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The Perfect Cage

Bionicle Paracosmos

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#41 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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  • 14-March 03
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Posted Jul 18 2013 - 12:14 AM

Chapter 40

 

 

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.

 

Scouting...

 

Forest.

 

Bolt of Blue Fire. At Vaurukan's mask.

 

Remote activated.

 

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.

 

Strength.

 

Pushed up from the ground with all his might.

 

Teleport.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Kopaka stared at the impossible path they must now take.

 

By now the Kal were probably already back to Mata Nui.

 

Searching.

 

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?”

 

Blank.

 

“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.

 

Ran.

 

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.

 

Orange energy.

 

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.

Rolled.

 

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.

 

Looked down.

 

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.

 

The teleporter...

 

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?!

 

Details...

 

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.

 

Nothing.

 

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.

 

There, light!

 

Orange light?

 

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.

 

Orange.

 

Hit.

 

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.

 

Energized stick.

 

Board swung back.

 

Grabbed rope.

 

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.

 

Thirty feet.

 

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.

Threw it.

 

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.

 

Across.

 

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.

 

Now Mhebula.

 

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.”

 

Nijire agreed.

 

Reported back.

 

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.

 

Clink.

 

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...

 

Snap.

 

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.

 

Taking 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.

 

The Kal...

 

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.

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#42 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Jul 31 2013 - 04:40 PM

PART FIVE

 

 

 

 

Chapter 41 

Everything I did made it all worse...

 

A realization that threatened to paralyze Onua. The unbelievable sophistication of this trap he had walked right into made him question whether anything he did from now on wouldn't just make it even more worse. This enemy knew him better than he knew himself.

 

Onua had long believed that when an enemy knew you well, the key was to do the unexpected. But it seemed Vaurukan had incorporated even that perfectly into his plan – indeed, an essential part of the plan. What else might still be in store?

 

He imagined himself as an insect caught in a Fikou spider's web, wriggling in fury, and thus only wrapping itself tighter and tighter. He'd once been caught in one himself. The key was to make all moves from now on strategically.

 

So he tried to calm himself down, tried to think. How to extricate himself from this web?

 

Perspective... I need perspective.

 

He meant it in more ways than one, but mainly he needed to see where the enemy was. Yet, he could not risk being seen by the tendrils.

 

So Onua burrowed into the ground. Commanded a mound of it to rise up.

 

And five more mounds nearby. In a line perpendicular to the junkscape. He was second from the left.

 

The mounds lifted out of the sea of fog he had created. Up over the trees. Thirty feet high, now fifty, now seventy. More and more earth appeared.

 

Tendrils hovered in front of them, as if staring in surprise – he realized actual Kuambu operators were doing just that.

 

He half expected them to just start stabbing the mounds madly, but it seemed they really did not think he would do this – hide his face in the side of one, squinting, commanding earth to coat everything but his eyes, with a hole for breathing. To hide that hole he made sure other holes dotted all the mounds.

 

There was Vaurukan. And the army of Kuambu inside the dome. They appeared to be marching toward the lava region – but not to the bridge that Nijire's group was on. Onua saw Vaurukan glance his way, and his face locked on the mounds. Then he shrugged and continued on.

 

Vaurukan went into the steam.

 

Soon the steam seemed to lessen.

 

The rain now stopped vaporizing on contact with a part of the lava. Onua couldn't see far into this region from this angle, but he did see Kuambu marching right into the lava behind Vaurukan.

 

He must have a second exit. One only he or people with him can use.

 

Onua imagined it must be submerged in the lava, so Vaurukan would have to make a hole down to it. Otherwise, someone like Sairiph could perhaps hover through the steam-covered lava field and find it by sight.

 

Might Onua be able to make enough earth to reach this other exit? Push the lava aside and then burrow down to it?

 

His answer came soon after.

 

The lava was hardening, fast. Vaurukan must have switched off whatever heat source kept it molten. Soon only Pohatu would be able to get through it quickly.

 

If he had his powers, Onua reminded himself. He could disintegrate it, but he'd be afraid to dig through it without knowing for sure the heat source wouldn't come back on.

 

Briefly he imagined Jaudrohk miraculously remembering what button controlled that heat source, but immediately rejected it. The only way out was the way Kuambu had been using when Vaurukan wasn't here to let them use this other exit.

 

The black metal remote...

 

What had happened to it? It must have fallen near where his energy pack broke. He didn't recall seeing Vaurukan pick it up.

 

Onua immediately burrowed down through his mound. He decided to leave the mounds for the tendril operators to puzzle over.

 

Reached out with his sense of the ground. Where was a roughly rectangular small object pushing down on the dirt?

 

There.

 

He burrowed under it, and made the ceiling give in just enough to drop it right into his hands. By the same method he soon found the Stone.

 

He sat down and tried to calm himself. He didn't know what to program, but he hoped he'd think of something fast. Another chance at a quiet moment was not likely to come.

 

It took seemingly forever, with how angry he'd been.

 

I can't continue forever with this limitation...

 

Onua nodded slowly, just once. He knew what he had to code for. Make a simple interface to let him keep coding while on the run.

 

After a few minutes of the cool mental darkness, he opened his eyes, and tried it.

 

YES! It responded mentally just the same as when in the trance.

 

He jumped up and continued burrowing.

 

Digging with just one claw was slower than he was used to, but he would have to live with it. In his left hand he kept the Stone of Permanence with a coating of Earth held elementally in place so the tunnel wouldn't fill with fog, and the remote.

 

Slow though it had to be, he poured all his own strength, and that of his mask, into the job, slicing at the dirt as fast as he could. His arm was nearly a blur. Whenever he encountered roots he disintegrated them with barely a thought.

 

One easy way to kill me would be to submerge this entirely...

 

Would Vaurukan do that? Have all his crew leave the vessel, sacrifice it to the magma?

 

He very well might. To have the inventor Onua as his slave, able to control the black metal... Onua didn't know if he had access to more of it, but it was a reasonable guess.

 

Kill two Makuta and the Ko-Matoran? Kill Hujo?

 

All enemies of the Kuambu, three of them very powerful. Yes, he might.

 

Onua briefly imagined the Jahurungi as a slave. Solving whatever mystery Vaurukan desired. Wielding the Blue Fire against all Vaurukan's foes.

 

Two Makuta...

 

He dug even faster. His arm screamed in pain, but he just breathed faster, grimacing against it. Opened holes here and there under ground foliage for fresher air.

 

His sense of the earth told him he was nearing the bridge; the opposite side from how the others had entered it.

 

Just then, the ground shuddered.

 

Onua fell to the right, but punched the earthen wall to get his balance, letting dirt rain from that spot, and kept clawing. There could be no stopping.

 

He felt the ground pulling down away from him.

 

Submerging.

 

Vaurukan was doing it. Onua could barely believe it.

 

The Kuambu had to know about it, so how could they allow it? What was the role of mercenaries, murderers for hire? Why had Surkahi said the Kuambu didn't kill? What was the difference?

 

Maybe Vaurukan is breaking his alliance.

 

Maybe he wanted these slaves so bad he'd throw it all away.

 

Or maybe the Kuambu were just that confident Vaurukan could Take them all before they died.

 

Pakastaa. The Taking had failed before. But then, maybe that had been an instant impact death, then later the lava could have burnt part of the body before it was found. Near-death by lava itself might not have yet been tested.

 

No, more likely it's been tested and proven, he thought. Vaurukan controlled lava himself, after all.

 

Onua thought of the small group of Mata Nui Matoran now enslaved in Vaurukan's village, that neither Ito nor anyone else had been able to find time to free.

 

Maybe freeing them was impossible. He didn't know.

 

But the Kuambu...

 

There had to be more to this. There had to be something they wanted out of this besides Vaurukan's personal goals. Something worth the risk of breaking their only rule.

 

But what?

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire's group had found the exit, before the steam started to disappear.

 

Below a conspicuous camera, a giant semicircular gap in the slimed wall.

 

Entirely filled with a blueish-white crystalline substance.

 

There were no hinges.

 

No latch.

 

No buttons to press, even for a Kuambu who could get past the slime's repulsion.

 

Nijire reached forward... her hand was pushed away. Slimed. “I don't understand,” she whispered.

 

Rathoa stepped forward and slammed his scissorsword into it. It bounced off.

 

Nijire held Hujo's staff close to it, hoping the little blue flames might melt it. No effect.

 

Maybe a black metal thing,” Sairiph said doubtfully. He gestured out at the lava field. It was cooling, the steam lessening. “Time to call Onua, I'd say.”

 

Kopaka said to wait,” Nijire said.

 

Well, call him,” Rathoa said.

 

She nodded, and did. No longer was she worrying about the others overhearing the conversation.

 

His update was simple. “It's down to just me... But with this arm...”

 

He sounded defeated already. She could hardly believe it, and she saw the looks of dismay on the others' faces. Her patron Toa was giving up?

 

She felt like giving up herself.

 

But she was just a Matoran.

 

No. If she was not really defeated, then neither should Kopaka be. He was a hero.

 

I believe in you,” she said.

 

She didn't ask about Onua. Kopaka had enough on his mind now. She closed the call, and decided she did have to call Onua. First she checked in on the other Toa, and heard more bad news – this time news she had expected.

 

Tahu had sighted the Bohrok Kal.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire's voice came almost as Onua reached the bridge.

 

She started to talk about the door, but Onua interrupted. Kuambu eavesdroppers or not, this was life and death. “The other Toa. Update.”

 

“Everybody fell through except Kopaka.”

 

Chills ran down his spine. “The Kal?”

 

“Entering the lake now.”

 

“Tell them to run for their lives!” he practically shouted at her. “Vaurukan wants to Take them. To kill them. By the Kal. Tell them NOW!”

 

She closed the line without a goodbye.

 

He dug right to the opening of the bridge and burst out.

 

There, halfway around the third-of-a-circle curve, was Nijire's group.

 

There was no steam.

 

There was no rain either; the pumps had apparently broken.

 

Just lava.

 

Pouring in through all eight holes.

 

Since the exit was directly underneath one, Sairiph and Rathoa were apparently bending gravity to make that stream of lava 'fall' sideways out towards the center of the dome. The other seven magma steams fell in full force, nothing plugging them at all.

 

To describe his emotions at this sight... An impossible task.

 

Except to say that he ran for that exit with all his might, utterly ignoring his protesting muscles.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka paced back and forth on the end of the stone ramp, now half taking a step toward that first triangle, now backing away in fear.

 

Tried to process everything Nijire had just passed on from Onua. Could the Kal really be out to kill now? Somehow he doubted it, but it was a risk he had to take seriously.

 

He tried not to look down at the powers raging beneath him – which he knew could only be the Kal's, except that the lake was in turmoil that probably bore at least half of the mark of Mhebula... half the Gahlok-Kal with Gali's tools.

 

Stared at those masks. Dare he just wait for the Rua to break through?

 

No.

 

Shaking his head, he grabbed at the first triangle, and launched his weight on, ignoring his left arm – which for its part hung limply, as if that compartment of his mind understood the risk here. Haywire's thoughts broke through again, saying he was trying to control that arm as best he could.

 

Don't worry about it, Haywire advised. Stay focused.

 

First triangle, second, third. Mimicking Gali's strategy was working.

 

But the sense of gravity here... the pull down he felt through his entire body. Gravity was a lot like magnetism, he thought. He glanced up at that one little metal spike holding his weight.

 

One mistake, and down he'd go. Probably to a quick death. The lake was still now; he hoped Mhebula had just retreated, not... He shook his head.

 

And a crucial part of this path had fallen with the others. Wasn't this all futile? Just one little piece of rope still hung there. Barely enough to even grip.

 

Kopaka sensed something profound going on in Haywire's thoughts. The virus had withdrawn into itself, searching its will. He got the vague sense it was starting to see how this would all have to end, but not enough to understand Haywire's plan, if any. But one thing came through clearly.

 

Sadness.

 

Kopaka felt it too himself. He felt like a Ta-Matoran standing before an avalanche from Mt. Ihu.

 

Death was coming. It was unstoppable.

 

Kopaka found his right arm gripping the rope tightly, unable to let go. The left lifted and joined it.

 

Sound filtered up through the energy. Kohrak-Kal's power, but not a sonic blast. His voice, amplified so loud it came back through the portal, eerily distorted.

 

WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE BAHRAG?”

 

Kopaka couldn't help himself – he looked down, in time to see a distorted image of Kohrok-Kal's final form – presumably – hovering over the lake in pursuit. At least this confirmed someone was still alive...

 

IF YOU DO NOT TELL US, WE WILL KILL YOU.”

 

Thousands of pinpricks ran through his body as if his muscles were falling asleep and Kopaka closed his eyes. He heard every creaking of the board, the ropes groaning under his weight.

 

Indeed, he felt heavier – some of Nuhvok-Kal's power coming through. His eyes opened, and saw all five Kal go by...

 

And then something... something massive.

 

A sixth.

 

Brown and red.

 

So huge, it was wading through the lake.

 

It could only be Pahrak-Kal... Bolts of plasma flew from its hands...

 

Here was the apex predator whose ambush Kopaka was about to fall to.

 

Kopaka's eyes floated up to the rope he was clinging to desperately. He imagined he must look silly, on the easiest obstacle of all to be frozen up like this.

 

Rope.

 

Everywhere.

 

Why was he treating this rope as if it was a bridge he had to leave in place for others to use later?

 

Success here was all or nothing.

 

He relaxed a bit, leaned back, and looked at the knots.

 

I can untie that...

 

This board only really needed three ropes to be stable if he did it right.

 

He looked forward at that broken gap. Then down at the floor of energy, judging the distance.

 

A long enough rope, tied to enough of the metal spikes for more stability, could be used to swing past it.

 

And... long enough ropes could be used in the same way throughout this challenge.

 

Forget the branches. Forget the implied rules of the Kuambu who built this place.

 

Distribute the weight.

 

Pahrak-Kal looked up at him at that moment. Raised its hands. Fired.

 

Kopaka prepared to leap to the next. If that hit... all was off.

 

It bounced off the energy.

 

Kopaka smiled wryly. A one-way portal, to prevent, for example, Mhebula from making a big enough wave to sweep the masks off their perch and down through. Now a shield.

 

Excited, and knowing time was short, he tackled the first knot.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua quickly coded a scanning system as he ran up to Nijire and the others, and she updated him by the mask.

 

He wanted to know what resources there were in this dome, and what machinery behind that crystal door activated it. He'd already concluded that either a Kuamor sphere or a power inherent to the Kuambu must command it to open, probably on hidden hinges or a slide rail.

 

Pieces of code fell together, pulling on powers of vision, of elemental and power sensing.

 

But he sensed nothing.

 

No machinery at all. No rail, no hinge.

 

He looked for perhaps a wire going through from the bridge's junk-tech to the other side below. Nothing.

 

Scan inside.

 

The system sensed all the electrical impulses running throughout the whole submagmatic's interior. He felt all of it, like a growing, breathing library inside his mind, every word instantly accessible. He built a labeling system, putting names to the systems – whatever name he felt fit based on what he sensed that it did.

 

Perhaps the dimensional gates robotic arm, could that get him down to Vaurukan's other exit?

 

No. It was slimed. Apparently Vaurukan could only use it with Kuambu present to get past the slime effect.

 

There was a latch. Why would they use a latch system on that exit, and nothing at all here on the one they normally used?

 

He sensed traces of elemental power in the crystal, as he ran up to it, slowing to a jog, and then stopped.

 

Nijire and the others nodded at him grimly.

 

Rathoa pointed at the black metal in his hand. “Programming?”

 

Scanning,” Onua said. He faced the crystalline wall, holding the device closer.

 

Yes, he was sure. The Kuambu had used an elemental power to open this door. What element would that even fall under, he wondered?

 

Nijire, ask Pohatu if he can control crystal,” he said. “Just curious.”

 

Noise filled the air; the noise of welding and digging. Nijire called for Pohatu, and asked.

 

I've tried with lightstones, but it hasn't worked. There's tiny crystals in the structure of most rock, but above a certain size of crystal I seem to lose control,” Pohatu said.

 

Understood,” Onua replied directly. “Close to getting through?”

 

Sadly, no. We've hit a more fragile layer. We're needing to brace it up every few feet. Sun's falling here, and the Kriitunga say the night will be very old by the time we're through.”

 

Alright. Just tell them lives are on the line either way.”

 

Understood.”

 

Nijire closed the connection. “What does that mean?”

 

It means the Kuambu open this door elementally,” Onua said. “With the element... of Crystal.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Crystal, Nijire thought. Why did that sound so familiar?As far as she recalled, control over crystal had not been a part of anyone's experience with Kuambu, let alone hers in this place. And yet her intuition told her that just because she hadn't witnessed them controlling it directly, that didn't mean she hadn't seen their handiwork.

 

And if they could control crystal here, but it wasn't a part of their normal repertoire, that implied it was a technology Jaudrohk had built.

 

A technology still here... or perhaps he could build it again. She knew there really was no time for a building project, but she had to hope.

 

So she thought back over every instance of crystals she'd encountered in this place.

 

First... that green crystal in the ceiling of the bronze room. It had seemed to have its own power over air, recycling it, she recalled.

 

Then, the lightstone. She glanced down at the one in her hand. Not this bigger one – the one she'd originally found, among the other things in the room from Ko-Koro, which she'd dropped in the water.

 

Lightstones...

 

That made her think of the lightstone pile, and Akohre's prophecy.

 

Everybody put your lightstones in a pile,” she whispered.

 

She saw Akohre's eyes flash. He'd obviously been thinking the same thing.

 

She set hers down in front of the door, stepped back. Now that “night” was falling, it glared in her eyes, but she couldn't stop looking at it.

 

The others quickly piled their lightstones around it.

 

She glanced at Onua. “Now what?”

 

He held the black metal device close, looking deep in thought.

 

I... I can't connect with them. Control of crystal is just not one of the powers of this stuff.” He backed away, shaking his head, but obviously still thinking.

 

Those big orange crystal things came to her mind next. The alarms that blared if you touched one of those buttons, or if the flatworms did.

 

Ice was like crystal... but no...

 

The Time Crystal... Actually, crystal had been involved a lot, she realized, but none of those examples helped...

 

There might be crystals involved in all the technology, come to think of it.

 

She materialized the gun, staring at it.

 

She couldn't tell, but maybe on the inside.

 

Lemme see that,” Jaudrohk said.

 

He started pulling parts of the outer armor off. Soon he had it entirely dismantled.

 

No sign of crystals involved. The power source was a vial of shining blue liquid.

 

Chronoserum,” Sairiph said. “Don't open that. Or break it.”

 

Onua looked at the sleeping Hujo. “Chronoserum,” he muttered.

 

What about it?” she asked. “What is it?”

 

I'm not sure, but Hujo mentioned it in the meeting. I didn't really listen to that part. I think he just said something like you just said, never to touch it.”

 

Hujo knows more about it than any of us,” Sairiph said. “As do the Unknown.”

 

I know one thing,” Onua said. “From Kopaka – it can alter reality.”

 

Put the vial on the lightstones,” Nijire suggested.

 

Jaudrohk did so. Stepped back.

 

Nothing happened.

 

I guess someone has to try to control it,” Onua said. He stepped forward, putting his hands on the vial. Closed his eyes.

 

For several long minutes they waited. Nijire knew, just knew that any moment, the door would start changing shape, the crystal rearranging itself...

 

But it didn't happen. Onua closed his eyes more and more tightly, tilting his head. Slowing his breathing...

 

Almost like a trance, he stood there like that for about ten minutes, but finally backed away, shaking his head. “It doesn't work.”

 

Let me try,” Rathoa said.

 

He did the same. Minutes passed, but nothing. Sairiph tried. Then Kejokta volunteered, adding, “Maybe a Rahunga?” But that failed as well.

 

Nijire shook her head to clear away a growing headache. Her train of thought had been intended to find crystal, not this 'chronoserum.' And yet, somehow her intuition told her there was a connection, vaguely.

 

But she had no idea what.

 

Matoro stepped forward. “The Kuambu singled me out once to take me out of here.”

 

He put his hand on the vial.

 

Closed his eyes.

 

Looked... confused.

 

Excited, for a moment.

 

Then, more confusion... and disappointment.He stepped back, shaking his head.

 

So, that's not the way,” Akohre said. “I've been wrong before, it's no problem.”

 

Oh, it's a problem,” Sairiph said, gesturing at the streams of magma – and at the growing pools of lava elsewhere in the dome.

 

With no further idea what to do, they all picked up their lightstones again. She picked up the bright big one again.

 

Stepped back, holding it up in front of her, surveying the wall. Maybe a portion was not really solid and could simply be pushed away. Her light cast brightly on the surface, and thankfully again did not glare in her eyes. She moved it around, examining every inch for a linear shadow that might betray a crack.

 

Back and forth.

 

Nothing.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua felt more helpless than ever. He wanted to rage against this door, to throw all his strength into it. The lava was flooding the junkscape, burning the forest, causing light-shows of sparks amidst the junk... now creeping toward them across the stone ground that had once been lava.

 

Seeing Nijire's obvious theory that a part was fake even made him try it.

 

He told the others to back away.

 

With strength, and all his anger, he slammed into the repulsion field.

 

Bounced off.

 

Did this again, on the leftmost side.

 

Failed.

 

Again, a little to the right.

 

Again, and again, until he had bounced off of every part. “NO!” he shouted at it. “LET US OUT!” he screamed at the camera.

 

That camera – itself behind the slime, just stared unmovingly back.

 

Were Kuambu even onboard? The tendrils had disappeared – he hadn't even thought to notice.

 

They might not be. They might have left before sending it down.

 

How could that work?

 

He extended the sensory system again. Thankfully the slime did not stop this.

 

There. An open teleportation field of energy, similar to the huge one Kopaka was over now, but much smaller, and vertical. In a room near the cockpit.

 

No sign of any Kuambu.

 

With relief he noticed the Time Crystal was still on its pedestal, a tendril frozen midway to it.

 

The Kuambu and Vaurukan really had left the submagmatic, failing to bring the crystal with them. The last to leave, probably Vaurukan himself, must have set it on a dive, and then ran through the portal. If it was utterly destroyed in this last gasp, Vaurukan would no doubt be disappointed, and the portal was still open so he obviously hadn't entirely given up. But somehow it was obviously worth the risk to them.

 

But that camera might still be remotely operated.

 

“Are you really going to kill, Kuambu?” he shouted at it. “Yes, if you do this, even if he Takes us, you have committed murder. And remember Pakastaa! I know some of you personally tried to save him. Vaurukan killed him, and you stood by. One mistake is maybe understandable, but if you allow this, you cannot claim blindness.”

 

The camera did not change.

 

“LET US OUT!” he repeated. He leaped and tried to punch the camera, but its slime made him bounce off too.

 

He wondered if something about that camera was the way out. Maybe... an automated hand signal recognizer. He surprised himself that he could think of such a thing – maybe he'd once invented one. But even if so, without knowing the hand sign...

 

He tried some anyways. Moving two hands, palms forward, away from each other. Both hands to the left. Both to the right. Up, down. One hand those ways. The other.

 

Nothing happened. If Vaurukan was watching he was probably laughing. Onua couldn't help but feel his outrage turning towards hate.

 

He had to stop and look away. He could not become like his enemy. The Toa Code was not just a rule someone made up. It really mattered.

 

Blithely he tried to disintegrate the door, at an angle, but the power bounced off just as it had at the Kriitunga Island prison-cage.

 

He shook his head, almost wanting to cry, to collapse on the floor here and curl up, to just wait until the end came.

 

The end that would be the start of a living nightmare.

 

He looked back at the others. No shame now could stop him from looking them each in the eye, knowing how they must feel about his failure. If they must meet their end together here, he would not hide his feelings from them.

 

But they have to have a purpose here.

 

He just could not believe the Kuambu were only banking on a Taking. He refused to believe that camera was really not being manned. Looking closely, he thought he saw a speaker and microphone system on it. They were listening, and if they wanted to talk to him, he had to believe they could.

 

Why weren't they?

 

They're waiting for something.

 

Somehow Onua had a feeling his failing in this was not so much about not finding the power to escape, but in how he dealt with people. These people in front of him, making eye contact with him, even the Makuta, were looking to him to lead them to safety.

 

But it was Onua who had led himself, and Hujo and the others from the airship, to this death.

 

His failing was that he could not work with people well enough to carry out a complete conversation. Maybe if he hadn't run off on his own so often, if he hadn't kept quiet so often, somehow all this could have been averted. What's the point in realizing this now? he thought, but the thoughts just kept coming.

 

He decided he needed to think it all through.

 

He had to understand himself, even if it was the last thing he'd ever learn.

 

Maybe, just maybe, he'd think of one way out nobody had thought of.

 

The Field?

 

But even if Hujo had been wrong about being unable to go between here and the Field, he was unconscious, and only an Awakener would wake him up. Kopaka had the only one they owned.

 

There was no way out. This was just a matter of self-respect. A person wanted to find themselves before they moved on from this life.

 

He let out one long sigh. His shoulders relaxed. He felt the end coming on, and tried to accept it. With that calm, his mind ran free, as it had so often before.

 

His failing was that when there were problems with people, he couldn't handle it. He didn't so much mind working with them, unlike Kopaka, but... Well, something about the way they argued all the time just annoyed him.

 

Was that all that was wrong with him?

 

Surely not. But... he had trouble thinking of anything else major.

 

What was right with him?

 

Well, apparently he'd once been the most accomplished inventor, perhaps a hero as well. That didn't feel as alien now as it had when he'd first realized it, now that he'd done some programming again. Why was he good at that?

 

Somewhere in that question, he thought, was something much deeper and more important than all of this. But that answer, he sensed, was not ready to come forth.

 

But there was more. He was good at solving problems. He was good at spotting what should be done even when others couldn't. Yet other times he felt like doing nothing, when others would have no trouble acting. Why?

 

Something else wrong with him came to mind. He could obsess over a problem even though deep down he knew he couldn't solve it at all.

 

He remembered how he'd refused to accept that he couldn't free King Khungakrii. Even now, he felt like he would someday free him, even though that feeling made no sense in light of his imminent death.

 

Why do I do that?

 

Whatever the reason, Vaurukan must know it well. That villain had become an expert on the mind, although the Kuambu insulted him as not being so.

 

What does he think about me?

 

An idea had already occurred to him, but he hadn't thought about it much consciously. That Vaurukan thought Onua would just give up when faced with a trap like this, when faced with the perfect cage.

 

But why would he think that?

 

Perfect...

 

There was something about that word. It kept coming to mind. Somehow he enjoyed hearing that word.

 

It brought to mind a sense of satisfaction, but one built atop frustrations, even panic.

 

It brought to mind what it took to dig a stable tunnel, without metal supports like those the Kriitunga were working on now.

 

That required perfection.

 

One weak spot, and the next Matoran to walk along that tunnel might cause the whole thing to collapse.

 

So Onua always, even habitually, made sure his tunnels were perfect.

 

Even those he'd made on his way here from the forest region. He remembered now that they only collapsed when he wanted them to. When the vibration of the sub heading downward had thrown him against the wall, he vividly remembered the damage his hand did to that wall. Why did he care? He wasn't ever going to use that tunnel again. It was surely filled with lava already.

 

That was why he had to obsess.

 

That was why, when no perfect plan came to mind, he shut down, while others who didn't care so much about perfection stepped up. That was why he didn't want to get into debates with people. Debates were inherently imperfect.

 

Realization flowed over him like a cool wave of air against the oppressive heat this lava cast off.

 

I am a perfectionist.

 

That was what Vaurukan had been counting on.

 

By making a cage only a perfectionist could think of, and which would constantly make the perfectionist inside it feel like no perfect plan was possible.

 

He is counting on me to just shut down, to give up. To give in to death.

 

Onua remembered that shrug he'd seen Vaurukan give, after a moment of apparent staring, at seeing Onua's mounds of earth.

 

It was hard to tell at that distance, but he thought Vaurukan had been surprised. And then, had shrugged it off. He hadn't expected Onua to be trying to escape still. But he knew it was in my nature to give up at the door.

 

The answer flowed naturally out of all of this.

 

In the absence of the perfect escape plan, look for an imperfect one.

 

Look for the plan that any sane person would say is extremely unlikely. Somehow, he sensed, there was an imperfect plan here. A plan doomed to a kind of failure, but that failure would not be death or Taking.

 

Instantly he knew it was so even though he couldn't yet identify it.

 

And there was something else in all this he had not considered.

 

The Unknown.

 

They had sent him on this quest in the beginning. An Unknown had led him to the southern tower. Sairiph was apparently sent to play along with this by the Unknown. R'yn, perhaps, actually was loyal to the Unknown, but had been commanded to also play along with Vaurukan's plans.

 

Why would they do that unless they had faith in Onua to solve this?

 

His earlier feeling that this was all about the people here came back strongly, and he surveyed them again.

 

Who did the Kuambu bring in here?

 

First... Jaudrohk...

 

Then the other Ko-Matoran.

 

Why the Ko-Matoran?

 

He thought over everything he'd been told about the events here.

 

And the theory came forth.

 

Because so much about this place... almost seemed designed to force these Ko-Matoran to confront themselves, in much the same way Onua had been forced to confront himself.

 

There were the apparent hints that Nijire was to test 'Makuta's' prison.

 

There were the temptations the former Rahunga had to go through.

 

There was the opportunity for a prophecy to seem to come true for Akohre. Maybe they'd read his book at Ko-Wahi.

 

There were the strange circumstances surrounding Matoro that led him to be taken out early, then to find his way back in.

 

No. The Kuambu didn't want him here. They could not know beforehand that much little detail. A crazy theory started coming to mind.

 

He remembered Kopaka's report that Taureko had revealed that Matoran could become Toa. That some Matoran were destined to become Toa. Takua apparently was one of them.

 

Maybe... Maybe Matoro was too.

 

Maybe Matoro was to be a Toa of Ice. Crazy, but possible.

 

If so, the Kuambu did not want a destined Matoran to play a role here. He didn't quite understand why he sensed this, but he was certain of it. It was important. Why?

 

That alarm.

 

Why did that chime keep going off?

 

Nijire,” he said. “When's the last time you heard the eerie chime sound?”

 

When we were fighting toward this exit,” she said.

 

Tell me more.”

 

Well, Sairiph had just knocked out the first Kuambu.”

 

Sairiph nodded. There was a look on his face, Onua thought, that said, 'you're on the right track.'

 

You know the answer to this, don't you?” Onua said, his eyes widened.

 

Sairiph's face immediately confirmed it. “The answer to what?”

 

You're working with the Unknown. The Unknown caused me to come here. Okay, my choices and Vaurukan's too, but the Unknown participated.”

 

Sairiph glanced at Nijire. Back at him.

 

Onua looked at her.

 

Could it be?

 

He looked at the staff in her right hand.

 

Then the lightstone in her left.

 

Was he seeing things?

 

Nijire... set that lightstone down.”

 

What? Why? I know it's bigger than normal, but it's just a lightstone.” But she set it down anyways.

 

As she stepped away, the light cast on her grew brighter. The white of her armor easier to see.

 

Look at it,” he said. “Touch it.”

 

She did.

The light on her side dimmed.

 

She let go in surprise, her eyes moving left to right rapidly.

 

She looked up at him in amazement. “I think it's been doing that for a while. I've noticed several times it wasn't glaring in my eyes the way lightstones normally do.”

 

Pick it up. Will it to go totally dark.”

 

She did. The lightstone instantly dimmed. Went dark.

 

He stepped forward, looking closely, and sensing with the remote.

 

An elemental power had been used on this lightstone too.

 

He saw in his mind now a zoomed-in vision of its crystalline structure. On the inside, it was nearly identical to those the others carried. But its outer surface was complex. There were actually pockets of liquid inside.

 

Zooming in still closer, he sensed the liquid contained tiny plates of crystal, of a darker color, nearly opaque, with metallic traces in it. He sensed an electric field, from her hand, flowing through it. Since all Matoran had a minor electromagnetic hand power – a feature many Matoran weapons made use of – it made sense this could cause these little plates to line up and block the light.

 

Make it shine again,” he said.

 

The magnetism lessened, and the plates floated loosely in the little liquid pockets.

 

Onua sensed now that this same liquid crystal system was involved in the indicator lights in all the technology around him. He'd cataloged it earlier, but failed to understand its crystalline nature.

 

Weird,” she said. “Is this natural?”

 

Now Jaudrohk, you try it.”

 

Jaudrohk took the crystal. Appeared to focus. The minor magnetic power in his hands turned on...

 

And nothing happened.

 

Nijire's mouth opened in surprise. “You mean... It's not just...”

 

Onua pointed at Hujo's staff. “Only Hujo can use that to wield Blue Fire.”

 

Then he pointed at the crystal. “And only you can use that.”

 

But I... I...”

 

Try it on the door,” he whispered.

 

With a look of bewilderment, she faced the wall of crystal. Held the lightstone up.

 

Appeared to concentrate.

 

Onua noticed, out of the corner of his eye, the camera tilting, to zoom in on her.

 

The lightstone's light and dark effect turned on and off randomly, so it appeared to sparkle. Little dots of light danced across the scene.

 

And then it happened.

 

Two things.

 

The crystal wall began moving.

 

And the eerie chime sounded.Review here


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#43 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Aug 06 2013 - 07:52 PM

Chapter 42 

Kopaka made quick work of the knots, drawing from yet another Poetraxiens he'd thought boring before.

 

The knots matched exactly the elegant instructions, and more poetic lines that told how to undo the strange knots worked perfectly. It seemed there was a loop system built into most Kuambu knots, and if you found the right loop and pulled, the whole thing snapped open.

 

He decided each board really only needed two ropes – he could stand on the sides of the boards as the other side hung down.

 

He untied the two closest to the stone ramp from the board, where they hooked through a hole cut into the wood.

 

He pulled these forward and made the loop knots around the second two ropes. The loose ends of these he pulled forward and attached to the first two of the next triangle. Then turned around, untied the second two from the first board.

 

Dropped the board.

 

Turned forward, and tied all these to the next ropes.

 

Repeated this pattern, until he had a long and stable web across the ceiling.

 

Always, as he moved forward, he had a rope in his right hand. His left was playing along usually. Sometimes it waved around at a rope a little before grabbing, but once it grabbed, it held tight. He sensed Haywire exerting strong control over it.

 

Finally he reached the platform, but left one triangle in place.

 

At the first platform, he removed the right near rope, tied that, giving himself a lifeline, which he tied around his waist. Then he walked carefully along the floor between the two diagonal ropes, holding his toes outward to keep the floor balanced.

 

Reached the far right one, and untied it entirely too, first the lower end by gripping the rope to take his weight off the board, then climbing up and holding the spike.

 

The floor now hung by two ropes to his left, and he hung just from the spike.

 

The web he'd built before now had to hold.

 

Energizing the latest rope, he let go of the spike, gripping his lifeline rope tightly.

 

He fell.

 

Jerked to a stop, the rope tightening painfully around him. He swung down, acting like a pendulum below the web. All its anchoring spikes held.

 

He climbed the rope, giving his left hand time as needed to move up a spot.

 

Reached the top. The left side of his web was in reach of the front left rope of the platform.

 

But first he walked along the top of the floor, to the far rope.

 

Untied that, energized it, and let go. The pain hit again when the rope went taut, but it all held admirably. Climbed, and undid the fourth rope.

 

Now he moved onto the one remaining triangle on this stretch, and rested on it. Sighed. His muscles were aching, as was his waist. He surveyed the rope with his mask. It seemed fine.

 

Untied the loop from his waist, and tied two of the three new ropes to it. The fourth he kept in his energy pack.

 

Tied the end of the now-longer rope to his waist.

 

Worried about that sudden jerking taut, he decided to climb down the rope now. He was glad his hands were armored.

 

Reached the end.

 

Swung his legs back.

 

Forward.

 

At the height of the swing, swung his legs back.

 

Moved back.

 

Now legs forward, and him forward.

 

Back and forth he moved, gaining height each time.

 

Closer and closer to the triangles across the first gap.

 

Almost in reach. Left hand still gripping the rope around his waist, right reaching...

 

Missed....

 

Back, almost all the way to the one triangle he'd left behind.

 

Forward, all the adrenaline rush of the swing.

 

Up. Reaching...

 

Fingers brushed it.

 

Again.

 

Back. Fast swing, his jaw set. No way he was losing now.

 

Forward, up, and...

 

Grabbed.

 

Swiftly now, gaining confidence, he pulled himself up and started in on this stretch of triangles. He tied the long rope to this new web, but every few triangles he took another rope, leaving a smaller percentage attached to their metal spikes.

 

If he fell now, and if these ripped out, his original web was still connected to him. The first would slow his fall, the second stop it. He had plenty of distance over the energy.

 

But he didn't fall. When he reached the small gaps he made a shorter swinging rope and swung on.

 

His left hand was obeying almost perfectly now, but he reminded himself constantly not to be tempted to put his weight on it alone, ever. Mainly he used it to keep himself from spinning.

 

Now he had taken to climbing upside-down along his web as he made it, abandoning the use of the boards entirely, so he could hook his feet into the web. He also used his left arm to hook over ropes, relying on the elbow or his shoulder when he absolutely had to take his weight off his right – to untie knots.

 

But as he got closer to the broken gap, his left hand started 'volunteering' itself to untie and tie. He kept a sharp eye on its work, and the knots were coming together just right.

 

Now he was at the gap.

 

He materialized, one by one, all of the surplus ropes he'd collected, tying them in one long string. He double-knotted each one.

 

Made a double loop around his waist.

 

Climbed down.

 

Finally, to the end.

 

Now he was about halfway down to the energy.

 

Began the swing.

 

It took forever, seemingly, just to get a swing of a few feet. And forever again, to double that.

 

But it was working.

 

Higher.

 

And higher.

 

Closer.

 

And closer.

 

He glanced down at the lake. All had gone quiet, but he saw one Kal hovering there as if waiting for him. Kohrak-Kal.

 

Holding his own sword.

 

Apparently the Kal had caught up to Kanoka, he realized. And Kanoka had lost.

 

Higher.

 

Much closer now.

 

The minutes dragged on. The adrenaline of the swing added up. And added up.

 

Finally, he grabbed the other end after a few misses.

 

Climbed up, sighing in relief.

 

And continued on.

 

Time burnt away, but everything he saw coming up looked easy compared to that gap. The Kuambu had apparently never imagined any Toa could get this far, as they kept repeating the same types of obstacles, just making the harder ones more numerous.

 

Kopaka kept building up a surplus, then spending it to get past the big gaps. Even so he gained a surplus besides this that he didn't need at all.

 

He took to keeping a double – later triple – loop around his waist at all times, only untying the connection to the loop instead of undoing the loop each time. Every once in a while he sat down on an intact triangle to rest. He hated to spend the time, but if he moved on while he was tired, he feared he might make a mistake.

 

After every pendulum swing toward the final platform, Kopaka could see Kohrak-Kal waiting below.

 

He remembered Nijire's account of how Kohrak-Kal, in his original form, had helped her escape a prison once, and how through the course of events in aiding the Bahrag's escape of Twisted Island, the six Kal had realized what the Bahrag could not. The Bohrok had been released too early.

 

The Kal had even helped at several points along the way to stopping the Bohrok. When it had come down to the confrontation with the Bahrag, they could not in good conscience help, but they had not hindered.

 

Then the lamps, the chronoserum's effects.

 

He remembered what Kohrak-Kal had said to him in one of his forms.

 

Was there any trace left of that Kohrak-Kal?

 

Kopaka thought it was likely this Legendary Kanohi would give him the upper hand in the battle that must now come, but was Kopaka actually facing a kill or be killed situation?

 

It was something he had to consider.

 

Normally, as long as the Krana of a Bohrok was not killed, he would have little qualms about destroying the robot that was left.

 

But these six robots had once shown what Kopaka considered clear signs of true intelligence. Even the Bahrag who were biomechanical like himself could not break free of the drive of their programming. But the Kal had.

 

True, if events had not forced them to make a deal to get the Bahrag back where she belonged in the first place, that deal might not have been struck. And even the Bahrag had agreed not to fight the Toa until she got back to Mata Nui. But the Kal alone had continued an alliance even once both Bahrag were free to direct the Cleaning the way they were programmed to.

 

When it came down to it, the Kal were robots. Their behavior depended on their design.

 

And now their designs were different.

 

Yet, Kohrak-Kal's mind had held on throughout multiple forms.

 

So maybe the Kal had somehow become something more, like Haywire?

 

Sapience, Haywire reminded him, does not always mean goodness. If I had chosen to embrace evil, whether I followed my programming or not, you might have been forced to kill me.

 

Kopaka sighed. The time to decide was shrinking, because in this swing, the tip of his finger brushed the wood of the final platform, and he was pretty sure in the next he would have it.

 

Swinging down, down... Trying to decide.

 

A feeling of weightlessness... 

Wishing he could call Tahu so the team's leader could decide. But Nijire had apparently stopped calling.

 

A strong pulling sideways.

 

The knowledge that a team decision did not matter if in the end he had no choice.

 

Swinging up, the feeling of gravity pulling down.

 

A terrible burden.

 

A feeling of being more alone than he had ever felt, and hating it.

 

The kick to gain momentum.

 

Little by little, making choices he knew he must make, moving closer to the inevitable.

 

Swinging back down. Sideways. And up.

 

Balance long thrown out of sync, adrenaline ever-present, a lurking worry.

 

Fingers closed on the wood. Tight.

 

Body swung back. Fingers pulled.

 

Slipped a little.

 

Tighter!

 

Right hand pulled body to a stop.

 

Left hand slowly moved up to grab a rope to his left.

 

It had it.

 

Right and left, with Haywire exerting his control, pulled up.

 

When he thought he was high enough, he trusted the left just enough to slide his right swiftly to the rope. Platform shook, ropes creaked.

 

Stilled.

 

He pulled himself on.

 

Turned to the closest mask.

 

Snap-screech. Weightless.

 

The next moments did not make sense to his mind. In his head, he was celebrating success. He was imagining his hands closing around the Legendary Mask of Ice.

 

He could see it in front of him. It was shaped something like his Akaku, but fancier, with icicle designs mixed in with the design.

 

In his mind, he was thinking how well it was about to look on his face – he would still be recognizable, even – and wondering if the mask was designed for him personally.

 

But his eyes saw something very different.

 

His eyes saw what happened if a rickety platform made of dry wood was hung from four metal spikes in a stone ceiling for countless centuries, with six heavy humanoid statues on it, plus one Toa.

 

The board that the rope he was holding was tied to snapped in two.

 

With extra weight now on the other three, two snapped.

 

The platform fell from under him, tilting due to the fourth rope, though his hands still clutched the rope, which now suddenly lost its tautness.

 

His body reacted even though his mind did not – later he would understand it was Haywire acting.

 

His right hand let go of the rope, his left reaching.

 

The statues tilted.

 

Slid.

 

His right hand brushed the visor of the Mask of Ice.

 

Started to grip it.

 

The wooden statues fell.

 

Five with masks still on.

 

Down into the energy.

 

Past the Kal.

 

Into the lake.

 

They plunged due to their momentum, but floated up a moment later. The masks had all fallen off, and sunk.

 

The platform's fourth spike slipped out and it fell through as well.

 

He had a slight grip on the mask.

 

And then his left hand let go of the rope.

 

Kopaka heard Haywire mentally shout his dismay at it. In exerting control over Kopaka's right, the virus had lost control of his left. Meanwhile Kopaka could only watch, and realize that this was his own fault. He should have expected all this.

 

He and the mask fell. He tried to get a better grip, to get the mask to his face.

 

The pull sideways, the rapid falling.

 

His finger slipped.

 

The mask catapulted sideways and down.

 

Kopaka turned to the knots, trying desperately to tear off the loops and dive after the mask, though he knew he could not catch it even if he could get free in time. Worse, his own weight pulling on the knots made them impossible to untie that easily.

 

He would have to lift himself up with his left hand, and untie with his right.

 

He tried it, but he knew even if he could trust his left – how could he ever, now? – it was far too late.

 

There was the little rippling in the energy.

The mask falling through.

 

Splashing.

 

Sinking.

 

Kohrak-Kal aimed Kopaka's sword at the lake.

 

And suddenly Kopaka knew the choice he would really have to make. The choice Haywire had resigned himself to already.

 

The only way.

 

But even this would fail without Onua's help.

 

If that was even possible now.

 

We have to try, Haywire said. Profound sadness filled his voice.

 

I will miss you.

 

Will you really? I ruined you.

 

I'll be healed. Mostly. It's not your fault you are what you are, and you have done a lot of good.

 

No I haven't. May what I do now be worth it.

 

Kopaka hurriedly untied the knots.

 

As he watched the lake turning to ice.

 

There could only be one path now.

 

No... there were two paths. One, being frozen alive, if the Kal left a patch of the lake liquid for him to land in.

 

The other he couldn't bear to think about.

 

The final knot was free. Quickly he grabbed the rope with his right, which had been doing the untying, while his left had held him up. He wanted to be the one to let go.

 

Already he sensed Haywire's built-in phobia kicking in. His tendrils were retreating into himself, in anticipation of the cold that would mean freezing. In this he was as helpless now as he normally was. He could not normally leave a host though he wanted to; now, he had to leave.

 

The left hand let go.

 

Gave a thumbs-down.

 

Kopaka took a deep breath, looking down.

 

Still water...

 

Now or never.

 

Closed his eyes.

 

And let go.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire couldn't believe her eyes.

 

The wall had fallen apart.

 

On her command.

 

And she had felt a connection to the crystal.

 

And the chime...

 

It's a detector.

 

She thought of all the times she'd heard it before. When was the first?

 

It took her a moment, but she finally remembered. When the mandible worm had broken a hole in the bronze cage, and she'd hidden herself until it left, the first thing she'd done was to pick up a lightstone.

 

The action felt like the most natural thing in the world to her, as if it was what anybody would have done. After all, it was dark outside. But she now recalled that there were countless other small objects in that room she could have picked up. For light alone, she could have taken a torch and proto-flint lighter, a candle, or one of the oil lamps. The oil lamps especially included a metal backing to direct the light and avoid blinding her eyes.

 

Or she could have taken anything else as a weapon.

 

Instead, the crystal in the room had been her choice.

 

As soon as she had held it out of the hole, while thinking that she wanted to be able to see well outside as she stood on that wooden crate to climb out...

 

It was then that she'd first heard the chime. She clearly remembered trying to hold onto the lightstone as she also tried to climb out.

 

I must have unwittingly tapped into my power. Or tried to.

 

Next? She had just dropped the lightstone in the water. And the creature was coming at her. After that her memory got foggy, but she remembered most vividly the chime right as she'd prepared to throw a lightstone at Ahku's head. She had been focused intently on aiming it well.

 

That chime had come right after that thought.

 

After that one, the Kuambu had swept in and removed everybody who wasn't near her, plus Matoro. She didn't understand that one exception, but otherwise it made sense. The sensor had detected clearly the general location of who was controlling crystal, but not down to the specific individual. Everything from that point was designed to further narrow it down.

 

To me.

 

Other chimes had been different – the ones with the same length every time. That must have been the Kuambu using a Kuamor sphere of crystal power – however they got it – to open and close this very door elementally.

 

She was a little confused still, because she thought that copying a being's soulsong, and activating the resulting Kuamor sphere of energy however they did, resulted in a power unique to them. She assumed that if she really had this power, her soulsong would reveal it. But perhaps not, as apparently it was all about being able to use this tool, just like Hujo's staff. Maybe it wasn't about her Soulsong but something else.

 

She'd found this lightstone in the owl contraption. She remembered taking it out when the coverings had been ruined.

 

They must have known it had that power, like Hujo's staff, all along, and purposefully planted it in a strategic defensive location, then made sure the Matoran would use those stone hallways at some point. They were bound to find it, and eventually one would be forced to figure out they could use it to control crystal.

 

That was the purpose of Akohre's prophecy about the lightstone pile. It was then that she'd first noticed this lightstone was different from the others.

 

But I can't be... I'm not special like Hujo... I'm just...

 

Those crystals... that grew in Ko-Wahi. She recalled that they had grown in a region where she liked to ice-fish. It had always been a mystery why they grew there, and nowhere else, though not one that anybody had seriously investigated.

 

Well, the Kuambu did.

 

All of these thoughts came rapid-fire to her mind in mere seconds.

 

Around her, the others stared in shock at her, even Onua. Apparently he had not expected it to actually work.

 

But he soon recovered. “We need to move,” he said. “I'm sensing that they're returning through that portal. Nijire... quick! Contact the Time Crystal and tell it to freeze time at the portal! NOW!”

 

His voice got more urgent and his eyes more distant as he spoke.

 

She focused on the lightstone, and tried to sense the Time Crystal's thoughts.

 

Felt an elemental connection – or what she concluded this feeling must be – to an object in a room quite a ways away in the nose section ahead. Freeze time at the portal. Onua says so.

 

She didn't know if it worked, but Onua looked satisfied.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Listen, everyone,” Onua said as he jogged forward, and they all followed. “I think Vaurukan and the Kuambu set all of this up in the belief that there were others like Hujo. They must have known there was a Ko-Matoran who could control that.” He gestured at the lightstone.

 

Now that they know it's Nijire...” He shook his head, still having trouble believing it... “Well, they want to capture her... or... have her Taken.”

 

Nijire visibly shuddered. “I thought you said this was about you.”

 

Vaurukan wanted that teleporter as payment, and probably me too. But I think the Kuambu wanted you. I don't know how this Taking thing works, but why would they go to the trouble to help you learn your power just to let you go free?”

 

Nobody had an answer. Sairiph looked proud – it seemed clear to Onua that the Makuta had known this all along.

 

So,” Onua concluded, running now down the hall that led to the Time Crystal, “we have to get past them. Then one of you Makuta can teleport us up to the ocean. But not all of us right away. I need to track down the teleporter, so I'll need Nuhuri and Rathoa.”

 

I will not be coming,” Sairiph said, flapping his wings once.

 

What?” Onua turned his head as he ran to look at him, as he entered the Crystal's room.

There was nobody in the room still, and a tendril was still frozen midair. Onua grabbed the crystal, experiencing no side effects.

 

Moment.

 

Since he didn't have an energy pack now – and wouldn't risk the Crystal to one now anyways after what had happened with the teleporter, this was his only way of communicating with it.

 

He hadn't forgotten his question, but just wanted to make sure the Crystal understood all of what was happening.

 

Yes, it said. I've been watching the Kuambu portal.

 

Do you still have plenty of time energy left over, to keep the enemy frozen there until we reach it?

 

Yes.

 

Enough after that for at least a few minutes of more time-freezing?

 

Definitely.

 

Flow.

 

He turned back to hear Sairiph's answer.

 

Vaurukan wants this submagmatic intact. It may not be too late for that if he surfaces it now.”

 

Onua looked at Jaudrohk. “Is that possible? There was a lot of lava in there.”

 

Most motion controls aren't in there, I'm pretty sure. Just a speed boost control, which apparently no longer works, and various minor functions. So once he gets it surfaced, given enough time and workers, any of the damage might be repairable.”

 

I wish we knew where he got all this junk,” Onua said. “It seems like a limited supply. Still, we have to assume you're right. What do you propose we do about it? Our lives are on the line here.”

 

You escape,” Sairiph said. He hesitated, as if unsure whether he really believed in what he said next. “I'll stay. I'll make sure this monstrosity melts away... even if I have to...” He stopped. “Come, we need to hurry.”

 

They ran on, and Onua didn't press the matter. How could he?

 

He led the way based on what the black metal sensed.

 

Along the way, Sairiph transferred the body of Pakastaa, remaining in energy form, to Nijire's energypack.

 

Is he... you know...” She seemed to struggle for the right word.

 

In a vegetative state?” Sairiph shook his head. “The Kuambu lied to you when they said that. They needed you to think a Makuta could possess him. He is dead.”

 

Soon they reached the portal.

 

It was much like what Kopaka had described with the much larger version at Kriitunga Island and Lake Kanae, but the spinning guns and the field of energy were angled sideways instead of horizontally.

 

Vaurukan stood next to it, one of his hands reaching for an off switch.

 

But, for now, frozen in place.Review here


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#44 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Aug 12 2013 - 12:10 AM

Chapter 43 

Onua tried to extend the scanning effect through the portal. No luck.

 

Moment.

 

Instantly the crystal confirmed his question before he could ask – yes, it had reached through the connection to freeze the other enemies around the portal machine in Vaurukan's village, of which there were many.

 

Can we just walk through?

 

I think so. Try throwing an object through first.

 

Onua agreed and ended the moment.

 

Nijire,” he said. “This would be a good time to test if you can make new crystal, and fire it as a projectile. Through that.” He pointed at the wall of energy.

 

Surely not,” she muttered. But she tilted her head, lifted the lightstone, and appeared to concentrate.

 

A geometric spike seemed to grow at the end. Her eyes widened at it, but then narrowed as she tried to control it. The spike grew more, until a tiny lightstone seemed to grow at the end.

 

Then it fell off. Fell straight down at her feet.

 

Well, it's a start,” she said, picking it up and tossing it through.

 

It disappeared.

 

Moment.

 

Onua flew through in blur form.

 

There it was, laying on the gray stone in the dark village.

Flow.

 

He almost stepped forward, then reconsidered. Thought a moment. Nodded.

 

Moment.

 

Can you freeze any cameras or voice recorders that could hear me in time? he asked the crystal.

 

I can do better than that. Tell me where the computers that handle all of that are.

 

Onua exited the moment, and scanned. There. Entered again, and the crystal sensed it in his mind, and reported it would be done as soon as he let time flow. He did.

 

Turned to Sairiph. “What you're doing is risky. I don't think the Kuambu will let Vaurukan attempt to Take you, since antidermis burns, so hopefully they'll leave this open if you do destroy the navigation.”

 

If not I'll have to try to teleport myself,” Sairiph said. “Much easier said than done. Nobody's ever attempted it from such a starting point.”

 

Either way, I need code words to know if you're free or captured by them. Or, for that matter, Taken by Vaurukan.”

 

Why?”

 

Onua remembered Kejokta was here. Unsure whether he could trust the Rahunga, he answered, “We will contact you with the Rikaori when we're safe... assuming we don't lose the mask. In case anybody is spying on us or something. A precaution.”

 

Alright. Uh... If I'm free, I'll call you Toa Onua. If I'm captured by the Kuambu, Onua. If I'm...” he paused, visibly shuddering at the thought, “Taken, Toa.”

 

That works.” Onua looked around at everybody. “Make sure none of us says another word about the codes, ever.”

 

They nodded, though they all looked confused. Kejokta looked less confused than Onua would have liked though.

 

Alright,” he told the others. “I guess I should tell you all my plan now. When we go through, Rathoa will teleport most of you to the surface. But I want a small group to stay here with me for a while. We need to find the teleporter, and especially Makuta... Teridax... if we want the new Brotherhood law to matter.”

 

He gestured at Vaurukan. “No energy pack, and he's not holding the teleporter. Therefore he must have just hidden it somewhere in his village. That means I need you, Nuhuri.”

 

She nodded.

 

Rathoa, in case I can't find the teleporter, and in case Makuta is here.”

 

I don't think he will be,” Rathoa said. “The Kuambu clearly moved him somewhere else from what I heard.”

 

Yes, but there's a lot of Kuambu here. Who knows? It would be the last place a lot of people would think to look. So the first place I'd start.”

 

Rathoa nodded thoughtfully. “That would match the Kuambu's apparent love of mind games.”

 

Even if he isn't, maybe we'll find a clue where to start. Now, this has to be a small group, so most of you should go up to the ocean, but I do need Hujo with me. I hope to find an Awakener. That means I need two to carry him.”

 

Several of them raised their hands, including Mukana and Kejokta.

 

Actually, Mukana, if you don't mind, I'd like you to go with the others to make sure they all get to the Seahopper safely. We can't rule out the possibility that the Kuambu have guessed we'll do this.”

 

Mukana nodded.

 

Onua looked at Kejokta. “The Brotherhood's law is a big reason I'm doing this. It makes sense to have you along. I don't know if you are still loyal to Makuta or not, but...”

 

I am,” Kejokta said, though he didn't sound convinced of it.

 

Onua noticed Nijire looked disappointed to hear that, and Mukana more so.

 

He turned to Jaudrohk. “You didn't raise your hand... but I have a feeling you'll be needed. You wouldn't mind?”

 

The green-striped Ko-Matoran shrugged. “I don't know which path I fear more... I guess if you need me.”

 

Onua turned to Nijire. “I don't know if I'll need you or not. Either way you go will be a huge risk. The Kuambu might be betting on a teleportation to the ocean above. The ocean they rule. But they are already here. To be honest, even Mata Nui will be dangerous for you if they want to capture you.”

 

She grimaced. “I...”

 

Onua glanced at Vaurukan's frozen finger, and that button. “You don't have to decide right away. Once we go through, any nearby enemies will stay frozen in time for a while, but we'll need to move away fast.”

 

Nijire looked down at the lightstone, turning it in her hand – the dimming effect rolled around as she did to always center towards her palm. “Alright. I'll decide later, I guess...”

 

Onua nodded. “No objections to the plan?”

 

None.

 

He looked to Sairiph, thinking. “Tell me. Since you were working with the Unknown. Did they tell you... Do you know where Makuta is now?”

 

No. I only knew Nijire's role. The Unknown wanted her to learn her true power.”

 

Onua glanced at her. She looked confused, even embarrassed, perhaps at the idea that so much plotting across the world centered around her.

 

He could relate.

 

And the Kuambu?”

 

They needed her to learn her own power before they could force her to serve them.”

 

Will they keep trying to capture me?” Nijire asked.

 

For a while,” Sairiph said grimly. “You need to learn how to defend yourself with your power, like Hujo does.”

 

So I am what Hujo is?”

 

Yes.”

 

And what is that? I thought Hujo was the Jahurungi, the Unknown's solver of mysteries. I thought that was why he had that power. Now you're saying there's more like him... like... me... Am I even really a Matoran?”

 

Sairiph gave a slight cryptic smile. “The Unknown told me that the name of it... is a very important secret. You are something like a Toa, but a type of Matoran. Just to speak the name would give away a secret so...” He shook his head. “I don't know how else to say it but 'very important.' But... they did tell me that there was one path to that knowledge that would be acceptable.”

 

What?”

 

The little winged being faced Onua. “If Onua solves one of the mysteries he knows of, related to everything happening here, then you will know what you are, Nijire.”

 

Onua frowned, his mind racing. He wanted to try to ask more questions, to narrow the possibilities. He had no idea what Sairiph meant.

 

The Makuta stepped away, gesturing at the portal. “You all need to go now. I have to stop the sub.”

 

Onua nodded reluctantly. It was too late for more answers, at least without a Kuambu listening in. “One more thing.”

 

He turned to Vaurukan, and reached a hand up to the Mask of Telecommunication on his face. Eavesdroppers or not, the power could mean life or death sometimes, so to have a backup again would be wise. And this way he could perhaps inconvenience the enemy a little.

 

He pulled the mask off.

 

Let's go.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Haywire watched through Kopaka's eyes as he fell into the vast sea of energy.

 

And then he was falling down from a vast ceiling of energy, to water.

 

Still falling...

 

SPLASH.

 

Kohrak-Kal hovered over the water with the sword drawn. It appeared much like its original form now, but bulkier and with longer legs and arms. Its colors were now white and trans-blue. In place of handshields it had white clublike appendages at the end of its arms, radiating blue spikes in a circle.

 

These spikes vibrated rapidly, sending off powerful waves of rhythmic sound that shook the water and even the air, disorienting Kopaka, but not Haywire.

 

Fingers on the inner side of the right club gripped the sword.

 

Aimed at Kopaka.

 

All the Toa could do was to See it clearly.

 

The beam of ice flew.

 

The safeguard kicked in, and Haywire retracted from Kopaka's brain.

 

Zoomed out through the extremely tiny tunnel he'd made in Kopaka's neck.

 

Into the air.

 

Without a host, he could not see very well, but he could tell that the beam of ice hit Kopaka, freezing him and much of the lake around him.

 

Chilled himself enough to seriously frighten him, Haywire pumped his tiny winglike appendages fast through the air. He could fly on his own for a while, but swimming in water was far easier. Here he didn't dare go near the water. He struggled to gain altitude.

 

His vision in his own body was not that great, but he could tell that Kohrak-Kal was moving toward Kopaka. He'll probably thaw him but keep in encased in ice, to try to interrogate him.

 

Haywire circled around Kohrak-Kal, waiting for just the right moment to sweep in. He intended to find out if he could possess a Krana.

 

But his flight was beginning to falter.

 

Kohrak-Kal was still throwing off waves of sound. They were pushing Haywire away with more force than he could fight. He was designed to swim, not fly.

 

Vaurukan must have warned him about me.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire followed Onua through the portal.

 

While her eyes passed through she saw nothing but a bright bluish white light – not even her hands. Then suddenly there were her hands and she was walking out of the other wall of light.

 

All around were blurred Kuambu, unmoving. Some of the larger slaves and apparently more powerful small slaves were also frozen in time. Others – especially Matoran and Kriitunga – stared at the scene, with mixed expressions of confusion, fear... and hope.

 

Most of these slaves carried owl-like lanterns with lightstones inside, just like the one she found her strange lightstone in. Those not frozen were periodically tapping the beaks, keeping the lids open and the red-filtered beams of light shining out against the black night.

 

Now Nijire sensed the Time Crystal's power in operation. She could feel its pool of energy slowly draining.

 

Soon everybody was through. They waited while Rathoa concentrated one by one on the Ko-Matoran who weren't staying, and they disappeared into columns of white light.

 

Nijire dutifully checked with them all afterward to make sure they all made it to the ocean fine and could see each other or the nearby island. Apparently Rathoa's practice had paid off because they all said yes. Nijire had to be reminded to ask them a few times – she was absorbed in debating with herself whether she should go with them too or stay. Finally Onua mercifully put on Vaurukan's Kanohi Rikaori and took over that job.

 

But she couldn't decide... She was still trying to get over... IT. She kept turning the lightstone over and over in her hand. Finally she noticed it and stopped, sighing.

 

Those that were left walked on. Nuhuri led the way, following the unique four-legged footprints of Vaurukan on the brownish-gray dirt path. There were no plants anywhere in sight.

 

The reason was pretty clear – the volcanic creatures must have burned all of it up. They lay unmoving all around, now a mixture of metal and flattened, cooled gray rock.

 

The buildings were rectangular and also made of smooth gray stone. Here and there she saw large earthen molds that she concluded Vaurukan must pour lava in to make the pieces of walls and ceilings. Some slaves were destroying one mold in order to dig a cooled piece out. Others were remaking a mold that must have just been used with shovels.

 

The group ran on, following the footprints.

 

Slaves continued to stare at them, apparently unsure why their master wasn't commanding them to stop the intruders.

 

Here and there a Kuambu was moving, but as soon as their eyes rested on the refugees, they stopped moving. Several made a furious, frustrated expression when they saw Onua holding the Time Crystal. They obviously realized their inclusion of it in the plan had backfired.

 

Something kept occurring to her over and over. Wouldn't the thing Vaurukan would expect her to do be to flee? Wouldn't there be Kuambu ships waiting near that island to swoop in and take her before the Seahopper arrived?

 

Vaurukan didn't know her. Onua seemed to think he did know him, which was why Onua was one of the key tools the villains had used to force her to realize her power. The only thing he knew was her reputation of escaping traps, which Kuambu spies probably overheard in Ko-Koro.

 

The more she thought about it, the more strongly she felt that the one thing he was counting on was that she would not stay here.

 

When they finally reached a huge palatial building, where Vaurukan's footprints ended, she had already decided. But she kept thinking about it just to be sure.

 

Onua disintegrated a heavy stone door.

 

Slaves and guards inside gave shouts of alarm – some cut off by the time power immediately.

 

Onua led now, holding up his black metal scanner.

 

He walked quickly, turning with a clear purpose down hallway after hallway, until they reached a locked room in a hallway filled with locked rooms.

 

The door was slimed.

 

But the wall was not.

 

Onua blasted a hole into it, and walked in.

 

The room was dark, so Nijire followed next, commanding her lightstone to selectively cast light onto the room and not the people. It was filled with stone boxes, many welded shut.

 

Onua walked right to a fairly small box in the very back.

 

It was slimed too. And thoroughly welded.

 

Onua scowled. He looked defeated.

 

“Let me try,” Nijire said, stepping forward.

 

She felt a tiny, very weak connection to the rock.

 

“Is it slimed only on the outside?” she asked.

 

He nodded, fingers tensing on the scanner.

 

She held up the lightstone.

 

Tried to 'focus on the crystals', as she imagined a Toa must focus on their element. She really didn't understand the process. She could feel them, but... maybe they were just too small.

 

Rearrange... or something...

 

Her sense of the time energy draining was all that moved into focus. She heard shouts and footsteps in the hall – then nothing, and the energy shrank even faster.

 

Focus!

 

Nijire?” Kejokta asked.

 

Just hang on! Stand back. I... don't know how...”

 

They gave her some space. She took a deep breath, and tried again. She'd changed crystal mere moments ago. Why not here too?

 

But it just wouldn't work.

 

I think we'd need a Toa of Stone,” she muttered.

 

We don't have him,” Onua said.

 

Thanks for that...

 

Wait.

 

It wasn't as simple as she thought. Not all the stone's microcrystals were the same size.

 

There was a downside to making your own rock out of lava, she thought. Sedimentary or metamorphic stone would have been one thing. But here and there inside it she sensed little regions where the microcrystals were larger, especially toward the middles where the lava had cooled more slowly. Now that she focused on them it was like she could feel their exact locations.

 

In the exact centers, these clusters crossed over the boundary between stone and crystal. She nodded, relaxing a little. I still can't believe this is me doing this...

 

Now she commanded these to grow. And grow they did. She was puzzled that the slime didn't seem to prevent this control, and wondered if that was connected to the Kuambu's immunity to the slime.

 

Made four of them – on the top, front, back, and bottom sides – widen into knifelike shapes. Each reached slowly toward the other, forming a rectangle shape.

 

Each pushed against the rock around it, struggling harder and harder, shattering occasionally, but she just made each shattered part grow and grow...

 

Until with a deafening sound like a near lightning strike, the stone box split in two, the pieces falling to the left and right. She jumped back a little in reflex fear at the sound, grimacing. Her ears rang, but it had worked. She turned to the others, grinning widely.

 

Onua gave a bow. “I knew you could do it.”

 

There, atop the stone box the broken one had been set on, was the many-buttoned circular teleporter.

 

Onua snatched it up, his intense relief obvious. “I'll write a program to control it my way later, but for now I'll need an energy pack.”

 

Nijire handed hers back to him. She wasn't used to them anyways.

 

He put it on and energized the teleporter. Smiled for a moment. “Now we need to find a clue...”

 

“Where?” Rathoa asked.

 

Onua concentrated. Then he nodded. “I think I sense Vaurukan's study. Let's try that. This way.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka was suddenly aware of his surroundings. Which were ice.

 

Kohrak-Kal stood in front of him – or the monster that had once been the Kal. He held three objects.

 

Kopaka couldn't seem to focus his eyes right. He felt tired, cold, and dazed.

 

He realized he had been frozen alive, and still felt the deep chill. The Kal must have thawed him.

 

Yet, he couldn't move. Not even his head.

 

Kohrak-Kal walked sideways, so that he was just barely out of Kopaka's field of vision.

 

His eyes seemed somehow... off balance.

 

My mask!

 

Of course. One of the objects had been white and round. Kopaka was maskless, and encased in ice, though not frozen himself. Still, he felt the cold. His mind was sluggish because that was what happened to maskless Toa. His vision was actually balanced perfectly. He was just used to it being unbalanced the other way with the visor for his right eye.

 

The long white object was obviously Kopaka's sword. The other was gray and rectangular, perhaps a tablet.

 

Who are you?” Kohrak-Kal suddenly said, in his own voice. His tone was soft, but quick.

 

Kop-p-paka...”

 

What are you?”

 

Toe. Ah. Ice.”

 

Where are you?”

 

Kopaka dimly noticed that the sky above was black.

 

No blueish-purple light. Though he could still faintly see the ropes that held up the portal machine.

 

Pohatu and the Toa Rua wouldn't be coming through that way. All that tunneling was a waste of time. He groaned.

 

Where are you?” the white Kal repeated.

 

I'm... lake...”

 

What are you?”

 

Toa of Ice.”

 

What is your mask power?”

 

Vision.”

 

What is your element?”

 

Ice...”

 

Where are the Bahrag?”

 

I...” Kopaka tried to look at him. “I don't know!”

 

What is your name?”

 

I already...”

 

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” the Kal blasted with enough of his sonic power to make Kopaka grimace.

 

Kopaka.”

 

What are the Bahrag?”

 

I... I don't know where... uh... the Queens... swarm...”

 

What colors are the Bahrag?”

 

Blue and... red...”

 

What are the Bahrag in?”

 

Uh... a protocage...”

 

What are the Bahrag?”

 

This continued, on and on. The questions came even more rapidfire, and if Kopaka did not answer right away, the Kal blasted him with painful sound, slightly increasing the volume each time. He kept slipping in the 'where' question, often when Kopaka least expected it.

 

But he didn't know. He couldn't answer it.

 

Finally, the Kal stopped abruptly.

 

Kopaka became aware of motion near the white Kal.

 

I believe he does not know,” Kohrak-Kal said.

 

Nonsense,” a voice Kopaka thought sounded like Tahnok-Kal's replied. “Keep questioning him. Introduce physical pain if necessary, or worse. You have his sword.”

 

If he knew, he would have answered.”

 

Only Onua... knows...” Kopaka said.

 

There was a sudden motion to their heads. They had snapped their attention to him.

 

Kohrak-Kal stepped forward. “What is your name?”

 

He continued the process again, but this time the question he kept slipping in was, “Where is Onua?”

 

They haven't... called... I don't... know...”

 

Where is Pohatu?”

 

Kriitunga Island... maybe on a boat headed here now...”

 

Where is Gali?”

 

I don't... don't know...”

 

Where is Onua?”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Vaurukan's study was a huge room, made out of the usual gray stone, but cluttered with many things that wouldn't go well with lava.

 

The most obvious were the stacks of wooden cards, resting on a stone desk. The Poetraxiens records from the Kuambu.

 

School.

 

Onua had to resist the urge to smirk again at the idea, because he knew there was great value here. To learn to think in the way that Vaurukan himself was learning to think.

 

Maybe he could also learn even more. He moved closer, allowing both the scanner and the crystal to read the Poetraxiens. They were in the strangely obscure language of the Kuambu, so he couldn't make much sense out of them but the titles did usually give him a clear idea of what it meant.

 

There was one very neat stack on the desk, taller than the other stacks.

 

Onua recognized some of the titles from the conversation he'd overheard. This was the stack Vaurukan hadn't gotten to yet.

 

Other objects included string and stacks of paper.

 

The paper looked like translations of the other Poetraxiens. These were tied up in strings.

 

Near the desk were several wooden drawer cabinets. Some drawers hung open, and he could see many other cards in them.

 

Scanning the titles of the paper and the others, Onua realized that about half of these had been read already. The others Vaurukan or the Kuambu must have thought less important.

 

Bolted firmly to the cabinets was one of the clockwork flint arson devices Kopaka had described earlier. Onua presumed a slave would come in from time to time to reset its clock. He reset it himself now.

 

Then he turned to energizing the cards, cabinets and all, after disintegrating the bolts holding them to the arson device.

 

He tied string around the important unread stack, so he'd be able to recognize it among the mess all this was making in the energy storage space. Soon he had everything, including blank paper and an ink pen and jar.

 

He searched the whole room for anything else of value, but found nothing. “I'll have the crystal read these papers in energy form and tell me what it finds,” Onua said, turning towards the exit. “I see Vaurukan made many marginal notes. Maybe we'll find clues there. But now we'd better get out of here.”

 

Glancing out a window – the study overlooked much of the town – he could see that the volcano was still erupting, and Brotherhood servants were still fleeing many molten forked tongues. He saw motion throughout the forest. Walking through there would be a very bad idea.

 

He also noticed something very disappointing.

 

The giant tapeworm Nijire had described from the painting, but nobody had seen yet, was out there, active. In fact, Onua saw several other creatures still moving, but mostly small ones.

 

Scanning the creature control room, he saw that a river of lava had moved through the center, and the bombs had taken out most of the rest, but the ones to the right and left of the flow were still intact. The room was also guarded by a swarm of centipedes and some powerful guards.

 

Not wanting to waste any more time energy – he'd need it for the Kal – Onua decided against dealing with this now. They needed to get back, and fast.

 

He scanned all around for any hint of an Awakener, but he couldn't find one. He'd need Kopaka's.

 

One more thing to check... Yes. The battle and the eruption were going the opposite way of the airship.

 

They all held hands on his order, or held the elbows of Jaudrohk and Kejokta since they were carrying Hujo, and jumped.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Haywire swam away from the lake in the swamp until he found a tiny insectoid Rahi.

 

He remembered from a Poetraxiens that this species had a very short lifespan. After a few days, it would construct a new version of itself from materials salvaged from others, and then die to be salvaged itself. Considering that and its tiny brain – barely larger than himself – Haywire figured it would fall into a coma in an hour or so. He didn't dare take any host that would last longer right now.

 

It was a tiny beetle, that normally dove in the swamp mud. But it did have wings, and he made it use them.

 

Need to find Gahlok-Kal.

 

That one had the power he needed for his plan, plus it was too insane to understand it needed to protect against him, or so he hoped.

 

It seemed Mhebula had made giant waves to slow down the Kal as the others fled north toward Le-Koro. Everything was wet along this path, though the rest of the burnt jungle had dried. Haywire could see the island of green ahead. He saw and heard signs of battle there. Here and there he caught a glimpse of Gukko Riders... and some riderless Gukko, battling the Kal.

 

Along the way, he encountered Toa Tahu.

 

The red Toa was laying on the side of the tree as if gravity was sideways – which it was, because Nuhvok-Kal was here.

 

The black Kal now looked bulky and streamlined, with a body and head much like a normal Bohrok in basic shape, but longer arms, with huge-fingered hands on the end. The right forearm had a two-barrel gun attached to it. The legs were longer even than a Toa's, but crouched down so the Kal didn't seem to be taller than Tahu. He looked like if he wanted he could leap high into the sky at a moment's notice.

 

His headed sported a toothy jaw. From that mouth – which even the beetle knew to fear – came the same sort of questions Haywire had heard Kohrak-Kal asking Kopaka. It seemed they wanted to know where Onua was.

 

Tahu's mask was still on, and a shield was visible around him, but he seemed to be weighed very heavily against the tree, unable to move a finger. His eyes flicked back and forth, watching as the Kal snapped seemingly harmless, crumbling bits of the burnt trees off, and let them fall towards Tahu. Each bounced off the shield as if it was a bamboo disk thrown at full speed, shattering into dust against the energy barrier.

 

If Tahu lost focus, just one of those could cause all kinds of damage.

 

Nuhvok-Kal was one of the two whose powers Haywire wanted, but it was apparently making a bubble of gravity pulling things away from it. He could not fly near it.

 

So he moved on, hoping the berserk Kal was the one attacking the village.

 

But no. It was the massive Pahrak-Kal.

 

He could hardly believe the sight. It didn't look like the tall humanoid form Kopaka had spotted wading through Lake Kanae. Had it changed forms again?

 

It was wide and flat, shaped something like two pontoons, each twice as thick as a Toa's body and four times as long as a Toa was tall. This seemed to cover wheels that propelled it around on the wide flat lava rock that encircled Le-Koro thanks to the submagmatic's attack.

 

Near the back was a bulky body, with a huge cannon mounted atop it, and a smaller part in the back that Haywire thought looked like a misplaced Bohrok head. It was colored brown, black, and red.

 

This cannon was firing bolts of sizzling plasma that were setting fire to everything they hit. Le-Koro was going up in flames.

 

Mhebula was obviously hiding admidst its foliage somewhere. Torrential columns of water were falling from the night sky, dousing whatever fires they touched, but she was obviously falling behind. Presumably Gali was hiding in there somewhere.

 

Some Gukko were flying away while others came, apparently evacuating the poor villagers again. There also seemed to be more Gukko in the air than he remembered living on the island – after a moment he remembered Matau's mask power. Illusions. Some bolts of plasma were flying right through them. Thankfully none had hit a real bird and rider yet. Some of the riderless birds soon proved to be illusions too.

 

Suddenly, the Pahrak stopped firing.

 

Without warning, the cannon split into two pieces down the middle. They swung back and down.

 

The top of the pontoons lifted. A swiveling joint moved the base of what Haywire now recognized as humanoid legs back down to the hip where they would normally be. What remained underneath was the arms.

 

The cannon pieces turned into mere shoulder decoration, and the head moved up as the newly transformed giant stood up. It towered over the lavafield. Massive silver claws were revealed at the ends of the arms.

 

This was a sight that would intimidate anyone. The poor beetle shuddered in fear at the sight, and only with a strong force of will did Haywire keep it from fleeing. He regretted what he was doing even to the life of such a tiny being now – wasn't he just a tiny being too?

 

I'm sorry about this...

 

But the beetle's mind could not understand the idea.

 

The brown and red giant looked to the northeast. And walked that way. Stomping right over any remains of trees in his way, sending them crashing down.

 

Haywire looked back.

 

Nuhvok-Kal was leaving too.

 

Levhak-Kal must have found the Bahrag.Review here


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#45 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Aug 22 2013 - 02:58 AM

Chapter 44 

The Time Crystal turned off its power as soon as they landed in the airship.

 

Onua immediately scanned the portal area.

 

The energy had just disappeared, as Vaurukan's sword hit the button. The Kuambu there didn't seem to know anything was wrong, until others from nearby ran over to them.

 

To Onua's surprise, the portal activated again almost immediately. He'd thought Vaurukan would stay and try to stop Sairiph. Maybe he'd given up?

 

Unlikely.

 

The centaur-like titan ran through, and immediately pleaded with a Kuambu. Onua hadn't programmed the scanner to reproduce sound. But the Kuambu seemed to be refusing a request – though even through the scanner, Onua's memory of it was blurred.

 

Onua? Something wrong?” Nuhuri asked.

 

Hang on...”

 

Vaurukan had dropped his sword, and was running... no, stumbling over to one of the Matoran slaves.

 

The slave took off its own mask.

 

Handed it to Vaurukan.

 

A memory flashed in Onua's mind. When he'd smashed Vaurukan's Mask of Accuracy, the villain had immediately switched to the Mask of Telecommunication. Which Onua had now stolen.

 

He needs masks to stay conscious, just like Matoran!

 

He watched as Vaurukan tried to lift his arm to his face, but collapsed on the ground, smashing the mask.

 

A Kuambu barked an order at another Matoran slave, presumably to surrender his mask instead.

 

How could such a huge being, larger than a Toa, be reliant on masks?

 

Onua's attention through the scanner went back to Vaurukan's sword.

With his own eyes, he glanced at the slumbering Hujo, and his staff. At Nijire, and her lightstone.

 

Pieces of yet another puzzle fell together. Vaurukan had once been friends of the Unknown, Onua believed. The Unknown were shapeshifters, and apparently could somehow transform others, because they'd done it once to Ito. What if Vaurukan was a Matoran? But he'd been given a different shape for some reason?

 

Stay here,” Onua ordered. “I'll be back... Tell the time crystal to freeze the beings by the portal again.”

 

He looked at Hujo. Ran over. Touched his energy pack.

 

Transferred everything to that one except the teleporter. Put the scanner into his own pack too, to keep his hands free. But he kept the Stone of Permanence. Might need it if things went wrong. He wished he hadn't left the Unknown tablet behind – this was something he would have liked to ask its enigmatic operators about. But there was no time for regrets.

 

What are you doing?” Nijire asked.

 

You're not going back there alone, are you?” Jaudrohk added.

 

Onua ran away from them, leaped into the air without an answer, and fell through the blue energy.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Figuring Gahlok-Kal would go north too, Haywire forced the beetle to follow the giant Pahrak-Kal.

 

Soon they crossed over a boundary of Ahrikalla plants. The giant paused here and there to blast a tree's base and knock it over, since the unburnt trees were still sturdy and dwarfed even him. The bolts of plasma let loose the Ahrikalla's water torrents again, and Haywire had to back up and fly over the line.

 

The beetle was already fading, its limbs moving randomly now. It kept twitching its right mandible too. Thankfully the wings kept working, probably because Haywire was putting all his concentration into them.

 

Now Pahrak-Kal was far ahead. Haywire could still see the periodic bursts of orange plasma. He strained the wings to their top speed.

 

Nuhvok-Kal flew by, using his gravity to move him, Kohrak-Kal, and Tahnok-Kal.

 

Haywire got a bit of a glimpse of the red Kal's final form. It was a lithe humanoid now, still with a Bohrok-like head, with a wide and flat torso, and a half-ring of spikes reaching over each shoulder from the front to the back, the middle spikes the tallest. It had a mouth like Nuhvok-Kal but with huge fangs.

 

It still carried two handshields, but each was more comparable to Kopaka's shield in size now. These were attached to the back of its hands, which sported large fingers as well. The shields seemed to have several kinds of weapons, each small and barely noticeable, built in.

 

Soon they crossed over in the savannah with shorter trees of Kini-Wahi.

 

Pahrak-Kal moved faster now. The other three had already outdistanced him.

 

Lehvak-Kal was nowhere in sight – but Haywire already suspected he was waiting up ahead.

 

What he most needed to know was if Gahlok-Kal was near. He flew higher, looking across the landscape.

 

There. Yes!

 

The blue Kal was rampaging in from the north, now going past Kini-Nui. It had apparently wandered off randomly in its mad state; it came now as if summoned by some signal all six Kal could sense, but nobody else could.

 

Haywire flew even harder. I have to take it as my host before it gets to the others.

 

Now it saw Levhak Kal.

 

The green Kal had ended up as a clone of the muscular hunchback humanoid form some of the others had taken earlier. The form seemed to fit it better than them. Its green Bohrok head jutted rudely forward and sported fangs as large as the Tahnok-Kal's. Its limbs were thicker than any of the others' had been in that form, especially its arms. And it carried a sword mounted to the back of its right hand. Its handshields had become clamping claws for hands.

 

Despite what might be mistaken for a brutish appearance, its eyes gave Haywire a distinct impression of extreme intelligence, nearly the opposite of Gahlok-Kal.

 

Strangely, there was a wind moving all around it even though Lewa's axe was stored on its back at the moment, apparently not being used. It was as if its power of Vacuum had been traded for the power of Air like Lewa. The air spun in a wide circle that Hawire imagined could easily form a tornado if the Kal wanted it to.

 

He wondered if it had sensed the air pockets where Onua had presumably buried the protocage.

 

Haywire had nearly overtaken this group when suddenly Lehvak-Kal's eyes snapped towards him.

 

It lifted its bladed right hand.

 

Oh no.

 

Suddenly a bubble of nothingness appeared around the beetle.

 

Its wings were still flapping, but the air was being pushed away. They were flapping in a void.

 

He has both powers!

 

The beetle fell.

 

Gahlok-Kal came closer.

 

As Haywire's little host fell – and suffocated – the bubble of vacuum moved down with it. Haywire caught a gloating expression on the faces of the other Kal. How are they sensing me so easily?

 

Then he remembered Kohrak-Kal's power of sonics. To it the beetle's wings might sound thundrous, impossible to miss.

 

The last thing Haywire saw was the grassy ground rushing up at him, as the beetle's vision faded to black.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka struggled against his icy binding in vain. He had broken most of the ice around his head, but the rest was too thick.

 

Thankfully, even at night the jungle was much warmer than Ko-Wahi. All the ice in the lake was slowly melting. But Kopaka knew it would not happen quickly.

 

The two Kal had abruptly stopped the questioning midsentence, and ran out of Kopaka's field of vision for no apparent reason. But he was pretty sure he knew why.

 

Kopaka craned his head around, looking for his mask. Had Kohrak-Kal dropped it?

 

Yes! There it was. No sword though.

 

But it would be a long time before he could get out.

 

Just then, he heard noises behind him. He gathered from the stars that he was facing south. The Kal had gone behind him, to the north. Were they coming back, or was it his friends?

 

Kopaka?”

 

The voice was Gali's.

 

Here! Trapped... in the ice!”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua leaped onto the dirt in front of the portal.

 

Everybody was frozen again.

 

A green Kuambu had already picked up Vaurukan's sword.

 

The others were trying to lift the titan; he had landed facedown in the dirt. Another slave's mask had been taken off by a Kuambu. The first slave laid down to the side, his eyes closed. The other was running toward him. Another Kuambu was pointing that way, probably ordering the slave where to go to await a replacement mask.

 

Onua faced the Kuambu with the sword. He'd hoped to get here before any hands closed around it.

 

But his next plan formed quickly.

 

He stood in front of the Kuambu, pushing up.

 

The crystal was apparently watching, because the Kuambu starting moving up very slowly.

 

Onua noted several clear Kuamor in its launcher.

 

Then he hooked a hand around the Kuambu, and lifted his feet off the ground. Again the crystal understood what he wanted to do. It froze the Kuambu in time so that it would not fall, but would hold Onua up.

 

Then he activated the teleporter.The power released.

 

They both fell through the blue light.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire saw Onua and a Kaumbu fall through light into the airship. She held up her lightstone in fear, as if it would help at all.

 

The Kuambu struggled for a moment, then went still again.

 

Onua backed away. He picked up another spare Levitation Kanoka, and set it nearby. He also took back his things from Hujo's energy pack.

 

Rathoa and Kejokta seemed to understand what Onua had in mind and crouched to the left and the right of the thing. They seemed confused for a moment, due to the memory blurring power, but soon they figured out how to pin it down. Nijire couldn't keep the method in her memory.

 

When they were ready, the Kuambu moved again. Its blurred face snapped up to Onua.

 

The Toa pointed his one glove-claw at the Kanoka. Light flashed out, and the disk crumbled to dust.

 

Then he swung the claw right towards the Kuambu and barked, “DROP THE SWORD!”

 

The Kuambu's fingers wiggled a little.

 

Did not let go.

 

It filled the airship with a terrifyingly resounding laugh. It shook the very air around them – Nijire saw loose objects vibrating all around – and yet it seemed quiet. Very deep in pitch.

 

It said nothing, but they knew what it was thinking. Kuambu knew better than to imagine a Toa would kill.

 

Onua froze it again, and jerked his hand forward.

 

Nijire could understand, barely, that the Kuambu seemed to have two objects. The right hand carried, apparently, the Kuamor launcher.

 

The left arm seemed to carry an ammo holder. Somehow that left arm also managed to hold the sword. She gathered that the holder was mounted to the arm, not held in the hand, but she wasn't sure. Curious, she tried to sense any crystal involved with any of it, but there was none.

 

Onua had apparently unfrozen the ammo holder, because he opened its long and narrow front – the holder seemed to be shaped like a tube, with the top half on hinges at the back – and took out all the clear Kuamor. They seemed to be hard to hold onto, and there were five, so he gestured for Jaudrohk to dump out a crate of Kanoka. Then he put them one at a time into the crate. They did the same to rob the Kuambu of its other Kuamor, which included a purple one.

 

He stepped back, still holding the fifth Kuamor.

 

The Kuambu unfroze. Its eyes went to the sphere in Onua's hands. A slight flicker of fear – again strangely blurred in her memory yet understandable.

 

The Toa threw the sphere at the Kuambu's head with all his might.

 

It burst like a bubble and the clear energy rushed into its mind.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

As soon as the Kuamor hit, Onua felt a power in his mind. He could target memories of the Kuambu's. He sensed it blocking him from seeing most of them, but he was able to focus sharply on the sword.

 

He blurred all memory of what happened since the crystal had first frozen time at the portal, especially the picking up of the sword.

 

The Kuambu frowned. Its fingers relaxed.

 

Rathoa reached up and gently pried them off the rest of the way.

The sword clattered to the floor. The Kuambu looked at it as if seeing it for the first time. Onua bent down and snatched it away, energizing it before the villain could react.

 

When it did, it struggled furiously against its captors. It even fired a clear Kuamor that had apparently been loaded into the launcher – it hit one of the window panes harmlessly.

 

“Let's take off,” Onua said, gesturing to Jaudrohk. “You can figure this thing out, right?”

 

The greenstriped Ko-Matoran shrugged, but went over to the controls, and began analyzing it.

 

Onua threw another sphere at their prisoner, and tried to erase everything related to recent events except a few key details. It worked well because the Kuambu could not hide things Onua already knew about as well as things that were still mysteries to him. He knew what to look for.

 

But what he needed was to get it to give him one of the things it was hiding from him.

 

Onua gestured for Nijire and Nuhuri to move out of the Kuambu's field of vision. Then ordered Rathoa and Kejokta to let go and stand back, blurring that memory as he went.

 

The Kuambu stood up, confused. It look suspiciously toward Onua.

 

“I have just become a mercenary,” Onua said, “to replace R'yn, who defected from your service. I'm here with Jaudrohk. There's a problem with the memory-blurring devices. They think it's a glitch in the big central machine. The Senate has ordered me to get Jaudrohk there. Unfortunately, they said it was being hidden, and the messenger who was supposed to tell them where was waylaid. They told me you know where it is.”

 

The Kuambu nodded, but it still looked confused and suspicious. The explanation seemed to convince it that its own blurred memories had a reasonable cause.

 

Onua happened to catch in his attempt to blur the memories that another Kuambu had actually told the location by Telecommunication to the Senate, but Onua fixed this by blurring the prisoner's memory of that power. He had a feeling his blurring was very poor quality and would wear off soon, but for now the Kuambu might go along with it. He also sensed that he was missing something important again, but he couldn't tell what.

 

The booming-yet-soft voice replied. “We took it to Kumu. Same as M... the treasure.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Water.

 

Kopaka realized Mhebula was here. She was shooting water at the ice around him. It sped up the melting.

 

Gali walked into his field of vision, and put his mask back on his face.

 

That's better.

 

Soon he freed an arm.

 

Then the other.

 

And finally stepped out.

 

Turned around, to see Tahu and Takua there too. Several Gukko Riders had landed on the ice behind them. One Gukko carried Turaga Matau.

 

Kopaka looked down. Vision.

 

There were the Legendary Masks. Encased in the thick ice at the bottom of the lake.

 

This ice did not fill the whole lake, though. Kohrak-Kal had frozen the surface, and six spikes of ice going down to the masks. If they could melt a hole through the surface, Gali could share her Kaukau power with Mhebula, and they could go down to one-by-one free the masks with a current of new water.

 

This was quickly agreed upon and started.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua hit the Kuambu with another clear Kuamor sphere, blurring all its memories of what had happened here, and with the airship flying low, allowed it to leap out the door.

 

Onua had asked it whether it could survive a fall from this height. The question had aroused its suspicion and it had noticed Rathoa and the others, but it seemed to realize it was defeated, but simply answered yes. It even thanked them for allowing it to go free.

 

That made Onua wonder if they should keep it contained, but he was worried it would be more trouble than it was worth.

 

He watched it fall. Somehow it slowed its fall when it reached the trees. He understood vaguely that the method was not a flight power, but some physical mechanism that he could not remember.

 

That's probably an important clue, he thought. But he couldn't imagine how so. Really, it was just maddening to be staring directly at a Kuambu, to steal its ammo from it, to interrogate it, and still be unable to tell what it looked like. But he reassured himself with the knowledge that he'd now set a plan in motion that might change that.

 

After it had landed, Onua sensed the blurring power lingering in his mind, and he tried to make the enemy forget the airship entirely, but he couldn't tell if it worked. He had the distinct feeling that the Kuambu had known all along what he was doing, and had only played along.

 

Kumu,” he muttered.

 

Kumu Islets?” Kejokta said. “It would make sense.”

 

Onua nodded. The Kuambu fleet was anchored just to the northwest of that southern chain of islets. The largest and almost farthest was called Nui Kumu, sometimes just Kumu. Onua didn't know if the others had names or not. Did the Kuambu mean that Nui Kumu itself had both 'the treasure' and the memory machine? Or were they on separate islands?

 

He wasn't concerned enough about that point to ask the Kuambu directly. His scanner, the teleporter's scanner, and the crystal could all be used to scout the islands.

 

But first, he needed the Awakener. It wouldn't do to leave Hujo unconscious like this.

 

And what to do about the airship? He'd hate to disappoint Toggler by taking it back there only to have it shot down the moment the Time Crystal was taken away from it. With the teleporter, he didn't really need it.

 

A solution came to mind immediately. He quickly discussed it with the others, and they agreed.

 

First, he needed to check on the other Ko-Matoran, without resorting to Telecommunication.

 

He was more worried about staying here, considering the Makuta-filled battle on the other side of the volcano, than heading up to a trap above, at least with the crystal still having so much energy left, so he told Jaudrohk to bring the airship to a stop, and lower it down into a portal of light.

 

They appeared above the surface ocean, in sight of the rocky island, the Seahopper, and three towering Kuambu ships.

 

These antagonists were firing Kuamor at the Seahopper, as the Ko-Matoran took cover among the rocks.

 

Bhukasa's crew was firing back, but not making much impact.

 

Man the cannon,” Onua ordered Kejokta, who nodded and lowered himself down to the small boat beneath the airship.

 

Bolts of energy shot out at the Kuambu. Blasted holes in the wood.

 

Meanwhile, the enemy's projectiles slowed to a crawl through the air, thanks to the crystal.

 

The Ko-Matoran made a run for it.

 

The Kuambu backed away, obviously knowing they were beaten. They raised anchor, and sailed toward the horizon.

 

Jaudrohk brought the airship low as the Matoran swam to the Seahopper. Onua leaned out the door, waving at the white reptilian at the wheel.

 

Then he noticed Bhukasa was waving for him to come aboard.

 

Onua glanced back at the others. “Uh, he apparently wants to talk to me. Wait here.”

 

He stepped back, eyeing a spot to land safely on the Seahopper's wooden deck, jumped, and teleported.

 

Bhukasa's crew reacted with amazement at this sight – and some with alarm, raising weapons. Bhukasa looked surprised himself, but called out for the crew to stand down. He left the wheel – the Ga-Matoran Maku took over.

 

Come with me, Onua,” the Captain said. “I need to show you something.”

 

Onua followed without a word. He had a lot to tell Bhukasa himself, but he wasn't sure it was the right time. But when Bhukasa took him down to hatch and rope ladder that led into the black metal room, Onua couldn't hold back.

 

I need to show you something.” He materialized the black metal scanner as soon as he stepped off the ladder.

 

A look of nostalgia and wonder came over the reptilian's face. “How did you get it?”

 

Onua glanced up at the hatch. “Can you close that first?”

 

Bhukasa nodded distractedly. He aimed the thin beam of whitish energy at it, activating the menu system, and made the beam flash brighter and disappear on the symbol that activated the hatch's motor. It swung closed.

 

Onua quickly told him everything he'd surmised. Bhukasa looked astonished.

 

So my people did not invent the black metal. I thought it didn't seem to match our natural style. We only used it.”

 

Onua nodded. “I suspect I made a lot of it for you. I'm not really sure I invented it either, but I seem to have been placed as the top authority over it.”

 

If you didn't make it, probably the Unknown did.”

 

Onua agreed. “Can you let me study your ship's code real quick? I have an improvement in mind for you.”

 

Bhukasa flashed a grin. “Does it involve being able to stand still while we're hopping?”

 

Onua just smiled back. “Okay, several improvements.”

 

He sat down and concentrated.

 

Soon the code came sharply into focus, like a fish's image resolving as it swam up from underwater. He studied every part carefully.

 

Yes, there was a base code just like in all the black metal, which recognized Onua as its ruler.

 

Atop this he had apparently built a second base, recognizing the 'Ukyabha' people – which he assumed was the name for Bhukasa's species – as controllers of the powers in the second base. Their access was rudimentary compared to his, and indirect. He imagined that inventing new functions must have been very difficult for them.

 

Their powers dealt mostly with turning water and air into each other, golden walls of light, temperature, basic kinetics, and powers of perception.

 

It seemed the inventor of the Seahopper tech had built several more complex powers, including a hidden memory-wiping power, off of these in ways he hadn't intended, as he saw better ways to do it already in the original base code.

 

The kinetics involvement in Seahopping was very complicated and roundabout. Onua thought he would have built it in a very simpler way, but perhaps if he had the limits of an Ukyabha he wouldn't have even thought of this use.

 

Apparently Onua had originally intended the kinetics power to provide a way for projectiles to fly true once thrown or shot. There was a base system that used Matoran terms for projectiles that the seahopping system incorporated, redefining the whole wooden vessel and those aboard it as the projectiles. And the intensity of the original system was small; a rapid intensity adding power was added multiple times to it, rather than setting the original intensity variable to the intended high amount.

 

Once the system was completed, Onua imagined it must be very hard to try to also make it so sudden changes of direction, accelerating, and braking would have no effect on the passengers.

 

In fact, it appeared the inventor had tried, but had blocked that code off with a stop signal. The abandoned code seemed to try to introduce opposite-direction projectile motion to the passengers. If anything went wrong with such a code, they might find themselves thrown against a wall to their deaths, or even thrown off the vessel.

 

But in the original base code, there was already a function for simple inertial dampening. Apparently Onua had subconsciously tapped into this already himself, but he had not thought to offer it to the Ukyabha in the original package.

 

He fixed that now, attaching a simple dampening activator to the Seahopping code. He wasn't confident enough to reprogram the Seahopping itself – he figured it was wisest not to fix what wasn't broken, even if it wasn't the best way to build it originally.

 

Then he added the codes he'd had in mind at first.

 

One would allow Bhukasa to designate certain individuals as trustworthy allies.

 

Maku for example could be given access to the interface by touching the black metal screen in the center of the steering wheel or a wall down here, with her pointer finger.

 

Another scanned identities so that ONLY Bhukasa, Onua, or other designated allies could control it. This way Kuambu could not use the soulsong copies that they still had of Bhukasa's power to gain access.

 

Still a third gave Onua remote access via the remote control, if need be.

 

He thought for a moment, studying the code. Here we go. The original system of commands was built ground-up from a base 'if-then-if-not-then' branch. If the Seahopper was in the water, Bhukasa got one system of controls. If, however, it was on land, an emergency branch of code activated that only gave him one option, which made water appear around the Seahopper so it could be rowed back to a natural body of water. All the other options were removed.

 

Onua fixed that. Thinking quickly through which ones still made sense on land, he added them to the safeguard options.

 

He also gave it a very toned-down slow forward motion power so they wouldn't be dependent on oars.

 

Then he added this slow propulsion power to the normal controls too. With this plus oars and sails the Seahopper's top surface speed would be impressive now. Without sails or oars Bhukasa would still have options.

 

Finally, he added a simple communication system to the Seahopper, that could call his scanner, and vice versa. He made it text based rather than voice based, hoping that whatever eavesdropping system the Kuambu used would have more trouble with that. He even double-encrypted it, and added the twin of this code to his scanner.

 

Onua opened his eyes, and stood up. “You'll like these changes,” he said. He summed them up. Bhukasa's face displayed his happiness at this turn of events over and over.“I really can't thank you enough. This is amazing.”

 

Onua warned him about the eavesdropping. “That's why I came to check in this way.”

 

I actually know about that already,” Bhukasa said.

 

Really? How?”

 

Bhukasa held up a tablet. Onua had noticed it on the floor of the room.

 

It was a map, apparently, of a chain of islands.

 

Bhukasa aimed a beam at the ceiling and activated the seahopping map, careful to deactivate the beam without triggering a hop. He pointed at an outline in white of these very islands, to the south-southeast of Mata Nui by quite a ways.

 

I don't understand.”

 

R'yn gave me the tablet,” Bhukasa said.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Gali and Mhebula disappeared into the hole they'd made in Lake Kanae's ice.

 

Kopaka glanced at Tahu. “I've been thinking... About what you said.”

 

What did I say?”

 

About all this.” He gestured at the portal device hanging from the ropes, suspended from the jungle trees around the lake. “The whole place where we found the masks, and all of this.”

 

That we're doing what the Kuambu want?” Tahu guessed. “I know I said that, but I can't imagine how giving us Legendary power over our elements is anything but a loss to them.”

 

The Vahi didn't turn out too well,” Takua pointed out.

 

Kopaka nodded. “Maybe it'll be too much for us.”

 

Tahu considered. After a moment, he nodded. “Let's just keep them in our energy packs – and watch our backs. We'll only use them if we have no choice.”

 

Kopaka nodded back, but didn't say what he was thinking. I don't think Vaurukan will give us a choice.

 

They waited several more minutes. A concern gnawed at him, but he couldn't do anything about it... until it happened.

All the ice in the lake suddenly melted with a thunderous SNAP. Spray shot up into the air as Kopaka and the others fell into the water, crying out in surprise.

 

A massive wave rolled into the surrounding swamp, felling trees. The ropes above shook wildly.

 

Kopaka got a mouthful of water before he came to his senses and kicked back to the surface. He blasted the water out of his mouth, gasping.

 

Obviously Mhebula had gone for the Legendary Mask of Ice first, to speed up the process. He couldn't blame her, but as soon as she and Gali surfaced, he was very glad when Tahu warned them of what the others had decided.

 

Well, you're welcome for saving you time,” Mhebula snapped. But she handed the white mask over to Kopaka with no protest. The Mask of Water she gave to Gali, Fire to Tahu. She kept Air, Gali took Stone, and Tahu took Earth. Kopaka realized, though Tahu didn't say it, that they didn't dare trust him with more than one given what the sand and Haywire had done to him, though he seemed to be mostly recovered now.

 

As soon as they were ready, Gukko swung down and plucked them up, heading north.

 

Time to face the Kal.

 

Kopaka did not feel ready in the slightest.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

R'yn? Where is she?”

 

Underwater.”

 

Onua frowned. “A... submarine? So that's how she left that volcanic island chain. It must have been anchored underwater there.”

 

Bhukasa nodded. “She has defected from the Kuambu. She said you would know what she meant. She said to meet her there when this is over. She said Hujo and Nijire are invited as well, but no others.”

 

The Po-Matoran?”

 

She said they were still inside the sub.”

 

Say submarine,” Onua said. “Sub will get confusing with the 'submagmatic' out there...”

 

Sorry. She said both Po-Matoran wanted to keep helping her for a while.”

 

Onua nodded. “Where did this happen?”

 

At Kriitunga Island while I was waiting. She told me the Kuambu might be listening in on the Rikaori, so I said nothing of it when you called.”

 

I understand. Was that all?”

 

One more thing.” Bhukasa looked unsure how to begin. “She... uh... said you have to give me your glove-claw.”

 

What?!”

 

She said that while you face the Kal, and deal with Makuta, you cannot have it. You need to give it to me, and then meet me at Ga-Koro when it's done. I'll give you back the claw then, and we'll hop to this island chain to meet her.”

 

Onua shook his head, not to refuse but just in amazement. “You're sure she's on our side now?”

 

She said it would all make sense soon.”

 

He would be giving up the power of Earth, the power of disintegration, and a useful digging claw at that. On the upside, he would be balanced. Maybe that's what it was about. And with any luck he could get the Legendary Mask of Earth shortly.

 

He'd keep the Mask power of Strength, with the ability to share it. He was pretty confident in that power. He also had the normal masks of Telecommunication and Passage still.

 

Alright. Just don't lose it.”

 

He took the claw-glove off and handed it over. “In fact...”

 

He sat down again, and put in another code to the Seahopper. This held the glove in a golden-light stasis field near the back wall. Only Onua could undo it, unless Bhukasa overrode it, he decided, programming those limits in.

 

He stood up. Bhukasa nodded. “Wise.”

 

Onua felt the lack of elemental power like a strong hunger or as if he had been holding his breath for too long. To think that his teammates had been living with this for days now. It had to end. “Alright. Thanks for everything. I'll see you at Ga-Koro.”

 

With that, he teleported back to the airship.

 

As soon as he landed inside, the others stopped a conversation they had been having. He'd caught enough words to realize they'd been arguing about – of all things – time. Which they were running out of.

 

Now they stared at his gloveless hand. “I'll explain later,” he said, making it sound like it had been his decision.

 

He turned to the nearest window, and watched until the Seahopper blasted downward in a bubble of golden light, seeming to instantly sink.

 

He risked a bit of Telecommunication. “Is it working?”

 

Yes! Perfectly!” Bhukasa said.

 

Onua closed the call before anything specific about the inertial dampening could be said. He turned to the others. “You were talking about something.”

 

Respectfully,” Kejokta replied, “I don't think we have time to continue in one group. The Kuambu have surely been alerted that we know where Makuta is. We need to split up. You can deal with these Bohrok-Kal. My group will free Makuta.”

 

Onua sighed. He knew the Rahunga was right, but he'd been hoping not to have to do this.

 

No,” Nijire said. “My group. It was I who made the deal with Makuta, so I need to be in charge, not you, Kejokta.”

 

All the Kuambu are trying to capture you!” Rathoa said. “No. If anyone should lead that group it should be me.”

 

Enough,” Onua said. He thought carefully, relying on the crystal's reading of Vaurukan's notes. They'd already learned much that would help, including Poetraxiens that summed up the Kuambu's opinions about Vaurukan, Onua, Nijire, Rathoa, and Jaudrohk.

 

Here is my decision. First, we go to Kriitunga Island and hide the airship.” That had already been agreed on earlier. “Let's start that now.”

 

Jaudrohk nodded. “I'm ready when you are.”

 

Onua nodded. He opened the scouting program and found a good spot.

 

Blue light appeared, and they lowered through it.

 

Now they were inside thick fog. But Onua could tell where they were easily thanks to the scanner. They were on the eastern side of the Kriitunga Island mountain range, where clouds that rose up on the eastward wind over the mountains sank down amidst countless rocky spires as fog.

 

Gently lower us. Do not move forward or in any other direction.”

 

Out a window, he could see one of those spires. He pointed it out to Jaudrohk, who nodded.

 

This will take a few minutes, and we should land on a flat area,” he said. He turned to the others. “Now. We're not going to split up until we reach the Rua and the other Toa Nuva here. Then hopefully some of them will join us, and with reinforcements we'll split up.”

 

Kejokta nodded with satisfaction. But then the Rahunga pointed at Rathoa. “On the condition that he goes with you.”

 

How dare you!” Rathoa blurted. “I made this temporary alliance with the Toa for the whole purpose of...” His voice trailed off, obviously realizing he couldn't say that he intended to keep Makuta captive. But Kejokta's point had been made, and he just raised his eyebrows to show he knew it. Onua tried not to let his disappointment at Rathoa's brash answer show, lest Kejokta realize he had agreed with the treachery.

 

He wondered if Kejokta was really still loyal to Makuta or not. If not, this would be a lot less messy. He wanted to just tell the Rahunga everything, but there was something stubborn about him. He doubted it would be wise. And now he worried Rathoa might break their alliance out of sheer anger and frustration with himself.

 

Rathoa has his own reasons for wanting the Makuta free,” Onua decided to say. “Why don't you want him helping?”

 

Makuta does not want him anywhere near him. He's a traitor. Simple. Are you blind?”

 

Makuta betrayed me,” Rathoa said. “I'm going to prove to him that I'm loyal despite this.”

 

Absurd.”

 

Alright,” Onua said. “We're not here to debate who betrayed who or who was in the right. None of the rest of us are on the Makuta's side. We're just trying to stop the Kuambu from controlling what Makuta does. And...” – he hesitated to note to himself that he was beginning to wonder if this cover story was actually the right thing to do itself – “to gain the benefit of a safe zone from the Brotherhood, as agreed. Once he's free we'll see who will win, but for now we must trust each other.”

 

Well,” Kejokta said, “do you trust Rathoa to help you get that deal finalized?”

 

Onua glanced at Rathoa.

 

Suddenly he realized what to do. He turned his head to Rathoa so Kejokta could only see his left eye.

 

Winked, with his right. Rathoa blinked in confusion, but obviously saw it.

 

Turned back to Kejokta. “I guess... I do not trust Rathoa, no.”

 

Rathoa looked offended, but all he did was hold his mouth open as if in shock. He did not object.Onua turned back to him. “It does make sense for me to keep an eye on him.”

 

This Rathoa couldn't help but answer. “You just lost your elemental power. You think you ever had any power over me?”

 

Onua just shrugged. “And there's another good reason to come with me. I might need you.”

 

Nijire spoke up. “You do have an alliance with us now, and the Kal are a serious problem. Let's not lose sight of who our enemy really is right now. It's Vaurukan, and it was he who set the Kal into motion. I don't think this is over.”

 

Onua nodded. He winked yet again.

 

Rathoa shrugged. “Fine. But only if you wake Hujo up first and he goes with Kejokta and Nijire.”

 

Onua nodded. “Jaudrohk, you should go with them too. If you find the memory machine, I want you to steal it by energy pack. When you're safe, hide it somewhere and reprogram it to prevent memory blurring anywhere near Kuambu. Think that's possible?”

 

Yes, but they'll surely weaken it by destroying the channeling devices they're carrying around.”

 

It's better than nothing. Actually a partially effective version is better. We have concerns about what the Kuambu might do if they thought their appearances were fully visible to all.”

 

Jaudrohk nodded. “Okay, I'll go, but I don't think Nijire should.”

 

She started to object, but Onua held up a hand.

 

I thought about that, Jaudrohk, but heading to a Kuambu camp is the last place they'll expect her to go. It may be the safest place possible. And I'm hoping the Toa Rua will agree to go too. Maybe some Kriitunga.”

 

And I'll be practicing my own power,” Nijire added. “Don't count me as helpless!”

 

If you insist,” Jaudrohk said. “I'm just saying. I was assigned to help with that submagmatic for the whole purpose of awakening your power and capturing you, I think. No way they'll just give up. And you did this 'last place to expect' thing once already. I say it won't work again.”

 

That's exactly why it will work,” Nijire said.

 

There was a shake and a groan as the airship settled onto the rock.

 

It went still. Successful landing. “Alright,” Onua said, after nobody offered any further objections. “Let's go.”

 

He started to scout the dig site, but the teleporter immediately told him something was wrong.

 

Oh no...

 

Low energy.

 

That last jump had crossed a vast distance, and that had been near the limit of its energy. It would recharge naturally, but it would take time.

 

Onua scowled. He'd had no choice; to fly the distance would take time too. This was probably faster... but the others were going to hate this news. Especially Kejokta.

 

He was getting the impression that the teleportation system was one of the last things he'd made in his old life; the code seemed rushed. Something should have warned him about the battery level before using it. Maybe if he'd known about it he would have had them leave the airship behind and come on the Seahopper...

 

What?” Kejokta asked.

 

Onua sighed. “We have to walk.”Review here


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#46 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Feb 06 2014 - 06:07 PM

Chapter 45
 

 

Onua, the Time Crystal said, Vaurukan's on the move.

 

The crystal had kept its focus at the rocky island above Vaurukan's island when the airship moved, it said, and had zoomed back down into the dome to watch near the portal. Vaurukan had run back through, sporting the second slave's Matoran mask – those two slaves were carried off by others, hopefully to be given replacements from storage – and some of his remaining creatures joined him.

 

It seemed that the biggest creature he now had was the giant tapeworm.

 

This looked like a translucent film of molten glass, lined with two thicker orange tubes at the sides, which met in a tail and head. When it entered the portal it rolled up sideways to form a much narrower worm shape.

 

Following it were some of the giant millipedes, a few mandible worms, and some of the tiny centipedes.

 

Apparently all the Kuambu had left the submagmatic now, staying in Vaurukan's village. Magma filled most of the vehicle's hallways. Vaurukan swam right into it, apparently impervious even without the sword, and the creatures followed. Interestingly, a bubble of air appeared around his head so he could breathe. Onua couldn't see a cause of this effect; surely his control over lava was ended now that he lacked the sword?

 

The crystal saw no sign of Sairiph. Hopefully he had done enough irreparable damage to render the vehicle uncontrollable and teleported away. Onua made a mental note to check on him in a moment.

 

It seemed Vaurukan was swimming into the giant dome, heading for one of the giant hatches.

 

I think he's using it as a shortcut, the crystal said. To go to Mata Nui.

 

Onua nodded. He'd be wanting his sword back, and maybe he wanted to make sure the final trap with the Kal snapped shut as planned. Nijire was right – this wasn't over.

 

But if the sub... magmatic... can't be steered...

 

The crystal moved its focus to the hatch.

 

There was a shape in the magma flow there. Something like a tendril, but not made of orange energy. Made of something like flesh, something like nearly molten rock.

 

The focus moved out and showed him the whole shape. He recognized it.

 

One of the creatures from the painting that they hadn't encountered yet. The octopus.

 

And this one, apparently, was actually a creature, not a fake. It had an egglike body with tendrils growing out of the back, similar to the submagmatic. Perhaps the vehicle's design had been based on this thing. It looked large enough to carry Vaurukan and some of his creatures.

 

The focus moved to another hatch, and there was another one. And another, and another.

 

Onua guessed that these were how Vaurukan moved around in the Matoran Universe before the submagmatic was built. Probably he had no direct control over them; they were animals native to the magma, but maybe in close proximity he could elementally control them. He shouldn't have that now that Onua had his sword, but maybe he'd trained them in the past and now they obeyed some other type of command.

 

Wasn't there another shape on that painting we haven't seen? Onua wondered.

 

Yes, maw-worms. They probably live in the magma too.

 

But no sign of them appeared. Perhaps they could not be trained.

 

Vaurukan swam up to the surface of the magma in the dome – which had now filled high up, within reach of the fleshy tendrils, and grabbed the creature. It rolled up a tendril, pulling him in. The egg part opened into many tapering segments like a flower, and Vaurukan – with his air pocket – went inside. The egg closed again.

 

This repeated for the other creatures, until the submagmatic was empty.

 

Then – zooming its focus back and forth since it could only see what it was passing through in the thick magma – the crystal watched as the octopi moved away from the sub, and the vehicle continued its rapid descent.

 

Until finally it slammed into the rocky floor of the magma pocket.

 

Instantly, despite the slime and its sturdy build, it flattened. Cracks burst through where the two domes met to form the sphere. The nose section broke away, continuing to fall, then shattered into a thousand pieces against the floor.

 

A massive collection of bubbles burst up from all this, and magma filled the vehicle totally. Blue-glowing tubes snapped, and power shut off. The cold effect faded, and everything rapidly melted. Even the slime melted away, its power weakening to nothing.

 

The remains of the nose went first, and then for several minutes portions of the two thick domes were all that remained.

 

Finally even these were lost from the crystal's searching motions, perhaps swept away to melt later in a magma current, perhaps already gone. All it could find now was the shrinking, dissolving field of superheated bubbles rising up, and off to the north, a swarm of giant octopi.

 

It's gone,” Onua told the others. “The submagmatic is destroyed.”

 

In the here and now, they had decided to make their way toward the Toa Rua by a combination of Onua's teleportations and walking along the path between the Kriitunga town and the southern tower, so no tracks on the occasionally dirtied route around the mountain could lead to the airship, yet their appearance would not seem unexplainable.

 

Good riddance,” Nijire said.

 

Jaudrohk looked a little torn about it. The others just looked relieved. The frustration of the low battery was obviously eased a bit by this news... But they all knew time was very short.

 

Sairiph?” Rathoa asked.

 

Onua smiled. Was that honest concern?

 

He let the smile fade, and contacted the little Makuta. “This is Onua.”

 

Ah! Toa Onua!”

 

Onua grinned.

 

That was the code for free.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Nijire kept thinking about everything that had happened as they moved on, and about what was still left to do.

 

She'd noticed in Onua's expression that he seemed to be less sure about double-crossing Makuta and handing him over to the Unknown. That deal did sound really good. And it had been written into Brotherhood law now. It wasn't just a spur-of-the-moment ploy as she'd originally intended it.

 

But what of the cost? Letting Makuta free... would that really be any better than Makuta under the control of Kuambu?

 

Kuambu who didn't kill.

 

Makuta was willing to kill.

 

As she walked, she kept trying to make projectile crystals. She remembered that an Unknown who'd been trapped in a cell across a hall from her during the events on Twisted Island had apparently created crystals to shoot at his door – in vain, but it showed such a thing was possible. And Surkahi had done something similar when training Hujo, the mapmaker had said.

 

So every once in a while she commanded a crystal to grow off the top of the lightstone. Then she loosened its connection to it, and tried to make it fly forward. But her best one only flew a few feet.

 

She imagined a Kuambu laughing in that horrible air-shaking whisper.

 

The group passed across the southern edge of the mountain ridge. Before now the path had been mostly impassible by foot; Onua had teleported them across any gap necessary.

 

Now they turned north, crossing from the east side to the west, and joined the Kriitunga path to the town. Where it was obviously broken Onua teleported them, but for most of it they walked at a brisk pace. The less he used it, even for such short distances, the better – so they had to walk briskly and hope the path was—

 

What was that?

 

Kuambu?

 

She'd seen a ball of indigo light zoom by in a gap in the sharp rocks ahead. At night such a thing was hard to miss.

 

Then another.

 

It slammed into Onua.

 

No!” she screamed, running forward.


Then another rushed at her.

 

Ahead, a row of clouds was pushing up against the mountains, to ride over the ridge and become the fog they'd just parked the airship in. The light was coming from the path there – whoever was shooting it was hidden from sight. Yet their aim was true.

 

She tried to make another crystal, but there was no time.

 

The bolt hit her, and she was jerked forward. She noticed Onua had been pulled forward too.

 

More flew.

 

Then her head hit a rock and all went black.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Kopaka and the others reached Le-Koro. The poor village was in shambles, and now deserted. But they stopped off at a supply hut that had escaped the carnage for food. They'd all gone far too long without it... Or rest, but that couldn't be helped now.

 

Where did the villagers go?” he asked Matau.

 

Kini-Nui. I muchfear for them, for the Kal north-went.”

 

I doubt Onua hid the Bahrag there,” Tahu said.

 

Even so... I think I should with-come.”

 

The Toa looked at the Turaga in surprise.

 

My homeplace has been attacked,” the green Turaga said, his voice nearly cracking with emotion, “since the moment these bugdiggers awoke. I am much-tired of dark-hiding and hopewaiting. My illusion power...”

 

I understand,” Tahu said. “But the Le-Matoran would be better aided by that power if you join them.”

 

Kopaka thought Tahu's tone was amazingly patient considering the situation. He himself probably would have just brushed the elder aside. He knew the Kal were getting closer and closer...

 

But he focused hard on keeping his mouth shut. They would leave in a moment anyways. Panicking and showing himself to be out of control wouldn't help.

 

Before he knew it, the Toa rose from the meal and headed to the awaiting Gukko.

 

Again Kopaka noticed the strange intelligence now in the birds' eyes. Normally Kopaka would have felt bad about bringing the rather helpless animals towards the danger, but he sensed that the birds knew their limits and understood the enemy better even than he did. Hujo had said in the meeting that this would happen, though he couldn't explain why. The Gukko were not just Rahi anymore, he'd said.

 

Practically before he could finish the thought, they were in the air, heading to the black north.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Onua awoke. Why had he been...

 

Oh. The lights...

 

He was surrounded by fog.

 

His arms were bound. With rope?

 

Kuambu...

 

Nijire? Rathoa?”

 

We're here,” Jaudrohk replied. His voice was just to Onua's left. “The others are out.”

 

I can't see a thing.”

 

It's clouds. They've been coming and going. There was a gap just before...”

 

Even as he spoke, the cloud they were in lifted away from them.

 

The mountainside suddenly appeared. The moon revealed that they were high above the path.

 

Holes had been chiseled into the rock, and metal stakes pushed in. Ropes hung down from these, tied around the waists and hands of everyone in Onua's group.

 

He noticed Nijire's lightstone and Hujo's staff laying on the path far below.

 

Hujo was still down there too, laying near it. The others were tied around Onua.

 

He looked up at the rope and the chisel. It looked a lot like the metal spikes and rope from inside the cavern that Kopaka had described. How...

 

This didn't make sense. Why would Kuambu...

 

Another cloud hit the path below and drifted up towards them. Soon it cast him into blackness again.

 

Anyone else awake?” he asked.

 

If only he still had his claw... he could disintegrate the rope...

 

And then what?


Well, disintegrate stair-steps.

 

Without a good footing, though, they might all slide down the mountain. Perhaps R'yn had seen this coming. Perhaps the Unknown leader, Caroha, had a vision of this long ago. Maybe he'd killed them all in that future trying to use the easy way out.

 

He still had his energy pack. The Time Crystal was inside, but it told him it was very low on time energy now. They still needed some for the Kal.

 

Last resort, he said. He had the teleporter and he was sure it was charged enough for this short distance, but he wasn't sure sliding at an angle would count as falling. It could be managed but if any of them missed...

 

He had everything else as well.

 

Including the scanner.

 

But it was not just a scanner. Onua took a deep breath. Hard way out. Safe way out.

 

He closed his eyes and entered the programming trance.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Vision, shared with the others, including the Gukko, led the final stage of the flight.

 

Ahead, a hole in the ground was clearly visible.

 

Kopaka spotted a dead beetle near it. Haywire had spent enough time in his mind that he understood its meaning immediately, though Haywire was no longer there. He hoped the virus wasn't planning what he thought it was...

 

The hole had clearly been blasted into the ground by plasma. Glass, from melted bits of sand mixed into the now-scorched earth, steamed on the sides of the tunnel.

 

Smoke poured out the ceiling like a river, and the sound of more burning rang out ahead. The Kal were still tunneling.

 

The Toa got off the birds, which flew a short distance away and perched in the trees, looking out across Kini-Wahi. Kopaka thought it looked like they were keeping watch for Kuambu or other enemies.

 

Tahu looked at the others. “Last chance to turn back.” He looked at Mhebula. “This isn't your fight.”

 

It is now,” she replied. “Let's go.”

 

Tahu nodded and faced the hole. As one, the Toa walked in.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

In order to program a power for escape, first Onua decided to scan.

 

It was then that he saw the real danger.

 

Above them, several boulders had been perched on a cliff.

 

If the wind picked up and rocked them, they would fall.

 

Great.

 

This enemy was murderous.

 

Did that rule out Kuambu?

 

No, he decided. It must be someone in the rogue group that was willing to kill, that the Lone Captain belonged to, as well as the one that 'Rumor' contacted in the past.

 

Perhaps they'd been among the ships that went to the north of this island just before setting up the portal in the cavern. They must have gone up to the ceiling to take these ropes out, went back out by whatever secret tunnel they'd come in, and then apparently headed south over the mountain ridge, using the clouds and night for cover.

 

But why? How could they have known Onua's group would come this way? He hadn't said it over the Rikaori.

 

Was his earlier theory wrong? Were they able to eavesdrop at any time?

 

Now that he thought of it, a way to do that presented itself easily.

 

If the Kuambu themselves, or servants, had Rikaori, they could assign some to stand in quiet rooms, and think of enemies. This would open a sonic connection. As long as there were no sounds from their end, the target wouldn't know it was happening. But everything the target said, or those near, the Kuambu would hear.

 

Of course...

 

He sighed. But then... why not just kill them? He noticed Vaurukan's sword was still in his energy pack. Why not take it, or Hujo's staff?

Why not take the lightstone
and Nijire?

 

Something didn't add up.

 

That feeling that he was missing things just kept coming to him.

 

And yet, a theory did present itself. The Kuambu still needed a Taking to occur to control Nijire... and Onua.

 

This rogue underground group of Kuambu might be more willing to risk actual deaths to attain a Taking. Thus the death trap, rather than mere capturing. But why not just send the rocks down at them? Why give them a chance to escape?

 

That feeling of missing something made him sick. Everything light took on a dark hue in his mind, and not the calming kind of darkness of the black metal.

 

So he just withdrew down into the trance deeper, focusing on the programming. It shouldn't matter why he'd been given a way out – maybe the Kuambu were just twisted enough to care only about the game of it – what mattered was that he used the way out.

 

His mind browsed the powers available in the base code.

 

It seemed there were four main categories of powers.

 

First, a vast array of perception powers, which he'd already used to make the scanner power.

 

Second, elemental channeling powers, and transmutation between elements. Unfortunately none of them gave actual elemental control; they could only act like Toa Tools or work with existing matter. The transmutation powers seemed to be very limited too; for example he found nothing that could enable him disintegrate those rocks. He could turn the rocks to other cohesive solids, but not turn it into a flowing solid like dirt or a fluid itself.

 

Third, golden light fields. These could channel other powers, or act as material-selective barriers. It seemed that most of the Ukyabha powers had used this option, sometimes channeling a limited group of transmutation powers.

 

Finally, motion and location based powers, of blue colors or invisible. This including telekinetically pushing things, inertial powers, and teleportation.

 

The teleportation, however, carried a noncoding warning message that it must not be used with a small amount of the black metal compared to the objects being teleported, and a regulator device from 'the GT' should be used as well. He gathered that the teleporter he had contained such a device, and contacted a much larger black metal machine with its own regulator far away which did the actual teleporting; what he carried was really just a fancy remote control. The low battery was in the distant device, not his remote.

 

No idea what the GT is...

 

A fifth category technically contained some powers of electricity, as well as others that were basic programming operators. Apparently it could be used to lightly zap someone as an emergency stun option, but otherwise the only uses were for coding.

 

So.... teleportation and transmutation were out, but motion or barriers sounded right.

 

He quickly built two programs.

 

The first created a wall of golden light that would select the material of rock and push it up and forward. To anchor its direction, he included a gravitational sensor, making sure this wall appeared above his head – and above the metal spikes. He also included a material sensor to anchor the 'from' side of the sideways push on the largest and nearest mass of rock – that would be the mountain – so the 'to' side would be out towards the mutagenic sand.

 

Next he built another wall, selecting protometal, and acting purely as a barrier. He gave the wall enough friction that they could stand on it like standing on rock. He gave it a relative of the other wall's location code, but placed it below him rather than above him.

 

Once both walls were active, they would remain in place by a specific material anchor on the mountainside, rather than moving with his black metal. That way he could break his rope too and walk around on it.

 

With that done, he scoured over everything he'd just coded, trying to check it.

 

The programming terms all felt familiar to him, and yet until today he had not encountered them in 'this life' – he could not just assume his broken memory was right. He thought carefully about each part, and concluded that according to normal Matoran grammar anyways, it should do what he thought it would.

 

He noticed in the fifth category, though, another noncoding warning. In fact, there was a library of them, under one option he had mistaken for an obscure operator.

 

He scanned over them. It was strange to be reading in his mind. He could sense each word almost as if he was visualizing them written in front of him, but it was not actually visual or audial. It was just thought, and the sense of electricity whizzing around in predetermined patterns in the black metal. For a short program or the list of powers this was fairly easy to understand, but this library of comments was vast.

 

I don't have time to read it now...

 

His scanner program had worked. This probably would too. Maybe they could test it somehow. He decided to make a third wall, just like the second but selecting rock for a barrier. Then he made a fourth program – a slight pushing power.

 

He opened his eyes.

 

Looked up at the rocks balancing above.

 

Projected the third wall.

 

Golden light appeared.

 

Jaudrohk gasped in surprise. “Did you do that?”

 

Quiet,” Onua said.

 

He focused the push on a small rock far off to the side.

 

It rolled forward.

 

Fell.

 

Shattered on the golden light.

 

The pieces stayed there.

 

It works.

 

Onua activated the first two powers. The pushing wall appeared above him, and the barrier wall below him.

 

He turned off the third wall.

 

The pieces of the test rock fell until they hit the pushing wall.

 

They bounced a little. Then, floating above the wall, they slid west.

 

Gained speed.

 

Faster, faster.

 

Over the path...

 

Out over the sand.

 

To the edge of the light.

 

Fell off.

 

Rained down onto the sand with a rustling sound, sending a spray of the sand away to the west. Too far away to reach anywhere near here, even if there had been a wind. The sand settled.

 

Nice,” Jaudrohk said.

 

Onua pressed his feet to the mountainside, trying to lift himself a little.

 

The walls wavered a little, but did not move up.

 

Another cloud came towards them. Hit the path.

 

Lifted up.

 

Moved through the barrier wall as if it wasn't there.

 

Jaudrohk didn't like the sight of that. “Uh...”

 

Supposed to do that,” Onua said. “See if you can wake the others.”

 

The cloud was a small one and soon moved on, but a huge one was coming.

 

Meanwhile, he tugged on the rope, hoping to work the spike loose. Earlier he'd been afraid it would come loose... now, after repeated jerking and yanking, he was beginning to fear it wouldn't.

 

Could one of the black metal powers help here?

 

Maybe he could turn the spike from metal to rock. So putting stress on it would break it rather than bend it.

 

He went back into the trance and made a fifth power. He decided, since he was apparently safe for the moment, to glance over the library to see if there were guidelines for transmutation.

 

There were. A very important one revealed to him that all transmutations worked by the black metal were temporary. 'Remember,' the note said, 'you are merely altering the physics of the original material for a time, not changing the material to another material. This affects all its behavior and even its appearance, but it is merely an advanced illusion.'

 

Interesting...

 

But would this altering enable a metal to act brittle?

 

Reading further, he discovered a list of material traits that were possible to change, and near the top he found it. Yes, metal could be made to act brittle. Perfect.

 

He skimmed the rest of the guide, and applied a few pointers in his code.

 

Opened his eyes.

 

Looked at his spike.

 

This sounded good in principle... But...

 

He looked over at Rathoa.

 

The Makuta was breathing very slowly. He hadn't moved since Onua woke up. I thought they didn't sleep? He noticed part of the black being's armor was bent out of shape too. Maybe cracked, but he couldn't tell from this angle. “Rathoa!” he shouted. “Wake up!”

 

Thinking his gravity power could come in handy?” Jaudrohk said.

 

Yeah. But I think I've got it. Keep trying the others.”

 

He looked up at the spike his rope was tied to.

 

Called on the new power.

 

Its appearance changed.

 

From gray, reflecting the golden light and pinpoints of the stars and the moon...

 

Now to a dull solid, seemingly brownish, though with the yellow light it was hard to tell.

 

Onua kicked the mountain.

 

Snap.

 

Slid down.

 

Feet hit the barrier wall.

 

Stopped.

 

That was easy.

 

He stood up. Jaudrohk was grinning. The others were still out.

 

This was going to be a problem. To break their spikes, they had to be awake to move.

 

Well, Nijire was hanging within reach of Jaudrohk. He ordered him to push her, as he changed her spike to stone.

 

She fell.

 

Landed safely.

 

He pulled her away.

 

The pushing power.

 

He changed Hujo's spike and called on that power. The orange and red Matoran swayed a little, but the little piece of rock held.

 

Needs to be stronger.

 

He closed his eyes and altered the test power, setting the variable for intensity higher. Opened.

 

Directed the power to the top part of the rope for maximum effect.

 

Snap.

 

Hujo fell.

 

Nijire started moving. She stretched and yawned.

 

Nijire, get up. Move Hujo away.”

 

She opened her eyes. “Whah... where...” Then she jerked up, staring at the golden floor beneath her.

 

No time to explain.”

 

He glanced west.

 

This larger cloud looked thick and it was coming fast. He saw rain beneath it, and sand moving around ahead of it. It was bringing a strong wind.

 

He didn't think it would matter, but best to get out of this before it struck.

 

Using the new power, he plucked the others one-by-one from the mountain. They each landed on the barrier wall.

 

He pulled them around Rathoa, who was hardest to move, several feet from the mountain, where the portal had enough room to activate beneath the wall.

 

He called on it, setting the target zone right next to the lightstone and Blue Fire staff.

 

A floor of blue light spread under all of them, with a twin above the path.

 

The wind front was almost here.

 

On three,” he said, and counted down.

 

Made the barrier wall disappear – keeping the other there.

 

Fell into the light.

 

Pain erupted in his mind before he even hit the rocky path. He grimaced. Then hit the ground.

 

ERROR.

 

He looked up, as the pain faded, to see the other wall of light collapsing. The thought had come not from his mind or the crystal's but from the black metal.

 

The teleportation...

 

It converted the black metal into energy. The powers wouldn't work from that.

 

He tried to reactivate the wall, but it wasn't working. The same error message just kept coming at him.

 

Just then the wind whipped past him.

 

The rocks...

 

We've got to move!”

 

He stood up and grabbed Hujo's staff. Nijire ran to her lightstone. Jaudrohk ran to Hujo, picking him up. Nijire energized her lightstone and tried to carry Kejokta. Nuhuri... maybe they could together drag all three...

 

Onua looked at Rathoa. Just before the rain swept over them, he noticed the impact had definitely cracked his chest armor plate. He saw the black liquid of Rahudermis inside, and apparently muscle material.

 

Sensing something wrong about this, but too scared to think straight, he tried to pick Rathoa up. Too heavy...

 

Beings can be stored as energy! the crystal pointed out.

 

Onua nodded. Touched Rathoa again. He disappeared with a flash.

“Take Hujo's pack. Energize them!” he told Nijire. She obeyed.

 

And keep your lightstone out,” he added. “I can't see a thing.”

 

There was a crashing sound, and she held out the lightstone just in time to see pieces of stone fly out from just ahead. One of the rocks had slid down and hit the path. The ground shook violently with the impact.

 

RUN!” Onua shouted.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Nijire and Jaudrohk ran after the bulky black Toa through the driving rain. Crashing noises sounded all around them. She stumbled over the pieces of the rock that had hit ahead.

 

Can't you just teleport us away?” she shouted to Onua.

 

I'm not sure. Something's wrong with my scanner. I'm not sure if it affects the teleporter.”

 

She asked Jaudrohk what had happened, and he told what little he knew. Onua added his theories then.

 

The crashing noises were mostly behind them now. She relaxed a little, but kept running. The Kuambu that had attacked them might still be here.

 

She sensed the crystal's focus on the path ahead. In fact, something seemed different about it now, as if it was seeing slightly in the future.

 

Not long after, she felt it warning Onua about a weak spot in the path ahead. Although it didn't tell him, she sensed that it actually saw a brief image of the path breaking and Onua falling to the sand – to death or something else. It's starting to see the future...

 

But it seemed to believe it wasn't allowed to use this knowledge. It also seemed to sense that she was hearing these thoughts, and begged her not to tell anyone. If they knew it was becoming the Crystal of the Future then it would have to stop helping them.

 

Why?

 

But it did not want to reply with a coherent thought, lest Onua hear it. It just sent the impression of a stone shelf, of the color of sand, with glowing blue lines inset into it in various patterns. A shelf in the Unknown city. The shelf it would spend the rest of its existence on. It already saw itself sitting there, knew it was going there. It just didn't yet know everything that would happen before that.

 

Didn't know if it would help Onua stop the Kal.

 

It clung desperately to that ignorance, trying not to grow.

 

But can't you just keep telling us only about the present?

 

No. It could not control its thoughts...

 

Then ask Onua to keep you out of the energy pack. He can only hear your thoughts there, right? Or let me hold you instead.

 

But Onua needed it with the Kal and she was going to Nui Kumu.

 

The only solution they could agree on was to hurry.

 

She ran a little faster. “Onua, you're going to have to use the teleporter anyways. Maybe...”

 

Onua stopped. “I guess you're right. And look, the rain has stopped. I don't hear any falling rock.”

 

She nodded. “Better experiment.”

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Onua forced himself to stop and calm down, focusing on the teleporter and the scanner. He'd made two mistakes with the black metal recently, both because he was panicked, so he'd feared to try it. But he needed to figure out what had gone wrong before he could move forward.

 

Why couldn't he activate the scanner's code?

 

Ah.

 

In the library, there was a warning about teleporting active black metal. Just as he'd thought, but now he read how to fix it. You had to do a system reboot. There was a code operator for this he'd seen already, but thought it pointless.

 

Yet, the instructions warned that a system reboot was more dangerous than a physical melting reset. A melting erased all existing programs, besides the base code, or in the case of the Ukyabha metal the secondary base code. But a reboot was a complex system of partial backups, partial erasures, and then restoring from the backup of the base code itself. If anything went wrong in a reboot, everything would be erased and the black metal would become worthless except as a blacksmith's resource.

 

He wasn't sure he wanted to risk it.

 

It continued to say that new programs could be built off of the existing base code, but there would be a risk that any program would unexpectedly collapse until a reboot was done. The upside of a reboot was that existing programs were restored and fixed as well.

 

Well, I haven't built many programs yet.

 

Yet, he didn't know how likely this random collapse was. Either way was risky, but he sensed that a physical melting would be much safer. Maybe he could have it turned into a more handy shape anyways. There were Forge Kriitunga with a power that could do this on this island. Yes, that would be the plan. Then he'd simply make a new scanner program and some others.

 

The good news was that the manual confirmed that such an error in a teleported black metal device had no effect whatsoever on the teleporter itself. He was pretty sure that included this remote control teleporter as well.

 

And yet, the teleporter remote was turned to energy too...

 

There was nothing about a remote in the instructions. Apparently he'd invented it long after writing them.

 

So now he turned to the teleporter, analyzing its code again in light of what he now knew.

 

Yes, there it was.

 

The final part of its teleportation code, after activating the distant massive teleporter and giving it the locations and other information, included a self-shutdown. This all happened in the blink of an eye, long before Onua could physically move through a portal.

 

Thus, when his teleporter actually moved through the portal, it was shut down. The code was not corrupted at all. And again he found nothing that could be affected by a different black metal device messing up.

 

Quickly he coded a battery report, and learned that it was recharging quickly. He already had enough to travel between Mata Nui and here many times over. If he'd have slowed down enough to code this addition earlier he would have known that, maybe in time to avoid the strange attack.

 

In other words, I've been wasting precious time. He sighed. Failure was the norm, he reminded himself. He had to stop beating himself up over it, and move on.

 

He opened his eyes. “I think it's safe. Let's get to the mining site.”





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#47 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Feb 09 2014 - 07:26 PM

Chapter 46
 

 

Kopaka had never been a fan of long, dark tunnels.

 

He was even less a fan of long, dark tunnels you had to crouch in to keep your head out of the smoke pouring across the ceiling.


The tunnel spiraled down and down.

 

The noises got louder.

 

Then, suddenly, they stopped.

 

We're going to be too late...

 

The tunnel kept on going down. Kopaka thought it was going much farther down than any he'd been in before. It made sense that Onua would bury the Bahrag deep, but this seemed like overkill.

 

The smoke stopped coming.

 

The Toa were already running, but they started running faster, straightening their backs.

 

Shouldn't have stopped to eat...

 

But he felt very weak even with that meal. He knew they'd had no choice...

 

What would the Kal do with the Toa Tools once they freed the Bahrag? Maybe just hide them somewhere, never imagining these four Toa would dare to run down here to find them? Then go to their nests to sleep.

 

If their new forms could even hope to fit in nests...

 

Pahrak-Kal at least clearly wouldn't. That was clear from the tracks here even to Kopaka's untrained eye. The tunnel was wider than it was tall, just wide enough to fit the Pahrak-Kal in its wide and flat tank form. The wheel tracks on the right and left filled the floor, broken here and there by the footprints of the others. Kopaka deduced that the plasma Kal was leading – hence the smoke as it blasted the earth aside – and the others followed.

 

Glass was also piled to the left and right edges of the floor. Apparently the Nuhvok-Kal had been using gravity to make the molten earth move that way to avoid stepping on it. It appeared to have solidified after being moved, as it was unbroken there and lumpy.

 

Light ahead.

 

A sickening, greenish light.

 

A smell like burnt honey.

 

They entered a completely different type of tunnel.

 

Organic. Something like honeycomb, but pale green, translucent. More like the substance of Krana, really. Here and there a bubble of bioluminescent gel was trapped in a thin portion, casting the green light. He could see a hint of the texture of earth and stone here and there through the translucence. The tunnel was huge, large enough for many copies of the new Pahrak-Kal to walk side-by-side.

 

This was obviously not Onua's cave.

 

Bohrok nests.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua and the two Ko-Matoran landed on the ground near the mine.

 

By the light of many lightstones, he could see that the work had mostly ended. There was a vast tunnel into the mountain, lined with thick vines and metal supports.

 

Lewa, Pohatu, and the Toa Rua were still helping the Kriitunga carry chunks of rock out, but there was no sound of cutting.

 

The high-class Kriitunga Onua had met before saw him appear. After they got over the initial shock of the sight, they waved him over. Krohlaba wasn't with them.

 

How are you here?” one of them asked. This was an unmutated female, blue and brown, of the Ocean affiliation.

 

Long story I'll have to tell later. We still need to stop the Kal. Is the tunnel finished?”

 

Other than some needed supports, yes,” another answered. This was a hunchback, slightly mutated, orange and brown, with spider-thin limbs and a long thin neck. “But that portal is gone. So are the masks.”

 

Onua nodded. “I heard by Telecommunication.” He explained his suspicions about that mask. “Is it possible?”

 

I wouldn't put anything past the Kuambu,” the female said. “So you have spoken of this theory to others?”

 

The first theory, about the use of the Rikaori. Now I fear they heard that by my second theory, but I'm still going sparing on that power.”

 

Understood.”

 

I promise we'll get those masks back here as soon as we can to help, though.”

 

You'd better,” a third said. This one was highly mutated, looking more like a bird than any of the others. It had the same birdlike head, though without a beak, had fleshy wings, and birdlike feet. There was no tail, but the feet were finned and it looked like if the toes spread wide they would suffice. Small claws fronted the wings. He was colored dark blue and gray. Onua had no idea what his power was.

 

If I'm going to... I'm going to need the Toa Rua's help.”

 

Out of the question,” the winged one said.

 

Now now,” a fourth one said; a tall white one with a mutated head that resembled a stalagmite. “We want him to succeed. The Rua can help.”

 

They've already bent our original bargain into a fool's knot,” the winged one said.

 

I agree,” a fifth added.

 

I don't,” the blue female said. The spindly one nodded, as did two more, including a mutated blue and black female.

 

The Kuambu bent the bargain,” Nijire put in.

 

Who are you?” the winged one said. “Your voice sounds familiar.”

 

I was the one contacting you earlier by Rikaori.”

 

Ah. A victim of the Kuambu.”

 

We're all their enemies,” Onua said. “I'm not trying to cause trouble... I really think lives are on the line here.”

 

The birdlike one flapped his wings and glared at him, but said nothing more.

 

We'll give them one day,” the original female said, in a strong tone. She seemed to be the one most in charge; those who disagreed looked frustrated but did not challenge her again.

 

Thank you,” Onua said. “I'm sorry for the delay.”

 

Just get it over with,” the winged one spat. He turned his back to Onua and half walked, half flew away.

 

The others did not appear to want to speak without the whole group present. They gave a nod and walked away.

 

Onua caught Pohatu's eye with a wave.

 

The Toa of Stone dropped the rock he'd been carrying, grinning widely. “Lewa, look!”

 

The two Toa walked over. Onua motioned for Toa Yahroko to come. “I need to speak to all the Toa here.”

 

The green Toa nodded and walked back into the tunnel to get the other Toa Rua. Taureko spotted Onua and walked over.

 

When everybody was gathered on the stretch of non-mutagenic earth, walled off by tan tarps, in front of the hole, Onua updated them on as much as he dared say out loud quickly.

 

Yahroko agreed. “I've been thinking of going there myself. But I'm not so sure about all of us going with Nijire. Mhebula is probably going after the Kal. We owe her at least one more of us to join her. And you for that matter.”

 

Onua thought about it, and agreed. “Who, then?”

 

Tirukvin raised his hand. “I wasn't supposed to leave the others anyways. And at least I'll be able to counteract Gahlok-Kal's power, and maybe Nuvhok too.”

 

Maybe I should go with Nijire,” Pohatu said. “They all might need me to share the Kakama power with them.”

 

Alright, but I want Lewa with me,” Onua said.

 

Oh I'm sure-coming,” Lewa said. “Never-doubt.”

 

Onua nodded. They all knew why.

 

What of Rathoa?” Yahroko asked.

 

What of Kejokta?” Rangiiru put in. “I say leave them both unconscious in the energy packs. This is complicated enough as is.”

 

Onua looked at Nijire. “Do you think Kejokta is on our side now?”

 

She shook her head. “I wish I could say yes. I think he's on the right path, but... I just... I don't know him like I thought I did. I can't be sure.”

 

And Rathoa?”

 

I never really knew him,” Onua said. “Nuhuri did, but she's unsconcious too. I guess I can carry her. We might need her skill, and I presume she has to be materialized to wake up.”

He materialized her. “I'll bring Rathoa with me. We'll decide what to do about him later. I don't think I want him going with Nijire... but I kinda hinted to him that I would, to prevent a fight with Kejokta. He may insist on joining up with you later.”

 

And what about Makuta?” Nijire said. “What should we do?”

 

Try to capture him, but don't give any clue about it until the moment arrives. If you think there's any chance it won't work, then never let down the act that you're freeing him.”

 

She nodded.

 

And I just want to make this clear,” Onua added, looking at the others. “Nijire has good reason to be in charge of your group. Don't look at her as just a Matoran. We don't really know what she is, or Hujo, but at the very least, prisons and the like are her area of expertise. She gets to make the call about Makuta. Everybody else should play the part until she says not to.”

 

But when we go for the memory machine,” Jaudrohk added, “that's me, right?”

 

Fine with me,” Nijire said.

 

The others agreed. “We are here to help you, not get in the way,” Yahroko said.

 

What about you?” Onua asked Taureko.

 

I'll go with Nijire, I guess. Neither choice sounds safe, but the Kuambu do have their strange dialect. I might be of use.”

 

Onua nodded. “Now, I need a reliable and fast Forger.”

 

Krohlaba is over there,” Yahroko said, pointing. “He'll know better than us.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Vision just barely saved them from the need for a tracker. Kopaka spotted the Kal moving quickly to the east.

 

He also saw the Bahrag's cave.

 

The Kal were moving into a room under it.

 

Now Pahrak-Kal blasted plasma at the ceiling.

 

A portion vaporized, and earth came pouring down. Nuhvok-Kal moved it away to the side – whether by Gravity or Earth power, or both, Kopaka couldn't tell.

 

The room they were in was massive, circular. Domelike, except the roof was somewhat flattened. The Toa ran that way, Kopaka's mask power shared. But it seemed the only route to this that was left open was long and indirect. Mhebula's power wouldn't help there. The only solution was to run fast and ignore their exhaustion.

 

The effect of the loosened earth spread upwards.

 

Earth all the way up at the floor of the Bahrag's prison lowered a little.

 

When it was all down, that protocage would enter the massive chamber. Then they'd have only seconds to stop the Kal.

 

Kopaka remembered the Matoran had made timetelling devices based on this principle. Sandclocks, they called them. Judging from the amount of Earth being moved and the speed it came down in, he was able to estimate how much time they had to spend getting there before it was too late.

 

Less than ten minutes.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua found the mutant Krohlaba among the other Shredder Kriitunga easily, with his huge mantis-like head. He left Nuhuri with the others.

 

I need this turned into a more practical shape,” Onua said, holding up the rectangular remote. “Maybe an armband? And I need it immediately.”

 

The Kriitunga blinked. “Uh... sure. I know a good Forger. How big?”

 

Just have holes put in it for an adjustable strap.” He didn't want to wait around having his arm measured.

 

Will do, Onua.”

 

Thanks. Sorry I don't have time to chat now.”

 

Krohlaba nodded and ran toward the hole. Onua realized the best Forgers were still in there welding metal braces for the tunnel.


That left one thing left to do. The Awakener.

 

He scouted the area of the Bahrag's prison and quickly saw the changes. The cavern he'd made was collapsing. It took him a moment to figure it out, but when he zoomed down – not very far – he saw the Kal in the Bohrok tunnels.

 

Zooming the scout power around, he spotted the four Toa by sheer luck – they were approaching the giant room now.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka ran into the huge room just as the protocage fell through the raining earth, collided with an echoing smack against the floor, and the Kal directed the dirt away.

 

They raised their arms, pointing the six Btou-merged Toa Tools.

 

And nothing happened.

 

Frozen in time, just a split second after a blue flash.

 

A group of Toa and Matoran fell through the layer of blue light, landing with bent knees on the organic floor. The light disappeared. It was Onua, Lewa, Tirukvin, and Nuhuri – who was unconscious.

 

Onua held an energy pack in his hands – switched his with Lewa's, his eyes locked on the Kal. Kopaka realized the Time Crystal was in Onua's pack and he didn't want to risk materializing it, in case that would disrupt the power for even a moment. Then they switched the other items.

 

The Toa of Earth jogged over to Kopaka. “I need the Awakener.”

 

Kopaka handed it over. Onua tapped Nuhuri with it and she awoke.

“What happened?” she asked.

 

I'll have to explain later,” Onua said. “I need to leave for a moment. I'll be back very soon.”

 

He left before anybody could react.

 

The two groups walked towards each other.

 

How long will that last?” Kopaka asked, pointing at the energy pack with the crystal.

 

Shortwhile,” Lewa said. “We fastneed ideas.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire watched Onua awaken Hujo.

 

The Jahurungi did not need to ask what happened – he looked around, saw that he was on Kriitunga Island, saw who was with them and who was not, and ran over to his staff, nodding to himself as if he'd predicted it all. A look of slight surprise crossed his face when he noticed how she was carrying the lightstone in broad daylight, then deep understanding replaced the expression, and he stared at the staff, looking deep in thought.

 

I've decided,” Nijire said. “I want Kejokta awake.”

 

She didn't try to explain why – she hoped Onua would understand.

 

He didn't look happy about it, but he did as she said. Kejokta reacted with slight surprise to find himself already at the mining site. Nijire promised to fill him in once they got underway at Nui Kumu.

 

We have to go now,” Onua said. They all held hands and on his signal, they jumped.

 

And landed in a dark jungle.

 

The trees here were nearly as tall as in Le-Wahi, and mostly of the same species. The ground was solid, however, coated with foliage, especially ferns.

 

She remembered that the Matoran had once tried to colonize Nui Kumu, but there were so many strange and dangerous Rahi here they'd given up. She heard many wild noises, but saw nothing. In fact even with her lightstone shining at full it didn't seem to carry far, nor did the lightstones the others took out. There was a mist in the air, apparently rising up from a fresh rain's moisture on the plants.

 

Be careful here,” Onua whispered. He pointed ahead. “My scouting power is seeing Kuambu construction that way. You can take it from there?” he asked Rangiiru, who wore a Mask of Energy Tracking.

 

The Toa of Air nodded.

 

Onua nodded back, and teleported away.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka stared at the Kal, trying to think.

 

Let's start by moving the cage,” Tirukvin finally said. “I think I can do it from the metal of the Bahrag's armor.”

 

Tahu nodded.

 

The Toa of Magnetics faced the protocage.

It started to slide.

 

A series of clicks.

 

Motion at the base.

 

Something sliding. Something like snakes slithering up the sides of the giant white marble.

 

But they slowed and stopped moving without a sound. “The crystal them-stopped,” Lewa explained quickly.

 

Kopaka stared at it.

 

A mechanism in the floor. Apparently it had sensed the magnetism and had activated, sending up these metal curves like fingers of a massive claw. Should have checked earlier, he scolded himself. But he hadn't imagined such a thing. Who would?

 

Tell it to let them close,” Tirukvin said. “Save the energy. Look, they're too high already.”

 

He was right.

 

The claws finished their motion, clanking together at the top.

 

A cage within a cage.

 

How could that have been there?” Gali breathed.

 

Kopaka could only see one explanation.

 

Lewa gave it a moment later. “The crystal says it was its fault. And ours. Vaurukan was before-told about this when we Vahi-used.”

 

He scanned the floor and walls now. He saw nothing else hidden besides this mechanism, and a sturdy metal support structure beneath it. But he noticed others like this in the floors of other nearby chambers – apparently Vaurukan hadn't been told exactly where the Bahrag would be.

“Is it magnetic?” he asked.

 

Tirukvin shook his head. “It's like they knew I'd be here. Again.”

 

Surely you can magnetize it?”

 

Look at it. It's slimed.”

 

Kopaka noticed the faint hint of the reflective substance now. He moved a hand close. Repelled.

 

I'm pretty sure Haywire is here,” Kopaka said. “Although I don't see him right now. He wanted to possess Gahlok-Kal. Wield its power against the others.”

 

And then what?” Tahu said. “Why didn't you tell us this before?”

 

Haywire asked me not to. He thought you might not agree. But I don't see any other choice now.”

 

Time's fastshrinking,” Lewa said.

 

I don't see what Haywire could do,” Tahu said. “I... I only see one choice. We don the Legendary Masks.”

 

I don't think we could handle them,” Kopaka insisted.

 

Just then Onua returned, now sporting a strange armband.

 

Tahu nodded at him. Then he turned away, facing Kopaka. “We should at least switch to them. There are seven Toa here. Each of us should wear one.”

 

I think it's what the enemy wants,” Kopaka said. He looked around for support. But none gave it. He looked at Onua, but he wasn't looking that way – he was taking in the sight of the metal claws enclosed around the protocage, with a look of deep worry.

 

Maybe the enemy wants us to think it's what they want,” Tahu said. He turned to Lewa. “You've had... interesting perspectives since the Krana incident. What do you think?”

 

I... I'm muddle-bogged... but I think... even if the powers are too greatmuch for us... I don't know, but I feel like overloading... is good.”

 

You think that's what... our Cosmos counterparts did?”

 

Maybe. Something much-like it.”

 

Then my mind is made up. We use the masks.”

 

And so he materialized the masks and handed them out.

 

Kopaka could not argue further.

 

Something had to be done, after all.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

A Sabertoothed Muaka.

 

That was what Hujo called the monstrosity chasing Nijire's group.

 

Yahroko had tried to stop it with a web of vines, but it bit right through. Vaergok's fire or Hujo's blue fire just got it angry. Pohatu's prediction was right – sharing the mask power of Speed was the only solution. The group raced rapidly in the direction Onua had pointed.

 

Therestop!”

 

What?

 

That voice. Familiar... It seemed to come from all around.

 

She slowed down.

 

Stop!” the voice repeated.

 

The others slowed as well, glancing back nervously. They were probably far enough away from the strange four-legged Muaka now. It lacked the treads of the normal kind to speed through this underbrush, but four legs could run fast too.

 

Ito?” she asked.

 

There was no reply.

 

She noticed Hujo was entering a trance.

 

Wait a moment,” he muttered, eyes still closed.

 

What's going on?” Yahroko asked. “Who spoke?”

 

Someone from our island,” Kejokta said. “The Jungledweller, I think. Yes?”


She nodded, eyes searching the jungle.

 

Hadn't Ito been going after Kanoka?

 

And Kanoka after Makuta?

 

Well, and the Kal went after Kanoka, for Kopaka's sword, and apparently got it. Still, she had to consider the possibility that they had competition here. Or... allies, if she played it right.

 

Ito?” she said again.

 

Right-here.”

 

She whirled.


There he was, walking out from behind a fern. “Bigtooth won't be trouble nowtime.”

 

She grinned. Hujo did as well as he came out of the trance.

 

Ito turned, looking at Vaergok. “I you-need. Me-follow, much-quiet. I'll explain on-way.” Then he looked at the others. “Here-wait. Won't longtake.” His eyes lingered on Kejokta. There was a sharpness to his expression, but Nijire wasn't sure what it meant.

 

The Jungledweller and Toa Rua of Fire disappeared into the thick foliage, and all she could do was wait.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua and Lewa switched energy packs again, and then he took the Legendary Mask of Earth reluctantly. He knew there must be a better option – maybe something he could code for, but time was short. He felt it in the thoughts of the crystal now.

 

He also felt that sickness of heart again. Knowing Vaurukan had once again constructed the perfect trap. But he felt, cautiously, that he had already learned the secret to beating this one too. His earlier gamble had paid off.

 

But a gamble it had been. Must he risk his life on a gamble again? Risk the others' lives? Maybe they should all just run, and let the Bohrok have this land.

 

As for moving the Bahrag again, that was clearly off the table. No, Vaurukan had ironically ensured they would stay here. So the best gamble Onua could think of was to do everything he could to build on that idea. To make the Bahrag's cage the perfect cage.

 

Just wait a moment,” he said. “Let me try something first...”

 

Tahu nodded. “You have a minute.”

 

He sat down and closed his eyes, trying to quickly enter the trance. He was so worried, though, he burnt several seconds before he could calm down enough.

 

Define a sphere barrier.

 

He set up the size. Anchored it to the protocage, and to the wide bedrock of the island, so it would not move.

 

Filter out... magnetism. Gravity.

 

Earth. Fire.

 

Filter out the elemental energy of Earth. Fire, water...

 

All the elements, all the elemental energies, everything the Kal had that he knew of.

 

Now filter out lava.

 

Filter out metal.

 

Organics.

 

Everything he knew of, he told it to filter out. Even Air... thus this would be a dangerous gamble to play... But he was pretty sure the teleporter would still work.

 

If not, they'd be using the Masks.

 

He opened his eyes. “Everybody come here! Right against the protocage! Hurry!”

 

Uncertainly, they followed him. They formed a circle around it.

 

With those six weapons aimed right at them. They weren't firing anything directly deadly, but those six energies hitting this cage would unleash the Bahrag.

 

Mere seconds left.

 

Onua activated the program.

 

Golden light.

 

The crystal stopped its power, with enough energy left to freeze something for about a second.

 

Six beams of light in six colors.

 

The Kal were moving again.

 

The beams hit the golden sphere. It flashed a little brighter in those spots. The beams stopped.

 

The Kal kept these six lines shining for a moment, then lowered them. The looks on their faces ranged from fury to calm recalculation.

 

Levhak-Kal said something, facing Onua, but he couldn't hear it. Sonics, after all, had needed filtered out too. Gahlok-Kal ran forward, raging with all its magnetics power – which Nuvhok-Kal had to counteract to keep the others safe – and throwing its own weight against the shield again and again.

 

Those inside did not hear it. They could only see it.

 

Surreal,” Nuhuri whispered.

 

What now?” Tahu asked. “Can that thing hold out forever?”

 

Onua didn't know what to say. “I'm not out of ideas yet. Wait again.”

 

He entered the trance again.

 

This time, he left the armband alone; to keep this up it would need to stay here. Instead he worked on the teleporter's coding.

 

Messing with this was risky; he was pretty sure if it glitched and needed reset, he wouldn't know how to rebuild it. But he could make that kind of glitch nearly impossible by building a basic if-then function on top of the existing code. Everything else he added would shut off automatically if the teleporter was activated. Only if it was not would other programs run.

 

First he built the scanner program again.

 

Next, the other 'end' of the communication program he'd already put in the Seahopper.

 

A full shield just like this one but anchored to the teleporter, or the energy pack it was stored in.

 

A tugging power, allowing him to mentally set the direction and intensity each time.

 

A program to form other full shields around defined objects, and move the objects around. He set this to the exact shapes of the Toa Tools, the Krana, and Haywire.

 

Another shield to protect a small spherical object, but allowing fog to pass through. A special smaller shield that specifically filtered out extreme heat. And several others that seemed sensible to him, including some basic transmutation programs.

 

Opened eyes.

 

Moment.

 

He had the crystal check on Vaurukan.

 

He was near. Already inside the Mangai. The octopi were swimming rapidly up to the caldera.

 

Haywire? The crystal couldn't see him.

 

Flow.

 

The scanner found Haywire instantly.


Hovering near the wall, behind Nuhvok Kal.

 

The Kal was sending off waves of gravity to repel the tiny machine.

 

Why don't they just destroy Haywire? Well, perhaps the Faction still hoped Haywire could be turned back to their side.

 

The scanner checked... nobody else was near this area.

 

He entered the trance again and set up a calculation program. Opened his eyes, and ran it. Solution. Good. Answer: Yes.

 

Where did Nuhvok-Kal's gravity energy come from?

 

His handshields. They focused the power like Toa Tools.

 

He could probably make gravity without it, but, it would be enough.

 

Trance again and yet another program. Communication. Projecting words into the air with light.

 

Tiny words.

 

When these words disappear,” the words said, “Rush into Nuhvok-Kal. Nod if agree.”

 

Haywire instantly moved up and down.

 

He waited a few seconds.

 

Words disappeared.

 

Haywire flew.

 

Just as the virus reached the edge of the pushing effect, Onua told the crystal to freeze the Kal's handshields in time. Those only.


The gravity effect disappeared.

 

The Kal looked down in surprise at its hands. Tried to move them.

 

Suddenly it shook as if in pain. Its hands moved now, reaching up to clasp its headplate.

 

The scanner said Haywire had entered the Krana.

 

Nuvhok-Kal opened the panel. Reached for the Krana as if to throw it away.

 

Stopped.

 

Its hands moved back. Closed the headplate.

 

Object shields...

 

He'd defined Haywire's and the Krana's shields specially. Haywire's growth tendrils would pass through his, into the Krana.

 

The Krana's brain signals would pass through, to the Kal.

 

Otherwise, they were protected.

 

Before the other Kal could realize what was happening, Nuvhok-Kal raised his hands, and sent out a powerful wave of gravity.

 

Instantly all the Kal moved towards it.

 

But their Krana and the Toa Tools did not move. Nor anybody in the bubble around the protocage.

 

Pahrak-Kal was so heavy his Krana with its shield blasted out of the robot's head. The brown and red giant slammed into Nuvhok-Kal.

 

The others' braincases flipped open, and they fell, but kept a grip on the shields around the Toa Tools. They seemed to be exclaiming in surprise, fear, even terror. Onua felt a pang of pity in his heart. Were they all truly just robots as he believed? Was he... breaking the Toa Code?

 

But it had to be done.

 

The gravity increased – the strangely detached observers could tell by the way the organic walls buckled.

 

Meanwhile, as the crystal watched, Vaurukan leaped out of the caldera miles away, as the giant tapeworm did, and the others. Everything but the octopi climbed aboard the tapeworm's back, and raced down the mountainside, heading right this way.

 

All four of the other Kal lost their grips on the shields at about the same time, falling into one jumbled ball of robots around Nuhvok-Kal.

 

Then the wall nearest this strange sphere broke. Earth and green organic material rained sideways into it.


The rest of the wall around the room fell in like a water bubble bursting in slow motion. Earth flowed around the parts of the robots to cluster around and even in the Nuvhok-Kal, but the Krana and Haywire were unaffected.

 

Afraid to move anything, Onua left the Toa Tools just hovering where they were. Earth now flowed like a raging avalanche around them, but the shields held.

Soon those inside the sphere shield could see nothing behind them but a constant rush of earth flowing around the sphere, making the yellow light shine brightly. On the other side, the earth fell away in a fast-moving cone – the gap of air between the Bahrag's sphere and the source of gravity gave the observers a tiny window to see a few metal limbs still sticking out for a few seconds, and other elements raging against the earth inside.

 

Then, all at once, the metal bent, crumpling inward.

 

Horrible,” Gali whispered.

 

The ball of Earth shrunk rapidly. More and more poured into it, and it gained in size for a moment, then shrunk again.

 

Onua knew that if he could hear it, the noise of this would be deafening. The eerie silence instead felt like a symphony of emotion, punctuated only by the sounds of breathing, of a cautious desire to feel triumph, but more so of what Gali had expressed, and a fear that this might reach too far. Might reach the guards and the evacuated Le-Matoran at Kini-Nui. And what about Rahi nearby?

 

But his calculations had showed it would stay contained very locally. A few small burrowing Rahi might die, but otherwise there would be no risk – and there was no other way that would guarantee the safety of sapient beings.

 

He'd considered making another sphere around all of this to ensure it, but the calculations also showed he didn't have enough power in the teleporter to keep everything up if he did so.

 

Silently the ball coalesced – no more Earth rained into it now as the power maxed out. It shrunk down to the size of his head, and just when he thought that would be the smallest it could go, it kept going down to the size of the Stone of Permanence.

 

Above it now floated Nuhvok-Kal's own Krana, Haywire safely shielded inside. No more gravity was being made; this was just the result of all that force that had already been unleashed, an inward momentum.

 

In a split second, down to Haywire's size.


Then a tiny black pinpoint.

 

All around them, a massive earthen crater. Starry sky above. The crater was parabolic, curved down here, but almost cylindrical above, slightly conical. Pieces continued to rain down the sides, no longer attracted to the tiny point of utter blackness, but just falling naturally since this crater shape was unstable.

 

Look away!” Onua shouted.

 

He closed his eyes, turning away just in time before – even through his closed eyelids – he sensed a brilliant white light.

 

The matter inside the tiny black hole, his calculations had showed, had fallen apart into pure energy, though it had been turned elementally into a form that would not be very harmful; he'd showed a slight risk of it destroying the entire planet in a massive explosion, but something about the black metal seemed to stabilize it.

 

Now it had hit the very center, and bounced back, as its own gravity was not enough to maintain the black hole.

 

The brilliant light flared. He felt heated, even though this shield was supposed to protect against that. And then it faded away.

 

Cautiously he opened his eyes.

 

No black hole, no light but that from the stars and moon.

 

But the wall of the crater had been turned to glass.

 

And... Haywire...

 

Onua had misjudged the effects of that energetic light. He'd missed something.

 

With a cry of alarm, he read the scanner. That light had been an intense radiation burst.

 

The Krana were alive, though singed... and everybody with him inside the bubble shield was only slightly affected, but...

 

He whispered the news to the others with deep regret.

 

Haywire... is... gone.”





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#48 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Feb 17 2014 - 08:59 AM

Chapter 47
 

 

Kopaka could hardly believe it, and yet, he'd been expecting it.

 

Haywire had told Kopaka, before leaving him. The virus planned to sacrifice itself.

 

By magnetics, crushing the Kal inward much like this, and Haywire himself, but this was similar. I was made for evil, he'd said. I have wrought evil on a massive scale, and on the smallest. Even in every moment I lived wanting to do good, I was an evil to my hosts.

 

This is my chance to make it all right. I was made to be a part of this trap, to lead you to your death. To your Taking. Let me become instead the weapon to undo that trap.

 

If only there had been a way. To change the system. To let Haywire live on, not inflicting such neural damage on his hosts, not causing comas. Maybe there would have been. Part of him wanted to hope not just so he would feel more comfortable with the virus's sacrifice, but he immediately rejected that line of reasoning. No. There would have been a way eventually. Perhaps this 'Jaudrohk', or maybe Onua himself, would have found a way to redesign Haywire, or Kewonga could have constantly healed a host.

 

Healed me, Kopaka thought.

 

Suddenly he realized what Ito had meant. He'd said Kopaka would soon be more lonely than he could have ever imagined.

He closed his eyes, walking around the remains of the floor inside the barrier so the others couldn't see him. He knew who to blame for this – it wasn't himself – but he felt guilty nonetheless. He should have refused...

 

No... Haywire knew what the results would have been. The Kal would have succeeded. Maybe they would have evacuated the island in time. Maybe nobody else would have died. But Vaurukan would still have come – was still coming now – and he would do everything in his power to make sure someone was Taken. No. Haywire had done the right thing.

 

But that didn't change how Kopaka felt about it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Ito and Vaergok surprised everybody – except, apparently, Hujo – by returning with a maskless, unconscious Matoran. Colored red.

 

Vaergok carried the Matoran.

 

Ito carried his mask.

 

A mask of Stamina.

 

Is that... Kanoka?” Kejokta exclaimed. “What have you done?”

 

This is not up for dispute,” Ito said, replacing Treespeak with an iron resolve and an even sharper look at Kejokta. “What we are going to do is for Nijire. It is not for Kanoka.”

 

What? What do you mean?!”

 

Kanoka needs a different path,” Ito said, his voice softer now. “Freeing Makuta is for the rest of us, and those who were with Kanoka.”

 

What did you do?” Nijire asked, amazement leaking into her voice. She wanted to ask how Ito – or Kanoka, for that matter – got here, but she assumed the Kuambu information Onua had heard that Brotherhood servants found must explain it somehow, and Ito must have followed them.

 

Vaergok answered her spoken question. “This Matoran has a bird that... I guess makes him invisible... My mask power disrupts the connection between a mask and a wearer. A power that often comes in handy against masked enemies. I made this 'Kanoka' fall asleep, while this villager grabbed him on the bird. Right under the noses of that strange Makuta, and other Rahunga. They're here, just ahead.” The red Toa turned to the Matoran. “You said you'd explain when we got back to the others.”

 

Kanoka thing-found in a Kuambu ship,” Ito said. “A message that is all about you.” He turned and pointed at Nijire. “And you.” He pointed at Hujo.

 

What?” Nijire exclaimed. What he'd found had been about more than just Makuta? “What did he find?”

 

I cannot tell you. Only Onua is allowed to answer-find... or you or Hujo, but I am certain neither of you will understand.”

 

Surely I...” Hujo's voice trailed off.

 

Ito shook his head. “You're too heart-close to it. But Kanoka found out what you are, what Vaurukan is. The Kuambu have been investigating it for millenia. Kanoka chance-saw to gain greatness. He asked to be put onto that mission. But he was already assigned to free Makuta Teridax. He joined up with the seafaring Makuta, and later on the island where R'yn was, he was able to discern that he should here-come, as was I.”

 

The Jungledweller gripped Kanoka's Rah-Kanohi tightly. Something seemed to be changing about it, Nijire thought, as he did this, but she couldn't understand it.

 

If he succeeded in this mission,” Ito continued without Treespeak, “then he would be rewarded with the other mission. This I cannot allow. I do not oppose Makuta being freed,” he added to Kejokta. “In fact I will now help. But it is not for Kanoka.”

 

Why not?” the other Rahunga demanded.

 

Ito turned and tied Kanoka to a strong tree. “You will see.”

 

He placed the mask on the ground next to the prisoner, then materialized a Matoran Kanohi of the same shape – Stamina – and put that on the Matoran's face. It would be some minutes before Kanoka woke up, though.

 

Come,” Ito said. “Do not speak of this to the other Brotherhood servants. We are going to them now. If they ask if we were involved, I will answer.”

 

You want us to lie?” Nijire asked.

 

If you let me do the talking, we won't have to.”

 

Kejokta looked speechless.

 

Ito,” Nijire said. “I don't know about this...”

 

No other way,” Ito said. There was a deep seriousness to his voice, a sense that there was no other way, and a sadness at that fact, that silenced any further thought of disagreement.

 

She wondered just how bad the situation was... but she knew Ito would refuse to explain all his secrets.

 

Ito suddenly turned to Kanoka and said, “Are you deserting? The mission has good chances – we're here!”

 

She half expected to see that the Ta-Rahunga had awoken, but he had not. When she looked back at Ito for an explanation, he was not listening for an answer, but had turned to the trees, looking intently that way. “We must fastgo,” he said. “The Kuambu have been warned.” And he started off with only a glance at the others – a look of patient understanding on his face.

 

Yahroko and the others looked astonished at all of this.

 

Hujo turned to them. “He's right. I know Kanoka. And Ito. I think Ito knows Kanoka better even than me. If this is what Ito thinks is best for him... I will not argue. And we must hurry.”

 

Nijire slowly nodded. “Onua put me in charge, right? You should know that Kanoka tried to kill me, Hujo, and Ito once. But Ito doesn't hold a grudge. I can see it as plain as day in his face. He's trying to help. And if he says he won't interfere with our mission,” she added, facing Kejokta, “I believe him.”

 

Fine,” Kejokta spat. “I don't care who frees my master, just that he gets freed. And Kanoka has always rubbed many of us the wrong way anyways, accomplished warrior or not. He joined us... too easily. He deceived too easily. But I for one will do everything I can to make sure we succeed. Let's go.”

 

Nijire walked forward, deeply saddened at his words. Perhaps Ito had started Kanoka on a good path... but she feared he had undone all her work to lead Kejokta on such a path.

 

The others followed her, and nothing more was said about it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Words could not express what Onua felt.

 

Haywire may have been a weapon made by the enemy, to wield against them, against him personally even, but the truth was Onua had stepped up, amidst his fellows, to take a leadership role. With that responsibility, he had ignored his perfectionist instincts and he had gambled again.

 

Although Haywire had turned the gamble into victory for the survivors... He held a hand to his forehead, leaning back against the protocage.

 

He imagined the Chronicler asking him, 'Toa Onua, you decided twice to take a gamble against this vast scheme of Vaurukan's. You said it paid off the first time, resulting in the amazing revelation about Nijire. What about the second?'

 

He would have to shake his head vehemently and report honestly that the gamble failed.

 

What else could he do?

 

He realized his hand was shaking. He pressed it tighter against his mask to try to steady it.

 

He knew then how Nijire must have felt when she realized she'd sent Pakastaa to his death. Those other two to their Takings.

 

How countless others throughout history must have felt. Turaga sending out Toa to die. A Toa Team leader making a fatal judgement call.

 

The fact that the victim was so small just made it feel all the worse to him.

 

He saw Kopaka's attempt to hide his reaction, and read it more clearly than any other reaction. Onua wanted to apologize, but any attempt at words would feel... forced. Fake. Inconsequential.

 

Onua! the crystal chastised him. Focus! This isn't over!

 

Isn't it? he thought back. What more can Vaurukan do?

 

In response he only felt a pervasive dread, a guilt from the crystal that mirrored his own.

 

What is it? he demanded.

 

He's almost here. I... I can't...

 

Onua looked up.

 

Scanned.

 

He saw Vaurukan riding the back of the translucent tapeworm as it wriggled over the Kini-Wahi ground foliage, sending up a trail of smoke behind it as the driest plant remains burst into flames, and the others steamed as all moisture boiled away, then belatedly caught fire as the tail slithered over them.

 

Moment.

 

Tried to think.

 

Tried to ask the crystal what it wanted him to do. Why it was acting so enigmatic...

 

He stayed in the moment until he lost focus of it, trying to think of what he should do, but all he could think was that Vaurukan must have seen this all coming, must have known Haywire would die, and the effect it would have on him. He felt more lost now than even when he'd been pounding against that slimed crystal door, the magma lapping at his heels.

 

The black metal had power limits. He'd run into one already, and now he'd seen the warning over and over in the library.

 

The Poetraxiens he'd captured weren't helping. Now he realized that parts had been cut out, maybe burned. All the key parts. And some of what was written on the paper had to be fake. The Poetraxiens about Onua did not feel like him at all. Maybe, he'd thought at first, the Kuambu had just misjudged him, but now, seeing it all come together... he couldn't believe that.

 

Vaurukan had known he'd go for those papers, those wooden cards. He'd arranged the scene as yet another part of the grand strategy.

 

Perhaps the cards that Kuambu had mentioned by Rikaori as ones Vaurukan had yet to read were in fact the ones Vaurukan already knew best. Psychology? How could Vaurukan be ignorant of it when he'd displayed such mastery over every nuance of it from the start?

 

An act. It was all an act.

 

And yet, it could not have been.

 

He realized that he was so convinced his enemy had played his game perfectly, that he himself was creating the image. Vaurukan was the perfect foe in Onua's mind. But his gut told him it was not reality. Some things Onua had done had genuinely surprised Vaurukan. Perhaps contingency plans had covered them all, perhaps spur-of-the-moment patches in the net.

 

But he couldn't see it. He saw the moments of surprise, anger, and the like in Vaurukan's face, but which were faked and which were real?

 

The moment ended on that note, and almost instantly he saw the point of the tapeworm's head oozing over the crater's lip.

 

Vaurukan and his other creatures leaped off its back there, standing next to it as it formed a waterfall shape, rapidly sliding down the glassy slope. A moment later some Kuambu joined Vaurukan up there, watching as the huge creature slid down.

 

Onua,” Gali said. “The Tools...”

 

The tapeworm leaped.

 

Onua realized what she meant.

 

Like a striking snake, the head of the monster curled up and slapped the sphere of golden light.

 

Wrapped around it.

 

Onua called on the Toa Tools, making them move towards his shield.

 

But he hadn't defined a way to let them through. In fact different pieces of the black metal were handling the different powers... He hesitated.

 

That gave the translucent worm all the time it needed to wrap completely around the sphere. All sides, the top, the hovering underside... Completely covered.

 

And now he saw... it was not one of his inventions. That translucent body was organic. He could not just rewrite the system and bring the Tools in like knives through an enemy robot. He didn't know what it would do to the creature. He wasn't about to take risks with the Toa Code again...

 

That little time of hesitation. That reaction to Haywire's death.

 

That was all Vaurukan had needed.

 

Now the Tools were beyond reach. And those inside here – because the shield that protected the Tools would switch off if he teleported – trapped. Limited air...

 

All it would take now was time.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Finding the other Rahunga and the Makuta with them proved very easy. They had fanned out from a clearing, which they'd evidently been setting up as a rushed base camp, shouting Kanoka's name over and over.

 

Nijire worried the Kuambu would hear, but Nui Kumu was a decent-sized island. More likely some of the deadly beasts here would be drawn in by the noise.

 

Ito voiced her concerns in a hushed tone, appearing as he hopped off his invisible bird ahead of the others, right in front of Rahunga Ahkmou.

 

Loudshouts bring badbeasts!”

 

Ahkmou's response was to shout again, for the others to come. Then he replied in a quiet tone to the Jungledweller, “We fear no beasts nor lone Le-Matoran. What are you doing here?”

 

Fearlack is more oft-deadly than fear,” Ito replied. “And I'm not alone. Others are back-hiding, waiting for a safe-promise from you. We're here to help.”

 

The Makuta and two more Rahunga ran past foliage to the scene. “What is this?” the Makuta demanded. “A Kuambu mercenary?”

 

No, no,” Ahkmou said. “A hermit from my island. He seems to be under the illusion that he's on our side.”

 

You have not-heard of the new Brotherhood law?” Ito asked.

 

Oh, we heard,” Ahkmou replied. “As I said, you seem to think you're on our side.” There was a knife-edge to his voice.

 

Well, I spotted Kanoka,” Ito said. “I heard you loudshouting.”

 

You saw him?” the Makuta demanded. “Was he taken by a Rahi?”

 

No. I saw him moving much-quiet jungle-through. I asked him if he was deserting, but he spokenot. I told him the mission has great-hope, for we're here to free-help. But he didn't listen.”

 

Nijire smiled widely, glad the plants hid her face both from Kejokta and these others for now. Everything Ito said was, technically, the truth. He delivered it in an amazed, almost disappointed tone, the words flowing naturally with no hint that there might be anything odd about them.

 

She'd known he was secretive, and she'd heard from Kopaka of how important the truth was to Ito, so he could not lie, but she'd had no idea he was so adept at walking the line in between. What history did he have that honed such a skill?

 

If anyone else had done it, even before her very eyes, she would have suspected them of being a deceiver. But it had been Ito that saved her life that day when Kanoka tried to kill them, and she had countless other reasons from what she knew of him throughout the thousand years of life on this island to back up her estimation of him. No, he was, if anything, the exact opposite. He truly cared about Kanoka and was doing whatever it took to bring him out of this deadly entanglement with deceptive evil.

 

She wondered if Ahkmou and the others had any chance of coming out of it too. Of course, she didn't really know that Kanoka did, nor Kejokta, but it got her thinking. She felt that was what she'd needed.

 

I cannot understand,” the Makuta said, half to himself. “He seemed so eager for this mission. Although he was impatient about it and kept talking about another mission. But no matter. He has shown himself a coward, and for that, he will lose both missions. To chase after him now would waste our energies; our leader needs us quickly. I thank you for informing us, green one. Now you say you have others with you?”

 

Not-far,” Ito said, nodding. “Truce-agree?”

 

It seems we have no choice. It has been decreed.”

 

One thing I ask, however, before I them-fetch,” Ito said. “Do you have any extra Rah-Kanohi? One-with has lost his.”

 

We know all about that,” Ahkmou said. “Makuta's been keeping a close eye on your people where he can. The last he saw, Ahku and Kejokta both lost theirs due to treachery on your side!”

 

We have the Code,” Ito said. “Ahku would have broken it.”

 

I hope,” the Makuta said, “you don't think we will be adhering to your code now?”

 

You won't need to nowkill,” Ito said. “I have a greatplan.”

 

Let's hear it, then.”

 

First I want to take the extra mask to Kejokta.”

 

It's back at the base camp, with two others for Ahku and Tokaali,” Ahkmou said. “Where are they?”

 

Ga-Koro, I muddle-think,” Ito said. “But notsure.”

 

Fine.”

 

Ahkmou started walking towards the camp. To Nijire's surprise – and to Ahkmou's, Ito followed him. The Jungledweller was no longer looking at Ahkmou, so he apparently missed the look of confusion the Po-Rahunga shot him, then the shrug. The others followed these two.

 

Nijire faintly heard their voices a few minutes later. Then silence. The Brotherhood servants did not come back.

 

Several minutes passed, and Ito walked up to Nijire's group, carrying Kejokta's mask.

 

The Ko-Matoran appeared grateful, but wary. He took the mask, and donned it. The black mutagen oozed out from the mask, melding with Kejokta's body and growing him up to near Toa height. A shadow of a smirk passed over his face.

 

We must herewait for a smalltime,” Ito said, to everybody's surprise. “I must plan-tell to allyou, them-before.”

 

He turned to Kejokta. “You can Rikaori-block?”

 

Kejokta nodded, and touched something on the back of his hands.

 

Ito summed up his plan, avoiding Treespeak.

 

This is pointless,” Kejokta said. “You know Makuta's listening in now through my mask, and feeding Ahkmou this whole plan live.”

 

Ito did not look surprised to hear this at all. He gave that patient look again, and started walking toward the Brotherhood base camp.

 

Nijire and the others followed, Kejokta shaking his head.

 

She caught a glimpse of Hujo's face. He didn't have the same expression as the others – they all looked like they were trying not to think less of the Jungledweller for making so many mistakes. But Hujo had a knowing look on his face. It dawned on her that Ito must have had a reason for everything he was doing.

 

It turned out to be true when a moment later Kejokta exclaimed in surprise. “I cannot hear Teridax! I just asked him a question.” He sped up, obviously worried the Kuambu had done something, but Ito rapidly leapt ahead of him, holding up a hand.

 

I altered your mask,” the Jungledweller said. “Like Kanoka's, though with a time delay.”

 

You WHAT?”

 

Quiet-voice,” Ito whispered. “It is part of the Makuta-freeing plan. Kanoka and you are the only competent Rahunga present. I need to keep the real plan a secret from the others, but I knew Makuta would listen as soon as I gave you the mask. Hence the time delay.”

 

I... what...I...”

 

The Kuambu have a way of listening to Makuta's thoughts,” Ito replied simply.

 

Kejokta just stared, open-mouthed at Ito. Nijire was more surprised that Ito could remove Makuta's influence from a Rah-Kanohi. But she had to shake her head a little in amazement.

 

In a moment,” Ito said, “Makuta will try to think to you again. Just before he does, your connection will be established. But the connection is partial. What I will tell you now fastquick, he won't be able to hear.”

 

Ito went on, speaking very fast, sometimes lapsing into Treespeak, laying out the real plan. When he'd given the first plan, he'd spoken in hypothetical terms. We could do this, you could do that. Now he was giving direct orders. There was no room to question whether he meant it, since he could not lie.

 

Nijire was astonished at the plan itself. She hadn't imagined... but the Jungledweller seemed to know what he was talking about. The plan put a lot of trust in Onua, and to her disappointment, she didn't seem to play a role. In fact Ito ordered her to hide in the jungle, but keep a watch at a distance over things.

 

Nobody else had anything resembling a coherent plan, though Yahroko initially argued that they should survey the scene first and then withdraw to form one. Soon he admitted it was plain that Ito had already done this and time was vital, so he agreed to Ito's plan.

 

Not even Kejokta could disagree, and so they soon set out to make it happen.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua stared up at the distorted dot that was Vaurukan high above, looking down through the translucent flesh of the giant tapeworm.

 

He wondered what expression Vaurukan was wearing. Gloating? Alert readiness? Worry? He couldn't make out anything but the basic shape of his body, a silhouette against the stars and backlit by the moon.

 

And it wouldn't really matter. So much of the expressions Vaurukan had given that Onua had witnessed... they must have been faked. Knowing Onua was watching, a further way to manipulate him. What he'd thought was hatred towards the Kuambu, for example... perhaps it was really hatred for Onua, channeled at that moment to fool him.

 

He could not believe anymore that hatred for his own allies was involved at all.

 

No, the two groups had both proven a mastery of manipulation and trapping that spoke not just to Vaurukan studying their methods already, but having done so long, long ago, and accepted them so deeply, becoming so good at it that they hired him for this extremely tricky job. Maybe part of it really was that he had known Onua personally, but Vaurukan pulled this off with such an ease that Onua had to believe he'd been using methods like this to lure in people for Takings for a very long time.

 

And Nijire...

 

Now he saw that the trap was not yet fully sprung. Plans A and B were still fully in effect. The submagmatic had been all about awakening Nijire's power. It had not been necessarily meant to keep her captive. And now he realized the Time Crystal's role had been exactly how Onua used it, including leading to the death of Haywire. This had been cleverly kept from the crystal's awareness, but it must have been planned.

 

Now, right here, Plan B, the 'killing' of Onua and the other Toa... that trap had snapped shut around its victims.

 

On Kumu, the trap was not yet shut. Nijire was not yet in it. He wanted to call her immediately to warn her... but he was sure this would only warn the Kuambu. That too was part of the trap. He wanted to scream...

 

And yet....

 

Despite all of this, Onua knew he could not just assume that every detail of these events had been part of Vaurukan's plan.

 

He had to believe that somewhere Vaurukan had slipped up and he was desperately hoping Onua wouldn't spot the flaw. Hoping he had crushed Onua's spirit enough to keep his brain out of it.

 

And he nearly had.

 

But even as Onua thought these things over, he began to see details that he honestly felt did not fit Vaurukan's scheme.

 

Why, for example, have Kuambu capture Onua's group at Kriitunga Island, yet give them ample opportunity for escape? Why not take his black metal, take the special tools of Nijire and Hujo... or for that matter retake Vaurukan's sword? And, come to think of it, those indigo spheres did not match any power anyone had yet seen Kuambu using. They had a blue one that could push you away, a green that moved you randomly, but none that pulled the target towards the user – or if they did, there had been many other situations where that would have been useful but they strangely did not opt for it.

 

And... he wasn't sure... but he didn't think they had been exactly the same size. A little larger than Kuamor.

 

No. That was not Kuambu. Nobody connected with them. That was.... something else...

 

And what had Sairiph said?

 

Onua alone had a way to find the name of what Hujo, Nijire, and Vaurukan were. And this name was crucial.

 

Sairiph was sent into this by the Unknown, given that knowledge, and... Onua couldn't believe that the Unknown would entirely play along with Vaurukan's scheme. They would try not to directly intervene, and for the most part, not even indirectly intervene. But this was one clue they had given him, one opportunity that he MUST choose to act on.

 

And there had been Haywire. Perhaps Vaurukan always planned to lead the virus to the slaughter, to break Onua down by his accidental violating of the code, but surely Vaurukan intended the parasite to remain a villain.

 

These three ideas shone like brilliant stars in the blackness of the rest of what Onua knew. He had a feeling the first would not be relevant to this struggle, though its importance might come in later. As to the other two, he had to admit he had no idea how they helped.

 

Well,” Tahu said after a long pause. “We can't just stand around here...”

 

Let me mask-use,” Lewa said. “I can recycle the air. Time-buy.”

 

NO!” Onua said. “In such a confined space... I have no doubt that's just what Vaurukan wants. The power is too much. We can't use the masks.”

 

But I feel like it is destined,” Lewa said.

 

Onua faced the green Toa. He gave the same look he'd given when the Krana had corrupted him. The Toa of Air was frustrated to be in a position of suffocating. He got it. But this was not the time to panic.

 

Luckily he didn't need to say it. Lewa sighed, shrugged, and said nothing more.

 

I feel like there is a way out of this,” Onua said. “And I... I just know I can think of it. But I need time to think.”

 

Maybe what you need is to talk to us,” Tirukvin said. “Mhebula, Kopaka and I know much of what Haywire knew. Maybe some of that will help.”

 

Onua nodded slowly. “Do you happen to recall a Poetraxiens Vaurukan?”

 

All three shook their heads no. “The Lone Captain kept that from Haywire intentionally,” Kopaka said.

 

I'm looking for the name of... what Vaurukan is, or was at one time. It's also apparently what Hujo and Nijire both are.”

 

I seem to recall,” Mhebula said, “vaguely... that the Lone Captain associated two cards in the V category together. Vaurukan, and something else. I feel like the other card must be about what Vaurukan was. I don't recall anything about either Hujo or Nijire, though.”

 

The others agreed with her last statement.

 

V...” Onua muttered. “What else starts with a V?”

 

Nobody said anything for a moment.

 

But then Gali looked at him. “Vault?”

 

Vault... Why do you say that?”

 

Tahu looked at him as if he was a Bohrok. “You really didn't pay attention in the meeting, did you? The Eight Matoran ran into that blue giant, remember, who helped go on that mission from the Unknown. What was his name?”

 

Azh'yuuros,” Gali said. “He's the only being other than Hujo we know of who controls Blue Fire. He said repeatedly that he was the guardian of something called the 'Sapphire Vault.' And once he started to say something... Vault, and then a word that started with M, but the Unknown that was with them practically shouted at him not to say it, as Kewonga put it.”

 

Onua's eyes widened.

 

What word did he know of that began with M, and could describe Hujo and Nijire?

 

Matoran?” he whispered.

 

Nobody said anything again, but this time the looks on their faces were of excitement. Vault Matoran... what could that mean?

 

There was a physical location that needed guarding, that had to do with the color blue – Onua did not want to assume that 'Sapphire' was literal – and its guardian controlled Blue Fire. It was a Vault. And Hujo... the Vault Matoran... also controlled it, but through a staff that only he, Hujo, could control.

 

...is but the focus...

 

That phrase came to him, one of just a few that somehow seemed to reach across the expanse of his mind-corroding time in the Toa canisters. As if someone had trained him in his powers long ago and told him that his Toa Tools were just the focus of his powers. The powers were within him. That was not true now thanks to the Kuambu's meddling, but it was how Toa were supposed to be.

 

But what the Kuambu had done, what Vaurukan had caused the Kal to take advantage of, proved that such a power could be moved outside of a being.

 

To... a vault, of sorts. These very Toa Tools, merged with the Btou staffs, that now this horrible translucent creature was blocking him from retrieving. The power was now in the Tools, perhaps just in the Btou part, and channeled through the Tool part. Wielded by whoever used the Tools.

 

Perhaps these Vault Matoran, if the theory was right, were similar.

 

The power was in the Vaults.

 

The Tools – Hujo's staff, Nijire's lightstone, Vaurukan's sword – were the focus.

 

And there was a special rule that only the Vault Matoran could use the focusing Tools. The Vault Tools.

 

And yet, somehow it must be possible for someone else to gain access to the power. Like this Azh'yuuros.

How?

 

Well, why else call it a Vault unless it could be opened?

 

For an appointed guard, opened intentionally, granting the power.

 

An explanation came to his mind, and he realized it must be true. If you could go into the Vault – whether you were its Vault Matoran or not, you must be able to charge up the ability to control its element. The time spent inside must correlate to how much power it charged up – that would help explain Azh'yuuros' impatience to return. Vaurukan must have done this at least a little prior to using the submagmatic as a shortcut in its last moments – he had a little bit of lava power left at least, explaining the bubble of air he created around his face.

 

By contrast, only the Vault Matoran – with their Tool – could control or make however much of it they wanted without needing to spend time charging it up, he concluded. Taking Vaurukan's sword was massively inconvenient for him – yet it did not absolutely rob him of his power.

 

But why guard it – he also recalled his earlier theory that Vaurukan desperately needed guards – unless it could be...

 

Raided?

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka watched, trying to focus on the here and now, and not... the past... as Onua's shoulders straightened, and he paced back and forth, a look of intense concentration, mixed with strong hope, on his face.

 

It appeared he was forming a plan even as the others watched.

 

Finally, he looked at them and said, “I know what to do. But I cannot say it. I must not give the slightest hint, in case the enemy can hear me. So... I'm going to need all of you to do exactly what I say, and not to question it, no matter how strange it seems. Okay?”

 

Kopaka had no objection. He couldn't trust his own judgment now. He needed time to mourn... Somehow he would need to find himself again before he could trust himself.

 

The others looked apprehensive, especially Tahu. But finally the Toa of Fire nodded, and said, “We will obey you as if you were me.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire went to a tall tree, as Ito had ordered.

 

Any illusion that she was in charge here had fallen apart. But Ito had made it clear why it must be so. She knew him well enough to trust him on this. The deal had not specified that she personally had to free Makuta, but someone on her side.

 

From this vantage point, she could see the others walking forward, led by Ito and Hujo.

 

You can see them?” a voice asked from below.

 

This was Kejokta. Ito's plan had included him remaining behind to guard her; the Kuambu obviously wanted her captured. This way Makuta wouldn't want to focus on Kejokta as much.

 

Kind of. Little points of light, moving toward other points of light.” Mostly she could just see blackness and hints of green as the moon reflected off the tops of trees.

 

She could vaguely make out Kuambu coming in and out of what looked like tunnels or caves ahead. Some apparently wooden structures dotted the ground in front of these. Other Kuambu appeared to be working on building massive wooden gates.

 

In one clearing she distinctly saw several small sluglike creatures in a wide wooden pen, being tended by Kuambu blurs. Crazolga slugs, that would be, the makers of the slime. Meaning, they intended to make these wooden gates impassible.

 

They were making a fortress.

 

But it wasn't done yet.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua entered a trance and quickly built several powers he'd be needing into the teleporter and the armband.

 

He also added the same power for the shields around the Tools to the armband. Then he took the armband off and set it next to the protocage. He added an inertial dampening power to the armband as well. He hoped he could make an air recycling power, and it did seem that he could make a temporary one, but it wouldn't last. He abandoned the attempt and prepared an alteration for later to give the Bahrag air through the shield.

 

He set the armband to take over the shields around the Toa Tools.

 

Stood, eyes open.

 

Looked up at Vaurukan.

 

Smiled, allowing a hint of a smirk. Slight, but there. If this ugly tapeworm could understand it and pass what it had seen on to Vaurukan somehow, that expression would serve his purpose.

 

He let the smile give way to concentration. Walked forward to the edge of the shield, facing east.

 

Activated one of the new powers.

 

The whole bubble – the protocage and everything around it – swiftly flew up.

 

Out of the crater.

 

As it went, the Toa Tools moved around to collect in a roughly spherical shape behind them.

 

The Krana collected in a sphere to their left.

 

As they crossed out of the top, and moved east, the Krana flew off to the north, heading toward Kini-Nui. They would land inside and the shields would drop away. The Le-Matoran there would know what to do with them. Vaurukan wasn't after them, so that should work.

 

The Tools flew along behind the protocage as the strange vehicle zoomed to the east, slightly south.

 

Directly toward the mouth of the Ta-Wahi lava river.

 

The landscape rushed by dizzyingly fast. Vaurukan and his smaller creatures were left far behind.

 

But Onua left one little present for the mutant Vault Matoran.

 

A holographic message, floating in the air before Vaurukan's eyes. 'The power of your Vault will be mine.'

 

Everything he'd said so far, he had to assume had been overheard.

 

He could rob the vault. It wouldn't take much for eavesdroppers to figure that out.

 

He could gain the power of Lava, at least temporarily.

 

But.

 

But – what good would that do him in the here and now? None. Vaurukan obviously retained his resistance to lava, and Onua couldn't kill him.

 

Onua had realized one way out of this trap. That he would take. And he would be free... but then what?

Vaurukan had to be eliminated somehow as a threat. Or else he would keep coming back until his goals were achieved. They were not time sensitive. Kill or Take the Toa, and most importantly, Take Nijire. Nijire might become harder to defeat with time, but it would always be possible.

 

One way to do that would be to rob his power, to become just as charged up as him and act as a guardian over Nijire. Perhaps having Vaurukan's sword would even give Onua more power over the Vault, though he doubted that.

 

But this was not the method Onua had decided on.

 

The method he decided on came down to one simple question.

 

A question about a detail Vaurukan might even have forgotten about now, in the culture of his island, of his slaves. A detail about their art. The design of their... lanterns... Something that Onua had to believe was... code. A code that Vaurukan may have missed, since he allowed them to keep using it.

 

The question was...

 

Why black owls?





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#49 Offline bonesiii

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Posted Feb 19 2014 - 08:54 AM

Chapter 48
 

 

The Bahrag's prison plunged into the sea.

 

Down.

 

Stop.

 

Underwater.

 

Therefore, no air for the tapeworm.

 

The plan didn't hinge on this; Onua had no idea if it even needed air. Presumably it was somehow like the octopi he'd seen, and the maw-worms he hadn't. In magma it must be able to live without breathing. Of course, he didn't know if it was a deep-magma creature; perhaps it lived on the surface.

 

But regardless, it soon revealed, to his deep gratitude, that it could not survive in water. By sheer instinct, overriding all the training Vaurukan must have worked for, it loosened itself and swam up to the surface.

 

It then headed west. Obviously it saw the lava river, and preferred it over water.

 

We're free?” Tahu asked.

 

Not yet,” Onua said. “We need to stay underwater for a bit. I've set up a Seahopping system. It's time to go to Vaurukan's Island.”

 

All of which was technically true.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire watched as Ito's group snuck into the Kuambu camp.

 

With Nijire.

 

But not.

 

The Makuta was using an illusion.

 

Ito had revealed that the Kuambu used Kanohi mask powers.

 

One of the powers they used was Vision, just like Kopaka's. Those setting themselves up as guards were using this. They could see through illusions.

 

But any Makuta had options for that.

 

So the seafaring Makuta had walked forward at a different point, and fired Chain Lightning at all the Kuambu with that mask power – Ito had previously pointed out exactly how many and which ones had them based on where they were stationed.

 

The Makuta had charged in a little, hitting one Kuambu that wasn't on guard duty that also had that mask.

 

All of those were stunned. The Makuta quickly grabbed their masks in the chaos.

 

Then the Makuta had fled into the jungle, chased by a relatively large group of Kuambu.

 

This camp was on the west side of Nui Kumu. The Makuta now led the Kuambu due east, into the heart of the island.

 

Nijire watched from the south.

 

It was also from the south that Ito's group now snuck in.

 

The Makuta had teleported around, to just behind them, and was managing the illusion of Nijire, as he kept himself hidden.

 

The Kuambu would probably spot Ito's group, with Nijire. They would think the purpose of the Makuta's earlier attack was both as a diversion, and to prevent the guards from spotting the real group that was now heading in. And if that had been the plan, that would in fact be exactly what they would have done.

 

But the real plan was for the Kuambu to realize this and seek – and find – Ito's group. To see 'Nijire', and try to trap her, all the while unaware that she wasn't really there.

 

Then, there were two options.

 

One, the desperate last gasp attempt she was to avoid at all costs, was to create a subterranean tunnel out of crystal, burrowing up into Makuta's prison – wherever that was – and allowing Teridax's antidermis to float down it to freedom. She had no idea if she had enough power to do it, but then Hujo had used a lot of Blue Fire before, so it was possible.

 

Two, what Ito hoped would happen, was that Onua would figure out what was going on here after dealing with the Kal, and he would sneak in on his own, without speaking the plan at all, and free Makuta himself. Apparently Ito knew of a way Onua could do it, and thought it likely he would. But that was a big gamble.

 

Either way, Ito's group was in reality serving as a diversion for the real attacks.

 

But the big question that remained was whether they should really free Teridax or not.

 

Nijire suddenly straightened.

 

There was more going on here than just Ito's plan, she realized.

 

He'd left Kejokta here for a reason. Ito must have realized what she'd been trying to do, and known that he had risked ruining it. He was giving her a chance to fix it now. I can't waste it...

 

And that answered the other question. The question that she honestly felt was less important, though strategically she knew it was vastly more so.

 

Nijire climbed quickly down the tree. “Kejokta, we need to talk.”

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kopaka watched as the bubble zoomed along the seafloor. He wasn't quite sure which direction they were going, but he was pretty sure it was to the south.

 

As they went, Onua brought the Toa Tools in through the shield. The golden light around them disappeared and they clattered to the ground – the chunk of ground still in this strange vehicle – to the sound of cheers all around.

 

Kopaka picked up his sword.

 

And there it was. The power of Ice.

 

He sighed deeply. He'd gone without his power longer than any of the others.
 

And he felt that somehow, something in him was different now. The sand had changed the power that was dormant within him. The others must still have their normal elements dormant in them, in addition to the same element, active, in the Tools. But he had two powers.

 

What power the sand had given him, though, would remain unknown unless later he could find some way to activate it. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

 

Onua turned to them then, and held a finger to his lips. He made no sound.

 

Suddenly a wall of golden light appeared outside this spherical wall... no, two walls, a floor, and a ceiling.

 

A tunnel.

 

Long and straight, it pierced the side of what looked like the base of an island.

 

Onua made a clawing motion with his hands.


The water inside the tunnel suddenly turned into air. Then the portion of the bubble against this disappeared.

 

Onua pointed at the Toa, but not Nuhuri. Then at the tunnel.

 

Tahu nodded.

 

But Onua grabbed Kopaka's shoulder as he turned away.

 

Kopaka felt something in energy form pass from Onua's energy pack to his own.

 

Rathoa.

 

And the Awakener.

 

Kopaka nodded his understanding. Onua wanted Rathoa to help free Makuta.

 

The Toa of Earth motioned for them to get going.

 

So they did. Only Onua and Nuhuri remained behind.

 

They ran through the deep ocean. It was a surreal sight – one of many Kopaka had seen recently. He was getting used to it. It's our destiny to enter the strangest of places, he thought.

 

He saw fish crowding curiously against the barrier, staring at the walking beings.

 

Finally, they reached an earthen wall at the end. It was wet, as they approached; hard-packed, but with a slightly muddy quality.

 

As they got close, though, it suddenly no longer seemed wet. Parts crumbled. Kopaka saw with his mask that the golden tunnel continued on for a ways, angling up, until it reached a cave.


A cave filled with Kuambu... and with a strange machine in the center. A machine topped by a massive bubble field, filled with green gas.


There was much more mass inside than Kopaka thought there would be, but soon he understood why. The Kuambu had a wooden conveyor system built above it.

 

Large fruit were being sent over the top of this bubble, and passing through inside. There the gas – Makuta – was quickly digesting them. All the fruit were of a single type Kopaka didn't recognize; apparently a kind bred just for this purpose. No longer could Teridax be confused for Sairiph based on mass alone.

 

Now the only thing left for them to do was a lot of digging.

 

Kopaka dug in.

 

It turned out to be very easy. It barely felt like earth, and in fact as his hands hit it, it seemed more like loose snow, but without the cold. He didn't understand it, but the point was, it was easy to shove aside.

 

Tirukvin discovered a moment later that it was in fact magnetic.

 

He looked at it again.

 

Iron dust?!

 

They all looked at each other.

 

Kopaka smiled, and held a finger to his lips as well.

 

This will go fast now.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Almost as soon as the others were in the passage, Onua resealed the sphere shield – but now it would not filter out Toa or Matoran... or antidermis. Three symbols of those shapes appeared in the golden light, which he hoped would convey the idea; the first two in blue, the third a green blob shape.

 

I wonder why the black metal uses golden light or blue light by default, he wondered, but brushed the thought aside to focus on the next step.

 

Now everything here was being powered by the armband, which would remain behind here. No powers in the teleporter were active, therefore it could be used.

 

He gestured again for Nuhuri to stay quiet. He took her hand and bent his knees. She obviously understood, and bent her knees too.

 

He held up one of the three claws on his left Toa Tool, smiling again to have it back, a second, a third.

 

Jump. Blue light. Fall. Flash.

 

Land.

 

Now they were inside the familiar brownish lava-rock tunnels of Vaurukan's volcano. He'd scouted it already; it was still erupting but this was a section blocked off by those big doors; one of the ones that hadn't played a role in the battle. He'd noticed more doors in this section; a total of eight in the same tunnel, each set back a ways behind the last. It seemed Vaurukan had wanted to make sure this area was in no danger.

 

Checked the energy level. Very low; he couldn't go back to Mata Nui for an hour or so, but it recharged at a decent pace.

 

He bent down to scratch a message in the dirt. Started... Then stood up, laughing silently at himself. He waved a hand, and the dirt moved itself into shape.

 

'We need to find a hidden doorway in here. Vaurukan will have entered it often, and maybe others.'

 

She nodded. He destroyed the message.

 

She walked forward, pointing at the ground.

 

There were footprints of all kinds here.

 

Some looked like Matoran, Toa, and other humanoid beings.

 

Here and there he saw the odd four-legged prints of Vaurukan.


There were also many strange prints – circles, in pairs, each with four radiating marks like a compass rose. He'd seen them before, he guessed, around the portal, but hadn't quite realized what he was seeing.

 

He pointed at them, a look of questioning on his face.

 

Nuhuri scratched an answer in the dirt.

 

'Kuambu? I guess they have strange feet.'

 

Onua frowned. Strange indeed. Each was symmetrical two ways. He'd never heard of such a foot. He recalled Kopaka had thought he'd seen many such circular depressions around the abandoned Kuambu camp. So they'd been footprints....

 

He destroyed the message, and Nuhuri moved on, following the prints through complex maze of passageways.

 

There didn't seem to be any marks of the fake or real creatures here, unlike the other areas of the volcano he'd seen before.

 

He took a moment to scan ahead with the new version of that program he'd added to the teleporter.

 

No sign of any secret passageways.

 

But he felt deeply sure that this was just an illusion. If he was right about this Vault, it would need to be protected with the most powerful illusions possible, but there also had to be a way for just anybody to walk in, hence the need for guardians. He got the distinct impression that something greater than any of the Vault Matoran had set up these Vaults, and that nobody could change the design now.

 

I really would like to be more certain of this theory, though, he thought.

 

Moment.

 

He'd let enough time pass that he could briefly do this.

 

There were those Kuambu ships, though they were moved. He zoomed in blur form around the bases of them, noting that they were raised on scaffolds now and the Kuambu were patching the hulls. But he spotted one that had the same marks of battle he'd seen earlier.

 

Entered.

 

Found the room that Kanoka had raided.

 

It was still in the state Kanoka had left it – apparently the Kuambu had higher priorities right now.

 

And there, laying on an open drawer, was a card.

 

Yes.

 

He moved around quickly to read it, feeling his focus on the moment slipping already.

 

It was of course in the strange version of Matoran, but he caught the title, and that was enough. Poetraxiens Vault Matoran.

 

Time flowed against his will, and he lost sight of the rest. Out of energy for moments.

 

He asked the crystal to read it to him.

 

But it didn't answer.

 

Hello?

 

Nothing.

 

The crystal was still in his energy pack. He loosely sensed its mind. He sensed vaguely that it heard him.

 

But it refused to send its thoughts.

 

He realized immediately why. It had warned him before, hadn't it? It must have become able to see the future. He felt it putting up barriers between his thoughts and its.

 

He sighed, saddened at this. He knew it was not angry at him, and probably lamented what it must do. He really could not blame it. To give anyone the power of knowing the future that would happen... that was just too much. But he didn't really care about that... well, something in him did, but he understood why it had to be beyond his reach. That it would get in the way of this friendship...

 

Well, he imagined Kopaka must feel much like this about Haywire. Perhaps Nijire about Pakastaa. What was happening to the crystal... it was much like death, wasn't it? Death to the outside world.

 

Just then he heard the pounding of feet against dirt.

 

Enemies coming.

 

Immediately he activated the next power he'd prepared.

 

An invisible motion field enveloped him and Nuhuri, and they both lifted into the air. She gave a little cry of surprise. Thankfully the enemies didn't seem to hear – they sounded like they were running at full speed, so their own footsteps would overpower such a small sound.

 

Onua crouched, as the invisible wave of force pushed him against the ceiling, and motioned for Nuhuri to do the same.

 

He held himself completely still, making eye contact with Nuhuri. She seemed to understand, and held still as well.

 

Light radiated from them, colored the same as the ceiling. Other fields absorbed light. Invisibility... the clumsy version of it he'd managed to slap together in the trance, anyways. As long as they stayed totally still, and the Kuambu weren't thinking of looking up, it might pass.

 

At a moment's notice, though, he was prepared to activate a shield that would let only fog through it, and pull out the Stone of Permanence.

 

Thankfully, the army of blurs didn't notice them, and ran on pell-mell.

 

His threat had done its job. He was a little surprised it had worked so well. Presumably one of the Kuambu with Vaurukan owned a Rikaori, and had passed on Onua's threat to these.

 

As soon as the Kuambu were out of sight around a corner he lowered them back to the ground, and motioned for Nuhuri to continue tracking, although now it was so easy he could have done it alone. They made good time now. But the camouflage he left on. At a moment's notice they could go still, and hopefully blend in well enough.

 

They entered a cavern, just in time to see a handful of Kuambu disappearing into a wall as if the wall wasn't there.

 

The footprints did not continue into the wall – the floor in the cavern was solid stone. It was a good thing they'd caught that final glimpse.

 

Nuhuri looked astonished at the sight – and then twice astonished to notice that Onua did not.

 

She backed up a little and wrote in the dirt. 'Vault?'

 

Onua nodded. He walked forward quickly.

 

Tried to scan ahead.

 

No luck. The metal said the wall was solid, and nothing lay beyond but stone.

 

He walked into the wall.

 

The illusion seemed to fade just before he passed through it.

 

What he beheld instead... was breathtaking.

 

A long, vast tunnel spiraling downward.

 

Made of light.

 

Orange light.

 

No, shining orange gems.

 

With hints of bright blueish white filtering out from inside many little clearish-orange pieces. Each gem was the size of a small pebble, perfectly round.

 

Each was loose.

 

And moving.

 

They flowed around, over each other, making no noise he thought at first. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, all were made of this. Each moved at a rapid pace. Sometimes whole areas flowed in the same direction, other times each gem seemed to move randomly. All the motion was so fast he could barely begin to understand it one moment before it changed the next.

 

Here and there the surfaces were briefly spotted with little blobs of lava that appeared, growing from a single pebble, but then immediately sank inside other pebbles.

 

The air was hot, but not unbearable. It rippled, further distorting this impossible sight.

 

And his feet hovered a few inches off the lower surface – not from any power of his own.

 

Nuhuri stepped inside, and gasped.

 

He turned, frowning and holding a finger to his lips again. She winced at herself.

 

Onua ran forward, his feet making no sound against the nothingness.

 

He felt friction to move forward, but it was like walking in sand. His feet would sink down slightly, especially if he dug the front tips in. If he did so, they instantly heated up so fast he had to leap to remove them. He soon learned to walk very flat-footed.

 

When he was a good distance from the entrance, he found he could hear the gems sliding over each other, faintly. He gathered that the muteness of the entrance area was part of the concealment illusion.

 

Nuhuri pointed to the ground under his feet.

 

He didn't understand.

 

She bent down, tapping a finger on the 'ground.'

 

In response, the gems there moved away. He noticed these continued to radiate from that point, looping around the tunnel's surface over and around them continually for a while.

 

She took the lead again, running forward, her eyes on the ceiling now instead of the floor. He ran after her, staying close enough to grab her shoulder if he spotted danger. He tried again to scan ahead, but the scanner still told him he was inside solid rock.

 

The tunnel forked. The left tunnel was much larger than the right.

 

She studied the walls for a bit, then pointed to the left.

 

Onua shook his head. He materialized dirt, throwing it on the 'ground', and made a message appear in it. 'Is that the way the Kuambu went?'

 

She nodded.

 

He changed the message. 'We need to go the other way then.'

 

She looked puzzled, but he just absorbed the earth and ran to the right, letting her follow him now.

 

The Kuambu, of course, were going to guard the part of the Lava Vault that would grant someone use of the elemental power, like Azh'yuuros had gotten use of Blue Fire.

 

But Onua had a different goal. It was the shakiest theory yet, but he was absolutely sure of it.

 

His earlier theory that Vaurukan needed guards, he'd formed because he realized something needed to control the Taking.

 

Yet now he had proof that the guards were guarding the elemental Vault. Maybe others guarded some machine... but he was betting that the Vault also enabled the Taking. It was very loose. Yet, Hujo had two basic powers. One, the element of Blue Fire. Two, also from the same Staff, the power to hear Soulsongs, to aid the solving of mysteries.

 

Perhaps all Vault Matoran were like this.

 

Vaurukan had the element of Lava, and the power to teleport others who were near death to him. The connection seemed to make poetic sense. Lava was something that could cause death quite easily. Onua had no idea why there would be such a correlation, but he believed there was one.

 

And this Taking involved the ability to heal beings. That, Onua had already concluded, was Vaurukan's original job.

 

But he had decided to corrupt it, only healing his slaves part of the way, so they were dependent on something. Perhaps close proximity to the Vault.

 

The key here was to be found in the black owl design. Onua was thrilled to realize this – shaky though the theory was, it had to be true. He felt sure it was, even if he couldn't fully explain why. Maybe in his past life he had known it and some of that memory was shining through.

 

He'd already scanned Vaurukan's Island earlier, categorizing everything the scan found.

 

Although that scanner program had been wiped by his mistake with the teleporter earlier, he had glanced through the categorizing of the animal life. He'd happened to look at the selection of birds.

 

He did not recall seeing any owls.

 

But what resembled a black owl?

 

Was it not Onua himself, with his somewhat beaklike Kanohi Pakari? At least, as he used to look. The resemblance was enough that he felt sure of it, especially since he'd already concluded Vaurukan must have known him well. He must have spent time here in the past, enough that some of the earliest slaves might know what he looked like. They would know of owls from other islands where they had lived before being healed, and might notice the similarity, while Vaurukan might possibly not.

 

And I must have talked to them, told them to use the symbol of the owl as a promise I would free them someday.

 

Groundwork, he thought. More groundwork.

 

That was what he was good at, after all.

 

He and Nuhuri entered a cavern more vast than any he could have yet imagined. He realized that the tunnel had been spiraling and wandering downwards. The scanner told him he was deep under the caldera, near the lava chamber but still inside solid rock.

 

The room was larger even than the inside of the submagmatic or the caldera itself. More tunnels radiated out from it.

 

Piled in the center were thousands of spherical stones.

 

Each the exact same size and shape as the Stone of Permanence he carried.

 

Each in a different color and texture, many glowing.

 

Onua was surprised it was so simple, but worried...

 

The floor here glowed with a whitish orange light. Wisps of ghostly white energy flowed upward. He felt stronger as he walked among it. His muscles felt no more exhaustion. His vision seemed stronger, the air going into his lungs more refreshing.

 

This was the healing energy. This must be where the Taken would first come, whether dead or almost. He felt like every moment he spent here he was feeling better and better.

 

But the Stones of Permanence. Why?

 

Well, tapping them with a Stone just before they were healed enough to survive would force them to remain in that state.

 

Maybe this radiating energy reached faintly throughout the whole island, Onua supposed, but go too far beyond and it would be gone.

 

This must not have happened for Makuta. Could you hit a gas with a stone? Even if you could, it was probably part of the deal with the Kuambu that he must be fully healed – and he could be contained in a way biomechanical beings could not. Really, as long as part of his gas was saved from the burning that the Toa had accidentally unleashed, that destroyed most of Makuta's antidermis at Mangaia, that teleported gas should be fine already.

 

Onua was worried because he'd burrowed deep into theories upon theories. What if he had it backwards? What if these Stones were all that kept the slaves alive?

 

Could he even risk it once to find out?

 

Then he noticed a second pile of Stones behind this one. Smaller.

 

Walked around the main pile to study this.

 

These looked blank. Unused.

 

Behind them, a small pedestal stood.

 

A black pedestal.

 

Reflecting the light of all these flowing gems.

 

Onua grinned.

 

Black metal.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire heard distant sounds of battle before she reached the ground. Obviously Ito's group had been spotted.

 

As planned.

 

She faced Kejokta. “I need to tell you something.”

 

I'm... listening.”

 

Can Makuta hear us?”

 

I haven't heard from him.” He paused. “No answer to my questions. What did Ito do?”

 

I don't know. But listen. I don't want to deceive you at all.”

 

What?” He frowned.

 

Try to understand... Makuta is our enemy...”

 

Oh. You mean to say that you weren't really planning to let him go, right?”

 

She tilted her head. “You... know?”

 

Makuta obviously suspected it. We're not fools, Nijire.”

 

She sighed, smiling. “Well I guess this might be pointless, then. But I've decided... I won't stand for it. He must be free.”

 

Kejokta nodded. “As he believed you would decide.”

 

She breathed out, stopping herself with supreme force of will from sighing loudly in exasperation. “But I... I tell you this because... look, Kejokta, you have to...” She held up her hands. She couldn't think of how to word it.

 

You want me on your side. Like the other Rahunga that Kanoka murdered? That wouldn't be very smart, would it?”

 

I do want you on my side – the side of good. Everybody should be! And this is a safe zone now.”

 

He barked laughter. “You're such a fool.”

 

She stared at him. It was hard not to feel insulted... considering he'd just... insulted her. But she wanted him to see... what? Why was her side right?

 

She couldn't put it into words. She didn't know how to make a convincing explanation. She just knew it to be true in her heart.

 

Maybe I am a fool,” she said. “But Makuta honors Brotherhood law, does he not?”

 

I don't want to be confined to one little region! With Makuta I am free.”

 

No! With Makuta you are a slave! Why can't you see that?”

 

Bah.”

 

Nijire turned away. What more could she say?

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The last of the iron dust flowed back down the tunnel.

 

Kopaka glanced back, noticing that it had all turned back to earth, slightly wet. Odd.

 

He kept thinking about Onua's implication that he should awake Rathoa. But Kopaka wasn't so sure that was a good idea. Rathoa had betrayed Makuta, not to embrace good but for his own selfish goals, and he wasn't exactly trustworthy anyways – he'd lied very convincingly to Kopaka... The more he thought about it, the more he thought he shouldn't do it. And then, before he could rethink it, the way was open.

 

The Toa burst out into the cavern.

 

There was one Kuambu standing near a cave tunnel. Another standing near a diagonal conveyor machine.

 

Kopaka aimed his sword. Ice flowed.

 

Froze them solid before they ever knew what hit them.

 

Ah that feels good.

 

Walked up to the machine.

 

Uh...” Tahu pointed at the air above it.

 

Kopaka stopped.

 

No green.

 

He noticed the blurred expression of the two seemed to be alarm – they were both staring at the machine with their weapons raised.

 

They've moved him!” Mhebula exclaimed.

 

Kopaka noticed the machine's lights were off. Parts of it seemed bent, cracked in places.

 

He walked closer. Looked over the table-like surface.

 

There was a hollow shaft of crystal cutting right through it.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire stood back from the tube of crystal she'd made, amazed at how fast it had formed.

 

She'd done it by touching the lightstone to the ground, and commanding crystal to grow downward, heading toward the machine that trapped Makuta.

 

It had been slow at first but the more crystal appeared, the faster it grew. Then she made the center expand outward, drawing air in. And here it was.

 

She turned to Kejokta. “I'm leaving. Are you coming with me, or going with Makuta?”

 

He faced her with that mocking look frozen on his face. She thought she saw a flicker of hesitation, but was it just imagination? Vain hope? “I'm with Makuta,” he said.

 

She wanted to say something more... but she feared Makuta. She'd heard of so many Rahunga turning back to good, that she'd started to think it was inevitable that they all would. Especially that her old friend would. She was tempted to think he was not ever her friend, but she'd felt that he was, even on the submagmatic at times.

 

Then I guess,” she said, stepping backwards, “we'll have to be friends anyways. If you ever need help...”

 

He looked surprised to hear this. A mix of emotions passed quickly over his face. Then settled to an unreadable statue.

 

She turned and ran.

 

Several minutes later she looked back to see a greenish glowing mist filling the air near Kejokta.

 

Then it was out of sight behind the black silhouettes of the foliage.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The pedestal was black metal. Atop it was a small device that Onua thought most resembled the technology he'd seen Oru-Vortixx carrying.

 

Trance.

 

Reading code...

 

Yes, it was as he thought. A medical scanner, basically. It judged the health of anyone who was teleported into here. He sensed that it was triggered by a teleportation much like the power his own teleporter used, but built into the Vault.

 

It gave reports of the basic survivability of the subject, and apparently fed them to the Xian device.

 

Onua guessed that Vaurukan had lied to him to get him to make it, then hired the Xians to turn it into a system to throw the Stones of Permanence telekinetically at the victim just at the 'right' time.

 

He opened his eyes and scanned that device. Confirmed its use.

 

So the Stones kept the slaves ill, but maybe they also kept them alive.

 

What would happen if he destroyed them now? Maybe in the village they were too far away from the healing energy to survive. The stones must keep them in that state of dying, so if they ever crossed Vaurukan he had only to destroy that stone to let them die. It made sense. The only way ending the permanence effect would help them would be if they were here in this chamber, Onua guessed. Then the stones would stop blocking the healing from working all the way.

 

Teleportation worked. He was pretty sure the Taking used the same sort of ability as his power. He just couldn't have blindly teleported himself in to here, since the scanner – including the scouting program – couldn't see it.

 

He scouted the village, while projecting the hovering field under himself.

 

Opened the portal.

 

Made some earth and sent it down through.

 

It appeared on the other side, intact.

 

Even better, still under his control. He felt that the ground of the village was under his command too.

 

So he commanded it – to float up into the air and form a shape, over a village square with a wide and smooth enough stone pavement.

 

The shape of an owl.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Nijire wasn't really sure where to run to. But suddenly she saw two eyes in front of her.

 

The other Makuta! Was he trustworthy?

 

Pointless to wonder now – he turned and saw her eyes.

 

Ito's group is headed this way,” he said.

 

Makuta is free,” she said.

 

He stood tall, facing her with surprise. “You did it?”

 

I did. I was afraid Onua would not come through for us.”

 

Then the Kuambu will know about it. My illusion of you will be pointless. How will we get out of this now?”

 

They might not know yet. I... I sensed cold near the other end of the crystal.”

 

Why would that matter?”

 

Toa of Ice,” she said, grinning.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Onua whispered.

 

That whisper became a thunderous shout, projected by the black metal in his teleporter, into Vaurukan's village.

 

Any who wish to be free of Vaurukan, and to live, go to the village square now! This is Toa Onua. It is time!”

 

He sensed, by the scanner, a mad scuffling.

 

Kuambu were still in the village, but powerful slaves soon stunned them...

 

Some slaves objected, shouting out – Onua didn't hear the words but he could imagine. But others quickly overpowered them.

 

He did hear shouts, near the open portal, chanting one word over and over. “Owl.”

 

This was nearly the entire population...

 

Onua had expected a large number, but... so many...

 

Here and there, one of those running toward the square turned deadly weapons against Kuambu, who fled for their lives. Onua winced. He must not lead these people to Mata Nui... except those who had come from there. He'd have to use the same rules as with those from the Kuambu prisons.

 

And he couldn't let them know where the exit to the Vault was, or they might come in, and become greater threats.

 

Thankfully all the Kuambu got away.

 

Looking over the vast crowd gathering on the smooth stone, Onua wondered how it was possible a secret hope like this could truly go unnoticed by Vaurukan for so long. True, Vaurukan supposedly didn't mingle with his slaves much. But this was too much.

 

He knew.

 

He must have known, and known the hope was too strong even to ban the symbol. How he must have hated Onua for such a promise... And that is why he made this about me. Surely it wasn't part of the Kuambu's deal. They wouldn't mind him trying to Take the six Toa Mata, and maybe any of the Rua he could get.

 

But with Onua... he wants me dead.

 

If he succeeded at this... would that hate go away?

 

Onua imagined a way to end this.

 

He could wait till they were all gathered, and then free only the 'Tohunga' – as they had been called when they'd 'died' on Mata Nui. The others would be so crushed... but they'd stay, and maybe Vaurukan's hate would...

 

No.

 

No. He couldn't be so cruel. He didn't have it in him.

These people longed for freedom, and he could give it to them.

 

So he must.

 

Vaurukan probably wouldn't accept even that compromise anyways. He would always know Onua had the power to change his mind. Onua would die eventually anyways, having gained only the hatred of the very people who longed for him to return.

 

Freeing them was not a perfect plan.

 

But it was right.

 

As Onua whisper-shouted the command to bend their knees, and on count of three leap as one – as they fell through the massive slice of blue light into the cavern – he finally realized that he had missed the point of his own personality.

 

What he had was not an overpowering perfectionism.

 

When he'd thought it was, he had feared to attach his name to any plan that was not literally perfect. He would rather stay quiet, let others take the blame for their failure or credit for their success.

 

No. What he had was a talent for spotting little clues to possible dangers and opportunities. It allowed him to form the best plan he could, given the limits he had. If he always stepped up and went for it, sometimes he would fail... but he realized now that he would overall do much more good than harm, and his team and all his friends would be much better off than if he'd just left them to their own devices.

 

He sighed again, but this time a deep sigh of relief. His perfectionism did not have to rule him absolutely. Rather, it was a tool.

 

Maybe the old Onua had never realized that. Vaurukan would never have expected him to learn it.

 

But he had. He smiled widely.

 

Since the village square had a garish, massive statue of Vaurukan in the center, Onua had aligned the teleportation so everybody would fall around the two piles of stones, the pedestal, himself, and Nuhuri.

 

Now, as they turned and cheered, he aimed his claws at the Stones. Sent out disintegration energy.

 

The main pile crumbled to dust.

 

The extra pile.

 

Then the Xian device – Onua put the medical scanner into his energy pack.

 

The orange light radiated more brightly from the floor, walls, and ceiling, and washed over the slaves.

 

Faint hints of deadly injuries faded away. Those hunched over in pain stood tall, looks of wonder on their faces. Others with ailments harder to understand by sight made similar expressions. Another cheer went around, thunderous.

 

The sound, of course, carried throu

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#50 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Feb 24 2014 - 08:19 AM

[The final chapter above appears to have been cut off by (apparently newly shortened) maximum post length limits. Putting the rest of the chapter here, along with however much of the epilogue fits.]

 

 

The sound, of course, carried through the tunnels of the Vault. The Kuambu nearby would hear it. But it was too late.

 

Now,” Onua said, allowing his voice to project through this cavern. “I need to send you somewhere in the Matoran Universe, where you can start a new life, or await my return to send you to your homelands. But we must NEVER speak of the location.” He explained, with as much emphasis as he could, his theories about the Kuambu eavesdroppers.

 

He asked them to select a leader, who would decide where they would go.

 

After much discussion, a tall being walked forward.

 

Onua created more earth, and instructed the being to describe the location by writing it there. The titan did so quickly.

 

The southern continent.

 

Onua read about its location and specifically where on this vast land the titan had in mind.


Scout.

 

Onua nodded. “I see it. Now, some of you were from my land. Step forward and stand with Nuhuri.” He pointed to her.

 

Several 'Tohunga' did so, as he reabsorbed the earth.

 

You are Onua?” one said. “You seem a bit different than what the legend-keepers said you looked like.”

 

He is,” Nuhuri said. “Changed now, but still Onua.”

 

He just smiled.

 

When they were ready, Onua levitated himself and the Mata Nui Matoran.

 

Called on the others to prepare to teleport. On three. And there was the flash.

 

They all went through. Onua saw green grass and a gently rolling landscape just beneath them. They landed safely.

 

They all looked up through the portal. They did not cheer now, but they waved at him, in the most serious, grateful way he could have imagined.

 

He gave a bow, trying not to cry.

 

Then the light was gone. He would go back to them later and offer them the chance to go to their own homes. He'd noticed many Kriitunga for example, and even some of Toggler's species. For others he would need help knowing where to send them. And probably many would stay where he'd sent them.

 

Just then, the small army of Kuambu rushed into the chamber.

 

Blue flash.

 

Levitation off.

 

Lake Kanae.

 

The short fall to the water seemed to happen in slow motion for him. The light disappeared. He saw the whole pattern of it as it faded away in sections. The feeling that he was in a dream was back, but it wasn't coming from any power. He scanned even as he fell... there was Vaurukan and his creatures, going back up the Mangai, to the waiting octopi.

 

He fell under the water a ways, and kicked back to the surface.

 

Is it over?” Nuhuri asked.

 

Was it over? Would it ever be over, until either he or Vaurukan were dead? No, he decided. But Vaurukan was defeated. He wouldn't be able to hide his hate from the Kuambu anymore. They were too well versed in Psychologia.


The alliance would fall. Those Kuambu ships, once repaired, would teleport away and never return unless it be to conquer. Onua was as sure of this near future as he was of the past. And with that alliance broken, the easy way to control Nijire would fall as well. The time to try to capture her was gone – they would have to look at her the way they looked at Hujo now.


Vaurukan would hide out on his island for a while, trying to heal wounds that were beyond the reach of the Vault's power. Someday, when he was ready, he would venture forth again.

 

He would string a proverbial bow and take aim for the silent flier who had swooped in at night and taken what he treasured most.

 

And I'll be waiting.

 

It's over,” Onua answered quietly, turning north and swimming toward Le-Koro. “For now.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue
 

 

As he swam, Onua scanned Nui Kumu.

 

Kopaka was freezing massive regions of the Kuambu cave-fortress, leaving a way for Nijire's group to come back through.


Onua saw that the Kuambu teleported away the memory machine, unfortunately. A few moments later one of the Kuambu ships teleported away – to where, he had no idea. Jaudrohk's mission was a failure. But Onua was determined to make sure it wasn't a total loss.

 

Kejokta and Makuta Teridax met up with the seafaring Makuta, Ahkmou, and the others. The wandering Makuta energized Teridax's antidermis into an energy pack, and then teleported the group. Just like the Kuambu ship, Onua couldn't see them anywhere else in range.

 

Kopaka and Nijire's groups met up, and retreated back down the tunnel of golden light.

 

Ito, however, remained on Kumu. Onua was pretty sure it was because his invisible bird was there and wouldn't fit in the tunnel.

 

When everybody was safely inside the spherical 'vehicle', Onua opened a message program he'd put into the teleporter, and sent a signal to activate the leaving flight path he'd prepared.

 

It moved north again.

 

As it did, Onua helped Nuhuri climb up to Le-Koro. Some villagers were still there, with the intelligent Gukko.

 

I can make my way home from here,” Nuhuri said. “Thanks.”

 

Don't go alone,” he warned. “Kuambu...”

 

She waved away the words. “I'm no fool, Onua.”

 

He smiled. Then he left with the few Ko-Matoran from Vaurukan's Island, who would want to meet up with Kopaka and return to Ko-Koro.

 

He felt a strange sense of security now. He could alternatively cast a shield around himself – one that would put Tahu's Hau to shame – or levitate, or be invisible, or any number of other powers. If all else failed, he could teleport away.

 

I wonder if this is what it's like to be a Makuta.

 

The thought made him notice for the first time that Rathoa wasn't yet with the others. He scanned more carefully, and saw that Kopaka had not materialized him. Onua frowned. He had been very unsure of Rathoa's allegiance... anything that might anger him was very risky.

 

But as he thought of this, he realized why he'd thought something was off about Rathoa on the mountainside.

 

No antidermis.

 

With the hole in his armor Onua had seen, greenish mist should have been leaking out. And hadn't he seen muscle?

 

Onua teleported to Ga-Koro, just a few minutes before the Bahrag Sphere surfaced there. He went to Nokama's hut, telling the leader of what he knew – and dared to say, and asked her to pass it on to the rest of the island, without using Telecommunication.

 

He entered another trance to add a few extra protective programs. Most importantly, he added a protection for his energy pack that would remain on at all times. He also remotely altered the Bahrag Sphere's door code to not allow Makuta through. He also modified the medical scanner to prevent Vaurukan from using it.

 

He left the Turaga's hut just in time to see the sphere surface and angle its door to face one of the lily pads.

 

He met the Toa and Matoran as they left. The first thing he did was ask Lewa to deliver the medical scanner to Kewonga. Lewa agreed.

 

Rathoa?” he asked, noticing he didn't see him.

 

Kopaka answered in a defensive tone. “I didn't trust him.”

 

Onua sighed. “Alright... but wake him up now. Come, over here.” They took him to Nokama's hut, where enemies wouldn't see. Materialized him and the Awakener. Onua asked Kopaka to leave first for his own protection, and then used the Awakener.

 

Rathoa was furious when he awoke, as Onua had feared. “I wanted you awake,” Onua said. “But I couldn't speak to make it an order. I'll accept the blame.”

 

Rathoa started to argue, but Onua interrupted. “I fear you have a bigger problem, Rathoa. Look at your chest armor.”

 

Needless to say, the sight of muscle there had a profound effect on the villain. Rathoa's eyes went wide, and he nearly fainted.

 

Impossible,” he muttered.

 

That mask,” Onua said. “That turned you into a Makuta. You kept it active all this time, transformed into armor. Didn't you?”

 

I... I didn't really... think about it...”

 

You were never really a Makuta,” Onua concluded.

 

No, I am! I have the powers!”

 

Onua didn't answer. He suspected Rathoa hadn't kept the mask active the whole time, as it would have an energy limit, but activated it whenever he used a Makuta power, but he didn't want to rub it in. How lost this once-Onu-Matoran had become... Onua was actually hoping this was the start of a return to good. But he knew it was unlikely.

 

Rathoa obviously tried to activate a power then. Nothing happened.

 

Suddenly he changed shape. He shrunk down to his Rahunga form – humanoid, the basic size and shape of a Toa, slightly hunchback, with a nonsymmetrical mask, with two extra eyes on one side. The Mask of Mutation. The hole in his armor disappeared.

 

Rathoa shook his head in disbelief. “My old mask works again. Maybe it never stopped working but the Makuta tricked me into not using it right. I don't know...”

 

Maybe this is good for you. You're in the Brotherhood's safe zone now. And you're not a competitor for the rulership anymore.”

 

Rathoa scoffed. “I don't need Brotherhood law or Makuta form to rule, Onua. You watch.”

 

Onua sighed. He turned toward the exit. “There's much more to life than that, Rathoa.”

 

Oh I know,” Rathoa said as a final passing shot. “I intend to enjoy it all. From my throne.”

 

Onua sadly walked back to the Bahrag Sphere. Was Rathoa serious? He wasn't sure, but he knew he wouldn't abandon him. Somehow he would try... But right now he had larger concerns to demand his time.

 

First, he altered the armband's power to project a floor of golden light. Then he switched off all the armband's powers entirely, holding it and the sphere alone up by a power in the teleporter. The earth that had formed the floor for the passengers fell away into the water. He restarted the armband, entered the strange vehicle, and submerged it, taking it around to the confusing, water-crisscrossed region of the Papa Nihu reef on the northwest side of the island.

 

He found a random islet amidst the reef and burrowed into it while underwater using his disintegration power, then angled the cave up to create an air pocket, and sideways to create a dry stone floor. Here he deposited the cage with its slimed clamp. He left the armband inside the shield it was generating, knowing only the Toa Nuva could enter it to free the prisoners, though he added an exception to allow air through so the Bahrag would not suffocate.

 

A bit inconvenient to have the armband in such an easily carryable form only to leave it here, but then once the Bahrag were freed he could retrieve it.

 

Now that the Bahrag were dealt with, Onua was free to teleport wherever he wanted.

 

First, he decided to help the Toa Rua get back to Kriitunga Island. He also found Toggler, in Po-Koro with Korau. He asked the shapeswitcher if he would like to help the Toa Rua with a new mission – or really, one Toggler had already begun. The titan agreed, and said farewell to the Po-Matoran chef.

 

Stop here whenever you can for a great meal, though!” Korau said.

 

Toggler grinned, and Onua teleported with him back to Kriitunga Island.

 

The Toa Rua had found the Kriitunga leaders, and with Krohlaba's help an agreement was reached.

 

Tirukvin and Onua worked together to remove the mutagenic sand from the giant cavern in the mountain. Onua temporarily turned the sand metallic, and Tirukvin magnetically moved it out to the mutagenic desert.

 

Onua stood inside the cavern now, on the bare stone floor.

 

He donned the Legendary Mask of Earth, and levitated.

 

Not sure about this, he thought. He'd argued against its use earlier... but this wasn't anything close to such a confined space.

 

Earth, he thought.

 

Like a fountain, dirt erupted from the ground under him and flowed rapidly out, spreading like a flood across the stone. Almost before he could blink, it filled the floor, and then kept filling. He quickly switched the power off.

 

Whew...

 

Several plants that could grow well without sunlight had been brought here recently from Twisted Island. The Kriitunga could now plant those in here and create a refuge. They would attempt to secure the two other ways in soon.

 

Then Onua left – walking out of the tunnel rather than teleporting, because he wanted time to think about the experience of using the mask. It had felt something like running as fast as you could go with your eyes closed toward a cliff and hoping you stopped in time.

 

Yet, he dared not spend so much time here as making more Earth the slow way would take.

 

Because the second part of the agreement was for Onua to make two more vast regions of safe soil. One to the north of the village, continuing the work the Kriitunga had been slowly doing for centuries. Another to the south, both against the mountain.


He made the southern one now, by levitating and flying out over the sands a ways. Earth covered the desert here rapidly, and he switched the power off. Then he flew over the village to the north.

 

The workers here had been evacuated because he'd warned them he wasn't sure what the power would do. He turned the power on again, and there it was... Stop! Good. Just clear of the northern gardens.

 

The Toa Rua had agreed to stay behind a little longer to help the Kriitunga put up tarp barriers on these new areas, and set up an irrigation system. Gali planned to return occasionally to help with that.

 

Next, the Rua would hand out energy packs to any who trusted their word that with Haywire gone, the risk of the Curse of the Southern Watch was over.

 

Later, Pohatu would return and help restore that southern tower to its former usefulness.

 

And in return for all of this, the leaders finally agreed to Onua's plan to put Krohlaba as Regent, and keep Khungakrii as King, at least for a while. Onua breathed a long sigh of relief when this was announced. Krohlaba for his part looked amazed, even having had time to get used to the idea – though it was hard to tell with his mantis-like face. Onua left the island very pleased with these turns of events.

 

But he was worried about one thing – that troublemaker Mhondomva who they still had in their prisons. Khungakrii himself had considered freeing him.

 

So Onua stopped off once more at the Kuambu prison.

 

It looked just as he'd left it except that the earth had somewhat settled into the hole he'd tried to dig.

 

After a little time of shouting for him, the King appeared in the jungle.

 

Where's your crown?” Onua asked, barely containing his smile.

 

I buried it,” Khungakrii said sadly.

 

Onua laughed. To rescue the King from his shock at this reaction, he quickly told him the news.

 

The beetle-like mutant stared off into the distance for a while, saying nothing.

 

That old stubbornness threatened to remain in his face, but Onua just knew that he couldn't say no. He was so sure of this he just kept grinning. After a moment, the King couldn't help but smile slightly.

 

I guess I'll... go dig it up...” he mumbled, still slightly smiling. He turned away and walked back into the forest. “I hope to see you again.”

 

Just one more thing,” Onua said, more seriously. “Mhondomva.”

 

Oh, I already decided not to free him. I didn't think I'd be in a position to judge. But he's more trouble than it would be worth.”

 

Onua gave one slow nod in thanks. “Then I guess I don't need to tell you what Haywire witnessed. But I should anyways.”

 

Oh?”

 

He quickly told of the sighting of Mhondomva working with the Lone Captain in the past.

 

Long ago, you say? Hmph. Well I suppose it doesn't matter now. But I... I King... thank you.”

 

Onua nodded, and left.

 

When the Rua were done, they would follow instructions Onua left for them to find the airship, with the Brotherhood boat attached.

 

With these vehicles they and Toggler would embark on a new mission, to finish what Onua had started with the Kuambu prison islands. They would free the prisoners and take them to Base Island, north of Kriitunga Island. There Bhukasa and the Rua would help set up defenses against the Kuambu. What would happen after that would have to be decided later.

 

Next Onua contacted Sairiph and asked him where he was.

 

It turned out he too had thought of the southern continent to flee to. Described the exact location quickly, and Onua teleported there.

 

All Sairiph had built here was a campfire, which he put out. Then they teleported away.

 

Onua first took him to Kriitunga Island. But he explained about the secret location, drawing it in the dirt and erasing it a moment later. Sairiph looked amused that it was also on that continent, but said nothing as agreed.

 

I would like to join them,” Sairiph said. “And maybe I will visit to help them, but I do not wish to leave Toggler with nothing but Toa to defend him. It was because of the Kuambu prisons that I met your people, and I feel like I owe it to the other prisoners.”

 

Perhaps you could be an emissary between the two refugee groups,” Onua said. “I think we can trust the ones at the secret camp to keep it secret. The Kuambu prisoners... I don't know. But you could test them and if any are trustworthy, they could go to the other place.”

 

Sairiph seemed to like that idea. “It would save you from needing to teleport them yourself,” he said. “But what will we call this secret place? A name would make it easier to avoid letting the real name slip.”

 

Good point.” He thought for a while. “How about... the Owl's Nest?”

 

Sairiph chuckled. “A little self-centered, Onua. And sounds uncomfortable.”

 

He shrugged. “The Refuge?”

 

The Refuge it is.” Sairiph flapped his wings and hovered. “Anything else?”

 

If there is I'll... write,” Onua said, grinning. “Good luck.”

 

Don't worry. We Makuta don't need luck,” Sairiph said, smiling back. With that he flew away to the east.

 

With all of those loose ends tied up, Onua returned to Ga-Koro, where Jaudrohk, Hujo, and Nijire were waiting on the Seahopper. He gratefully took his other gloveclaw back from Bhukasa. The sky was just starting to brighten at that point. Onua hadn't realized the whole night had passed already. All the effects of the healing cavern in the Vault had faded, and he felt himself slipping off.

 

He begged Bhukasa to delay the trip for a few hours so he could sleep.

 

Alright,” Bhukasa said, “but not here. I'll hop somewhere. Let's use your silence rule about it.”

 

It was agreed, and Onua returned to the room he'd slept in before. But first he talked – or rather wrote – to Jaudrohk and they agreed to a plan.

 

Finally, exhausted, he slipped into the comforting blackness of sleep.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

While Onua slept, Nijire tried to communicate with the Time Crystal.

 

She could feel its shape, and sense what was around it, and in it – the chronoserum.

 

But she sensed no mind.

 

She hadn't known it very well, but she couldn't help but feel saddened. Just an object, it had said of itself. It had believed it so wholeheartedly that it had become true. Did it have a mind anymore to understand the future it saw?

 

Or, perhaps, had it become the future?

 

Had it transcended the sort of existence that beings like her were limited to? Had it faded away into oblivion?

 

She voiced questions like this to Hujo, but he did not have a strong theory. She discovered how tired she was as well, though Hujo was fully awake now of course. She excused herself and found a room of her own to spend the rest of the few hours in.

 

As for the Time Crystal... she could only hope that someday, if nobody else could find a way to communicate with it... maybe she would.

 

As she lay in bed trying to go to sleep, her thoughts ran over everything that had happened... orbiting slowly around that one revelation... Like gravity, her thoughts inevitably fell into the core thought. But she could not feel about it. Could not think about it.

 

There was only acceptance. Acknowledgement that it was true.

 

She knew she would have time to learn how to feel about it tomorrow.

 

But through that idea, the images of everything they'd put her through to find it flashed through her mind. The one she kept going back to was of that monstrous mandible worm, pounding its way into the stone and bronze room when she'd first woken up. The dizzy fear and extreme disorientation as it mouthed the little hole it had opened so far. The pain as she tried to hold totally still.

 

That was how she felt now.

 

Her heart kept pounding for what felt like two more days, but was probably just a few minutes. That scene kept running through her mind until she dropped into a half-dreaming state, where the teeth of the worm turned into sharp crystals and the room was filled with little statues of owls.

 

She did not remember the moment when she fell asleep, but this image from her dreams stayed bright in her mind when finally Bhukasa's voice called for her to awaken.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Kopaka walked alone through the dark Ko-Wahi, as it transformed to its blindingly white daytime state under a multicolored sunrise.

 

Because he was to the west of Mount Ihu, its shadow remained cast across most of the land, and he was spared the bright glare of direct sunlight.

 

Behind him, Matoro and Mukana led the small group of the last Ko-Matoran to return, including four from Vaurukan's island – two who had only just been Taken from the submagmatic. Taureko had joined them as well – he'd decided to take a break from the Seahopper to see Ko-Koro. “Maybe I'll stay there,” he'd said.

 

The two captured Ko-Rahunga, Ahku and Tokaali, were not with them.

 

The other Toa had agreed to take them somewhere that they would not speak about to imprison them, for now. Only a few trusted guards would be informed – by Onua's earthwriting method – of where it was, to watch and feed them. In the past Kini-Nui Hall would have been used for this, but it had seen enough prison breaks already to convince the Toa it was a bad idea.

 

Just ahead was the village gate.

 

To the right and the left, the familiar sight of two Ko-Matoran standing guard, slightly covered in a light snow that had fallen overnight.

 

The absence of Pakastaa as one of these two reminded him painfully of what he was carrying in his energy pack, of part of the reason he was visiting now. It was a time to mourn.

 

But it was also a time for celebration. A rare sight met his eyes as he led the others in. Ko-Matoran from all around raced forward, their eyes flashing, bright smiles on their faces. They ran to the four who had been thought dead, welcoming them home with a passion Kopaka hadn't believed they could express.

 

A round of cheers went up. Turaga Nuju stood in the distance, watching, his eyes sparkling. Matoro went over by his side, ready to translate.

 

The four were brought to the small cemetary nearby, where tombstones marked the places they had been thought to be buried, as well as those who faked their death to live as Rahunga elsewhere. Their usual calm returned, however, because they knew that Pakastaa must soon be buried here, for real. They also planned a tombstone to memorialize Haywire – no smaller than any others'. Later the tombs of those who were not really dead would be replaced with a placard celebrating their return.

 

The Koro settled down to its usual silence soon after, though Matoran still scurried about to make the preparations.

 

Kopaka went to help carve the memorial for Haywire with his sword and Ice power, on Nuju's suggestion.

 

As he carved, he reflected on all that had happened.

 

He'd felt many things in his time with this village.

 

He'd felt annoyed sometimes at the Ko-Matoran. At the antics of the eccentric ones. And the antics of the normal ones.

 

Sometimes happy to see them safe, sometimes afraid for them. He'd always felt responsible for their protection. He'd alternatively wanted to leave to be alone, and missed them when he was away from them.

 

But today, surrounded by people, he felt something he hadn't before. He allowed a hint of a contented smile at the thought.

 

He felt...

 

Comforted.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Onua thought he heard Bhukasa's voice three times, over what span of time he had no idea, but finally he forced his eyes open... and had to keep forcing them to stay open.

 

He sat up and nodded at the Captain. “Coming...”

 

He took several deep but quick breaths to increase his adrenaline, and stood up, trying to blink the lingering exhaustion away. It worked enough.

 

On the top deck he found Jaudrohk seated around the navigation charts table, with several stone tablets. “It's ready,” he said.

 

You remembered enough?”

 

I gave him some help with that,” Bhukasa said. “But he may not speak of it.”

 

Onua didn't know what he meant, but took his word for it. He studied the tablets. It described in detail first how the memory machine was built and programmed, and second how to reprogram it. If done properly, it should create a long time period during which Kuambu forms could not be forgotten.

 

The plan was to then try to defeat them before that time ended. The Kuambu would know, however, that if they weren't defeated, they would eventually go back to being able to blur memories as usual later by Kuamor attacks – so they wouldn't be likely to try some dangerous retaliation for this alone.

 

He thanked Jaudrohk, and Bhukasa went below to trigger the final seahop to the island chain.

 

Everybody other than Onua and the three with him still habitually moved toward the many wooden handles throughout the ship. But as soon as the ship plunged beneath the waves with its bubble of golden light around it, and the inertial dampening system proved itself once again, they went back to normal, many laughing at themselves.

 

Onua went belowdecks to get a meal while they traveled. He'd barely finished before the rushing dark blue out the window turned to the bright blue of sky.

 

When he went to the top deck, he was greeted by the sight of a chain of volcanic islands in a line reaching from west-northwest to east-southeast.

 

Onua, Hujo, Nijire, and Jaudrohk went ashore.

 

Bhukasa had instructed them to go to the westmost point of the second smallest island.

 

This turned out to be a rocky edge, low to the water, with a steep incline sinking out of sight.

 

It was easy to spot because a Po-Matoran was sitting on a rock near it, looking very dejected.

 

Kuhauha.

 

I failed the test!” he kept saying, over and over. He glanced at Onua and the others as they approached. “I failed it!”

 

Uh, hi,” Hujo said. “So Hafu is...”

 

He passed!” Kuhauha said. “All that work I do, and he just sits out there carving all day, and he passed!”

 

Passed what?” Nijire asked.

 

The test.” Kuhauha looked behind them. “And there's my ride home. Good luck. I hope you like what you see. I'll never see it...” He walked away toward the Seahopper, shaking his head and mumbling about his failure over and over. Onua watched him go, wondering what he could mean.

 

Hujo pointed to the shore.

 

Floating in the water, barely visible, was something large, colored dark grayish blue, unmoving.

 

Scanning, Onua understood its submarine shape, with the top fin containing a large cylindrical tube in the back. The front had a domelike window, and circular windows dotted the side.

 

But the rest of it resembled a large fish; instead of propellers it had fins. And the window was painted with a dark translucence except for two eye-shaped sections. The other windows were fully tinted. At a glance, even at close range, it could be easily confused for a Rahi, though not quite like any Onua had seen.

 

As they watched, its fins twisted and moved so that it rose to the surface without turning its nose up. The cylinder poked out of the water. A circular hatch opened.

 

Onua made a ramp of earth, held stable elementally, and gestured for the Matoran to go first.

 

Jaudrohk climbed in, a look of eager recognition on his face. Then the two Vault Matoran, and Onua.

 

The inside was dark, with dim lines of blue light at the edges of the floor which didn't cast directly onto the windows due to a dark strip of metal above them.

 

There was a row of seats inside. Several Matoran were seated on them. There were five open behind them, but none looked big enough to fit Onua. Indeed, if he wasn't a hunchback he wouldn't be able to stand up inside the vehicle. As it was, he could only stand near the back.

 

The front had a wide rectangular control panel. Made of black metal.

 

I designed this craft, didn't I?” he asked the crew.

 

One of them turned around. Blue, female, mask shaped like a Noble Komau. R'yn. “You did, Onua. Although our communication system is not compatible with the new version of it you have made. We would appreciate it if you would upgrade us.”

 

He smiled. “And Hafu?”

 

Another turned around.

 

Onua almost didn't recognize him. He was the same Po-Matoran, wearing a Ruru, but he carried a black rifle slung around his shoulder, an axe on a hilt, and wore a strange visor around the eye part of his mask. He looked serious, except a faint smile. The easiest way to recognize him was the little piece of stone he was carving with a knife – a silver orb radiated a faint energy that apparently pulled the scrap pieces telekinetically to a waste basket.

 

What happened to you?” Nijire wondered aloud.

 

Onua looked around at the three others. Red, green, and black.

 

He understood.

 

Hujo spoke his thoughts a moment later. “You lost one, didn't you?” he asked R'yn.

 

Hafu answered for her. “They did. I passed the test to replace him. I'm a Coreguard now.”

 

Welcome to the team,” Jaudrohk said, going up to fist-bump.

 

And welcome back,” the green one told Jaudrohk, from what was apparently the pilot's seat on the right of the front row, judging by the way he was moving his hands against the black metal..

 

Onua noticed the vehicle was moving. He hadn't noticed the hatch close, but glancing back at it he saw it was. He didn't feel motion either – inertial dampening, he presumed, from the black metal.

 

R'yn motioned for the three Matoran to take seats. “When Twisted Island was created,” she said, looking at Hujo, “a safeguard teleported the Unknown away from their city, into that new place, and took away all the treasures of power and knowledge in it.”

 

We know about that,” Hujo said.

 

I'm still confused by it,” Nijire countered. “Why would a safeguard take the Unknown away?”

 

In case a total Second Event happened,” Hujo said. “I suppose it's okay for you two to know this...” He glanced at R'yn, and when she nodded, he told them about chronoserum.

 

Onua thought it made a lot of sense, as shocking as it was.

 

A powerful blue liquid that on touch could spawn a new universe. In addition to changing reality, it could make a new one. He remembered the hint of blue color inside the gems of Vaurukan's Vault. He wondered if it had anything to do with the blue color of some of the black metal's powers.

 

Hujo added that the Circles of the Field of Shadow were safeguards themselves to prevent total Events, so that only one new island was created. “If a full Event happened, there would be copies of every being in the new 'Paracosmos.' The safeguard ensures the Unknown would not be copied, but instead moved to the new Paracosmos. That system still functions even if the Circles work.”

 

Right,” R'yn said. “They thought the Core would stay in the Paracosmos, being teleported to a random place, just like everything else in the city. But it had never happened before, and it turned out the Core went to the Field too, to a Circle.”

 

What is the Core?” Nijire asked.

 

Oh they won't tell us that,” Hujo said, laughing. “I tried already, and Caroha refused. I've seen the outside of it though. A giant sphere with four peg-like legs, and a circular door.”

 

R'yn nodded. “We six are the only non-Unknown ever allowed inside of it. The thinking was that if the Unknown got teleported away, it might be left there undefended – it was unknown if teleporting it would even work. Since we're all just Matoran, we would stay and be able to defend it. And now that we know teleporting it doesn't work as planned, it won't be teleported at all if another Event happens, so it'll stay in the city.”

 

Which is where the danger is,” the black one said sadly.

 

Because of the hoverers?” Hujo asked.

 

Jaudrohk nodded. “The city hovers in the sky, but the technology that enables it to is extremely valuable too. So that has to be teleported away too, and as soon as possible. The three of us not on duty if this happened would go to the submarine, which is kept near the Coreguard quarters. The three on duty would ensure the Core safely teleported away, then run as fast as we could to the submarine, and push a button to trigger the hoverers' teleportation. Or, if it actually failed to teleport at all, we would call the other three to us, keep the hoverers, and try to guard the Core.”

 

What we failed to account for,” R'yn said, “was the violence of the Core's leaving for the Field. The button was activated by this vibration alone. The city started falling with all of us still in it.”

 

Onua shook his head. “Surely they could have left some hoverers there?”

 

That's the new plan,” R'yn answered. “But as it was we had to push ourselves off walls in the weightlessness of freefall, and that slowed us down.”

 

We got here in time,” the red one said. “The active shift did not.”

 

It was in sight,” Jaudrohk remembered. “But then the water hit us. That was the last thing I knew.”

 

There were Kuambu ships right there already,” the black one said. “The impact killed our Po-Matoran fellow, and nearly killed R'yn and Jaudrohk. Jaudrohk was captured before we could bring the sub around to him. We lost sight of R'yn entirely. The stone city was shattering and sinking all around us, Kuamor shooting, and the massive wave from the city hitting the water carried her away, I guess.”

 

I woke up with no memories on the shore of Kriitunga Island,” she said. “I foolishly walked into the desert and was transformed slightly. Then, terrified, I ran back to the sea and swam, and kept swimming until a single Kuambu ship picked me up and offered me a job. The Lone Ship. You know the rest, basically, but if you have any questions, go ahead.”

 

How did Kanoka and Ito know where to find Makuta?” Hujo asked.

 

You made a map of where we went on those islands, right?” Hafu asked. “Look at it.”

 

Hujo materialized it.

 

Hafu held up a tablet.

 

It had seven circles, with points along the shore.

 

It's a simplified version of Unknown writing,” R'yn said. “Spelling Nui Kumu. Ito knows it. How Kanoka knew, I don't understand, though.”

 

I think it was something the Kuambu had already planned,” Onua said, “and Kanoka found those plans.”

 

I do know they teleported to Kumu rather than bringing their boat near the fleet,” R'yn said, “but not directly, as that power has a range limit. We analyzed correctly where they would stop off along the way, and watched the Kal attack and steal the ice sword.”

 

What made those islands be in such a geometrical formation?” Nijire asked, gesturing at the code tablet.

 

You know them as maw-worms. There is one living there that Vaurukan trained to do that. They burrow into rock and 'eat' it by melting it and transforming it into a less dense type, often creating islands. They're always on the move, looking for more dense rock to eat – but they prefer circling existing islands in spurts, because of the density of rock at that depth.”

 

They asked several more questions for a while, some of which the Coreguards refused to answer.

 

Interestingly, R'yn revealed that the Unknown tablet she helped the two Po-Matoran steal from the pirates was a record of major events in the Cosmos. The pirate captain had been altered to share a link with the swarms just like Lewa, and when he read the tablet, though he did not realize its relevance, that knowledge passed through the link to Lewa's subconscious. Even now, in their protocage, the Bahrag knew all of it.

 

Though, neither they nor Lewa knew as much as Hujo already knew. R'yn strongly advised Onua to tell Lewa to stop giving out his sense of Convergeance freely. It could be very risky, she said, not just in terms of the mysterious physics of the Paracosmos but in terms of making yourself a target for certain enemies she refused to identify...

 

Onua watched out the windows as the sub swam past several giant fish that looked just like it. “A local Rahi?” he asked, pointing at one.

 

They usually stay in the landless region,” R'yn said.

 

We're south of Mata Nui?” Hujo asked.

 

She nodded. “Here storms pop up a lot more often, as more water is open to the sun. They churn the water, kicking up tiny creatures normally in the sediment far below that these fish eat. They also make clouds a lot. This is normally where the city is, but it moves around. We were between Mata Nui and Kriitunga Island when the Event hit.”

 

Do you know if it's there now?” Hujo wondered.

 

The Unknown have another black metal device,” she said. “At least they do now since they refound it. They confirmed it yesterday.”

 

You're really leaving?” Onua asked Hafu. “It's... a big decision.”

 

I am. How can I ignore the need? And part of me just wants to see the Core, you know? I'll be... important.” He paused. “Please tell the others I'll miss them. I might get to visit occasionally; the job allows for sparing vacations, but never on any announced schedule.”

 

When, then?” Hujo asked.

 

Whenever the Unknown deem it safe to lower the guarding a little,” the green one said. “And then just one at a time.”

 

Here's a question,” Onua said thoughtfully. “If the Unknown city flies in the sky... and this is a submarine...”

 

R'yn's eyes twinkled. “You'll see. We're almost there now.”

 

Indeed, before he knew it, the submarine turned up towards the surface. He did not feel the tilt; the floor was still the floor, but it turned its nose directly up.

 

He saw that it was raining very heavily here.

 

The fish gracefully leaped out of the water.

 

Onua slowly blinked. The feeling of being in a dream...

 

The water falling gently.

 

Slowly.

 

The fish swimming, through the air, its fins knocking the floating droplets of water aside. Arcs of water cast off from these collisions.

 

Dark clouds above let loose this rain. Now that it wasn't falling, it clustered, thickening in the air by the minute.

 

He looked behind, through the small window at the top back. Saw that the rain behind them gradually sped up, continuing its fall.

 

Now the water was so thick in the air that the fish was actually swimming upwards.

 

The clouds neared.

 

Onua wondered if the black metal was doing this, but he was so mesmerized at the sight he couldn't speak or close his eyes to enter a trance.

 

Then they were envelo

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#51 Offline bonesiii

bonesiii
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Posted Feb 25 2014 - 06:23 PM

[Sure enough, the epilogue was cut off. Here's the actual ending.]

 

Then they were enveloped by the dark cloud. Now he saw just fog and streaks of rain running down the windows – down being towards the back at first, and then angling towards his feet as the vehicle righted itself.

 

Amazing, he thought.

 

It reminded him of some of what the black metal could do, but he was pretty sure it was far beyond it, to swim up rain. Something only the Unknown could make possible. He couldn't begin to imagine how it would be done, but he knew his inventor's mind would not stop coming back to it until he thought of a way...

 

Now the fish swam in a circle, as if seeking something. He saw torrential rain and darkness... and then, faintly, a blue light.

 

Distorted by the rain, Onua thought maybe he was seeing things. He knew it must be the Unknown city, but his imagination ran wild at the alienness of the sight, as if he might be seeing something from beyond anything he could imagine.

 

As the fish swam forward, though, the rain lessened. The craft now appeared to be swimming through just the cloud itself.

 

The light diffused from one blurry source to several.

 

Onua thought maybe he was seeing glowing words. Maybe the streets of a vast city far away.

 

As it got closer, though, he realized he was seeing many blue crystal lines, curving, straight, spiked, etc. crisscrossing tan stone, much like the inner walls of the Watcher Temple. They textured and revealed a long rectangle – like a dock – reaching out of the fog.

 

Onua scanned it.

 

He could sense the dock. As the scan moved along it, it faded from view. Though he knew there must be something beyond, he could see only empty cloud, much like the Vault.

 

He saw flashes of lightning now, briefly brightening the fog, and Onua caught a faint glimpse of silhouettes of tall shapes, perhaps buildings, perhaps mountains, perhaps just dark vortices in the stormcloud. The wind was strong, whipping around, but as the fog it carried passed over the dock, it slowed, then sped again as it left.

 

The fish pulled alongside but under the dock, so that its cylinder was right next to its top surface.

 

The hatch opened noiselessly. Onua expected the fog to come in, but it did not.

 

It is time,” R'yn said. “The Coreguard will go on, with the crystal, and Vaurukan's sword. The rest of you must teleport back. Onua, you may teleport to this dock anytime, if you first send a message here – remember we need that upgrade for it – and then we confirm it's here. Your scout power will be able to see the dock, but not beyond.”

“Noticed that. I'll fix the message program now.”

 

He closed his eyes and concentrated. He also wanted to read the code. But it turned out to be very simple. Navigation, basic vehicle functions including inertial dampeners, and communication. Nothing in the black metal explained how it swam up through rain. He added a secondary program to the com program that could communicate to his teleporter, the armband, the Seahopper, or to Kewonga's medical scanner even – though he'd have to remember later to add the program to that too.

 

Opened his eyes.

 

He materialized Vaurukan's sword and handed it over with no hesitation. Every moment he carried it, he had an even bigger target on his back.

 

Then he materialized the Time Crystal.

 

Turned it over in his hands, admiring the faceted design, watching the chronoserum and the tiny air bubble move around as he did so.

 

He entered the moment, one last time.

 

I guess this is goodbye. I'll miss you... Maybe I'll get to talk to you again someday... you probably already know whether I will or won't, though, huh?

 

He waited, hoping to get a sense of the crystal's feelings, or just that it heard him. But there was nothing. It really was like talking to a mere object.

 

Reluctantly he let time flow and handed it over to Jaudrohk.

 

Do not grieve over this,” the green Coreguard said. “The crystal is living a life all of us could envy now. To know with certainty what will happen.”

 

But what if that future is irreversibly evil?” Onua asked.

 

I don't believe that,” R'yn said, smiling, “but if so, then at least it will not be taken by surprise.”

 

She faced Nijire. “Like Hujo, it is time for you to train in the use of your power. The Labyrinth of the Unknown on your island is open to you to enter at any time. I strongly recommend, as well, not going anywhere without powerful escorts for a while, as the Kuambu themselves may still try to kidnap you.”

 

I understand,” Nijire said. “Will I get to know important things like Hujo has?”

 

That will be up to the Unknown Council and Caroha,” R'yn said. “Keep in mind Hujo's destiny is to be the Jahurungi. To solve mysteries he must have knowledge.”

 

What's my destiny?”

 

R'yn slightly shook her head. “That will become known with time.”

 

Then she and the others turned and climbed out, Hafu giving one last nod.

 

They walked along the dock, fading off into the distance.

 

I guess it's time to leave,” Onua said. “But I for one want to at least put my feet on the dock.”

 

Me too,” Hujo said. Nijire agreed.


So they climbed out, and stood there, eyes straining against the darkness the cloud's own thickness cast into its heart. He could see those shapes he'd seen earlier, but not exactly their form. More lightning flashed. He noticed that it seemed to carry no thunder at all. Yet the flashes seemed close, bright, and terrifyingly powerful.

 

For a few seconds he could still see six small forms shrinking into the distance. Then the three were left alone, just inches away from a drop of such a height that Onua didn't dare to think about it or really move.

 

Thrills ran up and down his spine to be so close to such an important, almost mythical place. He wanted to just run forward and try to see it, defying the Unknown to stop him. He felt so small to not even be allowed to see their home, but so big to be allowed to come this far. And he supposed that if he really had been allowed to walk in, he would find it wasn't much different from any other city; the reason for secrecy was probably just security.

 

Ah, but who knew what marvelous things would defy physics itself in that transcendent culture?

 

Maybe one day I will see it.

 

He gave one last stare at the fish-submarine, floating there totally unsupported, untethered, but unmoving in the air.

 

Then he took the Matoran's hands and prepared to jump.

 

With a flash, they appeared back at Ga-Koro. And there was the Seahopper, already back.

 

He said farewell to the Vault Matoran; Hujo agreed to escort Nijire to Ko-Koro for rest, and later to the Labyrinth. Then Onua teleported again, to a high cliff overlooking a massive valley.


There, in the distance, if you looked closely, you could see many beings moving throughout the trees, building shelters.

 

Building a place whose name they did not yet even know, but whose future they would build. Only the crystal could see if that future was secure, but Onua planned to do everything in his power to make sure it was.

 

He could never become their local leader. Could never stay here for long. And though he was still part of Tahu's team, he could never stay there for too long either. Nor anywhere.

 

He would always be hunted. Really, he probably had been hunted for the later part of his former life, he realized. Maybe it had something to do with why he had such a special role to the Unknown. It wasn't so much that he was an inventor, something special. But that he had to move around. And that made him uniquely suited to carry out important missions.

 

There was nobody else who could share his burden.

 

But he felt that he could bear it, alone, because he understood himself now. He had seen that he was creating his own personal cage, and the way to get free of it was simply to stop creating it. I guess everybody runs the risk of making their own cages, he thought. It was something else he could use to help others, now that he knew it.

 

And in his case, now that he was free of it, he could be comfortable living a role that none other in the universe could fill.

 

Onua only, he thought.

 

Nodded slowly to himself.

 

So be it.
 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 


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