle’s right, something big moved. He jerked back in surprise, dropping the tablet. Thankfully it bounced off a plant and landed on the earth unbroken.


What had moved was just a door. A square-shaped door – of course – swinging outward on a hinge.


He picked the tablet back up and walked in.


The fog did not follow him inside, as if some invisible force repelled it. Onua beheld a large cubical room, also of tan stone, but crisscrossed with many indented lines of glowing blue energy.


Some were in the expected circular shapes – like the concentric circles in the center of the floor – and some were square, like the three large squares near the floor on the back wall.


Others were rectangles, ovals, cornered and curved lines in all manner of seemingly random arrangements, and many knife-like shapes reaching off of all this. All the light in these indentations moved around in rhythmic patterns. He half expected to hear a deep breathing sound, but instead the room was filled with pure silence.


Onua looked at the tablet again.


No inscription.


“What now?” he whispered at it.




“What do I do?”




“You told me to come here. Now what do I do?




“Come on! Where’s the Claw of Strength?”


Not blank.


A dot appeared, inside a square at the bottom of the tablet.


Split. Into three other lines.


Lengthened, intersecting the top side of the square.


Radiated beyond it, crossing the height of the stone.


Stopped near the tablet’s top, the tips widening to form largish squares.


The shape roughly resembled what Onua’s claw-tool had looked like before being merged with the Btou staff. But he suspected it was actually a map. And ‘Claw of Strength’ must have been a password.


He looked up to the three large squares on the far wall.


Not just squares.




“How do I open the three doors?” he asked the tablet.


The map disappeared, replaced by an image of the concentric circles in the center of the floor.


Dots appeared at random points on the circles.


He compared the image to the circles. There were no such dots there.


“Am I supposed to… what? Touch the circles at those points?”


He had said it out loud.

The tablet blanked.

In huge letters, the word, “WHISPER” appeared.


“Sorry,” he whispered, embarrassed not only for that mistake but that he was talking to animals and now tablets. “Show it again, please.”


He walked onto the central circle. There were four dots, two close by on the left side of the outer of the three circles, one on the inner circle on his right, and one on the circle between these, behind and to his left.


He realized the easiest way to hit all these at once would be to use his left and only remaining claw-glove to touch the outer ones, using two of the three fingers, use his claw-less right hand for the one on the right, and use a foot for the one behind him, while standing on one foot.

The dots were exactly the right distances for him to be able to reach them.


The entry code was designed for me, right here and right now.


He set the tablet down next to him as he did this.

The first time, he touched the claw fingers first, and nothing happened.


Tried again, raising himself entirely on one foot, his knee beneath his chest, and tried again, slamming his whole body weight down so that all four points hit at once.


The blue light there brightened.


Four dots now glowed on the floor.


The one to the right spread out, encircling him, so the whole innermost circle shone brightly.


Then all the energy in the whole room started brightening uniformly. The breathing pattern faded away against this light.


A discernible hum came from all around, getting louder, and louder, but never louder than a whisper.


Suddenly the three other dots floated out into the air. Just three points of light.


They moved around in front of him, and flew over to the three big squares.




Instantly, they and the blue energy lining the squares disappeared. And the squares of tan stone silently lifted, swiveling upward until they reached out, forming awning shapes.


Onua saw three dark tunnels beyond the doors.


Which tunnel should he take?


He looked at the tablet.


The map shaped like his old claw was back. No direction indicated.


“Which way?” he whispered.


No response.


“Which way to the Claw of Strength?”


Still nothing.


Maybe there was no claw. Maybe it was just a code phrase for the arrangement of these passageways. If so… what was he really here to find?




Kopaka ran now, chasing the ever-more-distant voice.


He wondered if he should call out that he was coming. But if it was a Matoran being taken away by a Kuambu, or something, they might act to stop the Matoran from being able to continue calling.


The village wall was here. The voice was from beyond it. He made a stairway of ice and climbed over the wall, then leaped down on the other side.


Ran out into the Wahi.


“Help!” came the call again, even more distant.


Should have taken Pohatu’s mask for this, he thought. Toa didn’t need masks to be conscious, and he needed speed here, obviously. But it was too late to go back.


So on and on he ran.


The female voice came again, now so distant he couldn’t make out the word ‘help’ clearly.


Ran, and ran, looking ahead with the Akaku for any sign of the Matoran.


The call didn’t come again.


Finally, he abandoned caution, shouting out, “Where are you?!”


Paused to listen.


Strained his ears for the slightest sound other than wind and the meanderings of nearby Rahi.




Then, at such a normal volume and so close by, it surprised him enough to jump several inches in the air, she answered. “Ice is a nice power.”


Kopaka whirled.


A female Rahunga – Matoran who willingly served Makuta Teridax.




“A power we’ll be borrowing,” she added.


Behind her, Kanoka stood; another Ta-Rahunga who had done much evil on the island, and apparently now led the Rahunga.

Behind him, several others.


Kopaka had been led into an ambush.




Onua decided to start at the leftmost tunnel, as the ambient light faded back to normal and the hum went silent.


Inside the door was a steep descending staircase.


A single line of glowing blue energy ran along the floor to illuminate the place. He followed it.


The stairway eventually ended – the air felt much cooler now. He was deep underground.


Now the tunnel continued on horizontally for a while.


Ahead, he saw a room.




The entire group of Rahunga attacked.


Kopaka didn’t even have time to think. He was all dodging motion, the raising of his shield, the clanking of his sword against others.


And then something hit him from behind.


Suddenly he could not move.




His eyes were open; he could move them, and he could hear and feel.


Nothing else.


Couldn’t even talk, to protest as he felt the sword being pried from his fingers, and the power of ice leaving him.


“When we say, ‘borrow,’” Kanoka’s voice added, “We mean it. You will get your sword back at some point. I’m sorry we had to take it.”


Kopaka wanted to punch him. His voice sounded genuine, as if he was really given no choice in the matter. But by now the Ta-Rahunga had proven to Kopaka he had no shred of good left in him, when he had murdered several former Rahunga recently.


Murder was a thought foremost on Kopaka’s mind – not, of course, to do it, but fear he might become Kanoka’s next victim.


But he heard crunching footsteps in the snow, and now the group walked into his line of sight, as he lay on his side, and away, leaving him there.


I’m going to freeze, he thought.


Like Korau, the Po-Matoran chef that had been left to freeze alive on Toggler’s home island. Bhukasa knew about that, and was planning to sail there and thaw the poor chef, but nobody knew Kopaka was here. His immunity to the cold was gone.


Maybe he was still resistant to it, like a Ko-Matoran, but even they could be frozen alive.


He wondered if the paralysis was temporary. Certainly hoped so.


I should have seen this coming.


Bhukasa and his crew, including Toggler with the power of ice, were originally going to Vaurukan’s island specifically to prevent Kanoka and the other Rahunga from freeing Teridax, who was trapped there. He’d assumed they’d already left – the island was supposedly very far away after all – but it made sense they’d also want the power of ice, to counter Toggler.


Besides, he realized, Bhukasa’s ship could ‘seahop’ to arrive almost instantly at – or near – the destination. The Rahunga, however, would have to travel there by some slower means.

They must have realized this, and planned around the assumption that the Seahopper would arrive first. So they were preparing to strongly counter an established guard.


Kopaka scowled at the thought of his mask powers. Both Vision and Translation were useless here. He wondered now, as the cold started to really get to him, whether he could still find and collect other masks, if he got out of this.


But he wasn’t going to get out of this…


No, no, don’t think like that!


Pohatu would wake up. There was no snowstorm right now, and Kopaka didn’t see any sign that one was coming. Pohatu could still follow his footprints.

That was his only hope.


So to that hope he clung.




Onua exited the long passageway into a huge cubic room, much larger than the above-ground building.


Only the floor had the blue-shining inscriptions, and it had many of them, in all kinds of arrangements dominated by large circles that intersected at random points. The walls and ceiling were, of course, tan stone.


At the other end of the room there was a small silver table with four legs.


Atop it sat a shining blue crystal, brighter than anything else in the room.


The light here was different.


It wasn’t just that it came only from the floor. But it seemed brighter.


Onua walked forward.


As he did, eddies of dust swirled up from the floor.


Now the light didn’t seem as bright, once he was over it.


The dust moved slowly, rising, rising, forming a fog. It was moving too slow.


Onua lifted a foot.


Moved it forward.


Slowly put it down.


He wasn’t trying to move slowly – his body simply wouldn’t respond how he wanted it to. His mind felt normal, but everything around him was slowed.


As he got closer, the effect seemed to increase.


Now what should have taken less than a minute stretched to ten minutes.


Now the rest of the distance – about forty feet – felt like it would be a hundred miles. He could almost imagine that the little table with the crystal on it was getting farther away, as if the room was lengthening, though it wasn’t.


The next step took three minutes.


Onua went on like this, the slowness lulling him almost into sleep.


Suddenly – though it seemed to take four minutes – he felt the tablet slipping from his fingers.


Quickly – though it took five minutes – he looked down in surprise, realizing he’d almost fell asleep while walking, and dropped the tablet.


Watched it fall down so fast a setting sun would be jealous. A little.


Inch by inch it fell towards the floor. No plant to cushion its fall here.


If it breaks…


Onua reached down.


An action which takes three words to describe in normal time, but which now could take up the length of a Turaga’s speech about the lengthiest, most involved subject you could imagine.


But slow as he was, with every passing minute, even with every passing second, he realized that if he continually shouted mentally at his muscles to MOVE, they lowered faster than the tablet.


Slowly opened his hand.


And in a motion that took twenty minutes, closed his fingers on the tablet again. Held them there.


Gradually looked back towards the table.


The closer he got, the more time slowed down.


How long would this take? How was time passing in the outside world?


Chronoserum, he finally realized.


Now that he was almost halfway across the room, he could see that the crystal was hollow. It was about three times as wide as it was tall, shaped something like a coin, with faceted edges, but the top and bottom were flat and wide octagon shapes. Inside, he could see this shape repeated, and inside this, he saw a shining blue liquid encased, with a bit of an air bubble at the top.


Not only did chronoserum affect reality, it appeared that it could also affect time. Made sense, he thought – ‘chrono’ meant time.


As he walked on and on now, he thought and thought and thought, doing everything he could to keep his mind occupied.


He noticed now that there were dark crystals inset in the walls, near the ceiling. Colored red, but not glowing. Wondered what they might be for.


At one point, he realized the outer edge of the floor’s stone never touched the stone of the walls. A blue line bordered the entire floor.


Mostly, he thought about everything they needed to do, once he got to the Seahopper and they left.


It was a lot to do.


Most of it was preparation – due to the ability to seahop, they could jump all over the surface ocean any time they wanted, and do each thing to get ready whenever and wherever needed. He mentally imagined every step, imagining how things might turn out.


When he imagined it was all done, and he imagined they arrived at the end, he pictured coming to a surface island with a sun-hole.


Somehow, they’d need to get down that sun-hole, and enter the underground dome that contained the volcanic island Vaurukan lived on. There he kept all his prisoners, Rathoa had explained.


Onua was worried about that step – but the intelligent Gukko gave him an idea. He made a mental note to suggest somehow bringing many Gukko, or asking the birds to fly there on their own. The Seahopper was small – it couldn’t fit anywhere near the whole flock, really just one or maybe two.


Maybe ten if they hung out on the top deck. Maybe two more on the mast…


But that was impractical. More likely, they would fly on their own power.


That would produce a natural timer on the Seahopper’s preparations. When the Gukko arrived, the Seahopper would have to hop there.


Onua thought about nodding at the plan. But nodding would take too long, so he didn’t bother.


Now he was about three-fourths of the way there. Time didn’t seem to be slowing any further, but it wasn’t speeding up either.


Once more he thought through everything that needed done, trying to ask himself what might go wrong now.


Not gonna have the time to think later. Might as well make good on it now.


What worried him most was that Rathoa insisted on finding Destral and freeing his ‘mind-minion’ Rahunga. They were presumed imprisoned by the Brotherhood, and probably his mental control of their minds was being slowly eradicated. Rathoa wanted help freeing them before that happened.


Onua had to admit they could use some totally obedient helpers for the mission.


But the whole concept of the mind-minions disgusted him. It was another reminder Rathoa wasn’t really on the good side. Fate had just made his goals aligned with theirs, for the moment.


And more to the point… the part about breaking into Destral… yeah. Worrisome.


It was possible, especially with the aid of the Seahopper. But complicated. To begin with, Destral was always randomly teleporting. To end with, it was incredibly well defended.


And everything in between seemed insurmountable as well, including that Rathoa would have to leave them and communicate through Tahu by Mask of Telecommunication, to find out where Destral even was. Maybe it was just a psychological effect of the slowing of time, but even before Onua arrived, he had expected Tahu to check in, at least twice. The Toa of Fire had said he was heading to the Mangai.


Onua had a feeling the Kanohi Rikaori wasn’t going to be available.


A fear rose up in him then that Tahu could be dead. Whatever was inside the volcano was willing to send lava at a village.


Kuambu don’t kill…


But they seemed to walk the line, and if one of their mercenaries – or in this case, apparently bestial servants of one of their mercenaries – killed, that was a different story. So Bhukasa had concluded from his memories.


Onua saw that he was almost to the crystal.


The subject of memory dominated his thoughts now.


Kopaka had received bits and pieces of his lost memory from before coming to Mata Nui. He’d confided in Onua that apparently even in ancient times, Onua’s relationship with the Unknown was special. Onua had known more about them than anyone, or so it seemed.


All that’s gone now.


But not gone. Kopaka’s interaction with chronoserum had altered reality to make his memories accessible.


Now Onua was reaching out to more chronoserum.


Show me my memories! he thought towards it, hoping that his desires could influence reality in its presence.


As nothing continued to happen, he also thought of Memory Island.


Bhukasa had gone on a quest there, and apparently had eventually been successful in using its secrets to learn his own important memories. In the end, last night as terrible disaster had approached, those memories had been essential to saving the day.


What if it’s like that for me?


This thought had already occurred to him, and he’d asked Bhukasa to tell him how to remember, but the reptilian being had refused. Why, he wouldn’t say.


Onua’s fingers were inches from the crystal now.


All his attention went to this crystal. Show me my memories… please…


Fingers touched.


White light flared.


The scene around Onua – indeed, Onua himself – disappeared – and all faded into blinding white light.


The light rearranged.




It was forming an image.http://www.bzpower.com/board/index.php?showtopic=7551"]Review here[/url]

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Chapter 5


The brightness faded.


Onua saw the room.


The crystal in front of him.


The floor, with its glowing blue lines.


But no Onua.


Onua wasn’t there.


In his place, there was a strange blur. Like a hint that a Toa might be there, but you just couldn’t see him.


Onua turned around.


He expected the motion to take a long time, but it actually happened much faster – and he didn't even manage to move his legs. The thought of turning around made his blurred form respond accordingly.


He saw dust falling at a normal rate.


Rushed across the empty room without moving a limb – his feet were even floating somewhat down inside the floor, he noticed. In a split second he was in the passageway. In another split second, zooming through the above-ground lobby.


In another, passing out of the fog.


Zooming along darkness among the twisted roots in the deep of the Fau Swamp.


Now through the green light of the more northernly jungle.


Now past Le-Koro.


Here Onua slowed, amazed at what he saw.


It was, somehow, a memory.


A memory of long, long ago.


About a half hour ago, that is.


There was Onua, forming the U-shaped beginnings of the ring-hill around Le-Koro. The fire had not yet spread there. The lava was farther back still.


I’m seeing the past!


The blur that was Onua zoomed over the forest, following the lava flow.

Then up along the Mangai.


Up. Up. Up.


To the top, where Lewa carried an unconscious Tahu away, with Sairiph and Toggler helping to battle the tendrils of orange light.


Onua looked west, and far away saw Kopaka in Ko-Koro, watching him.


Then he looked back at the volcano.


The tendrils were retreating into it.


He had an idea.


Flew down, at the rock.


Through the rock, like it was air. It was the strangest sight he ever remembered seeing – rock right against his eyes, his eyes cutting through it like a knife through a Fauii Cake, and the shapes of the granules of the rock and the threads of crystal running through it constantly changing.


Then he was in shining yellow liquid – molten stone as it appeared from the inside.


He couldn’t see clearly.


At that thought, the lava turned translucent, like water. He could see the edge of a hardened, but still orange-glowing wall of the volcano. His ability to see it faded away the farther down he looked.


Looked up.


He could see the web of orange threads holding a stone dome in place from the inside now – those stones glowing especially brightly, but holding.


Sinking down from those threads were several tendrils.


Onua turned, following those tendrils to their source.


But he couldn’t see the source. The tendrils were much longer than he’d imagined, fading into the foglike effect of the lava far down.


He zoomed down, following them.


Down and down, through the lava chamber, through a lava tube that fed it.


Onua was surprised how fast the tendrils were retreating now. Even with the amazing speed that his vision was traveling, they were moving faster.


He kept expecting the creature to appear, but it wouldn’t.


Then he was moving through rock.


Like the lava, the rock near him appeared translucent. It faded to opaqueness faster, and he couldn’t see the tendrils at all.


But he kept going, down down.


He’d noticed the tendrils were burning holes in the rock, so he could still follow them. Soon after they retreated down their holes, melted rock solidified, sealing the hole, but the difference was still clear.


Concern for Tahu almost overwhelmed him then, seeing what the tendrils could do to rock over such a long distance – was Tahu even alive?


The Toa of Fire had a great resistance to heat, but even he could not survive in lava like whatever this was. Could that mean...


Tahu would want me to continue.


He could find out by normal means what happened to his leader. But here, in this time-vision, was his only chance to see the rest of the creature behind these tendrils, and learn whatever he could to help defeat it.

He passed through the layer of super-strong protodermis the Onu-Koro miners had recently discovered. This was below the Mangai’s roots. As far as most people knew, he was now below the lava, which made no sense.


But Kopaka had found out and later revealed to the other Toa that there was a realm beneath this realm, that it was now so clear to all because of the disaster the Bohrok almost wrought upon that lower realm, which Bhukasa stopped in time, that the inhabitants of Mata Nui had to know.


The idea came into sharp focus when, a moment later, he zoomed out into open air.


A massive cavern, a city far below.


He remembered it being called Metru Nui.


The tendrils reached up from the silver sea to the south of this island city.


He was able to speed up here, and pass the tendrils, though they continued down at the same speed.


Now into the water.


Down, down.


Now into more rock.


Down, down , down, through another layer of superstrong gray protodermis. Down through more rock. Down, and down, and down.


Into more lava.Magma, he realized.


A magma layer beneath this planet’s crust.


Finally, now, the tendrils reached their base, at a massive, bulbous creature, so big Onua could not see how big it was – it was much larger than the fade-out effect allowed him to see.


The trip down here took about half an hour.


The tendrils now reached the body they belonged to. Retreated into something like a giant wart of bright orange energy, which inflated as the tendril retracted. At least that was the closest description Onua could think of for the impossibility he saw.


Onua swam around it, studying its surface, hoping for some clue that could help them. The size was mind-boggling.


The warts were clustered in long snaking lines along its huge bulbous shape. He realized it was slightly oval-shaped, narrowing like the point of an egg on one side. He looked for the front here, hoping to find a weak point, though even as he did, he realized how futile it was.


Who exactly did he think could ever reach it to take advantage of such a vulnerability?


The lava here seemed slower, dimmer. There was a strange fluid at work in the lava here, as well as a faint shimmering field of orange sparkles.


The fluid was glassy, transparent, colorless.


It pushed the lava away, making a bubble of the other fluid in front of the egg portion. When Onua moved into it, the orange sparkles seemed to magnify, blur – and coalesce into a crystal clear image of the surroundings of the creature, and it itself, for miles and miles around.


This, he was sure, was not the chronoserum at work, but a power of the creature, granting it extraordinary vision powers.


Clustered around the egg-shape’s tip were hundreds of little spherical eyes, glowing orange and shimmering in extreme heat. Their black pupils moved every which-way.


But suddenly, most of them converged on him.


The creature vibrated, turning and facing him. It was like watching a mountain turn.


It sees me.


Then he realized what the snaking lines of texture on the rest of it reminded him of, though he wasn’t sure how he knew this – a brain. The whole thing was a brain.


Mata Nui…


This creature must be not only as smart as an awakened Gukko, but smarter than the most brilliant sapient creature… smarter perhaps than a city stuffed full of them, if they were all hooked into a hive-mind.


With one glance at Onua, he imagined it understood logically how this blur was there, staring at it.


And then the eyes looked up.


Towards the island above.


Onua looked up too.


Saw the vision power focus through the strange clear liquid, so that the creature could see through all the magma to the roof.


Two tendrils shot up.


As they went, the vision power followed them, and Onua saw the image of the stone above leap down, and then the image of the silver sea leap down, then the starry sky over Metru Nui.


With horror, Onua concluded two things.


First, the creature would find him, find this strange crystal.


And two, since he was watching the past, maybe it already had.


With that, Onua let go.


White light blanked his vision.


He found himself slowly leaping back, away from the crystal. Very slowly.


Beneath it, from the floor, a single tendril was already reaching up to the table.


Now burning through it, moving much faster than Onua.


Orange light entered the crystal.


At the same time, another tendril shot up from the floor, about ten feet into the air, looking at Onua's face, even as he slowly switched to the Kanohi Togau, the Mask of Passage.


Onua activated that power of limited intangibility. It would protect him from these thin tendrils, so whatever happened to Tahu would not happen to him.


But the creature had already seen the mask and realized he would use it. Now it was curving around the crystal, again and again and again and again. Forming a web so thick, he could not pass through it again to snatch up the crystal.


Then, time changed.

Onua fell and landed on his back. Stood up. Around him, time flowed normally.


Yet from his perspective, the tendrils were frozen in time.


It was trying to take control of the crystal, control its time-related powers, but in so doing it must have caused the shell of slowed time to shrink considerably. His mind and his body both moved at the same rate now.


Onua turned away, knowing his only hope now was to run.


If it mastered the power of time – and the real brain was far below, not slowed down at all – it could make one superthick tangle of rolled-up tendril and defeat him. Or worse, maybe slow down his mind without slowing down his body, effectively rendering him comatose or maybe even killing him.


So he ran out of the room.


He remembered the map shape, and glanced down, surprised to still see the tablet gripped in his tool-less right hand. The map was still displayed, but now with a big X over the left-most room.


Onua ran up the stairs, into the lobby, and down the stairs of the middle passageway. If there were other time-altering crystals, he needed to get them before the creature.


Surely it had already seen it – it could peer through rock as easily as water – its problem now was that its one free tendril was frozen in time. It would have to be sending another, maybe more than one, to attack the other two rooms. He had very little time.


Ran into a room that looked identical to the last, but time was not altered at all here.


Another crystal, looking identical.


He touched it.


Time around him froze.


His mind entered a blanking white brilliance, resolving into an image.


He, as a blur, now floated next to his body, which was frozen, unmoving, touching the crystal.


Again, the blur could move all around, as before. But time in the outside universe was stopped.


The other stone showed the past. This one shows the present!


A quick inspection into the ground showed three tendrils coming right up towards him. Very close now. But they were frozen in place, for now.


Then, as time remained frozen, Onua felt a presence in his mind.


Another mind.


Sort of.


The other mind was not quite a mind.


It was really just a crystal.


A crystal sitting on a table, touched by his finger.




But with a mind.


Somehow, the chronoserum had to be the cause of this, Onua thought – and the sort-of mind agreed. It had lived here, sitting on this table, for countless millenia, waiting for something to happen to it. Watching things happen all around. Sometimes an Unknown named Surkahi would come in, touch it, and watch events with it.


Then Surkahi learned to Watch on his own, and moved out, leaving this place's built-in security systems to protect the crystals of time.


Watcher Temple.


That was the name of this place. The Crystal of the Past was alive too, but it was too caught up in reminiscing to care about present-day events, according to the sort-of mind of the inanimate object that now told Onua its name was the Crystal of the Present.


Then the crystal revealed that Onua’s mind could not survive if his body and all other time remained frozen for too long like this.


But as one last parting thought, for now, the crystal told him that he could now pick it up, and it would allow him to carry it.


The white light returned, faded, and Onua picked up the crystal.


Turned, and ran, even as the three tendrils burst out of the ground.


As soon as the crystal left the table, the red crystals mounted in the tops of the walls lit up, and a siren sound blared. A security system that didn’t know the treasure had given its thief permission to steal it.


The blue light that had been glowing between the various tan stones that made up the floor disappeared.

The stones started to fall into deep blackness far below.


But they fell at different rates. Some slow, some fast.


Onua knew this was the crystal’s doing – the security system did not have control over time in and of itself. The crystal was providing a way of escape.


Onua ran over the falling stones, even as they fell.


But they were falling faster now. This was not something the crystal could do easily. He suspected it was paying some kind of price for doing this.


Meanwhile, the tendrils stabbed at him, but they just went right through him thanks to the Mask of Passage.


At the end of the room, he had to give a long leap, but he landed on the passageway’s floor, carrying the crystal in his left clawed hand and the tablet in the other.


Even though the tendrils could not harm him, he could still feel the heat they cast off into the air around them – it was almost unbearable.


And now, they turned to the ceiling, slicing into the rock.


Carving out huge chunks, which fell all around him.


The crystal tried to keep up, slowing the ones that would otherwise have crushed Onua, but it missed some, which crashed normally, spraying smaller pieces as they shattered on the ground, shaking the tunnel, which caused still more to break loose.


Slow the tendrils!


As if in response, it did. He could not hear its thoughts while time flowed normally for him, but apparently it could hear his.


Now he ran out, and into the third and final chamber.


The room here looked the same, but there was no crystal on the table.


Instead, there was a claw-glove, identical to the one Onua had lost to Lewa’s merged tool.


Onua was pleasantly surprised and yet profoundly disappointed all at once. No Crystal of the Future, apparently.


He snatched up the claw, put it on. Ah… His control over earth now felt normal, easy and balanced. He could stand straight now too, without having to compensate for too much weight on one side. Perfect.




Ran out, as the tips of tendrils kept appearing and being frozen.

Thankfully, no red lights blared.


Apparently, he was not supposed to take the crystals, but he was supposed to take the claw. After all, hadn’t the tablet said that from the start?Onua wasn’t sure if he would have figured that out if things had gone how they should have. Maybe he would have tried to take the crystals and they would have told him not to, or the tablet would have said so.


But everything had changed now.


I have to protect this crystal. The creature will want it.


The crystal it had did not seem capable of showing the present. It could only show the past. Onua wondered if it could also not peer farther back in time, but was limited to seeing about thirty minutes before.


Onua ran out of the Watcher Temple, into the fog.


The tendrils followed, now not slowed down at all.


But once they got out into the fog, they reached on beyond him, missing him entirely.


Unknown fog. Interfering with its vision power.


On a hunch, Onua glanced down at the tablet.


Sure enough, it had a message for him.


“Go back in.”


Then another image of the concentric circles on the floor of the lobby appeared, with two dots.


He went in, and pressed at those points.


The brighter light and the hum came. One dot lit up the innermost circle again, but another flew up and hit a rectangle in the wall.


Meanwhile, the crystal was apparently holding the tendrils frozen, because they didn’t move at all.


The light bordering this rectangle disappeared, and it swung open, revealing…


Well, fog.


Onua walked up to it.


Looked at the tablet. “Reach in.”


He did.


He felt a round stone. Spherical, of course.


Pulled it out.


Fog was cascading off of it. Whatever forcefield was keeping the fog out of the temple’s interior now pulled the fog away in a line towards the door, not allowing it to disperse inside the lobby.

Where the stone had been, Onua saw the openings of several pipes.


I’ve seen stones like this before. It was a Stone of Permanence.


Must be what caused the fog to stay here perpetually, he decided. The pipes must exit at various points in the surrounding swamp to keep a steady supply of fog there.


Was he taking away the temple’s disguise now?


Yes, he must be, unless there were more than one such stones hidden here. But he knew he’d need it. It confused the creature. Once he left here, nothing else would, and he had a strong feeling the time-slowing was not going to keep working.


In fact, as he walked out, the crystal froze time again, first telling him that his mind had been in normal time long enough to survive this again, and secondly to confirm that its ability to slow time down was failing fast.


Doing it actually ruined the parts of its sort-of mind that made it possible, like a burning log, becoming less able to burn as it did.


However, whenever Onua’s mind had been in normal time long enough, he could still always enter this frozen-time state, and observe the present all around him. A power that could prove immeasurably useful, he realized with awe.


It added with a parting thought that it would save its last bit of timeslowing ability for an emergency.


But that it also hoped he would not choose to use this, as it would leave the crystal defenseless forever. Onua agreed. Only as a measure of absolute last resort.


Time continued, and Onua fled the area, leaving the terrible creature to explore its own newfound – and short-lived – ability to slow time. Hopefully it would burn out the Crystal of the Past’s ability entirely without realizing it. Then it would be left only able to see the past, and that would be it.


I hope the past-crystal doesn’t tip it off that it would lose the ability.


Anyways, it would probably only have that ability over a short local range anyways. Not extend it all the way underground to itself or miles away to, for example, the Seahopper.


But it would search for him, forever. A terrifying thought. Until he defeated it, or it defeated him.


Changes everything. Changes everything…Review here

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Chapter 6




It was Lewa’s voice that came out of nowhere. Not Tahu’s. The Toa of Air must have taken Tahu’s mask.


“Tahu is unconscious,” Lewa said. “From the hotburning–”


“I know,” Onua said, “Glad to hear he’s alive. Where are you?”


“How you mind-know?”


“Long story. Are you taking him to Kewonga?”


“We’re now-there.”


“I’m coming. Is Matau there?”




Onua told him about his plan about the Gukko.


Matau’s voice answered. “I cannot commit whole-flock to that, but I’ll some-send.”


Toggler’s voice put in, “No Gukko can carry me. I’m too big. And I planned to make a spiral staircase of ice to get down anyways, for all of us.”


“It’s a volcanic island,” Onua said, “home to creatures like the one that hurt Tahu. I don’t think that would work.”


“Good point.”


“A ropesling for twobirds to carry would work,” Matau added.


“Has anyone seen any sign of the Bohrok Kal?” Onua asked. Their help would be greatly appreciated – they’d been awakened early, and had made a shaky alliance with the Toa.


“They were eye-spotted wandering in Kini-Wahi.”


The deal was that since the Kal agreed the Bahrag had been awoken too early, thanks to Teridax, they would help the Toa imprison the queens and then the Bahrag would be freed once the Matoran were safely moved off the island. But at the last minute, the Kal had decided they could not directly confront their own queens, and abandoned the Toa to face the Bahrag alone.


Onua worried this move meant they would no longer help the Toa in anything. At least they would not hinder them. Probably…


“I’ll find them,” Onua said. “I won’t be able to stay at Kewonga’s long anyways.”




“I don’t know who I’m supposed to reveal it to or not,” Onua said. “Let’s just say… Surkahi’s prophecy has started to come true. I must leave Mata Nui soon.”


“Should we get to the Seahopper?” Sairiph asked.


“Yes. Make sure everybody who’s going is onboard, and tell Bhukasa to hop to…”


Onua realized that the super-intelligent being could probably understood all written and spoken language. Best not to say anything about where they were going.


“Uh… hop to one of our destinations at random, without telling anyone where, as soon as I arrive.”


“Oh… kay… Will do.”


“You know about the forest fire, Lewa?”


“Sure-yes. I far-called Gali already. And Ito is fire-watching. He says he has wide-planted sprinkler-system plants for just such a fire. It won’t far-spread.”


“Good. What about Kopaka? Ice would help.”


“Haven’t him-called yet. Was worried about you more. Now-will.”


Lewa’s voice disappeared.


Onua kept going through the jungle, awaiting the reply.


It didn’t come.


Onua kept going, and going, moving slow enough that any Kuambu around would be likely to confuse his sounds with one of the countless Rahi all around, but faster the farther he got, out of worry.


As the light began to fade at sunset, he reached a clearing far to the northeast of the jungle.


Kewonga’s tree rose up in the center of the clearing.




Everything here. Flash-frozen.


Clearly the secondary power of a merged Btou staff and ice-sword.




The tree began as a wide mountainlike base of thick roots. Beneath those roots, he knew, was the nest of Kewonga’s intelligent spiders.


Up where this tapered to a straight trunk, branches radiated almost symmetrically, and a huge ball of many leaves topped the trunk.


Hanging below the leafy part, Onua could see many spotlights hanging, made of baskets with lightstones and mirrors inside, and lids on hinges.


In the leaves, he could see corners peeking out – hints of the many-leveled treehouse complex throughout that part of the tree. Kewonga’s house, which doubled as the hospital for the entire island.


He and Ito were the only two Le-Matoran who didn’t live in Le-Koro; this placement was closer to more villages so that the injured and ill could more easily get to him. Ito, of course, had no home, hence his nickname, the Jungledweller.


Onua called on the crystal.


Time froze.


His blurred form zoomed throughout the area, looking for Toggler.


But the faunlike titan was far away already, on the coast. He was using his sword right now, sending out a beam into the ocean forming a boat of ice. Sairiph was hovering near him, an odd sight for Onua since his wings weren’t moving.


Onua went back, and continued to search the jungle.




He gasped in dismay. It was not Toggler who did it.




With all his evil Rahunga. Kanoka carried Kopaka’s sword.


Onua raced through the sky, towards Ko-Wahi, hoping to check up on Kopaka. But he’d spent too long in this moment – white light blanked the scene and he once again beheld the frozen tree.


This could be deadly.


The tree wouldn’t thaw uniformly. Parts would break off as they thawed, and fall. Parts which might include people, or the spiders.


Onua considered chasing the fleeing Rahunga, trying to steal the sword back, but he knew he would be too well outnumbered by them.


I need Toggler. He could uniformly absorb the cold-energy, forcing the surrounding heat to move in, thus indirectly thawing them. Safely.


He wouldn't be able to reach Toggler in time.


So he had to get to the Mask of Telecommunication.


Onua ran up to the tree, and made a pillar of tightly packed earth beneath his feet. The rope ladder was rolled up, and he wouldn’t have risked his weight on it anyways in its current state.


Stepped carefully onto the entry platform.


Tried to turn the doorknob to enter the wooden hospital complex.

Doorknob snapped off.




Saw a window to the left.


Smashed it in. He barely fit through, but he did. Moved carefully – someone was sitting in one of the many chairs in the lobby, between the window and the door.His weight crushed the chair in front of him.


Onua grimaced, checking the frozen being in the other chair – Turaga Matau. He was intact.


Lewa sat in another chair. He looked strange in his new form – taller and almost regal, with a storage rack on his back for the massive axe-glove.


Laying on a chair next to him, his Kanohi Miru. Because he had been using Tahu's Mask of Telecommunication when Kanoka attacked.


On his face…




At his feet, gray shards, mostly turned white by the encasing ice.


Kanoka smashed the Rikaori.


The irony was infuriating. It had been Tahu that had decided to trust Kanoka, by necessity, when the Bohrok swarm almost destroyed Kini-Nui. Tahu had freed Kanoka from the prison there to help in the battle.


In thanks, Kanoka turned his powers upon his reformed Rahunga brethren, murdering some, and fled the scene. Now this.


Onua sneered at the shards, as if that would do any good.


It wasn’t just Kanoka. Makuta is back in his mind, giving these orders, or approving of them.


They really had to succeed in preventing Kanoka from freeing the Brotherhood leader.


But he vaguely remembered Lewa expressing doubts it was possible in the meeting. Lewa seemed to think Makuta was supposed to be freed. A thought the others disagreed with vehemently, especially Rathoa.


For a split second, Onua wondered if Lewa might have been working with Kanoka. A traitor?Not possible, he decided. Simply not. This was Lewa, the Toa who first discovered the Rahunga and outed their secret much earlier than they wanted to be known. This was the Lewa who twice resisted being controlled by evil influences, and when he finally was controlled by a Krana, he listened to Onua’s urgent plea, and took the Krana off himself.


True, Onua had feared his plea had failed. Lewa hadn’t taken it off right away. He’d appeared to flee and give battle.


And maybe there was truth in that.


But it seemed clear also that Lewa had actually known that taking it off right at that moment wouldn’t be the most opportune moment. He waited, until he was in a position to deal major harm to the Third Faction, the enemy that was now working somehow with the Kuambu and Vaurukan. Then Lewa took off the Krana, and since that moment led the difficult victory over the Bahrag.


Tahu had designated Kopaka as his second-in-command. But Lewa would, Onua believed, make just as good a leader.


No, Lewa’s concerns were about Convergeance.


This is not the original Bionicle dimension.


That was the Cosmos. This was the Paracosmos. The shocking secret Onua and the other Toa had been told recently.


And here, events always converged to follow the basic pattern of events in the Cosmos. It seemed impossible to prevent, no matter how hard anyone tried, even the powerful Unknown.


Lewa admitted he had no idea how he could sense what was supposed to happen in the Cosmos, but he felt it just as strongly. It had to do with his connection to the Bohrok swarms, from his time with the Krana. Perhaps the Bahrag somehow knew, impossible though that seemed.


Onua realized his feet were freezing. He made a carpet of earth, at room temperature. That felt better.


What now?




He went back into the crystal’s time-frozen power, zooming around the hospital, looking for what he sought, without risking his weight breaking things if he were to physically search.




Back to normal, and carefully walked to the room where the emergency flares were stored.


Grabbed several, as well as a bag of bombfruit.




Went back down his elevator of earth, re-absorbing the elemental energy, which also recharged him, since making earth drained him.


Walked to the north-east edge of the clearing. Laid the bombs down.

Ran into the jungle, grabbed deadwood.


Ran back, made a pile.


Grabbed one bomb. Lobbed it at the pile.


It broke into pieces.


Part of its impact-triggered explosive interior ignited, though, even though it was frozen, and a little flame appeared briefly.




Onua tried again.


Same thing. The fire didn’t catch.


Onua scowled. Irony again – the trouble to the west was a fire, and here he couldn’t make a fire.


I hate irony.


He hesitated, trying to think…


Looked at the tablet, hoping for a clue.


He wasn’t disappointed.


“You need tinder.”


Ah. Yes. Even dry deadwood would not light instantly. And this wood was still moist from the soaking, relentless rainstorm yesterday.


Onua collected as much smaller twigs and somewhat dry fallen leaves he could from the jungle floor. Piled them on.

Threw a bombfruit.


Same thing. No catch.


Wait. Bombfruit grow in this jungle.


Timefreeze. Zoom.


There. A Madu Cabolo tree nearby.



Ran to it, grabbed the bomb, and ran back.



Boom. Explosion. Fireball.


Fire caught.




The flame was dwindling already, though.


Onua ran over, glanced at the tablet. “Gently blow on it.”


He did.

The fire flared. Faded.

Again. Flared.


Again. He continued this until finally the wood started to catch.


Okay, time to thaw the flares.

He found a long stick, and a section of vine. Tied a flare to the end of the stick.


Held it over the fire. Not so close that it would go off, but close enough to thaw it, so it would operate properly when fired.


A flare to signal Toggler to return.


At least, he hoped Toggler would interpret it that way.




Nijire had been wandering for what felt like forever in the maze of stone hallways, feeling her way at every step, when it happened.

Another hut-sized crystal, another ground-shaking, another deafening blare, another blinding glare.


But not by her. Far away in the maze.


She could see it down a long hallway here. Half of it.


Its light lit up something very low and flat, very wide. Black, oily, oozing.


A massive flatworm, as wide as the hallways, sliding silently along the floor. The air above it did not ripple, but she had a feeling it was probably immune to heat. It didn’t care about the crystal – it just kept inching forward, its tapering nose-tip sweeping right and left, as if sniffing.




She saw it slither off of a button.


It had triggered the alarm crystal. Perhaps that was what the crystal was for.

In the light, she could now see buttons all around, but mostly near the edges of the floors, right up against walls, where she was unlikely to step. With her hands outstretched in front of her, she would stop several inches before that when she felt a wall.


The button it was moving off of was the same. The creature was so wide that if it passed through a hallways, it could not help but press the button.


Maybe the alarms are to warn about it, not about me!


She had felt like she was going in circles for hours. Had she passed it? Why hadn’t it triggered an alarm earlier?


Maybe it had been sleeping.


It was sniffing now – maybe her scent awoke it. She may have walked right next to it at one point.


Ahead of it, she saw what looked like a little stone statue on the floor.


Its tapering nose bumped this. Curled around.

Then the front fourth of its body lifted.

Revealing a huge jaw of hundreds of knife-like teeth inside.


It bit down on the stone statue. Appeared to chew on it for a while. Then let go, sliding over it. She watched the bump of the statue move backwards through its body, until it slid off it again.


Apparently the statue was fused with the floor – it was unchanged except for an oily slime over it now.


Nijire looked down.


A long-hardened oily slime covered all the floors.


While the light lasted, Nijire crept away, hoping to take her scent as far away from it as possible.


The light stopped.


Instant and total blackness returned.






She waited, expecting the flatworm to continue until it hit another button.


But nothing happened.


Had it given up?




The flare looked thawed.


Onua untied it. Stuck it in the ground, aiming up, by the stick-tail off the bottom.


Stuck the long stick it had been tied to into the fire until it caught.


Now held this fire over the fuse. That caught.


Onua stepped back.


The flare launched.


Whistled high into the sky.


Over the canopy.




Red – signaling danger here and now. Calling for help.


It was done.


If the terrible creature was watching, its curiosity would be drawn here.


He ran into the jungle.


With any luck, thirty minutes from now, it would be looking here right about… now… and it would not see Onua.


Thus not want to send up tendrils, thus not risk harming the tree.




Nijire continued to feel her way around, but slower this time.


She’d assumed this level was safe. Maybe she was right that the superhot, fast-moving worms weren’t here, but the sighting of the black flatworm had her terrified.


She was certain she must have walked right past one, and she hadn’t noticed the cool temperature heat up. Therefore, it was not dangerous in that way, but this also meant she couldn’t tell it was there unless she ran into it.


If her theory about the alarms’ purpose was right, the flatworms were to be greatly feared.


Who would put those alarms here? Where AM I?


She prepared a plan for what to do if she felt one.


First, try to quickly back away. But if its tapering nose-thing, which looked prehensile, grabbed onto her, fight to roll over its back and force the trunk to let go, rather than allowing it to push her under its head, where the teeth were.


She assumed once she was on its back, she could roll or run off its tail, where she’d be safe.


But what if the prehensile trunk was stronger than it looked?


Just then—


Nijire collided with something.


Something tall and narrow, so narrow her arms had missed it entirely. It hit her face.


Two red eyes opened, inches from hers.Review here

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Chapter 7 Nijire was so shocked and terrified she screamed at the top of her lungs and leaped away, falling on her back, her limbs shaking uncontrollably. Whatever she’d bumped into fell over with a soft thump and an echoing clang. Nijire crawled backwards, too scared to think. The two red eyes stared upwards at the stone ceiling, unblinking. The creature did not move. As the seconds passed, she began to realize it wasn’t a creature after all, but an inanimate object. The red light was bright enough to dimly illuminate her immediate surroundings, and she could make out the blackness of the object, as well as a metal pole-thing beneath it.The metal was clearly a tall stand, with a circular base and a circular tabletop. The black object with the two eyes had been perched like a bird or a bat atop this stand, but if it was a real creature, it should have reacted in some way other than just opening its eyes. And she heard a faint mechanical ticking noise coming from it. The ticks stopped. The eyes closed.Darkness returned. Then, shaking. A slithering sound, nearby. Shaking stopped briefly.Then started again as the blinding orange light and deafening blare returned. Another hutlike crystal had risen up in a nearby cross-hallway.On the floor in that hallway, facing her, another black flatworm. Only ten feet away and closing. Nijire rolled towards a wall, getting her feet under her, and pushed against the wall to steady herself. Now leapt away from the wall, standing. Glanced at the object and the stand. The object was clearly a lantern, painted black on the outside. Designed similar to an owl with folded wings, with a lever – the on-switch – for a beak, and a handle sticking out of its head.She bent over quickly to grab it, and ran. Crossed through many bending hallways until she was sure the flatworm was far away. That was a second worm, she thought. She’d been moving too slowly to cross to the other she’d seen earlier, and it couldn’t have come here without triggering more alarms. No, this one had been lurking near the lantern. She was now far enough away that the orange light was dim, though the blare seemed almost as deafening and the ground still shook. She pressed the lantern’s beak-lever again.The black eyes opened. The material the outside was made out of seemed like a thick version of paper. The red eyes were even more clearly paper. Thin red paper that simply tinted the color of the light coming out from inside. When she peered into this paper, she could see the clear shape of a lightstone inside. The ticking sound was back. The eyes stayed open only on a timer. She let the timer run out, estimating how long it took before the eyes closed and the ticking went silent.Turned it on again. This time she kept tapping the lever before the time could run out. The eyes stayed on. But that ticking echoed, even if only a little, off these stone walls. It could be dangerous, if the worms had ears. I need light, though. She really did. Better to see an alerted flatworm coming, since they moved so slow, than to bump into one and be eaten with no warning. And more importantly, she wanted to find a way out of here.


After Onua had run north-northwest for long enough, he decided to enter the frozen time again. First, he zoomed back to Kewonga’s tree. There it was. An orange tendril had popped out of the ground. Onua knew the creature’s vision power was extended there, so now it saw the place in real-time. If its vision of the past had shown it Onua, the tendril would now follow him. He exited the moment, then froze another moment to check.It didn’t follow him. He’d been far enough into the concealing jungle foliage. Instead he knew it was now trying to think of a new strategy to find him. Before the moment ended, Onua’s blur continued searching until he found Toggler, headed towards Kewonga’s tree again. Good. The plan had worked. He checked again after a minute. The tendril was gone, and Toggler was there, thawing the whole place. A second later the moment ended. Time is confusing, Onua thought, when it doesn’t flow the way it should. It seemed that the range of effects chronoserum had was random and often contradictory. In the room of the Crystal of the Past, dust seemed to fall much more slowly. And yet, the dust probably wasn’t actually slowed down at all. It must have been his mind being sped up, actually. Because when he emerged, the sun hadn’t yet set. If hours upon hours had truly passed, it should have. And the mechanics of just when the creature was seeing Onua and when it could attack where he had been were just as confusing. But as he continued on, and thought it through logically, he realized that part – the part that mattered to him most now – was actually simple. The Crystal showed the past, at about a half-hour before. So at any given moment, the creature could see where Onua was a half-hour ago. If it knew where to look. It took about that same amount of time, he estimated, for the creature to send or retract its tendrils. So really, he could spend roughly one hour in any location, before he would have to leave. Maybe he could spend more time, if the creature didn’t find him right away. Maybe more, if it also couldn’t handle staying in the crystal’s vision long, like Onua, though with a brain as big as what he’d seen, he had to assume it could handle that just fine. So unless absolutely necessary, I can only spend an hour anywhere. He made a mental note to make sure this was clear to everybody aboard the Seahopper.


The crystal alarm finally shut off, casting Nijire – and her flat hunters – into dark-still-silence again. But now she had an advantage, and she used it, pressing the lantern’s beak continually. She explored, and as she explored, she began to recognize distinct patterns of the locations of the little silver buttons in the floor, and the caked dry oily substance. The maze was large – but not as large as she’d thought. And most of its layout wasn’t even a maze. The hallways were generally laid out in a cross-stitch format, as she really should have expected. It was just her panic – and the occasional exceptions where a cross-hallway was missing or where a short extra dead-end was added – that had convinced her otherwise. And now she finally realized that there were rooms between these hallways. The doors were made of the same stone as the walls, with such a thin gap between them, she could barely feel it, but there was a very thin purple paint outlining it, appearing pinkish-purple in the lantern’s red light but not showing up at all in the orange light. When she pushed hard on these doors, they wiggled a little, but there was a metallic rattling – locks – and they would not open. There was no handle, so she assumed they could not open outward. She’d also found a definitive outer edge to the place, a huge roughly circular border that no hallway penetrated. So she went through the maze again, watching for flatworms, and avoiding them when she could, trying each door. Finally, one gave.It swung open into an empty room. She glanced around the door, to confirm it had hinges on that side. It did, and frighteningly, there was no latch to pull it open with on that side, and the hinges were heavy-duty. If you were inside when the door closed, you might never get out. Your only choice would be to try to wrestle the pins out of the hinges. Nijire left the door hanging open, so she’d know she’d tried it already, and moved on.


Kopaka dreamed. Before, all had been nothingness and cold. Unbearable cold. But now he dreamed. He dreamed of flickering light. Of laying on his back. Of cold being pushed away by a warm, welcoming bonfire which he could see to his left. Of Toa Pohatu, awake and tending the fire. Pohatu glanced at Kopaka. Kopaka turned his eyes to observe Pohatu. “You’re awake!” Pohatu exclaimed happily. “Don’t try to move – you’re not fully thawed yet.” Was he awake?It felt like a dream. Everything seemed slow and distant, the sounds faint... But then Kopaka remembered he had never closed his eyes.He had watched the Wahi landscape ooze cold into him until the mechanism required to understand the sight – his brain – froze solid. This didn’t feel real. Cold had always felt welcoming to him, but now he just wanted to get warm. Slowly the memories of all that had happened returned, and he understood why he felt wrong.He tried to warn Pohatu about their powers being gone, but all that came out was a single mutilated vowel. “Don’t try to talk yet. Just wait. The fire will warm you.” The Seahopper! He had to get to it before it took off – warn them of Sairiph’s apparent treachery, and get onboard himself. He owed it to his people to be on that trip. Maybe they would come back at least once before entering Vaurukan’s dome, he thought. As far as he knew, there was no reason they wouldn’t. Except maybe to stay away from the Kuambu fleet. Come to think of it, that was a very good reason indeed not to return until all was accomplished. He had one chance to get there. He tried to talk, to ask Pohatu to zoom there and at least give them the warning. But again, all that came out was mangled vowels. “Seriously, Kopaka, act like yourself and shut up. You need to stay totally still until you’re thawed, or something might… snap.” No, no, he had to talk! Kanoka and his sword! He remembered! They had to know Kanoka had his sword! But the idea of his tongue snapping off… yeah… it was a very good point. So he tried to keep silent. Did not move. And waited.


Onua wandered through Kini-Wahi’s savannah landscape. He was too tired to continue running now, but too aware of his time limit to walk as slow as he wanted to, so he half-jogged. Really, he might have less than an hour here. The creature could send up probing tendrils at any time and in real-time see where he was, right now. That was part of its natural abilities, it seemed. Thankfully, he found the six Bohrok Kal soon enough. They were examining a long and narrow swath of Kini-Wahi that the normal Bohrok swarms had decimated before the Bahrag were defeated. They saw him, and turned as one to face him. He stopped in front of them, panting for breath. “Inefficient vocal system,” Tahnok-Kal commented. Onua tried to ignore the insult. “I… wanted… to know if…you would… come with us. On the Seahopper.” “Is there no other task your team’s leader would have us do here?” “Tahu’s been… put in a coma or something. We’re not yet sure what. And Kopaka is missing. We have no real leader right now. But no, I don’t think there’s anything specifically here you can do.” He tried to think of how to convince them, but Kohrak-Kal replied immediately. “We should go. Distance.” The white one faced their own leader. Tahnok-Kal agreed quickly. “We shall come.” “Thanks. Distance from what?” They didn’t answer. They simply turned towards Ga-Koro and started walking. Onua saw something orange, tall, and skinny in the distance, and immediately ducked behind a tree. “Hide!” he hissed at the Kal. They did as he did. Distance from that, Onua thought, nodding to himself. Was it a threat to the Kal as well? He thought about what he knew of the various ‘factions’ of the Paracosmos. There was his side – the side of good, which apparently the Unknown were allied with. There was the Brotherhood of Makuta, pure evil. And the mysterious Third Faction, enemies of both previous groups. These were the main three groups whose influence spread throughout the known worlds. Rathoa had said something about how Vaurukan belonged to the Third Faction, at least according to one of the Makuta. And then there was the self-proclaimed ‘Fourth Faction’ – the Kuambu, the Rulers of the Sea. Their influence did not appear to extend to the dome-realm below, except maybe in the case of their alliance with Vaurukan. From this connection as well as others came the conclusion that the Kuambu were loosely allied with the Third Faction, yet saw themselves as distinct. Where did the Bohrok fit into all this? The Kal were still really on the side of the Bohrok, he knew. At some point they would free the Bahrag again, when the time was right. Their motives now were just as focused on the Cleaning of Mata Nui as before. Who told them to do this? What was the purpose?Were they simply destroyers? Lewa insisted the swarms had a good purpose, as did the Kal, and the Bahrag too, for that matter. But why would destroying an island be good? Even more mysterious was Lewa’s assertion that there were three distinct purposes for the Bohrok in the Paracosmos, while in the Cosmos there was only one. First, they shared the purpose to Clean Mata Nui Island.Second, for some reason that apparently only Bhukasa and the Unknown understood, the Bohrok wanted to carve into the seafloor, and cut holes in the tunnels between the underground domes. A massive system of technology made by Bhukasa’s people long ago, before all but he were wiped out, handled making sure the surface ocean then didn’t flood the underground universe. Those two were mysterious enough, but Lewa was certain he sensed a third purpose, their deepest secret yet. Will I learn these things? Onua wondered. Surkahi had hinted that in the past, Onua had special knowledge. Maybe he once knew this, and would again. He hoped so, because these mysteries fascinated him. Once more, while he waited, he entered the crystal’s vision, and checked on Kewonga’s tree. Everybody looked fine there. Then Onua zoomed out to the coast, confirming that Toggler was back in his ice-boat, and on his way to Ga-Koro. He didn’t see the tendril anymore, so he let time flow again. “I think it’s safe,” he whispered to the Kal. So they went on. He’d be glad to get out of here.


Nijire found another empty unlocked room, and continued. She was searching by starting on one side, then sweeping side to side, slowly moving towards the opposite end of the collection of hallways. She would go down one hall, trying the doors on both sides, and when she reached a cross-hall, try any doors to the left, but then come back to the other hall and continue. She decided to call the halls she was following to the end the north-south halls, and the others the east-west, though she didn’t really know which was was which. Now she was nearly at the end of the search. Having found only two unlocked rooms, both empty. Now on the last hallway. Since the whole place was roughly circular, the hallways near the middle were the longest, and this was one of the four shortest. There were only three doors to check, two on the side towards the rest of the halls, one on the other. Tried the two. Locked. The last… It gave. As soon as it did, light revealed itself from inside. Dim, but clean white light. She walked in. Beheld a much larger room. Its ceiling was higher, too. Most of the room was just the same boring gray stone. With two exceptions. In the far wall, stairs led up to an open doorway in the top half of the wall. More stairs continued in a rising tunnel beyond. A way out. I already know a way out, she reminded herself. Maybe. She still hadn’t gone back to the spiral staircase and tried climbing it to another level above. She assumed there must be at least one since the stairs kept going. But since they were broken, their base now resting on the streambed below instead of hanging over it, she feared they would no longer reach the other way out. And she’d seen no hint of light that way, so she also feared it would just be another huge collections of worthless hallways. Here, she saw what looked like sunlight. Felt a faint draft. This was the way she’d go. As she walked in, she kept her hand on the door, out of just paranoia perhaps, but then paranoia was probably wise here. When she was in, she turned to check habitually whether there was a latch on the door. What she saw instead made her forget this question, let go of the door, and step back in amazement. The door swung shut. A huge painted mural. Colorful. Spread across the entire stone face of the wall the door was in. The wall best lit by the dim sunlight. The colors seemed vibrant to her, although in the middle where the light struck it the colors were faded, apparently from exposure. An image of a huge green island, viewed from a side-above angle, with a single conical peak towering towards the ceiling in the center, rising to a orange-glowing caldera, frozen in the act of puffing out white smoke. Above the island, in big orange letters, was a label. “Vaurukan’s Island.”Review here

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Chapter 8



The painting was very detailed, although the paint was so old and dry it was flaking off in places.


Nijire saw distinct parts of the jungle that overgrew the volcanic island, spreading to the black sand beaches and up two-thirds of the volcano.


She could make out many of the features of the gray rock sides of the volcano.


She could even see distinct grains on the beaches… no, those must be boulders, obviously.


Below the island, in smaller orange lettering, in the breathtaking view of a silvery-blue ocean, were the words, “Beware the creatures everywhere. Nowhere is safe.”


On the island, to the left, was what looked like a compound of buildings, all made of gray stone. A label above this said, “Vaurukan’s Village.” A label above the biggest, tallest building read, “Vaurukan’s Palace.”


So he rules over others, whoever he is.


On the right, scattered across the side of the island closest to the fictional eyes in this view-angle, and to the far right edge, were depictions of five domes.


Each of the domes was colored metallic gray. Each was the same size, though the perspective of the painting made those farther away seem smaller. Each was surrounded by jungle.


There seemed to be a row of eight windows halfway up the sides of each, but windows closed by more of the same material. At the very top were eight more windows, round, and reflecting sunlight as if covered in glass.


At the bases of the sides closest to Vaurukan’s Village, there were more gray stone buildings. There seemed to be covered bridges leading from the top floor of these to one point on the sides of the domes, about a fourth of the way up. Nothing touched the actual base of the domes.


Above one that was close to Vaurukan’s village was another label.


“Junkyard Dome. I think I’m here.”


Whoever had painted this believed, for whatever reason, that the room containing this painting was inside this dome. So Nijire was in this dome.


All of this, the hallways, everything, in that dome.


And if the painting was accurate, the dome looked like it could function like a prison.


Are the others here?


Who painted this?


There was a latch on the door after all, she finally noticed. The only interruption in the painting. She could barely see the crack of the door’s outline – certainly there was no purple outline around it. She could get back where she’d come from, if needed.


Eerie chime.


It was louder here. Echoing through the staircase, she realized.


Nijire noticed something else about the painting.


Below the warning about creatures, there were tiny black symbols – depictions, apparently, of the types of creatures.


Most were tiny, that is – several on the right were huge.


On the leftmost side, a tiny dot, barely visible.


Then a small centipede-like shape.


A larger flatworm shape.


Even larger mandible-worm shape.


Those two she’d met.


Larger than this, a millipede.


Still larger, a snail.


Then a huge maw-worm.


Even huger, something like an octopus, the tendrils radiating from the back of an egg-shaped head. The tip of the egg had eight small radiating toothy mandibles.


Next to this, an even larger egg-shaped creature, with countless tendrils radiating from brain-coral patterned warts, and many eyes on the egg tip. Gaps in the white paint artfully indicated this texture.


And two more beyond this.


The first looked like a giant tapeworm, partially curled up into a compact ball-like shape. The tape ended at one end with a narrow pointed head. The other end narrowed into a short tail.


The shape of this was indicated with outlines only on the tape’s edges – Nijire concluded the tapeworm must be translucent because the artist allowed you to see the lines behind each strip of tape, but the lines were thinner the more they were overlayed by tape.


To the right of this, something even more terrifying.


A huge wavy line, roughly forming an oval. Very thin. Inside it, a single word, in tiny letters.




Overlaying this, the Matoran symbol for a question mark.


Nijire assumed this meant there was merely the rumor of another creature – almost bigger than Vaurukan’s island, she observed, though she wondered how you could accurately depict the size of a mere rumor – perhaps so deadly that none who saw it ever lived to tell the tale.


Beneath this was a number, in the tiniest text yet.




Beneath the giant tapeworm, the number 2.


Beneath the brain-squid thing, the number 1.


Beneath the octopus, the number 34.


Beneath the maw-worm, the number 1,000 followed by a question mark.


Beneath the snail, the number 7.


Only question marks labeled the big millipede, the fat mandible-worm, the flatworm, and the small centipede. Nijire assumed that meant there were too many to count.


Beneath the dot, the number 1.


Nijire studied the rest of the painting, looking for anything she’d missed. There was nothing else there.


The painting had given her valuable information. She wished it indicated more detail about the creatures, though. She knew, for example, that the mandible-worms could move fairly fast, but the flatworms were slow.


She assumed the little centipede was fast. Centipede Rahi she knew of usually were. But how dangerous? Did it emit heat?


What about the larger millipedes?


I guess I’ll have to learn the hard way.




Kopaka felt warm.


He had never imagined how welcome that feeling could be.


Or how long it could take for it to come after being frozen alive.


“Pohatu,” he said.


“You shouldn’t talk yet.”


“Pohatu!” he insisted, though he didn’t try to move. “Ice… gone….”


“The ice isn’t gone – it’s all around us. This is still Ko-Koro. It’s almost gone from you, though! You’re welcome!”


Not that ice. “Power. Gone!”


Pohatu locked eyes with him.


Unlike the other Toa, Pohatu could not easily let go of his Toa Tool – the special toe extensions on his feet that allowed him to kick solid stone painlessly. He would be unlikely to discover their new limitation by accident, and the same could be said of Onua.




“Oh, your sword, you mean! Right. I noticed that. Kanoka stole it? That’s terrible news. I’ll tell Tahu when he checks in next.”


Kopaka sighed, frustrated with his sluggish tongue and Pohatu’s ignorance. He was thinking of when Rathoa had stolen Kopaka’s sword, taking the power of ice with him, but leaving Kopaka with the power also in him, albeit with more difficulty focusing it.






“The power. Not… in me.”


“What power?”


LISTEN, you boulderbrain!


“Our new form. The Kuambu’s change. We’re… powerless.”


“We’re not powerless, Kopaka. I can use both my elemental power and my mask powers.”


Come to think of it, Kopaka wasn’t powerless either. He could still use his Akaku, he felt. So he could see around – big deal. He needed to MOVE.


“Elemental power. IN the Btou-tools. Only. Now.”


Pohatu looked at him strangely. The Toa must have assumed Kopaka was muttering delirious nonsense, but as Kopaka persisted he seemed to take his words more seriously.


“Powers… Our elemental powers? They’re not… in us anymore?!”




The other Toa looked horrified.


Quickly he stepped back, unlatching the boot-toe tools from his feet.

Set them on a shelf.




“Oh no… You’re right.” He quickly put them back on.


“Kanoka stole mine. Warn Onua!”


Pohatu nodded grimly. “Of this… and of Siairph. You’ll be okay here?”


“Fine. Go.”


“Just don’t move until you’re totally thawed. Promise.”


“I promise. GO!”


Pohatu went to the door, opened it, and zoomed away.


Kopaka groaned.


He’d left the door open.




It was time to begin.


Onua and the Kal left Kini-Wahi behind, and walked through the smaller but more densely-packed trees of Ga-Wahi. They were close now.


Apparently, the tendril creature had not yet realized he intended to leave the island. Perhaps it assumed that since he had seen it, he would not dare to try to leave in a measly little boat like the Seahopper.


Meaning it must not know about seahopping. It would imagine that all the boats here meant a slow and easily visible journey over the waters.


It thinks I’m trapped on this island.


But nothing, nothing could stop him now. If it did attack, there was still some time-slowing ability left in the crystal. He would hate to burn it this soon, but it was vital they get out to the open sea first.


From there, the sky – and the artificial skies of the domes below – were the limits.


Or so he hoped, anyways.


They passed out of the trees.


Beyond was a short tan cliff, the beach, and the giant lily pads of Ga-Koro in the bay.


Onua made a quick staircase of earth down to the beach, and ran to the front gate.


The Kal followed.


A Ga-Matoran at the gate nodded at them, putting an Identity Key in a keyhole. To the right and the left was a fence of vertical poles. The Identity key lit up, and a stone door swung open. Upgrades since the latest attacks of various enemies.


Upgrades Onua realized were unlikely to slow most enemies much, but he couldn’t blame them for trying.


They walked briskly along the green slabs of giant plant material between the beach and the lily pads, then between pads, passing many green huts and blue Matoran waving at them.


In the distance, to the southeast, Onua saw Toggler’s boat of ice. It was a few minutes off.


“Get onboard,” Onua told the Kal. “I’m gonna stop off at a shop real quick.”


The Kal nodded and went to the docks, where Bhukasa’s ship towered over everything else – not that it was that big compared to the huge Kuambu ships, but most construction here was one-story.


Onua turned to a wooden sign, looking for directions to the nearest shop. Okoth’s Shop, it said. This way…


He ran there.


Inside the hut, he found rows and rows of goldenrod wood shelves filled with stuff. At the back, behind a desk, sat a female Ga-Matoran who wore a Miru.


“Do you sell energypacks here?” Onua asked.


“Afraid not, sir,” Okoth said. “You’d have to go back to Onu-Koro for that.”


He didn’t dare. The creature could have judged where he’d live by color, and seen signposts pointing the way. And underground it would have the advantage, even against a burrower like him.


“Thanks anyways.”


“I’m surprised you don’t have one. I do have a cloth backpack here, though. Want it?”


“You know, I don’t actually have any money…”


“Just take it. For you, it’s free.”


Onua gladly accepted the gift, nodding in thanks, and jogged out.


A tendril was in the sky, at the Mangai.


No, several tendrils. At least fifteen more were now poking out of the peak. Maybe having more up amplified its vision power.


He ran to the Seahopper. Leaped aboard.


Toggler was here. Good.


“Ready to go?” Bhukasa asked. “Where should we go first?”

The Captain stood on the main deck, by the double-doors that led to the lower levels. He was roughly humanoid, white and silver, with a tail, and a large-ish reptilian head on a neck about three times as big as a Toa’s. His two hands were tipped with scissorclaws.


“Ready. Go immediately. I don’t care where – in fact, pick one and don’t say it out loud.” He gestured at the Mangai.

No further explanation was needed, because all the tendrils were now headed this way, curving up and over the island. Against the now-black night sky, their glow was easy to see.

Bhukasa nodded, running below-decks.


“Remember to hold on tight,” Toggler told him, pointing at the wooden handles dotting the back wall, and even inset into the floor in various places.

Onua grabbed one and held tight.


Several Ga-Matoran who had been repairing the deck leaped onto the dock – they weren’t coming. Onua realized the prow of the boat was still somewhat of a mess from its repeated crashes and hasty rebuilds in the days past.


Others untied the ropes connecting the boat to the dock.


At the helm, Maku turned the wheel, and shouted orders for those handling the ropes attached to the single square sail and the two triangle sails. The Seahopper moved a safe distance away from the docks and the smaller Ga-Koro boats.


Now Matoran quickly raised the square sail and lowered the triangle sails, tying them tight. One checked the anchor – it was tied in safely.


Bhukasa’s voice came now, seemingly from all directions. “Everybody hold on!”


All grabbed handles.


The tendrils were almost here.




The boat suddenly jerked downward, sinking instantly. But instead of water around them, air rushed by. A bubble of golden energy surrounded the boat. As it zoomed forward, the light turned water to air. The boat hovered rapidly through this air, creating a strong wind.


Onua was strong, but it was still difficult to hold on against this and the intense acceleration.


The boat zoomed down along the seafloor, following it down, down to the deeper water.


This was possible, Onua remembered, thanks to mysterious technology made of black metal in the lowest level of the ship. It seemed that this ship was really an advanced ‘seahopping’ vehicle, disguised as a wooden sailing ship.


This power was the key to staying away from the tendrils, Onua believed.


But as he thought it through even more, he realized there was a serious problem with the plan.


Though the tendrils certainly could not just thread through one hole and follow him in real-time – surely they had a length limit – the creature could now, if it chose to, use the Crystal of the Past to follow their every move.


If it hadn’t seen the Seahopper leave, with Onua onboard, it would be a very different matter. But it had, so in half an hour, it would watch, and follow in its blurred form.


Even now, he saw a huge murky blur following them.


This was the creature a half hour in the future. The creature they’d just left behind didn’t yet see what this blur saw.


Onua pictured the blur as a huge mechanical timer, set to a half hour, then another as the creature sent its tendrils. The clock did not tick down yet, because they hadn’t arrived at a destination. Once they did, it would start.


But we’re also getting farther away from the creature. So it should take longer to send its tendrils.


Also, shouldn’t the creature in the magma level below have to physically move, till it was more or less under the Seahopper, in order to reach them?That depended on the unknown length limit of the tendrils. Best not to make that assumption. But either way, the farther they went, the longer they could stay at the destination.


A comforting thought in all this terror.




Kopaka managed to sit up.


Despite the cold draft, he felt warm, and he could move all his fingers and toes. That had to be good enough.


Stood up, slowly.


Took a step. Painful, but he wasn’t falling apart.


Walked to the door.


Closed it.




That was his adventure for now.




The key to escaping any cage, Nijire thought as she climbed the stairs, is using every tool inside, no matter how seemingly useless, with the best strategy.


Therefore, the more strategic you were, as she liked to think of herself, the better your chances of escape.


And the more potential tools you have access to in the cage, the better.


The sound of a ‘Junkyard Dome’ was promising. And she’d already seen evidence of this – the stuff in the box-room, and this lantern.


She kept the lantern even though the light was getting quite bright now. The sun might be out, but night would come.


Eerie chime.


The air felt cooler as she climbed.


The light got dimmer, though, as if the sun was setting.


She felt a great anticipation building. What manner of things would she find at the top of these stairs?


The end was in sight, and the air was clearly cold. Cold enough for snow – and she saw, in fact, ice on the top few stairs. She also thought she saw white glittering hills beyond.


This news was gratifying to a Ko-Matoran. The Kuambu were terrifying, but they seemed to have some concern for humane treatment of their prisoners, and even for their comfort, it would seem. She thought that if she was ever able to speak to their captors, she should thank them for this.


That sort of thing was also good psychological strategy in preparing an escape. Happy captors were careless captors.


Now she noticed lights among the icy hills. Under the ice, seemingly.


Most of the lights were blue, and round, or long and pointed.


Some seemed to be tubes, glowing blue.


Other lights were various other colors – these were mostly tiny points of light.


Eight steps away, she realized the lights came from metal objects underneath the ice.


She also realized it was raining.


Three steps.


Observations piled upon observations.


Careful stepping over ice, walking out, turning around.




But one observation crashed into her growing excitement.


This observation, she knew, would not be obvious to most people, who didn’t have the experience with traps, cages, and prisons, as she did.


It wasn’t anything about the outer wall – although as she expected it looked to be made of the same strong kind of gray protodermis as the impenetrable layer under Mata Nui that the Onu-Matoran had discovered.


It wasn’t the lack of any obvious door. She expected that.


It wasn’t that the rain came from pipes arrayed across the ceiling, instead of, as she’d hoped, open windows high above. It wasn’t that the glass in the eight windows at the top of the dome looked way too thick to break, or that the eight lower windows were indeed closed with more gray protodermis.


It wasn’t that the tools she saw available looked too weak to make an escape.


No, the tools looked strong.


The scene was surreal, considering the primitive objects she had encountered in the lower levels.


Every object here was so advanced, it was mind-boggling.


Most looked like powerful weapons.


All were interconnected by the blue-glowing tubes, as if long after they’d been dumped here, someone had come through and made a makeshift computer out of them. Parts of this huge connected hill-scape of high-tech junk were moving – awkward jumbled-together robotic arms as big as Le-Wahi trees, moving pieces around.


Powers were active and on display.


Powers that cut into things, that materialized stone and plants and metal, powers that turned things intangible to move them into place, powers that teleported other parts across the dome to a better location. One power that opened a small dimensional gate, channeling a stream of water away from one location and to another.


Standing in front of her, back to her, was a Ko-Matoran, manipulating controls in front of a big array of screens.


The Matoran had painted stripes of green on his armor.


Next to her, in front of the doorway in this one little upjutting piece of gray rock amongst all the junk, were several old, frozen-over cans with painted colors on the outside.


The screens displayed the very parts of this whole place that were active, and the motions corresponded to the Ko-Matoran’s pressing of various buttons.


This Matoran was already using all this junk, and to extreme effect.


What dismayed her was that the junk here was too useful.


That could only mean one thing.


The Kuambu were absolutely certain nobody could escape from this cage.Review here

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Chapter 9



Onua did everything else in just one day.


Vaurukan was utterly defeated by that nightfall.


All was good.


Dreamily good.


If someone were to tell this as a story, Onua thought, it would be very awkward, because it would take a while to build up to the anticipation of setting out on this difficult journey, only to easily fix all the various and sundry problems in one day, with no troubles.


The orange tendrils never did catch up with them.


First, they went to Kriitunga Island, whose King had been trapped in a roofed cage of wood, one of the few that the Kuambu made to be inescapable. A difficult power struggle was happening there in the wake of this event, but Onua waltzed in, proclaiming Krohlaba to be leader – the Kriitunga who had most helped the Toa and his own people in recent days.


Then Nijire showed up, for no reason whatsoever, and found a way to get the King out after all.


The two Kriitunga ruled side-by-side in a balance of power – King Khungakrii and Regent Krohlaba. The poor class from which Krohlaba came was elevated.


All the Kriitunga threw a celebration for their helpers, and that was the end of it.


Onua chuckled at how easy this was.


Next they went to Toggler’s home island, found Korau just as the microscopic ‘Haywire’ parasite was leaving him, and the crystal froze time so that Onua could crush the little bug midair. Korau was thawed instantly by Toggler, and they left. Risk of war with Toggler’s people safely averted.


Onua laughed at the danger.


Destral appeared miraculously just on the horizon. Bhukasa seahopped right into their bay, and activated the special power that made a yellow wall of energy carry water up onto land, so the ship could go ashore and Destral couldn’t teleport away from it. Then Toggler just flash-froze all of Destral, and they walked through unchallenged.


Onua giggled at how easy it was to free Rathoa’s mind-minions.


Easily, they found the two missing Po-Matoran, Hafu and Kuhauha, on Memory Island, and got away with the Memory Stone, too. Onua easily remembered all his former life.


They did everything else they had to do too, in just a few seconds, with a newly discovered way to recharge the crystal’s time influencing powers.


For fun, Onua hopped back in time and undid ancient wrongs.


Then Makuta Teridax never turned evil, and Vaurukan and the Kuambu never kidnapped the Ko-Matoran.


All was good.

The End.



Onua jerked awake, still snickering.


Opened his mouth wide, and his eyes, to see a starry sky outside and a white snowy island. Toggler’s island.


Why am I laughing?


Then he remembered.


What a stupid dream…


Onua sighed. He wished it would be that easy.


He collapsed onto his back, staring at the wooden boards of the ceiling.


The boards which, since his quarters were near the prow, didn’t match right. They were cut by hand in preparation for yesterday’s battle, and slapped into place. Gaps in the boards showed an occasional star as the ship rocked back and forth, and shadows of crewmembers running around urgently.


He heard weapons firing.


Four things occurred to him at once.


Bhukasa chose Toggler’s island as his first stop. Not Kriitunga Island.


They’d come too late – the shapeswitchers knew the parasitic weapon had been used on them, and they blamed these visitors. They must have fired first, or Bhukasa’s crew wouldn’t be firing.


Third, they had no actual plans for how to do the things they must do, like stop Haywire. Nobody knew if Haywire could be stopped, although Toggler had a theory.


Onua was extremely tired.


He didn’t even remember going to bed when the Seahopper arrived. He did remember that he was nodding off even while holding the handles as the ship blasted through the ocean. How could he have gone to bed while the boat was still jerking around at high speed? Wouldn't he have been thrown all over the room?


He would just assume he was still dreaming... but he felt absolutely certain he was not.


As he drifted back down into sleep, he hoped that the sounds of battle – and the guilt that he wasn’t choosing to come out and help – wouldn’t make his next dream a nightmare.




Nijire walked closer to the Matoran.


“Hello?” she said.


The Matoran whirled. Shock on his face.


Grabbed a weapon.




“Wait! I’m---”


A bolt of blue energy hit her, and she instantly fell unconscious.




Kopaka finally felt ready to venture out into the Wahi.


But first he raided Turaga Nuju’s storehouse for a fur overcoat, one of several sometimes brought out for visitors who couldn’t stand the cold as much as Ko-Matoran could, though this was the only Toa-sized one they had.


While he was there, he grabbed a long pike weapon.


Why wasn’t Pohatu back yet?


Why hadn’t someone, if not Tahu, checked in with him by Rikaori?


Had Pohatu warned Onua in time?


Kopaka used the Akaku to search far and wide for Pohatu.


Moving quickly, he spent the next several hours climbing up the side of the Mangai, wishing he had a Kakama. He took off the overcoat before he left Ko-Wahi – it was amazing how warm you could get just by walking at a fast pace.


He climbed above where lava had broken out towards the south, but south of the clogged caldera.


Rounded the bend, carefully gripping the rock so he wouldn’t fall.


His vision power had a range limit, but he could use the telescope here. From this height, he could see the little green dot in a bay that was Ga-Koro.


Zoomed in.


Bhukasa’s ship was gone. He didn’t see any brown beings there that might be Pohatu.


Used his vision power to survey the nearby Kini-Wahi, still didn’t see him.


Looked southwest.


The many items of news his eyes reported to him here nearly made him lose his grip on the mountainside and fall to a fiery death in the lava flow.


Between him and Kewonga’s distant tree, laying unmoving on the grassy plain between the jungle and Kini-Wahi, were two Toa.




And Gali.




Tied up.


The jungle fire raged unchecked by the Toa of Water, though the sprinkler-system plants were erupting water.


Le-Koro still survived, an island surrounded now by molten lava.


A flock of Gukko flew south.


Five Kuambu ships, sailing east.


And he saw one more thing.


Eyes, in the unburnt trees of Kini-Wahi.


Watching him.


He could put up with the curiosity no longer. No longer could he fear to look upon the Kuambu knowing they would do anything they could to blur that memory.


He called on his mask and looked through the trees.


Beheld their shapes.


Their strange and unexpected shapes.


Then he turned, and with the pike’s tip, carved an image of their shapes in the volcano’s side.


Turned around to flee, knowing that if they put the other two Toa there, he would need help – a lot of help – and the benefit of stealth, to free them now.


Right behind him was a tendril.


Hanging from the night sky.


It lunged.


Stabbed him.


He fell back, his head hitting stone.


Slid down the mountain, as his vision faded.


He rolled as he went – so his eyes beheld the tendril then melting away his carving.


The last thing he saw was an Oru-Vortixx – a Third Faction species that never missed when it fired projectiles – stepping out from behind a Kini-Wahi tree, holding a Kuamor launcher, with a clear Kuamor loaded.


The kind that blurred memories.




“Onua!” came Bhukasa’s voice.


Onua sat up.


Had he told Bhukasa about the time limit?


He didn’t remember doing so.


Out the window, he saw a dark brown shape above the black water. It was hard to tell at night but he thought it looked like a desert island, and it was big.


So Kriitunga Island. They had hopped? He didn’t remember the room moving. Shouldn’t he have been yanked out of bed and awoken by the acceleration? The second time this impossibility had apparently happened.


“An orange tendril came,” Bhukasa said. “We had to flee the battle. How are you sleeping?”


He ignored the question. “Korau?”


The Captain shook his head. “We couldn’t even get ashore. But Toggler stayed behind. He’s going to go ashore and try to explain things. He thinks his people assumed we were holding him hostage.”


“So… good news.”


“Maybe. He’s been gone from them a long time, and he says they’ve faced the threat of the Kuambu for so long they’ve become extremely paranoid.”


Onua stood up. “Have you sent someone ashore already?” He pointed at the desert island.




“They’d better hurry.”


“We suspected so. There’s a strange… blur… watching...”


“I know.”


“You do?”


“Come. Gather your crew on the main deck. We have much to discuss.”




Kopaka’s vision faded back.


Whatever the creature did to Tahu, Pohatu, and Gali, it had failed to do to him.


It had stung the fur overcoat which he’d tied around his waist. Only the impact had affected him, and it hadn’t been enough to knock him all the way out.


The coat had now fallen away, as he rolled and slid down the mountain. His mask stayed on.

He held his arms and legs out so that he stopped rolling, and lifted his body, putting more friction on his hands and feet.


They found holds.


He stopped.

Just above the gushing lava.


Remembered the Kuambu – or rather, didn’t – and more importantly the Oru-Vortixx.


Quickly climbed to the western side of the lava flow, and slid down the rock next to it.


Tendrils rose up in the sky, and bent down to chase him.


He had no chance unless he fled into the burning jungle.


Thankfully, the flames had sufficiently charred this part black. The ground was covered in gray ash.


And he was no longer as sensitive to heat.


So in he ran.

Smoke was everywhere. The tendrils apparently lost sight of him.


He wished he’d held his breath, though he knew it wouldn’t last. He tried hard to suppress the temptation to cough, and slowed so his footfalls wouldn't be so loud.


Headed west.


A line of the sprinkler-system plants was nearby. Kopaka had noticed they crisscrossed the jungle in a grid pattern, as if placed there intentionally. This line was near enough he knew he could reach it.


The problem now was water. It sprayed so hard and in such volume from the tall, narrow plants he feared it would just push him away, and blast his mask off.


The fire had burned through this section of the grid already, and now it was dying. Gali wouldn’t be needed after all – the rest of the jungle would be safe. Good.


That also made his approach to the wall of moving water safe.




The trees here were so soaking wet they hadn’t burned at all.


And they were taller than the sprinkler plants. Most of those were actually only as tall as him, blending in with the surrounding foliage. It was the force of the expelled water that carried it high enough to drench even the canopy.


But that force was weak enough up there.


He could climb over.




Onua finished telling the crew all he knew.


As he did, he looked around at all their faces, judging unobtrusively how they reacted, as he usually did. But usually, it was others who were talking, not him.


Until now, he hadn’t realized who exactly was on the crew.

Of course he knew the Captain was onboard, and his first officer Maku. He knew Sairiph was aboard, as well as several Kriitunga. Of course Rathoa was here. The Kal. He knew most of the Ga-Matoran crew remained.


Takua was there, as was the strangely knowledgeable Taureko, the Ko-Matoran translator from Twisted Island.


The most notable crewmember, whom Onua hadn’t noticed at all earlier, was Hujo.


Formerly a Ta-Matoran mapmaker, wearing an orange Mask of Precision, he was now well-known as a figure of prophetic legend among the Unknown. The Jahurungi, solver of mysteries. He had just returned from a secret trip, probably to the Unknown’s home, learning some of their secrets.


Likely it was he who figured out the time limit thing while Onua was sleeping.


But Onua was confused – he'd thought Hujo still had many secrets to learn. He made a mental note to ask him later.


They were all surprised most by the news about the crystals of time, though three did not seem that surprised – Bhukasa, Hujo, and Sairiph.


The great blur moved in close, as if to hear every word, as he spoke. He was careful to say only what it already knew – not to discuss details of where they planned to go in preparation – and he warned them to follow the same rule.


When he told them about Tahu’s condition, Bhukasa immediately exclaimed, “You should have told me before we left! I still have an Awakener from the Lone Ship.”


“Sorry. I forgot about that.”


“We’ll have to get it back to Mata Nui somehow.”


“Too dangerous,” Onua responded immediately.


Sairiph nodded. “I have much that all of you need to know as well, about our enemy. And I agree, it is too dangerous to go back until we have completed our mission.”


“Please tell me there’s a way to beat this Vaurukan,” Onua said, turning to the elderly winged being.


Sairiph looked grim. “The best I think we can hope for is to find means to defend against his creatures. Beyond that, perhaps our rescues will succeed, and then when we return the Ko-Matoran here, we could keep them safe here – as well as the rest of your people.”


“And containing Teridax?” Rathoa asked.


“The difficulty in answering that question lies in your Rahunga.”


“They’re not mine any more.”


“My point is, they were formed after I… left the Brotherhood.”


The crew looked surprised, as was Onua. “You were a servant of the Makuta?”


“No,” Rathoa said, who alone was not surprised. “He is a Makuta.”


Gasps came from the crew. Taureko looked angry.


“I was exiled for holding to our ancient values of peace,” Sairiph said. “My name was Spiriah, but I ask you all to keep that between us.”


“Somehow I doubt,” Taureko spat, “that you Makuta were ever good.”


Sairiph sighed. “Perhaps some like Teridax never were. I only know that I have always served the interests of your people.”


Taureko didn’t look convinced. Onua didn’t know what to think.


“I believe the Brotherhood can be reformed,” Rathoa said quietly after a moment. “Even though it may look impossible now. People like Spiriah here – Sairiph, sorry – are the best hope for that. And Teridax is the worst hope for that, believe me. He must be contained.”


“You cannot contain him,” Taureko asserted. “I have spoken with him face to face. The only way to stop him is to kill him.”


“Where were you,” Takua couldn’t help but ask the Ko-Matoran translator, “that you could speak to Makuta… Teridax…”


“Destral,” Taureko said, looking away. “A slave. Long ago.”


Nobody said anything more for a moment.


Then Sairiph continued. “I do know that it’s highly unlikely Teridax will be freed. Unfortunately, the same can be said of the Ko-Matoran.”


With that, he launched into a long revelation of what he knew of Vaurukan’s creatures, and his island.


Of Vaurukan, he knew nothing except the name. It was much like the Kuambu.


Then Sairiph told them to ask any questions.


Hujo took over here. “Do you know how long he’s been working with the Kuambu?”


“I don’t.”


“How many sun-holes does his dome have?”




“Can you open them from above?”


“I can.”


“Only you?”


Sairiph narrowed his eyes at Hujo, obviously resenting the question. “Perhaps the Unknown as well. But otherwise, yes.”


“Why not Rathoa? He’s a Makuta too now.”


Rathoa answered for himself. “I wouldn’t know how.”


“And he is not really a Makuta,” Sairiph added.


“Yes I am!” Rathoa insisted, facing the Turaga-like being. Between the towering, ominous-looking Rathoa and Sairiph, Onua was inclined to think Rathoa was more a Makuta than the little one.


“You created some mask that put you through who-knows-what manner of shapeshifting transformation, but you are not like me, created as a Makuta by Mata Nui himself.”


Rathoa scowled. “You do not know what I am, and yet you declare what I am not.”


“Do you know what you are?”


The two stared at each other, neither appearing angry outwardly, but Onua could tell they were close to a fight.


A fight onboard this little ship, between Makuta… not a good idea.


He was about to say something, but Bhukasa spoke up first. “Uh… let’s… uh… not worry about that now, okay?”


Onua realized he had totally lost control of the meeting he had called. It was devolving into Who’s More Makuta Than Who? and it needed to get back on track. So he added, “Vaurukan. Continue.”


Sairiph looked at Onua as if he’d forgotten the Toa was on the ship at all.


Hujo broke the moment of awkward silence with another question. “Can these prison domes be penetrated?”


“They are of the same material as the larger dome the island is in,” Sairiph said. “It can be penetrated, but not easily. And if the Kuambu are involved, you can bet it’s coated in Crazolga slime.”


They all knew, from Bhukasa’s experience, what that meant. It nulled all powers anyone might attempt to use against it, and repelled beings and objects as well. The Kuambu apparently had a way around this problem, but nobody knew what it was.


Hujo asked more tactical questions, but Onua’s mind wandered.


He was thinking about Rathoa, with whom he had first made the deal to leave Mata Nui, to help contain Teridax.


He’d thought this at the time, and the argument a moment ago solidified it – events may have forced them to work together, but Rathoa was still a dangerous enemy. Whatever vision of ‘reform’ he had for the Brotherhood, Onua did not place hope in for one second.


What reform Sairiph would enact, were he to have the chance, Onua didn’t have any idea.


When Hujo had asked all he could think of, Kohrak-Kal asked a question none of them had thought of.


“Is Vaurukan a Makuta?”


“Uh, no,” Sairiph said. “Why would you think that?”


“What is he?”


Onua saw where this was headed before Sairiph did, and realized why nobody else had asked it.


“I told you, I don’t know.”


“You do not know what this one is,” the white Kal pointed out in his monotone voice, gesturing a handshield at Rathoa. “And I hear debate to your denial that he is a Makuta.”


“I…” Sairiph looked angry.


Whether by malice or robotic stupidity, the Kal was reopening the closed debate. And yet, Onua didn’t want to stop him. It was a good question, really. What Vaurukan might be would be very important later.


“Does Rathoa have the powers of a Makuta? Is he as dangerous as you?”


More,” Rathoa answered. “I am a Rah-Makuta.” Rahudermis, the substance of hate, the mutagen that made Rahunga more than just Matoran, made him darker than Teridax, if that was possible, and more powerful. Another reason, Onua thought, to fear him.


Sairiph didn’t disagree with Rathoa’s assertion.


“Then is it possible, as far as you know, that Vaurukan is comparatively dangerous.”“Not only is it possible,” Sairiph said, without a hint of reluctance, “I would bet my life on it, but I do not know the nature of his control.”“I ask this because I do not hear his mind. Yet he controls creatures in the way that Makuta Teridax did. The only beings I know of capable of this are the Bahrag, and the Makuta.”


“And me,” Rathoa said. “Thanks to one of my mask powers. That’s how I control my mind-minions.”


“But you are a Makuta,” the Kal said, sounding confused.


“I think his point is,” Hujo said, “there may be any number of ways to control – or influence – creatures. It's possible they are merely trained.”


Onua looked at the stars. They had moved noticeably. An hour must have passed by now. “We have lingered long. Where is your boarding party?”


Bhukasa had explained that he had sent several Kriitunga, as well as a crewmember named Johke, and five Toa who were from the dome realm below, to the island. They had gone in a modified Ga-Koro boat the Unknown had apparently allowed the people of Mata Nui to keep.


The trip should have been quick – the ferry could hover now, and fly quickly.


“I did mention that if the Kriitunga requested they stay the night,” Bhukasa clarified, “then we would leave and pick them up late tomorrow. I imagine the Kriitunga do sleep.”


Onua sighed. That was reasonable enough, but it worried him. Especially knowing the blur had heard every word. But perhaps it was a risk they had to take. The alliance with their neighboring island was important. Anything they could do to maintain it amidst its political turmoil was a good idea.


But he wished they hadn’t come yet, so this location could have been a surprise to the creature, and after they’d had time for this conversation.


Then he could have gone ashore himself. Pohatu had told him of their need for non-mutagenic soil to grow their crops in – the sand on most of the island was mutagenic, and dangerous over long periods of contact.


Takua volunteered to climb the crow’s nest and watch the river with his telescope.


“Go,” Bhukasa said. “But we’ll need to leave very soon. I’m gonna get to the seahopping room. I can watch the seafloor for signs of tendrils there.”


He went below. The meeting was over.


Onua waited. He also checked for signs of tendrils every few minutes, via the crystal of time.


He was still tired, and there was nothing more to do here, so he went below, back to his quarters.


He climbed down the ladder and walked towards his room.


“Wait,” Hujo’s voice said.


Onua turned around.


“I need to talk to you and Bhukasa alone. I didn’t want to say anything until you left the sight of the creature on your own.”




They went down the ladder to the rowing deck.


In the floor of this deck was a black metal hatch, now closed.


Hujo knocked.


It opened on a motor.


A device was now installed on the floor next to this hatch. Previously to get down you had to leap, which the superstrong Bhukasa could do easily, but this was needed for others.


When the hatch opened all the way, it hit a button device wired to this machine. A flap opened, and a rope ladder uncurled, lowering down into the hole.


An invention Ito had whipped up for them.


They climbed down.


When they were down, the rope automatically rolled back up into the machine, so Bhukasa could close the hatch, which he did. It moved quickly going both ways, making it very convenient.


The room normally looked barren, walled by smooth black metal, Onua knew, but all that metal was shining in various colors, showing the outside of the ship, as if from an invisible camera above the ship. With the hatch closed, the image totally surrounded them, as if they were actually standing on air above the ship.


“What is it?” Bhukasa asked them.


“I needed to tell you something the others – especially our observer – can’t hear,” Hujo said. “I can get the Awakener to Tahu.”




“Where is it?”


“In my quarters.”


“How would you find us again?” Onua asked.


“I have ways. But to be safe, do you still have those direction finders?”


These were also inventions of Ito, ones he’d been using for a long time, similar to compasses, but they only pointed at each other.


“One’s in my quarters,” Bhukasa answered. “The Gukko scouts have the others. Tell them to lend it to you.”


“Thanks. And one more thing. You should know I have the power to project illusions. When I return, that should come in handy.”


“Indeed it would,” Onua said, thinking of many ways that could help.


Bhukasa motioned for silence. He pointed west.


Five sails, on the horizon.


Suddenly, all five disappeared in purple flashes.


And reappeared, just off the prow, in five more flashes.


Bhukasa quickly aimed a thin beam of energy at a wall, displaying a set of buttons, moved it onto one shaped like a bird with an open mouth, and shouted for the crew to hold on for a seahop.


In the same moment – Onua knew because he froze it – a tendril burst through the seafloor.


Onua and Hujo ran to the hatch, which Bhukasa opened for them. Onua was just grabbing the rope ladder to climb out – Bhukasa preferred to be alone in the control room when they hopped because he had to sort of surf the floor as the acceleration and rapid changes of direction jerked the ship around – when it happened.


One of the five ships had hung back.


A cyan Kuamor flew out from it.


Away from the Seahopper.


Midair, it burst.


Light spread in a circle from it, the face of the circle aimed at the Seahopper.

The shockwave of cyan light grew exponentially. Bigger than the huge Kuambu ships. Bigger than all five together.


Formed a semisphere, encircling all six ships.


Continued, now forming a sphere around them.


Bhukasa frantically used his narrow beam of energy to bring up more symbols. A map appeared above them. He aimed at an island to the far west. His beam brightened, ‘clicking’ that location to seahop to.


A red X flashed across the map.


Nothing else happened.


All three looked at each other, understanding dawning. Hujo spoke what they were all thinking.


“They’ve trapped us here.”Review here

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Chapter 10



Onua froze time, just before the bubble of cyan light closed entirely – a hole in it hung in the air. Other than that dark hole, the bubble looked much like a clear daylight sky, though the Red Star and a few other bright stars peeked through it.


Please tell me there’s some way to stop that hole from closing, Onua thought to the crystal.


Not unless it burned more of its time-slowing ability.


Onua hoped it wouldn’t come to that. And what did he hope to accomplish by keeping it open? Hujo could probably leave out that hole, but the Seahopper couldn’t, and neither could he.




But the crystal believed differently. It refused to give him any sense of why, but it was certain Hujo could bring Onua.


It was also certain this would not burn all of its timeslowing ability. About a fourth of it.


What other options were there?


More importantly, would the bubble keep the tendril out?


The crystal was sure it would, but also sure the tendril could then weave a net of orange energy under the bubble. When the cyan light would fade away, the Seahopper could still not escape.

It was vital Onua leave, for now, to distract the creature.


Leave to Kriitunga Island, Onua thought. Maybe even to Mata Nui.


No. He shouldn’t go back, but Hujo should. Illusions.


Onua wanted to argue. You should save the timeslowing for later.


But the crystal was… well… crystal clear… that later would not come otherwise.


So the plan went into motion.




Jungle and the Kanohi Akaku work well together.


Kopaka had left the wall of spraying water behind and turned east. Walked around the wall until it tilted northward again.


He had crossed out of the Fau swamp now, and believed that he was nearing the road that led to Kewonga’s tree. Travel was slower without sunlight or nearby fire to help him see, but the Akaku helped.


No eyes stared out at him here, where they would have to hide close enough to him that he could see through any concealing foliage. This confused him – it had been the Kuambu that had changed him, and they had seen him without his sword. Surely they would know he was no danger to them – that he was vulnerable to capture.


Maybe they didn’t know the results of the change. Maybe chronoserum’s effects were unpredictable.

That was probably true, but Kopaka reminded himself that if they wanted to capture the Toa, they could have easily done it when they transformed them. So they must not want to capture him.


And this just confused him even more.


When the Kuambu attacked someone, they made a copy of the 'song' of their soul. This created an energy sphere, called a Kuamor, which most people believed couldn't have powers, but the Kuambu apparently knew how to activate powers. Each person's 'soulsong' activated a different power.


Most people with normal powers, they apparently left unconscious or simply memory-blurred, when they took a copy of their soulsong. But some with rare powers like Bhukasa they imprisoned so they would be more easily able to get more copies.


He was pretty sure he wasn’t being arrogant to believe that his soulsong would produce a valuable power if copied. Perhaps the actual power of ice itself, or something similar.


But he no longer had that power. What did that mean?


I have no idea.


There had to be a reason the Kuambu were behaving this way. But what?


Now the value of the Akaku showed itself once again.


Just ahead, Kopaka saw frantic movement.


At that range, and especially now that it was night, the Akaku did not give a clear image. It was like a blur, mainly just because what he was seeing seemed too small to see even if nothing had blocked his vision, even with the visor. The power did fade out, though – there was no uniform edge where it was suddenly gone.


He saw tons of beings fleeing a collection of buildings.


Buildings. In the jungle…


Some of them seemed to be stuffing objects into bags, so they took a few seconds longer.


Kopaka ran, hoping to catch a clearer glimpse, though reason told him if he did it would just be blurred away.


Purple flashes.


Those that were closest to him disappeared. Others ran, faster than he could.




Kopaka continued running.


When the buildings were near, he slowed, peeking through the last bit of foliage to gaze upon them with his real eyes.


Le-Wahi trees were huge and spaced fairly far apart. The buildings were small, bordering a narrow grassy path between trees. Ground foliage other than grass had been cleared.


In a circle around this, even the grass had been cleared, leaving a brown ring of earth.


Beyond this, broken branches had been arranged in a circle. To any normal person walking through, the whole thing would seem to be concealed by this wall of foliage, although Kopaka noticed these were tree branches, not normal ground foliage. Someone like the Jungledweller or any Le-Koronan would know they weren’t growing there naturally.


The buildings were constructed of the cleared ground foliage and of wood.


Sticks of bushes were arranged lattice-style to form walls. Larger deadwood logs had been squared and used to make the basic frameworks, and shelves on the open fronts of each building. The buildings were roofed with thinner leafy branches and small plants.


Each building was wider than it was deep, and only one story tall.


The entire wide front wall of each was open with the shelf in front of it. Open doorways cut into the left or right small walls. The open sides faced the central path, and small windows backed the buildings so the inhabitants could look outward towards the untamed jungle.

The design reminded Kopaka of merchant stalls run by Matoran across the island.


Kopaka surveyed the place again, and finding nobody there, stepped out and walked onto the path.


There were ten such buildings, five on each side of the path.


Behind the buildings, on the opposite sides of the circle from where he had entered, the grass looked trampled, and here and there Kopaka saw grass crushed in square or rectangular patterns. Smaller crushed grass formations looked roughly circular – these were the most common. Both shapes were spaced fairly widely apart.


He did not find footprints, which made no sense. They'd left quickly enough that he should still be able to see those in at least some of the grass.


Someone had, however, clearly swiped the dirt circle where they'd crossed over it to remove the footprints. He wondered if the last one in the group simply always dragged a branch behind them. It would be efficient.


In the exact center of all this, a vertical pole stuck out of the ground.


It was clearly carved out from the side of one of the nearby trees, which had a huge gash in it of about that shape.


Rejected wood cutouts from the shaping of the pole and the boards were piled around this pole.


Above it, a clock device hung on a metal band around the pole. A hand pointed to the number zero. At the base of the device, a little metal arm spun around, clicking against a black, sheeny stone.


A protoflint.


Sparks flew. One caught on the wood shavings, and lit.


Deadwood radiated from this, drawing lines in the ground between the pile and the buildings.


Kopaka ran up.


Swung the pike.


Smashed the device.


The flint stopped sparking.


Kopaka clamped his hand over the little flame. The heat hurt, but his armor would protect him.


Too late. Dry shavings were admist the cutouts. Fire was already spreading throughout the whole thing.


He ran around it, kicking away the lines of deadwood. Then he dug into the ground, making another brown ring.


It took a while for the fire to spread throughout the whole pile. The pole did not light, at least not yet – too moist. By that time, Kopaka had ensured it could not spread. It did give him more light to observe this place by, though.


They were trying to erase the evidence.


But couldn’t they still do that? They could storm in, torch the whole thing, blur his memories, and leave him standing there helpless to stop them.


Was anything about this really valuable information? It didn’t seem that way to him. He knew they copied soulsongs into Kuamor spheres, and activated unique powers in the spheres, depending on whose soul originated them.

This must produce a wide variety of powers.


It made sense they might have trading posts, where merchants would barter power for power, selecting the ones they wanted.


The design was intriguing for how low-tech it was, and it bespoke a strange mix of technical know-how and primitive materials. That trait of the Kuambu was already known at least in their ship designs and specifically from several examples Bhukasa had encountered.


A primitive self-destruct system just like this had been used to destroy the ship Bhukasa had trapped on land.


But Bhukasa had commented that it seemed there were many records with important information destroyed in that fire. The ship design itself was not really a secret. Right?


No, there had to be more here.


Kopaka ran around, looking for something unexpected.


He knew if he found something, they would probably know, and blur it. But at least he would know he’d found something worth blurring. Something he or someone else could seek out again sometime.


Time was short – they’d see the smoke from this fire, but also see that it wasn’t enough smoke – but he couldn’t find anything.


Nothing on the shelves.


Nothing inside the buildings, nothing behind them. Not the tiniest fragment of some theoretical tablet of the most trivial knowledge had been left behind.


Maybe the arson machine is just to hide the way they conceal these places.


These buildings did not look like housing. If the Kuambu were camping somewhere else in the jungle, they might use a similar strategy to disguise the camp. Although with the whole fleet anchored to the south, maybe they just teleported to the ships at night.


Anyways, presumably they’d build another market now that this one was discovered. Something else to search for.


Until now, Kopaka hadn’t dared to enter the buildings. Paranoid, perhaps, to think that Kuambu who were so far away now his mask didn’t reveal them could get here so fast to torch a building, and collapse it on him. On all levels that was a ridiculous idea and yet he clung to it.


But now he ventured to walk into one of them.


He saw the clue immediately.


Half under the shelf, by the front wall, where he wouldn’t have seen it from outside.


In fact, he had felt something was off about it when looking inside with his mask, but at that angle he hadn’t been sure.


Now, looking down at it, he clearly saw a circular depression. Not just in the grass, but an inch into the ground.


Something shaped perhaps like a cylinder had rested here.


Something heavy. Fairly big.


“Hello,” a voice said in the doorway behind him.


Kopaka almost jumped out of his mask in fright.




The crystal reached out only to the remaining gap in the cyan bubble, to freeze the energy in place around it.


Everything else proceeded in normal time as soon as Onua came out of the observation mode.


Onua turned to Hujo. “Get the Awakener fast and meet me on the main deck.” He stepped off the ladder so Hujo could go first.


He climbed to the top deck amidst a battle that already raged.


Kuamor spheres whizzed through the air, lighting up the night.


Bombfruit, Makuta powers, and other projectiles fired back.


Onua focused on watching the incoming fire, making sure he didn’t get hit. The ship was being slowly dismantled around him, and those powers that weren’t destructive littered the deck with sticky webs and brown ropelike nets. He fired off a few balls of compact earth, but none of them did any damage.


Hujo ran up to him.


“Get me to the river shore,” Onua said, pointing. “Fast.”


Hujo nodded. But then he did what didn’t strike Onua as fast at all. He leaned on his staff, clutching it tightly, closed his eyes, and stood totally still.


Onua figured he had a good reason, and focused on protecting him.


Hujo didn’t move for an agonizing twenty seconds – or maybe a few minutes.


Then he opened his eyes, materialized a strange metal sphere, and started tapping a tune on it.


Onua frowned. What in the world was he doing? This was no time for music!


The sphere unfolded like a flower.


Hovered over their heads.


Blue energy formed a bubble around them.

The bubble and its passengers lifted into the air. Zoomed over the stern, then over open water, then through the hole.


Onua looked back. The hole closed almost instantly. The crystal had timed the release just right, so that not a second of time-altering potential was wasted.


Hujo briefly explained this 'Songsphere' to Onua, as it flew, and told him to keep it secret. The bubble, sphere, and its two riders all appeared translucent – he was using an illuion power to keep it invisible to outsiders, especially Vaurukan's creature. Apparently it worked via soulsongs, though in a very different way from Kuamor spheres.


“But Bhukasa will need the creature to leave him alone,” Onua pointed out. “I think once you drop me off you have to appear visible, with an illusion of me still in the bubble, and fly back to Mata Nui. Otherwise the tendrils will trap the Seahopper.”


Hujo reluctantly agreed. “I guess the secrecy of the Songsphere must end sometime anyways. Just... if anyone ever asks you about it, don't talk about it anyways, okay? Ito told me Makuta wants it desperately and that would be very bad.”


Onua agreed.


They landed amongst the trees, and then Hujo left. For a while, Onua couldn't see him, then he did – and saw the fake Onua too. The tendrils reacted immediately, chasing Hujo.


Just to be safe, though, he ran away from the landing point, putting as many concealing trees between him and that place as possible. After all, the creature was super-smart, and it didn't take much brains to figure out invisibility and illusion might be connected.




Kopaka whirled.




“Don’t sneak up like that!”


The Jungledweller grinned, his eyes twinkling.


“How’d you do that, anyways? I was looking around every few seconds.”


Ito just kept smiling, offering no reply.


“What do you want? How’d you find me?”




Right. And the Kuambu would see it too.


“Is that invisible bird around? I could use a lift.”


Ito nodded. “Comefast.”


Kopaka ran out, following the Le-Matoran. He noticed Ito was carrying a small camera device, called a ‘camerati’ by its makers, the Kuambu, which Bhukasa had found last night.


He was pointing it all around at the market. Apparently it was recording. “Good idea,” Kopaka said. “Just don’t let them suspect.”


Ito glanced back at him, ignoring the comment, then tapped a button. A red lever behind a little hole flipped down out of view. Conserving recording space – the camerati was already almost full of previous recordings from Bhukasa’s enemy.


While holding eye contact, Ito reached out to empty air and disappeared.


Actually, of course, he had touched Jhianau and been turned invisible by the same power that made the bird invisible.


Kopaka could tell because he could see this clearly with his Akaku – a splendorous white bird that only its riders could normally see. He should have been able to see this coming. It did fly almost silently, though – maybe it just came in fast.


Kopaka walked to the spot and touched the bird as well, getting on. “You recorded a view of that weird depression?”




Ito flew them up higher, then turned back one more time and recorded a view of the market from above.


Then they left.


As they flew, Kopaka kept expecting a clear Kuamor to come out of nowhere. But it didn’t happen.


They’d made it out safely.




Hujo had set Onua down on the the south riverbank, between the wooden docks at the mouth and the inescapable cage.


Now Onua was close enough to see that cage dimly in the starlight.


Like other Kuambu prisons they’d seen, it was large enough to house its own jungle, split in two by a dividing fence, and could probably contain over a hundred prisoners if it had to. The outer fence was taller than the trees, and covered in repelling Crazolga slime.


Unlike other prisons, a dome-shaped roof was built over this, also of slimed wood.


There was only one outer door – made of wood, with a metal lock. The door would be easy to break, but its slime kept everybody but Kuambu from touching it.


Onua walked closer.


Inside of the prison, he could see its sole captive, King Khungakrii.


Or rather, plain old Khungakrii. By virtue of being captive he was automatically robbed of his title. The green beetle-like mutant obviously understood this well, for he had taken off his golden crown. He appeared to be collecting fruit by the door.


Onua walked closer. The King spotted him immediately.


“Who doth go yonder?” the King demanded. “And what creature be ye?”


Onua was surprised he didn’t recognize a Toa… wait… he’d been changed. He was now so bulky, Khungakrii may have thought him a Makuta.


“Toa Onua,” he said.


“Ah.” He spoke casually now. “Well, Onua, don’t waste your time here. Get into town and help the farmers. We need non-mutagenic soil badly.”


“I should get you out.”




“Have you tried burrowing under the fence?”


“We have. It goes down into the mutagenic layer at least. Don’t try.”


Onua frowned. He’d heard horror stories about what that sand could do to you, but the really bad stuff only happened if you spent a lot of time in it. “You might not be aware of it, but your people are in turmoil, unable to choose your successor. There’s talk of freeing Mhondomva.”


“I started that talk myself,” the Kriitunga said. “Mhondomva is but one of many rebels—”


“I thought he led—”


“—and an influential member of the lower class.”


Ah yes. The class thing.


“Look, sir, I don’t know much about your island. But I know a thing or two about digging, and I think I can get you out. If our alliance is to be strong—”


“Don’t you dare risk it,” Khungakrii said, stepping up to the fence. The repulsion field pushed him back. He closed his eyes, leaning his head back.


“I can do it with my elemental power,” Onua said. “Make earth to push the sand away. I can go deep enough.”


“Listen to me, Toa. My people are in sight of the glorious mountain of a new perspective. But right now they’re still mired in the swamp of our long-beloved traditions. Even most of we high-class Kriitunga hold strongly to these. And one of our most important traditions is that any captive Kriitunga is not—”


“I know about that.”


“You obviously do not or you would have already headed into town to help our farmers. Please. You do not understand.”


Onua huffed in frustration. “Look. If your people ever want to break free of this stranglehold your old ways have on you, maybe you need an outsider to show them how it’s done.”


With that, he aimed his claws at the ground and started working.


Khungakrii threw up his hands in frustration, but he didn’t argue further.


It occurred to Onua, as purple energy moved earth aside, that maybe he was still trying to live out that ridiculous dream, thinking he alone could solve all the problems in the world.


He kept on anyways.


Every second I spend on this is one less I’ll have to help the town. He knew Hujo’s illusion would not be convincing for long. Maybe he should have listened. He imagined walking into town with the solution to the leadership debate at his side, to cheers all around, except maybe for Mhondomva who would sulk in his cell.


But maybe it wouldn’t look that way. Maybe to the Kriitunga it would look like proof that this outlander Toa was fool enough to take risks he shouldn’t take. Oblivious to their deeper reasons for rejecting Khungakrii.


Onua allowed his analytical nature to return to the memory of Krohlaba’s voice, describing events on the island.

Whenever he talked about the King, the miner had sounded frustrated, even angry. Onua had assumed the anger was directed at the Kuambu, at cruel fate… he hadn’t suspected it might be directed at the King himself.


Come to think of it, why had the King gone out to help Bhukasa?


Onua had been so focused on the mystical, terrifying way the King ended up here, he didn’t think about what led up to it.


This roof had apparently teleported over a different prison. There Bhukasa had staged a showdown with a rogue, genocidal Kuambu captain. Khungakrii had been there.

Then, when it was over, the roof – and Khungakrii – had teleported here.


Why, nobody knew, except to vaguely blame the reality-altering effects of chronoserum.


But if Khungakrii had remained safely in the town, he wouldn’t be here in the prison. Though he hadn’t walked intentionally into this prison, he had gone intentionally into a prison. The Kriitunga must see that as immensely foolish.


Onua scowled.






Khungakrii had done the honorable thing. Helped out in a time of need.


Tossed aside considerations of class and status, which he could have easily clung to as an excuse to do nothing. He saw he was one more body that could help, and so he went. Onua admired him greatly for that.

If the Kriitunga didn’t understand how noble that was, how valuable that made this person, how right it was for him to be their King…


Well, then, Onua would just have to make them understand.Review here

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Chapter 11

Onua moved earth aside in a wide, deep hole, exposing as much mutagenic sand as he could.


Then he made the pile of earth form a huge fist.


Pushed into the sand.

Scooped it aside.


Like this he continued until…


A foundational layer.


Of wood.






The big vertical poles continued down, anchoring the whole structure. This layer wasn’t even at the base of them. It was only about fifteen feet down. Blocking escape from underneath. The earth inside was even hovering above this layer due to the repulsive effect, though that same effect blocked his elemental sense that would have told him that without needing to see it.


He cut off the flow of elemental energy. Sat down at the lip of the hole, staring at it in defeat.


“So… then,” Khungakrii asked quietly, “no escape?”


Onua breathed deeply and let it out slowly. “None. I’m sorry.”


The Kriitunga looked like he didn’t know what to say.


Onua looked up.


Hadn’t a hole been blasted in the roof while it was still over the other prison?


There it was. The wood was thinner there, but it reflected starlight with the same sheen as the rest of the wood. Slimed.


The only way out was that door.


Onua lowered his eyes to it. Then his head. Stood, staring intently at it.


The door was placed right where the divider fence would have met the outside fence. But another door between the two halves of the prison put a gap here. It seemed that the thicker wood frames of these doors was even more heavily slimed, so the repulsion was stronger. But there was no actual physical blockade. If you didn't know about the slime, you would think anybody could just walk right through.


He’d dug to the right of the door – the jungle inside was divided into two, and Khungakrii was on the right side of the divider fence. He walked to the left of the hole, as close as he could get to the door, until he felt a faint repelling force.


Onua aimed a beam of purple elemental energy at it.


The energy bounced off the repulsion field.


I have a Btou staff. Two. Maybe I have a secondary power that will help. He tried again, focusing on the staffs merged with his claws.


A bolt of sparkling purple energy flew out.


Bounced off.


Glanced off a tree. Wood dust burst out from that spot.


Hit the ground.Some pebbles that had been there disintegrated too.


Onua stepped away, his eyebrows raised.




He was lucky that hadn’t bounced back into him… So... his secondary power was disintegration? He wasn't sure how he felt about that, but it made sense. He could turn stone into Earth now. He'd just have to be very cautious about ever using it.


Looked back at the lock, tilting his head with a grimace, his eyes locked on it. There had to be a way.




He tried. Stepped forward, his feet moving through ground plants.


His hand bounced off the field.


He stepped back. Leaned over and picked up a stick. Powers weren’t working.But the stick snapped against the field too. Onua gritted his teeth and hissed in frustration.


Stepped back. Called on the Pakari. Leapt at it, punching with his right claw.

The Claw of Strength.


Bounced off.


Again, harder.




“COME ON!” he shouted as he slammed into the field again. There had to be a way – the Kuambu could touch slimed things with no repulsion at all, and walk through this door at will.


He tried again, running even faster at it. Bounced.


“Stop it!” Khungakrii barked. “Just stop!”


Onua stepped back, shaking his head, eyes locked now on Khungakrii. “Why are you here?”


“The… I…”


“I know the how… Well, not really. But why you?”


“I don’t have answers,” Khungakrii said, spreading his arms in a gesture like a shrug but more like giving up.


“Surely you know something. Surely as the King of this island, you know something – you did something to help cause this!”


“Are you blaming me for my own imprisonment?”


“I just want to know what you know! Why did it pick you?”


“I don’t know!”


Onua was about to ask again, when he caught motion out of the corner of his left eye.




Something moving.


Something blue.


Ducked behind a tree.


He glanced back at the King, raising a finger to his lips. He remembered barely anything about the Kuambu who had swarmed over the Bahrag’s battlefield, but he remembered the blurs came in three colors, including blue.


Once after fighting a battle with countless blue Nui-Jaga, he had imagined he’d caught a glimpse of something like this. But this time he was sure. Something was there. He saw the plants still moving – someone or something had just brushed them aside.


Another fact came up from his memory eagerly.


The Kuambu had a way through this door.


He’d only seen one.


He could take just one.


Force it to open the door.


Onua narrowed his eyes. Clenched his fists, hunching his already hunched back. He’d have to stay highly alert, and move fast.


“Don’t even think about—”


Onua whirled back, stepping up to the fence in defiance. “You just be quiet. I don’t know what you did, but I know your people need you and I’ll do whatever it takes. Don’t say another word.”


Khungakrii looked pained and honored at the same time. He didn’t speak.


Onua turned back to where he’s seen blue.


Took a deep breath.






Kopaka sat in a wooden chair in Kewonga’s lobby. He’d just finished telling Matau, Lewa, and Kewonga all he knew.


Ito now played back the footage of the market, and the arson machine.


“What could that be?” Kopaka asked, pointing at the image of the depression. He directed the question at the Turaga.


“I know-not,” Matau said.


“Whatever it was,” Kewonga commented, “it sounds like they teleported it out at the last minute. For now it's probably on the ships.”


“Could be many-lands far from here,” Lewa said. “Who mind-knows?”


“And how did they know I was coming?” Kopaka wondered.


“Bhukasa found a helm wheel in the basement level of that ship,” Matau said. “Remember?”


Right. He’d said there was nothing like a screen, not even a mirror system to give the steersman a view of the outside. How did they know where to maneuver the ships without a window?


One theory was that they shouted down directions to the helm. There was some justification to this – a Ga-Matoran mercenary had been in that ship’s crow’s nest earlier and Bhukasa had seen her shout down to them when she’d spotted his ship. But it seemed unlikely normal navigation was done this way.


Another theory was they had something like Kopaka’s Kanohi Akaku. A Vision power.


That theory made more sense, especially now.


“So,” Kopaka said. “If they can see like I can see…” He turned to Ito. “Can you sneak up on them?”


Ito looked disappointed he’d thought to ask this. Didn’t answer for a moment.


When he did, his voice was almost a whisper. “I started something last night. Something that once I started, I cannot stop.”


“What-mean?” Matau asked, sounding worried.


“The beginning of my end.”


“What?” they all exclaimed at once.


Lewa continued, sounding dismayed, “How did you end-start?”


“I can’t tell you.”


“What-point?” Matau demanded.


“My point,” Ito said, looking at Kopaka and speaking the standard dialect, “is yes. I could. But I have a different path. One I must embark on now.”


Unspoken was what did not need spoken. All here knew Ito had mysteriously died eight times, and come back to life. But this was his last life. If he went on this path…


“What-path?” Lewa asked, his voice now sad, but resigned.


Ito sighed.


Looked at his feet. “Kanoka is about to leave. I must follow him.”


“Why?” Kopaka asked. “To watch him? To what end? We know where he’s going.”


“You know his destination. You do not know where he is going in destiny. Neither does he. He is not setting out to do what he thinks he is.”


“What-mean?” Matau asked. “He will not free Teridax?”


“I know-not about that. But on the way, he will find a different… thread… he does not expect. He will wish to follow this thread. He will think it is…” Ito looked like he had a word on the tip of his tongue, but couldn’t quite remember it. “He will think it’s for… he will think… he wants it.”


“Thread?” Kopaka shook his head. “What are you talking about?”


“It will make sense in the end.” Ito closed his eyes as he said this. Two tears flowed down his cheeks, under his mask.


Then he opened his eyes, and the expression Kopaka saw there was not sadness, but… something indefinable, but something that seemed like a mix of unbending determination and… and… happiness. Deep happiness.


I have to cut that thread,” Ito said.


He looked around at each of them. Kopaka realized with a sadness he couldn’t understand that Ito had been thinking about this for a long time, well before he showed up in the Kuambu market.


“And I must leave now.”




Onua raced through the river’s bordering jungle.


Southwest, the way this bend of the river was aligned.


Ahead, he kept catching glimpses of blue.


He kept trying to enter the timefreeze, but the moment he did, his mind hurt, and he fell out of it. He’d obviously used it too much recently, or maybe the crystal itself needed to recover from the burning of so much time energy this close to the end of its ability.


Or maybe the Kuambu was somehow blocking his connection with the crystal.


A possibility he didn’t want to dwell on.


The blue he'd seen was the glow of two blue eyes.


A Ga-Matoran ferrywoman named Niaka – who had turned out to be a Rahunga, but had reformed – had seen blue eyes on a Kuambu, shining through a brown veil, when she’d been captured by them recently.


Blue eyes for the blue Kuambu.


Onua had commented about the blue he’d thought he’d seen a long time ago. Two blue eyes, or so he’d thought in retrospect it had been, in a cave in Onu-Wahi, but the eyes had disappeared before he could look right at them.


The Turaga had denied that it could be a Kuambu.


The Unknown named Surkahi had also told them he’d done something to keep the Kuambu from seeing Mata Nui Island for a long, long time. None could have already been there at the time. As they discussed this, Hujo looked uneasy, as if he might know what Onua had seen, but he didn’t volunteer the information. Another Unknown secret, perhaps.


Or maybe Onua had seen an Unknown.


Their eyes were more ice-blue than normal blue, though.


Come to think of it, the eyes he kept seeing now…


Looked more ice-blue.


Am I chasing an Unknown?


An exciting idea. If so, he wouldn’t mind that it was distracting him from freeing Khungakrii. If he was honest, he knew perhaps it was trying to tell him that was a futile endeavor anyways.


He just hoped that wasn’t all it was telling him. He wanted to speak with the Unknown.


He caught another glimpse now as the river turned northwards. The being was out in the desert now.




Ducked behind a dune.


Onua made a carpet of earth and ran over it, continuing the chase.


He didn’t remember quite what Kuambu looked like, but he was pretty sure they weren’t shaped like bulkier versions of Matoran. Nor would they walk on the sands. This was indeed an Unknown. They possessed sandals that would make them hover a few inches.


He ran faster, making the earth layer thinner so he wouldn’t spend as much elemental energy.


I’m leaving a trail, Onua thought. In the daylight it would be plain as… well… day… to the tendrils. He turned around, absorbing earth back into elemental energy. Better for him anyways; it replenished him faster.


Continued on, eyes searching.


There it was again!


It was heading in a line toward where the north-south mountain range plunged into the sands, just short of the southern coast of the desert island.


And it was moving fast. Much faster than Onua. With each glimpse the eyes seemed farther away.


He made the layer still thinner and ran even faster.


“Surkahi?!” he shouted. “It’s me! Onua!”


The one you used to tell secrets to!


Farther away.


“HELLO!” he shouted. “IT’S ONUA!”


This couldn’t be Surkahi – well, since they were shapeshifters, it could, but probably wasn’t. Surkahi was colored tan. Only his eyes were ice-blue. It was hard to tell in the dark, but Onua was pretty sure this one was colored blue. The contrast with the tan-colored ground was too great.


One of the few things Hujo had dared to tell the others, Onua remembered now, was that some Unknown were blue, including the leader. A female. Caroha.


“Caroha?” he called.


The mountains ahead were not that irregular, though as he got closer he could see a few spire-like shapes.


But his eyes now happened upon something dead ahead that did not fit the skyline.


A tower.


Too perfectly cylindrical to be a rock formation. Topped by a cone roof that was wider than the cylinder.


Onua wondered briefly if this was the Shredder Tower. But that robotic rock-disintegrating monstrosity was up at the town – and north of the town – according to Pohatu, who’d almost been killed by it. And it was metal.


This was placed about as far south as you could get and still be on Kriitunga Island, right at the tip of the mountains. And starlight did not glint off of this the way it should if it was metal. This was stone.


The moon was out – a faint sliver right now, rising. It cast an eerie backlight on the edges of the tower, and the mountain ridge too.


The Unknown was almost to this tower. That was its – or her – destination.




Ito stood in the Gukko nest room – a large enclosure with a big bamboo door.


One nest moved around as if a bird was on it – because Jhianau was.


Kopaka and the others stood there, waiting to say their goodbyes. There had been no arguing with Ito about this. How could they? They wanted to. Reason shouted at them to, but Kopaka had never met someone with a personality so… indefinably forceful and gentle at the same time.


The Jungledweller materialized something.


A mask.


A blue-painted noble Huna.


“What-for?” Lewa asked.


They all recognized it – it was Niaka’s Rah-Kanohi. That was how Ito had discovered that the Ga-Matoran ferrywoman was a Rahunga, when the Kuambu had knocked it off on the beach, and he’d found it. Found the evil rahudermis stored in it as if it was an energy pack. Ito had offered it back to Niaka, but she had refused it.


“For Kopaka,” Ito said, looking at the mask.


Kopaka opened his mouth, his eyebrows frowning. “I will not…”


Ito raised his eyes. Made eye contact. His face was calm, serious, understanding. He said nothing but Kopaka understood that he would accept no argument on this.


He held the mask up.

Kopaka’s arm took it. His mouth closed, his voice useless. He was powerless except Vision. As filled with hate as rahudermis was, it could make people strong. Ito had told them at the meeting that even he had used it, and he had beaten the hate inside it.


“Use only when no-choice,” Ito commanded, “Focus… focus on love. You are strong enough to overpower the hate.”


“Does it have Huna power?” his voice asked.


“Yes. Go for Pohatu and Gali, but alone-not.” Ito gestured at Lewa. “You must too-go. The Kuambu are too much for Kopaka alone.”


The old Kopaka would have scoffed at that, even without his ice powers. He said nothing. It was true.


Now Ito turned back to Kopaka and again spoke normally. “I may never see you again, so I must tell you this. All of you Toa Mata are important to the fate of the Paracosmos. But you, Kopaka, are the most important. The loneliness you think you crave will one day become your torment. And that will be the least of your worries.”


Kopaka swallowed. He didn't understand the words, but he let them sink in anyways, knowing one day he would understand.


Ito’s voice lowered, not quite to a whisper. “I know you think of yourself as ready. But you know deep down you are far from it. That... that… will…”


He sighed, shaking his head. “I wish I could tell you everything.”


He turned back to Jhianau. Reached up, and disappeared as soon as he touched the unseen creature.


His voice now seemed to come from all around.


“You have so much farther to go, Kopaka.”


If anyone else had said this – anyone but the one who once showed Kopaka the way of truth, who died to show it to him – it would have been an insult. Kopaka’s eyes teared up.


The big bamboo door opened.


There was a faint buzzing sound. The sound of Jhianau’s wings.


The door closed.


They all stared at it for a while longer.




Onua did not see the blue being again, but he thought he saw motion at the right base of the tower.


Perhaps a door opening and closing.


Onua crossed the rest of the distance quickly.


The first floor of the tower had a single round window.


On his moving carpet of earth, he crept up to it.


Looked in.


There was something dreamlike about what he saw, though he couldn’t quite place why.


He saw a room made of stone.


A perfectly formed stone ladder against the left wall, reaching up to another level.


A candle on a wooden stand.


A wooden chair.


On the chair, a female Unknown. Wearing a fancier version of a Kanohi Ruru, a mask of night vision. Two finlike pieces of metal rose from her shoulders in a V formation.


She held a long and colored tapestry in her hands.A needle.


Balls of thread arrayed all over the floor, in every color imaginable. Hundreds of them.


The Unknown was knitting.


Engrossed in her work. It looked at if she had been sitting here doing this for hours, and strangely his mind did not question this contradiction.


He tapped on the window.

She did not look up. Gave no indication that she'd heard.


Onua looked down at the ground. Continued his carpet, curving it around to the door.


He reached out, and gently took the wooden doorknob. He turned the doorknob, and swung the door open.


Blackness inside, and the smell of dust.


Onua’s eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness.


“Caroha?” he whispered, stepping in. A cloud of dust swirled around his feet.


Faintly, reflecting starlight, he saw the chair.






There was no candlestand. No spools of colorful thread. The ladder had crumbled with age.


No Unknown.Review here

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Chapter 12



Onua stared disbelievingly at the ancient room.


He walked inside and closed the door, facing away from the window, so what little light came in from it did not harm his night vision.


There was one more object – a metal one.


He picked it up, held it to the window.


The candle’s base. There was still a candle here, but it was much more worn down than he’d seen it, and part of the off-white wax had split away on the left side.


Something else glinted on the floor near it.


Onua picked that up and studied it, too.


A little metal pick.


Onua felt around on the dusty floor, hoping to find anything else.


There were many broken stones. But he found one stone that felt different. When he held this to the window, he could barely see it. Must be colored dark.


A flint?


Onua set the candle down, held the rock over its wick, and scraped the pick on it.


The rock sparked.


Candle didn’t catch.


He tried again.


This time it caught.


Onua put the flint and pick in his backpack, and picked up the candle. Examined the room again by its light.


There was the broken, empty chair. The wood looked dried out, like it would snap on a single touch.


He saw the stand now, under the ladder and shattered into splinters. It seemed like someone had walked in the door, kicked it out from under the candle – and maybe the lighting kit, though Onua didn’t remember seeing that before – and it had broken on the ladder.


Could that impact explain how the previously perfect stone ladder had become a crumbled mess in the time it took Onua to walk from the window to the door?


He held the candle closer.


No. Dust covered the stones that had fallen from the ladder in varying amounts. Probably it had just slowly decayed over time.




He thought back to the Watcher Temple. The arrangement of the corridors had seemed to imply there would be a third crystal, the Crystal of the Future. But it wasn’t there, as if someone had taken it out, and put the other claw-glove there instead.


Onua froze time, and asked the crystal if his suspicion was right.


Could the third crystal have been here? Could it have affected time like the first crystal had? Speeding up the aging of the room so that millenia went by between Onua looking in the window and opening the door?


The crystal was emphatically sure that wasn’t what had happened. It would have sensed a distortion of time this close.


Is there some kind of hierarchy of you crystals? Might the future one be more powerful?


More dangerous, yes. But not more powerful, and no, there was no hierarchy. All three were artifacts that belonged to the Unknown, it believed.


The danger of the future crystal was simply that an enemy like the tendril monster could find it, and see thirty minutes into the future, making them able to prepare for most attempts to defeat it. That was why the third crystal was not in the Watcher Temple – it had to be stored somewhere much more secure.


Where that was, it did not know. The Unknown had treated all three of them not as living beings with curiosity that needed satisfied but as mere possessions. Given that the crystals themselves believed they were not truly alive, they understood this perspective, and did not ask questions.


Onua couldn’t relate to this. But he knew why he couldn’t, so maybe he could understand, a little.


Well, then, what happened here?


The crystal thought it was most likely that the Unknown wanted him to see her, and wanted to show him something, but did not want him to understand yet why he had seen it.


So what he’d seen through the window was a vision.


Not so much of the past, nor of the future, but symbolizing something important to him now.


How it was done was not that important. There were any number of ways it could have happened. Chronoserum could alter reality without affecting time – perhaps both contradictory realities had actually occurred, somehow. Or maybe the shapeshifting nature of the Unknown explained it. It didn’t matter.


The point was, there had to be a reason Onua had been drawn here. If the Unknown hadn’t wanted him to see her come here, she could have shapeshifted into a tree or something before even leaving the river.


He had to find out what it was.


Onua – or the blur that represented him – nodded in agreement. He still hadn’t forgotten his hope to free Khungakrii, and given the timing of all this, maybe something here would help.


Then looked up.


This was just one floor of several in the tower.


Let’s see what’s up there.




Nijire woke up.


She was in a room made entirely out of high-tech junk welded together and interconnected by blue-glowing tubes.


Through countless gaps all around, she could see she was atop a short tower, all made of junk too.


The walls – in fact the floor and ceiling too – were so complicated, she couldn’t understand anything else about it.

The green-striped Ko-Matoran sat on a bench on the other end of the room – a metal slab held up by – of course – more of the sleek devices. His back was to her, facing a screen mounted in the wall, manipulating more controls.


Nijire was on a similar slab. The scene outside was dark except for the vast constellations of blue larger lights and multicolored dots of light. It was still raining, and the rain was freezing on impact, adding to the layers of ice.


She sat up.


The other Matoran turned, hearing her moving. She saw he wore a Kanohi Calix. Nodded, and turned back to his work.


“Sorry about the stunblast,” he said. “Kuambu come in sometimes. I don’t like giving copies of my soul or whatever it is to the Kuambu, and in the case of the creatures… hesitation means death. Depending on the creature.”


She sighed. “You’re talkative for a Ko-Matoran.”


“That sentence had five words – six or seven if you count the contraction and the prefix. In other words, so are you.”


Nijire laughed. “And you have a good sense of humor.”


He gave a dramatic bow.


“Where am I?”


“If you came out of that staircase, you saw my painting.”




“We’re in a junkyard dome Vaurukan has turned into a prison for his more dangerous… collections. At least, that's what this was.”


“What do you mean?”


“It's all different now because of what they have me doing.”


“They? The Kuambu?”


He nodded. “They’re not smart enough to make it themselves, so when they found me… long ago… they brought me here.”




“I don’t know. I only know I used to live in the village, and then one day the Kuambu came down. They brought me up to the surface realm for a time. They brought me to their top leaders, who explained what I must do. They said if I didn’t, they’d capture all my friends too.”


“Do what?”


He gestured through the many gaps, all around. “Connecting these devices. Turning them into a single machine for the Kuambu to use.”


“Use for what?”


“I don’t know.”


Nijire shook her head. How could he design something and not know what it was for? “I don’t understand any of this. Why am I here? Have you seen others like me? I know others were taken from my village.”


“You’re the first Matoran I’ve seen since they brought me here.”


“Have you seen… boxlike things, big enough to have a room inside, made partially out of stone and partially of protobronze?”


He looked at her. “That’s what the junk drops look like. But there's been far, far more than normal lately. I haven't had time to check them out.”


She briefly told him all she knew.


“Primitive tools,” he muttered, not in a complaining tone but a thoughtful one. “I could get into the forest…”


He stood up, looking excited. “Come. Let’s find your people.”




The next room in the tower was bare and dusty.


Explain something to me, Onua asked the crystal as his blur hovered higher. With the Crystal of the Future, could someone change what they saw?


No, the crystal replied.


They would always see themselves escaping whatever danger would come, by the best means possible. The crystal only showed the future that was really going to happen, but it gave a sense of how to avoid worse possibilities to the owner, who would then fulfill the vision.


I see. No wonder it’s dangerous enough to put somewhere special.


The crystal continued to explain that if no way to escape a danger existed, then the holder of the crystal would see themselves defeated – or worse, depending on the danger – and would have to either face it in acceptance or struggle in vain against the unavoidable.


It seemed to believe that in the distant past, all three crystals may have been used by an enemy, and this may have actually occurred.


But the crystal’s beliefs on this seemed contradictory. In the next moment it told him that it had always been owned by good people.


Onua focused on the task at hand, knowing he didn’t have time to try to understand the object’s strange point of view.


His blur hovered up through three more uninteresting rooms.


Finally, he reached a top room, identifiable by the hollow inside of the conical roof.


This room was dominated by a single window facing out towards the dark southern ocean. Three more small round windows like the one on the first floor were on the left, right, and back wall.


Onua concluded it was a watchtower.


Probably built by the Kriitunga to spot Kuambu ships.


But why was it abandoned?


He had a feeling the answer had something to do with Khungakrii.


Seeing nothing else, Onua returned to normal timeflow. He wished he could stay until morning and see it in daylight, as much as he preferred the dark. True, he could climb with the candle to look more carefully now, but he didn’t trust the ladder.


So what good has coming here done?


Was he supposed to suggest to the Kriitunga to man the watchtower now? They were already manning the eight giant cannons around the island. While those weren’t as high up as this, they could watch all directions, but this was ideal only for the south.


That couldn’t be it. Besides, the Unknown were secretive. The fact that he saw one here probably meant the tower’s purpose was for Onua’s eyes only.


Maybe there was no purpose. Maybe the ‘vision’ was the whole point. The tower could have just provided a good stage for it.


But something about this place still felt… dreamlike.


He could feel the texture of the dust under his feet, see every detail the starlight would permit him to see – he was sure he was not dreaming again. And yet this was not a normal place – the fact that apparently nobody had come here in so long told him the Kriitunga agreed.


But then, the Kriitunga had believed Toa to be spirits trapped in bodies. Maybe they thought it was haunted, so they stayed away, letting it fall into disrepair, and its ancient state was all that was unnerving him.


I don’t know. But I have to get to the town. I give up.


He started toward the door. Looked down at the candle, still in his hand. Best to leave it, he supposed. The firestarting kit he’d keep, but the wick was almost gone and the wax would break in the backpack anyways.


He walked to the fourth wall, the other three having the door, window, and ladder, to set it down out of the way.


His foot made a different sound on the floor here.


A wooden, hollow sound.




“I’m Jaudrohk, by the way,” the other Ko-Matoran said, as he walked to a section of the wall. “I was a scientist when I lived in the village.”


The wall moved aside. Devices had been arranged there so that some parts acted like hinges, though the technology clearly hadn’t been intended for that purpose.


From this vantage point, she could see that the dome was divided into three sections – the icy zone of advanced junk, an orange glowing region shrouded in steam – probably caused by the artificial rain hitting lava – and a wild forest.


She picked up the lightstone lantern and followed.


“Where did all this stuff come from?” Nijire asked, as they climbed down the tower’s side, using the gaps between the welded junk as footholds and handholds.


“Only Vaurukan knows,” Jaudrohk said. “I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else.”


“Is any of it being used anywhere else? I mean, why throw it in a ‘junkyard’? It looks like enough weapons for a whole army, and tools for others...”


“Good question. As far as I know, it’s all here. My theory is it’s cursed.”


She blinked. “Cursed how?”


Jaudrohk shrugged, then leapt the rest of the way to the icy ground. Which coated more junk below, she realized.


“I just know the creatures love to lurk around here, and nothing keeps them tame here. When I was back in the village, I would see them go through the streets, but they never attacked the Matoran there. And I heard it was the same way in the prison domes. But where this junk is, they go crazy.”


“Tell me about your village,” she said as she reached the ground. “What about this Vaurukan? What’s he like?”


“I never saw him, and people don't like to talk about him. The village is simple enough – rock huts in a clearcut section of the jungle. By the coast.”


“But Vaurukan has a palace there?”


“Locked to all but him and his creatures, plus some trusted slaves. Sometimes he’ll send out tablets on the backs of flatworms. Our orders. But mostly he lets us live how we want as long as we never try to leave. Fear of his creatures is enough to keep order.”


The junk formed hills and curving vales. Unfrozen water ran through most of the vales, too cold for most Matoran, but not for them – they waded through it.


Now they turned a corner and beheld a large box just like the one Nijire had been trapped in.


From the outside, she could see that one of the bronze portions had a hinged, locked hatch.


The edge of the hatch was hard to spot, like the stone doors below. With no hinge or latch inside, she wouldn’t have noticed, and once she’d gotten out, she’d been too busy trying to survive to see it – besides, it had been very dark. Here the many lights reflected off the metal’s every detail.


They ran up to it. The lock was a simple bar on a hinge – anyone could unlock it from the outside. She did.


Swung the hatch open.


Inside, about the same assortment of objects as in her room. And a Ko-Matoran.


She recognized him instantly.






Onua quickly brushed away the dust and held the candle low and to one side, so the shadow cast by the metal base wouldn’t block the light.


Melted wax poured on the floor and he righted it quickly, but it had been enough to see what he'd found.


A wooden hatch. An inset handle. Hinge on the outside. All wooden.


He grabbed the handle and lifted.


The hinge snapped.


Hatch fell apart. Onua stepped back, dropping the part of it still in his hand. Just how ancient is this place?


Thankfully, a staircase of stone now appeared in the candlelight, not another ladder.


He walked down.


The stairs curved around a tall room. This went deep. He supposed a basement for a tall tower in shifting sands would have to. He wondered if perhaps this might go below the sands. Maybe to… a tunnel… that might come back up in the Kuambu prison….


But that was probably just wishful thinking.


At the base, there was a metal hatch this time, locked. A keyhole in the locking mechanism.


Onua touched the hatch.


Not slimed.


Called on the Btou cores in his claw-gloves for his newfound alternate power.


Disintegrated the hatch.


Metal dust shimmered in the candlelight as it fell down onto another stone staircase.

This one led straight away from the center of the tower. It continued down in that direction, much farther out than the edge of the tower above.


Onua quickly walked down it.


At the end, a level hallway took him left. Then a door in the inner wall of this took him left again – now he was facing back towards the tower, but deep underground.


What he saw almost made him drop the candle.

A huge cavern, apparently natural. Of brown stone.


Scattered across its floor, countless objects, all of the same shape.




Not cloth backpacks like his. Straps connected to crystalline rock.


He thought he recognized the shape, but he went up to one and touched it to be sure. Yes! He felt the power in his mind. The power to store untold numbers of objects.


These were energy packs.


Thousands of them.




Kopaka sat on a chair in Tahu’s room.


Kewonga stood next to the red Toa’s bed, still trying various herbal remedies and occasionally making his mask glow as he tried to think of ways to heal Tahu, but obviously nothing was working.


Lewa walked in. “We should fast-go.”


“Maybe we should wait till daylight,” Kopaka said.


“If you’re gonna Huna-use, the dark is good-help.”


Kopaka sighed. Of course Lewa was right. But Kopaka was the designated leader now, and he wanted to be the one to decide when to go.


He stared at the unmoving Toa for a few minutes.


Listened to the commotion all around, in the many other rooms. The Le-Matoran were moving back to Le-Koro, now that Onua’s intervention had turned it into a well-defensible island-jungle surrounded by lava. There were only a few Gukko that hadn't flown south for Vaurukan's Island, so they would go in small groups at a time.


Stood up. “Alright. Let’s go.”




Nijire and Jaudrohk went in.


Nijire tapped Matoro’s shoulder.


He jerked awake. “What? What are you doing in my hut?”


He sat up.


Looked around.


“Oh… yeah…”


Jaudrohk was picking up various objects and putting them in a bag. Matoro gestured at him. “Who’s he?”


The scientist answered, “I’m your only chance to escape this place, but first we need to make a base camp. In the forest.”


“Why the forest?” Nijire asked.


“The creatures don’t usually go there, and if this tech is capable of spying on us, as I think it is, that’ll be the only way to hide from the Kuambu.”


He held up a shovel. “Tools like this are all we can take. I haven’t had any in all my time here. This is like treasure to me.”


Matoro looked understandably confused. But he picked up on one word. “Kuambu? Are they responsible for our kidnapping?”


“Apparently,” Nijire said. “And someone named Vaurukan, ruler of this island.”


“I can tell all of you everything I know,” Jaudrohk said, “but that would be most efficient if we could free many of you and get you all together at a base camp. Less repeating that way.”


“Alright, but I insist you tell me and Nijire everything along the way. In case…”


“Who are you to insist that?” Jaudrohk said, his eyes on the stuff-littered floor.


“He’s basically second in command at our village,” Nijire told him. It was a good question, but his tone surprised her. He hadn’t seemed argumentative with her.


“Nothing’s gonna happen to me,” Jaudrohk said. Then he sighed. “But alright. I’ll tell you. You never know…”


He put one more item in his sack, and looked up at them. “Okay, let’s go.”




Kopaka and Lewa walked through the jungle with a large group of Kewonga’s intelligent Roukifi spiders.


They headed north, planning to stay in the jungle but near the grass divide. They’d walk west this way until they reached the two unconscious Toa.


The spiders would provide good reason for the Kuambu to keep their distance.


They reached the edge, and Kopaka dared to step out briefly and zoom in. His Vision power wasn’t in range of where Pohatu and Gali had been, but he hoped to see them by telescopic means. No good – too many gently rolling hills in the way.


They had walked for only a minute or two, when Kopaka saw a bright purple flash.


Against the black night sky, he saw purple light reflect off of every tree in Kini-Wahi, off of the foothills of the mountains, and off of both the Mangai and Mount Ihu.


The whole group turned around.


Kopaka activated Vision.




“What-see?” Lewa asked. “Kuambu fleet?!”


“No! A whole island! It just appeared off the eastern shore.”


The two Toa looked at each other. From what Rathoa had told them in the meeting, they knew what this was.


Destral.Review here

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Chapter 13



Their plans abandoned for now, Kopaka and Lewa hurried east through the open grassland. The spiders hurried after them.


Destral, the teleporting island of the Brotherhood of Makuta.


Home base of one of the three major factions in the Paracosmos.


Here. Floating just east of Le-Wahi.


The group reached the coast. They stood atop a low hill that looked over a sandy beach. A good vantage point from which they could see the rocky island.


Lewa held his axe out to Kopaka. “You’re leader. If it like-looks they’ll attack, this-take. I’ll them-tell Rathoa’s herenot.”


“Keep it.”




“Since I’m leader, I should be the one to decide.”


Lewa tried to object again, but Kopaka silenced him with a finger to his lips, and pointed south.


A raft.


Made of chopped-down smaller trees tied together with vines.


Propelled by makeshift oars.


Worked by Rahunga.


“They’re not here for Rathoa,” Kopaka said. “They’re picking up Kanoka and the others.”


He noticed there were no Ko-Rahunga among them, though at least one should have been. Now that he thought of it, he didn’t remember seeing any in Ko-Wahi either. Vaurukan and the Kuambu were thorough.


Kopaka saw no sign of Jhianau. But he strongly suspected that somehow, Ito was going to Destral too. In a way nobody could see.


“The mind-minions,” Lewa said.


“I know… But can we – just us two – risk going for them? Rathoa has a plan for that, and I’d say let him do it, if he’s that foolish.”


Lewa didn’t argue.


He did make an observation, though. “If they know Rathoa’s gone, that sure-means Kanoka has his own Rikaori.”


Should have thought of that. Stealing that would have been wise. Too late now, though.


“And if Kanoka's on Destral,” Kopaka added, “can't it teleport immediately to Vaurukan's island? Onua has a lot less time than he thinks...”


Just then there was another purple flash.


Four more.


A cyan sphere flying.


Five more flashes. Then five again. Again.


Both Toa watched speechlessly as twenty Kuambu ships surrounded the raft.


The cyan sphere exploded midair.


Cyan energy spread.


Wide and far.


Encircling Destral, the ships, and the raft.


A sphere of energy now surrounded it entirely.


Purple lightning flashed, curling around the island.


Flashed, crackled, and dissipated.


Destral had tried to teleport away.


But it was trapped.




Onua held the candle closer to the energy packs.


Each one’s cloth straps were in a different color. He thought he recognized the type of thread from the spools in the ‘vision.’


He chose one with black straps. Switched it out for his cloth backpack.


Took out the crystal and froze that moment.


He had one simple question. Do you know if you can exist in an energy pack?


Onua didn’t want to risk trying it outright. There was chronoserum involved.


The crystal confirmed that it could, and had been carried that way by Unknown in the past.


Onua exited the moment, and energized everything he owned.


Immediately, he sensed the crystal in his mind, even though time was flowing normally.


The crystal was surprised, and both were delighted. Surkahi and Caroha had been the ones that carried it before, and they were telepathic – so they had a continuous mental connection to it. It couldn’t tell if there was any change when they carried it in their energy packs.


Caroha must have known the difference, though. This must be what I’m here for. Now he wouldn't need to freeze time as often.


Not to mention, this huge amount of energy packs would prove highly valuable. Okoth had said they were expensive – well, the price was about to drop.


Onua touched another pack. Energized it.


Touched the next. Another. Some more.


This would take quite a while… And he didn’t have much time.


The hovering ferry was at the town. Onua formed his plan quickly. The crystal agreed with it.


He turned back and ran up the stairs.




Nijire and Matoro listened as Jaudrohk told his story. Meanwhile, they continued towards the forest.


On the way they encountered two more box-rooms and freed their prisoners. These were Teuara, a female with a Mask of Stamina, and Ehrye, who wore a Mask of Illusion.


Matoro explained to them that Jaudrohk would repeat the whole story later. Until then, they’d have to be content with hearing the end first.


A voice called out at them. “Who are you?”


The five Matoran stopped. Jaudrohk drew his stunblaster, but could not see a target. He motioned for them to back up behind a hill.


“Don’t bother,” the voice said. There was a tone of anger in the voice. Nijire thought it was familiar. “I’ve got a friend behind you. Don’t move. Just answer the question.”


Matoro stepped forward. “My name is–”


“I know you. I mean the stranger with the stripes.”


Nijire finally placed the voice. “Ahku?”


“The same. Answer the question.”


Ahku was one of the Rahunga who had been disguised as a normal villager. Mukana, a good friend of Nijire’s who had also been a Rahunga, but had reformed, had tested Ahku and two other village Rahunga. To make a long story short, Ahku failed the test, joining Kanoka. But here he was.


He must have used his powers to break out of his box-room.


“My name is Jaudrohk. I’ve been trapped here for a long time. Are you of the same village as these?”


“He’s a Rahunga,” Matoro said. “A traitor.”




Ahku stepped out from behind a hill of junk.


He was in full Rahunga form, about as tall as a Toa. He wore a Mask of Summoning, and carried a round shield with short spikes dotting its convex surface.


“Come on out, Kejokta,” Ahku said, focusing his eyes behind them.


Nijire turned around and stared in surprise.



Her old friend, who she’d long thought dead, only to discover he was a Rahunga who’d faked his death to infect Rahi full time.


He, too, was in Rahunga form. He wore a Mask of Strength, and carried two knives.


“You’re on Destral!” Nijire exclaimed. Too well she remembered seeing his eyes turned red – meaning he was under control of Rathoa’s Mask of Mind Slavery.


“The Makuta freed me,” he said. But his voice sounded forced. “I was getting ready for... a mission... when an orange tendril of energy burst out of the ground. I don't remember the rest.”She let herself entertain hope that he wasn’t all gone. He’d been freed, he was saying, from one slavery, only to find himself beholden to another – a familiar one. Now he had been kidnapped and thrown into a third.


“Have the others like you,” Matoro demanded, “been ‘freed’ too?”


Kejokta nodded.


Rathoa’s gonna be disappointed.


She didn’t mind. Supposedly Rathoa was out there working with Onua – and coming here… So all the help he could provide, she would obviously appreciate. But she had been in another cage once, and Rathoa had been her captor. She saw this as one step towards Kejokta’s reform.


Nijire took a step forward, towards her old friend. “The Kuambu are enemies of all of us. Makuta, Rathoa, Turaga – it doesn’t matter to them. Let’s fight them together. Your powers will help.”


Kejokta did not have a chance to answer – Ahku spoke instead. “We will not water down our chances of escape by helping the likes of you. We are simply waiting until we find the third loyal Ko-Rahunga. Then we will make our first attempt.”


“You do not know this place,” Jaudrohk said. “Nor who owns it. I do. Work with us, and I’ll tell you what you need to know.”


“That is true,” Ahku said, narrowing his eyes. “What you said about things I don’t know. People I don’t know. I think I could add someone else to that list. Hm… who might that be?”


Nijire glanced at the scientist, who Ahku obviously meant. He looked unsure what to say. She wasn’t either, though she was much more familiar with Rahunga. She had never known Ahku well. She’d honestly never liked him.


“He doesn’t know us either,” Teuara put in. “Yet he’s promised to help us.”


The others nodded. They were rather inclined to trust him over a Rahunga, at least.


“I am well versed in the art of deception,” Ahku said. “Having fooled all of you myself for a long, long time. If I was working for… say… the Kuambu, and I was in his position, I’d probably do the same thing.”


But you wouldn’t seem as friendly, Nijire wanted to say. Instead she looked to Matoro for an answer.

“If you are so knowledgeable,” Matoro said, “about lying, then you should be able to hear the lies in his voice, if there are any. I know a thing or two about lying myself. My good friend Mukana has demonstrated it to me by unfortunate example and later by honest—”


“The only thing unfortunate about Mukana is how far he fell,” Ahku snapped. “You should have seen him in my hut the other day, trying to convince me he was still loyal to Makuta. He reeked of deception. And you call him honest!”


Matoro looked speechless.


Nijire heard hate in his voice near the end.

She hoped they’d find Mukana before Ahku did.


“Anyways,” Ahku said, sounding calmer now.


Eerily calm.


His mask glowed.


Oh no. He was summoning… ‘help.’ Or rather, a deadly distraction. One he could probably fend off.


They couldn’t.


I don’t need to come with you to hear Jaudrohk’s story.”




Kopaka and Lewa watched as Kuamor spheres rained down around Kanoka.


But the Rahunga were well prepared, it seemed. Half of them dropped their oars without anyone issuing an order. Raised their weapons, blocked the projectiles.


Various powers shot out at the ships. They were severely outnumbered, but they did not seem to care.


One blasted a hole in a Kuambu ship’s side, at the water line.


Kopaka saw purple flashes all over that ship. Not teleporting away entirely, but to other ships inside the cyan bubble.


Then a final, bright purple flash enveloped the whole ship.


Another materialized it.

Over one of the two peninsular tips of Destral, outside its castle walls.


It crashed among the harsh rocky landscape there.


Kopaka could still see eyes moving around behind brown-veiled windows. Some Kuambu were still onboard – they hadn’t had enough teleportation Kuamor for everybody. He kept glancing back at that ship as he watched the rest of the battle, wondering whether they would come out to attack the fortress.


Meanwhile, Destral was not idle. Projectiles of all kinds shot out from its walls at the ships.


The raft continued to make progress.


Kopaka saw an enclosed bay on the island. A large metal door swung open.


Admitted the raft.




Brotherhood servants stood at the inland side of several docks inside this artificial bay. Kopaka looked the bay over and concluded it would allow water to teleport with the island. So the raft was safe in there.


Kopaka couldn’t help having mixed feelings about this.


Brotherhood servants continued to provide cover fire for the Rahunga. All of them made their way towards the castle gates.


Soon they were inside.


The Kuambu ships kept firing.


The bubble looked like it might hold for a while. It now looked like this had been a bad move for the Kuambu – they were trapped under superior firepower from Destral.


One by one the ships started sinking. Each did what the first had done, landing in the larger northern peninsula, at random points.


Soon there were none left in the water.


The castled tops of the ship walls were ironic, Kopaka thought, now that they were planted on land next to a real castle. Siege was an effective strategy against a castle, he knew – a major concern of the Ta-Matoran for centuries facing off against Rahi beyond their own castle walls. But who would put who under siege here?


It would depend on the Brotherhood, he decided. The first move would be theirs – attack these crashed ships, or wait, let them sit there until the bubble faded?


As for the Kuambu, in the interest of keeping their forms secret, since they were presented with countless witnesses here, far more than they could possibly hit with clear Kuamor, they would hide in their wrecks.


As he watched, it seemed that for now the Brotherhood was content to wait.


The scene was surreal. It was as if they were still sailing, surrounded by huge waves, that had been frozen in place and turned to stone. Sailing valiantly towards the fortress.


Kopaka realized something.


“That last ship,” he said. “Only used one purple Kuamor.”


Lewa looked at him. “Meaning… they more-have… about twenty left?”


Kopaka nodded.


Did the Brotherhood notice?




Jaudrohk pointed to the closest junk-tower. “Run to that!”


Ahku crouched, holding up his spikeshield so he stood behind it.


A blast of energy rolled at them – a shockwave.


They were all knocked to their feet. Splashed in the icy water.


Nijire rolled to her left, towards the tower.


She looked up – behind them – at Kejokta. He’d raised his knives, holding the tips together. They were glowing brighter every moment.


She remembered what power his tools had. He was charging it up.


“GO!” she shouted. “Get onto the hill!”


They scrambled up, not bothering to stand up first, even as Ahku leaped high into the air with agility granted by the rahudermis.


With a bright flash of white light, a boulder of ice appeared in front of Kejokta’s knives. Flying at them.


For one second, it spun so the bottom came at them faster, slowly, as if it was rolling on an invisible ceiling.


Then the base hit the ground and it spun fast the other way. Fragments of ice broke off, exploding in all directions, on the impact. It rolled at a mad pace towards them.


Nijire made it over the hill. Turned to grab Jaudrohk’s arm.


Pulled him over, as the others came over.


At the last second, they were all out of the way as the huge ball roared past.


Ahku landed.


Right next to her.


Punched her.


She flew back down into the vale.


Landed on her side.


Kejokta walked past her, joining Ahku against the others.


She got to her feet. Ran.


Pounced on him, grabbing his legs.Tripped him.


“Stop it, Nijire!” he shouted at her, frustrated. He kicked loose from her, and outran her.


But she stayed close behind.


He turned.


Swinging a leg.


Kicked her mask.


She fell on her back.




Vision fading. Weak.


She rolled again, flailing her arms slowly, feeling for the mask.

There it was. Unbroken.


Her fingers closed around the mask. Her arm raised, bringing the mask with it. Her elbow bent. The mask came closer. She could see the texture of its inside.


The constellations of light seemed to fade away into blackness.


Her arm fell.


Punched her in the face.


The mask landed.


On her face.




Slowly, her vision started to return, but she felt off-balance somehow. Sickened. Wrong.


Focusing as hard as she could, she raised her arm again, forcing it to move very slowly, for fear she’d knock the mask completely off instead of this – the arm nudged the mask gently, so it fell magnetically back into its proper alignment.


Vision rushed back.


She rolled, and sat up.


The sounds of battle had faded – the others were now quite a ways away from her. She'd dropped the lightstone lantern and its outer coverings had broken open, beyond repair – she picked up the lightstone itself. She might need it later.


Now that her eyes were raised, and facing away from them, she saw it.


What was summoned.


A huge, gray snail.


The shell was made of something not quite metal, not quite stone, but close to the gray color of the stone hallways she’d wandered through before.


The flesh – it you could call it that – where it peeked out at the wide end of the curlicue shell, glowed bright orange. Air rippled around it. Smoke rose from it. Blackened warts dotted it. Flames spurted here and there. Rain from above and ice below turned to steam.


Nijire stood, and climbed the hill.


She could see mandible-worms crawling after the giant snail, obviously eager to find out whatever had piqued its interest. And she thought she saw several centipede shapes among them, too small to make out clearly from here.


She turned around.


Ehrye lay unconscious, his mask knocked off too, in the next vale over. She ran towards him, and put his mask back on him.


The others climbed into sight over another hill, three vales away, which based the tower. They were holding high-tech guns similar to Jaudrohk’s – he must have pointed them out and said how to use them. The two Rahunga were not using any of the junk – but their own powers were help enough.


In addition to the powers she’d seen already, they were both using their anti-elemental power of Melting to turn their enemies’ handholds into water mid-climb.


This only worked once per handhold, but Kejokta was using Melt more judiciously to break off huge chunks of ice and hurl them with his Mask of Strength at the Matoran.


It didn’t look like they’d be able to climb the tower.


Not in time, anyways – the snail was almost here.


Nijire looked around at her feet.


A gun just like Jaudrohk’s.


She tried to pick it up, but it was frozen well in place – and maybe welded too, since a blue tube ran from it to another device.


Looked around until she found one with no tube.


Also frozen in place.


She yanked harder.

SNAP. The sound echoed through the dome.


Picked it up, aimed it at the snail, and pulled the trigger.




The trigger wasn’t stuck. She’d felt it give. But the gun didn’t do anything.


She hissed. Apparently Jaudrohk had to personally authorize each weapon to accept commands.


Well, maybe it could work like a grenade instead.


She ran towards the snail.


Threw the gun with all her might.


It landed in the orange flesh base. In, not on – it sunk sideways into the snail's flesh as if it was a liquid. Which she realized it was.


The gun's lights flared and went black. Its metal glowed orange. She could barely see it now – it had kept working its way in because of the rolling-wave motion of the flesh.


Bright light.


Echoing boom a moment later.


It had exploded.

The snail wriggled, uttering no cry of pain, but the sound of the wriggling mimicked one.


The liquid flesh oozed back in around the wound – parts of the gel-flesh had been blasted outward. They solidified into the rocklike substance midair, and crashed in various places in front of the snail, with dramatic whumps, sending up showers of shattered ice.


The snail probably wasn’t actually hurt, but it was a little smaller now.


It kept coming.


Nijire found another gun, and yanked it out too.


I’ll keep this up until you hide in that shell, she thought.




Kopaka saw motion to his left.


To the north, by Ta-Wahi.


A ferry.


He zoomed in.


Niaka’s ferry.

Or rather, her new ferry. Her old one now belonged to Bhukasa, on her suggestion, since it had Unknown enhancements. She just wanted to continue her normal life, she’d insisted.


She was transporting someone.


A Matoran.



And a Toa. Black.


Onua. And Hujo.


Kopaka’s heart leapt. How were they here? Regardless, he could now go with them.


But no, he thought, his heart sinking just as fast. Pohatu and Gali need me.


At least he could warn Onua about Sairiph.


He stepped out, waving at them.


Orange light, beneath the black waves.


“Out-watch!” Lewa shouted, seeing it too.


The tendril burst right through the ferry’s hull.


Right in front of Onua.


Stabbed him.


“NO!” Kopaka shouted, running at him, with no idea how he planned to help.


The tendril appeared on the other side of him. Emotion swelled in Kopaka – fury and terror and sorrow that it had gone this far, to apparently use a killing blow – and confusion, for Onua did not look harmed.


Hujo was shooting bolts of blue fire at it – and handing something to Nijire.


The tendril looked furious. It lifted into the air.


Slammed down.


Sliced the new ferry in half.


Onua disappeared.


Hujo dove off the sinking ferry, as did Niaka.


Lewa leaped into the air towards them, and levitated, making a wind to carry him out to them.


But the tendril was retreating down. Now it was out of sight.


That wasn’t Onua, Kopaka finally realized. It was one of Hujo’s illusions. He grinned at his friend’s ingenuity.


But then the emotional roller-coaster continued.


Now the creature knew that.


The real Onua was about to be in big trouble.Review here

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Chapter 14



Before Lewa could reach him, Hujo burst out of the water, wearing a strange-looking suit.


He flew like a blur up into the sky. And east.


“WAIT!” Kopaka shouted after him.


But the Jahurungi was gone.


Gone back to warn Onua. I guess he had no choice.


Lewa reached Niaka and shared the power of Levitation with her. She hovered up into the air, looking unsteady, and Lewa turned the wind around. They floated towards the beach.


Kopaka ran to the shoreline to greet Niaka as soon as Lewa set her down.. She wore a Matoran Huna identical to the Rah-Huna Kopaka now owned.


He saw that she was holding a strange-looking device, a little box-frame of wood, with many metal gears inside, a single short metal spike sticking out one end, and a button on the other end.


“Hujo gave this to me,” she said. “Told me to give it to you. It’s Bhukasa’s Awakener. For Tahu, and anyone else the tendrils sting.”


“Why didn’t he just fly right to Kewonga’s tree?” Kopaka asked, letting the dismay into his voice.


“He… uh… I guess he wanted to spend more time here, with the illusion, so Onua would have more time alone on Kriitunga Island.”


“I see.”


“We also wanted to… talk about…”


“About what?”


An expression came on her face remarkably like an Unknown who was about to refuse to share a secret. “I know things.”


Kopaka shrugged. Less talking – fine with him. But he did need to know more. “I assume Hujo told you Bhukasa would come here next?” He pointed at Destral.


“I guess the Seahopper’s trapped in a bubble just like that,” she said. “It started first, so maybe it will get out first. He didn’t say so, but I assume that’s the plan.”


Kopaka turned to Lewa. Held up the Awakener. “Go to Tahu, then to Gali and Pohatu.”


“What-doing are you?”


“When the Seahopper comes, I’ll warn them about Sairiph.”


“Ito said not to alone-go,” Lewa countered.


“About going for Pohatu and Gali. Now I won’t be going, and you won’t be going alone either. You’ll have Tahu and the spiders.”


“And I’ll go, too,” Niaka offered. She lifted two hook-blades. “I just got these out from a hiding place at my hut. I have rejected rahudermis, but these have a power unaffected by evil.”


Kopaka knew they could infect masks – they weren’t pure as the Kopaka-driven snow – but he’d been forced to use a Rahunga weapon himself for a while, and he knew she was right. In fact all of the Rahunga who had turned away from Makuta had chosen to continue to use their weapons, even though they didn't use the masks anymore.


“What-power?” Lewa asked.


“Mud bolts.”


Kopaka frown-smiled. “Mud?”


“Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve seen it in action,” she said, grinning. “I can be as powerful as Gali and Onua combined if I want to be.”


He shrugged. “Actually, mud might help me better here. Obscure the water, so you and I could swim onto Destral unnoticed.”


“They would recognize my power,” she said. “Everybody there is well versed about Rahunga.”


Kopaka considered that. “A good point, but wouldn’t it still make it harder to attack us as we swam in?”


Niaka smiled. “You’re right.”


“Good-smart,” Lewa agreed. “Not alone that way.”


Kopaka nodded. Ito’s warning was not to be ignored. Of course, Ito was there already… and alone.


He was a little concerned about taking the previous owner of the Rah-Kanohi he had onto the territory of the Rahunga’s masters. What if she wasn’t really reformed? She could easily defeat him and get her mask back.


The thought of Hujo washed away this concern. If the Jahurungi had trusted her with secrets, then she was trustworthy.


“Let’s do it.”




Onua arrived in the town.


Nobody was in sight except border guards, who waved enthusiastically at him. They'd obviously been told what he looked like.


He walked up to one. “Where are my friends?”


“With the flying boat? At the farms.”


“To the north,” another added.






Nijire kept throwing guns like grenades until the giant snail finally clamped its shell down, hugging the ground tightly in fear.


But the mandible-worms kept coming – fast.


She turned back to the tower.


Jaudrohk was inside. She’d bought him enough time!


Ahku and Kejokta were now climbing after the others.


Suddenly a bright blue light appeared above Matoro.


Opened into a circle. A dimensional gate.


Across the junkscape, she saw the largest robotic arm reach into another dimensional gate. It appeared over Matoro.


He grabbed it. Teuara and Ehrye grabbed it too.


It retracted.


The gate shrank until it disappeared. Now Nijire saw the three Matoran clinging to the arm off in the distance. Another gateway appeared. The arm reached in. Then reached out, Matoran-less.

Gate disappeared.


She looked towards the tower. The two Rahunga were almost to Jaudrohk.


“You go next!” she called to him.


But a gateway appeared in front of her instead. No!


Beyond, she saw forest trees.


Ahku reached the top of the tower. Yanked the makeshift door off. Stormed in.


Crashing sounds. A stunbolt fired, but bounced off Ahku’s shield. A shockwave erupted.



The gate started shrinking.


Saddened, she just stood there, watching it all happen. Ahku carrying an unconscious Jaudrohk out. Mandible-worms raging hungrily nearby.


She straightened her back. Looked at the gate.


And leapt through.




Onua found the five foreign Toa – who called themselves the Toa Rua – hard at work at the farms, as he’d expected.


Toa Yahroko, also known by his nickname Green, had created a wide variety of plants better suited to the desert environment than what the Kriitunga were already growing. Most were cacti. He wore a mask of Fusion, which looked similar enough to a Miru that Onua had to keep catching himself from calling him Lewa.


Now he was standing on the edge of the safe soil and the mutagenic sand, apparently trying to make a plant that was immune to the mutagenic effects – and failing.


Vaergok, a red and brown Toa of Fire, was standing near him, burning up several quickly mutating plants before they could turn into something dangerous. He wore a strange mask Onua didn't recognize, that reminded him of a viper missing its lower jaw.


Mhebula, a blue Toa of Water, had apparently watered the existing plants as much as possible – they were soaking wet. She was now working with several Kriitunga to fill a quickly constructed reservoir. She wore a Mask of Understanding, a simple mask with wide circles for eyes.


Rangiiru, a cyan and dark green Toa of Air who wore another mask Onua didn't recognize, and Tirukvin, a gunmetal gray Toa of Magnetism who wore a Mask of Regeneration, stood watch over the whole process. Rangiiru made sure wind did not blow sand at any of them, and Tirukvin stood near several twisted chunks of old metal, ready to send them hurtling through the air should the tendrils show up. Onua doubted they’d be effective weapons, but better safe.


Johke, a lithe, roughly humanoid being with large scythe-like weapons, was helping the Kriitunga prune the gardens.


Onua saw Krohlaba nearby, deep in discussion with several elite Kriitunga.


He could tell who these were by their appearances. Krohlaba was a unique mutant with a large insectoid head, and his left limbs larger than his right. Unlike many mutants, he retained his standard dark red color scheme, and shredding power.


The others wore fancy robes and jewelry denoting their elite status.


Krohlaba saw Onua and waved him over. He would be recognizing Onua merely from Tahu’s description, especially because he now shared little similarity with the other seven Toa Krohlaba had met.


“Listen,” Onua began as soon as they could all hear him. “I have a proposition to solve your leadership problem. But I do not have much time, so just hear me out. Agreed?”


The elites nodded warily.


“I have found a valuable collection of resources I am willing to trade for a promise to carry out this plan. Make Krohlaba ‘Regent’, and continue to view Khungakrii as ‘King.’”


They looked about to object, but he held up his hand. “I'm very short on time. Debate it amongst yourselves later, but I’m not done.”


“Go on,” one of them said.


“I know this is not according to your traditions. But for the moment at least, Khungakrii can still be spoken with. Unless the Kuambu take him to an off-island prison, you can set up a system of messengers to ask his decision of difficult matters. Otherwise, Krohlaba can decide. And I know, he is not an elite, but he is very influential.”


One of the elites tried to object, but Onua continued unabated.


“You must see that somehow, I know not how, some enemy, I know not who, had to choose this time, this method, to disrupt your society. Someone is counting on you falling back on what you have always done before. Why else would Khungakrii have been imprisoned?”


Another elite spoke up. “Who–”


“I don’t know. But you can foil this attack, at least for a while. Set a term limit on the position of Regent if you like, and after that, choose a different King, if your current King is not freed by that time. But whatever you do, don’t fall for this attack!


Nobody objected now. They watched him intently as he continued.


“If you agree to this, I’ll let you in on the resources, as a good-faith gesture that our alliance is strong. Please do this – what’s going on here is bigger than your island. You must now consider your influence on islands all around you.”


“What of Mhondomva?” an elite asked.


“I don’t know. Let Khungakrii decide.”


They looked convinced, at least of the basic idea, but their duty would not permit them to simply say yes right away, and no doubt ambition would cloud their decision-making, but that was out of his hands.


Onua nodded at them. “Discuss amongst yourselves. I’ve got some farming to do.”




The other three Ko-Matoran stood near where Nijire stepped out of the dimensional gate.


She turned around to watch the gate shrink to nothing, making sure nothing came through. A pity that gate couldn't take us out of this dome.


“Jaudrohk?” Matoro asked.


“They’ve got him,” she said sadly.


Matoro sighed.


The four Matoran turned away and wordlessly walked deep into the forest, on Matoro’s signal. The three that had picked up guns dropped them on the ground – if they could be tracked, as Jaudrohk suspected, they could not be kept out here.


Jaudrohk had told them a little about this place. The domes were put into place with giant sawtooth bases, rotating the domes like drills, until the bases entered the deadly volcanic level below. Then Vaurukan’s servants would bore upwards, opening a volcanic entrance into the dome, and his allies the Kuambu would run the junk-dumping system.


This forest was thus a slice of the larger forest across the island.


Rahi of various types, mostly small, especially birds, populated it.


Some of the plants were mildly dangerous.


One in particular was especially so – but not much to Matoran. The Ahrikalla plants – like those in Le-Wahi – which would spray water furiously at any of the volcanic creatures if they entered. Nijire saw many all around.


The other major feature, caused more by the constant artificial rain than the sprinkler plants, was the network of streams. Nijire had been happy to hear that many varieties of fish thrived here.


The cold of the junk pile, Jaudrohk told them, was a mystery to him, except that he was sure it wasn’t natural.


This forest was cool as well, but not cold. Nijire would normally like the junkscape better, but constant freezing rain was a bit too much even for a Ko-Matoran. She’d prefer snow, and with no snow to be had, she'd take cool rain gladly.


Matoro had Jaudrohk’s bag of stuff – apparently the scientist had tossed it to him at the last minute. He knew he wouldn’t make it.


He found a good spot, a small clearing bordered by thick bushes, abundant Ahrikalla, and closely bunched trees. There were only three ways in, and none of them were obvious until you were in the clearing. They only found it by accident.


“We’ll camp here,” Matoro said. He handed out axes – they had three. “Bring back wood for a shelter – but don’t cut near here. I’ll stay here to clear underbrush.”


“What should we do if we get lost?” Ehrye asked.


Matoro considered for a moment, then looked at him seriously. “Don’t get lost.”




Onua spent almost all his elemental energy creating a vast stretch of safe soil. Despite their sleeping neighbors, those Kriitunga who were awake cheered loudly.


Yahroko started planting more of his hardy plants behind him.


Onua walked over to him. “I need to tell you what’s going on.”


He summed up the proposal the elites were discussing now with Krohlaba, and told the Toa about the tower and the energy packs as well. “Take the flying ferry to retrieve some of the packs. Keep a portion for my people – at least enough for the Toa Mata, for sure. However many others should go to the Kriitunga, let them decide.”


Yahroko nodded. “What about the Seahopper?”


“I’ve got a few for them.”


“I mean us. Should we rejoin you?”


Onua summed up the battle and the other developments. “You should probably stay, for now. Hand out energy packs on Mata Nui, whenever you learn the Kriitunga’s decision.”




“Please explain to the leaders that I must leave now – they are to tell their decision to you.”


Yahroko agreed, and Onua set off for the river.




Nijire chopped down a few small trees, but she couldn’t focus.


It had occurred to her how they could get Jaudrohk back.


It would only work if they hurried.


She ran back toward Matoro.




Onua was too paranoid to take a boat down the river, so he ran through the trees instead.


He took the south bank, hoping to have a chance to speak again with Khungakrii, but the tendrils came back before he could reach it.


They burst out of the ground near the town, rose high in the air, and turned around, bending the vision power to search for him.


He could see them clearly against the black sky, but they would not find him easily amongst the riverbank’s jungle.


He passed the prison dome, barely visible in the dark, looming to the south.


A tendril had risen up from the ocean, and hung bent over the dome, marking its location – and watching for Onua. It would see the signs of his digging there. If it didn’t know before that Hujo’s illusion was just that, it knew now.


Onua hurried to the oceanside.


Tendrils rose there.


Weaved a net under the cyan bubble.


It was happening just as the crystal feared.


I have to show myself. Distract it.


The crystal agreed – but reluctantly. It worried they could not survive another confrontation.


Don’t forget the fog, it thought.


He held up his hands and tested something.




Fog materialized from his hands as if that was his element. He did not need to first materialize the Stone of Permanence to make it, thanks to the energy pack.


Onua stepped out. “HERE I AM!”


Tendrils jerked.

Rushed at him.


He sent fog rolling around him.


Ran back into the jungle. Filled it with haze.


Orange glows whizzed by. None found him.


Froze the moment.


Checked the cyan bubble. Oh no.


The creature was too smart for a distraction this time. One tendril continued weaving the net. Soon there would be no gap to Seahop down through. Onua felt queasy. Was this the end?


Where is Hujo?


His blur flew west until he found Hujo, flying without the strange sphere this time – wearing an even stranger suit. He was almost here.


Onua’s eyes widened. Idea.


And another.


The queasy feeling subsided, but it lurked somewhere inside him.


Because this had to be done just right, or it would be the end.




“How do you activate the guns?” Nijire blurted, as she deposited what little wood she’d collected, and the axe, at Matoro’s feet.


“There’s buttons on the side. Hit the third from the front, twice, and the closest one to the back, six times. Why?”


“We’ll need ‘em if we’re going to get Jaudrohk back.”


“I considered that. It’s too risky, Nijire.”


“Not if we do it my way.” She grinned, and told him the plan.




Onua allowed the moment to progress for one second, checked Hujo’s new location to estimate his speed, then let time continue until he calculated that Hujo was near.




Checked surroundings.


The Seahopper was entirely blocked in.


Worse, everybody on the deck looked unconscious.


Mercenary Matoran from the Kuambu ships were marching aboard.


One stood next to a Bohrok Kal.


He seemed to be… folding the Kal up. Into his ball form.


Another Kal was already in that form. Two Matoran were rolling him. Onto the nearest Kuambu ship, which had let down a gangplank between them.


The cyan bubble seemed strong. There was nothing Onua could do about this now. He wished he’d left the Kal on Mata Nui. What did the Kuambu want with them?


He let time flow again.


Ran out of the fog, waving frantically at Hujo.


The Ta-Matoran saw him and dove.


Tendrils chased. Onua whirled, shot disintegration bolts at them. No effect!


Hujo slowed.


Grabbed his hand.


Lifted off.


Wind whooshed by him, but he focused on the cyan bubble.


Shot out a wide radiating beam off disintegration energy.


The bubble faded.

“When it opens,” he shouted over the wind to Hujo, “dive in quick.”


“Then what? You sure this is a good–”


“Use the power the chronoserum gave you!”


Hujo’s eyes flashed.


Onua hit the bubble again.


It disappeared.


Hujo dove.


Hovered over the Seahopper. Dropped Onua, who ran to the prow.


Too late to stop the mercenaries – the Kal were gone, the gangplank retracted. Purple flash – the Kuambu ship was gone.


Hujo hovered gently near the mast, as if afraid he might collide with it if he came in too fast.


Tendril web from below jawed up and inward at them, crumpling as it compressed and rose.


Other tendrils stabbed towards them.


Hujo touched the mast.


Whirling sphere of blue energy.


White flash.




The crunch of a thin layer of moss crushed between stone and wood.


All was still.


They were safe.


Safe where the creature could not reach.


Safe as anyone could be in the Field of Shadows.Review here

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Chapter 15



Onua tried again and again to wake Bhukasa up, until it finally worked.


The reptilian captain cried out with a mixture of joy and fear at the sight of the pure black, starless sky.

The fact that they could see anything at all was confirmation that Hujo was here. It was his Blue Fire Staff that made light work in a relatively wide radius around it. So Bhukasa would know it before he turned and saw the Jahurungi standing on the deck, taking off the strange suit that now appeared more like two boots connected together.


“We’re safe for now,” Onua said. “But the Kuambu took the Kal.”




“All six.”


He let Bhukasa absorb this news for a moment, as Hujo tried with limited success to wake up others, then he told him everything else he knew.


“Destral, huh?” Bhukasa said. “Alright. Somebody wake Rathoa up – he’ll be happy.”


“Here.” Onua materialized an energy pack with white straps.


Bhukasa took it gladly. “Wish I’d have had this a week ago…”


The captain went belowdecks to activate the Seahopper’s land travel mode – the only option the black metal technology made available when the boat wasn’t in water.

A moment later, a golden wall of light appeared encircling the ship. Air turned to water. The Seahopper rose off the ground. More air turned to water, lifting it higher.


When it was high enough, and enough people were awake, Bhukasa came up and gave out orders for who should man the oars.


Some Kriitunga, as well as most of the Matoran, took that job. Onua volunteered to help, but Bhukasa said he’d rather have the most powerful crew members on the top deck. Because the Zivon would come. That monster sensed whenever anyone entered the Field, and it was always hungry.


In the meantime, Onua walked up to Maku and offered her an energy pack with blue straps.


“Thanks, Onua!”


“The first officer should have one as much as the Captain,” he said, smiling.


He noticed Rathoa watching with interest. Onua made eye contact. He hoped the Makuta wouldn’t ask for one. Onua didn’t know what he would say – except ‘no.’


Rathoa smirked knowingly. Reached around and patted his back. “I have one built in, Toa.”


Sairiph hovered. “I don’t. I’m game.”


Onua hesitated. Looked at Bhukasa, who shrugged.


He materialized a bright red one, the closest match to Sairiph’s dark red.


“Have any in gray or black?”


Onua gave a slight frown, but energized it and materialized another black one like his own.




“I wouldn’t mind red,” Taureko said, walking up. There was something odd in his voice, Onua thought, and it was a strange color choice for a Ko-Matoran, but he didn’t ask.


One of the Kriitunga, a green and red mutant named Grunrohti – a friend of Krohlaba’s – heard the discussion and walked over.


“You want one too?” Onua asked. “I have six left. Sometime soon I’d like to drop off five at—”


“Where did you get those?” Grunrohti interrupted, a note of… suspicion? in his voice.




He didn’t know if he should answer. According to the offer he’d made to Grunrohti’s leaders, he shouldn’t reveal the resource until they agreed to it.


“You didn’t get those from the tower south of the mountains, did you?”




“That tower is cursed above all else we know!”


Onua stared at him.


“Answer me!” Grunrohti demanded.


“Cursed how?” Onua demanded back, remembering Pohatu’s story of how easily the Kriitunga had believed his desperate tale that a fruit was cursed, when they were trying to kill him.


“We found them long ago, back when we used the tower to watch the southern seas. Two Kriitunga of the Southern Watch found the hidden hatch and the cavern with the energypacks. The two watchmen realized the packs' value, and decided to take them and sell them. But they got greedy, and each tried to claim the find as their own.


“Though they both descended the stairs together, one said he had laid eyes on the nearest pack first and wondered aloud what they were. The other conceded this, for he had glanced back, but when he turned around again and beheld them, he was the first to recognize them and say aloud what they were. The other conceded this, in a public ritual trial.


“But we had no ritual to answer which ‘first’ was more important here. So they argued and argued, both pulling on the energy pack they had brought as proof of their find. What they all ignored was the optional Question of Enemy Intent, for we had no way of knowing who put those packs there, but our rituals do not demand that it be asked. As we all watched, their hands started to shrivel. Then their arms.


“They did not seem to notice. One of us shouted at them to let go, but they misunderstood the intent – they were oblivious to what was happening. They screamed in rage at that Kriitunga, accusing him of being as greedy as themselves, even as the shriveling spread into their torso, and up into their head.


“I was there, Onua, and I heard their voices turn hoarse even as they raged, as their heads shrunk and dried up. I don’t think they ever realized what was happening.”


Onua took his pack off and dropped it on the deck, horrified.


The others followed suit.


“Only after they fell over dead did the shriveling spread to their feet. One of us picked up the pack with a long stick and returned it to the tower. None have set foot there ever since.”


Oh, no. Why would Caroha lead me there?


His orders to the other Toa had not provided opportunity for the Kriitunga to know what the resource was. Worse, if the Kriitunga did not agree to his proposal, they would not even find out what it was. The packs would be handed out far and wide on Mata Nui. And if they did? The revelation would probably send the deal crashing, and possibly spark outrage.


A scenario ran through his mind of Khungakrii releasing the rebel Mhondomva, this happening, and Mhondomva seizing power with the backing of the angry people, in order to launch a war on Mata Nui.


Onua touched the pack, materializing his cloth backpack, with the crystal, then turned to Bhukasa, and Hujo. “We’ve got to go back.”


“No!” Rathoa said. “We won’t have another chance at Destral like this.” He turned to Hujo. “You say the Kuambu have it trapped there. But temporarily, certainly. And you can get us to it.”


Hujo nodded reluctantly.


“Will a few Rahunga make that much of a difference?” Onua put in. “Our alliance with the Kriitunga is more important – and all our people on Mata Nui could be in danger too. And if Kanoka is on Destral, we have even less time to—”


“How do we even know this tale is true?” Rathoa replied, gesturing dismissively at Grunrohti. “Wasn’t he a follower of Mhondomva?”


“Ask any other Kriitunga,” Grunrohti replied, annoyed. “Go down to the rowing deck – you’ll find several there who did not make my mistake. The tale is well known by all my people. Most saw it with their own eyes.”


“Takua,” Bhukasa said. “Just to play it safe, go ask them.”


“Yes, sir.”


Grunrohti looked unconcerned. Onua believed him.


“How do we know the energy packs caused the greedy ones’ deaths?” Rathoa pointed out. “Your town is surrounded by the sands, and from what I hear, emotional moods determine how the sand mutates you.”


“But they were well inside the city when it happened, not in contact with the sands,” Grunrohti replied. “I don’t see how the sand could be at fault. And the shriveling began with the hands holding the packs.”


“All this is missing the point,” Sairiph said. “Destral is here now, and we must make our move. Besides, if everyone knows the danger, the Toa Rua will be warned about it in time.”


Onua shook his head, ashamed at the mistake he now had to point out again. “I told them not to reveal the resource until the agreement is made.”


“That agreement will not come quickly,” Grunrohti said. “Will the Toa Rua be holding the packs in the meantime?”


“Yes.” Misery filled his voice.


“I can take you in,” Hujo said, “to Destral, then leave and go warn the Toa Rua. I can be back in time—”


“No,” Bhukasa said. “I’m not going in that cyan bubble without the ability to escape whenever needed. Who knows what other powers the Kuambu have that might defeat us quickly and—”


“If they wanted to do anything else with you,” Hujo said, “like imprison you, they would have done it when they had you all unconscious.”


“Unless they know of your power. And they're working with the Third Faction, so yes, they know. They saw you coming, it sounds like, and hurried the Bohrok-Kal into their ships before you could stop them.”


Hujo didn’t answer. They all knew Bhukasa was right.


The others continued to debate, but Onua wasn’t listening anymore.


All he could think about was that he had made this mess, and he should clean it up. But he was afraid. Not just of his solution, but of speaking up to say it. He was okay with putting in little bits of advice every once in a while, but determining the course of action, he hated to do himself.


The only time he had, he’d just made this mess, after all.


But… it had to be done.


“Let me go alone.”


At first he said it too quietly for anyone but Hujo, who stood next to him, to hear. The others continued debating, until Hujo shushed them. “What?”


“I’ll go alone,” Onua repeated. “Send me onto Destral alone. Take the Seahopper back to Kriitunga Island. The tendril creature knows to search for me there anyways. It isn’t safe for me there. But if it sees me, alone, in Destral, it will focus there, and hope the bubble fails before you get back.”


“What if it does?” Hujo objected.


“It won’t.”


“Forget the creature,” Sairiph said. “Going alone to Destral is the worst idea I have ever heard.”


“He won’t be going alone,” Taureko said. “I know that island in and out – including the cave systems even you are ignorant of, Sairiph. I myself would go alone, except having a Toa along would come in handy. I don’t fear Destral.”


“And I must go,” Rathoa added.

“The Brotherhood wants you dead!” Bhukasa said. “You can’t go.”


“They won’t see me.”


“You can’t even shapeshift. How will you hide?”


Rathoa switched masks, to something that resembled the shell of a turtle.




Disappeared from view – because he was too small to see.

Then he returned to normal size. Then enlarged, standing half as tall as the mast.


“This mask alone will give me whichever advantage I need – concealment or intimidation – as I need it. Most of the servants on Destral are bestial Rahkshi and Visorak anyways. There are also robotic Exo-Toa, not smart enough to realize that when I become a giant I do not gain weight or strength. And I have many other masks besides.”


“What are Rahkshi and Visorak?” Onua asked.


Exo-Toa he knew. The Toa Mata had donned them in their suit mode to help defeat the Bahrag. When the Kuambu’s chronoserum-powered lamps had cast transforming light on them, the suits had apparently been merged with them, explaining how they were all now bulkier, and the suits were gone. In a sense, he was part Exo-Toa now.


“Enemies,” Rathoa replied enigmatically.


“It’s still too much of a risk,” Hujo said. “Are there not also Makuta there? And now several Rahunga free of your influence, especially Kanoka! Besides, what if the Kuambu—”


“Enough!” Onua finally said. “All of you, go to Kriitunga. I will go alone.”


Taureko tried to argue. “But—”


“I don’t need knowledge of existing caves,” Onua interrupted. “I will make my own.”


“They’ll sense the vibrations,” the Ko-Matoran insisted. “Better to start with existing caves. I admit tunneling may be needed when we reach the actual prison. But you need me to even have a clue where to look!”


“And I’m not staying behind,” Rathoa said. “It’s my fault they’re imprisoned.”


“How do you even know you still have control over them?” Sairiph said. “I’m not familiar with your Mask of Mind Slavery, but I am familiar with Makuta infection, and let me tell you, we can overpower just about anything.”


“Or they may have been freed from any control,” Hujo added.


Rathoa ignored these points. “I must go. Even if they have been infected, I must free them.”


“They were infected,” Taureko muttered. “By you.”


Onua was surprised at the pained look on Rathoa’s face. The Makuta didn’t answer for a moment.


When he did, his tone was a warbling jumble of escalating sadness and fury. “That is why I must go. If they are not already free of my control… I wish to free them.”


The whole crew stared in surprised silence. Was this an act?


“I no longer believe in slavery,” Rathoa said. “Were I to take over the Brotherhood, I have already said I would abolish all forms of it.”


Again, silence. Then, a suspicious question from Taureko. “How do we know you’re serious?”


Rathoa materialized a mask in his hand. It was an odd shape, resembling eyeglasses with two sickle-like ‘sideburns’ extending down parenthetically around the mouth. Greenish fog rolled off of it like smoke from a fire, except that the fog sank towards the ground instead of rising.


The Mask of Mind Slavery.Rathoa threw it on the ground.


Stomped on it, crushing it to pieces.


“I’m not really sure if that frees them,” Rathoa said, “but I won’t be able to enslave anyone else.”


“So what?” Taureko exclaimed. “You can just make another – or just infect them the old-fashioned way, Makuta Rathoa!”


“I can’t make another,” Rathoa said. “The mask was made with a device that randomly chose powers from the infinite range of possibilities. I have no way of finding that power again. As for infection, that at least can be cleansed by easier means – and you’ll have to trust me that I would not use it.”


“Yeah,” Sairiph said. “If either one of us wanted to infect people to get servants… we have a good selection right here…”


More silence, this time uneasy.


In this silence, they all had a chance to glance at the wall of black moving energy the Seahopper – and the water held around it by the yellow light – was now approaching. The Field of Shadows was divided into many circles, each corresponding to one of the islands on the surface or the domes below. This wall bordered the Kriitunga Island Circle.


If they rowed into it at the wrong spot, they would simply appear at the opposite border of the same circle.


But if they found the right spot – which Hujo could sense – they would travel through a dark tunnel to the Twisted Island Circle. From there, Hujo could teleport them back into the Paracosmos, right next to Destral.


The rowers paused, as the debate continued. Maku, at the helm, looked unsure whether she should interrupt to ask Hujo for directions, so the rowers had nothing to do in the meantime. Takua came up at one point to confirm Grunrohti’s story.


Onua sighed, tapped Hujo’s shoulder, and gestured to follow him into the Gukko room. Everybody else was too caught up in their arguments to notice.


Once the door was closed, Onua repeated his decision for a third time, his tone certain and commanding.


“Take me alone.”


Hujo started to argue, then apparently thought better of it. “Alright, but I’ll stay long enough to sense where you’ll find the Rahunga.”


“Agreed. Let’s go!”


The argument finally ended when everybody saw Hujo and Onua fly out via the Songsphere and disappear into the wavering black energy.




Nijire crept along the icy valleys of the junkyard, holding one of the advanced projectile guns like a bombfruit launcher.


Somewhat nearby she could hear sounds of battle. The two Rahunga were still fighting off the lava creatures. She could see the tower where Jaudrohk was imprisoned, but neither of the Rahunga were there – they must be on the ground. From this angle it looked like she could sneak up to it, but she knew the deadly creatures were probably surrounding it.


All four free Matoran had fanned out into the junkyard, following her plan.


Here was the first part of it.


Another of the stone and metal boxes. She quickly ran around it til she found the hatch side, and cranked it open. Inside, another collection of low-tech junk, apparently taken from Ko-Koro, and a Ko-Matoran, asleep. He wore a Kanohi Pakari.




A guard, one she'd been on adventures with before.


After glancing around and listening carefully to make sure the Rahunga's battle was not nearing her, she crept in and tapped the Matoran on his shoulder.


Raitu jerked awake.




“Quiet!” she whispered. “Follow me.”


As she turned to leave, she noticed something peeking out of a cloth bag. Stopped, stepped to the only junk-free spot closer to it.




She reached the loop of the bag's handle with the tip of the gun, not wanting to step over the metallic objects piled in front of it. Hooked it. Lifted it out, slowly. A metal bar was laying half on top of it.


The bar slid off, clanking against a shovel. But the handle of the shovel where it hit was wooden, and the sound was soft. She sighed in relief and pulled the mask away, just then noticing the sounds of battle were getting louder.


“We have to go. Now.”


“Wait!” Raitu whispered. “Look!”


Half under the pile of junk.


A small staff.


“Nuju's Btou staff!” she exclaimed. “Why wouldn't the Kuambu take it for themselves?” Btou staffs like that could enable Turaga and Matoran to use mask powers.


“It was Kuambu, wasn't it?” Raitu said. “I remember—”


“Not now.” She grabbed the staff and yanked it out quickly, to a chorus of clanks and crashes. “And hope the battle out there blocked out that noise!”


They left the box, and after gasping in surprise and amazement at the strange landscape, Raitu hurried after her. “What's happening?” he whispered.


“All I can tell you right now is that we need to find someone specific.”


She swapped masks several times, but found only one powered mask in the bag. A Mask of Precision. That'll help... The rest were spare Matoran Kanohi.


She rounded a bend. Another box-room.

The battle sounded farther away now. She decided to risk it.


“Who are we looking for?” Raitu asked.


She motioned for silence as they approached. There was a dampened pounding noise coming from inside.


Nijira opened the hatch.


Inside they beheld a Matoran already awake, chipping away one of the stone corners. He turned his Kanohi Rau to face them.


She grinned. “Mukana!” The leader of the reformed Rahunga, and one of her friends.


“Him?” Raitu asked.


Nijire shook her head. “No, but he'll sure help!”




Kopaka and Niaka floated in the water just beyond the cyan bubble.


Nobody on the island was paying attention to them. Niaka had mud filling the water just in case, but for now all they could do was wait for the bubble to fade away on its own.


There was still a considerable distance between the bubble's edge and Destral's shores. “How close do we have to be if it teleports?”


“On the land,” Niaka said. “Or so I heard from Rathoa.”


Kopaka pointed toward a long peninsula. “Land's closer there.” So they started swimming that way.


Meanwhile, Kopaka kept an eye – via his mask power – on events on the island. Soon he saw that Destral had decided indeed to make a move.


An army of servants, including Rahunga, poured out from their front gates and marched into the knifed rock formations. They would converge soon on the nearest Kuambu ship.


Just then, a ball of blue light appeared for a moment in the sky, and disappeared.


Hujo's power...




Blue light whirled, then receded.


Onua saw a barren, gray rocky landscape around him and Hujo. The bubble of cyan energy was visible above, and between two knifelike hills of rock, the castle wall of Destral ahead. He saw the army advancing.


He turned around. Just behind them, a Kuambu ship towered like another castle. That army was almost there.


“Look,” Hujo said, pointing.


Kanoka. Leading the attack.


Behind him were more Rahunga. More than had been with him on Mata Nui.


Onua specifically recognized Ahkmou standing next to Kanoka. The 'mind minions' were no more. And it looked like the whole group was working willingly with the Makuta again.


“What now?” Onua wondered.


Hujo turned towards a particular rock that jutted up between them and the army's line of attack. He was flying now with the strange suit and holding Onua's hand – they had switched methods of flight before leaving the Field. Now Hujo set Onua down.


Onua peered around the rock to watch as the army reached the Kuambu ship and attacked the hull.


“Want me to stay?” Hujo asked.


“No. Warn the Toa Rua.”


Hujo nodded and turned away.


“Wait.” Why weren't the Kuambu firing back? “Can you do your sensing thing?”


Hujo frowned. “I'd rather not. I'd have to take the suit off to be safe. Why?”


Onua put his claws to the ground. “Never mind. I sense the vibrations. The Kuambu must have broken through the bottom of their ship. They're in the caves. Heading towards one of the other ships.”


“I guess they don't want a fight. That won't last. There's only so many ships to retreat to.”


“Then why bother to...”


He didn't need to finish the sentence. The cyan energy was gone.Review here

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Chapter 16



Kopaka and Niaka swam as fast as they could.


Purple light.


Blinding, everywhere.


Forget mud. Nobody would see them. They just had to...


Light gone.


Still in the water.


Trees still visible under the starlight to their right.


Destral was gone.


They had missed it.




Onua saw a purple sky, and a whirling sphere of blue light, at the same time.


The sphere disappeared, and the purple sky turned black again.


Now an orange light cast across everything.


Onua looked to his left.


A massive volcano.


Blue light came back. And faded. Hujo hovered there, looking disappointed.


Onua sighed. “I take it you were on the wrong circle.”


“I'm afraid so. It'll take me a long time to get back to Kriitunga Island now. I might as well help you.”


“No. Look.” He pointed at the other island.


It was massive, shaped something like a sombrero with a wide flat circle of green forests, with a few domelike structures dotting this forest, then tapering up to the volcano. This reached nearly up to the stars – the stars Onua realized were illusions. This was in the Matoran Universe, not the surface realm.


More purple flashes reflected off the rocks all around. Kuambu ships.


Onua looked over at Vaurukan's Island. It was hard to tell at this distance but he thought he saw the ships appearing around one particular dome structure to his left – what he supposed was probably north, but he couldn't be sure.


Hujo nodded grimly. “I need to get the Seahopper now. What will you do?”


Onua gestured at the one Kuambu ship that hadn't teleported – the abandoned one the Rahunga were now entering. “First I'm gonna go there and watch them. If they head to land... I guess I'll head for that dome.” He pointed at the one the Kuambu ships had just encircled. “Makuta must be there. Or the Ko-Matoran. Either way...”


The Ta-Matoran nodded. “Just be careful. You won't be invisible now.”


“I know. But the crystal will help. Go.”


Hujo nodded, and again turned to leave, but something else occurred to Onua.


“Wait.” He frowned, thinking... Yes, it was worth it. “I need you to make a detour.”


“It better be quick.”


“You're headed to Mata Nui anyways to get to Twisted Island, right?”


Hujo shrugged. “I was gonna go right for Kriitunga Island, but that wouldn't be much out of my way.”


“Then stop off at Onu-Koro. Tell Whenua about the energy packs too. And buy me a safe one.”




Kopaka and Niaka walked out of the water, back to Le-Wahi's beach. He was disappointed to say the least. Every attempt to meet up with Onua was failing.


In fact just about everything he tried to do since the meeting was failing. What was he supposed to be doing?


“What now?” Niaka asked, as if reading his mind.


He sighed. “Wait for the next crazy thing to happen.”


She laughed. “Maybe we should get to Kewonga's tree? Hopefully meet the others there?”


He nodded.


They headed that way. But Kopaka was accustomed to checking his surroundings with the Akaku before leaving a place. When you had that power, you might regret not using it.


And so it happened that he saw five Kuambu ships sailing quietly in towards the Ta-Wahi beach, almost out of his vision range.


Kopaka stopped. That can't be good.


Niaka looked back at him. “What do you see?”


“Go on and tell the others to meet me at Ta-Koro...”




Nijire had found five other Ko-Matoran so far, before she found something very interesting.


She'd gotten good at summing up what was happening. She was getting tired of repeating it, though. Good thing she was one of the rare Ko-Matoran who didn't mind talking... so much.


The plan was going nowhere fast, though. Hopefully one of the other three from the camp had found the target. This group was getting too big to go unnoticed long.


As for her, she was now looking upon Kuambu.


About twenty of them. Or at least, that's what she assumed they had to be. All she could see were blurs. That matched the story of what people remembered after being hit by those clear Kuamor spheres.


But she hadn't been.

They were clustered around a single machine made of a conglomeration of the high-tech junk. Apparently something Jaudrohk had made for them. And it looked like they were building smaller devices that they were carrying like backpacks.


They had just finished one of them.


One of them loaded a clear Kuamor into the large machine's top. Ah...


Parts of the device moved rapidly so it looked like it was imploding. Crushed the Kuamor.

There was a faint whitish flash.

And the Kuambu's shapes looked even more blurred to her. Apparently the device was amplifying the one Kuamor's power and channeling through the backpack devices.


The other Matoran with her looked like they understood too.


“Should we do something about that?” Mukana wondered aloud.


“No,” Nijire said. “We need Jaudrohk. Fast. We stick to the plan.”


She walked away, and the others followed.




Onua watched the Brotherhood army from the same vantage point for a while. It appeared their immediate concern was not to invade the island but the Kuambu ship.


He noticed smoke rising from the center of the ship, presumably from an arson device to destroy the records on the ship.


After a few minutes the smoke faded. Clearly the Rahunga had put out the fire.


Onua knew all too well he would have to get into that ship. But it was one thing to intellectually consider that idea. Another to do it. He couldn't stop thinking about how... alone... he now was. Farther south, apparently, than anybody from Mata Nui had yet been. Down in the domes.


And here. Early.




The tendril creature would be searching for him. If it was as smart as he thought it was, it would think of looking here easily. This was its own home. The Gukko wouldn't be here for a while, and the sun-holes were still not open even if they did. The Seahopper wouldn't get here that fast either – it would be a little complicated for it to even try, involving both seahopping and use of the Field. Without Hujo it would be impossible.


He looked down at his claws, realizing he'd been gripping the rock so tightly it was starting to crumble.


I can't just cling to this moment forever. For destiny or... fate... I must move.


He nodded to himself, and crept away from the rock. The land sloped down here, away from both the ship and the fortress, so it was the only way to go without being seen. He wandered the rough ground here until he finally found a cave entrance.

Most of the ground was made of rock, but after wandering the cave for a while he finally found a spot of earthen wall.


Judging by the vibrations, he believed the Kuambu's exit cave to be just beyond this wall, so he dug quickly.


A short way in the wall turned to rock. He used his newfound disintegration power. Finally it was thin enough to pass through with his other mask – the Suva teleportation took longer than usual, but it still worked. He didn't want the sounds of his digging to echo easily up into the ship – he was hoping the Brotherhood hadn't found the exit yet.


He walked through the wall with the Mask of Passage.


The cave was deserted. It was all rock, so he wouldn't be able to escape easily from it. Onua turned and studied the shape of the wall he'd just passed through, memorizing it. That might be his only hope if he had to run.


After several more minutes of brisk walking he found where the cave had been broken into from above – he saw broken wood up there. The cave itself continued on for a ways. Again he memorized the way he'd come, lest he go the wrong way.


Made a staircase of tightly packed earth and walked up into the ship.


This appeared to be a storage room, pitch black except for a little light coming through the cracks around the wooden door. Being an Onu-Toa, he could see fairly easily, of course.


He stepped around various wooden crates to the door, and quietly tested it.


Not locked.


Opened it slowly, peering out.


He saw a lightstone hanging from the ceiling. To his right, the way the opening faced at the moment, he saw a brown cloth veil hanging from the ceiling. Saw light from another lightstone lamp beyond it, and a darker brown square – yet another veil – beyond that obscured whatever else might be farther along.


Listened carefully. He heard voices and other noises, but they were distant. The smell of smoke was just as faint, but there.


He dared not move forward now before freezing the moment to scout ahead.


As the blur, he zoomed around through the veils in the hallways until he found the Rahunga. Only they were there, plus one Makuta – a frightening titan with four wings. They were reading records in a room that looked partially burnt-up.


Hoping for info on where Teridax is imprisoned.


Onua hovered over them, reading what they found.


It was mostly gibberish to him. Wooden cards, with titles that all seemed to start with the word “Poetraxiens.” Normal words were interspersed with archaic words.


Judging from the look frozen on Kanoka's face, none of it was helpful. Onua wasn't surprised – the Kuambu would have taken the important info with them.


But it was obvious which of those domes, at least, the Kuambu had chosen to guard, so Onua figured that's where the Brotherhood would head.


I have to get there first.


And do what?




The moment unfroze. Onua closed the door and headed back. He didn't know what he alone could do, but he knew he had to try.


As for the original reason for coming to Destral, Rathoa's hopes were pointless now. He couldn't risk approaching the Rahunga with a Makuta hanging around. If any of the Rahunga did want to rejoin the side of good, now was not the time.




Finally, Nijire found what – or rather who – she was looking for.


She opened another of the strange room hatches.


And beheld an unconscious female Rahunga inside. The only other Ko-Rahunga she knew of. Her name was Tokaali.


Nijire crept quietly inside. Stepped carefully over the junk littering the floor.


Bent down.


Placed a hand gently on Tokaali's Kanohi – a Mask of Agility.




Rahudermis oozed out of Tokaali's body and back into the mask, as it lifted off her face. She shrunk down to a powerless Matoran.


Tokaali's eyes opened.


Nijire cried out in surprise. Fell on her back. Twisted, tossed the Kanohi to the others outside.


Tokaali stood up quickly, fury on her face.


Stopped, looking around in confusion. “Where...”


Nijire calmed herself, taking a deep breath. “You are dreaming.”


She smiled.


Tokaali looked at her, still angry, but more... horrified.


And sleepy.


“A.... dream?”


“That's right,” Nijire said slowly. Dreamily. “A dream.”


At that moment, the eerie chime sounded again. Nijire almost believed for a moment that it was a dream.


Tokaali's eyes looked heavy, and she slowly sat down. “Just... a...”


She laid down and fell into a coma.


Nijire sighed in relief.


Stood up and looked back at the others. “Now we have a hostage to trade. Come, help me carry her.”




Onua peered around a rocky hill.


Brotherhood servants were manning the boats in the enclosed bay. All of them. This side of the island faced the volcano. The doors of the bay were open, and some of the boats were already en route.


None of the Rahunga were with these servants. Many of them Onua recognized as Exo-Toa, in robot mode. Others were bipedal things with spiky sluglike torsos. Others looked like spiders. Still others like Toa-sized humanoids or taller, of various shapes. Some massive titans similar to the four-winged Makuta he'd seen earlier were also among them. Here and there a Matoran slave added to the number.


How to get across the water?


The boats looked too small to stow away on. Besides, how would he get from the land, even if he could burrow through it, to the boats without being seen?


No solution presented itself, so he just watched for a while.


The three suns seemed to be rising now. Onua vaguely recalled this phenomenon being discussed in the meeting. The suns were really holes in fixed positions above. The gaining light meant that the real sun in the real sky above was rising, and its light was somehow being bent after coming through the three sun-holes.


Besides how strange that seemed to Onua, it reminded him that he'd been awake all night. And he was feeling it.


The first boats to arrive dropped off all but one passenger and turned back to ferry more across. There were far more servants than room on the boats.


Now more Makuta came out from the fortress.


Soon after, he saw the four-winged Makuta and the whole group of Rahunga join them and get in more boats.




He flinched.


He'd heard his name whispered, but the voice seemed to come from all around.


That voice...


“Ito?” he whispered back.


Something touched his arm.


Ito appeared, translucent, standing next to the spectacular white bird named Jhianau. Ito was touching both of them, so now Onua looked translucent too. Meaning he was invisible to outside eyes.


“On-get,” Ito said.




The sky was a medium blue by the time Kopaka reached Ta-Koro.


Dead ahead was the hole in the giant lava tube. The village was inside. But there was no orange glow from the tube. Kopaka wondered how the villagers were coping with this. From what he understood, the heat and the lava were both crucial parts of the village's economy.


But Ta-Koro was not what he was here for.


A path which he was now approaching started at the south-facing gate, headed towards him, and then turned to the east. It U-turned north, where it ended on a sandy beach. Kopaka remembered that this was where Tahu's Toa canister had first landed.


He reached the path and followed it to the beach.


Tahu's canister was still here. Across from it, a strange stone statue of a head.


At the north end of the beach, a cliff rose straight up, to a stone bridge out to a pillar island in the water. Atop that pillar was the telescope that belonged to Nixie, a Ga-Matoran. Stone stairs were etched in the cliff to lead up to that bridge.


Kopaka climbed the stairs.


Peered over the top.


There they were. Five massive Kuambu ships, anchored just offshore.


They were letting down six small boats from one of the ships to get to land. He could see several beings in plain sight.


Kopaka called on his mask power and zoomed in.


But, strangely, he could not see them. They were already blurred. He didn't recall being hit with a clear Kuamor since the incident at the Mangai. Would the effect last that long?


Each of the Kuambu carried a strange device on its back that looked like a jumble of high-tech weaponry fused together with blue-glowing tubes.


But right now Kopaka was more interested in something else each of the boats had in it.


A Bohrok.


Not just any Bohrok.


A Bohrok Kal.




Sunlight faded in through the giant glass windows above by the time the other Ko-Matoran led by Matoro, Ehrye, and Teuara came back to the camp in the forest. They had known not to continue the mission once they'd freed several Matoran before checking back in, in case one of the other groups found the Rahunga, as Nijire's had.


Now there were about thirty Matoran here.


“This camp will not hold all of us,” Matoro said once the entire group was assembled. “We can't risk carrying out the rest of the plan until we have a safer place. Something defensible.”


Nijire spoke up immediately. “The underground rooms I came up from. There's some frightening flatworm creatures there, but they're slow moving, and I think we can deal with them. Maybe blockade them with junk. After that there'll be plenty of space.”


“How many ways in and out?”


“Just the stairs. Well, I guess that stream comes in too. I don't know where the stream goes underwater. Chances are neither Ahku nor Kejokta know either. But we can cover that entrance.”


“No. We have to find the stream's entrance.”


“We don't wanna go that way, trust me. Mandible-worms.”


She explained more about it. Nobody liked the sound of the fat worms being in the basement, but the guards agreed that since those creatures couldn't get up into the rooms and hallways, and would discourage even Rahunga from using that entrance, it was the best option they had for now.


“We'll keep using this camp as a second base,” Matoro added. “Agreed?”


All agreed.


“Now. To trade for Jaudrohk.”


“Actually,” Nijire said, holding up the Btou staff and Mask of Precision she'd found. “I have another idea.”


“Go on.”


She smiled. “I'm no expert on hostage trading. And frankly....” She looked over at her friend, Mukana. “Ahku was with Kanoka when he murdered some of the reformed Rahunga. I don't want him roaming free in here... well, as free as anyone can be in a prison. Kejokta... I used to know him, and while maybe I didn't know him like I thought... I don't think he's a threat. So, I say we do what I am an expert on.”


She put on the mask, and picked up a rock. Threw it at another rock. Hit it exactly.


“Imagine that as Ahku's mask.”


“So,” Mukana said. “You're suggesting we attack him?”


“I'm saying we set a trap.”




“I take it,” Onua said as he and Ito flew on Jhianau's back over the water between the two islands, “you flew to Destral when it was next to Mata Nui?”


Ito just nodded.




Ito didn't answer.


Onua frowned. He was about to ask, when Ito directed Jhianau downwards. Onua saw that the beach was made of black sand, littered by black and gray boulders.


“Sunrise. No chat-time,” Ito offered as the bird landed among the trees just beyond the beach. “Off-get.”


“Why? Shouldn't we scout—”


“I'm here to Kanoka-stop,” Ito finally answered, looking Onua in the eye, a very serious expression on his face. “You must go for the dome the Kuambu ships land-circled.”


“Is that where Makuta is?” Onua asked as he stepped off the bird. Ito and the bird both disappeared as soon as he let go.


There was a puff of wind.


“Ito?” Onua asked.


No answer. Onua reached out to where the bird had been a moment ago.




He just stood there for a moment, frustrated and confused. This wasn't like Ito. Onua had worked closely with him when they were chasing Lewa, when the Krana had mind-controlled him. Ito wasn't talkative, but he wasn't rude either.


Thinking over Ito's expression, Onua realized he wasn't just serious.


He was... nervous.




Onua swallowed. Ito might be quiet, but he did not hold back his emotions. When something was sad, he cried openly. But Onua had never seen him worried. He laughed in the face of armies, calling battle fun. This Brotherhood army was enough to terrify anyone else, but not Ito.


Something was very wrong.


But what? Why wouldn't he have said?


Onua couldn't imagine why. But he knew Ito well enough that he had to just trust him. Sighing, he turned away from the beach and started towards the dome the Kuambu were guarding.




Kopaka watched as the six boats carried the Kal and several Kuambu each ashore.


They were stepping off onto the beach now.


Rolling the Kal – in their ball forms – onto the beach over wooden ramps.


Kopaka zoomed in on the Kal.


There was something off about their appearances. He couldn't place it at first.



The Krana. They looked different.


He zoomed in closer.

They were changing shape...


And sparkling blue.


Kopaka breathed in sharply. That meant chronoserum was involved. Changing reality.


Changing the Kal, just as it had changed Kopaka himself, and the other Toa Nuva.


He'd had runins with that substance's effects before, and he was getting frustrated with it. There was something... terrifying about the thought that a little blue liquid could change the very ground you were standing on. He wanted the world to make predictable sense.


Well, maybe this time the chronoserum was actually doing something predictable. But he didn't like the implications of this either...


He was thinking of something Lewa had said in the meeting. The Toa of Air had been proclaiming strange predictions ever since he took the Krana off. Somehow he seemed to think he had an accurate intuition now as to events in the original Cosmos.


Since the Paracosmos events always mirrored those in the Paracosmos, that meant Lewa could... well... he was a prophet, of sorts, Kopaka thought.


And Lewa had warned that he felt the threat of the Bohrok was not over yet.


“Close-watch the Kal,” he had said, his voice tight and urgent.


Kopaka had a feeling they'd be experiencing Convergeance soon.Review here

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Chapter 17



Nijire waited quietly in her position behind another tower made of junk.


Matoro was meeting with Ahku to propose a hostage trade. She could see them in Jaudrohk's tower, with Jaudrohk tied up. Kejokta stood atop the tower, firing ice bolts at any straggler lava creatures.


Nijire had climbed this tower partway, on the side opposite Jaudrohk's tower, and now hung off the right side, just out of Kejokta's sight. In her free hand she held a lightstone. On her face, the Mask of Precision. In the cloth backpack, slung over her back, the Btou staff, and her normal mask.


On the ground behind her, the other Matoran crouched behind an icy ridge, all with advanced guns, and most with lightstones collected from the bronze and stone rooms.


She also had a gun in the bag, but it made a rather loud noise when fired, so she'd only use it as a last resort, lest Ahku hear the shot and dodge. Tossing a lightstone from a height was much quieter, and the light released by such a crystal's shattering would be effective against Ahku's rahudermis.


Two of the Matoran below carried Tokaali. Another carried a powerless mask – Matoro's deal was to give Tokaali a Matoran Kanohi; they would keep the Rah-Kanohi. That was non-negotiable. Ahku wouldn't like it – that was probably what was taking so long now.


But finally, Ahku climbed down from the tower, motioning at Kejokta to guard it. He and Matoro would stay with Jaudrohk until Tokaali was handed over, then all three Rahunga would leave the area.


Certainly Ahku would be thinking he'd simply come back later. But then, maybe by now he'd heard all he wanted to from Jaudrohk, and wouldn't have bothered. But with any luck, that wouldn't be a possibility anyways.


Ahku neared. Matoro had told him the other Matoran were here, and were armed.


So he stopped a fair distance away, and called out to them. “Send her!”


The two Matoran carried her to the top of the ridge, the third with the mask close behind.


Ahku's eyes were on them.


Nijire focused, calling on the power of the mask. It was a strange sensation to feel the power to be accurate in your hands, when you were normally unable to use such powers. She gripped the lightstone, slowing her breathing, tensing her arm.


Let it fly true.


She swung back.


Eerie chime.


Louder and longer than ever before. Ahku crouched, looking around in paranoia.


Nijire's aim was messed up now. She repositioned.


Something was moving in the distance. The chime... like the blaring alarms in the underground halls and caves, it was meant to signal something.


Not just one thing moving. Lots of things. Little things, about the size of a mask. Moving fast, and moving over all surfaces easily, including the steeper hills.




They were close. Pouring out of a hole that had just opened up in the icy ground to Ahku's left.


He turned his shield toward them and fired shockwaves. But they kept going around him to try to surround him, so he had to keep backing up. Nijire couldn't get a good aim with him moving like this – and she wasn't sure she wanted to anymore. If she did manage to knock him out, what would the creatures do to him?




The villagers carrying Tokaali looked alarmed and confused.


The centipedes kept coming. Over a hundred. The rest of the Matoran couldn't see them, but the centipedes were headed right for them.


Nijire tossed the lightstone in her bag. The plan was pointless now.


She moved around so Ahku couldn't see her, since his backing up moved him more into line of sight with her. She motioned at the Matoran below, pointing away quickly. But they weren't getting it.


“Run!” she whispered.


Some started to walk away, but they still didn't understand. She almost shouted at them, but she feared Ahku. She felt helpless.


Centipedes climbed over the ridge.


The Matoran were alert thanks to her, and saw them immediately. Ran.


Toward the entrance to the room with the painting. She'd showed it to them earlier; some were already there, setting up obstacles against the flatworms.


Ahku moved back into her line of sight, also fleeing.

Centipedes swarmed all around the base of her tower. And now... they started climbing.


Oh no.




Kopaka found the other four Toa waiting at Ta-Koro's entrance. Quickly he explained what he'd seen.


“Let's go,” Tahu said. They ran back to the beach. Kopaka's heart was pounding by the time they got over the stairs. He had no idea what to expect.


They were back before it happened.


Just as the five Toa laid eyes on the scene, blue sparkles spread from the Krana inside to the whole Bohrok, one by one.


One, Kohrak-Kal, started to wake up and unfold as this happened. He looked about as alarmed as a robot could be.


All six changed forms.


Three of them – white, blue, and red -- grew in size and gained silvery spikes all over their body, and their jaws widened and gained many sharp teeth. Blue light flared from the air over Gahlok-Kal, and a shockwave went out from it, driving that Kal into the sand, and the other two away.


The black Kal's legs fattened but did not get taller, his handshields and arms shrunk to silvery stubs with claws, and the whole body fused into a teardrop shape, the tail aiming back and up a little, splitting into a few black tendrils.


Lehvak-Kal grew to about Toa height, its feet turned into strange circles, and its handshields turned into... cannons?


The brown one turned into an incomprehensible ever-shifting blob, and seemed to grow in size. Blue light glowed brightly from this blob, radiating beams of bright light in various directions that danced around wildly, and sparkles filled the air near it.


Sparkles faded on the others – on four, going back into the Krana.


But Gahlok-Kal's sparkles disappeared entirely. The blue one went berserk immediately, as if enraged at being pushed down into the sand. Magnetism pulled Kopaka closer a little – but the other Kal were pulled more, and clanked around Gahlok-Kal noisily.


This just enraged Gahlok-Kal more, and it scratched in fury at them. Tahnok-Kal mirrored the blue one, scratched back almost as angrily. Nuvhok-Kal broke away, pulling them all away from the magnetism with gravity.


Kohrak-Kal ran away from the group towards the Toa.


Kopaka crouched lower.


“What do we do?” Lewa whispered.


Kohrak-Kal must have heard that, because he stopped, facing the Toa directly, and screamed at them. Kopaka couldn't make out the words at first.


The Kal was saying, rapidly and repeated over and over, “GETAWAYGETAWAYGETAWAY!”




Onua ran quickly through the forest.


Every few minutes, he froze time to check that he was heading in the right direction. Occasionally he checked on the Brotherhood forces.


Soon he realized they were not headed to the same dome.


In blur form, he hovered higher and studied their direction more carefully.


Yes. Between the three domes visible on the island, the one the Kuambu ships encircled was to the left, with another farther to the left. The Brotherhood was heading to the one to the right, which was considerably farther away from the other two.




Why not toward the one Ito told Onua to go to? It was the obvious choice, of the three.


Maybe that was the reason. Maybe they figured the Kuambu's teleporting to that dome was a bluff, so they went for the one farthest from the Kuambu.


Did Ito know for sure Onua was headed the right way?


Maybe Ito had already noticed this, and was following the Brotherhood instead. Onua decided that must be what Ito was so worried about.


While freezing time, Onua had also noticed some more strange details about the island.


The most obvious oddity was a wide swath of jungle that had been cleared in a line, wider than a village, and about as long as the distance between the two left domes. This was between those domes and the one on the right.


In the middle of this line was something even stranger. A collection of vertical and horizontal black lines.


Onua's blur flew closer, curious.


Made of volcanic rock. Arranged in complex 3D grid formations, but it looked heavily damaged. Onua had no idea what its purpose might be. He saw no beings around it.


He also saw another problem.


Kuambu – apparently – were leaving their ships, and marching rapidly towards the Brotherhood army. Onua was confused about this, because all he saw were blurs, most of whom seemed to be carrying very strange-looking devices. He assumed the devices were causing the blurring – and apparently able to affect him even while he had time frozen.


But more importantly, they were heading roughly toward him. He was closer to the coast, but to be safe, he decided to turn back toward the coast for a while. Once he was even with the guarded dome, he would turn back inland.




Nijire reached the room at the top of the tower, frantically swung open the awkward door made of junk, leaped in, and closed it behind her.


But she knew of no way to lock it. She ran to the center of the room, pulling the bag around. Grabbed the gun. Aimed. Her hand shook from fear.


Centipedes swarmed around the door, and through the windows. The ice they touched steamed and hissed.


She spun, firing rapidly at each one, using the power of the mask. When each bolt hit, the centipede screeched and was knocked away, falling from the tower.


Spun, and spun, firing firing firing.


Eerie chime, faint.


They kept coming.


She started getting dizzy, but just kept focus on the mask, kept spinning, kept firing. She could think of no other choice. Too late to climb down and run.


Vaguely she thought of studying the computer consoles hooked up in this room, but she could not spare a second to look at them. The grotesque creatures were everywhere.


One almost touched her foot from behind. It was too far in to fall away, but she didn't notice what happened to it after she hit it. Had to keep spinning, watching, aiming, pulling the trigger...


She felt sick, and soon lost her focus. The room was getting hotter and hotter.


I set a trap alright. A trap for ME.


A shot missed. The centipede leaped at her. She dodged, shrieking, and came around spinning at it. Hit it hard with the gun. It flew against the door, knocked it open.


They swarmed all the faster through this opening.


Nijire was almost at her wit's end when a blue sphere of light flew at the tower.




Shook it.


Centipedes fell off all around, as well as pieces of ice. Nijire fell on her side.


Rolled, sitting up and aiming at the door. One more centipede ran at her, but she hit it.


The rest ran down of their own accord. Nijire noticed movement outside that wasn't orange – but blue, green, and red.




A Kuambu had fired that shot.


To save her? Or to attack her?


She wasn't going to risk anything. She crouched, reached for the door – clumsily, because the world still seemed to be spinning – and swung it closed again. Peered out the crack.


Kuambu were sweeping across the entire junkscape.


Opening bronze hatches.


Dragging Matoran out.


Firing at Ahku.


At Kejokta, Matoro, and Jaudrohk.


The centipedes swarmed back down the hole they'd come up from.


A white Kuamor hit Ahku. Knocked him unconscious. A Kuambu picked him up and carried him toward the orange-glowing steamy sector. The others who had grabbed Matoran did the same.


What... A horrible suspicion came over her, but she couldn't believe it. They don't kill...


Matoro and Jaudrohk were out of their tower now, running for the painting room. Kejokta followed.


She watched Matoro stumble.


A Kuambu ran up to him. Grabbed him.


Matoro fought.


Kejokta turned back long enough to fire once at that Kuambu, but another fired at him, and he was forced to go on.


Matoro wasn't fighting anymore. She hadn't seen him be knocked unconscious but he must have been. They were dragging him away too.


Nijire felt guilt.






Mostly she felt guilty because her personal fear overwhelmed her dismay at seeing Matoro fall. They'd come for her next.


But she was in the same position as with the centipedes! If she tried to climb down now she'd just be an easier target.


She stood up and ran to one of the other gaps in the junk, to see if Kuambu were already climbing that way. No. Ran to another window.


No. None climbed the tower. They were all retreating now, all toward the lava section.


She'd lost sight of Kejokta or Jaudrohk. She ran to the window facing the painting room. Didn't see them that way. They must have been taken too.


She watched the last of the Kuambu until she couldn't see them anymore through the thick steam near the lava and the rain everywhere.




Kopaka and the other Toa tried to flee down the stone steps leading away from the telescope, but the green Kal splashed his way through the shallow water under the rock bridge, and fired some kind of projectile at the stairs.


Gali had been partway down. She shrieked, and fell to the sand.


Pohatu made rock blast up from under her, lifting her back up to the cliff.


“This way!” Tahu said, running toward Ta-Koro. The rock was rough up here, sloping toward the lava tube roof ahead.


Nuvhok-Kal hovered with his gravity power into their sight.


But he did not attack – he flew to the northwest, over the trees of Ga-Wahi. Soon he was out of sight.


Gahlok-Kal had climbed the other side of the rock formation, which was less steep, and now ran after them.


“Levitation!” Tahu shouted at Lewa. “Share it!”


Kopaka felt the ability to hover.


They reached the hole in the lava tube.


Ta-Koro was below, but not directly below. Without the power to hover, they would have fallen into the cool lava bed to their deaths. Or if they'd jumped really hard, slammed into Ta-Koro's outer rock walls and died anyways.


They floated down onto the castle wall. Tahu shouted orders at the Ta-Koro guard.


The bridge was lowered into the dry lava bed so it couldn't be crossed on foot, although it probably wouldn't matter.


Gahlok-Kal appeared above the hole, and leaped in immediately.




Kopaka crouched, holding up his arms defensively.


The Kal missed. Bounced off the castle wall.


A second later, Kopaka heard a loud crash. Looked with the Akaku.


The Kal had slammed into the rock ground. But apparently its magnetic powers had somehow slowed its fall, because neither it nor the rock looked very damaged.


It stood up immediately, shrieking eerily, and ran toward the base of the village.




Nijire still felt dizzy, so she waited a while until she felt normal.


She looked around as she was waiting, trying to use the screens in the room to judge how fast the world seemed to be spinning. She still felt sickened, and she knew it wasn't because of the dizziness. Matoro.


And all the others the Kuambu had taken out of the bronze rooms. It had looked like the entire remaining population of Ko-Koro, besides the thirty or so that had already been with her. Why did the...


Eerie chime.


Even louder.


Blaring. Deafening.

Nijire opened her mouth to cry in pain at the noise, but didn't hear her voice over it. Clamped her hands over her ears.




She walked like this to a window, looking around.


What did the chime really mean? She saw no creatures now. And why had there not been a chime when Ahku summoned the giant snail? Many more mandible worms and centipedes had come with it. Did it mean the Kuambu were doing something? Just after the previous loud chime they had shown up. Now they were hidden in the steam of the lava area.


But what, then, did it mean they were doing? She'd seen Kuambu already – apparently – with no chime.


Solving mysteries is not for me.


She nodded to herself. Her goal must be escape. That was what she was good at.


Finally, the chime ended.


Something occurred to her, then. She looked back at the screens.


She'd just been staring at them, but hadn't thought about what they displayed. Now she noticed a familiar shape on one of them.


A wireframe diagram of one of the prison domes – presumably this prison dome.


The brightest lines on the diagram were the borders of the eight huge windows about a third of the way up the dome, and lines running down from these to the base of the dome, under it, and to a spot in the center, then up slightly. She glanced out one of the tower's window at one of these massive windows.


It was hard to see through the rain, but it looked like essentially a giant, opaque hatch. She saw no glass. And the diagram showed hinges on the outside. So there couldn't be glass out there either.


She looked back to the electronics in front of her.


Beneath the screen was a button labeled, “Open.”




At first, Kopaka thought Gahlok-Kal had simply gone berserk. It seemed to be digging into Ta-Koro's base.


He zoomed in, calling on his power of vision to see through the castle wall and rock, so he didn't have to lean over the wall.


The Kal wasn't digging – it was climbing.


Tahu and the other Toa were gathering the Ta-Koro guard.


Kopaka wanted to just flash-freeze the Kal – that would do it – but he was... powerless.


And now he felt his armor being pulled downward. He turned back, jumping off the wall to the floor below. “Get off the walls!” he shouted to the whole village. If they were pulled off on the outside they might be pulled down that long distance to a deadly impact.


Now he felt much heavier – not from gravity, but from a powerful magnetic force below him. He cried out as his legs collapsed.


Other cries of alarm rang out as the other Toa, and the Matoran fell to the ground.


Slid toward Kopaka – the Kal was not quite under them but to the side, and the more so as it climbed.


Piled up against the wall. Kopaka tried to push himself free, but the weight of all the others was like a vice grip. He had managed to get an arm in front of his face, though, thankfully, so he pushed with all his might to prevent his mask from shattering under the pressure.


The pull was totally sideways now. He could hear rock being scraped just on the other side of the wall.




The intense pressure disappeared, and the pile settled against the floor, to much complaining and struggling. But they were all still stuck to each other magnetically. Several were shouting in panic to the guards and Toa to do something. Kopaka's arm shook in exhaustion.


Tahu caught Kopaka's eye, and that of the other Toa, motioning – with effort – for silence. Kopaka nodded.


The monstrous Kal appeared over the castle wall.


Tahu shot fire at it. Scorched its claws.


Force and movement.


The beam of fire aimed away. Tahu turned it off.


Kopaka, Tahu, and most of the pile floated a little ways off the ground and hovered to the opposite side of the Koro. Over a few huts, then down, and smashed right into Turaga Vakama's hut!


Some of the others – including Gali – were left by the castle wall. The Kal was kicking at them furiously.


They screamed. Some flew even faster over the village, and smashed into more huts. Kopaka's heart skipped a beat – had they just died?


He tried to get up, but the metal armor of those around him pulled at his limbs mercilessly. He couldn't get free! No!


Gali had already unleashed a flood through the air at the Kal, but a villager was propelled next to her and right into her face.

She fell over, hit her head on the rock wall, and slumped to the ground, unmoving.

The Kal walked up, grabbed her two hooks, and pulled them away.


Turned, and headed into the tunnel into the rock bridge over the north stretch of lava river, heading toward the caves of Onu-Wahi.


Kopaka kept pulling and kept pulling, furious at himself more than anything. The Kal had agreed not to attack the Toa, to wait to release the Bohrok until the Matoran were moved. Why would they suddenly change their minds? No, this was not their fault, it was the Kuambu's, but he couldn't direct his anger at them. They were the enemy, and he expected them to act like it.


It was his own failing that infuriated him. All day, since helping defeat the Bahrag, all night, and now this morning, he had been trying everything he could think of to help out, and every single attempt melted like ice in lava. He was trying to work with others now. He was trying to speak when he had something useful to say. He was trying not to seem so uncaring toward others.


So WHY was he failing so miserably?


When he could finally wrench himself free of the tangled pile, he stormed away to the west side of the village, gritting his teeth, every step pounding on the rock. He sat down behind a hut where nobody else could see him, and stared at the western rock wall.


Studied the grain of the rock, breathing heavy and fast. He glared at each grain as if it was his personal enemy.


Tensed all his muscles and relaxed them. Breathed in long.


Out slow.


He thought wryly of the Rah-Kanohi in his pack, and checked it. It was still intact. But he felt like if he put that on in his current condition he'd fall instantly to the hate boiling in that foul liquid. He was useless to everybody like this.


I can't go on like this. What's wrong with me?


He wondered if this was what Ito meant that he would face. Indeed, he did feel more alone now than ever before, even while being closer to others than ever. It wasn't the powers he lacked, the sword he was missing or the fairly useless masks he had. He had seen Ito turn mere sticks into tools of successful battle, with a confidence Kopaka could only fake.


Maybe he should just give up on working with the others. Strike out into the wilderness alone.


The idea appealed to him. He recalled that the Kohrak-Kal had been the most loyal to the Toa. If ever a robot could seem almost humane, that one did. It had spoken for the others to the Toa often, and had once saved several Matoran lives. And just now, it had been the only one to warn the Toa to flee.


Whatever was happening to the Kal was not yet done. Gahlok-Kal seemed to have fallen to it immediately, but not the others.


If Kopaka could find Kohrak-Kal and stop the transformation before it reached its end, maybe together they could stop the others. The other Toa would keep their powers, and maybe they could get Gali's Tools back. The fact that Kopaka was already powerless might help – there was nothing for Kohrak-Kal to steal.


He almost did it.


He stood up, and walked toward the bridge.


What stopped him was the sight in front of him, of Turaga Vakama, Tahu, and Pohatu working together to repair the Turaga's hut.


Without planning it at all, Kopaka heard himself ask, “Can I help?”


Vakama pointed at one of the other huts. “Mine's almost fixed, but they could use a hand.” Kopaka saw that the Matoran who had crashed into those huts were still alive, but their masks were ruined. They were being carried to intact huts to be cared for.


Kopaka nodded, and walked nervously over and started picking up the pieces.Review here

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Chapter 18



Nijire climbed down the tower, and headed the way Ahku had run. She'd spotted something on her way down.




Ahku's spiky shield. Laying on the ground untended.


And his Mask of Summoning.


The Kuambu had defeated him too.


Once again she felt conflicted – relieved that what her plan had been intended for, removing him as a threat, had happened, but guilty – she hadn't wanted Ahku to fall to the enemy. She'd secretly hoped to perhaps give him a powerless mask, keep him contained in a prison, and talk him out of his evil ways, but she knew that was unrealistic.


What about Jaudrohk and Kejokta?


She wandered around the area, looking for any sign of what happened to them, but found nothing. Perhaps there might have been tracks, but the constant freezing rain had already changed the scene, burying it in still more ice.


So she turned back toward the stone stairway, after bagging Ahku's mask. Time to tell the others her new plan.


But first, there was something to check.




Onua had frozen time again – and it was a good thing, or he might not have seen the ball of blue energy in the water, which now reflected the blue sky of full day.


A big sphere.


Hujo and the Seahopper were here.


Onua let time flow, and stopped in place. Hujo would be able to sense where he was – which was still close to the coast thanks to the Kuambu army just inland. Best to wait for the others here before heading inland now.


He hadn't realized how accustomed he'd already gotten to the Crystal of the Present. Its thoughts and feelings had begun to feel natural as it commented on what they saw together in moments. As if it was part of him now. Now without the energy pack, the mental silence other than his own thoughts felt strange, even though that had been his entire life before this.


What was really going on here, from the Unknown's perspective? They had sent him to the Crystal. Had they expected him to take it?


One thing that had occurred to both of them was that maybe Onua was supposed to take both crystals. Rescue them from the creature – but it was his own fault, his own curiosity that had brought the creature's attention to the Watcher Temple in the first place. Had the Unknown wanted him to do that?


He recalled that, surprisingly, the crystal suspected they had. The creature had just tried to kill Onua at the Mangai volcano, and Caroha's visions of the future would have certainly foreseen that. Once he found the crystals it was inevitable that he'd try to find the source of those attacks.


But I should have them both. And the Claw.


Was there any hope of going back for the other?


He hadn't thought about this seriously with the crystal yet. So – he couldn't resist – he froze the moment again.


The crystal thought there was a good chance, but saw keeping Makuta contained – and freeing the Ko-Matoran – as more important. Onua agreed, but he wanted more insight into how to try to free the other crystal.


Doing anything at all would be easier if the creature couldn't so easily find him, so he thought it was important. But the crystal didn't want to think about it further. Instead it wanted him to bring this up with Hujo. This was a question for the solver of mysteries – how do you outsmart what might well be the smartest creature ever known?


So Onua let time flow, and tried to wait... knowing as he did the creature could be getting ever closer...




The huts were repaired now, and Kopaka somehow found himself discussing the recent turn of events with the other Toa and Turaga Vakama in the elder's new hut.


All agreed the problem of the Kal had been building for a while, and it would be the most serious threat on the island if it was not stopped in its tracks.


“Reason won't work nowtime,” Lewa said. “They will only fast-forget anything we happy-agree on. I think the changes are flipped.”


“Like the Exo-Toa?” Gali asked.


Lewa nodded.


The Exo-Toa in the Cosmos, Lewa had insisted, had hindered the Toa in the fight against the Bahrag. But here in the Paracosmos, the Exo-Toa had helped, strengthening their elemental power.


“The Kal's shapes are weird-turning,” Lewa continued, “different from the Cosmos, but their minds are back-turning, becoming just like the Cosmos.”


“And what is that like?” Pohatu asked.


“I think... they tried to free the Bahrag and unleash the swarms again. And... power-stole.”


“Our powers?” Kopaka asked. “But I thought Kuambu, and things like Btou staffs, didn't exist there.”


Lewa shrugged. “It's only a feeling.”


“You should assume,” Vakama said, “for now, that they will try to steal all your Tools, and free the Bahrag with the elemental powers.”


“Is that possible?” Tahu asked. “Considering Kopaka's tool is missing, and Onua isn't here?”


“My axe,” Lewa said, holding it up, “has both Air and Earth in it now. Only Ice is missing.”


“I had two Btou staffs,” Gali said. “One merged with each hook. Would that give two Kal the power of Water?”


“It would,” Vakama said, “but protocages need six different elements to be unsealed, just as all six of you had to combine your elements to make the cage.”


“What of the Toa Rua?” Pohatu asked. “The Kal know of them.”


“Do they now?” Tahu asked. “Lewa just said they are forgetting things now.”


“It's just my headthink. I don't sure-know.”


“Assume the worst again,” Vakama said. “That they are remembering anything that will help their Converged mission to free the Bahrag. Where are the Rua now?”


“Kriitunga Island,” Kopaka said. “Hujo told Niaka. The Kal were there; they know.”


“Can they steal powers from them?” Tahu wondered. “The powers are still in them.”


“I don't know,” Vakama said, sighing. “But if the Kuambu are behind this... they used those chronoserum lamps on you...”


“Assume the worst, right?” the red Toa said, smiling grimly.


The elder gave a slight bow, holding out both hands with his palms up. “If nothing else they could possibly take the Btou staff from Gali's second hook, if the Kuambu destroy that Stone of Permanence, and merge it with one of the Rua's Tools.”


“And there is Toggler to keep in mind,” Kopaka pointed out. “He has a sword just like mine... And who knows? Kanoka might be headed back here, or the Kal might somehow find out where he is.”


“Through the Kuambu,” Gali said. “Kanoka's trying to break Makuta free from a prison they're probably guarding.”




As they all thought what she was thinking.


Maybe Kanoka was walking right into a trap.




Hujo finally came into sight, without his invisibility power on, leading a group from the Seahopper.


Among them were Bhukasa, Rathoa, Sairiph, Taureko, and Takua. Behind these came several Kriitunga led by Grunrohti.


Hujo held up an energy pack. “Just as you asked.”


He smiled and took it, putting the crystal and everything else in the cloth backpack into the energy pack instead. The crystal's thoughts once again opened up to his mind while time was flowing normally. A big relief.


Onua assumed Hujo had given them the news he was aware of on the way, so Onua just gestured at the dome he had been heading towards, and said, “Ito was here. He said to go to that one.”


“The Brotherhood is heading to a different one,” Sairiph said. “I thought Hujo's direction toward you was odd, so I flew higher to check.”


“If Ito says to go this way,” Hujo said, “we go this way. Trust me.”


“I don't know you,” Sairiph said.


“Let's split up,” Rathoa said.


“No!” Taureko replied, urgently. “Even you, Rathoa, don't know the Brotherhood like I do. If we don't need to go to that dome ahead of them, we shouldn't risk it. And we should stay together.”


“I agree,” Bhukasa said. “It was crazy enough to get back to Onua. Now that we're all here, let's go to this dome.”


“What is more important to Ito?” Rathoa countered. “Freeing the Ko-Matoran, or the truly important goal of keeping Makuta contained?”


“Hey,” Taureko said. “I'm a Ko-Matoran...”


“Freeing any Matoran cannot be as important,” Sairiph said. “Rathoa is – for once – right.”


“Ito died to help the Toa and me defeat Makuta,” Hujo said. “I think his priorities are where yours are. Besides, are we against Vaurukan, or for him? Here we are arguing over whether we should help Vaurukan keep someone imprisoned, or break someone out!”


“What's your point?” Rathoa said.


“My point is, you are right. We have to keep Makuta contained first. If nothing else, that might earn us some trust with Vaurukan. We could ask him to reconsider about the—”


“Nonsense!” Sairiph said. “Vaurukan does not—”


“Let me finish!” Hujo interrupted. “First we give him the chance to do the right thing, after proving we are for him on one thing. Then if he refuses, we break them out. All I'm saying is, you are both right that we can't risk going for the Matoran first.”


Onua was a little surprised at Hujo's take, but he felt all of this was beside the point. They needed to keep moving. If the Brotherhood was about to find itself the victim of a double bluff, they'd head quickly for the dome the Kuambu were guarding. Whatever Ito had in mind, time mattered.


The crystal thought this was ironic. The others' distraction was freezing them in time, in a way. The crystal urged Onua to speak up.


I... can't...


“What about the third dome?” Takua asked. “We're all ignoring it. Wouldn't that be the really brilliant trick?”


Nobody replied for a moment. It was a great point.


“We'll still be closer to that one than the Brotherhood,” Hujo pointed out.


“You know what I think?” Grunrohti said. “We're wasting time here.”


Onua nodded, along with the rest of the Kriitunga, and Hujo and Bhukasa. There, I didn't need to speak.


“And I say,” Bhukasa added, “that as Captain, I'm in charge here. So we're doing what Ito said. Now. Anything else we can discuss along the way.”


Nobody objected, and they finally got moving.




Nijire reached the little clearing in the junkyard around the opening to the stone stairs. It was at the top of a wide and flat hill, giving a good vantage point to the rest of the junkyard without being as obvious from afar as the many towers.


Walked up to the consoles rimming the clearing and facing out towards the rest of the junk.


Studied each screen one at a time.




The one controlling dimensional gates.


It seemed that this did the same thing as the first tower Jaudrohk had taken her to, but with less specific commands available.


Curious, she glanced around, and saw nothing about the window. That function was only available at that one tower. She wondered if Jaudrohk even knew about it. How long had he been here? Had there been time to find every function?


But she turned her attention back to the dimensional gate screen now. There was a wireframe of the dome's interior here, bordered by a three-dimensional region of air reaching almost to the dome wall, and not quite up to the windows in question. So, this technology was coded with an artificial limitation on where gates could be opened.


This gave more evidence for her theory that the windows could allow escape, if you could only reach them. Otherwise why limit the dimensional gates to below the windows?


She nodded, and headed down the stairs.


It occurred to her that a guard should have been visible by now.


Were the others actually here?


She quickened her pace down the steps.




Entered the room with the painting.




Ran to the door. Grabbed the handle.




She shouldn't just run in here unprepared. What if this was another trap?


She let go, backing up to the stairs.


“Anyone there?” she asked. “It's me, Nijire!”




No, not silence. Whispers.


Finally, a familiar voice. “We thought you'd been taken!”


The door swung open, and Mukana stepped out.


She smiled in relief, but tried to look behind him.


“The others are a few rooms down,” he explained. “Fortifying a place Jaudrohk told us of.”


“He's here?”


Mukana nodded. “And... Kejokta.”




The Toa and Vakama continued to debate what to do now, but there was no easy answer. If just one Kal, alone, could defeat all six Toa...


They were going nowhere fast when Niaka ran into the hut. “There's something in the sky!”


There was a moment's hesitation, and the Toa got up and ran out.


“I was headed back to Ga-Koro when I saw it,” Niaka added. “Something silver... and big.”


Vakama looked at her sharply.


But now they were out of the hut, and looking up through the hole in Ta-Koro's lava tube.


A silvery dot. It looked small to Kopaka, but when he zoomed in, he could see it was massive. He couldn't tell quite how big. It moved behind some low wispy clouds, making it clear it was not just a dot.


Vakama gasped. “An... I have not seen... since...”


“Do you know what this is?” Tahu demanded. “Friend or foe?”


Kopaka didn't hear the reply – he had just noticed with his lens that something had fallen from the huge thing.


Zoomed in, matched its fall with a smooth downward motion of the head.


A little canister.


Zoomed inside.


A rolled up leaf, with writing on it. He couldn't make it out from such an immense distance.


He turned to the others. They were too busy debating amongst themselves. He tapped Tahu's shoulder.


The Toa of Fire quieted the others. “What did you see?”


“We've just been given a message.”




Nijire followed Mukana's directions to the room the others were fortifying.


Jaudrohk was there, directing the alterations. The only light came from the many lightstones they held. Nijire had hers back out too.


“How did you get here?” she asked the green-striped Ko-Matoran.


“The stream,” he said. “The centipedes came up from a tributary of it. I told Kejokta to follow me there if he wanted to avoid the Kuambu. I see something broke the spiral stairs.”


“Yeah, that was me, sorry. Where's Kejokta now?”


“Helping fix the stairs. Almost as soon as we went in, the centipedes rushed back and in and tried to chase us. They can walk up walls well, but not hang from the ceiling. So when the stairs are back up, we'll be safe from the creatures in here.”


“What about those flatworms?”


“Hence these,” he said, gesturing at the blockades. They were made out of big blocks of stone that had apparently been stored in this room. Matoran were piling them in strategic places. The flatworms would presumably be too wide to get past them, but Matoran could climb over them.


Nijire noticed he was holding an identity key.


“These rooms... how did they get here?”


He bit his lip, looking worried. “I don't... It's storage or something. I got this key... it was in one of the hallways. But I was using that tower as my home for a while. Easier to see them coming.”


She nodded, getting the feeling he had bad memories about this place. But they needed the space.


She peered into the room. Other Matoran were rearranging the remaining blocks inside to slow access into the room by creatures. “This isn't big enough for all of us.”


“I'll open up more once we've blockaded enough hallways.”


“Alright.” She hesitated. She wasn't sure how to ask about her plan. “Listen... how good are you at building stuff with that junk?”


Once again he looked worried. “Good. Better than the Kuambu, but...”


“I have an idea.”


“To escape? I've tried everything. They have some power that has nothing to do with this stuff, that's stronger than all of it.”


“Is it? I see the rain falling unhindered. And I found... apparently... a way to open those eight big windows.”


He looked interested. “Where?”


“A tower not far from here. I found it by accident.”

“That's what it's like in here. So you're asking... if I can make flying vehicles?”




He looked thoughtful, but even more worried than before. She almost asked him what was upsetting him, but then, she knew, didn't she? Their captors.


“I guess it's worth a try.”




“How are we gonna get in there?” Onua said, finally feeling up to saying something, as the group peered out through a little clearing at the dome and the Kuambu ships around it, from a little cliff they'd just reached, overlooking the scene.


“Look at those windows,” Hujo said, pointing at the eight giant rectangular hatches. “Maybe we can take the hinges off of those, or force them open.”


“Only you and I could get there,” Sairiph said. “But the bigger problem is the Kuambu ships are wrecked all around the dome. Can your illusion handle such a huge task?”


“I don't know,” Hujo said. “And it seems like the Kuambu have vision powers; they might not be fooled.” He sounded disappointed.


“I intend to simply teleport in,” Rathoa said. “Both me and Sairiph have that power.”


“I doubt it would work,” Grunrohti said. “If the Kuambu are involved, you can bet the walls have that power-nulling slime all over them.”


Once again, Onua felt like the solution was obvious. He glanced at his own claws. Dig.


He did not speak up.


You're letting the others slow you down, the crystal admonished. Ito clearly intended you to dig on your own.


But he was afraid to try it alone – he welcomed the group being here. This constant need to debate endlessly was the problem.


So act.


But when he had acted at Kriitunga...


You cannot live in the shadow of your failures forever.


Onua shook his head slightly. The Crystal of the Past might disagree.


And look what happened to it! I know I am just an object, and my opinion does not matter...


Onua's thoughts interrupted – No, the crystal's opinion did matter to him. He smiled a little at its odd attitude. It was like a very young child who did not realize its own potential.


The creature must be on its way, under the magma below. It would realize where Destral went.


Onua wondered at that. If it could come here, could it keep its grip on the Crystal of the Past?


The crystal was intrigued by that idea. Maybe they were missing the prime opportunity to free that crystal. Just skip all this here on Vaurukan's Island, use it as a lure to get the creature out of range, and leap back. Onua almost turned to Hujo and suggested it.


But no. It was too much like that stupid dream, an easy solution, like the energy packs.


More likely the creature would not let go of the crystal, and couldn't come here. It would explain why it hadn't shown up already... It was probably hoping he would think what he just thought, and walk right into a trap.


He clenched his claws in frustration.


Then, without stopping to think any longer, he put those claws to the Earth, and started digging.




Kopaka and Gali waded under the telescope's rock bridge.


He didn't like this, but he didn't see a choice either. The canister had been dropped just north of here, and there was no ferry now. He and Gali didn't have powers, so presumably the Kal wouldn't target them. The others were waiting at Ta-Koro. If there was a danger, Gali had a mask of Agility available from her Suva so she could defend them well – against Rahi, at least.


Immediately he saw the blob that had been Pahrak-Kal, still here. It was now larger, brown and silver, and changing shape toward something similar to a giant Matoran.


They hurried past it, running over the sand of this northern beach.


Kopaka saw the canister ahead, in the forest of Ga-Wahi.


They entered the trees silently, Gali following his lead.


Reached it.


It looked identical to the little canisters that heatstones were often carried in.


Kopaka popped the lid off and pulled out the leaf. His eyes jumped to the signature at the end first.




He skimmed the message.


Looked west, where the message said Toggler was headed. Used Vision to see through the trees. There it was, the 'airship' as the note called it, passing behind the mountains toward Ko-Wahi.


“What's it say?” Gali asked.


Anger tinted his voice as he summed it up, remembering what had happened at Ko-Koro. “Toggler wants me to meet him.”


He handed it to her so she could just read the rest. He didn't want to talk about it.Review here

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Chapter 19



Vakama knew what that 'airship' was, Kopaka thought as they hurried back.


The canister, and its twins the Matoran used, had to have come from the same source. Kopaka thought back to the images of his own past Rathoa had once shown him. He vaguely recalled seeing airships on Metru Nui. Vakama still remembered that time.


As they approached Pahrak-Kal, Kopaka decided this needed said. “When we get back, Gali.... I want to ask Vakama to tell us the truth about the past. Are you with me?”


She looked a little surprised, but only a little. “I don't know. I'm sure he has good reason to hold back.”


He gestured at the Kal, now visible through the trees. It had solidified into a brown and silver hunchback with a doglike toothy jaw, strong and massive arms each tipped with two big opposing claws, and standing on two short legs. It was still standing where it had been, looking around in confusion.


“I am tired of feeling around in the dark, and failing. If there's anything Vakama knows about what happened here, or anything else, we need all the help we can get.”


She nodded. “All six of us were so easily...” She shook her head, sighing. “So yes. But what do we do here? Cut west over the lava tube?”


Kopaka zoomed in. The brown Kal's krana was still sparkling blue. Judging from the lack of sparkles in Gahlok-Kal's krana and the different behavior of the others, he was pretty sure the sparkles meant the Kal was still holding onto the alliance with the Toa, and would until at least one more transformation later.


It was probably safe for now.


But this Kal's element was plasma. Gahlok-Kal had acted violently wild. For all he knew, this one's mind had become animalistic – not focused on the Converged mission, but still possibly deadly. It was now wandering the beach, nodding slightly into the wind as if sniffing scents. A puff of plasma appeared in its open mouth towards a rock that was in its way, melting the rock instantly.


“West,” he said.




Nijire found Kejokta and Ehrye working on the spiral staircase – after she made it past some flatworms.


The Rahunga had used the superior strength granted by the rahudermis to lift the whole structure. He now had it so the central column was touching the top of the shaft, and Ehrye was sliding metal poles in under some of the stairs to brace it in place.


Kejokta lowered it a few inches, and it crunched noisily against the bars, tilted a little, the top stairs above grinding against stone... and came to a stop.


They stepped back, and the stairs held.


Kejokta hesitantly put a foot on it. The bars shifted a little, creaking, but it seemed to hold.


“We should barricade this,” Kejokta said. “It might hold one foot, but I wouldn't trust it with more than one Matoran's weight at a time. Last resort only.”


Ehrye nodded, and turned back toward where Nijire had just come from to tell the others. Kejokta turned as well, and they both saw her.


Ehrye smiled at her. “You made it back!”


She nodded, glancing back to Kejokta. He stood still, just looking at her, no expression on his face.


Ehrye looked at Kejokta, then back at her, turned, and left with no comment.


She looked Kejokta in the eyes. He held her gaze.


“So,” she said. “You're... with us now?”


He shrugged. “I guess so.”


She nodded slowly.


He looked at her left eye, then her right. She held his gaze back, trying to figure out what to say.


Then he looked behind her and walked past her.


She turned. “Why...”


He stopped, glancing at her, and walked on. “Because Ahku was taken, and—”


“Not about that.”


He stopped again, but did not look back. Said nothing for a moment.


“Mukana recruited me. Took me to a room, with a screen. I learned... or I thought I did, the true history of our people, and the Turaga's deceptive role in it. I believed it.”


“What do you believe now?”


He sighed long. “I...”


She waited.


“I believe that if I rejected rahudermis, like Mukana did, I'd be in a lot more danger here.” He paused. Nodded, and walked on.


“Wait,” she said.


He stopped again, facing her. “We have to build a blockade.”


“I know. Just... when you faked your death... I mean, I thought we were friends. I thought that was real. Even if you believed what you saw in that room... Why not tell me?”


He looked away. Stared at the wall, slowly shaking his head. “Maybe I knew...” His voice trailed off, and he grunted. Closed his eyes.


She almost prodded him to continue, but decided against it.


Finally, he opened his eyes.


Looked at her again.


His voice wobbled. “I guess I knew you'd see through the lie I wanted to believe.”


He turned and walked away quickly. She let him go.




Onua used the power of Earth, plus the new disintegration power whenever he encountered rock, sweeping what he moved away from in front of him to where he'd just been.


He moved in a horizontal line about a hundred feet under the surface, heading toward the dome.


By now he'd already tried several times to explore ahead in a frozen moment, but the power nulling slime seemed to affect that too. He could get near the dome, but could not see what was inside, even when he tried to move his blur underneath it through the ground.


He kept up hope that when he got closer he'd be able to feel any flaws in the edge that earth might have entered, and zero in on it.


But the moment-exploring did give him one insight – there was a relatively thin rock layer beneath him, and under that was magma. He could not risk digging too low.


The geology here was different from Metru Nui. The two locations shared an illusion-sky topped by a giant dome, the impenetrable layer above, a rock layer above that, and the surface ocean. But below that illusion-sky they were very different.


Where Metru Nui had several layers of rock, another impenetrable layer, then more rock, and magma, here it was just rock and magma. Onua didn't understand why, although he vaguely recalled mention in the meeting that Hujo apparently knew of a difference between some of the domes and the others. Apparently it was a secret the Unknown demanded he keep.


Regardless, it scared him, because if the tendril creature was coming, he might be very close to its reach now.


So he kept freezing moments and exploring the magma below. When he didn't have time frozen, the crystal could also explore, and tell him if it saw something, but he liked to be able to see it himself. Still, he couldn't stay in the moments long.


He also discovered that the metal of the prison dome dug down close enough to the magma that he would not survive tunneling under it.


Finally he reached the repulsive effect of the slime.


He was at the dome.


The first thing he noticed, and wondered why he hadn't thought of it before, was that the slime did not repel the earth that the edge of the dome was buried in.


It did ruin his elemental control over that thin film of dirt, though.


But he decided to try something. After making earth around him pack tightly so it wouldn't collapse on him, he reached mentally out to a large area of earth nearby. Made that compress too, tightly packing it.


He sent purple energy into the ground, connected to as much of the earth between this collection and the dome as he could, and absorbed that earth, making an open cave between them. He felt the earth around it squeezing into this vacuum, and heard a rustling noise as air from above rushed through the gaps between dirt particles to fill it.


Focused on the ball of packed earth. Took a deep breath....


And commanded it to fly fast at the dome.


It slammed into the dome. He lost feel of most of it, but he could tell from the rest that the ball simply smashed apart.




Flew through the ground to this new cave.


No damage to the dome. The metal was simply too strong.


Maybe if Pohatu was here...


But he wasn't.


Onua punched the earthen wall next to him in frustration. There was nothing else to try but slowly circling the dome and feeling for a weak point.


He didn't have high hopes.




“Even if we do get out those windows,” Jaudrohk said, “how will we get past the creatures and probably Kuambu outside?”


Nijire, Jaudrohk, and some others were walking through the forest bordering the junk, headed toward a large pile of unused devices near the outer wall.


“Onua was coming to this island anyways,” Mukana said.




“A Toa.”


“Oh. Why?”


Mukana summed up Onua's mission, but he didn't give specific details. They really didn't know how much they could trust Jaudrohk.


“Yeah,” Nijire said. “Hopefully he'll be out there waiting for us when we leave.”


“And this ship... even if we could reach it up on this 'surface ocean'... how fast can it get us away?”


Fast,” Mukana answered. “Dizzyingly fast, if the stories are true.”


“It might not be stuck on the surface ocean either,” Nijire said. She had remembered Hujo's ability, and he had been planning to go with the Seahopper crew. “Might be able to go through the Field of Shadows.”


Jaudrohk stopped, staring at her. “The Field? I've heard it is a place of terror and death.”


“Not for them,” she said. Hujo's blue fire had scared away the Zivon monster many times before.


“But let's say all this is true. How do we meet up with this Onua?”


Silence met that question, until she remembered another of Hujo's apparent abilities. “I think they'll be able to find us.” She wished she had met up with Hujo again since his adventures in the Field of Shadow. From the rumors she heard, he was quite a different person from the nervous mapmaker she had known. And she wondered how much was rumor and how much was true.


Jaudrohk started walking again. He asked a few more questions, but he sounded convinced.


Finally they reached their destination.


Whereas the hills, valley floors, and towers they had passed through before were mostly plugged in with blue-glowing tubes, this region was filled with massive piles of sorted types of technology, not connected to each other.


Dark blue translucent tubes were piled to the left, then the pistols, then larger rifle-like weapons of various kinds in a single fairly large pile, then even larger cannon-like weapons to the right of this, then various other devices in several other piles, ending against the forest.


Huge attached columns of technology stood in square formations around each pile, and long wooden poles, tied with vines, crisscrossed over these in both square and X formations. Atop these more poles were piled, and these were topped by processed-leaf cloth.


This kept the rain off the piles to some extent, but there was still some ice around the edges.


Ironically these were the largest structures she'd seen yet. She had to ask. “How did you make these?”


“With the arms and dimensional gates, by remote control from my tower home,” Jaudrohk answered. “That's also how I built most of the rest of this, I think, after the arm system was made. The arms and these piles are about all I understand of it.”


“I don't understand that,” Raitu asked; he had come with them. “How can you be the one building this for the Kuambu and not know what it's for?”


Jaudrohk looked out at the piles, slowly shaking his head. “I... I don't really know. Except from time to time they blur my memories. But I think I must have been designing some systems to help them program other systems. I don't think it's entirely my doing.”


“Why don't you just refuse?” Nijire asked.


“Well I guess now I am refusing, aren't I?”


She nodded. A moment later she wondered if the Kuambu's taking of Matoro and the others had been punishment for distracting Jaudrohk from his assignment.


Then it occurred to her he might be designing the perfect cage for Makuta. Maybe she should be helping him, not stopping him.


She didn't venture to say either idea out loud.


“Why aren't we just using those arms now?” Mukana asked. “I don't look forward to doing this all by hand.”


“I'm pretty sure the Kuambu monitor everything I do with the arms. We have to avoid attention.”


Mukana sighed. “Well, what are we gonna use?”


Jaudrohk pointed at the first pile, then the third and forth. “Tubes, rifles, and cannons.” And pointed at one of the other piles. “And processors.”


Mukana nodded. “Everybody split up and start collecting. Carry as much as you can hold. Let's go.”




“There's no time now,” Turaga Vakama replied to the Toa's question about the past. “And I'm not convinced you are ready.”


“What more must we do?” Kopaka demanded.


“I don't care if we're ready,” Tahu said. “We're NOT equipped to handle the Kal ourselves, so if there's anything you know that can help us, we need to know.”


Vakama looked at one of the colorful crystals arrayed around his hut's walls. Looked deep in thought.


The Toa let him think.


The elder shook his head. “No. I cannot tell you anything yet.”


Tahu objected immediately. “But—”


“I cannot tell you... but I do have something to give you. Follow me.”


He led them out of his new hut. Nearby there was a doorway that led into a stone staircase down into the rock beneath the village proper.


Kopaka followed him and the others down into a Matoran-carved tunnel that turned north. Walked past a few doorways.


The hallway soon turned east again. Vakama walked into a door just on the left.


This was clearly a library. Rows of gray stone bookshelves filled it, with many tablets, scrolls, and some actual books populating the shelves.


Vakama nodded at the librarian whose desk was on the left, and continued forward along the right wall.

There was a locked door at the opposite wall. Vakama took out an Identity Key, unlocked it, and walked inside. “Wait out here,” he whispered.


“What's this?” Pohatu wondered.


“His personal library,” Tahu said.


“Quiet!” the librarian whispered.


Kopaka smiled. He'd already scanned the room – there was nobody else here. But then, the librarian was reading something.


I can do quiet.


Vakama walked back out, locking the door behind him.


He carried a strange-looking mask.




Handed it to Tahu.


“What is it?” the Toa asked.


“Quiet!” the librarian said again.


Vakama said nothing for a moment. He looked... sad.


Finally, he answered, in a whisper Kopaka could barely hear. “Something you must only use if you have no other choice.”


“What-name?” Lewa asked.




“Sorrymuch!” Lewa whispered.


Vakama motioned for them to leave the library. “I'll explain back in my hut,” he said once they were back in the hallway. He pointed at Tahu's energy pack. “Store the mask there – don't let anyone see it unless you need to use it.”


Tahu energized it.


“As for its name... it is the Vahi. The Mask of Time.”




Onua froze time yet again, and checked on Hujo's group.


They had apparently given up the debate once Onua had started digging, and were now watching the dome from a distance. Waiting for him to return and report, he guessed. He noticed Hujo was deep in the Soulsong trance, maybe following Onua's progress by that strange sense.


He decided to briefly check on the Brotherhood.


Half the force had split off from the rest and headed toward the oncoming Kuambu force. They were locked in battle at the strange stone structure he'd seen earlier, and more from both armies were frozen in running poses, headed along the cleared swaths in both directions to meet the main battle.


The other half was already at the far dome, surrounding it. They looked just as frustrated by it as Onua.


He noticed something they hadn't accounted for.


Over twenty Makuta were in the air, using large wings to fly – and were nearly to the third dome already. He was glad Hujo's group hadn't gone after that one. From what Taureko had told them, none of them would stand a chance against that many Makuta, not even Sairiph or Rathoa.


One Makuta, the four-winged one, was digging deep into the ground around the far dome. The Rahunga were helping move the dirt away.


Onua wondered if, unlike him, they might have a way to survive the magma.


His blur flew back, over the stone structure, to get a closer look at the flying Makuta group. But as he moved, he noticed something else about the battle.


Some Kuambu blurs were carrying apparently unconscious captives away from the battle, back to the Kuambu ships.


He recalled seeing Kanoka and the other Rahunga all safe still, but just the same he zoomed around quickly looking at each one.


No Rahunga.


All the captives were strange, somewhat humanoid beings, hunchbacks, with wormlike faces, spikes along their curved backs, and – although the Kuambu were now carrying them – vicious-looking double-ended staves.


There were only six of them, in fact. Others looked defeated on the battlefield but were apparently being ignored, though that was hard to tell since all motion was stopped for him.


One was blue, one red, one green. One white, one brown, and one black.


The same colors as Onua and the other Toa Nuva.




“Onepu brings news!” a Ta-Matoran shouted.


Kopaka and the others left Vakama's hut – the elder had explained enough about the mask in that short time anyways.


There he was – the purple and black Matoran with a mask of Strength, climbing off his Ussal Crab at the exit of the tunnel.

Vakama strode up to him. “Did Gahlok-Kal attack Onu-Koro?”


“Is that what that thing was? No, but it passed nearby. I had to tunnel away from it on my way. It was crazy.


“So that's not the news?” Tahu asked.


“No.” Onepu told them that Hujo had visited, and summed up the mixed news about the energy packs at Kriitunga Island. “So if the Toa Rua come back, they'll need told.”


Vakama immediately turned to Niaka. “Get back to your village. Send a boat. The Rua need to know. Gali, escort her to the village.”


“Actually,” Onepu said. “Hujo said something else. A message from the Unknown. And it's for Gali – and Kopaka.”


Kopaka looked sharply at him. The Unknown had supposedly disappeared. But he guessed they would still talk to Hujo. Why not to us? Why send Kopaka a message, but not just tell him to his face?


“What did he say?” Vakama asked.


“He didn't say anything, exactly.” Onepu held out a hand and materialized something from his energy pack.


A tablet.


“He drew a map.”




Nijire and the others met in front of the tube pile. This was the smallest pile; the tubes being the most-used devices among all this junk, so there was a relatively wide space in front of it that was protected by the roof from the rain.


Jaudrohk commanded them to lay out what they had collected in groups with one processor, two rifles, two cannons, and four tubes each.


“Now.” He held up a tube and a processor. “See these eight circles?”


She looked at hers. Eight indentations with a complex ring around them. The metal around most of the processors was silverish, but the material inside the indentation was the same dark blue substance as the tubes.


“Connect four tubes to these, like this.” He put a tube to his processor, and pushed in, while pressing down a button next to the circle. The complex rings bent outward while he held down the button. He let go, and they contracted, holding the tube in place. “It has to be these circles, not these two.” He pointed to opposite sides as the ones to avoid.


She did as he said.


“Now pick up a rifle.” After walking them through the security code to unlock control, he continued. “Hit this button.”


All the rifles powered up – blue crystals and other smaller indicator lights of various colors shining. A screen near the back of her rifle displayed controls.


“Use these buttons to access an options menu on the screen,” Jaudrohk continued, demonstrating. “Select 'Operation Mode.' Got it?”


They all nodded.


“Now change it from 'Bolt' to 'Beam.' Press this button. Okay... good. Now from the main menu select 'Trigger Mode.' Change that to “Gradient Pressure.' Good... Now, 'Confinement Type.' Good. Good. Change that from 'Contact Decay Radiation' to 'No Radiation.' Got it? That part's very important.”


To the round of nods, he held his rifle tip down, and pressed an indented button on the very back. “Press this. The back lid should pop off.”


She did.


The cushioned lid, which she realized would normally brace against your shoulder, folded down, slid sideways, and retracted automatically into an area at the bottom of the back. Above and inside, she saw what looked like the end of one of the tubes.


“Attach the rifle to one of the circles I mentioned earlier on the processor. Right. Yes. Now. Grab your other rifle, and do the same thing. I'll walk you through it again just to be safe – if you miss a step the whole thing could explode.”


She listened again carefully, and transformed the rifle. Ended by attaching it to the opposite side of the processor from the first rifle.


“Now for the cannons.”


He showed them how to turn them into propulsion devices, with 'Airflow Control Radiation' in 'Ray' mode, with Trigger Mode and Base Spin Modes set to Remote Operation.


The next step Jaudrohk handled personally, while the others rested – there was no built-in way to attach the cannons to the rifle ends. He welded the rifle tips to rotating bases of the cannons. The bases thus aimed inward towards the processors, while the business ends aimed down.


“Now,” he said, walking back to his device. “Connect the other ends of the tubes to the rifles and cannon. Here and here, respectively.”


She did.


“Now, we need to program the processors. Follow closely. The weapons are safe now but wrong steps here could send you flying off wildly and smashing into something.”


He showed them how to connect the firing of the cannons to the processor. Once switched on they would fire at a rate he calculated based on their weight – one was calculated for Kejokta's Rahunga form. This would enable them to hover.


Next, he tied a slight increase to the cannon's power when the triggers of both rifles were pressed at about the same rate. This would make them go up. He also tied the base spins to one rifle at a time being pressed, which would make the vehicle turn in that direction. He tied a slight decrease in the cannon's power to a short time-delay after releasing both triggers. Finally, he added a universal limit to the range of variance from standard.


Once they had all gone through the steps, he said, “So to move up and forward you hold both triggers. To go down, you let up for a while. The longer you do either of those things the faster you go in that direction, but you can't go either too fast or too slow. And to spin, press the trigger on the side you want to turn towards.”


Finally he had them press an indented switch that turned off the programming screen, so they couldn't accidentally mess it up.


“Time to test,” he said. “Just me.”


“I'll do it,” Nijire said. “You are more valuable.”


Jaudrohk shrugged. “Let me check everybody's programs first.”


After he was satisfied, he directed her to sit on top of the programmer, and spread her arms wide to reach the rifle triggers. She could barely reach them, and had to slouch to have a good grip.


“Eh...” Jaudrohk walked over to the pile of tubes, grabbed another, and attached both ends of it to the processor, looping it over her waist. “You won't fall off as easily that way.”


She nodded in gratitude, feeling more secure.


“Everybody stand back,” he said. “And just hover a little. We don't want the Kuambu seeing you.”


“Right.” She took a deep breath, and gently pressed both triggers.


The cannon roared to life. She let up.


Hovered a few feet off the ground. Inching forward slowly.


Tapped the right trigger.


Turned right.




Higher, passing over the others' heads. She glanced down at the ray of blue energy – it was turning green as it left the cannon, actually. It was well over their heads, but apparently it wasn't dangerous anyways.


Turned left. Headed towards the tube pile.


Faster, higher.


Turned around. Tapped it to slow herself, until she hovered in place, now rising much higher, but in a straight line.


Let up.


Waited. She rose to a little over a hundred feet up.


She could see far and wide across the junkscape, and the forest.


Noticed no blurs. That was encouraging. No creatures either.


Slowly the cannon lessened in intensity, and she lowered. Down now to around seventy feet.


Tapped both triggers.


Moved forward, staying at about seventy feet.


Sunk again.


Down to thirty.




Slowly sank down to ten now.


Tapped again.


And gently landed.


She grinned. “That was kinda fun!”


Jaudrohk smiled. “Easy enough to control?”


“I guess.”


“I have concerns,” Mukana said. “Isn't there some way to get more direct control? If Kuambu fire at us we'll be all over the place trying to dodge with this system.”


“Not on short notice, no.”


She told them that she'd seen no enemies. “If we hurry we might have a safe flight. How many more do we need?”


“About three times this,” Jaudrohk said. “Let's do four to be safe; I didn't really count. Sound right?”

The others agreed. There were twelve here, and a little over twenty back at the underground camp.


Nijire was pretty sure the Kuambu had taken everybody else. There wasn't time to check.


She dearly hoped she wasn't wrong about that.Review here

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Chapter 20



Kopaka, Gali, and Niaka stood outside Ta-Koro.


Waiting on his decision.


He could go up to the cable-ride to Ko-Wahi, meet up with Toggler, and let Gali and Niaka head to Ga-Wahi alone – for that was where the dot on Hujo's map was – or he could go with them as Hujo had asked.


His mask would be needed for both tasks.


Ironically the memory of the deep cold he'd felt in Ko-Wahi made his decision for him. “Hey,” he said to one of the Ta-Koro guards nearby. “I'll be coming back here soon. Can you have one of those coats for Ko-Wahi waiting for me?” He'd lost his, after all.


“Yes, sir!”


He nodded.


Turned to Gali and Niaka. “Let's go.”




The Ko-Matoran worked quickly, finishing three more batches of hoverers, and attaching seatbelt tubes to them all.


Jaudrohk then asked them to connect all the hoverers to each other in a train with tubes, while he went to get another processor.


When he got back, they had them all connected, and he had put a program in the processor as he walked. He connected it to one end of the train. “This will override the other programs to make them all hover,” he explained. “We can pull them all easily back to the base.”


They headed back that way.


The collection reminded her of a giant version of the centipedes, the cannons sticking out to the sides like many legs. She thought with a smile that if they ran into one of the smaller creatures it might be frightened away. But all the same, they kept their guns handy.


They were halfway back, when the chime blasted at full intensity again.


They clamped their hands over their ears, and picked up the pace. Last time that had happened the Kuambu had disappeared. This might mean they were coming back.


But – long after the chime mercifully went silent – they arrived back at the stone stairs without incident. The others all came out, and Jaudrohk explained how to control the devices.


One by one, he supervised test flights, offering advice when they messed up. Apparently, Niaka had taken to it a lot more intuitively than most of the others. One of them flew rather fast into the iced-over rock wall above the stair entrance, but he floated away unhurt and flew alright after that. Still, Jaudrohk had to strengthen one of the welds.


“Are we going now?” Teuara asked.


They all looked at each other.


Nijire asked herself if they were forgetting anything.


And thought of something. “Someone has to stay behind to press the button.”


“What?” Mukana asked.


“We can't wait to take off until the windows are open. The Kuambu are probably still here somewhere. They'll be on full alert the moment we press that button. If the majority of us are to escape...”


“I'll do it,” Jaudrohk said. “I've... been thinking. If I go with you... they need me. They'll hunt me down. But they don't need the rest of you.”


“If they don't need us,” Kejokta said, “why in Makuta's name did they kidnap us? They even went to the trouble of getting me from Destral. They'll chase us all.”


“Then let them,” Mukana put in, lifting his weapon, a bisword that fired lava bolts. “I fear neither the Kuambu nor these creatures.”


“You should,” Kejokta retorted, looking down at the Matoran, disdain in his voice.


“What about that creature?” Raitu asked. “The one that kidnapped most of us. How will we avoid it?”


“We have to hope Bhukasa's ship is here,” Nijire said. “It can get us so far away so fast it'll have no idea where to find us.”


“And then what?” Kejokta said, facing her. “We need a longer-term plan than this.”


“We don't know enough for that,” Mukana said.

“Enough!” Jaudrohk snapped. “I said I'd do it and I will. End of discussion. The rest of you should accelerate toward a window when I give the signal.”


“Which window?” another Matoran asked.


“That one.” Jaudrohk pointed to the one most centered over the forest. “The creatures won't go that way, so the Kuambu will be the only threat.”


“I'd rather fly over creatures stuck on the ground than a region where Kuambu are at home,” Kejokta said. “I say that one.” He pointed to the one most centered over the junkscape.


“If any of your hoverers fail and you have to land, the creatures will kill – the Kuambu won't.”


Kejokta frowned, a hard edge to his reply. “You designed them. You made them poorly?”


“No, but the Kuambu will almost certainly fire at you. I can't control what happens once they see you. If anyone goes down among the tech, the creatures will be right on them.”


Kejokta waved a hand. “Fine.”


“And I want to look at that tower's controls more carefully before I give the signal,” Jaudrohk added, with a strong hint of the same nervousness Nijire had noticed before. “I didn't program anything to handle the windows... or at least if I had I think blurring my memories wouldn't be enough to forget it! The Kuambu must have done some of it, so I wanna make sure it's safe first.”


“What danger could there be?” Nijire wondered.


Jaudrohk sighed. “There might be something similar to Ahku's mask built into it. A Summoner. If so... this might be a...” He couldn't finish, but they knew what he meant.


Suicide mission.


“You don't have to stay,” Nijire pointed out. “We made plenty—”


“If I take off alone I'll be hit right away.”




“Then you'd better hope it's safe,” Kejokta said. “Let's go.”




Kopaka, Gali, and Niaka went through the forest again.


He didn't see Pahrak-Kal anymore. It would be a bit of a risk to go through the forest the brown Kal must have gone through, except for Kopaka's mask. He kept scanning as they went.


The dot on the map pointed to a region of Ga-Wahi north of the Naho Bay. They continued in the forest at a brisk pace until they reached the Koro, then parted ways with Niaka.


They watched until the villager reached the docks, gathered a crew, sailed away on the big boat the Kriitunga had loaned to the Toa, and was out of sight over the horizon.


The sun crossed a noticeable patch of the sky by the time that happened.


Then they headed back into the trees, climbing since the ground was raised up here.


Soon they reached the Hura-Mafa River, not far from where it turned south to empty into the bay via the stone statue of Gali's mask. Swam across.


As they crossed, Kopaka happened to look west...


And saw something moving across the river, from south to north just like them.


A Rahi – a small gray biomechanical elephant called a Pawate. Running.




“Get into the bushes quick,” he whispered. “And quiet.”


When they were sufficiently hidden, he turned back and scanned the area with his mask.


There. Something he'd never seen before, moving through the trees. Big. White.


But it did look familiar.


Something like a Bahrag. But the body was taller and flatter, like a tablet standing upright, with a white Bahrag's head coming out the top, and two big knifelike shoulder blades pointing diagonally out from the top two corners.


Short legs, long arms.


Kohrak-Kal's new form.


Kopaka zoomed in closer. The head wasn't quite like a Bahrag. Similar, but the headplate was distinctly Kohrak-Kal's, and the Krana was still sparkling.


The Kal was crouching down, apparently sniffing the ground, much like the Pahrak-Kal had.


It turned towards the two Toa.


Came closer. Close enough to see without the mask.


“What do we do?” Gali whispered.


The moment she spoke, the Kal froze. Looked towards them.


Nodding slightly, over and over. Sniffing.


It's tracking us.




Onua finally gave up.


He had thoroughly explored the edge of the dome, and found no weakness.


Now he tunneled back toward the others. They needed another plan.


I have an idea, the crystal said. Really, YOU had the idea, but you've been too busy digging to remember it.


You're reading my subconscious now? Onua thought back, half-teasing.


You need all the help thinking you can get, it replied. If an inanimate crystal could smile, he felt it would have.


What was the idea?


The Kuambu can get past the slime, yes?


Yes. He knew where this was headed.


We do what you couldn't do on Kriitunga Island. Kidnap a Kuambu.


Onua agreed. Unlike then, there were Kuambu all over the place here.


But, he added, How do we get one alone?


Simple. Sairiph and Rathoa have teleportation powers.




Nijire asked Kejokta to speak with her away from the others.


He nodded, but narrowed his eyes at her as if he was suspicious.


They walked down the stone staircase to the room with the painting.


She pointed at it. “Jaudrohk's the only one that'll be able to figure out which of those domes we're in.”


Kejokta breathed in sharply, standing a little taller.


He knew was she was asking.


“This was my idea,” she said. “I should lead the others out.”


“But you want me to stay behind. Escort Jaudrohk out.”


“We need him.”


“I don't think he likes me.”


She didn't know what to say.


“Does it matter which dome we're in? Will it really be that hard? Just look around.”


“But he knows the island. Assume for a moment that Onua's not here yet... or has been here and left. We'll have to land somewhere. He'll know the best place to land – and the best place to flee to from there to hide.”


Kejokta nodded. The conclusion was inescapable.


“He doesn't have to be the one to push the button. I can do it myself.”


She hadn't considered that. “And what... fly out alone?”


“I'd be able to defend just myself a lot better than me and someone who's helpless.”


“Oh, he's not helpless,” she said, remembering how fast he'd knocked her out with dead-on aim. “Give him a fully charged gun and—”


“Honestly, the design of those hoverers is awful,” Kejokta interrupted. “All of us will have to let go of the controls to fire weapons.”


Nijire motioned for him to follow her. She opened the door and walked through the hallway to the room where their supplies were stored.


Picked up one of the masks she'd found.


A Great Mask of Telekinesis.


She held up the Btou staff.


Kejokta sighed. Her implication was clear, but he obviously didn't buy it. “Slightest distraction and the weapon is dropped, and besides, who can aim—”


“It's for the steering, not the weapon.”


“Hmph. But there's just one.”


“Is there?”


He looked out the door at the dark hallway. Closed his eyes. “No. The Rahunga had a stash in Ko-Koro. If the creature found even Nuju's Btou staff, it probably found those. There might be a Rah-Matatu here somewhere.”


“Any way to... maybe sense it from afar?”


“I knew that's where this was headed... You want me to...” He shook his head. “The slime probably...”


“Worth a try, no?”


He threw up his hands. “What do you want from me? If I do this...”


“I know. He might take you over. If he does, I'll explain to him what I explained to you. The Kuambu are Makuta's enemy too.”


He stared at her. “You really think he'll listen to the likes of you?”


“He's going to listen, because first, I'm going to trap you.”


Kejokta looked amazed at her. She probably seemed as different from the Nijire he once knew as he was from the Ko-Matoran she had known, she thought. But was she? It was not her choice to have been captured so often and become the one known for escaping any cage. Whatever was needed to escape... well, was needed.


“Then you're going to ask Makuta to help.”




Kopaka couldn't see a way out of this. Kohrak-Kal's hearing and smell were obviously turned way up. Any attempt to sneak away, in this relatively thick ground foliage, and they'd be heard. And it clearly smelled them already.


Gali looked at Kopaka questioningly.


He shrugged. There was no choice. They had to risk it.


Kopaka walked out into plain sight of the bestial Kal. “Hello.”


The Kal's eyes snapped to Kopaka.


Widened. “You! I was trying to get as far from you as I could!”


“And me,” Gali said, stepping forward as well.


“I know. It's you I was tracking. You have no Tools.”


“I don't either,” Kopaka said. “Someone else stole them.”


“Don't tell me who! Don't tell anything. And don't tell me why you're here. I'm sorry I followed you.” He turned to leave.


“Why did you follow me?” Gali asked.


“To explain. Beg your forgiveness. I... I feel now. I feel... alive. I think I understand what you must have felt...”


“It's not your fault,” Kopaka said. “It's the Kuambu's.”


Kohrak-Kal barked sharp laughter, pitching back its head. Pride tinged its voice. “You don't understand what we are, do you?” He shook his head. “We should never fall to the likes of those...” He sighed in exasperation. “I can't even speak clearly to you!”


He waved a hand at them and walked away. “Don't follow me. And... whatever might happen when you see... the next me... please know I am trying to fight it.” Then he grunted, and added, “May your ignorance not be your undoing.”


“If we are ignorant,” Kopaka said, “tell us what we need to know!”


But the Kal ignored them. Soon he was out of sight behind foliage.


“Didn't seem very sorry to me,” Kopaka said, loud enough his voice might carry that far.


Gali gave him a look that said, enough.


He shrugged. “Let's keep moving.”




Kejokta handed over his knives.


He pointed at his mask – a Rah-Pakari, then at the bronze room they'd walked to. “Can this thing really hold me?”


“It's a risk we have to take. But I don't think Makuta will control you.”


“Should I ask him where he is, while I'm at it?”


“I guess you should.”


He shook his head. “Fine. Lock me up. Ten minutes.”


She nodded. He walked in, and she latched the door behind him.


Trained her gun on the door. Breathed deep. Out slowly.






Finally, Kopaka spotted something out of place in the area of the dot on the map.


It was the first thing he'd thought to look for, based on prior experience.


A keyhole.


In the side of a tree, where no keyhole belonged.


He walked to it.


There was a vine growing right over it, hiding it from normal eyes. He pushed the vine aside.


“Ah,” Gali said. “But we don't have a key to it.”


“Can't you do your mental thing on it? I assume that's why Hujo said the message was for you.”


“I'll try.”


She closed her eyes, slowing her breathing.


By now he knew it was pointless to try to see inside with his mask; the key did not actually open anything in this dimension; apparently it activated a portal to a tiny pocket dimension. Unknown used places like this to store artifacts and supplies. Since they'd been specifically invited to this one, he assumed an Unknown had left something inside they needed.


He couldn't resist, though – he tried to look inside anyways.


Nothing. Just the inside of a tree, and a little device just behind the keyhole in the bark.


But that little device could also be activated mentally. Gali had used it before to enable them to teleport from one portal to another. But it should also enable her to open the 'Lock of Light' as they were called.


Finally, a whirling sphere of blue-shining energy radiated from the keyhole. Expanded, enveloping the tree.


Then shrunk and disappeared.


Now the keyhole was gone; instead there was a hole in the bark. Inside, the tree was now hollow.


And laying inside was a tablet.


Nothing else.


Kopaka picked it up and held it so it would better catch the light.




“Just like Onua's,” Gali said. “I was hoping for something with powers...”


“Say something,” Kopaka said – talking to the tablet.




“Why were we directed here?”


Not a scratch.


“At least confirm this is a tablet like Onua has.”


Nothing. He turned it over. That side was a little rougher, meaning it was not the side for inscriptions.


“Are we supposed to write on this tablet?” Gali asked.


No answer.


“Will this help us against the Bohrok-Kal?” Kopaka wondered.


Flat as ice.


Gali tried, “How do we stop the Kal?”




Kopaka lowered it. Gestured at the Lock of Light. “Well, better close that.”


She nodded, obviously frustrated, but closed her eyes and eventually the energy sphere whirled out and back, leaving nothing but the hidden keyhole.


She opened her eyes and sighed. “I wonder if an Unknown's watching us. Wouldn't we be funny to watch, if it's just a normal tablet?”


He forced a smile. “Hilarious.”


Motion against his finger.


Jerked the tablet up, surprised.


It now read, “That would be funny.”




It had been ten minutes.


Not a sound from the bronze room.


Nijire waited another five minutes.


She heard Jaudrohk nearby calling for her.


Time's up.


With her right hand, kept the gun trained on the door. With her left, slowly lifted the lock off the brace.


As silently as she could.


Until it was totally off.


Backed up. Both hands on the gun. Eyes focused, unblinking.


“Come out now!”


The door slowly opened.


Kejokta stepped out.


His eyes were white, as always.


Not red. Makuta wasn't controlling him.


She relaxed. “Did he hear you?”


He nodded. “The mask's not far from here. I can be there and back in five minutes.”


“And where is he?”


“He wouldn't tell me that.”


She wasn't really surprised. Pride, if nothing else – what supervillain mastermind would want to talk about his own humiliating capture? “Go.”




Onua had just told the others his idea, after giving the bad news about the dome. As usual the conversation fell totally out of his hands moments later.


“Somehow I doubt,” Sairiph said disdainfully, “the Kuambu could just be teleported away, considering they went intentionally up against a whole island of Makuta.”


“Well, then, surely you have powers that could help kidnap one,” Hujo said.


Taureko laughed. “They have more powers than you can dream of, Hujo!”


“In all fairness,” Rathoa said, “I'm not really sure what all my powers are. I haven't had them very long... and it's not like anyone's trained me with them.”


“Don't look at me,” Sairiph spat.


“Come on,” Bhukasa said. “Be serious.”


Sairiph looked chagrined. A little. “I've got some ideas. But keep in mind what island we're on. Vaurukan has captured Makuta before. There are probably some held prisoner in that town right now still. If he steps in...”


“What's he like?” Hujo asked.


“Nobody knows. He works through his creatures.”


“Time,” Grunrohti said, annoyed. “Let's hear your plan.”


Sairiph flapped his wings once. “Fine.”




“There's a minute delay on the button,” Jaudrohk said. “Probably it alerts the Kuambu and gives them a chance to ready their Kuamor launchers. You should leave about two minutes before I press it – I think it'll take around four minutes to cross that airspace.”


“What powers can we expect to be hit with?” Nijire asked.


“I'd think Sink. A dark blue one. It'll simply force you to move down slowly, no matter what. The least deadly power in this circumstance I can think of. Maybe Stun – white – if they realize how the hoverers work.”


“So we're ready?” Mukana asked.


“Not yet,” Nijire said. She held up the Matatu and the Btou staff, then explained her plan. “Kejokta will be back in a moment—”


“There he is,” Jaudrohk said, pointing. The Rahunga was almost to the control center, now wearing a Rah-Matatu.


When Kejokta got there, Jaudrohk thanked him. “I wasn't looking forward to doing this alone.”


Kejokta just shrugged. “Let's get this over with.”


Those two got on their hoverers and carefully flew to the window control tower. They landed on its roof.


Jaudrohk climbed a little down the wall to the door and went in.


Nijire and the others got on their hoverers, which were all turned to face the window centered over the forest.


“Anybody not ready?”


Nobody said anything. It was time.


Nijire waved at Kejokta. He nodded, and she saw his mouth moving – passing the message on to Jaudrohk.


“On my signal!” She waited a moment. “NOW!”


They all pressed both of their triggers all the way down.








Over the hills.


Over another tower.


Time passed.


Loud chime.


She tried to shout to the others to keep their hands on the triggers, but nobody could hear her – and some couldn't stand it. They let go to cover their ears. Fell behind, sinking.


Chime ended.


“DON'T COVER YOUR EARS AGAIN,” she shouted back to the stragglers. “Those of you who are ahead, keep going. I'm gonna slow a little to watch the others.”


She slowed, and turned.


Now she was still flying toward the giant hatch, but faced backwards. She saw blurs coming out from the steam in the lava area. “WE HAVE COMPANY!”


She saw Jaudrohk and Kejokta already in the air. Apparently more time had passed than she'd thought...


Or they had seen the Kuambu coming and started early.


She turned again, and held both triggers. She was now in the middle of the group. The whole group was over the forest now, about halfway across.

She tried to count out one minute. Glanced over her shoulder.


Kuamor flew.


Jaudrohk's prediction had been spot-on. Dark blue Kuamor.


Firing at Jaudrohk and Kejokta – they were well out of range of the others.


Those two were firing back at the blurs. Kejokta sent mid-sized boulders of ice flying, rolling, bouncing, smashing into pieces, the pieces bouncing on.


The blurs hid from this onslaught.


Jaudrohk had apparently switched his gun to an instant-hit beam mode for long-range, and was hitting every blur he could see, but that mode was apparently not an instant stun; those blurs were still moving, more slowly.


Nijire heard a great metallic creaking.


Looked forward.


A huge locking mechanism built into the window – and same on the seven others – was moving. She tried to stifle a grin, knowing this was too dangerous to celebrate yet.


The minute was up.




Sairiph was interrupted by loud, echoing creaking and clanking sounds.

The group looked at the dome.


The giant hatches were opening!

“Whoa,” Bhukasa said. “Uh... Sairiph. You can fly.”


“And me,” Hujo said. “Should we... fly in?”


They all looked at each other. Onua didn't know what to think. But it made sense.


“Yes,” Bhukasa said. “GO!”


Sairiph took off, while Hujo materialized the strange boots Onua had seen earlier. They shapeshifted to form a suit around him. He flew after Sairiph, quickly passing him.


“Look,” Taureko said. “All the domes are opening.”


He was right. All three had eight open windows with hatches moving up to a stop pointed upward.


The group of Makuta he'd seen earlier had reached the third dome and had been blasting it to no avail with powers. Now half of them flew in.


At the other dome, two Makuta flew in.


I hope we picked the right dome, Onua thought.


We can check, the crystal replied. At least we can try – if Hujo and Sairiph can fly in, we should be able to.


Onua nodded.




Blur flew.




Cheers rang out from the Ko-Matoran as the hatch slid away from them and angled up.




Nijire watched the gap on the lower side closely.


Expecting to see blue light from the sky outside – the same sky whose light was shining down through the eight higher crystalline windows.


Instead, she saw bright orange light.


The cheers faded.


“What?!” Mukana exclaimed.


Door kept moving.


The light danced like a liquid as the gap widened. The air rippled.


A chill ran throughout her body.


The front of the group was already almost there and heading in fast.


“SLOW DOWN!” she shouted.


Higher it lifted.


A blob of smoking, boiling orange liquid bent out against the slime's repulsion. Formed a spike, like that from a cup of molten protoiron that had just been tipped over a mold.


Flowed over the lower lip of the repulsion.


Eight identical rivers of the liquid leaked down into the dome. Hit the ground, to loud hisses, steam, smoke, and erupting fire.


Maybe the volcano outside was simply erupting... But then why would it come in all eight windows...


A wave of intense heat hit her, as the nearest Matoran frantically tried to turn away and lost control, some screaming in panic.


The 'sunlight' in the eight higher windows suddenly flickered as power lines below were melted. One window went black suddenly. Fake!


Finally her mind admitted what she was seeing.


Magma.Review here

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Chapter 21

Onua's excitement grew as he flew closer to the giant window in blur form.


The blackness of it loomed. Not quite black, he saw as he got closer. The eight higher windows let some sunlight in, but mostly he saw the brighter light from the opposite windows, so even his eyes weren't adjusted yet to the comparative darkness inside.


There was Hujo, hovering in the window.


Sairiph was right behind him.


Onua flew up and hovered next to Hujo's frozen form.


And beheld barren earth.


Dead trees.


No lights.


Except for many little triangles of three blue glowing dots below.


Light-blue. White. Iceblue. Some normal blue.




And heartlights.


His eyes adjusted, and he realized it was Ko-Matoran.


Not Makuta's prison.


He moved closer, worried that elsewhere Makuta was being freed right now, but now that he was seeing the Matoran, he was glad for it. Hopefully Sairiph could teleport them back to Bhukasa and the others now.


But there were almost two-hundred of them. How would he fit them on the Seahopper?


No, Hujo would have to bring them to the Field of Shadow, guard them against the Zivon all the way back to Mata Nui.


He stopped in front of them.


Saw one he recognized – Matoro, who had translated for Turaga Nuju in meetings before.


Zoomed around, looking at them one by one, trying to remember faces he had seen in the one time he visited Ko-Koro, weeks ago – though it now felt like centuries ago. He recognized a few more.


But where was that one? Mukana, who had been a Rahunga.


He wasn't here.


And what about Akohre the Scholar? He wore a mask that looked distinctly tribal, and had been with Onua and the others on Twisted Island. He wasn't here.


Or that female ice-fisherwoman... he couldn't remember her name, but Hujo had mentioned her as one that had accompanied him on his quest for the Blue Fire staff. She wore another distinctive mask, a Mask of Memory, similar to an Akaku in asymmetry; a vertical line-visor from the top of the head to the bottom of the mask curved over the left eye. He saw some Matoran wearing that mask here but they were all male.


He felt that the moment was about to end, so he quickly counted them.


There should be forty or so more.


Where were they?




“TURN BACK!” Nijire shouted.


One Matoran flew screaming just to the right of the magma, bounced off the repulsion field next to it. His left cannon's weld snapped off. The cannon flew away, and the Matoran fell.


More screams filled the air as the whole group fell into chaos. One had slowed to a stop just inches in front of the magma and was trying to speed away from it, so was climbing high into the sky.


Two collided with each other, snapping off their cannons too, and they fell.


Nijire had turned around, trying not to panic, but she realized she, too, had been squeezing the triggers as hard as she could – she shot up into the sky too.




Not as loud as before, but loud.


Her mind was not in gear. There was only sensation.


The sensation of her hands clamped over her ears.


The sensation of the seatbelt pressing up against her arms, and her legs dangling.


The heat.


The orange light playing across everything.


The chaos of hoverers flying every which way before her wide open eyes.


Translucent, slightly yellow spheres moving through the air.


Two hoverers, far away, flying fast and up, then dropping, back toward a tower.


Water erupting from every corner of the forest, so that it seemed to be raining both down and up.


She shook from fear. Breathed shakily.


Still alive... still alive...


That was Jaudrohk and Kejokta out there.


The larger of the two slammed into the tower and bounced off, hitting the ground.


The other leaped from the hoverer at the last second, letting it fly to the left of the tower, and grabbed a tube as he fell.


One end of the tube ripped out. Jaudrohk fell a few feet more, slipping to the other end of the tube, but grabbed another tube with his other hand. Stopped.


Climbed quickly.


Went in.


The chime stopped.


She could hear again.


Hear the shouts, hear a loud crash below her, followed by two more. Hear the overbearing liquid roar of magma rushing in, the hissing, bubbling sound as air rushed out. The crackle of fire, the sharp ZAP ZAP sound as sparks flew in the junkscape – and even to a lesser extent where the other magma streams hit.


My idea. My responsibility.


“We...” she mumbled. Breathed in fast. “MEET AT THE FOREST CAMP!” she shouted.


Why was she having trouble breathing?


Finally she realized she had slipped off the processor – only the seatbelt had saved her because her arms didn't fit through.


She was sinking fairly quickly – trees were close. Coming in too fast!


Tried to sit back up. Couldn't.


Reached for the triggers.


Got them.


The cannons fired. Her fall slowed.


The backdrop of orange magma-falls was covered by trees sliding up over her view.


The last thing she saw clearly of this was that the magma on one side – over the lava region – was falling a lot faster, shooting out a little toward the center of the dome.


Her right cannon snagged on a branch. She fired both, slowing her fall to a hover.


Let go with both hands, to grab the branch with her right, and reach for the tube's release button with her left.


Left cannon sank.


The weight started to pull her down.


Got it. The seatbelt flew off. Cannon fell. Other snapped free and the the whole machine crashed into the ground a moment later.


She remained, dangling from the branch, surrounded by water blasting at her in all directions.


And then the tree shook.


She quickly grabbed the branch with her left hand too, climbing closer to the thick trunk. Hugged that tight.


It wasn't just this tree. The whole place was shaking – she could hear it from the way the gurgling magma was shaken, and trees all around shook visibly.


Then again, more violently, like a single cosmic hammer had slammed into the whole place from one side. Everything loose, including her hoverer which hadn't quite reached the ground yet, seemed to move toward the meet of the junk and forest, straight ahead from her current angle of view. Then slam into whatever was in its way, as her hoverer did to a tree – and it burst into its components with sparks flying.


Again, just as hard.


Even when it wasn't shaking, she felt as if she was in a massive vehicle that was accelerating, and taking sharp turns. Suddenly she would be jerked one way, then the other.Then another SLAM – far worse, and she fell off the tree.


She could not think as she fell – she felt dazed... except for three thoughts.


My idea.


My responsibility.


My fault.




Kopaka stared at the tablet, unsure whether to laugh or shatter it against the tree.


It was a good thing he was looking right at it, because a split-second later, another map appeared, this time with one word in huge letters at the top.




The dot was nearby.


“Gali,” he said, holding it up.


Just then, the ground shook. Kopaka fell to his knees.


Again, worse. He saw trees around him waving back and forth.


An earthquake!


“What's happening?” Gali exclaimed, crouching low to the ground.


“GO!” shouted a familiar voice from nearby. An Unknown? Yes, Volitaos's voice, one who could make himself invisible. Again, “GO! NOW!”


So Kopaka tried to run.


Not easy with the ground shaking, and loose branches snapping off and raining around you.


Gali followed. “Get into the river!” she said. “Safer in water!”


They did. The water was filled with strange waves that looked like triangles rising straight up and falling straight down, but when they dove in, they didn't feel shaken as much.


The dot was just upstream of here.


Kopaka suddenly felt nothing in his hands. “I dropped the tablet!” he said.


“What?” she shouted back over the crashing waves.


The rumbles died down a little, but he just took a breath and dove. No time to explain.


There it was. Grabbed it.


Surfaced, waving it.


“What's it say?”


He looked.


Still just the dot.


They swam on. The quake seemed to be over, but they stayed in the river anyways.


He checked the map again. They were about as close to the dot as they could get – it was a little to the south.


“This way,” he said, swimming to the shore and climbing out. Checked the map again.


The dot was moving.










Nijire opened her eyes.


She was laying on her back in the forest.


Alive. She didn't feel badly hurt. Sat up.


Water still sprayed everywhere. Orange light still glowed, but not as strongly, she thought.


Smoke – and steam – were rolling toward her.


She stood up. “HELLO?”


Heard a distant voice.


Ran toward it.

The ground was no longer shaking, but she still felt like this whole place was moving very fast and changing directions rapidly. Keeping her balance was hard.


Saw something ahead.


Two mangled hoverers. The two she had seen collide and fall earlier.


Pressed fairly deep into the earth – and apparently exploded.


Among them, shards of Kanohi.


No sign of actual Matoran, though. Had they died? She couldn't imagine how they could have survived such a fall.


She looked around.




The ground jerked again, and she fell on her side. Quake as the vibration echoed through the area, and more branches fell.


The steam reached her, quickly covering the area like fog. “HELP!” she shouted, stumbling to her feet.




She felt heat.


Magma – or would you call it lava now? – flowing toward her.




She saw an orange glow to her left now.


Ran right.




No response.


A blur zoomed by her.


Out of sight.




She cried out – and began to cry – as she fell again. Crawled now, away from the approaching lava.


Saw another blur standing nearby. Aiming a launcher up, firing yellowish-clear Kuamor toward the magma flow behind her.


Sealing it.


The blur looked down at her. Made eye contact – though she still could not hold in her mind an image of the face around those eyes. Saw her.


She drew herself up, reaching for her bag – but it was gone, as was the gun.


She turned.


Tripped on something.


The bag! She must have just dropped it.


Picked it up, stumbling behind a tree. Peered back at the Kuambu.


It was ignoring her now, still firing at the magma.


She crept away until she couldn't see it in the fog, then ran a different way – away from the heat.




Kopaka and Gali stopped in a clearing right as another quake hit, but this one wasn't as bad.


After that, there were no more quakes.

They quickly found the dot.


Nuhvok-Kal. Still in the teardrop-like shape he'd seen it in before. Krana still sparkling.


It heard them coming. “Who's there?” it asked.


Kopaka stepped out into its view, encouraged to hear it talking like an intelligent being, and sure the Unknown wouldn't send him here otherwise.


“Toa Kopaka.”


“Do you know what's happening?” Gali asked as she stepped into his view too.


“And Gali. Yes. I think I... did?”


The Kal looked confused. “I think I do. But it is fading.”


“The Unknown told us to meet you here,” Gali said. “We don't know why.”


“I do not know either.”


They all looked at each other, unsure what to say.


“The tablet!” Gali said.




Kopaka's heart skipped a beat when he read it. “It says, 'Fly with Nuvhok-Kal to Ta-Koro, NOW!'”




The WHAMMING and the quakes and the feeling of fast motion continued as Nijire ran toward where she guessed she had heard a voice.

It occurred to her the voice might have been a Kuambu, but then, the Ga-Rahunga Niaka, who had been captured by them recently, had apparently heard a Kuambu's voice and it had been very deep pitched. That was a Matoran she'd heard.


Where was she in relation to the forest camp? She really hadn't explored enough to know, and even if she had, most parts of a forest looked the same, especially when covered in steam-fog and further obscured by rain plus sprinkler-plants water.


But she kept heading the way she thought it was until finally she got past the steam.


This area looked more familiar. She continued, trying to run, but that wasn't easy.


It was hard to see through the trees, but she thought she saw less of an orange glow than before. She caught one glimpse of a giant hatch – closed. Yet she still saw orange from elsewhere.


Just now as she ran past a gap in the trees she saw another hatch fully open, magma pouring in as fast as ever.


There was a familiar tree!


She stopped, turning around to look at it the way she'd seen it before. Yes, she knew where she was.


Nijire started to run that way...


But she slowed.


My fault.


Would the others think of this? Blame her?


Did those two, maybe three... She shook her head. This hesitation was foolish. She had been guilty of nothing but taking the situation for what it appeared to be. Even Jaudrohk had believed they were on Vaurukan's island.


She kept running.


But from now on, she decided, she would not take a leadership role. Mukana, Jaudrohk, Raitu, Teuara, Ehrye... maybe Kejokta, even... any of them were more qualified.


As for herself... she just wanted to get along, to live peacefully. Contented with the lot she was given. Contented not leading others to their deaths.


This time the cage wins.




Ko-Matoran appeared near Onua and the others. Sairiph's teleportation was indeed working.


Hujo flew back out and toward them.


Onua noticed, though, that the giant windows were closing again.


Nobody else seemed to notice.


Say something! the crystal urged him.


He tapped Bhukasa's shoulder. Pointed.


“Uh... is Sairiph out yet?” the Captain asked.


“I don't see him!” Rathoa said. “Should I—”


“Don't go,” Taureko said. “There's no time.”


The last of the Ko-Matoran appeared.

The hatches closed with a loud bang.


No Sairiph.


Hujo heard the noise and turned around. Flew back at the hatch, blasting it with blue fire.


To no effect. The slime repelled even that.


Onua didn't understand. How would Sairiph not see the hatches closing, to know he had to leave?


The crystal was pretty sure his teleportation was safer if the Makuta was standing still.


He sacrificed himself to free all the Matoran?


The crystal believed so. Onua was a little surprised the little Makuta would do such a thing, but hadn't he said he was not like the corrupted Makuta of the Brotherhood?


If I ever meet him again, I won't doubt him.


Ito appeared.


Onua and the others cried out in surprise.


The Jungledweller had popped into existence – let go of the invisible bird, that is – right next to Onua.


Ito touched Onua's energy pack.




A blur moved away from Ito's frozen body.


Ito? Onua thought. You are in the frozen time?


Yes, the Jungledweller thought back. I went to the other-domes. Empty.


Then Makuta must be at the town.


I darkfear not. Follow me.


Ito's blur zoomed into the sky. Onua's blur followed.


There used to be five domes here, Ito revealed. I once saw them myself. Now two-gone.


He hovered down to one of the two sides of the swath of barren land cut into the jungle.

Onua noticed its end was not rectangular, but rounded.


A dome had once stood here, he realized.


And was far-dragged, Ito added, as he zoomed toward the strange black stone structure he had seen earlier.


Now that he looked at it more closely, he realized there was a ramp on this side. But on the other side, two big vertical sections with a gap coming into the center from the other half of the swath.


It is scaffolding, Ito thought. One dome was turned upside-down, here-brought, the other up-ramp, both-merged to sphere-make.


Ito flew near to the bases of the scaffolding. Onua hadn't noticed, but there were several strange devices made out of high-tech machines, with large blue-glowing sections, various colors of smaller indicator lights, and glowing blue tubes running between components.


One of them was generating a hologram.


A portion of skin.


Of orange, molten skin.


With wavy lines in its texture.


Like a brain.


Exactly like he'd seen on the tendril creature.


But it is not a creature, Ito concluded. It is a prison.


A pause, as this horrible fact sank in.


One great-far beyond anyone's reach.Review here

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Chapter 22



“We have to get back to Mata Nui!” Onua told Bhukasa as soon as he and Ito ended the moment.


The Jungledweller nodded. “Makuta and the remaining Ko-Matoran are there-nearer than here.”


“How do you know?” Rathoa put in.


“I just sure-do,” Ito said. There was a very serious look on his face. Onua remembered that Ito could sense deaths. But no. They were too far away, right?


“What about you?” Bhukasa asked the Jungledweller.


“I must here-stay. There is something else I must do on this island.”


“I don't understand,” Grunrohti said. “What do you know?”


“Onua will all-tell. You must now-leave – the Kuambu will fast-chase!”


“He's right,” Hujo said, as he landed near them. “And we don't have time to run to the coast. Come, everybody grab my hands!”


Onua grabbed Bhukasa's hand. He saw Ito disappear – leaving on Jhianau. Everybody else linked hands.


Whirling blue energy.


The sphere of light grew massive. Enveloping the entire group of over two-hundred beings.


Then shrunk. Leaving them in darkness, atop a dark tan stone floor with patchy green moss growing on it, lit only in a radius near Hujo's Blue Fire Staff.


Beyond it, light didn't work.


And soon the Zivon would come.


“How will you bring the Seahopper in?” Onua asked Hujo. “The Zivon is scared of your flames, but you must leave to get it. No?”


“He left a landmark at the equivalent location on this circle for where the Seahopper is anchored in the dome,” Bhukasa said. “We must walk that way. I watched the coast as we came in; it's this way.”


He started walking, and everybody else followed.


“Why,” Matoro asked Hujo, “can't you use the Field to enter that dome? Free that being that rescued us. It would like to thank him myself.”


“I already tried it. For some reason travel to and from the Field is impossible inside the domes.”


“Must be the slime,” Rathoa said. “I hate that slime.”


There was silence for a moment.


“Now,” Bhukasa said. “Onua. Please tell us what Ito meant.”


Onua nodded, and began.




Nuhvok-Kal bent gravity to lift itself, Kopaka, and Gali into the air, and then 'fall' sideways toward Ta-Koro.


Kopaka immediately saw a green flare over Le-Koro.


Seconds later he heard the pop.


Green meant danger to villages. But he was certain it was from Le-Koro, so not danger to that one, or else it would have been accompanied by a red flare.


Zoomed in, already knowing what he would see.


The tendril creature had apparently collapsed rock atop the lava flow that had turned Le-Koro into an island. He couldn't see through the mountain at this distance, but he could tell that there was a distinct lack of an orange glow through the jungle now.


The Mangai's caldera and the lava tube to Ta-Koro were also sealed.


The lava could not escape.


It would thus build up pressure.


One of the three former openings would give out first.


Judging by the urgent message on the tablet, Kopaka knew which one.




Nijire finally found the camp.


Raitu was here. And five others.


That was it.


So far, anyways.


They stood in uncomfortable silence, as she watched the lava flows. She felt like the ground was sinking away from her – not just metaphorically, but the place she was in was moving downward. Fast.


The flow over the forest had apparently been blocked off by a collection of yellowish-clear blobs of energy, each about the size of a Matoran. Apparently the result of what the Kuambu had fired. She could still see the magma outside easily but the dome's interior was safe from it now.


But not, she knew, from the lava pool that had formed beneath that window.

The other flow, which had been on the border between the tech zone and the lava zone, she couldn't see from here thanks to the thick foliage. But she didn't see as much orange light now, and the Kuambu had first been sighted over there, so it was almost certainly sealed too.


But how long would those yellowish blobs last? And how many Kuamor of that power did they have in reserve?


The lava that had flowed in had obviously cut power lines to those two hatches, and to at least one other that had almost closed. Could they be repaired?


If not...


“How long do we wait here?” Raitu asked her, interrupting her thoughts.


“I don't know,” she muttered miserably. “You shouldn't listen to me anyways.”


The guard looked sympathetic, but he had a job to do. “We know where Kejokta is. I saw him land by that tower. He can protect us. I think we should go. I've seen Kuambu blurs around. This area's not defensible.”


Nobody objected.


“I'll scratch a message in this tree,” he said. “In case any others do come back here.”


They waited while he did that. No others came in that time.


And they left.


Shortly after that, the loudest chime blared again, driving them all to their knees, ears covered tightly.


Then passed.


Each of those loudest chimes lasted the same amount of time, she thought. Over a minute. The other chimes varied.


She did not care to wonder why. She just cared about getting back to the stone rooms, where their enemies could not reach.


But... whatever place they were in, that moved through magma inside the planet... that now apparently was sinking in that magma... what if her actions, the leaks...


What if the damage was beyond repair?




Kopaka watched the block on the lava tube's beginning, to the west, high in Mangai, as Nuvhok-Kal set him and Gali down on the western lip of the hole over Ta-Koro. The Kal stood next to Kopaka.


“I'll stay here,” he told Gali. “You help evacuate.”


She nodded, and the Kal lowered her down with lessened gravity.


Now, as the Kal had discussed with them before they arrived, it was reversing gravity above the tops of the huts. Bending it here to make them fall sideways to the south, beyond the Charred Forest. And then bending it again, with another field of lessened gravity to gently set them down over there.


All they had to do to escape was climb atop a hut, or the stairs to the tops of the walls.


The villagers who had been guarding the walls were already flying up through the air. Kopaka heard Gali shouting instructions, warning them of an imminent lava flood.


More and more villagers flew up.




Rocks caved outward from where the orange tendrils had sewn them up tight. Orange liquid blasted through them even as they fell, and roared down the tube.


“THE LAVA'S COMING!” Kopaka shouted.


“We need more time!” he heard Gali shout. The tunnels. Not all the Matoran lived in huts – there were hallways and rooms carved into the rock beneath the village as well.


“I can make a rock wall!” Pohatu replied.


Kopaka didn't think that would work – the pressure he was seeing unleashed would just blast it apart instantly... If only they could...




He turned to the Kal. “Can you lift Ta-Koro itself, if it was broken loose from the bedrock?”


“With ease.”


“And set it down somewhere else, so it won't crush the villagers you've already helped out?”


“Yes. I can set it to the southeast, in the shallow water.”


The lava was almost here.






Onua and the others had not gone far when they saw flashes of light to their left.


This light was coming from beyond the radius around Hujo's staff where light worked. They would see it for a moment, along with vague silhouettes, and then the light would be gone.


Taureko answered the unspoken question. “Brotherhood spiders. Probably bringing others. They must have seen Hujo bringing us here. Kahgarak – a type of those spiders, can come here too.”


“Yeah,” Hujo said. “I can't keep an illusion hiding the light as I teleport. They must think we have Makuta now.”


“Teridax,” Rathoa said. “His name is Teridax.”


“Sorry... it's hard to get used to.”


They hurried on.


“Can they see your light from beyond the radius?” Bhukasa asked Hujo.


“No,” Taureko answered for him. “I was beyond the radius once, so I know. But they probably have Energy Hounds. They can track us.”


“And maybe,” Hujo whispered, “hear us. So keep quiet.”


Taureko nodded, pointing at the patches of moss. “And walk on this. Avoid the bare stone.”


And so on they went like this, unsure if their attempts at stealth were working or not.


But soon they heard noises to their left. An army marching toward them.


Onua noticed Rathoa looked especially nervous. The Brotherhood's current leader had ordered Rathoa killed on sight.


Finally, Hujo's marker came into view – a stick with white cloth hanging from it, easily visible once it was inside the radius.


Hujo motioned for Bhukasa to take his hand. Then motioned for the others to stand still.


Blue light whirled.




Nearly a minute passed as the noises of the approaching army got louder.


Before the minute was up, Onua heard other noises.


Loud footsteps.


The Zivon, sensing all this activity from afar, had come.


The army apparently heard, and stopped walking. Orders were shouted to take up a defensive formation. They knew what those footsteps meant.


Blue light.


The Seahopper appeared, resting on the stone floor of this Circle.


A rope ladder was lowered. Hujo pointed at Rathoa and some of the Matoran and Kriitunga to climb it quickly. They joined the Ga-Matoran crew already onboard. Taureko went with them.


Rathoa shrank until he was no taller than a Matoran, and went down the stairs to hide. Onua wondered if he could teleport them somewhere to safety, but realized he wouldn't. He'd have to stand still and do it one at a time, and probably sacrifice himself like Sairiph – but to the death, instead of just capture. Rathoa wouldn't want to risk it.


There wasn't enough room on the boat for everybody, so most of them, and Onua, stayed far enough away for this next step.


Yellow light appeared in a wall around the boat.


Air inside turned to water. The boat raised. More air turned to water.


Oars slid out of windows in the sides, and slapped into the water. The Seahopper began moving away from the army – to the south right now.


As it moved, the wall moved forward too. Water behind turned back to air, and air ahead turned to water.


The noises of this were enough that the army beyond should have heard it, but they were shouting and loudly firing weapons and powers at the maker of the even louder stomping noises. Screams from people and spiders rang out.


The Matoran and those guarding them on land, including Onua, ran now to keep up with the boat.


Soon a wall of strange black liquid appeared on the edge of Hujo's light.


It looked something like a raging stormcloud of blackness, boiling, parts moving away, parts moving toward them, now reversing, so that the edge of the massive stone Circle seemed to fade in and out of existence.


Hujo and Taureko stood at the prow of the Seahopper, talking too softly for Onua to hear, nodding occasionally, as Taureko would point at a patch of moss he recognized. He'd spent 500 years here – surviving against the Zivon by some method he refused to reveal – and knew by feel alone every spot. And Hujo was entering the Song Trance every few seconds – he could, Onua remembered, sense where they needed to go based on where the Zivon and Taureko had been.


When they were close, Hujo flew forward, and disappeared into the blackness.


Light stopped working.


Flew back. Light worked.


Hujo nodded.


Meaning that was the right way. He hovered in place above that spot, his back to the wall of blackness, marking the correct spot to travel to another Circle of the Field – Onua recalled that some points on the edges of each circle led to other circles on the same level. These circles each corresponded to domes in the underground world. Other spots led up to circles that corresponded to islands in the surface ocean.


They were going for the circle to get to the surface ocean above Vaurukan's Island now. Closer to safety...


But Onua could not relax yet. The Zivon might scare the Brotherhood into going back to Vaurukan's Island – or maybe eat them all first – and come after them. Or the massed Brotherhood forces might actually push the Zivon away – it now had food to eat regularly on Twisted Island so it wasn't as hungry as it used to be. They weren't safe yet by a long shot.


He kept stopping, putting his claws to the ground, and trying to sort out what he felt in the vibrations. He did not trust his ears alone.


But it wasn't easy to sense much when surrounded by almost two-hundred Matoran marching.


The prow of the Seahopper eased into the blackness. As if it had been picked up by a giant and tilted downward, slowly sinking into a black ocean, it moved beyond his view bit by bit, including the water and the golden light around it.


Then it was gone.


One by one the Ko-Matoran walked through, disappearing. Then the others.


Onua was the last one.


He motioned for Hujo to fly through. He would come in a moment.


Hujo did.




No light to distract him.


Blind now, and free from the other vibrations, he tested the floor again. He hadn't heard the loud noises for a while now.


Apparently the Zivon had left.


The army marched on.




Chasing us.




Ta-Koro flew.


Kopaka felt a mix of thrill that he could witness such a thing, and terror as the lava rushed closer, closer, closer.


Almost out.


Orange rush.




Lava flood to base of village.


The village was pushed east.


Slammed into the eastern end of the hole in the lava tube. Tilted. Screams inside.


Lava mostly rushed under it, but some of it caught in the bending of gravity, flowing up the now-tilted side of the village's base.


Kopaka lifted a hand as if to send cold energy at it. Helpless.


“TAHU!” he shouted. “THIS SIDE!”


With his mask, he saw that part of the eastern wall had broken, and some Matoran were floating with it freely toward the east.

They would float out of the area of gravity soon.




Kopaka didn't dare distract the Kal. So he ran to the south – around the hole.


Glanced to his left.

Tahu had heard him. Stood atop the west wall, aiming his firesword down, absorbing heat.


Lava hardened.


Pohatu joined him, creating more rock to wall off the rising lava.


Ta-Koro lifted above the hole finally. Only a little lava still flowed upward, and slowly.


“LEWA!” Kopaka shouted. “EAST!”


Kopaka finally got around the Hole. Some lava was spilling over it to the north, but the south side was clear. He ran toward the floating Matoran. They were shouting for help.


There was green.


Lewa had leaped out, with his mask of Speed on, to fly toward the Matoran quickly.


Now he switched to Levitation. Shared the power.


The whole group continued to float that way even beyond the Kal's power, until finally Lewa let them all fall slowly into the ocean. Safe.


Kopaka stopped running – he was glad he wouldn't have to try to catch them – and turned to watch the village. Tahu had just aimed his sword to the sky and shot off a burst of fire – he had to spend elemental energy to have room to absorb more. Vision... Good, the lava was clear.


Glanced at the Kal.




Sparkles were spreading from its Krana again.


Ta-Koro moved southeast...


“SET IT DOWN!” Kopaka shouted to the Kal across the lava-filled hole. “WHILE YOU STILL CAN!”


The Kal moved its mouth but the Toa couldn't hear it. He held his hands out and moved them down, trying to motion instead.


The Kal appeared to understand at the last moment. Ta-Koro lowered, just beyond the second lava river to the south, which was also flooded. The edge of the village's base eased into part of the lava.

The village tilted a little.




Closer to the danger than Kopaka had hoped, but they'd bought time to evacuate the rest if needed.


Kopaka looked back at the Kal.


It was changed.


Completely different now.


A black body with no similarity to the original Bohrok design except that it was roughly round... two huge 'feet' that were really strong black treads... and two massive cannons in place of arms.


Cannons firing.


At him.




Nijire's small group found the control center base occupied by the rest of the Matoran.

It turned out the only word of hers after the lava came in that most of them had been able to make out was “camp” and they had interpreted that to mean this camp, not the forest camp. So they had headed here right away.


Kejokta was nearby, at the base of the window control tower. Jaudrohk was still up there, apparently still trying to close the three problematic windows, but to no avail. Nijire could see them from the control center, where she stood, on the lookout for other survivors. Raitu stood with her, also watching.


Finally Jaudrohk admitted defeat and came back with Kejokta.


Now about twenty of them were here. Where were the other ten?


She had told Raitu about the two machines she'd seen smashed. She had to assume those two Matoran had somehow survived, or she would have found their bodies. But the other – the one that had been closest to the lava – nobody seemed to have any clue about.


She remembered who he was. Pakastaa – one of the guards. He wore a Huna.


He rarely talked, and she didn't know him well, but she'd fought Rahi alongside him many times, as with anybody. He had been one of those with a group of Matoran who had helped Kopaka fight through an ambush soon after the Toa had first come to Mata Nui. She remembered that he had been frozen alive, and she had helped to thaw him with a heatstone.


The feeling of constant motion had lessened, but it was still there.


Kejokta and Jaudrohk climbed up the slope to the control center.


“I'm so sorry,” Jaudrohk whispered to her. “I tried... the lava severed...” He shook his head helplessly.


“It's not your fault,” she replied softly.




Jaudrohk walked on toward the stone steps.


But Kejokta stayed, looking out at their surroundings.


Occasionally she saw a blur here and there.


“We need to go back out,” she said. She explained what she had shouted and how most had misunderstood. “Some of the others might be at the forest camp by now.”


Kejokta nodded. He looked back toward the stone steps, then at her.


In a whisper, he said, “We have another problem, Nijire.”




“Not here. Raitu, you keep watch.”


The guard nodded. Nijire followed the Rahunga back through the junkscape.


When they were far enough away that their voices wouldn't carry, Kejokta spoke. “He knew, Nijire.”


“Who knew what?”


“Remember what Ahku said about sensing deception? I didn't have a chance to tell you... I wasn't sure, but I thought something was off when Jaudrohk told Ahku and me his tale, after we captured him. I thought it was just nervousness – we were fighting off those creatures at the time, after all.”


“What do you mean?” She remembered that Jaudrohk had seemed nervous to her too. But didn't he have good reason to be?


“He's lying to us, Nijire.”


“You can't know that. I was there when he first spoke to any of us, he told me first. I felt like he really fears the Kuambu...”


“That may be, but he is working with them.”


“Against his will.”

“That may be too. But he has not been honest about how much he knows.”


She wondered why Kejokta wouldn't just come out and say whatever he meant. “He says he's been forgetting parts of it.”


Kejokta drew himself up confidently as they entered the forest. “That Matoran, Nijire, is a painter. He painted a nice little picture of the island of Vaurukan, with five domes in it. And then he painted a story for you and you bought it. But we know the picture on the wall was a lie. What makes you think the picture of his words is true?”


She didn't know what to say. “But maybe he thought we were on that island. Maybe one of those domes, or maybe two, was used to make this place.” She imagined a sphere moving through lava made more sense than half a sphere. “Maybe that's the last he knew before he was trapped in here.”


“Someone designed the control lines that led from that tower to that window. I think it was him.”


“But how could you know? And how do you know he remembers?”


“Because, Nijire, when those windows opened, and lava came in, I was shocked. If you are with someone and you are surprised by something, what's the first thing you do?” Pause. “I looked at him. Expected to see the same shock on his face. Nijire, he was not surprised at all.


He paused again, as if daring her to disagree, but she was speechless.


“He knew.”Review here

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Chapter 23



“So what do we do about it?” Nijire asked.


Kejokta answered immediately. “He might not know that I know. He didn't look at me when I looked at him. He was still firing his weapons, and then he looked up at the lava flow, and turned around. I hid my reaction by the time he glanced at me. So... for now we do nothing, except find opportunities to tell anyone else that we trust to keep their mouths shut about it.”


“Why not just call him out on it? Maybe he suspected but didn't know, and has a good explanation, and besides, we might need him.”


“You're not getting me. I'm convinced he's still working for the Kuambu. He's doing what they want. I don't know why, but we need to figure out why without tipping him off. If he even suspects that we know, he might just leave. You're right – we need him – and caution is the best way to keep him around.”


She shook her head. “Kejokta... I haven't told anyone... but...” She hesitated. Then decided she might as well just get it out there. “I don't think we can escape this one. Everybody looks at me as the miracle worker... but...”


He looked at her sharply. “We have to try.”


“Do we?”


He barked scornful laughter. “That was what I never got about those of you who still followed those fool elders. You were too ready to just give in under pressure.”


Anger tinted her voice at that. “Give in? We're the ones that had to fight off raid after raid... and meanwhile you were out there infecting more Rahi to send at us!”


He stopped and faced her. “So you wanna do this now?”


She stepped closer to him, staring at him defiantly. “You think I fear you, Kejokta? The big Rahunga against the helpless little fisherwoman? What do you stand for? Are you with Makuta or aren't you?”


He looked furious, but he was clearly fighting to control himself. “You should not stoke the anger of one who uses rahudermis,” he said coldly. “Wherever my loyalty might be, the hate can rise up against our will. I might do something I'll regret.”


She said nothing but continued to stare at him.


Finally he looked away. “We should keep moving.”


He didn't answer her question. She wanted to demand an answer, but the truth was she was afraid. Maybe she hadn't felt it clearly before, but she'd just talked herself into it.


So she followed in tense silence.




Kopaka climbed quickly down the rock slope of the lava tube, trying to dodge the Kal's shots.


The robot's left appendage still resembled an arm, tipped with a built-in double-barreled rifle.


The projectiles were heavy, apparently metal that sparkled blue, and seemed to grow in size as they flew. They acted like they were falling sideways, moving a little faster as they flew. They were not fired – they were silently let loose.


When they hit a few seconds later silence did not apply. They cut through whatever was in front of them, thundering as shards of rock blasted away, some floating forward and others falling loudly. A cloud of dust flew up, hiding Kopaka from the Kal's view, ironically.


The right appendage was not at all like an arm – it was a rocket launching cylinder whose back end was attached right to the shoulder.


What it fired seemed to track him easily.


It shot out with a screaming hiss, a trail of black smoke. The missile spiraled as Kopaka leaped from rock to rock, narrowing the gap in split seconds...






Orange light flared, pressure erupted, and the force of the explosion mere inches away knocked Kopaka into the air. He heard only a buzzing now as he landed – the sound of his own body impacting echoed through his body and he heard it as if it was muffled by twenty of those thick coats.


The thought reminded him of what he'd told that guard, and he recalled that the guards had been posted near where he was headed now.


Kopaka looked around.


He was on the flat ground to the south of the lava tube now, near the charred forest. He was in pain, but he could still move, and didn't seem to be seriously injured. He saw red faintly inside, moving – the same color as the armor of that guard.


Stumbled to his feet, ran that way, every step giving the same muffled echo, the only changes to the constant buzzing.


Glanced north and up at the Kal – he could see it through the rock now, rolling quickly toward this edge of the lava tube to get a line of sight on him.


He entered the trees. Ran fast.




One of the coats!


The fleeing Ta-Matoran had dropped it. Kopaka picked it up and turned around, now running for the cable ride instead. It was his best chance of getting far away fast.


Curious, he glanced at the hole that had once been the front gate of Ta-Koro. Lava poured out from it.


Could he get over it to the cable ride? Stairs on the right side of the gate had curved up to a spot on the top of the tube where the cable connected to. If he hadn't needed the coat he could have just run right there while he was up there, but now that would be difficult. And he couldn't just climb back up the left side in plain sight of the Kal...


No, he couldn't risk jumping over either.


He needed Lewa's power of sharing levitation, but Lewa was also across the lava flow.




There was only one way he could think of.


The Kal would surely expect him to continue running away.


So he had to do the opposite.


Kopaka looked around at the mounds of ash everywhere.


He had to hide.




Hujo called loudly to everybody to gather near.


“The Brotherhood can't hear us for now,” he said, “and I have a plan to get us all to safety, but it will be a little complicated. I need everybody to cooperate without question.”


Onua wondered what the plan was, but decided to just trust the mapmaker. Hujo usually knew what he was doing. Judging from the silence that met Hujo from the others, they all felt the same.


Hujo first touched the Seahopper, and teleported it to the surface ocean.


Then he came back in and told everybody to join hands.


Blue energy.






Onua found himself floating in open ocean. In the distance he thought he saw an island – but since they were still near the edge of the Circle when they left the Field, they weren't very near land.


“Now everybody in the water needs to swim to that island!” Hujo said, hovering over their heads. “I'll be back soon. When you get to land, wait for the Seahopper to return. Bhukasa, hop to Ga-Koro and drop off the Ko-Matoran you have onboard, then come back to pick up more. It'll take a while, but we can get everybody to Mata Nui that way if we have to. I'm going to check on a second option.”


With that, he flew away to the north.


The Gukko, he means, Onua thought. They weren't supposed to get here for a while, but the crystal figured Hujo would take them into the Field and lead them here. Flight between two Circles was shortened by the wormhole effect, so over long distances the same method of flight would take less time than in the normal universe.


The Seahopper returned twice before the group reached the island. The current was against them. Onua wished Gali was here.


He saw more flashes nearby.


The Brotherhood.


Also in the water. Onua could only see faint dots when waves lifted him, but he was sure he saw several moving dots.


Finally the group reached shore.

The island was big, somewhat round, with a bay on the southeastern side. The whole place was rocky and lacked any trees, but vines and some grass peeked through the cracks here and there. The edges were too steep to enter anywhere but at the bay.


Onua quickly climbed to a high point and looked out at the Brotherhood's forces.


He saw no fliers with them. Apparently the Makuta had all stayed on Vaurukan's island. Nor did he see Rahunga. Mostly those spiders, and humanoid soldiers of species he didn't know.


Blue flash.


Hujo appeared.


A Gukko flew behind him, its beak clamped lightly around one of his feet. A Gukko behind that held the first Gukko's tail, and so forth. Clever, Onua thought.


The birds broke formation, each heading toward a Ko-Matoran.


Onua looked south. The Brotherhood forces were almost here.


Surveyed the group of Ko-Matoran.


Not enough birds.


The Seahopper appeared in the bay, and more Matoran swam to meet it. But there were still about fifty left, plus some Kriitunga.


They all looked translucent, including Onua, but the Brotherhood swam right at them anyways. He did see several doglike creatures among them. Hujo's illusions would not be enough.


The crystal voiced his thought before he could. We're running out of time.




Burying yourself in ash, while leaving a sufficient airhole, and ensuring you were otherwise entirely concealed was an impossible task, unless you happened to have a working Kanohi Akaku.


Still, every time Kopaka turned his head to check a different spot of the pile over him, he loosened more ash, which tended to mess up his airhole.


Finally, he had as good a concealment as he realistically thought he could get, and just laid still, part of his arm in plain sight, but coated with ash so it looked almost as gray as the landscape.


He chose an angle for his head that faced the Nuhvok-Kal. The robot – for this version of the Kal seemed again to act entirely programmed – had been forced to roll west a ways before it found a suitable ramp to roll down.


Soon it reached the floor of the charred forest.


Kopaka saw the two Ta-Matoran near it – the Kal clearly saw them but ignored them, to Kopaka's immense relief.


Apparently this iteration of the Kal was bent on hunting Toa – not yet on stealing their powers, or it should have ignored Kopaka too. He did see blue sparkles still around its Krana, though that was entirely concealed to normal vision behind an opaque black hatch.


Now the Kal turned east, back toward him, but it appeared to have given up on Kopaka – it was headed toward Ta-Koro, where it could see the other Toa running south with the evacuated Ta-Koronan and Turaga Vakama.


The Kal was now well out of Kopaka's normal range of vision, and passing above his head – since he was laying on his side – so he risked taking a breath and turning his head.

The airhole collapsed again, but he could see the Kal again.


Tahu was firing at it, and it fired at the Toa. Tahu and the other Toa were breaking west into the unburnt southern forest just north of Le-Wahi, drawing the Kal's fire away from the Matoran and Vakama.


Lewa aimed his fused axe at the ground, and chunks of earth broke apart, rising up into the air like molecules of air, zooming around and bouncing off of each other. The Btou special power that fused Air and Earth, Kopaka recalled. The last time Lewa had used it he'd been controlled by a Krana.


This wall of chaos messed up the Kal's aim, but not his power. Kopaka saw the projectiles tearing nearly unhindered through the mess. But Pohatu was throwing up walls of stone, and these did stop the projectiles – they just didn't last long.


Kopaka had hoped the first missile was also the last, but the Kal was still firing them. Blue light would shine in the barrel, and another would appear, ready to fire.


His breath was almost gone, so he sat up, blasting air away to knock the ash off his mouth, and breathed in deep. Stood up, wiping ash off himself.


His hearing was mostly back now, thankfully.


Walked a few paces to a hollow tree stump where he'd tossed the coat. Grabbed it, and snuck east.


The lava had gone down to normal levels now. If the Kal had still been sane it might have been able to put Ta-Koro back where it belonged now.


The little stream of lava that had come out the gate was still glowing orange, but it wasn't a stream anymore, just a collection of puddles.


Kopaka left the charred forest, and gingerly stepped around the puddles. The heat coming off of them strangely felt good for a moment, but then it was overpowering. Once he was clear he ran to the stairs to get some distance.




He was halfway up before he remembered the Unknown tablet. He checked it – blank, as he'd thought. It was possible the tablet had only been to help them save Ta-Koro, but unless an Unknown showed up and demanded it back, he would assume its role was not finished.


Reached the top of the stairs.


Checked on the other Toa. They were now fleeing into the Le-Wahi jungle, the deadly Kal falling behind. Its tanklike design gave it an advantage on open terrain, but here it was forced to meander around the bigger bushes and roots that the Toa could just leap over. Still, it plowed over most of the foliage.


I can't help them like this, he thought. Maybe Toggler would give him the lookalike sword, or at least come with him to help. A well-aimed burst of ice would stop the Kal in its strange tracks.


But there were five other Kal to worry about, he reminded himself.


Kopaka walked over to the big machine at the edge of the cliff. The cable was attached to its sturdy frame, and reached out for miles over the greenery of Kini-Wahi, up to the Tren Krom pass between mountains on Ko-Wahi's eastern border.


A metal hook designed to carry Ko-Matoran hung from the cable. It would have to hold him.


He hooked his right leg over it – all that would fit, and grasped the top of the hook firmly with his left hand.


With his right, he slapped the button on the machine.


It whirred to life, gears turning. The cable – actually a giant loop around a wheel at the top, started moving, this half up, the other half down, and the hook carried Kopaka west.


As he went, he continued to survey the distant ground, watching for other Kal. Nuvhok-Kal would not likely look this way – it probably thought it had killed him – but the others had been in this area at last sighting and if they looked up, there was nowhere to hide now.


He took solace in the fact that he was white, against a bright blue sky. If someone like Onua had been in this position it would be riskier.


The ground moved farther way.


The sounds of battle quieter.


Bird calls and other Rahi noises in Kini-Wahi soon became all he could hear, other than wind making the cable whistle, and a faint buzzing that still remained in his ears from the explosion.


Kopaka had spent a lot of time looking around, and had once overlooked a high cliff near the Tren Krom Pass... but there was something different about this view, with no ground under his feet, moving so slowly. He'd never seen the island quite like this, and it looked almost like a totally different place.


For the first time since he'd arrived he was able to see the true island – caught up though he personally was in the drama of the enemies of the land, now he could take the time to see birds flying, Rahi grazing, the wave-patterns wind made on the tops of trees on the scale of miles and miles...


He realized that there was a whole different world in place all around him, where the things he worried about were barely even noticed, where the concerns were finding food for the day, catching a few hours of sun to dry off armored feathers after diving to catch a Ruki fish, sniffing out the closest fruit trees. Look though he might, he could not find a trace of one Kal, even when he tried to use his mask to see heat patterns – there were just too many patterns of heat made by Rahi all over the place.


He did, though, happen to see one stray Pawate miniature elephant joyfully rejoining the group it had been forced to flee from.


Kopaka smiled.


He wondered if that was all that was really wrong with the Kuambu, Vaurukan, the Makuta, all the villains. Maybe this real life had never intruded long enough onto their senses to realize their petty schemes were worthless compared to this.


Maybe they needed to take a cable ride.


No controlled flight with wings... no flying vehicles... just one end, the other, and time.


The mountains grew. The ground was now so far away Kopaka found it difficult to keep looking at it.


So instead he looked at the pass. He could already make out a little dot that was the other machine.


Now he became acutely aware of how the wind would make the whole cable – Ta to Ko – vibrate like a plucked cord. The dot ahead seemed to sway wildly to the left and right, the mountains with it. But he felt the motion one way and the next, the hook swinging south then north then south then north then South then North then SOUTH NORTH...


A calm...


A sigh of relief, a sense of fingers aching from holding on so tight but refusing to relax now.


The this that he had realized moments ago had somehow risen up to engulf him in practical concerns of survival. His life was on the line not because of some strange-ified enemy, some villain hiding behind a blur, some distant controller of creatures – it was his own willpower and his own muscles that would decide his fate now.


This thing really is designed better for Matoran...


Finally, the dot got near enough that its approach seemed quick instead of endless, and before Kopaka knew it the hook stopped and left him hanging just feet away from the cliff.


Everything he'd just experienced went into the caution that guided his right hand as he reached for the machine's supports, pulled the hook a little closer, got a foot on the snowy edge...




Hung on.


Tried again, and pulled himself to safety.


Kopaka stood, breathing deep. The cold was tangible now, and he got the coat out of his pack and put it on quickly. It helped, but his feet still felt cold against the snow.


He'd have to live with it, though.


He looked west, into Ko-Wahi. What had once felt like home now felt like an alien world to him. He was reminded of something he'd often noticed, after he'd first arrived here, about mask quests. Often the ideal way to get to the object he needed would be to use the object he needed. Now, he had to withstand the cold to get the power to withstand the cold.


Would he never get past such challenges? He'd hoped that he would advance, as he collected masks, to have the powers he needed to take on any task. But now he was almost back to square one, with just two masks at his disposal. It was like it was his fate to find himself in these kinds of situations.


He checked the tablet again. Blank.


Looked east once more. From here he could make out nothing about the battle between Nuhvok-Kal and the Toa. The only clue was the top of Ta-Koro which he could now see peeking over the trees, clearly where it did not belong.


I suppose the real life of nature is in all of it, Kopaka thought then. Was he not facing the same kinds of problems as many Rahi, trying to hide from predators, trying to find what he was hunting? Just a more deadly version of it, where the enemies were smarter.


The difference was... he felt like he was a wild Rahi that had been captured, put in a cage. He might rage against the walls of this cage, this sense of removal from the life he wanted, but the walls were firm.


The real problem was... he couldn't figure out what the walls were made of.






Onua didn't have any particular reason to freeze time except that he felt he was near panicking, and needed time to think.


The crystal had already been surveying the Brotherhood army. It didn't seem to the crystal like the force you would expect if they thought they were chasing people who had Mak... Teridax captive.


So they know Vaurukan still has... eh, I'm gonna call him Makuta, he thought. So why are they chasing us?


Maybe they just want more slaves, the crystal replied.


I'm sure they just lost some of their number to the Zivon. It's not worth it. Could it just be that they think Rathoa is with us?


They probably do know he's with us, and they can track him. But is that enough to take forces from their more important goal of freeing Makuta? The crystal paused, then answered its own question. No. Maybe they think we have a clue as to where Makuta is.


Maybe we do, Onua thought.




He checked his Unknown tablet briefly, and was unsurprised to find it blank. They'd have to win this with their own wits... And he thought he had an idea.


I must talk to Matoro.


Onua leaped down from the overlook.


The Akaku-wearing Matoran was essentially number two behind Nuju as leader of the Ko-Matoran; he had, of course, decided to stay until the others were all safe.


“I need to hear your story,” Onua told him. “Short version. NOW.”


Matoro looked at him. “Who are you?”


Onua raised his eyes. “Onua. We were... changed.”


Matoro looked amazed. “Uh... well, we were in this strange prison.” He summed up what he knew, up until the point Kuambu had captured him. “I was unconscious after that, until I awoke in that empty dome to see a strange little winged being coming in. Next thing I knew I was with your group.”




Checked on the Brotherhood.

They were climbing ashore to the south.


Onua's mind ran through his conclusions too fast to voice them as thoughts. The crystal agreed – the tendril creature was a vehicle prison. For some reason the Kuambu had decided they no longer wanted Matoro and most of the others in the prison, so they took them somewhere unknown in the prison and teleported them to the empty dome.


Nijire's small group was left inside. Onua wondered what was going on with them. And he also wondered if he could check as a blur. But this moment would not last long enough now; he would have to wait and let his mind recharge. Then he would try.


Teleportation to and from this prison vehicle must not be possible just anywhere. Too risky. He had to look for a special place where it was possible.


Furthermore, what was the point of putting Ko-Matoran in a prison like this?


That had to be a side-goal. He couldn't imagine what it was, but he did have one idea why you would make such a strange prison.


To contain a Makuta.






Nijire and Kejokta saw them just before the blurs saw the Matoran – apparently the blurs were faced the other way.


She motioned for Kejokta to follow her on a detour.


But soon she got lost again. Kejokta had not yet been to the forest camp, so he couldn't help. She didn't want to talk, so she let him go on thinking she knew where she was going.


Soon they came upon a structure in the forest none of the Matoran had yet seen.


It was very short compared to the trees, and small, but still fairly wide, made out of junk, shaped something like a big eight-pointed star, but not symmetrical.


One of the points was a console. A blur stood at it. Four other points were tubes that run down into the dirt.


The other three points contained various components that apparently generated a forcefield, judging by the way light shone inward toward the center of the star. The two left and right ones generated blue light. The one opposite the control panel generated green light mixed with shadow energy.


In the center, trapped inside a ball of blue light, Nijire and Kejokta beheld something that made the Rahunga gasp softly.


A greenish gas.


Kejokta breathed its name, his tone of voice at once reverent and full of terror.


“Makuta.”Review here

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Chapter 24



Onua's idea had one fatal flaw.


In order to carry it out, he had to take the initiative again.


He had to become responsible for what happened to the others.


One more time... since I have no choice.


Really, he had to admit to himself that when no option was left, he would always step up. It was who he was. But he worried that if he failed this time he might break who he was. Lost might be all hope of becoming what he really wanted, to be able to face a danger, know what to do, and do it, coming out on top at minimal risk to others.


But that kind of thing only happened in dreams.


Bhukasa's boat appeared, rising quickly from the water. Time to carry it out.


“Everybody swim as close to the Seahopper as you can,” Onua said. “We're out of time.” He dove in, leading the way.


He took the rope ladder first, and ran across the deck to the stairs. Ran down, past Rathoa who was peering out a window, watching the advancing forces. He turned and tried to report to Onua, but the Toa ran quickly down the stairs.


Now to the rowing deck. Bhukasa's hatch was there, closed.


He rapped on it sharply.


It opened.


Onua leaped down, not waiting for Ito's rope-ladder device to unwind, catching his fall with bent knees.


Bhukasa stood in the room, watching him with a curious expression. The normally black metal walls around him displayed a 3D image of their surroundings, including the rowing deck above and its population of Matoran and Kriitunga.


“You said in the meeting something about being able to dive without seahopping,” Onua said. He looked back. The image on the screen showed the feet of the Matoran treading water around the Seahopper. “Do it now.”


“Good idea,” Bhukasa said. “But then what?”


Onua didn't have time to explain. He climbed up Ito's ladder device, and ran back to the main deck.


Now the Seahopper floated in a shallow pool of water near the seafloor. Above it, golden light formed a dome that kept a pocket of air in place. The water's surface wasn't that far above, but they were submerged. Those Ko-Matoran who did not fit onboard were inside the dome. Safe for now.


Onua leaped off, motioning for Hujo to follow him. “Keep us invisible.”


He dove off, swimming past the Ko-Matoran.


Reached the edge of the golden light. Took a deep breath, and dove under it.


Came up on the other side. Swam up with all his might.




Immediately the Brotherhood saw the waves he made, though they could not see him, and shouted orders to swim at him. He heard them before he saw them – they were already to the bay.


“Carry me to the other side of the island,” he ordered Hujo, who had flown up next to him.


Hujo obeyed, grabbing Onua's hand. They lifted into the air.


Water cascaded off of him, raining down on the surface. The Brotherhood stopped, confused at this strange sight.


Weapons Onua did not understand fired into the air wildly, but they all missed him.


They flew rapidly over the Brotherhood's heads, and down toward the ground. The wind of this motion dried Onua off, mostly.


He landed. “Now I want you to circle above their heads, and shoot small bursts of blue fire at them,” Onua whispered to Hujo. “Order them to retreat and give them one minute to do it or you'll demonstrate how powerful you have become since the Unknown told you their secrets. I'll handle that. Then if they don't leave, say they have one more minute. Threaten them more loudly until that minute's up.”


Hujo obviously didn't know what to make of this – and looked all the more intrigued for how mysterious Onua was acting.


He didn't mean to be but there really was no time – he could already hear the splashes from the Brotherhood diving into the water. Even in daylight the golden glow of the Seahopper's submersion power would be visible, or at least the hounds would know which way to go, apparently.


Hujo flew off.


Onua turned to the ground, holding his claws to the rock, and got to work.




Nijire and Kejokta continued in a different direction through the forest until she finally realized where she was, and headed toward the forest camp.


They didn't talk about what they'd seen at first.


But Nijire had an idea about it.


About why she was here.


In recent days the people of Ko-Koro had been praising her at every turn for her repeated escapes from various prisons. She hadn't been too fond of it. In her heart she had wondered what might happen if some enemy overheard them and wondered just how good she was at escape.


Well, the Kuambu had invaded the island, and they seemed to be very good at stealth.


Maybe one had done just that.


That alone was not enough to act on unless the enemy was completely insane. But these Kuambu had hired Jaudrohk, it seemed, to make this place to be Makuta's prison. They had a reason to want Nijire to be trapped here.


As a tester.


To try her very best to escape, and thus find out if it was possible. It seemed that they had thought of everything, but if there was a weakness, she could find it, they might think.


If it was possible, they would then quickly seal off that weakness. Leaving Makuta trapped forever.


She wished the idea had never occurred to her. Now she felt guilty both about trying to escape and about giving up. She felt fury that she would be used in such a way, and yet a sense of Duty that required her to fulfill her role and keep the dangerous villain contained.


And worse, she felt a stronger fear of the Ko-Rahunga who walked next to her.Had he come to the same conclusions? Was he on her side or Makuta's? She could be in huge danger, being out here alone with him. Makuta might know of her reputation too, and see an opportunity.


She almost ran.


But her heart told her Kejokta would not do Makuta's bidding anymore. It was a huge risk... but she feared striking out on her own even more. She needed the others' help to survive, and Kejokta knew where they were.


Ideas about what she should do from here rampaged through her mind faster than she could analyze them, and she'd already decided not to try to play Jahurungi. She was not the solver of mysteries.


But one thing useful did occur to her.


The Kuambu had to have a way out. She had experienced the strange sensation of being able to read their facial expressions without being able to remember what their faces looked like, back there at the star-machine.


She did not sense fear of this prison from them. If there was no way back to the normal realm of land and sea, they should have been terrified – it seemed like this place's control of where it was moving had gone all wrong, and they would normally run out of Kuamor to keep the holes patched. Solution? They must have a way to retrieve more ammo and bring it back, thus keeping the lava out indefinitely, and escape themselves if all was lost.


But this was useful only because it meant this place could be a permanent home.


Because whatever way out the Kuambu had was probably still slimed, and only Kuambu could get past the repelling power of the slime.


The existence of the portal could probably never help them escape – it was good news only because they would not have to try to escape just to survive.


She decided finally what they would do. And ironically, it would be the way to get back home, probably.


The Kuambu must have decided that Matoro and the others were not going to help her test the prison. So they had probably already been taken home.


So we refuse to play the game. We settle in, and try to just live here.


Eventually the Kuambu would realize it was pointless to keep them here, and take them home too.


She thought it over as many ways as she could, but finally in the end decided it was the only way. But she could not do it alone – Kejokta and the others wanted to keep looking for ways to escape.


“Kejokta,” she said when they finally reached the forest camp, “when we get back, gather everybody. I need to make an announcement.”


“About what?”


She shook her head. “I can't tell you until everybody's together.” She feared what he might do out here, if he disagreed.


They waited in uncomfortable silence.


Finally, a group of Matoran entered the camp. Nijire gave a nervous grin, relieved. They were all here.


All except the three she'd seen fall.


They headed back. Nijire continued to mull things over, trying to find a flaw in her plan. The only flaw she could think of was how hard it would be to convince the others.


So she focused now on trying to figure out what to say.




Onua watched the translucent mapmaker flying around.


Hujo was using a trick with the Blue Fire bolts Onua wouldn't have thought of – he was firing them but keeping them invisible for a while, and making them turn a little in flight, so by the time the Brotherhood could see them, Hujo was nowhere near them. He was also a lot farther away from them than it appeared, so he had plenty of time to dodge the stray projectiles that did head his way.


When the time for the demonstration was up, Onua triggered his trap.


For the first ten seconds of the minute, Onua had reached with his Btou extra power into the rock beneath the Brotherhood and disintegrated rock, until he could control it as Earth. Then, he had altered its structure for the rest of the minute so that a dome of it could support the weight of the rock above it while he absorbed its centers.


Finally, he reached out to the ocean, a ways away, and materialized more Earth from his excess energy.


Now he had a vast network of open pockets beneath the Brotherhood's feet.


He chose one that nobody happened to be standing on, and disrupted the dome of Earth.


The rock above collapsed noisely, and a hole opened up admidst the army.


Gasps and shouts of alarm rang out.


Hujo played right along. “Leave now, or next time the holes will be under your feet.”


“I don't believe you!” one of them – apparently the leader – shouted back at him.


Onua was amazed to realize that a bolt of Blue Fire Hujo had already shot out – still invisible – had been aiming right at this one well before he spoke. Apparently the Jahurungi had already discerned who the leader was.


One second after the words left the leader's mouth, the bolt turned visible and struck the leader right in the chest.


It hit only armor, but the force of the blast knocked the leader on his back, screaming in shock.


The army fell apart.


Turned, and ran.


Dove into the water. Swam away.


Onua grinned. Hujo had impressed even him.


But a hole collapsed, he sensed, just then. Onua reached back down and stabilized the others. Luckily the fleeing army had already passed it and didn't seem to have seen or heard it – they were faced the other way and splashing loudly.


Onua absorbed the earth he'd created in the ocean, and rematerialized it where it belonged in the island.


He climbed higher, after checking that he was still invisible. The Brotherhood forces had disappeared – their spiders had taken them back to the Field of Shadow. He sighed in relief, and started walking back toward the Seahopper.


Hujo flew near. Onua was surprised to note that he didn't look happy. In fact he looked angry, but he was trying to hide it, and failing.


“What is it?” the Toa asked.


“Nothing. I guess it worked.”


“I'll say! Nice going with the leader.”


“That was easy,” Hujo said. “But I wish you would have told me what the demonstration was. That first hole – I don't know if you could tell – but it had knifelike rock shards at the bottom. You just made me seem to threaten to kill.”


Onua looked away. Not again... “I couldn't sense that, no. I'm not a Toa of Stone.”


“I could have gotten them to leave just with Blue Fire.”


Onua didn't know what to say. He was embarrassed at the absurdity of being chastised by a mere Matoran, but then, as the crystal quickly pointed out, the Jahurungi was anything but 'mere'. The crystal thought Onua's plan a good one, and it knew what he was thinking. It quickly reminded him that he was a Toa, he needed to solve problems, he could not just give up. Besides, he was tired.




But you'll make mistakes. It happens. It is still happening right now, all over the world, and it always will.


They reached the bay.


“You might as well stay up here,” Hujo said. “Swimming up is one thing... And Bhukasa will have to surface to let the ones who won't fit out anyways.”


Onua nodded, distracted by his second-guessing. Did Hujo mean that he already had a similar plan to Onua's and just went along with Onua's because he was the Toa here? Or had Onua's idea given Hujo his better idea?

But the Jahurungi was already underwater.


Either way, the crystal reminded him, you should be glad you came up with a similar idea! And do not feel bad that you did not solve the mystery of what to do as well as the solver of mysteries. It worked. That is enough.


Onua shook his head slightly.


No, it wasn't.


The Seahopper rose to the surface, the sphere of golden light opening a hole at the top when it touched the surface, then shrinking down to the sides until it was gone, and the Seahopper floated normally. Hujo hovered over it, directing the Matoran in the water to swim back to the bay.


Then the Seahopper Hopped.


Hujo stayed in the air, keeping watch. Onua decided not to bother to ask what he'd meant.


After a long time, the Seahopper returned again, and everybody left got onboard, including Onua.


Time to return to Mata Nui.


He knew the first thing he would do – he had to know what happened to the other time crystal.




Nijire's group was almost back when a group of Kuambu ambushed them.


But the Kuambu did not actually attack. They leaped out from concealment in the foliage, surrounding the Matoran, and one spoke.


The voice was strangely thunderous for the Kuambu's size, deep-pitched, and leaves around them shook. “We are here to trade.”


Kejokta raised his knives threateningly. “Trade what for what?”


Emotion tinged the voice. Nijire was surprised to realize it was sadness. “The body of one who fell. For Jaudrohk.”


One who fell? “Three fell,” Nijire said.


“Two were Taken,” the Kuambu replied. “One died on impact. We were able to heal his body, but his brain had been too far damaged; his mind was already gone. What is left now is, I'm afraid, just an empty shell. We are deeply sorry.”


She'd had no idea they could cure a body so easily, but no real reason to doubt it. She wanted to demand that they answer whether her theory was right, to refuse to play along, but she still feared what Kejokta might do until she was back with the others. And she feared even more that outright refusal would make the Kuambu stubbornly keep them here forever.


“What do you mean, 'Taken'?” Kejokta asked.


“By Vaurukan. Did Makuta not explain this to you, Rahunga?”


“So you know what I am?”


“We know everything.”


Awkward silence filled the air as the leaves slowly stopped vibrating. Nijire watched the leaves as if they would reveal somehow whether this bold claim was a lie or not. It seemed impossible – why would they not know where Mata Nui Island was for so long? The Unknown had claimed that they actually kept it concealed from the Kuambu.


Nijire's curiosity got the better of her. “How does Vaurukan 'Take'?”


“How easily you imagine that we gift our greatest secrets to the likes of you,” the Kuambu replied, obviously amused. “Unless you are like he, we shall not answer.”


Like who? But Nijire quickly tired of the idea of trying to get answers out of them. She was surprised at one thing they revealed, though – why would this Vaurukan's powers be one of the Kuambu's greatest secrets? She had been under the impression he really had nothing to do with them except that he had chosen to ally with them.


“We will have to ask Jaudrohk,” Kejokta finally said. “You will allow us passage so that we may ask him?”


The blur nodded – again the irony of the way that power affected her memory stood out to Nijire.


“Just know,” the Kuambu added, “that we need him to seal the hatches your folly caused to break. That is in both our interests.”


“Or you could just send us home,” Kejokta said, “and get out of here yourself. You must have a way out. Because Kuambu do not kill, right?”


“Kuambu do not kill, but magma does, and we simply wish to play it safe.”


Dodging his real question, she thought, but that too was expected. She almost nudged him to stop giving away parts of her theory, but then she kind of welcomed it – at least she had an idea of how much Kejokta had realized now.


The Kuambu motioned toward the junkscape. “Go now. We will wait here for Jaudrohk. If he comes – alone, please – we will send the body to you.”


Kejokta stared at them for a moment, then walked away. Nijire and the others followed, but she turned back to ask one last question.


“The two who were 'Taken' – are they alive?”


“Yes,” the thunder replied. “But to you, they are dead. They will serve Vaurukan for the rest of their lives.”




Kopaka started a wide-ranging grid search in the northern region of Ko-Wahi, since that was where he'd last seen Toggler's airship.


Once again he found himself immensely grateful that his 'useless' mask was the Akaku. Not so useless to be able to search across miles without having to walk them himself.


He was heading to a mountain as well – one of the higher ones to the north of Mount Ihu. Climbing that giant to the south might have been more effective, but he saw clouds coming in from the west, and the mask's power only had so much range. He should reach the smaller northern one before the clouds rolled in, and have a better chance at spotting the airship.


As he walked on, he had time to contemplate what had happened the last time he met Toggler in Ko-Wahi.


He was optimistic that the titan had only gone along with Sairiph's actions because he feared the Makuta himself. Still, it wasn't easy to imagine walking right up to the shapeswitcher, trusting that he wouldn't decide to freeze Kopaka alive.


No. Kopaka would not take chances.


He would sneak up, find an opportunity to steal the ice sword... and then they could talk like civilized beings.


The ground sloped up. He'd reached the mountain. Still no sign of the airship.


Kopaka sighed. Now that he stood in front of the long, massive slope, he realized that without power over the ice and snow under his feet, he could be putting himself in serious danger if he climbed it. Gotta get more used to this...


He turned away. The idea of sliding down the side of a mountain, maybe getting buried in an avalanche, was enough to make him admit to himself he had to change his plans.


Although nobody had been around to see his rather silly mistake, he still felt embarrassed.


After another half an hour, he finally spotted something odd at the edge of his range of vision. Something big and silvery.


The airship.




Onua tried hard to hold on to the wooden handles as the Seahopper zoomed along the ocean floor, hovering in the middle of a sphere of golden light, but he kept nodding off.


Letting go.


Catching himself, and lifting his head.


Now he saw a dreamscape spread wide in front of him, and he did not think it odd.


He saw himself standing on a stone statue of Bhukasa's boat, at the same spot where he was on the real boat, against the wall at the back of the main deck. Holding on to two stone handles.


He let go.


Stood up, walked a few paces.


He could see stone statues of the other people on the boat where they really were. They even moved, just as the real ones did, lifting their stone heads to look around. One near him looked up at him and gasped in shock. “How are you... standing?”


The land around was vast and green, full of grass and gentle rolling hills. Trees here and there. Mountains in the distance.


The reality of it ended there. Fish of all varieties zoomed along, some tiny, some huge. When they reached the ground, they swam right into it, bending grass and earth aside.


Golden light glowed in the sky, from one end to the other. There was no sun – and no blue sky either.


“Onua!” one of the statues said – it looked like Hujo's suit, minus the transparency of the airfield around him, so he looked like a fat version of himself. “Grab on before we turn!”


The landscape changed. Fish moved to the left rapidly, spinning around. Grass and trees shook, and hills sank while new ones rose.


Onua opened his eyes.


He was actually standing in that spot.


On the real Seahopper.


As it dodged around undersea mountains, the others moved with the momentum, jerking from side to side, struggling to hold on.


Not him. He stood on the deck as if the boat was not moving at all. He felt the wind whipping around him furiously, just as they did, but he found he could withstand it.


Of course, this, too, was just a dream. He still felt like he could barely keep his eyes open.


Everybody was staring at him, including Hujo whose suit's forcefield was transparent again.


The Seahopper took one last turn, then rose quickly. Everybody else seemed to move down, pushed against the floor.


Onua felt nothing.


Wonder lurked in the back of his mind. Excitement, like he was on the verge of understanding something profound.


But the understanding did not come.


The Seahopper emerged and came to a stop next to Ga-Koro.


Everything looked real, acted real. Not like the dreamscape he'd seen a moment ago.


Now he felt the ship rocking underneath him. He was still just as tired but everything felt real. He felt the cool, salty ocean breeze, saw the sun in the sky, saw clouds drifting by, saw Ga-Matoran among the giant greenery the village was made of.


Hujo stood up and walked to him. “How did you do that?”


Onua forgot for a moment that it was a dream. He wasn't sure what Hujo meant, but he had vague memories going back over a day that the question connected to, and that was enough for him in this strange state. The crystal was strangely silent through all of this.


He forgot Hujo's question a moment later, leaving it to lurk just beneath the surface of his mind.


Instead, he said, “We need to go to Le-Wahi, Hujo. You should come this time.”


The crystal spoke up then. Check the tablet!


Oh, yes.


Onua materialized the Unknown tablet. “Should I bring Hujo?” He felt like he would need the Jahurungi, in case the tendril creature knew he was coming.




“The Unknown aren't saying,” Onua said. But then he vaguely remembered this was a dream. He muttered, “I should wake up...”




He spoke up. “I need to wake up so I can tell this to the real you.”


“Onua... you are awake!”


He stared. Am I?


You are, the crystal said.


“That's impossible. How could I feel no motion...”


“Maybe not impossible,” Hujo said, sounding more intrigued than ever. “I've experienced something similar, but I didn't think the Seahopper had that power... And why just you? This isn't the first time either, is it?”


Onua shook his head. What was going on with him? “No... I don't think it is.”


“Where are we going?” Hujo asked, changing the subject. “We can talk about it on the way.”


It took Onua almost a minute to register the question. “Uh... we're going to the Watcher Temple. Let's start at Le-Koro. I want to check up on them, and Matau can hopefully get us up to date.”


I'm seriously awake? He blinked several times rapidly, trying to focus his fading vision.


Hujo turned them invisible, then materialized the Songsphere. Tapped the song of Le-Koro. The bubble of blue energy appeared around them and they flew through the air.


“I'm sorry I snapped earlier,” Hujo said. “I was out of line, Toa Onua.”


Onua gave a short, miserable chuckle. “No, you were right, Jahurungi. I should have asked your opinion.”


“I'm just a Matoran. It was not my place.”


Onua shook his head. Did Hujo think of him how he suspected Tahu did? The quiet fool instead of the one with quiet wisdom? He usually understood what was going on around him. Where he failed, he thought, was in understanding what happened when he started acting. He added a sense of question to the tail end of the thought, hoping the crystal would comment, but it did not.


He frowned. “Hujo... it's your job to understand things. Tell me. What is your estimation of me?”


Hujo looked at him strangely. “Well, that's not something anybody's ever asked me before...”


Onua looked out at the scenery flying by beneath them – a beautiful sight. He wished he had time to focus on it. At least his eyes didn't feel quite as tired... for now. “I just... I...” But no. He couldn't say what he wanted to say, if he wanted a truly unbiased judgment. He swallowed and tried to ready himself to hear challenging criticism. “I'm curious.”


Hujo followed his gaze to watch the jungle canopy of Le-Wahi now zooming by just under their feet. “I think you think in terms of understanding how other people behave when left to themselves, or in groups that don't include you. You think of yourself as the ground beneath their feet. Something to be taken for granted, and to stay there quietly. Standing up and being counted one of the group somehow feels... unnatural to you.”


Onua smiled. That was it exactly. How had he not thought to see it like that?


“But you struggle with this because this very observative nature helps you see things others don't see, and their blindness leads them into trouble. It's like your better night vision, except you fear you yourself will lose that vision if you help others see.”


He nodded, the smile fading now. “I must know, Hujo. Do you think other people see this in me? Or am I just a dumb brute to them?”


Hujo laughed. “Trust me, Onua, nobody thinks you're a brute! They probably just think you're shy.”


“But I always feel so... at peace with being quiet. I know that I could help, but...” He lifted his claws, almost shrugging, but not. “How do you see answers so easily around you, even while you're taking action? I don't get it.”


The Ta-Matoran half-smiled, but shook his head. “Maybe I'm just better at pretending I know what I'm doing. Let me ask you – since you observe – what is your estimation of me?”


Onua smiled. To that, he had an easy answer. “I think, Jahurungi, that the other Toa will have a lot more trouble getting used to seeing a Matoran as their equal or perhaps superior. You'd be wise to keep your temper in check around Tahu.”


Hujo's eyes sparkled. “Indeed.”


They fell into reverent silence as the Songsphere flew over the burnt jungle around Le-Koro.


It was like coming suddenly upon a mass grave. Half-collapsed husks that had once been tree trunks reached desperately up from the ground like the fingertips of skeletons. Ash was piled everywhere, and there was no sign of green. Here and there the metallic skeleton of a Rahi that had not braved the intense wall of water that had contained the fire here could be seen.


Onua felt a deep sadness he could not explain. Logically, he knew this had not been his fault, but it felt like it. Maybe he'd just gotten too used to the idea that he was a failure.


And there, ahead, was the sight he had longed to see.


Le-Koro. An island of green surrounded by a sea of rock. Safe. A bright sign in big bold letters proclaiming that he had done something right.


“The lava isn't flowing here anymore,” Hujo said. “Come to think of it, I think I saw an orange glow in the lava tube as we flew this way.”


Onua nodded. “Things have changed...” He pointed north. A rockslide had clogged the opening in the Mangai's southern side.


The tendrils... hadn't they been basically holding rocks in place to keep the lava flowing the wrong way? If they had let go...


Maybe the crystal was unguarded.Review here

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Chapter 25



Onua wanted to hurry, but Hujo insisted on telling Matau at least that the Gukko were on their way back.


Onua talked with the Turaga briefly while Hujo went into a Song Trance. The rock around the village was still very hot, and there was still lava beneath it, so it wasn't safe to walk on. Hujo was sensing a unique location to the south where they could fly by the Songsphere and proceed on foot.


It turned out Matau didn't know much, but he knew Ta-Koro had been in trouble this morning, and he knew there had been a violent series of quakes that had caused it.


“You look much-tired, Toa,” the elder said. “You should hut-sleep. A good hotel that-way.” He pointed.


Onua shook his head. “I appreciate the hospitality but there's something important Hujo and I need to do now. Maybe when I come back.”


Hujo opened his eyes. “Ready.”




Nijire was famous for a skill she was not really that good at, but not famous for a skill she truly was expert at.


That second skill was at work now.


They were back in the dark hallways. Nijire, Kejokta, and Jaudrohk stood alone near one of the barriers made of heavy stone blocks – one of the black flatworms was behind it, mouthing a block uselessly. It had gone over one of the buttons before they came in, and they'd come hearing the blaring alarm of one of those orange crystal things. Nijire had forgotten to mention that to the others, and they'd been quite frightened.


Now, though, that mess was sorted out, so she and Kejokta were working on the plan they'd discussed since the Kuambu had made their offer.


Kejokta had just told Jaudrohk about the offer.


“But,” Nijire said, “I don't trust that the Kuambu will give you back. They might be angry that you stopped working for them before. So we have a plan to take precautions.”


Kejokta nodded and picked up where she left off. “First, I will return alone to the meeting place and demand that just one Kuambu come with me, here, unarmed. Then I will accompany you and this Kuambu to wherever you need to go to fix the hatches. I keep my weapons and so do you. The Kuambu must stay a reasonable distance away from us.”


“Smart,” Jaudrohk said, “and I appreciate it, believe me, but what's to stop them from just ambushing us again? Surely they all know where I must go to make these repairs.”


“Do they?” Nijire asked. “Do any of them? You said yourself that they have been messing with your memories, and that they weren't smart enough to build what they wanted themselves.”


“What does that have to do with it?”


This part was Kejokta's idea – a pause, before she answered. This was apparently a trick of manipulation from something he called the 'Rahunga guidebook.' She was very uncomfortable with it and argued long against it, but eventually he convinced her that they could not risk just trusting Jaudrohk. They had to treat him as a possible enemy.


She let the pause play out, then said, “Maybe you built...” She stopped, and gestured around. “All of this.”


“Ridiculous!” he said. “I would never... Not knowing... Someone else started it, I'm sure... And...”


“Maybe you didn't know what you were building when you started,” she said. “Maybe they told you it would be a submarine.”


His eyes wandered away from hers, staring at nothingness. “I suppose...”


She forgot what she was supposed to say next by Kejokta's plan – Jaudrohk seemed so genuine. She could not believe he was an enemy.


“The point is,” Kejokta said, picking up her slack, “maybe it's not just what's inside the dome that you've been building, but the entire machinery of this place including the dome itself.”


“Then why would I not feel even the slightest memory of being inside that tower? I have been in other places and felt a strong familiarity, sometimes recalled them as blurs.”


“Maybe they have a wider range of ways to affect memory than you think,” Kejokta said. “The former ruler of my group had a way to totally block a memory. I see no reason the Kuambu couldn't too.”


Jaudrohk had no answer for that.


He looked at the flatworm. She followed his gaze – the creature's strangely crocodilian jaws were now bent straight up while its wider flat body was flush against the base of the barrier. It looked like it was trying to climb, but couldn't manage to lift its own weight more than a few inches.


“But what if you're wrong?” Jaudrohk finally said. “If they do know where to go... I mean how hard can it be? The magma cut into the ground directly under the windows. They could congregate under the three that malfunctioned.”


“I think we have a good solution to that,” Nijire replied. “Remember the Btou staff and the masks I found?”




“The only way that Great Matatu I found could have been there as far as I can figure is if it was stolen from a collection of masks, both Matoran and powered, that my people had on my island. All the other stuff was stolen from Ko-Koro – my home village. But there wouldn't have been a Matatu there.”


“And you think there might have been other masks stolen?”




“Like what?”


“Like a Hau.”


Kejokta nodded, and started another part he had insisted on. “So we search for a Hau. I take the Btou staff – I can only use the mask on my face because it's a Rah-Kanohi, but if I have the Btou staff in my backpack, I can use a normal Great Hau. I can also remain in Rahunga form if my Rah-Pakari is in my backpack. I tried it on the way here. So I can keep myself safe, and use my weapons to keep you safe too. Even if they were to knock you out, I could still defend you until they run out of ammo.”


“That's gotta be the shakiest defense strategy I've ever heard of,” Jaudrohk snapped. “All this 'this is in my backpack while this is on my face' – if just one part of that plan goes wrong we're done for!”


“I thought that as an inventor you would understand this principle,” Kejokta replied, a sharp edge to his voice. “For example, the one who welded together some guns and some cannons and told us it would be a safe vehicle?”


Jaudrohk threw up his hands. “Well that didn't work so well, did it?”


Kejokta gave a chillingly convincing expression of 'I hadn't thought of it that way,' but of course that was the reaction he'd wanted Jaudrohk to have.


“Look,” Nijire put in, “what if all our lives depend on you fixing these things?” She didn't tell him her suspicions that the Kuambu could teleport both themselves and the Matoran out at any time. She hadn't told Kejokta that either. “They'll run out of ammo eventually to keep the magma out, and then what?”


Jaudrohk closed his eyes. “I know.”


And now for the clincher – her idea. She didn't like the roundabout way to do it, but she supposed that's what you get for asking a Rahunga for advice.


“Maybe you should just... go now,” she said, trying to sound like she was making it up as she went. “Forget searching for the Hau, forget meeting the Kuambu. Just drop anything they can track, and sneak out there yourself.”


“But I need them to restore my memories.”


“If you're as smart as you say you are,” Kejokta said, sounding as if he hadn't known of Nijire's idea and was excited by it. “you should be able to figure it out without your memories. See what's damaged and fix it. It's probably just a severed wire. No?”


Silence, and more staring at the walls, at the flatworm, a narrowing of the eyes. Tilt of the head with a shrug. “I guess... I guess you're right.”


And so it was agreed.


And so Jaudrohk and Kejokta both left immediately.


And so Nijire's famous skill of freeing from traps was not used.


But her true skill, as a fisherwoman, of setting traps was used.


Now the two she trusted the least were gone. The two she also needed the most were likely to make it back. This place would likely become safer, whether they came back or not, because the Kuambu wanted it fixed. She had ensnared them both into doing exactly what she needed them to do.


And now, while they were gone, she could gather the others and reveal her true plan.


That she felt a spark of pride at her success in this venture was obvious... but mostly she felt disturbed that she was capable of such a thing.




As Onua and Hujo walked through Le-Wahi, the crystal's mind explored ahead, impatient to know what they would find.


It gave Onua a vague sense of what it saw, but he could not see it clearly. He described it as best he could to Hujo.


“Fog. A building...” He described the strange lobby.


The crystal tried to move through the doorway that led to the leftmost of the three branching tunnels... but could not. It encountered a barrier much like the slime around the domes on Vaurukan's Island.


So next it tried to move underground, but found it could not – not from the lobby. I never tried looking down from there, the crystal thought, but this other limit, on the passageways, I never encountered when I lived there.


The rules must be different when you're inside, Onua thought. Try it from outside.


The crystal moved out into the fog, then down through the earth. It worked.


It explored around until it encountered a thin vertical hole.


Cut by the orange tendril – but the tendril was missing.


“The creature... or whatever... it's gone,” he reported.


Hujo nodded with obvious relief. “Something must have happened that made it lose its grip. That must have caused the quakes Matau mentioned too.”


“But what?”


“Does the ground around there seem stressed to the crystal?”


Onua asked, but it only gave a sense that it was not a Toa of Earth. “It doesn't know. Why?”


“I'm thinking something caused the creature... or vehicle... to suddenly start moving, when it wasn't supposed to. So the tendrils acted like an anchor that someone forgets to raise before they start a boat motor. If it snagged on coral, the sudden stress when it goes taut could tear the coral to pieces. That must have caused the rockslide at the Mangai, and probably a secondary quake here.”


Onua nodded. “Makes sense.”


“Tell the crystal to try to go down and find the creature... thing... itself.”


“Done. What should we call that thing, anyways?”


Hujo looked thoughtful, as they entered the Fau Swamp, and he leaped up onto a low branch, using it as a bridge over the mud to the next tree's closest branch. “Well, you said it was swimming in magma, right? But it's really a vehicle. I was reading from the Unknown Library about something called a submarine. It's like a boat, but it goes underwater. Only this would be a... submagmatic.”




“A vehicle that travels 'undermagma'.”


Onua nodded. “A submagmatic prison.”


“Containing Ko-Matoran, for some reason... and probably Makuta.” Hujo looked thoughtful again. “You know, Nijire had become famous in recent days for escaping prisons. What if a Kuambu overheard that? What if she is there to test the prison?”


Onua was intrigued. “But why all the Ko-Matoran, and then take some out... and why not just Nijire?”


“Maybe they decided only those forty or so would be likely to help her. I don't know. It doesn't fit perfectly...” This time the look on his face was thoughtful without a hint of an answer coming to mind. “No. There must be more to it.”


“I'm confused, though,” Onua said, remembering that he'd planned to ask Hujo this yesterday. “When were you at a 'Library'? You said something in the meeting about how you were going to go there next.”


“I thought I explained that.”


“I wasn't... really listening...”


Hujo gave him another strange look, raising his eyebrows. “An Unknown met with me and told me I was needed with you first. They gave me a tablet like you have.” He materialized it. Blank right now. “In my spare moments I look at it, and an Unknown at the Library sends the text of one of their record tablets to it.”


“I see... although I don't, really. How do these things work?”


“I don't know. I asked, but they just said they made them.”


“Hujo... tell me you have some idea how I stood like that on the Seahopper.”


The mapmaker shook his head. “I don't. Except... its power comes from that mysterious black metal. Your armor is black. It's the only connection I can think of.”


“Are you saying it's related to Earth?”


“No... but Kopaka told me that he partially remembered some of his past, and an Unknown in his memories said that you had special knowledge of the Unknown back then.”


Onua nodded. “I got the same impression from something Surkahi said, the last time he appeared to us.”


“Maybe you had something to do with the black metal back then. And it's not just metal. It's technology. Apparently it has to do with the Unknown – Bhukasa told me so yesterday.”


“But you don't know how.”


“No. Sorry.”


Onua just kept climbing from branch to branch, not sure what to say.


“If it's any consolation,” Hujo said, “Surkahi told me there's a strong chance that when this is over there will be a few days of peace on this island. If that future happens, he said that you are invited to come to the front entrance of the Unknown city, though you may not enter.”


Onua stopped. “Surkahi hinted at that to me too. Where is this city?”


“I only know that... it's not somewhere you can... walk. It was just destroyed, actually; they're rebuilding it even as we speak. I myself will go with you, though it has not been decided yet if I should enter already.”


Onua grunted. “Well, it would be an honor.”


Ahead he saw fog.




“We're here.”




Nijire finished her speech.


She'd gathered everybody in the dark room the stone blocks had been stored in, and explained her theory as to why they were here.


She listened to their reactions. Most of them agreed with her theory as to the Kuambu's motives in this. A few had trouble imagining that Matoran could test a prison to hold Makuta, but her sighting of what Kejokta had said was Makuta was strong enough evidence to sway even them after a little more discussion.


But almost nobody agreed they should just give up.


“This isn't like you,” Raitu said. “You are the one who escapes.”


“No,” she said. “I'm not. I played along when everybody was praising me as that. Can you blame me? I was the talk of the village. I liked that. But... I'm just a simple fisherwoman. I make traps. Besides, we're moving through magma. This is like falling off a lava surfboard, but far hotter. Who could possibly be an expert here? And that Kuambu said Pakastaa died because of what I did.”


“It wasn't your fault,” Teuara assured her.


“That doesn't matter – I couldn't know then what I know now, but I do know it now. And I'm not giving up on getting out of here! We escape by not trying. Our captors will give up on us eventually and send us home the way they sent Matoro and the others home.”


“We don't know where they sent the others,” Mukana said. “When they captured the Eight Matoran that tried to investigate them, they put them all in that wooden prison. Maybe the others have been sent to those. There are a lot of those prison islands all around Mata Nui, Bhukasa said.”


“Fine,” she said, frustrated. “If the rest of you still want to try to escape, we can keep it in mind, but we don't make a move until we have a solid plan that takes into account where we are. So for now, we do what I said. Agreed?”


The responses were murmurs and looking around to see what others thought of it. No immediate objections. They didn't want to share Pakastaa's fate in a foolhardy attempt any more than she did. She supposed she could relate to their refusal to admit defeat. But she still didn't think she was doing that.


Raitu agreed first, and the others followed suit.


“Good. Now, we don't have much time before they return. Let's get moving.”




Kopaka grinned at what he saw ahead – then quickly closed his mouth; the wind was cold on his teeth.




The Po-Matoran chef who had been controlled by a parasite and left to freeze on Toggler's island.


He and the shapeswitcher were seated on pine logs around a fire in the wind-shadow the airship created on its western side. Korau – not Toggler – was holding the ice sword. Kopaka thought the Matoran looked silly trying to hold the large weapon up.


What did that mean – had Korau already stolen it from the titan? Was he holding Toggler hostage?


And where was the parasite now?


Toggler still had his two ice picks, though. So it was questionable whether either was holding the other hostage. Kopaka decided on a theory, and crept forward, staying low. Whether his theory was right or wrong, it would be wise to take advantage of his white color scheme on approach.


Kopaka studied both of their eyes.

That was where the first symptom of the parasite had been for Korau.


And he saw his answer.


Toggler's eyes were wandering in different directions at the same time. His left eye would look left, while his right would look up. Then one eye would move up and down rapidly while the other stared at Korau.


Kopaka angled to his left – to sneak up behind Toggler. He didn't want the titan to see him coming if he was already to the insane stage.


Korau spotted him.


Kopaka held a finger to his lips.


Toggler saw Korau's eyes lock onto something, and started turning around. Kopaka ducked behind a hill.


“What did you see, brown one?”


“Just a Chogo. A penguin Rahi.”


“I don't see it.”


“It was just passing through.”


“Pass the salad.”


“There is no—”


“Sing the ballad!”


Korau sighed.


The parasite had taken hold.


Kopaka was worried. How could he truly approach without being heard? Was Korau actually in danger?


“Ants,” Toggler said, giggling. “Orange. Change of plans!”


“What?” Korau asked.


“The orange understood. There was a change of plans. I'm the change of plans.”


Korau stepped back a little, holding the sword steady. “Just stay there.”


Kopaka decided he had to chance it. He couldn't just hide forever. I need to get the sword.


“Mind your find,” Toggler muttered, now sounding sad.


Korau held up a bag Kopaka hadn't noticed, drawing Toggler's eyes as Kopaka crept forward as quietly as he could in the crunching snow.


“If you want the pies you have to wait.”


“Korau, it's me,” Toggler said, sounding serious now. “I can't hold on long. Listen, you have to freeze me now. You... ants... there's.... a fence...”


“Freezing you now will do no good. This is your plan.”


“This is the Chancellor's plan. I'm the scapegoat. Which is the opposite of a goatscape. A field full of goats.”


“Whoever's plan it is, I agree with it and I'm sticking to it.”


“Oh yes I agree – this IS the change of plans. Or was that... Bhukasa...”




Toggler nodded.


Kopaka was almost there. He motioned to the bag. Keep him occupied.


Korau held up the bag again. “Are you hungry yet?”


“No. It must be in ten minutes.”


“You said that... I don't know how long ago. Toa Tyaagko wanted these pies all the time when... you were in him.”


“Ten minutes.”


“Suit yourself.”


Toggler stretched. “Is the time up yet? No. Is it? No. Is it? Is it?” He started to turn. “Chogo go!”


“Look here!” Korau said, waving the bag of pie ingredients. “Focus here!”


Kopaka was so nervous he put a foot down too quickly.




Toggler spun.


Saw him.


Stood, grabbing his ice picks.


Kopaka was five feet away. Ran at the titan, with no idea if he was strong enough to overpower him.


The titan swung a pick at him, nearly knocking off his mask, but he ducked just in time, still moving forward, and tackled him around the waist. Which was like tackling a mountain. He groaned and backed away.


“It's Kopaka!” Korau said. “He's part of the plan, Toggler! Remember?”


Toggler hesitated, and Kopaka yanked one pick from his left hand and rolled away.


“Googly-eyed Toa!” Toggler shouted in glee, swinging again, his eyes wandering wildly – messing up his aim. The pick swung back around and hit Toggler's shoulder.


“OW!” he said, looking to the side. “Invisible enemies! Chogo?”


He dropped the pick suddenly, looking horrified. Backed away from it.


Kopaka crouched, stepped forward quickly, grabbed it, and backed up again.


“Okay,” Korau half-said, half-sighed. “Now let's just relax. We have a plan, remember?”


One of Toggler's arms snuck up and scratched his armor where the pick had hit. The rest of him seemed unaware of the arm's movement.


“This is what you were like?” Kopaka asked the chef.


“A little. I didn't progress this far. Toa Tyaagko was like this and worse.”


He sidestepped toward the chef while the titan's eyes were facing elsewhere, and reached with one pick toward Korau. “Trade,” he whispered.


The chef handed over the sword, taking the pick instead.


Just like that, the harshness of the cold faded away, and he felt a connection with the snow and ice all around him. He handed over the other pick, and aimed the sword at the ground in front of Toggler.


Shot a beam of ice out. Stabbed it into the ground. A single icicle rose up, and thickened. To its right, another grew, and ice energy circled the titan, sending up more.


“Oooh,” Toggler said. “Pretty ice crystals. Tasty?” He leaned his head forward and tried to bite into one, but Kopaka toughened the ice so it wouldn't chip off. Toggler's face twitched as the ice continued to flow upwards and he kept trying to dig his teeth in, so his teeth slid and bounced down the side every few moments.


Finally the ice cage was strong enough that he was pretty sure Toggler couldn't get out.


Kopaka lowered the sword.


“I should have thought of that,” Korau said.


“That's why I'm the Toa of Ice,” Kopaka replied, smiling. He felt the weapon's hilt, and looked down at it. It was amazing how... absolutely identical it seemed to his own Btou-merged sword. He had almost forgotten it wasn't his sword. And his power over ice felt the same too.


Perhaps the same person had forged both swords.


But that wasn't the history he needed to know about now. He turned to the chef, sat down on the log, sheathing the sword, and said, “Now. Tell me everything.”Review here

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Chapter 26



“Do you want my story first, or the story of Haywire?” Korau asked, referring to the parasite's name. “I spent enough time with it that I know its history.”


Kopaka considered. Looked at the airship – tapped its hull. “Actually, let's start with where this came from, and how it works – resources first. We might need it soon.”


“That's in both stories, but let's start with mine, because we brought some other resources on board. It's an airship from Metru Nui. You know what that is?”


Kopaka's eyes widened. He recalled it from the series of his partial memories that Rathoa had once shown him. The city below this island. Where the Matoran truly belonged. He nodded.


Korau explained briefly how it worked.


“Toggler was in trouble once down in the Matoran Universe, as it's called, so he stole it from the city, and took it to the sunhole beneath his island. I had thought that was just a little spot of ice – that's the same place I was left to freeze. But the ice all around that is covering the lid – the hole is bigger than it seems. Anyways, Toggler had already found his ice sword, that ice sword by then, so he moved the ice, opened the lid, flew through, and put it back the way he found it.”


“An alliance was tested!” Toggler said. “They had known when but not where, there'd be orange in the air!”


“That's the other story,” Korau chided him, annoyed. “Anyways, fast forward to when I was left there. Haywire reacted to the cold as planned, and left me. But that mutant who told us that was the warmest spot on the island lied. It was the coldest. Haywire went down the mountain and infected another shapeswitcher.”


“We had gathered as much,” Kopaka said. “Bhukasa found out.”


“Well, the Seahopper showed up, and they thought it was part of an attack, so they fired on it.”


“Oh no...”


“They got away, but Toggler came ashore to explain the truth. They were furious. But they let him retrieve me and thaw me.”


“You actually froze up there?”


Korau gave a very slight nod, a steely look in his eyes. “You have no idea how that felt.”


“Actually, I do,” Kopaka said. “I'm so sorry they did that.”


He shook his head. “The mutant was using me for revenge on Toggler's people. And the cold did free me from Haywire.”


“How'd it get in Toggler?”


“I was exiled,” Toggler whispered sadly.


Korau nodded. “The Chancellor – leader of his people – forced him into a room, without his sword, with the shapeswitcher who was currently infected. They used the sword to slowly chill the infected one until Haywire came out, and infected Toggler. Then they gave me the sword, and a boat, and told me to take him far away, and never come back.”


Toggler looked away, pursing his lips and frowning. His eyes behaved normally for a moment.


“But he told me where he'd hidden the airship, under the ice. We took that instead and flew north.”


Kopaka nodded. “You said you brought some things?”


“Not from there. They wouldn't give us anything. We stopped off at Kriitunga Island on our way here, and met up with the Toa Rua.”


Kopaka suddenly looked at the airship, alarmed. Resources...


“They had found, or at least, Onua told them... a huge collection of—”


“No,” Kopaka said, standing up as his mask power activated.


Energy packs.


Hundreds of them, piled inside the airship.


He turned to the chef. “Hujo warned us about those. Please tell me that isn't one on your back.”


“Well, yeah, but—”


A smashing sound, while his back was turned.


Kopaka felt ice shards clatter against his armor.




Toggler was gone, half the icicles shattered.


A blue and white sphere – Toggler's other form – hovered rapidly across the snow, away from them.


“Hey!” Kopaka shouted.




“You have to use your mask!” Korau shouted after him. “Freeze just Haywire after you...”


Kopaka couldn't hear the rest, but he understood. He shouted back, “DON'T USE THE PACKS!”


He shot ice at the sphere just before it disappeared over a hill.


But the ice beam took too long to fly. Toggler disappeared.


Kopaka threw down his shield and leaped on to use it as a snowboard, then aimed the sword behind him.


Ice exploded from the ground, forming a ramp, and he swung the sword forward, making a slide of ice under him and ahead for a ways.


Raised the ramp so its front lip went under him, steepening. He slid down it.


Gained enough momentum to slide over the low hill. Kept his mask power on, watching Toggler.


The sphere went faster now – and dodged to the right, heading southwest. Kopaka increased the angle of the ice behind him, raising the track as he moved.


Then he crossed over another hill – from here on it was mostly downhill. He picked up speed.


Toggler hovered over a cliff of rock and would have disappeared if not for Kopaka's mask. The Toa spotted a cave that crossed through the rock formation and angled toward it.


Zoomed through it, the walls blurs mere inches away. He crouched low and held his arms in.


Came out. Toggler had turned west now.


Kopaka's face was calm, his mind focused. This was how it had been for him before. This was what he was good at. It felt good to rule the Wahi again. Toggler had picked the wrong person to flee from here.


Just don't lose the sword...




Nijire, Mukana, and five others crept slowly through the shallow water in the caves. The others carried lightstones and guns held at the ready; she carried a lightstone, and a ticking clock, her gun stored in her backpack.


Up ahead was the bronze room she had first woken up in. It was entirely submerged in the deep zone now, visible only as a bronze blur reflecting their lightstones beneath the black water.


With more light now she was able to get a much better idea of the cavern's design. She realized now why something had felt so off about it earlier.


It was not made of natural stone.


The columns and even the irregular floor were patterned just like the interconnected junk in the icescape above, but proto-concrete had been painted thickly over everything, disguising it. She pointed it out to the others.


“Why go to all this trouble?” Mukana wondered. “Why make us think we were on Vaurukan's island?”


Nijire just shrugged. She was more interested in exploring down here now. Some of the others volunteered theories but she didn't listen. They walked quietly around the entire cavern, making sure her earlier conclusion was right that there was no other tunnel out of here.


Yes, the 'cave' the stream flowed into dipped down entirely underwater. She closed her eyes for a second, absorbing how deadly her other choice would have been.


Or would it have been?

So far the creatures hadn't actually killed anyone. The one who had died, and the two who almost had, died from their own failure to fly safely. Could the Kuambu really guarantee that their rule against killing held firm here? And hadn't Jaudrohk said the creatures left people alone in Vaurukan's village?


Maybe it had all been an act to herd her around where Vaurukan wanted her to go. To force her out of the caves, to eventually find Makuta and realize why she was here.


After all, only she had been down here to find what she thought were natural caves. At first she'd just assumed the stream had randomly swept her bronze room down here. Everything seemed orchestrated to put on a show specifically for her.


But she didn't know for sure that only she had been down here. Kejokta had said there were other underground streams. All the rooms on the surface had been cleared, but what if hers wasn't the only one washed down here?


That was the basis of her new plan.


If she could indeed find anyone else down here, she could better convince the others not to try to escape again, at least not until a thorough grid search had been completed. The show Vaurukan put on for her would even be helped if some Matoran had been in a predicament similar to hers but simply had not been freed by a 'chance' encounter with a mandible worm.


So now they swam upstream, past the hanging staircase, and around the bend in the river.


They encountered a branch where three tributaries combined to form the larger stream.


“Which way?” Mukana asked.


“When I was helping Hujo on his quest for the Blue Fire staff,” Nijire said, “we had to make our way through six mazes. Hujo found the best way to handle a maze was to pick the right or left wall and always follow that side, wherever it took you, never to switch to the other side. Eventually we would come back to the middle one and then later the third. So pick left or right.”


“Right would go away from the lava region,” another Matoran said. “That's my vote. Less chance of meeting those worm things.”


They all agreed and swam that way.


They found several more forks, some that angled up to admit cold water from the junkscape above, others that stayed underground. Gradually the water became more shallow, until they were wading. Occasionally the stream branched into two streams instead of two tributaries combining to one. Always one of these ended up turning deeper underground.


Nijire assumed those streams would enter pipes with pumps that sent the water up the sides of the dome to rain from the ceiling.


Once they saw a mandible worm wading by a fork ahead. They closed hands over their lightstones and the ends of their guns, closing their eyes and holding one arm over their heartlights. The worm did not see them, and went a different way.


Finally, her theory paid off.


An unopened bronze room.


She splashed up to it and turned the handle.


Clattering and an exclamation of surprise greeted her. She held the lightstone up to see who the eyes and heartlight inside belonged to. Saw a strange mask that looked something like a Miru with the nose part turned into the forehead part – a Mask of Freezing.




The scholar nodded. “Nijire? Mukana?” He looked around at the others. “Let me guess. We are in a dome and there are enemies chasing us connected with fire in some way? Are we fleeing into a forest?”


She stared at the Ko-Matoran. “How...”


“Page five thousand and twenty three of the Second Edition of my Exhaustive Guide to the Wall of Prophecy,” he said. “It said one who reads cold stone would have walls of bronze. I threw it all out for the Third Edition but I guess I shouldn't have.”


Mukana laughed. “I guess you were bound to be right one of these days. Come, we must look for others.”


They scoured the room for masks, but unfortunately found none. Nijire hoped the other groups searching the empty rooms on the surface were having more luck at that part of the plan.


She quietly summed up what had happened to Akohre.


The scholar nodded slowly when it was all done.


“So... uh... does your book say what happens next?” she asked.


“Well, it is not my books that count but the Wall itself,” Akohre says. “There are eleven key words associated with that theory I had – cold stone reader, bronze walls, flee torches, dome, forest, lightstone pile.”


“There's been no pile of lightstones,” Mukana said. He held his up. “Although we have a lot of them now.”


“In my original edition I thought that a pile of lightstones would conceal a hole, in which something of value would be found,” Akohre said. “I expanded that in the Second Edition as finding a pile somewhere in a forest once the Wall Reader enters the forest. That's where I would look if I were you.”


“Then we should wait for 'night',” Nijire said. “Assuming the fake sun above will go dim as it was when I first got out from down here. A pile of lightstones should be easy to find then. We could even use one of the hoverers, as long as we stay low.”


Could this actually be a way out? she wondered. It would be an odd way to hide a hatch to a teleportation room, though. You'd have to restack the lightstones each time. She wasn't sure how she felt about it, but at the very least, maybe it just meant they'd have more lightstones handy. And even if it was a possibility of escape, she could now convince the others they couldn't leave yet, thanks to finding Akohre.


Yes. Yes, she decided it probably wouldn't hurt to look for such a pile.


“But,” she said out loud, “I think we should keep this to ourselves.” She looked sharply at the others, making it clear she was not asking. “Let's not give the others false hope.”




Onua and Hujo stood in the leftmost branching room of the Watcher Temple, staring at an orange-glowing hole in the ground.




The pedestal and the Crystal of the Past had apparently been carried down a modified tendril into the submagmatic far below, just as the Ko-Matoran had been.


“I can't say I'm surprised,” Hujo said with a sigh. “What now?”


The crystal in his energy pack spoke up in his thoughts and he held up a hand for Hujo to wait. I found it!


It gave him a sense of the egg-shaped brain speeding through magma like a Takea through the water between it and its prey.


But it was apparently made out of domes, so wouldn't it be spherical? Try to pass through the head area.


The crystal did.


Past the illusion of the almost-molten brain texture.


Through a skin of advanced technology projecting that illusion, most of it slimed to keep the magma away. But there was a small hatch near the top that was not slimed.




Found several hallways all made of the tech. Kuambu – appearing as blurs even to the crystal – manning various machines.


Explored the hallways.




A pedestal.


With a crystal atop it.


Onua summed up what he'd learned to Hujo.


“Can the crystal confirm the other Ko-Matoran are in there still?” Hujo asked.


The crystal heard the question through Onua's ears, and tried to zoom through the nose section to the sphere behind.


No luck there. But it kept trying, and soon it found a giant hatch, open. Yellow-clearish bubbles of energy held out the magma there, but the crystal's focus could pass through it.


It beheld the inside of the dome, just as Matoro had described it.


Explored there until it found several groups of Matoran exploring bronze rooms scattered across the junkscape.


Down into the caves.

There was Nijire with another group, including Mukana and Akohre. They were opening another bronze room, letting out another Matoran.


He wasn't sure how many more were unaccounted for, but not many. He just nodded.


Stay with it, he told the crystal.


“I guess we should meet up with the other Toa,” Onua said. “Figure out where to go from there. And we still need to figure out what happened to Hafu, that other Po-Matoran, and the Ga-Matoran mercenary. The tendrils apparently can't chase us for now so we should do that soon.”


Hujo nodded.

As they turned to leave, Onua checked the Unknown tablet habitually and was surprised to find a message in big words.




He held the tablet up so Hujo could read it.


“Return the Claw of Strength,” Hujo read aloud. “NOW.”


Onua glanced at his right claw-glove. Why would the Unknown give it to him only to take it away?


Hujo walked forward, stopped, and looked back. “Come on. I'm sure they have a good reason. And I think now means now...”


Onua shook his head, but he walked forward and headed for the third room. “Fine.” If that was anger he heard in his own voice, so be it.




Kopaka chased Toggler into a region with many pine trees.


Twice he almost caught up to the spherical being, but always Toggler took a turn over a cliff or a gorge, so Kopaka had to spend more time making his ramp of ice higher, or making a bridge.


He didn't let himself get frustrated. Such was how it must go, and frustration would be his greatest enemy. A calm mind, but rapid breathing and high adrenaline let him think fast and adapt faster.


Over a hill, down a slope, ducking under the low branches of two pines close to each other, turning sharp, snow flying to the side. The feeling of his stomach leaping up to his chest every time he went over a hill, his arms sinking when he hit the bottom, leaning to the right when he turned right, always the blue and white sphere just turning out of sight around a tree or a cliff ahead.


Kopaka felt that his center of balance drew a line across the landscape, hovering in the air, while his shield etched another line below him. He felt instinctively when the two lines needed to match or when one needed to go right while the other went left.


Now he neared Toggler again, seeing no major obstacle ahead.


They zoomed through a region of crystals.


Kopaka remembered seeing crystals here before, but he was surprised to see that they were all broken to pieces. Each was colored translucent pastel blue. Here and there cliff walls had been formed of the crystal but most of these were smashed too. He recalled that a Rahunga base had been in a cave system hidden by one of these walls, but he didn't see it now.


But he couldn't focus on this.


After quickly scanning the crystals to ensure no enemy was hiding behind them – just a Muaka off to the right, and Toggler was going the other way – he made the ice slicker and sped even closer to Toggler.


There was a good downhill stretch of snow ahead. He didn't need a moving ice ramp now, so he aimed forward and shot out ice.


The beam stabbed forward like a lance.


Toggler turned right.


The beam broke on a tree.


Kopaka tried again, now even closer.


The ice touched Toggler this time, but the hovering ball turned down and bounced off the snow. Kopaka aimed down to compensate and the beam hit the ground. Spikes of ice erupted right in his path.




Missed it by inches.


Calm. Focus.


Still close.


Toggler turned east now – they had crossed most of Ko-Wahi already, and now everything was downhill as the mountains curved around Mount Ihu to the lower region west of the Mangai.


A whoosh as the pair emerged from the trees. Ahead was open snow for a while.


Beam of ice.




Toggler turned right a little. Kopaka aimed right – the whole beam turned that way.


The shapeswitcher bounced off the snow – Kopaka didn't fall for it.




Toggler sped up.


The beam shattered under its own weight and Kopaka was forced to dodge and direct the pieces so they wouldn't hit him. He fell behind quite a lot now.


He wasn't going at his top speed?


Why wouldn't he? Insanity was the most obvious choice... but...


Grimly Kopaka decided the answer was much worse.


Toggler was leading him somewhere on purpose.


Leading him into a trap.




Nijire whispered, “Alright, time's up.”


They'd agreed to search the caves only for a while, to make sure they finished the plan before Kejokta and Jaudrohk returned.


They'd freed one more Matoran, a guard who never spoke, named Ktongii. He was good at throwing Stunspears, and interestingly a pile of bundles of them had been in his room. Everybody had one spear handy now, and they were carrying back the extras for the others.


The group took one of the upturning tunnels to the surface and traveled across the icescape back to the stone rooms, tired of wading through dark water on an irregular floor.


The other groups were already back.


Raitu's group had found three other Matoran, to Nijire's surprise, as he'd been searching the surface. “They were out of our sight earlier behind nearby towers,” the guard said.


His group and one other had found masks. A Mask of Temperature Shielding – the Ko-Matoran didn't need that here, but maybe it would help slightly against lava... a Mask of Vision – could be very, very useful; she planned to assign a guard to be wearing that at all times, and a Rahunga Mask of Nutrition. The latter would probably be useless to them.


“Alright,” she told everybody. “Let me write the message and we'll head out.”


Everything had gone much better than she'd hoped. Jaudrohk had said the weapons might be tracked, so they'd have to leave those behind, but the Stun Spears would be a good alternative. They wouldn't help against creatures, but those apparently didn't enter the forest. And no matter who came near the Matoran, they could see them coming now.


She pulled out a chisel and a tablet she'd collected earlier and hurriedly inscribed the message.


Kejokta and Jaudrohk, we can't be sure either of you can be trusted. We'll be hiding at a new spot in the forest.


Either of you can try to find us, just don't bring anything trackable.


And Kejokta, don't come until you give up rahudermis.


I'm sorry.




She set a pure Matoran Kanohi down next to the tablet, and turned away.Review here

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Chapter 27



As the sun set behind the cloud cover, dimming the light in Ko-Wahi, Kopaka kept thinking of the Rahi he'd seen from the cable ride. He wondered if they wrestled with indecision like he was doing now.


Toggler had a highly dangerous parasite in him, but Kopaka was sure continuing the chase would be very, very risky.


Who was the real predator here? Haywire?


Kopaka decided on a definite yes. Toggler could apparently easily escape him. He had to remind himself that those ice picks Korau had were the normal way the titan's species sped around in their snowy world. And this was Toggler's ice-sword. He was intimately familiar with what Kopaka could and couldn't do while sledding.


So if he had felt truly in danger – if Haywire had felt so, stealing Toggler's knowledge – then he would have circled around to make sure to steal the ice picks back from the chef.


Since he didn't, he was confident he could escape at any time in the sphere form if need be.


What would the trap be?


Well, it would probably be in Le-Wahi, since he was headed that way. Away from Kopaka's home realm.


Where did Haywire come from?


Who might the tiny machine have been made by?


Loyal to?


The first glimmer of a theory dawned on him, and Kopaka immediately turned his head, looking around for a convenient way out. Chasing was far more dangerous than he'd thought, if he was right. Dangerous enough that he didn't care if his theory was right. He had to find a way to get better perspective and spot the trap... and set one of his own.


For a while he saw no safe way out. Just various gullies and hills and some places where the rock was steep enough to not be coated in snow or ice. Some ice caves... even a rock cave, one he recognized.


Some of them would be a decent gamble. He could block the rock cave with a wall of ice. What would Toggler do then? Keep fleeing and hope Kopaka got worried enough about Haywire getting away to chase again? He might try to come back and... maybe slam into the rock, hoping it would collapse...


He was about to take the risk, when he spotted a better choice.


A little place atop a cliff where the ice just didn't look natural. Too smooth, too circular.


Kopeke's spy-system.


He remembered that the resourceful, hermetic Ko-Matoran had painstakingly set up a vast network of tubes of clear ice, all bouncing scenes back to a single multi-facted piece of ice in a cave, letting him watch over the entire Wahi from that one spot. How often he had seen Rahi raids coming and warned Ko-Koro early, Kopaka didn't dare guess.


Better yet, Kopaka saw a difference in the light in this circle that told him Kopeke was actually there.


That seemed impossible, but then the Mask of Telecommunication had been broken, so if Onua actually did free the Ko-Matoran Kopaka wouldn't know about it, if the timing had overlapped his coming to Ko-Wahi.


Kopeke also had a network of tunnels with lockable doors. Much safer than a natural cave.


He looked at the circle, and nodded.


Turned, scanning the area for the closest tunnel.




Headed that way, looking back at Toggler.


The hovering sphere kept going. Soon it was out of sight.


Kopaka took that as confirmation of his worst fear. If Toggler was working on his own he would have to give up on luring Kopaka to a trap; he'd have to come back and take the Toa down himself.


Then he reminded himself ice really was a big threat to Haywire. Maybe he had overestimated its confidence. Maybe he'd even imagined the whole thing about a trap, or more likely Toggler's second priority behind capturing Kopaka was simply escaping.


Besides all that, when Kopaka had spoken with the titan he seemed to still be able to fight the parasite's influence, so it would be wrong to assume Haywire alone guided his actions now.


But something about the way Toggler hovered away just struck him as off.


He couldn't quite place it – how do you analyze a sphere's body language? Maybe it was because Toggler didn't hesitate for even a split second.


As Kopaka ran into Kopeke's tunnel, he decided he had to be right.


Haywire was working for the Kuambu... on the side the Kal were being forced to serve... and more importantly, working with Vaurukan.


And Vaurukan's creature. Something it had done when it sent the lava toward Le-Koro had set the trap.


With that, a memory came crashing to the surface of his mind, and he realized the horrible truth.


The other four Toa had been headed that way the last he'd seen... and if Kopeke was back, Onua probably was too, and he'd want to get an update.


All five of the other Toa were heading into Vaurukan's trap.




Nijire and the others walked cautiously through the forest, erasing any tracks they made.


She felt horrible about what she had done, and especially that they'd basically rejected the Kuambu's offer to give them Pakastaa's body. But as callous as it seemed, with the knowledge that this was Makuta's prison there was no time to risk on a funeral.


What made her feel even worse was that she didn't care about Pakastaa's death as much as her personal betrayal of Kejokta. Angrily she tried to blame him. Hadn't he forced her to distrust him by his own betrayal? Surely so. But it didn't feel right. She was supposed to be better than that. But why must she focus on this, not on how her own actions caused Pakastaa's death?


She thought back to how often, after returning to the village with a good catch of ice-fish, Pakastaa would salute, and the snow would fall off of him.

She smiled at the memory, but that made her eyes threaten to loose the flood of tears they held back now, so she dropped the smile quickly.


What have I done? Oh what have I done?


Why were the others still listening to her? What really was behind their occasional glances at her? She'd almost led them to their deaths too.


She kept trying to find solace in the fact that she'd repented immediately, taken up a new role she had never been known for as the pacifist. But then a voice deep inside her kept telling her that this was not who she was – that she had overreacted, if such a thing was possible, to Pakastaa's death, to the Taking of the other two.


Yet to top it all off, she felt even more guilty for thinking any reaction to such a thing could possibly be an overreaction.


The deeper they walked into the forest, the more and more numb her mind went. She couldn't even think enough to label what she was going through, to lure it into a net and dissect it. It was the net around her.


Had the Kuambu intended this place to have such a profound effect on her, she vaguely wondered?


Or had she imagined her entire theory? Imagined herself as filling any important role in the Kuambu's plans at all? In the end, was she so arrogant as to think the world really did revolve around her?


The more numb she felt to all of this the more sure she was that she really was just one of many Matoran trapped here, and everything that led her to form the theory was just a strange coincidence.


Coincidences did happen. She'd run into her fair share in the lifelong game of ice-fishing. Moments when she'd been splayed out with her four limbs against the walls of an air pocket, over a stream of freezing water, shaking with fatigue and just fighting to stay in position by friction alone... and the second she lost her grip an ice-fish just happened to swim under her net, and she caught it.


It had happened enough times that she'd lost count.


Like a Muaka's neck springing out to pounce, a new conclusion leaped out of her intuition. The reason she didn't feel so bad about Pakastaa's death was she'd done everything she would be expected to do. She couldn't have known better. That was the old Nijire, the one whose deepest worry was failing to live up to her reputation as the one who escapes traps.


This new crime, this deception, she allowed herself to call it, this was something she felt was wrong the whole time, and yet she did it anyways.


They reached a spot Mukana declared to be a good camp - - he had the Btou staff and the Akaku, as well as the other masks.


There was no sign of a pile of lightstones, but that didn't surprise her. Akohre had been wrong before – that was the rule, not the exception.


She quietly obeyed Mukana's orders in helping to arrange and disguise the camp. She only just now noticed that the eight higher windows had already almost totally dimmed, mimicking late dusk.


Soon it was 'night' in the dome.


Mukana asked for three volunteers to take alternating shifts at the night watch. Raitu and Teuara said they'd do it, and Ktongii raised a hand.


“We'll need to look for food, too,” Mukana said. “It really can't be put off any longer – we've all been going on empty. I need five volunteers.”


She barely felt hungry, but she raised a hand Ktongii-style – afraid her voice would crack if she tried to speak – and went off to 'hunt' – or to get away from eyes that might see if she couldn't hold back the tears any more.


“Stay within my range of Vision,” Mukana said as they left, “and erase your tracks.”


The tears didn't come, though, now that the pressure to hide them was off. She wondered if this was why Ktongii and Kopeke both kept to themselves and didn't talk much, but she doubted it. Hermits just liked the silence. She was one of the most talkative Ko-Matoran. Normally she craved conversation.


The strange mix of numbness and unstoppable chain reactions of thoughts continued as she wandered around aimlessly, vaguely looking for a Rahi to catch.


Her eyes registered the lack of orange light, but she only slowly absorbed that it meant Kejokta and Jaudrohk were heading back now. That they were all safer now. Maybe right now Kejokta was hoping he had finally earned her trust, eager to come back in... and eyes alighting on that accursed tablet.


She felt so horrible about Kejokta because Makuta could take control of his body at any time as long as he still wore that mask. Did Kejokta realize this as strongly as he should? Would he read her tablet and immediately rip off the mask?


Probably not, judging from his comment about Mukana being foolish. But he would think about it. Maybe even do it if he had enough time alone.


Makuta would probably realize this was his only chance. Take control perhaps immediately, and never let up until either he was freed or... Well, he didn't have any qualms about spending lives for his evil goals, and this place was dangerous.


That was why she felt so guilty now, she realized. This time she was leading someone to their likely death, with eyes wide open, and this time it was him. The one who had once been her best friend... who had really been tricked, at least at first, into Makuta's service. Who had been earning back her trust. Who'd had a chance already to take her down and hadn't. Who had warned her of Jaudrohk's deception.


His betrayal of her had been nothing compared to this.


And if she really feared Makuta, why hadn't she just punched Kejokta in the face when he was looking the other way, smash the mask before Makuta had a chance to take control, and give her old friend the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn't always hate her for it? At least he'd be safe.




She had decided, somewhere inside herself, that she was willing to spend his life rather than face his anger at a friend intervening. Rather than put her foot down and take a stand, she had fled.


One tear finally escaped her right eye, and the worst realization of all was that one tear was all she could bring herself to shed for all of her guilt.




Kopaka listened as Kopeke summed up – very briefly – what he knew of Onua's travels, and what Matoro had told him from inside the dome – Kopeke himself had not gotten free of his smaller cell before the Kuambu knocked him out and took him away.


Apparently Ito had talked to Onua as well, and concluded the dome was actually a vehicle far below, inside the magma of the planet.


A terrifying thought, even for a Toa of Ice. He imagined how much worse it would be for a Ko-Matoran.


He tried to think why the Kuambu would side with a villain who would construct such a thing and put his people through such terror. Supposedly they didn't kill, but they were enemies nonetheless.


He also wondered at the tale of Sairiph's sacrifice. Had he misjudged him?


Mostly he was distracted by what he saw through Kopeke's ice spying system.


Toggler had switched back to his titan form, and was wandering apparently aimlessly in the southern end of Ko-Wahi. Kopaka wondered if the trap was actually there, not in Le-Wahi at all.


But he didn't wonder this for long, because with the lenses and with his Akaku – being just barely in range – he could see all five Toa headed into a trap, just as he'd feared.


A trap made out of Bohrok-Kal, approaching from all directions even as Onua neared the other four, with Hujo.


Those four were still fleeing Nuhvok-Kal, but he had taken a new form, a larger, blockier version of his original form that could fold up into something similar to a sphere, or unfold to a tall titan form. Kopaka couldn't tell if it was still trying to kill them or what, but he worried what would happen when it spotted Onua.


From the southeast, Lehvak-Kal came, still in the strange sideways-tires-for-feet form, with guns for hands. If he stayed in that form until he reached them he would apparently act like Nuhvok-Kal had been, trying to attack them.


From the west, having just come out of the cave from Onu-Koro to Le-Wahi, Gahlok-Kal charged with wild fury, still carrying Gali's hooks.


And from the north, the bulky hunchback beast form of Pahrak-Kal, being led by voice commands by a tall lithe form of Tahnok-Kal, that looked almost identical to the tall form of Nuhvok-Kal when he'd helped save Ta-Koro.


Behind them, Kohrok-Kal came, still in his Bahrag-like form, apparently arguing viciously with Tahnok-Kal.


Kopeke gestured at Kopaka, then at the lenses. He couldn't see as much as Kopaka could, but he saw enough to know the others were in trouble.


Kopaka nodded grimly. The others needed his help.


But what if there was more to the trap? They were all near the cooking lava around Le-Koro.


“Flare?” He asked.


Kopeke shook his head.


There were probably flares still at Ko-Koro but it would take too long to get there. He didn't see a choice. If only he had a Mask of Telecommunication!


But he didn't have to go close to help. He could at least try to defeat Gahlok-Kal, and perhaps the others would see his beam of ice flying and...


Sharp pain in the neck.


Kopaka turned, raising his sword. Kopeke shrieked in surprise as Kopaka almost hit him with it.


He saw nobody.


Felt his neck with his hand. Nothing seemed to be wrong.


Kopeke didn't ask what was wrong; he just glanced warily at Kopaka, then peered intently into the facets of ice, perhaps assuming Kopaka had seen something with his mask.


A suspicion... a fear... surfaced in Kopaka's mind, but it was too horrible to allow, and it had been said in the meeting that it was impossible.


He turned his thoughts back to the problem at hand.


He now knew why Toggler had come this way. One way or the other, Kopaka would see the Toa's predicament, and would be very likely to join them.But he didn't understand what Toggler wanted him to do about it. To wrongly think he could help and end up in the trap himself? Actually help them avoid the trap? Or avoid the area?


He immediately ruled out the third option. Even if Toggler had been trying to warn him, he couldn't just leave them to fall.


Besides, ice might be effective against even the strongest Kal element. Freeze the Plasma one first and then pick them off one by one.


He gave one final nod to Kopeke and left.




The crystal warned Onua that the giant hatches were closing – two were closed already; all that was left was the one that had been open only slightly.


It wondered if it should move its focus out and see where the submagmatic was going, or stay inside – either way it might be its last chance to pass its focus through the wall.


He quickly asked Hujo for his opinion.


“Better stay inside to watch the Matoran.”


Onua had been leaning toward that too. The crystal agreed, and sought out Nijire.


He and Hujo traveled low, leaping from branch to branch just above the mud of the Fau swamp. It was black as night down here even though the sun hadn't quite set yet – the three tiny bolts of blue flame that perpetually spun in a circle between the prongs of Hujo's staff cast a dancing light on the scene, making countless shadows dance.


The jungle was filled with the noises of Rahi, but occasionally he kept thinking he heard something different. At first he assumed it was just another Rahi, but there it was again.




Immediately he felt something was wrong – his blur kept sinking into the earth, and everything around him was switching between blurry and sharp. He figured it was just because the crystal's own focus was so far away right now, and zoomed ahead.


Beheld the four Toa, and the Kal sneaking up on them from all directions. At least, he assumed they were the Kal, judging from the Krana in their heads, and the silver in most of their color schemes, but they were all in strange forms, several larger than normal Bohrok. He remembered the Kuambu stealing the Kal and figured they had done something to them.




“Hujo, send up a bolt of fire like a flare. Now.”


The Ta-Matoran obeyed, and the blue flames shot up into the sky. Hujo even made them burst apart with a bright flash when they were high enough up.




Fought the sinking and the blurring – which was worse now – and saw that the Toa were looking at Hujo's flare, expressions of confusion on their faces.


Lehvak-Kal was almost in range, frozen in a leap from behind a tree. As soon as Onua would let time flow, the Kal would fire the guns it apparently had for hands now. The Toa were looking more that way now thanks to the flare than they had been. When they turned back to the Nuhvok-Kal they were already fighting, they would see the motion and react accordingly.


But Onua couldn't think how to warn them about the other four Kal.


Where is Kopaka? He had a feeling the next time he froze a moment he might not be able to see at all. The crystal agreed, fearing it was a side effect of its own focus being inside the submagmatic, and desperately asked if it should actually leave.


Onua didn't know what to tell it – he just knew he had to search for Kopaka now. It wasn't easy considering he didn't know where Kopaka was, and if he was in Ko-Koro, he blended in well.


But soon he found him, almost in the first area he looked, heading toward the other Toa from the north. It was easier than he expected because it seemed Kopaka was making a giant tower of ice, even as he slid south on his shield.


He sees the Kal too, of course. That's his version of a flare.


Onua almost unfroze the moment, but hesitated. What should he do? Continue north? Risk his own safety and Hujo's?


What did the Kal want? Lewa had warned to watch them closely, and it seemed he'd been right, but right how?




“Why would the Bohrok-Kal be attacking us,” he asked Hujo. “And... in different shapes?”


Hujo just stared at him in confusion, but with a surprising undercurrent of calm. “The crystal can freeze time for me too, right?”


“Yes. Take my hand.”




Onua showed the Jahurungi... or tried. Now everything was mostly a blur. The crystal confirmed that the third giant hatch was closing. Onua and the crystal both distracted Hujo with the question of what to do, but Hujo insisted the crystal needed to stay with Nijire.


I have my own way to see our own surroundings from afar, Hujo reminded them.


Yes, his strange trance. But that took time, Onua thought. This was better in most ways.


Nevertheless, Hujo insisted on sticking with the plan. He observed the situation with the Kal.


Notice the little dots of blue light around the Krana, he said.


Onua looked. When next the scene changed briefly from blurry to sharp, he saw them. Come to think of it, he'd vaguely noticed them in the previous moment, but their arrangements had been different. What are they?


If time was flowing right now you'd see them as blue sparkles.


Onua understood. Blue sparkles had been seen around him and the other Toa when those lanterns changed them. But what are they doing? I don't see any chronoserum around.


Just then Onua was kicked out of the moment from staying in it too long.


Hujo opened his eyes, looking surprised. “What happened?”


“Never mind that, answer the question quick!”


“I think we're seeing Convergeance, Onua.”


“What do you mean? There were Kal in the Cosmos? What do they do?”


Hujo shook his head. “I can't tell you. I promised not to. You have to experience things as they happen.”


“You know what they're doing? Are they trying to kill my friends?”


“No. At least they didn't in the Cosmos. Look, just get away from here. I'll go warn the others.”


“What if they attack you too?”


“Just go!” Hujo materialized the strange boots, stepped into them, and they shapeshifted into the flying suit. “Go east and around to the Seahopper and tell them to meet me at Kriitunga Island. The submagmatic apparently can't attack us now, so we'll have time to talk there.”


“What will you—”


But Hujo flew away before he could finish the question.


Onua considered following him anyways, but he knew it was too risky. He tried to freeze time again but found he couldn't – whether from spending too much time in moments so recently or the hatches being closed he didn't know. The crystal had found a tablet saying roughly where Nijire's group was headed, and was now searching amidst the trees, so it didn't have a good line of sight on the hatch.


Finally it found the Ko-Matoran group, building and disguising a shelter out of leafy branches. Nijire wasn't among them, but the crystal soon found her wading in a nearby stream.




Nijire stood as still as she could in the water, left hand over her heartlight and her eyes narrowed so almost no light escaped, watching the little twin stars of fish eyes meander toward her.


So far they seemed to be able to feel the slight vibrations of her breathing and kept ducking around her, staying just out of reach.


So she started taking deep breaths and holding them.


Right arm was aimed forward, elbow slightly bent, hand spread wide like a leafless branch. Back bent forward slightly, weight on her toes, knees also slightly bent. Right leg farther back than the other, so most of the weight was on her left leg.


A fish wandered close.


Pushed with her right leg as she lifted her left toward her chest, falling forward, arm bending, splashing into the water, eyes going wide to see her prey better.


Fish darted.


Her hand sluggishly turned to correct for the motion.


Thumb collided with fish.


Water slammed into face. Couldn't breath. Hand clenched tightly around nothing.


She got her feet back under her and stood up, gasping for air. Panted for a while. This method wouldn't work; these fish were too fast.


She needed a net.


But as she turned to look around for vines she could tied together, she thought, as she had so many times over the centuries, how glad she was that, for now, that particular fish had escaped to live the rest of its life. How sad it was that there weren't nutritious enough plants to eat instead of Rahi, at least for long-term survival.


And as she had done millions of times before, she reminded herself that this feeling kept her from becoming a heartless monster like Makuta, but it could not rule her, for fate had decreed that Rahi must die so she could live. And so she determined to try as hard as she could to catch the next fish.


She knew that this feeling would not surface while she was on the hunt.


If she caught a fish with the net, she would rejoice in a successful catch, and bring it back proudly to the others. Only when she awoke the next day would the pang of regret float like a thin fog around her, and fade away with the morning sun – or fake sun in this case.


It felt good to be doing her job, even if it wasn't amidst ice right now. It felt normal.


The obvious parallels kept lurking around in her mind, but she pushed them away. The difference was, the regret and the doubts never left her when she did what she did to Kewonga and Jaudrohk, and besides, hiding from someone was really not comparable to killing for food when she thought about it. Maybe she was overthinking all of this.


She nodded to herself, as the net started to come together. She had done what she honestly felt she had to do.


Time would prove her right or wrong.


So be it.




Onua had not gone far, when he heard motion ahead of him.


Saw motion.


Leaves moved aside.


Onua crouched, glancing back at the trunk of the tree whose thick, low branch he was on. He wasn't close enough to get behind it without being heard.


A humanoid, of Toa height, stepped out into view.


Wearing red body armor.


With two cannons mounted on its back.




It froze, locked eyes with Onua.


Cannons turned, aiming.


Options raced through Onua's mind. HIDE! DUCK! ATTACK!


Instead, he turned and dove for the mud next to the tree.


Splash. Swam furiously as the cannon fired.


Hit the tree just as Onua turned behind it.


Grabbed a branch and leaped up onto it. Ran.


Leaped from branch to branch, no thoughts in his head, just sheer panic.


Then, the sight of eyes.


Kuambu eyes, hiding in the dark canopy to the south, watching him. Eyes everywhere.


A crashing sound to the south. A wave of heat.


Orange light.


One thought – impossible.


Liquid rock rushed at him, herding him toward the volcano. The loud hiss of steam as the swamp vaporized before it.


Toward the Kal.


Briefly he thought he saw a silhouette, standing in the lava as if it was a harmless stream of water. Four legs around a boulder-like abdomen section, two arms off of a bulky chest section rising above this, holding aloft a massive sword that was as tall as Onua. Two orange eyes in the shadow of a head above this.


A shroud of steam rising on either side of it, orange light beneath it, and a chain running from one hand to the lava in front of it, where something wormlike swam.


Then branches obscured the sight as he ran on.Review here

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Chapter 28



One thought, unbidden, kept running through Kopaka's mind as he slid into sight of the other four Toa – and Onua, now running out of the jungle in a flight of terror.


They knew when, but they did not know where.


It was something Toggler had said, wasn't it? But not in quite those words.


He'd added something about orange in the air, and indeed, Kopaka saw an orange glow chasing Onua, and white steam rising from the jungle beyond.


How could this be? The cooled lava flow was farther to the east, and Kopaka didn't see anything happening there. The volcano, of course, was to the north of this – Kopaka's left right now.


But it was a lava flow, alright, racing toward the Toa as fast as the one yesterday had. Just in the opposite direction.


Pohatu threw up a wall of stone, but the lava burst through it.


Kopaka shot ice over the Toa at it, but it raced on.


Meanwhile, Tahu was already firing at Lehvak-Kal's projectiles, which were apparently implosive – whenever fire met them they disappeared and wind gusted inward toward them.


Nuhvok-Kal was glancing back and forth between the Toa and the lava, as if trying to remember if he was supposed to save the Toa or make sure they died.


Kohrok-Kal ran over a hill, shouting at the Kal to stop the lava.


Tahnok-Kal screamed in fury back at the white Kal, and egged the beastly Pahrak-Kal forward. Lightning burst forth from Gahlok-Kal, striking Gali. She fell unconscious.


Kopaka grimly shot ice at the red Kal, but the brown one belched plasma before the ice could reach him. Kopaka readied the only other option he could think of – the flash-freezing alternate power the Btou staff gave him...


But a sharp thought arose in his mind. NO!


The thought had not come from his own mind.


Whose mind could it...




He tried not to believe it, but he felt its presence.


That time when he'd almost frozen Toggler...

Toggler had been fighting Haywire, trying to slow his own escape down. In that moment, Haywire feared he would indeed be frozen.


That was what they'd said in the meeting, wasn't it? Kopaka must have heard wrong. Haywire normally left a body only when it went into a coma or as it was slowly freezing, but if it thought the body was about to be frozen, it could leave in a panic.


Then Toggler was free to escape at full speed.


And Kopaka was too busy running toward Kopeke's tunnel to look back, and spot the tiny dot hovering in the air after him.


They knew when, but not where.


Images pounded his mind as Haywire established the connection.


Images telling the tale Korau had been about to tell.


Images of Haywire's history.


Not just images.


Thoughts, feelings...


All his key memories opened to Kopaka's mind.




The techno-organic being had first awoken inside a tiny cube of glass, long ago. It had a vague sense that it had awoken before, and that it had been different then, but this time, those memories were gone. It had been changed somehow.


That was the last it knew of any previous life. It sensed that this new life would need its full attention, so it ceased to think about that vague sense and focused on its surroundings.


All around it, it saw bright light.


Then the light faded, and the being beheld a barely visible giant, standing behind a giant desk. The light came from the desk below, and as it faded, the little cube of glass floated downwards.


The giant was colored black. Tall, humanoid, female, with an elongated head and something like hair hanging down her back.


She held out a hand, and as soon as the glass touched her palm, somehow the being realized that she was not a giant – rather, the being itself was extremely tiny, almost microscopic. The glass cube's purpose was to contain it and make its location more easily visible.


Then it understood that it was like a virus, destined to control other beings from inside them.


The little virus absorbed these and other ideas from the giant, including her name and species. Nhayaka, a Vortixx who made or modified weapons that she sold to others.


But not really.


That was just a disguise. She was really a shapeshifter, named Arakra, in hiding from her enemies. She called them Unknown. She didn't want to think much about them.


But she had a plan for the virus, and it would hurt her enemies dearly.


Only then did the virus understand that she was actually communicating with it thanks to the glass cube. A power in the glass, called telepathy. She added that in the future it would be given to someone else, and when that other being gave it specific instructions as to who to attack, it should burrow out of the glass and follow the instructions.


After it would carry out its attack to completion, she told it, she wanted it to inhabit the nearest sea creature, and make its way south.


She showed it a picture on a computer screen of a forested volcanic island. The virus was to go there, to a specific point where a stream flowed through a village, and allow the sea animal to be captured by food by the villagers.


Then it would have to leave the animal, and inhabit a villager.


Since Nhayaka had been there often, she gave it images of these things.


Then she wanted it to proceed to where servants of hers were helping the ruler of this island construct a massive vehicle. She gave it an image of a four-legged titan with a massive sword. The virus was to identify itself to this being, who would be overseeing the construction – the ruler of the island – and ask for further instructions.


What will I say to identify myself?


Your name is Haywire, Nhayaka replied. The ruler's name is Vaurukan. He has already been told your name. Now, do you agree?


The virus agreed, eager to try out its abilities.


Nhayaka placed the glass cube in an inset in a large block of wood. Another block of wood went over this, cutting off its light.








Long had Haywire felt the wooden package being carried by hands, then the gentle rolling motion of waves, then more of being carried by someone – this trip lasting for a long time.


This time the being looking it at it could be legitimately called a giant.

It was shaped something like a fat frog, colored purple.


It looked at the cube for a little while, but didn't touch it.


Then the lid went back on, and there was more carrying.




Voices. Haywire caught its own name once, but the rest was too soft to hear.


More walking.


Lid off again.


The purple being and another, colored red, looked down at the virus.




As Kopaka watched these memories, he once again beheld a Kuambu. But even as he saw this in his memory, in the present hundreds of Kuambu eyes moved into his range of Akaku vision, watching the ongoing battle, and with their proximity, a feeling of a power going out.


His memory of both the army of Kuambu watchers now, and the red Kuambu in the past blurred.


And the memories continued.




The lid was back on now, and after a long trip with the gentle rolling motion, Haywire felt cold.


The lid came off, and it beheld a snow-covered beach. The same red Kuambu reached down and pulled the glass cube out.


It felt the telepathic connection, and expected to hear the further instructions Nhayaka had mentioned.


Instead, it felt an oppressive hate, far greater than Nhayaka's, directed at everything and everyone, but a hate that was contained inside this Kuambu's mind, hidden from those under his command. Haywire understood that this was the Captain of a sailing vessel.


His mind was alien, translating everything into poetry, understanding patterns that eluded others, but adept at translating it back into normal speech to others.


It told him much about the Kuambu and the nature of this universe, things Haywire could not have dreamed of, such as the dome realm below, where Haywire had been before, and this surface ocean above it. But through all of this the Lone Captain, as he liked to be called, was building toward a conclusion Haywire felt was not at all what Nhayaka had intended.


One in the higher ranks of the Kuambu, one whose corruption was even more carefully concealed than the Lone Captain's, had received a vision.


Only certain Kuambu were told.


The vision came from something the Lone Captain called Rumor.


It foretold an event of extreme importance, when an impenetrable wall would almost be shattered, but not quite. For there was a wall, a wall that nobody should pass through, but the rule could be bent, if the situation was just right. There was evidence it had been bent before.


The vision had been passed on to an ally of the Kuambu. A name Haywire recognized immediately.



Vaurukan's desires were not quite what his ally Nhayaka imagined, the Lone Captain said, but he did not know much about it, only this.


Vaurukan wanted to make the terrible vision from Rumor come true. The wall be shattered, the rule bent.


And Haywire was the key to the plan, the one missing piece to the enormous trap.


So when you identify yourself to him, the Lone Captain told him, if you wish to be more than just another prototype weapon of Nhayaka's, if you wish to transcend, tell him you serve the rumor.




Haywire mulled over its choice constantly throughout the next events, which it barely focused on.


The Lone Captain gave the cube to a white and blue titan called Toggler, and sent him on a mission, the mission Nhayaka had intended as a test of Haywire's abilities.


At the end, Haywire found himself in the body of a reptilian being. It saw another, white and silver, looking at his comatose friend. The mission was over and it was time to go to Vaurukan.


Its current host faded into a coma, and Haywire disconnected.


Instead of inhabiting the other reptilian being, Haywire flew through the air and out of the wooden sailing vessel he was now on, and into the water. It understood that this was the Silver Sea of the realm of underground domes. The first sea creature it found was an eel, and it took control.


What would happen to it now, if it went along with Nhayaka's plan?


This fear did not much matter to it. If it felt that it would simply be destroyed when its purpose was over with, it could take off in a random direction with the eel and never return to Vaurukan.


It wondered what was right and what was wrong. If that wall should not be passed through, why would anyone want to try?


But it wondered what the vision was... and it felt an affinity for the methodical way the Lone Captain's mind worked. It found itself playing around with what language it knew, and over and over again it found memories of the Lone Captain's surfacing, as if it had absorbed his very subconscious. Poems that particular Kuambu had memorized all his life to help him remember things, the knowledge that this was the way of all Kuambu.


Finally Haywire made its decision, and made the eel swim south.




The village was made of gray stone plates, some balanced on their sides to form walls and others laid atop them to form ceilings, with some of the sides having large holes in them for doors and others smaller holes for windows.


Haywire saw beings of all kinds, especially of the species the Lone Captain had known were called Matoran.


But it was most curious about the other shortish beings that Kuambu had known as Kriitunga. Now, unbidden, came forth the knowledge that the purple froglike being had been a mutant Kriitunga, and had been on their home island. If Haywire had been able to fly around there he might have seen other beings like this – most had birdlike heads, and longer arms than Matoran. Others were also mutants, of various modifications of the basic form.


Haywire made the eel swim toward one Kriitunga that was fishing.


Got caught.


The eel gasped for breath. Dying... dying...


Haywire was released from his mental lock on the eel, and burrowed back out of its neck the way he'd came. Through the air, to the neck of the Kriitunga, and burrowed into his neck at a fleshy part.




It had been too occupied with its own doubts and internal debates to ask itself what it thought of its own abilities.


It was disturbing, Haywire decided, but irresistible. It knew that this was how Nhayaka wanted it to be, and on this it did not care that Nhayaka might want to destroy it now. It was also not entirely sure it could survive without a host, and the urge to survive was overpowering.


Now it experimented with its control.


That control was not immediate, Haywire realized, but the longer it inhabited a host, the weaker the host's resistance became. Unfortunately that also meant the host was slipping toward its comatose fate, so it was getting weaker in most other ways too. Haywire would forever need to take a host, wait until his control was briefly absolute, and then let the host slip into uselessness, and seek a new victim.


Haywire grew tendrils into the Kriitunga's spinal column. It knew by now that these were interfering with the victim's normal operations and trying to replace them strategically with operations Haywire could control, but until the victim fell into a coma, there was a constant war between Haywire and his host for control of each and every part.


Haywire's best strategy was to take control of just one eye, while the other was left to the host. If the host switched which eye he wanted to control, Haywire could fight it, or just switch to the other, leaving the host's mind to vainly chase after total control like trying to grasp the sea in a hand.


Atop it all, Haywire would rise supreme.


For a time.


This time, the host was already controlled by an influence, he sensed. Not a direct control like Haywire's, but rather a threat of punishment.


Vaurukan's threat of punishment.


And more.


For this Kriitunga had almost died.


Indeed, had just died... when it was Taken.


Vaurukan's power had reached out from afar and teleported the Kriitunga here. Saved his life, but in that moment, the Kriitunga was Vaurukan's. Any rebellion would release the Kriitunga into the death that had almost claimed him. Some of the memory of that time was blurred, but the basic dependance was clear.


Fear. Urgent desire for freedom. Desperate, constant reminders to obey.


Amidst this storm of emotions and contradictions, it was easy for Haywire to take almost total control of the body.


Of all but one eye. As Haywire walked the being's body north, toward the construction site, that one eye looked around in a panic, trying to figure out where the Kriitunga was being taken and why.






Haywire took in his centaur-like form. The titan stood harmlessly at the edge of the forest, but the many workers amidst the giant stone scaffolding kept looking at him, then at the trees, nervously. Every once in a while, Vaurukan would hold up a palm, and a bead of lava would appear in his hand, then disappear.


A reminder to his slaves.


Among the workers were Vortixx and Kuambu, clearly not slaves but overseers. Nhayaka was not among them, to the virus's relief.


The Kriitunga walked up to Vaurukan, that one eye looking down at the ground in humility driven by terror, Haywire's eye looking directly at the ruler.


Vaurukan looked down at the Kriitunga, lifted one lip in an almost snarl, and waved his sword at him. “Get back to work.”


“I am Haywire,” the Kriitunga said. “And I serve the Rumor.”




They knew when but they did not quite know where.


Haywire watched through the Kriitunga's eye as it was taken on a small boat across the Silver Sea, back past many islands, to the same place Haywire had been taken up to the surface sea before.


To a dome with no sky, just blackness except for faint light coming from the tunnels to other domes at the four compass points. To the barrier at the edge of the sea, the edge of the dome, where there was a little cave tunnel that bent and spiraled up to the surface.


The Vortixx who owned the little boat let the Kriitunga off here, and Haywire made him walk up.


The host kept making panicked attempts to regain control, knowing that this could not end well for him. He'd been Taken once, and now was cured of that ailment so that he could leave for this mission – with a new blurred memory that even Haywire could not remember – but now he would slip into a coma, and without a way to get nutrition would slowly starve to death. Could he be Taken again? The Kriitunga didn't think so.


Haywire felt sorry for him, but he couldn't think of any other way to carry out Vaurukan's plan.


They knew when there'd be orange in the air.




Haywire floated dreamily in a sea of shifting light.


The poor Kriitunga might be dead by now. It had not been easy to sneak out of the cave at night onto Kriitunga Island, climb the side of the mountain range, and walk down the rocky path to the tower of the Southern Watch... then sneak into the hidden basement without the guards there seeing him.


One day a Toa would find this tower, would find these energy packs, and Haywire would be in place for the plan.


That was what Rumor had said.


Was that the rumor?


Haywire understood vaguely that he had made the Kriitunga touch an energy pack, and in so doing, had cured the Kriitunga, for Haywire had been stored as energy inside the pack, and the Kriitunga was not quite in a coma, but he was close.


He had then probably ran back out, only to collapse in the mutagenic sands and become who knows what until the end.


The dreamy nature of this state of existence heightened Haywire's sense of sadness.


Then, later – what might have been minutes later or days later – Haywire felt two minds focusing on the energy pack, each wanting to own it at the expense of the other.


Haywire was such a tiny packet of energy inside it they did not feel him.


He tried to will himself to materialize, to inhabit one of them.


But the minds overlapped, and he felt himself being stretched. Life entering him. Draining from what he now recognized as two Kriitunga, and felt in their minds that they were the two guards of the Southern Watch.


The question of enemy intent.


There was a vast array of rituals in this society, and that was one that they were supposed to ask, or maybe an option to ask, but they did not. They never thought that this massive storage of energy packs hidden in their basement might belong to an enemy and that enemy might want this...


For even as Haywire materialized in the air above them, the deadly mix of fighting wills transformed Haywire's power to slowly wear out a host, making them both shrivel rapidly.


They fell over, dead, before they even realized it was happening.


Haywire looked around to see practically the entire population of Kriitunga staring at him – not right at him, for he was too small to see at that distance – but at the tragedy beneath him.


I didn't know that would happen! he wanted to tell them, but he couldn't.


This had not been part of the plan; the question of enemy intent was not answerable, but accidents could happen. He realized, from the final thoughts of the guards, that they had heard a noise below, when the dying Kriitunga ran out into the sands. When they came down to investigate, they saw the door to the secret basement laying open.


They had gone down and beheld thousands of energy packs there. They likely realized the Kuambu had put them there, but they assumed it would be safe to steal them.


Grabbed the closest one – the same one Haywire had stored himself in, for it was closest to the exit – and ran back to their people to show them the proof of their find, but they had bickered over who had seen it first, over who owned it.


Now nobody would own them, for another Kriitunga came forward with a stick to pick the pack up and take it back.


They would probably leave the packs alone, and that Toa in the future would still find them, but Haywire wasn't in place.


I can't go back.


Part of his plan had included Vaurukan Taking those that Haywire slowly, nearly killed, saving their lives, or at least gaining their undead bodies to serve him.


But this death had happened so fast Vaurukan could not have Taken the two Kriitunga. Would that happen anytime someone tried to use an energy pack the little virus was stored in?


So Haywire instead flew to the nearest Kriitunga.


For uncounted years now Haywire went from host to host among the Kriitunga, trying to keep an eye on the southern desert.


Slowly the people became aware of this new pestilence, but they didn't connect it to the incident with the southern watch. They concocted a new myth to explain it; it was the spirit of a past enemy come back to haunt them, they said.


One night, while in a new host, Haywire saw a reddish-orange glow in the desert.


They knew when...


Was this where?


No... it couldn't be...


The glow disappeared behind a dune, and Haywire never saw it again.




A choice would have to be made.


Six Toa had come up from below, from the same tunnel Haywire came up through. Unlike him, they had not known to sneak past the town, and the Kriitunga mistook it for a slave-gathering raid, for the Brotherhood often used that same tunnel for that purpose.


The Toa shouted that they were chasing villains in the surface ocean. Haywire didn't care much about the particulars, but he got the strong idea that this was his best chance to leave the island, if that was the choice he wanted.


First, he watched carefully to see if any of these Toa would head to the tower.


None did. One of them, a purple and black one, seemed to be able to control gravity, and he made the whole group fly over the town toward the southwest.


Haywire had just been kicked out of his latest host – the Kriitunga had figured out they could save a host's life, save him from the Taking, if the host traveled to the top of the mountain range where it was cold. Haywire hated the cold, so he'd left. Now he had no host, but he was in the air near the Toa.


All this time, the doubts had plagued him. Go with Vaurukan's plan or strike out on his own?


He didn't know if it was a choice, but he decided he wanted to leave this island. Vaurukan had not planned ahead properly, or at least had not told Haywire he would cause instant deaths. Some of the other hosts had died before being Taken too. He was tired of it. There had to be another life out there.


He would seek out this other life... and then, when at last he had a choice to make, he would choose one or the other.


So he entered one of the Toa, the blue one.




That sword.


The Toa had not gotten far before they ran into five Kuambu ships, and they'd been swiftly captured.


Haywire had remained as dormant in the Toa as possible, trying just to listen and delay the coma-causing effects, just consuming enough of the Toa's nervous system to survive. He always felt hungry.


A choice would not be easy to earn. It would require sacrifice. Haywire was okay with that.


That being.


And the other.


Toggler. With the same sword.


And that reptilian being... the same he had spared from choosing as a host on that wooden boat long ago, whose friend of the same species Haywire had inhabited. This one was named Bhukasa.


How could it be that two beings so important to Haywire's early history were here in this Kuambu prison with him now?


This question, and Haywire's near-starvation state, sent him deep inside his thoughts for a long time. Events passed with which he interfered not at all.


When next he surfaced, he was inexplicably back on Bhukasa's wooden sailing ship, the Seahopper, with Bhukasa, Toggler, and the Toa Rua – as they called themselves – among others.


Now that Haywire was exerting control again, he could not stand the hunger any more. He spread his tendrils through the Toa's nervous system, taking more control, but he was constantly distracted by his doubts.


At one point, he chose to leave the others. Nothing useful was happening, and he had grown to regret his leaving. The opportunity came, ironically enough, on Kriitunga Island.


He ran toward the village, hoping to take another host and again take up the watch for the destined Toa. He made the Toa of Water, Mhebula, flee up the river toward the town, exerting control. The other Toa Rua tried to chase, but Kriitunga who recognized them fought them, hoping to 'free their spirits' – that is, to kill them – to magically endow their island with the powers of their elements, based in their wild superstitions.


But one of Bhukasa's crew, a Ga-Matoran named Heria, got past them to chase Mhebula.


At one point, Heria cut across the sands...


And changed.


Into a monstrous beast.


Haywire felt something then he hadn't felt in himself for a while – fear at the sight of this monster catching up to his host.


Heria didn't attack like a beast though; apparently enough of her mind was still there to drag him back to Bhukasa. Haywire kicked, screamed, and shouted poetry at the mutant, but nothing worked.


And there was the Seahopper again, and there was captivity.


Apparently at the same time, Kuambu had captured the green Toa Rua, and another of Bhukasa's crew, but the rest of the crew got back to the Seahopper, which hopped away.


When? Haywire found himself wondering as the Toa slipped into a coma, and he left, to take control of the next Toa.


They knew when, but not where.


Well, Haywire hadn't even been told when.


He had to know...


But when the symptoms showed up in the next Toa, Bhukasa had that host imprisoned too. Bhukasa kept the comatose Mhebula alive; his energy power could be used to grant a small stream of life energy. This process repeated with the other Toa. Haywire was unable to get away, so one by one they kept falling into comas.


The answer came, finally, one day when Haywire had control of the final Toa Rua, the gravity one. Toa Tyaagko.


He was the leader of the team, the most powerful in Haywire's estimation, the one the virus had saved for last. Immediately Haywire regretted the pick.


Tyaagko fought his influence by demanding answers to questions, by showing him the strength of his resolve to carry out his team's destiny. To find the villains – pirates, he said they were – despite Haywire's control. Rarely did the virus have even half of the Toa's body under control – he was too busy vainly trying to hide knowledge from the searching mind of Tyaagko.


Eventually the Toa knew everything. He knew all about Vaurukan, all about the plan.


And then, he surprised Haywire one final time by offering to make a deal.


I let you work out Vaurukan's plan, but make sure no deaths occur. For that is your true worry, isn't it? That Vaurukan will step beyond the plan and try to Take these Toa Mata?


Yes, that was it exactly, Haywire thought. But what would Tyaagko demand in return?


Simple, the Toa replied. He wanted a mask of Undeath. He wanted to have a way to make sure Vaurukan couldn't take him. If he couldn't seek out the pirates while alive, he would do it once he was dead. For surely he would die eventually. Bhukasa was slowly losing the five Rua already in comas. Six would completely overwhelm him.


Haywire had never imagined such determination. Devotion. Obsession? But it felt so good, this deep drive to do what the Toa knew to be right even at the worst cost to himself.


He envied Tyaagko. Maybe he could learn from him.


So he slowed his consuming, letting himself go hungry to see how this played out.


He helped Tyaagko hunt down one of the rare masks – normally considered immoral, but in this situation, the Toa believed it was right. And find it they did. Tyaagko never wore another mask again – for all the years of the rest of his life, he constantly stored up energy, lengthening the time his body would chase his destiny after death.


And then it happened.


Then they met the Unknown.


And then Haywire learned of his choice.


It was then that he learned when.Review here

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Chapter 29



Kopaka demanded that Haywire sum up the rest of his memories, for the lava was nearing the other Toa fast.


While Tyaagko was his host, Haywire had met with Caroha herself, it seemed, the female leader of the Unknown. In addition to telling him that the Unknown had already provided life-sustaining technology to Bhukasa so he could keep the other Toa Rua alive, she had told Haywire that the plan was for this very day when he would take control of Kopaka, and that it would involve the Kal.


And here it was, before his very eyes.


The orange that Haywire had seen in the desert, from what Kopaka knew, was not what the vision meant at all. If you spend too much time in the sands, you would decay to a reddish-orange energy, and if your form wasn't anchored with Kanohi masks, that energy would dissipate until you were dead.

That glow must have been what was left of the dying Kriitunga.


The orange glow of Rumor's vision was not that of lava, though that was here too.


Nor was it the orange armor of Hujo, who hovered over the scene, shooting bolts of blue fire at the Kal, until a Kuamor Sphere knocked him unconscious and he crashed in the grass near the Toa.


The orange glow was the one spreading from the strange mask on Tahu's face now.


The Vahi.


With the lava coming on so fast, with the Kal interfering in every attempt to escape it, Tahu had seen no other choice. It was death, or time.


The orange energy radiated like a sun.


And then it all went wrong, just as Haywire said it would.


Throw it! Throw it! NOW!


Kopaka leaped off his shield to get a firm foothold in the snow. Held his sword back, and swung it forward, released.


The sword flew through the air.


The orange beams of lightning that spread from the Vahi ripped through whatever was in their way like a knife through water.


The energy hit Tahu's sword first, enveloping it in bright white light, swirling orange and sparkling blue.


Tahu flew back, the Vahi flying off his face, but still the energy came.


Hit Pohatu's feet, Onua's left claw, Lewa's fusion of his axe and Onua's other claw.


Spread to Gahlok-Kal. Hit Gali's hooks.


To Kopaka's sword as it flew through the air.


All of this seemed to freeze in place.


As a final beam of the orange energy hit Onua's energy pack.


The pack cracked from the impact.


Kopaka remembered when his old energy pack had cracked. The objects he'd stored in it had materialized all around him.


And now a blue crystal materialized in the air.


The energy hit it.


The light flared. Turned more blue than orange.


And got much brighter.


Kopaka had to hold up a hand to shield his eyes. But he saw out of the corner of his eye that the Kuambu eyes were not turned away, nor did they waver in the slightest. They were not surprised.


They knew when.




A shockwave.


Leaves frosted in a split second, grass shattered into shards of ice.


Lava turned black immediately.


Four of the Toa fell to the ground, unconscious. Gali and Kopaka, who had not been in contact with their tools, alone stood conscious.


The weapons were gone.


As the light faded from a pulsating point of orange in the air, blue sparkles enveloped all the Kal, and they all changed except Gahlok-Kal.


Kopaka saw Vaurukan then, standing in the far end of the lava, the only end the cold wave of time energy had not solidified, and he was pointing his sword in different directions. When the sword pointed to the southeast, it glowed blue.


Seeing that, the Kal sped that way, before Kopaka could quite register their new shapes. The Kuambu followed.


They just did not know where.






The land shook, seconds before Nijire's net would have snared a fish.


The fish darted away.


Nijire looked around. What was happening?


The walls somehow seemed to flash blue... or was it... orange...


The ground continued to shake. She lost her balance and floated in the shallow stream, trying to breathe only when the waves weren't crashing up over her mouth.


Her feet found purchase again and she pushed herself out of the water, heading back toward the camp.




Very faint, but she heard it.


She reached the camp.


Mukana was looking around with the Akaku, but seeing nothing to explain the sudden upheavals, apparently. It didn't feel the same as the quakes just after opening the hatch – those felt like this place had run into solid rock and bounced off. This was a change of a completely different type.


When Mukana didn't offer a theory after a while, and the quakes died down, Nijire decided to just get back to fishing.






That point of orange light in the air was not a point, Kopaka realized – it was the Vahi, frozen in time where it had been when Tahu had activated it.


Kopaka climbed down the mountain quickly. Gali was trying in vain to wake the others.


Haywire, please tell me what just happened.


And now he slowly began to understand, but it opened up a bigger question neither host nor virus could fathom.


Chronoserum. Somehow that substance was always messing things up, Kopaka thought. Your sword... or Toggler's sword in your hands.. that was the sign to watch for.


Kopaka remembered Kopeke telling him of Onua's finding the energy packs. And Korau up there to the north with them. As long as Haywire wasn't stored in them, they were safe.


The Unknown had led Onua there both to bring more packs to this island, and to start the Toa on the path to learning what Haywire knew. Because the Unknown knew when... and they also knew where.


They knew that something in Btou staffs – Kopaka remembered once he had looked inside with his mask and had seen a cylinder inside. The core of the staffs, and now perhaps the greatest mystery. For it reacted explosively with the time-energy of the Vahi. Why? No idea.


The wall that should not be crossed... the wall of time.


The barrier to time travel.


No beings could cross it, but in the most extreme circumstances, objects could.


Even objects that were almost alive, but not quite.


The Crystal of Time.


Haywire knew of it. Vaurukan had known of it long ago. Apparently Onua had known, and had been carrying the crystal, protecting it from Vaurukan, but the trap had been set, and now the tools and the crystal had gone back in time.


The Unknown had told Haywire that the crystal believed it had a brother of sorts, that it was the Crystal of the Present and the other the Crystal of the Past.


But it was one and the same.


Just now, the Crystal had gone back in time, along with the Toa Tools.


The Unknown had found it, and stored in in the same Watcher Temple, where the crystal already was.


The makers of the Toa's tools had been told. All but Kopaka's sword had been given to the Toa, but Kopaka's sword was given to Toggler, and Kopaka was given his own sword only after it appeared in the past.


The sword that Kanoka had stolen, and still held.


The others remained with the Toa until they went back in time.


In the past, they were gathered and hidden in a cavern somewhere, by the Unknown. It was believed to be to the south, but that was all Vaurukan knew. He did not know where.


Since the fusion of Lewa's axe and Onua's right claw had gone back before the Stone of Permanence was applied to it, it was able to be pulled apart again. At some point the Unknown had done this and took the right claw-glove to the same Watcher Temple as the Crystal... and the Crystal.


His left claw was still in that cavern with the tools from the other four Toa.


Kopaka's shield, Pohatu's Kodan claws, and several other extra weapons the chronoserum had given them didn't count, because they never had Btou staffs put in them. It was confusing, but when Kopaka thought it through slowly he understood. Essentially, Vaurukan had anticipated the use of the Vahi, and had outsmarted them by using the Vahi's own energies to get their tools away from them – even using time travel to do it.


Now, the Kal would be led to that cavern, and take up the tools, ready to come back and free the Bahrag. Kopaka shook his head in frustration. All that caution and work had only played right into Vaurukan's hands.


Haywire also said the Time Crystal believed it had a third brother, a Crystal of the Future, but it was wrong. The third crystal had never existed.


And now, time energy had just gone out into the world. There had been an apparent limitation on the Crystal of the Past that it could only see an hour into the past, but for just one time there was enough “orange in the air” for the machine not only to peer much farther back into the past, but send a message.


To pass on a Rumor.


And it happened, before Kopaka could react to all of this. The light from the Vahi faded and the mask fell onto the frozen grass, breaking a bit more of it. The mask was intact, but the residual energy had been channeled into a task. Kopaka didn't understand how it could cross so much distance, but then... the Crystal had just been right here, at least from his perspective.


He walked up right as the Toa began to awake one by one.


Gali took one look at him and stood, staring. He hadn't thought he was having much of an emotional reaction to all this, but she must have read something on his face. “What do you know?”


He just stood there for a moment, trying to think how to put it.


Then he pointed at the Vahi. “We can never use that near Btou staffs or chronoserum again.”






Nijire knew that when you didn't have a simple ideal trap, the most effective alternatives combined multiple ingredients, using various motivations to get the target to react.


One part might produce one emotion which makes the target move away from what seems to be an obvious trap, only to run into something seemingly unrelated that is the real trap.


Her first few attempts to use her leap and hug strategy with the net on these fish failed miserably. It worked in air pockets when ice-fishing, because gravity and the shape of the cave did most of the work for her, providing a quick direct attack, and hiding her until the time was right.


Here she had to leap sideways and dive in, and most of the time the net slipped off her toes so it wouldn't have caught the fish anyways – not that it mattered; the fish were warned so early they were far away by the time the net closed.


She tried looping another vine through the four corners and hanging the net from two corners off a long branch over the water, then pulling the net closed when fish came near.


No luck.


The net hung flat until she started pulling; half the time it bent the wrong way, and the other time it moved away from the fish, locking them outside of it rather than inside. She tried holding it partially closed, but the one fish she caught this way was able to slip out one of the sides.


One of the vines making up the net ripped soon after, and the others were badly frayed. Nets of real cloth fiber were far better for this sort of thing.


Then she remembered a fish-chasing sport the Ga-Matoran had invented. You would trap fish in a confined area, and swim after them, catching them by hand and throwing them into a second pool until you'd caught them all. Awards from a collection of entry fees were given out to those who caught them in the fastest times. She'd played it herself many times when the need for trade had brought her to Ga-Koro.


So she co-opted the concept here. She found large stones and made a semicircle in one of the shallow sides of the stream.


Then she arrayed the net diagonally, so part of it was buried in the streambed alongside a track of stones, and the other ran over some smaller stones on one side. It formed a ramp to enter the real enclosure.


Then she stood like a statue at the mouth of the open side, and when fish got between her and the net, moved.


Scaring the fish toward the net, which they didn't realize was a blockade until they got close. They couldn't go to the left – the shore was there – or the right – the large rocks were there. Nor back. Nijire was stomping around there, creating a panic.

So the fish leaped over the ramp.


Into the enclosure with the biggest rocks.


Over and over Nijire did this. She herself barely needed to do anything. Just stand for a while, then wiggle around. Then stop and repeat.


Soon she had a fish for every Matoran trapped in the main enclosure, with rocks too high to jump past on two sides, the shore on the other, and the frightening motion on the other side.


Soon with a little rearranging she had the net blocking that side instead.


These fish would stay here indefinitely. She couldn't carry them all back, but she could carry some and bring other Matoran back to help with the others.


She waded slowly into the pool, being careful not to frighten them in case they really could leap the bigger rocks.


Held a hand under the water, palm up.


Waited until a fish forgot she had been moving, swam over the hand... and grabbed.


Lifted it swiftly out of the water, then froze. It shook in the air, but the fish below didn't feel much of that. They only felt the one quick motion which caused a minor panic, but they forgot it soon after.


Slowly she put that fish in her backpack, then relaxed her arms. When they didn't feel tired anymore she repeated the process until she had five fish ready to carry, and left.






When Onua awoke, he could hardly believe what had happened.


He, Kopaka, and Lewa pieced it together, and concluded that the Kal's quest to awaken the Bahrag was just a piece in Vaurukan's overall strategy. What was his real goal?


Finally, long into the night, Onua allowed himself to consider that his... yes, he would call the crystal a friend... his friend had been in that other room all that time.. and Onua had even communicated directly with him, but the crystal had been forced to pretend he didn't already know Onua.


And then Onua had delivered him right to Vaurukan's creation.


He wondered if there was, in fact, a mind to the submagmatic that did all this, or if it was all the work of Kuambu pilots.


But either way, the crystal had endured who-knew-how-many centuries of pondering, knowing it would come... and now was trapped deep beneath the planet's crust. Onua knew, intellectually, that it had always happened, and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. But this left him feeling all the worse, for he knew he had to rescue the crystal.




It seemed impossible.


He had to rescue the crystal, and the Ko-Matoran.


His exhausted mind played a nasty trick on him a moment later; he tried to ask the crystal what it thought of all this, forgetting that the crystal truly was gone. He'd gotten so used to it...


Onua shook his head.


Then he looked south.


Hujo glanced at him, and Onua made eye contact.


Maybe the power of all the other Toa was far away right now, about to fall to the Kal... but the 'Claw of Strength' – really it had been his right claw all along – was right there, where he'd just left it.


He faced the other Toa. “I have to go back south. Only me and Hujo can come. Meet us at the Seahopper?”


Tahu nodded. “More Unknown stuff, huh? Well, I fear this 'submagmatic' may be able to attack us now, if these hatches you describe are closed now. We all might need to get moving soon. The five of us will talk all of this over with Bhukasa and maybe even Rathoa while we wait. But hurry.”


Onua nodded, and left.


Hujo went with him. “For now I'm the only one of us that has elemental power,” he said.


Onua sighed, forcing a slight chuckle. The irony that a Matoran would guard a Toa.


But my time of hanging back and letting others solve the problems has to end, Onua thought... to himself. Maybe if he had been taking more of an active role, this wouldn't have happened... would have never happened. Somehow he had convinced himself that everything he touched fell apart, and then time itself went and nearly fell apart while he was trying so hard not to touch anything.


And now it seemed... from what... Haywire said... it seemed he had just been a pawn in Vaurukan's game all along. Before the time came, he didn't see any connection between the various parts of the strategy, but now it was all too clear. The thread that tied it all together was the power of time. The Vahi.


That had to be avoided now... When the Kal went to the Bahrag, the Toa couldn't use the Vahi again to stop them, because they would have the Tools, with the Btou cores...


There had t