Nijire peered intently past the tower at 'Pakastaa.'
She had never seen this 'Sairiph' or 'Spiriah,' but as soon as Onua suggested it she immediately felt it was true. So much of how the Makuta had acted did not fit how she felt that the Makuta who had terrorized her island for so long would. The expected hatred was over-acted, and at times he'd even seemed happy at her counter-scheming.
But Ahku and Kejokta had confirmed it was Teridax.
She looked at Ahku.
At his hands, still moving.
That was not just twiddling his thumbs as she'd thought earlier. 'Makuta' was still looking around as if watching for enemies, but every few seconds he glanced at Ahku's hand.
Whenever he did, Ahku changed the motion he was repeating over and over again.
It's sign language!
Because that Makuta was not in telepathic communication with Ahku. The real Teridax was somewhere else, giving instructions to Ahku, who subtly signed them to Sairiph.
Suddenly she realized that the real reason Ahku had snuck away from the others when 'Makuta' came up to her, Mukana, and Jaudrohk, was to stand behind them and sign to Sairiph.
Mukana was right. Makuta couldn't possess Pakastaa.
So this was not the dead villager. This was Sairiph, shapeshifted. The real Pakastaa's body was still out there somewhere. Maybe the Kuambu had never even healed it at all – there was no direct evidence they had such a power. Yet they had so many possibilities with the Kuamor powers they took from various prisoners, so it was plausible enough that she'd bought it.
“Why?” she whispered, stepping away, and summing up her conclusions. “I thought Teridax wanted Sairiph dead?”
Nobody said anything for a moment. Rathoa looked intensely relieved, knowing he would not have to fight Teridax today, she guessed. Hujo looked like he understood the whole thing, but couldn't say it. The others looked mostly baffled.
Finally, Onua offered a theory. “Maybe Teridax offered him a deal. Play along with this, and the death threat would be ended. Maybe it's the Kuambu forcing Teridax to do that.”
“But why? Why fake Makuta being imprisoned here?” She shook her head in amazement. All her theories had fallen apart.
“To provide an apparent purpose for you being here,” Onua said, his voice trembling. “To give we Toa – and through other means, to limit that to just one Toa – a reason to rescue you. To bring me here.”
“Exactly,” a new voice said.
Nijire whirled around.
There was Vaurukan, stepping around a hill of junk.
Onua watched in horror as the massive four-legged being lifted his giant sword, aiming it right at Onua.
Shouldn't have delayed... But who was he kidding? If he hadn't, he'd have been charging right at Vaurukan anyways.
Creatures came up around them.
The other Ko-Matoran, Rahunga, and the Makuta came over the hill, herded by still more of the creatures.
Tendrils of orange light poked in the giant hatches, snaking through the air toward them.
He tried to think... but all he could manage was an overpowering sense of dread. He felt paralyzed, knowing that he had indeed walked right into 'the perfect cage', as Nijire had described it to him.
He should have... What? What else could he have done?
“What do you want with me?” Onua managed to ask, his voice wavering.
Vaurukan smiled cryptically. “You're so different from the Onua I once knew,” he said. “The Onua of the past would point one direction and that side of the universe would align to his wishes. This Onua does not even dare to point.”
Onua clenched his fists, but resisted the urge to retort. He could disintegrate this... monster... but of course he would not.
“You have served your purpose well,” Vaurukan said, looking first at Sairiph and then at Nijire.
Onua glanced at them. Nijire looked horrified, but Sairiph looked... strangely confident.
“Your cover has been blown already,” Vaurukan added to Sairiph. “You may as well take your proper form again.”
Sairiph obeyed. Maskless white and black slowly became Jutlin-wearing dark red, thin limbs, and two wings. The rest of the Ko-Matoran besides Nijire and the two Rahunga gasped in shock.
Onua noticed many Kuambu nearby, moving toward the ground under the giant hatches. Vaurukan followed his gaze. “They're going to carry out your orders for the repairs,” he said to Jaudrohk. “Which you are going to give now. Unfortunately this ruse required much damage, but I intend to keep this vehicle at my disposal.”
I can't just cower like this. I can't just accept defeat. I owe the Matoran to act like a hero.
With a chill running down his back, Onua started to understand, finally, what was wrong with him. Why he was always so quiet when he had wisdom that could help, but he kept giving up.
What Vaurukan was counting on.
The understanding gave him a glimmer of hope that he could still fix this.
Onua glanced at Hujo and made eye contact. Then at Vaurukan's face, while the titan was facing the humbly nodding Jaudrohk. Then back to Hujo's face.
Accuracy. And Precision. Connect the dots, Jahurungi.
He focused on the black metal controls in his energy pack.
Flash. The screen was in his hand.
Vaurukan jerked his head to see it.
Bolt of Blue Fire. At Vaurukan's mask.
There was no sound, besides the unrelated shattering of the villain's mask, but the creatures all around suddenly collapsed.
The snail melted, oozing out like an egg broken against the ground.
The mandible worms fell limp.
Centipedes settled a few inches lower.
Vaurukan shouted in surprise, leaning back a little, lifting his sword.
“Everybody run for the exit!” Onua shouted, as he leaped forward, grabbing Vaurukan around the waist.
Pushed up from the ground with all his might.
Kopaka stared at the impossible path they must now take.
By now the Kal were probably already back to Mata Nui.
Gali walked to the front, switching to her Mask of Agility. Tahu just nodded.
“I'll go second,” Takua said. “Trust me.”
“Then you,” Tahu said, pointing at Mhebula. He looked at Kopaka, right as Kopaka's left hand started waving wildly.
Kopaka backed up. Materialized the Unknown tablet. “If anyone can hear me... should I try this?”
The tablet remained smooth.
He peered over the edge at the energy. “Mhebula, do you think that's water through there?”
She nodded. “I sense it. Weakly. I can't control it through the connection.”
“Probably Lake Kanae,” Takua said. Everybody nodded.
“But why would the Kuambu give us a way to get the masks,” Kopaka wondered aloud, “plus go directly to Le-Wahi?”
“I worry about that too,” Tahu said. “But aside from nonsensical paranoia, the answer's obvious. They don't think we'll get the masks at all.”
Looking at that vast array of primitive contraptions, Kopaka was inclined to agree.
He looked at the tablet. “Should we even get these masks?”
“The Unknown aren't going to do our thinking for us,” Gali said.
“I'll leave it up to you,” Tahu said. “Though if you come, I'm afraid you have to come last.”
He understood. If they were to risk him collapsing the bridges they made, they'd want to be over first.
Haywire, for his part, thought Kopaka should try it. If he fell, it would be the same result as if he gave up and jumped through now.
Unless I can be of some aid by spying on the Kal now.
Haywire thought it more likely the Kal would capture and interrogate any powerless Toa they found as to where Onua had hidden the Bahrag. Kopaka admitted he was right.
“I'll stay back here,” Kopaka said. “There's a lot of loose wood here, looks like plenty extra. You all try. If you all fail, I'll try.”
Tahu nodded. “Very well.”
Nijire watched in surprise as Hujo and Onua both attacked Vaurukan. Onua grabbed Vaurukan, pushed him up into the air... then they both fell down into a circle of light, just like the light that had briefly flashed when Onua's group came in here.
He'd shouted for them to run.
She looked around. The plan against the creatures had worked, and Vaurukan had not seen fit to have Kuambu here. They were all moving into place to begin the repairs.
Well, probably not all. Some were undoubtedly still guarding the exit. She was depending on it.
“Let's go,” she said after the shock wore off. “Let's run!”
And so run they did. Nijire took the lead, gun at the ready. Night had now almost completely fallen – both through the fake windows high above and the giant hatches. She held up her lightstone ahead of her. The light cast well on the icescape ahead, and didn't glare much in her eyes.
She saw blurs looking at them from the right. Heard them shouting.
Some flashed purple and disappeared – teleporting to guard the door, she realized. But most did not seem to have that Kuamor power handy.
The others chased after her.
“What are we gonna do about the door?” Mukana asked, catching up to her. “It's probably slimed!”
“We'll capture a Kuambu,” she said.
“It won't let you through,” Sairiph said. “Let me take the lead. I'm skilled at illusion; I can convince one that Vaurukan is ordering it to open the door.”
“Unlikely,” Ahku said. “They know full well what your abilities are. Let me handle it. I'll make the hostage open it on threat of death.”
“No!” Nijire and several others exclaimed, including Rathoa.
“We're working with you for now,” Rathoa said, “but I will not tolerate any killing.”
“I don't have to actually do it,” Ahku said. “I can bluff.”
“How could we trust you?” Raitu asked.
“You'll just have—”
Without warning, a large ball of ice flew at Ahku's face.
His mask shattered. Rahudermis flowed like water out of every inch of his body and he shrunk down to Matoran size, slowed, and fell over.
Nijire's mouth fell open. She followed the ice's path back to the outstretched knife-tool of Kejokta.
She smiled questioningly.
Suddenly Kejokta's eyes turned red.
He turned the tool on her. She shrieked.
From Sairiph's hand.
Hit Kejokta's mask. It fell into pieces.
Two Ko-Matoran each picked up Ahku and Kejokta without needing told, and they all kept running. But Nijire let herself fall back a little to materialize a Matoran mask and place it on Kejokta's face.
“You sure about that?” Mukana asked.
“That was Makuta taking him over,” she said. “The real Kejokta is not our enemy.”
Mukana didn't look convinced, but it was done. Kejokta stood up. Now in Matoran form. The black rahudermis lay in two pools behind them. Kejokta glanced back at it, scowled, and ran on.
Sairiph had taken the lead; the unspoken agreement all around was obviously to try his plan first.
They reached the beginning of the bridge of junk.
Ahku apparently had scouted briefly enough to see it, as it matched his description, before circling back for the 'Pakastaa' deception.
That thought made her once again regret leaving Pakastaa's body behind. She looked at Sairiph. “How did you match Pakastaa's appearance so perfectly? You've never seen him.”
He pointed at his back. She noticed a protrusion that was apparently a built-in energy pack. “An upgrade as part of the deal. I have Pakastaa's body in it. If I make it out of this, he will have a proper burial.”
“Why did you go along with it all?” she asked.
He shook his head. “The Kuambu are the fools.” He lowered his voice so only she could hear. “I'm a double agent. The Unknown wanted me to play along. But I fully intend to change the plan at the last minute.”
“What plan? You know what it is?”
He smiled patiently. “I can't tell you. Orders from the Unknown's leader herself.”
Nijire just couldn't understand, but it was comforting to know Sairiph... at least claimed to be... on the right side.
Sairiph glanced at her one more time, then at the large lightstone, and forward.
A shape in the fog ahead – she saw it in the lightstone's superior light. In her memory, it was blurred already.
The first of the door's guards.
Onua and Vaurukan landed in the forest as the blue light from above disappeared.
Vaurukan did not make a sound, but he grabbed at Onua's mask. Onua pushed him away, and made a blast of earth appear between them, aiding the motion.
He felt heat, and turned to run.
Impact on his back.
Onua fell on his face, protecting his mask with his arms only at the last second. Had he been injured? He'd felt a wave of heat, the impact. Now he saw lights all around.
Vaurukan was running away. Now bending low.
Picking up an object from the ground.
A round disc-like object, with buttons in the colors blue, orange, and green.
Disappeared behind trees. Onua caught a glimpse of the Mask of Telecommunication back on his face... and an expression of triumph.
Onua scrambled to a stand, feeling something crunching beneath his feet.
A grayish rocky substance with flecks of lightstone powder throughout it, parts painted black.
Two parts connected to a strip of black cloth.
My energy pack.
He remembered Kopaka describing once what happened when an energy pack was destroyed. The objects stored as energy inside flashed into existence randomly around the user.
Vaurukan had just taken the teleporter!
No, no, no...
Swiftly the pieces of Vaurukan's vast trap fell into place in Onua's mind, and he groaned as if in physical pain. The crystal, the Kuambu staring at him as he headed there. The fact that they foreknew at least some of this since the “Crystal of the Past” had been used at the Vahi Incident to send a vision back to one Kuambu. Onua's fear of the tendrils from the “creature,” motivating him to want to find a teleporter.
The energy packs in the tower Onua was prophesied to be going to. The advantage of having the crystal in the pack, motivating the mystery of the Kriitunga's Southern Watch legend to be solved, to know the packs were safe to use with Haywire out of them. Leading to the natural desire to store the teleporter in the energy pack.
The intricate lure to bring him here to the sub, with the Ko-Matoran and “Makuta.” The northern trap seeming worse, and his fear of working collaboratively with the other Toa.
But how could one vision tell them all of that?
Suddenly the image of Vaurukan's face, when Onua had eavesdropped on his Telecommunicated conversation with the Kuambu Senate, came sharply to mind.
What Onua had mistaken for embarrassment was instead a realization that someone was watching him.
He knew we were there.
But he hadn't acted like it until that moment. From the first thing the Kuambu said on, though, they had purposefully avoided saying anything to ruin the plan if Onua found out.
How had the Kuambu tipped him off? Probably some prearranged code word.
Onua remembered vaguely thinking that the look had come suddenly over Vaurukan's face only at the word 'ally'. Why didn't the Kuambu call him by his name? Perhaps if they thought nobody was listening, they would have.
But how, oh how, could they have known Onua was there?!
All the details Vaurukan would have had to know for this trap to work, and be adapted as things went on...
They were all spoken by the Toa and others themselves. Broadcast over vast distances, via their own Masks of Telecommunication.
Was it possible?
Could the Kuambu have a way of listening in on any use of that mask?
Kanoka's shattering of Tahu's mask.
Had the Rahunga known? Had he actually been trying to help the Toa, to protect them from this eavesdropping?!
And why else would the Kuambu leave another Mask of Telecommunication here for the Ko-Matoran to find, and also bring in a Btou staff to enable them to use it? Perhaps all the other things they brought were merely to make this less obvious. To make Nijire's theory that she was here to test Makuta's prison seem more plausible.
And Onua had removed a safeguard from the teleporter's code. Now anybody could use it. It might take time and a moment of quiet to figure out the mental interface, but once figured out, it could be used easily.
Vaurukan had been perfectly okay with the loss of his fake creatures. He had spent them to get the teleporter. A far more useful power.
What have I done?
Nijire fired at the Kuambu's face, more out of panic to see that blurred shape so near in the steam than anything.
At least what she thought was the face. The energy bolt hit almost before she registered it leaving the pistol, and seemed to have no effect.
The Kuambu moved. Reached out at her. She felt a strangeness to the fear at how it moved, but what the strangeness was, she instantly forgot.
Sairiph waved a hand before it could reach her. She felt her armor pulled a little, and the Kuambu slid magnetically towards the wall at the right. Collided hard and fell unconscious.
But not before lifting its Kuamor launcher to the sky and firing.
A whitish-blue sphere flew up.
Out of sight, angling over the lava lake.
A second later, the eerie chime sounded.
Now it was blaring loud, its source obviously close – she assumed the Kuamor sphere. The very metal of her armor vibrated harmonically with it. The dreamlike sound combined with the foglike steam and her fear reminded her of a nightmare. She aimed the gun and the lightstone ahead, her arms tense, her eyes wide.
Another shape ahead, taking aim at them.
Sairiph waved his hand at this too. It slid toward the wall like the other but somehow cushioned the impact, and fired at the Makuta. Missed.
A wave of liquid red light flared out of Sairiph's hands in response, and the Kuambu backed away.
The chime faded away.
Rathoa stepped forward, and he and Sairiph walked forward together, both sending out the red light. More Kuamor flew at them. Sairiph flapped his wings to dodge up over them, and Rathoa batted them aside with his scissorsword. Hujo followed, firing bolts of Blue Fire, mostly at incoming projectiles.
Nijire suddenly felt the metal shake.
Heard a whooshing sound above her.
Aimed up. Sairiph?
No, a blur, leaping right at her.
She pulled the trigger even as she bent her knees and leaped to her right.
Rolled back to her feet, wheeled, readying to fire again. Once again, she hadn't really noticed the bolt fly.
There was the blur, unharmed. It fired at her, and she dodged again, even as Mukana and the other Ko-Matoran surged forward.
“Not working!” someone cried out.
Mukana was standing in front of the Kuambu, just a silhouette to her, but she could tell he was aiming the gun, and it had been his voice. Why wasn't he firing?
She took aim and fired too.
Stared down at the gun, even as a bolt of Blue Fire zoomed next to her and hit the Kuambu, which screamed at the pain as a part of its armor glowed orange for a moment.
Vaguely she saw a purple flash as the Kuambu teleported itself away.
The gun's lights were all off except one red indicator.
She thought she heard Jaudrohk's voice over the din of the battle ahead. She caught just one word, “remote”, and understood. The Kuambu had a way to turn their guns off all at once. Apparently the first bolt hadn't flown at all – she'd seen something else moving, perhaps the Kuambu grinning, and forgotten that it wasn't a projectile impacting.
Wouldn't much of their other tech stop working? Or could they target individual guns?
Regardless, time for an older strategy. She energized the gun into her pack, and materialized a Stun Staff she'd collected earlier.
Mukana wasn't there anymore...
The purple flash... Had...
No, there he was, slumped to the ground. Two Matoran were already picking him up to carry him like the others. Now it was just her, Kejokta, and the guards in the front, and all of them were putting away their guns in favor of whatever else they could wield, but she saw looks of deep worry on what faces she could make out through the fog.
She turned around and advanced – Hujo and the two Makuta had pushed the battle forward quite a bit; she couldn't see even the light of Hujo's flames anymore, but could still hear them.
A... diagonal line of orange.
Suddenly it wasn't there.
Then it was, stabbing down from above and to the left, at what she recognized as Hujo ahead. The sub's tendrils.
She saw a flash of purple.
Ran next to Hujo just as he blasted off the tip of the tendril.
Rathoa appeared right next to her; she almost ran into him.
“They left!” Sairiph said, apparently hovering somewhere above her. There he was.
Plunged into Hujo's torso. Intangibly sliding through him.
He fell back, dropping the staff.
It whipped back. She was right next to it, and the frayed end of the energy line caught the tip of her Stun Staff. Yanked it out of her hands before she could think to clamp her grip down. She shrieked, grabbing at it, but it was gone.
Hujo's eyes closed.
He slumped to the ground, unconscious, just like Kopaka had said had happened to Tahu, Pohatu, and Gali. She checked his heartlight. Beating regularly. But he wouldn't wake up anytime soon.
She picked up his staff, as two more Matoran picked Hujo up. Many more and nobody will be left to fight.
There was a new fear that this sight gave to her. She had traveled with Hujo on his quest to find this very staff. He'd overcome great dangers to set his hands on it. I must guard it with my life. She gripped it tightly in her right hand, the lightstone in her left, and they moved forward.
The energy tendrils did not attack again, thankfully. She got the impression it was just buying time while the Kuambu escaped, judging the fight unwinnable. Clearly they could not have teleported out of the dome, so they were now somewhere else in the dome.
“Is that unconscious Kuambu still there?” she asked.
Sairiph flew that way. Moments later he appeared again. “Gone. And probably with it, our chance to open that door,” he added with regret.
“I bet they're regrouping,” she said. “They'll come at us from the same direction we came at them.”
“I agree,” Rathoa said. “And Onua's still in here somewhere. But we'd better at least find the door. Maybe it can still be opened. If so, we'd better figure it out before Onua gets here.”
She nodded, and they moved on.
Kopaka could only watch as Gali led the others across the first – the easiest – stretch of the ropes-and-boards “bridge”. Tapped his hand with the Awakener again – the third time in the last minute, he realized, and energized it, shaking his head.
She walked by putting her right hand forward, while holding her left back. “Give me space,” she warned the others, so they wouldn't bump into her backstretched hand and mess up her balance.
Right hand grabbed forward right rope of the first triangle.
Right foot on the board.
Left hand forward, on left rope.
Left foot on board.
Standing in the exact center, stepping forward...
Now same pattern. Right hand forward first, then right foot, then the rest.
She was two triangles ahead. Now three. Soon ten ahead.
And onto a large stable platform held up by four ropes. The first big gap was ahead.
She turned back and motioned for Takua to come next.
He tried to reach the rope as Gali had, but his arm was just too short.
“Use a stick to make it swing,” Mhebula advised.
Takua nodded, and materialized one.
Pushed the board away.
Board swung back.
Got his right foot on, but the left side hung farther away.
Gave a quick, deft leap, bending up his left leg as he jerked his left hand forward to grab that rope at the same time. Made it.
The second triangle proved far more difficult. The platform the Matoran was on was swinging as well as, thanks to the stick, the other. He mimicked the first strategy, and as he swung his left hand forward, he obviously forgot about the ropes holding up the board he was on. His left hand caught on that rope, his left foot slid down. He cried out.
The others leaned forward as if they could do anything, but Takua had kept his right hand clamped tightly. He hung with both feet off the board now, but grabbed the right rope with both hands and shakily pulled himself up.
Now the triangle he was on was swinging wildly. He waited until it settled down and moved forward. Kopaka and the others relaxed.
This time Takua kept his left arm close to his body as he swung it forward, and moved to the third triangle easily.
Kopaka looked down at his own left hand. It was clenched around a gap of air as if trying to hold onto a rope. Then it opened and turned its palm toward him, waving at him. He abruptly looked away.
Takua was now halfway across to Gali.
Soon he reached her.
The platform they were on creaked noticeably with the added weight.
Kopaka zoomed in with his mask on the metal spikes in the rock ceiling. They seemed solid, but it was worrisome that only their friction with the rock was holding that structure up.
Mhebula started forward, mimicking Gali well. Soon she reached the other side, and Tahu started.
He made it there as well.
Now they faced an open gap between the solid structure they were on, and another just like it about twenty feet away.
Mhebula materialized the longest branch. It fit.
But the tip laying on the other side was fairly thin. “I don't think this'll hold anyone's weight but yours,” she said to Takua.
“If only we'd brought rope,” Tahu said.
Takua held up his hands, and a coil of rope appeared with the flash. He was grinning. “Adventurer.”
Tahu took the rope and tied the stick tightly to another one. Now the whole thing could be pushed forward a little so the supports on both sides were not as thin.
It was agreed to send Takua across first, and he would use the other end of that rope, which was still quite long, to tie another stick to it, and tie the whole thing to the support ropes on the other side. That way if the bridge slipped it wouldn't fall, but they could still untie it from that end to bring it with them.
This was easily done. The bridge bent a little, but it did not snap under any of their weight. Kopaka noticed he was clenching his right fist tightly with every step as they went across. As for his left hand, he intentionally refused to look at it. He took a deep breath and tried to watch calmly.
Now they faced another stretch of the triangles, but some of these had larger gaps between them – some close to ten feet.
Gali went first again, reaching the first gap easily.
She laid a branch across the triangles on both sides.
Stepped on. Slowly walked forward, arms held up for balance, crouching for a low center of gravity.
The branch slipped a little. Her arms waved. He couldn't see her face from this direction but he knew she was calm. With the mask power of Agility, regaining her balance was easy.
And she was across.
She mumbled something he couldn't catch, and materialized another branch over the gap instead of just one. There wasn't enough rope left to help there, although he supposed they could have used the longer bridge, but best not to put more strain than necessary on it.
She moved on. There was one more gap before the next platform, and she also put down two branches there. There was low conversation before this Kopaka couldn't quite make out, but he gathered that the four she'd left behind were the strongest and Tahu should bring them with him as last over.
After a tense few minutes, everybody was safely to the second platform, and Tahu gave Gali back those four branches.
Now another gap.
But in the middle of the thirty feet, a single rope hung down, tied in the middle of a horizontal branch.
Gali materialized their long bridge, and slowly reached out to the branch. It was about twenty feet long.
She couldn't quite reach it as it was turned perpendicular to them.
More talk Kopaka couldn't hear, and Takua materialized a stone.
Hit the branch.
It swung, circling towards them.
Now Gali caught it with the stick. Its end was just five feet away from her.
She had the end with the length of loose rope touching it.
Lifted it. Puppeteered the rope to lay across the end. Now lowered the bridge, looping the rope around the branch. Pulled it in, the friction against the rope gripping it.
Grabbed the end.
Leaned back, pulling the branch and the rope it hung from in.
How to go on from there? Kopaka wondered. There had to be a way, and soon he saw Gali's plan taking shape.
First, she tied the bridge tightly to the end of the hanging branch.
Then, she turned it, pulling the branch in closer until she had it in the middle, and turned it farther, now holding the opposite end.
Maneuvered the bridge over to the other platform. Rested it on it.
Tahu sat down, bracing his feet against the rope supports of the platform, and gripped that end of the branch tightly.
Takua leaned down and crawled forward, using both his arms and legs to grip it, hanging below it. Inched forward. At the rope in the middle now. Past it.
At the knots holding it to the bridge.
Takua moved the end to a support rope there, gripping both that end and the support tightly.
Gali went across.
The structure bent down more... Did not snap.
That left Tahu...
Tahu stood up. There was no safe way to hold his end down as he went across, so he couldn't use the same tactic. Instead, he pulled the structure in; Takua let go.
Tahu maneuvered the bridge back around, and untied it. Using the loose end of rope, he tied on another branch, forming a fork at the end. Tied it very tightly, looped several times.
The hanging branch he let go of, allowing it to swing until it was perpendicular to him. Then he set the fork around the hanging rope, carefully balancing it on both sides of the horizontal branch.
Crouched low, and moved across to the middle. Now he'd have to move the bridge to the second half and continue on.
Kopaka realized this two-step process was how the Kuambu had probably envisioned people going across in the first place. Gali's plan had been safer, but only for the majority of a group. If I have to go, I'll have to use Tahu's method.
“Hello?” Nijire's voice suddenly said.
Kopaka greeted her quietly, and updated her. She told what had happened, and the conclusion that it had all somehow been to capture Onua. Kopaka took the news in slowly. It did not honestly surprise him, but to hear that Vaurukan had confirmed it himself was disturbing.
“I'm not sure,” Nijire said, “if I should try to contact Onua or not.”
“Not right away,” Kopaka replied. “If he's fighting that monster I saw, any distraction could mean his death. And by the way, don't talk to Tahu or the others here either, same basic reason. After several minutes, do check in with Onua. If he's going to win that battle it'll have to be quick. And remember to whisper. But if you don't need silence where you are now, can you contact Pohatu? I really want to know how close they're getting.”
She agreed, went silent, and reported back a moment later. Pohatu said the progress was going fast now, with many Shredding Kriitunga including Krohlaba making quick work of the mountain, but they thought they might have to slow it down soon to bring in some Forge Kriitunga and add metal braces. The last thing they needed now was a cave-in.
“Alright. What about Bhukasa? I'm thinking your group might need his help, if Onua has the teleporter. It's... horrible to say it, but between him and Vaurukan in battle...”
“I understand,” she said with worry. “But the Seahopper can't come down here to the dome realms.”
“Rathoa or Sairiph can teleport you up to the ocean there, yes?”
Both Makuta agreed. “I can do it more precisely,” Sairiph said. “Of course, not from in here.”
“I know. Figure out the door, and teleport out. With Onua if you can. Tell Bhukasa to meet you on the island above Vaurukan's.”
It was agreed. Nijire said she thought they were almost to the door; she'd report back if possible soon.
Kopaka had only been half watching the others. Nijire was about to switch the power off when Kopaka heard Takua shriek.
“Oh no,” Kopaka said.
He watched Takua fall.
Into the energy field.
Then a distorted vision of him through it. A distorted splash in water.
A distorted Takua swimming for shore.
Kopaka couldn't quite make out how Takua had fallen at first. Tahu appeared to have made it across, presumably by gripping the hanging rope and moving the bridge to the other side.There. The platform they were all on. It was now tilted. One rope's spike had slipped out of the ceiling. It balanced on two now; the fourth was limp as the opposite corner tilted up against the stone ceiling. The three Toa hung from that side, gripping the boards and the ropes that tied the boards together.
“What happened?” Nijire asked with worry.
“Call Takua,” Kopaka said. “I... guess I want to know if he's in Lake Kanae.”
“Yes. And he's furious at himself. He said he tried to grab a board, but didn't grip it tightly enough.”
A metallic clink, echoing ring.
One rope's spike had slipped from the ceiling.
Motion. The platform falling, tilting around the one taut rope.
Screams. Falling pieces of rock.
The rope that had been limp earlier going taut with a loud crack.
Swinging wildly on one already-taut rope. A loud creaking and little whip sounds as the rope rapidly frayed. Mhebula climbing to that rope, her mask glowing, reaching for it, to regenerate its strength...
“No, no, no...” Kopaka ran forward to the end of the rock ledge without thinking. Stopped at the edge – his left hand punched him in the chest.
Watched the whole platform, with all three Toa, fall into the light.
Onua crouched as if hiding from some vast monster, just from the sheer terror that his realization sent pounding through his body. The motion made him look up and see the orange tendrils heading his way. There really was a vast monster, and he was inside it.
He started running. Now that Vaurukan had what he wanted, he very well might try to kill Onua. He had the invention, he didn't need the inventor. And he had hinted to the Kuambu that he was willing to murder.
But how, he wondered, could Vaurukan have known he'd go to the teleporter? It had been a shot in the dark...
Well... someone who had worked for the Kuambu had led him there.
R'yn had been a mercenary.
It seemed she had once worked for the Unknown, as had Jaudrohk. Everybody had assumed she had suddenly remembered her past life, and had abandoned her role as mercenary. She'd been so convincing she'd led two Matoran from Mata Nui on her quest, and even reminded Onua to hide the Bahrag from the Kal.
Onua stopped where he was and roared in fury. He had been utterly duped, played for a fool, and now he would killed for it. All his worst fears had come true in a form he couldn't even have imagined.
How did Vaurukan pull it all off? Even with the prophecies, even with eavesdropping, how did he know Onua so well?
I must have been a friend in my past life.
Onua couldn't believe that he himself had been evil. Kopaka's brief memories had given no hint of such a thing. He had worked closely with the Unknown.
Maybe Vaurukan once had too.
Maybe it was during that time that he commissioned Onua to design the creature machines for some reason. Maybe he had also commissioned the teleporter – it would explain the look of triumph perfectly.
The earth around Onua churned as an expression of his fury as he realized all this.
The Unknown, or maybe Onua himself, would have realized eventually that Vaurukan was enslaving people who had just died or nearly died, by the Taking. Parts of this puzzle were still missing, but that alone would explain why Onua would refuse to deliver the finished invention. Why he would instead give it to the Unknown, who must have given it to the Matoran guardians of the Core of the Paracosmos.
At some point, those guardians had put it on that northern island.
But why wouldn't Vaurukan just go there himself? The Kuambu knew it was there, apparently.
There must have been a guarding system there. Something Onua hadn't noticed that prevented the enemy from using it. Probably something buried under it using the black metal tech, something Onua had made.
And something that allowed Onua to take the teleporter away. Apparently even R'yn could not do that herself.
Onua vaguely registered a mass of fog rolling in around him, hiding his view of the searching tendrils, and theirs of him, as he wandered around aimlessly.
Had it all been Vaurukan's doing? Had the Kuambu's apparently vast reserves of knowledge and strategy aided? Probably both.
The Takings... the Takings!
It was all about the Takings.
Vaurukan had, for some still mysterious reason, a power to sense when a being was dying, and to teleport them to him, enslaving them. This much Onua knew. Yet the villain could not teleport himself, for whatever reason. Perhaps originally he was supposed to be a Healer, rescuing people from imminent death across the universe. Onua realized that a good being with such a power could produce a wonderful golden age where fear would be nearly banished.
But Vaurukan must have realized at some point he didn't have to heal their minds entirely.
He could leave them with a dependency on himself, so they would know that if they ever disobeyed, they would die. Haywire's account of his time in one of their minds confirmed this.
The temptation to collect slaves must have been too much for him. Perhaps at first it had started innocently; some would undoubtedly be so grateful they would want to stay and help him in his job of healing. Thus the town might have been founded.
But he had something of great value, perhaps whatever it was that gave him this ability, that he needed guarded. Perhaps not enough of those he healed were strong enough or grateful enough to serve in the role as guards.
So he commissioned the creature system.
Even as Onua imagined it, he realized it felt very familiar. Although his own memories refused to surface, they did give him enough to know he was right about all this.
But a villain with creatures at his direct command... a villain who would enslave more and more if they were near death...
Would he not be tempted to send out those creatures to attack people?
To collect them.
By attempting to kill them.
And thus gaining more and more slaves. Better servants than the creatures.
Perhaps then he realized a teleporter would let him – or slaves – go easily out there and attack even more effectively, gaining more slaves... to then go out and get even more. To exponentially increase the collecting. Onua shuddered at the thought.
Now still operating in secret, Vaurukan might have claimed the teleporter was to help him more easily send those he cured back to their homes. But his secret was exposed, and the invention was never delivered. Until now.
The thought of the tendrils returned to Onua's mind.
He looked around, finally realizing the fog was here because that Stone of Permanence he'd gotten from the Watcher Temple was no longer in his energy pack. He decided instantly to try to find the Stone. That might be his only hope.
Mercenaries of the Kuambu could kill.
And the Kal had been working through Vaurukan's plan.
The trap isn't over yet.
Kopaka and the others were walking right into it. If they fell through that energy to Lake Kanae without the Legendary Masks, they would be killed.
Onua was about to be right now if he wasn't careful.
And then all six Toa Nuva would be Taken.Review here
Edited by bonesiii, Jul 31 2013 - 04:59 PM.